Thursday, April 17, 2014

Craft Beer for the Homebrewer: Recipes From America's Top Brewmasters

I'm not a homebrewer. Never even tried it. I always credit my disinterest in trying to brew my own beer with my zillions of hours of college organic chemistry lab followed by my employment post graduation. However, I do like to drink your homebrew!

When asked if I'd like to check out Craft Beer for the Homebrewer: Recipes From America's Top Brewmasters by Michael Agnew (Amazon affiliate link), I said yes as it might provide some additional appreciation. This is a book designed to give homebrewers the opportunity to brew "clones" of some of the top beers from the best breweries in the country.

The commercial beer industry owes a lot to homebrewers and regularly pays it back. They offer their expertise, time, equipment and facilities to local homebrewers. Heck, as this book shows, they even offer the recipes of some of the top beers they make so you can try your hand at brewing some Hop Stoopid or Nugget Nectar! There are no other industries I can think of that help the competition and reward each other like craft brewers do.

Michael Agnew along with a few others (including Billy Broas, who I have personally seen offer brewing expertise on Twitter for years) wrote this book for established homebrewers. I don't see someone who decided to brew for the first time having an easy time accomplishing the recipes here, but  if you've brewed before and know the terms and general procedures, this is a kick-ass book.

Craft Beer for the Homebrewer is organized by beer styles and features 38 beer recipes from 23 breweries. And we're not talking about no-name beers or brewers. From Avery Maharaja to Allagash Curieux to Cigar City El Lector to Stone Leviathan, you will certainly have a difficult time picking one to start with.

The book offers several "Extra Tips" as well for the burgeoning homebrewer. Basically, this is a GREAT reference for the homebrewer that is looking to ratchet things up a notch. If you're done brewing your buddy's lemon zest pale ale with almonds type recipes and ready to see what it takes to mimic pro brewers and pro recipes, this is the book for you. It offers extract and all-grain methods for each recipe, carefully calculating for a standard 5 gallon batch size.

Of the 38 recipes, if you were my friend and you shared your homebrew, I'd ask you to brew these weekly (since 5 gallons isn't really enough): Hop Stoopid, Maharaja, Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA, Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', Rugbrod, El Lector, Hazelnut Ale, Leviathan, Nugget Nectar, and those are just from the list of ones I've tried!

Nice book. Nice pictures and stories. And great perspective from a community angle that really does exist in the brewing world! Grab a copy of this book, especially if you are a homebrewer that is interested in trying your hand at making some of the top beers out there!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saranac Our Wild Hop Pils

Today I'm trying Saranac Our Wild Hop Pils brewed by the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York. I tried their Pale Ale and Legacy IPA previously, so this is the last from their mixed CAN-DO 12 pack. The side of the can tells you this beer is named Wild Hop Pils because it is the first to use Belma hops discovered growing wild on a farm in the Yakima Valley. 5.2% alcohol. 28 IBU.

Fruity, floral with some pale malt in the aroma. Fruity apple flavors are joined by some grain and a nice honey sweetness. There is a pleasant hoppy bitter balance that comes next, very flavorful and not harsh at all. Creamy, very clean. Probably a little different than what you'd picture in your mind as a typical "pils" but whatever. Unique. I liked it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Endless IPA

Today I'm "celebrating the aroma and taste of hops"... again! After checking out Goose Island's Ten Hills Pale Ale not too long ago, I was recently sent the second in their three-beer limited release series. Today it's Endless IPA that gets its day. This is a 5.0% alcohol "Session Ale" brewed with 100% Amarillo hops grown in Elk Mountain for Goose Island. 35 IBU. Bottled on 14MAR14 and available between 4/7/14 and July, 2014 so now's the time to check it out.

Fruity orange and pine are the most noticeable scents present--very nice. Fairly sweet orange flavors come first but are quickly balanced by some hoppy, piney flavors. Great carbonation tingle right from the start. Spicy with a citrusy lemon finish, and though well balanced, bitter easily wins in the end as expected. Very enjoyable and similar to other terrific "Session" Pales/IPAs that are on the market now.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Angry Orchard Green Apple Hard Cider

Within the past few months or so, Boston Beer Company released the Green Apple flavor in their Angry Orchard brand of ciders. When I told them my sister really likes the Angry Orchard ciders and my Sister-in-Law was gluten (among many things) intolerant (and that they are both currently pregnant), well, that sealed the deal and they sent me a few bottles so I could give them something to look forward to.

The label depicts an interesting Granny Smith Apple Tree, old, wise, with a face. You know, typical. 5% alcohol. Nutritional info on the back.

Vinegar and tart Granny Smith Apple aroma. Sweet apple and honeydew flavors come first. At first there is little tartness, though that does build as you drink a few sips. Even though there is some tart relief to the sweet start, this cider is a little too sweet and really follows the Jolly Rancher candy flavor profile exactly. Flavors are good, but I wanted a little more sharpness, tartness, crispness and bite. And dude, 210 calories?

Sunday, April 13, 2014


So I was recently asked how I'd be celebrating the Thai New Year, Songkran! Yeah, I know... Duh, with water squirters and Chang Beer! The labels and caps of my 330mL bottles show two elephants squirting water over each other. The back label lets you know this beer won a World Beer Award as Asia's Best Premium Lager. Best Before 100814.

People celebrating Songkran or Water Festival perform a Buddhist bathing ritual (not going to show you that part) followed by spraying their loved ones and friends with water, believed to wash away bad luck. They also drink plenty of Chang Beer. I decided to cover myself from both angles to protect myself from evil! The video was made my 11 year old amateur film-maker--not bad for only one "dry" run!

If any of you geniuses know how I can kill the black areas on both sides of the video, please let me know. I've wasted enough time in YouTube today!

I also tasted the beer...

Grainy, typical lager aroma. Sweet honey, grainy, with a bit of some persistent buttery flavor. Lightly grassy with some spice and bitterness at the finish. Pretty simple. Carbonation OK. Beer so-so. Too sweet; weird butter flavor. I did finish it, though I'm not so sure what's to happen with her 5 sisters. Perhaps I'll finish them off for today for the holiday this afternoon!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Visit to Florida Beer Company's New Cape Canaveral Brewery

Yesterday I visited a former Chrysler missile plant in Central Florida. No, I wasn't doing research for a story on NASA (try, LOL). Rather, I was fortunate enough to be invited to tag along with a few managers from Gold Coast Distributors and Ed Roberts up to see Florida Beer Company's new brewery in Cape Canaveral yesterday! I think they asked because adding a fifth body required rental of a nice SUV and made the HOV lanes a no-brainer in the crappy Friday rush hour traffics (yep, plural, both ways).

We were greeted by brewery owner Jim at the entrance, and all of us were immediately impressed by the tasting room space as well as what we could see through the multiple giant windows displaying the brewery. Excellent space, really fun artwork, impressive custom bar with lots of taps, and tons of little details everywhere. After a few quick greetings and pictures, Jim took us on an in-depth tour of the brewery. We started in the lab, which for a former scientist was pretty cool.

I lifted this photo from Florida Beer's Facebook page after Corey (back) posted it!
We saw enormous tanks used for a variety of steps in the brewing process, the biggest being a 500 barrel monster that was equipped to be outdoors (too tall for the building). We were introduced to a piece of equipment that most smaller brewers don't have at their facilities due to its expense. Florida Beer's centrifuge is used to cut time and waste out of the brewing process. Jim said they get 10-12% more beer from a tank and at their volume, this piece of equipment pays for itself over time.

After seeing some of the tanks and brewing areas, we were led to see the different stages in the bottling line. Next time I'm invited back (if there is one) I'm going to take a rubber glove to re-enact that Laverne and Shirley intro song video from their Shotz Beer Days! Seriously though, we got to see every stage of the bottling process, from bottle disinfecting, filling, capping, rinsing, labeling, packaging, boxing... and of course drinking! I promise to try to upload a few of the short videos I took here soon!

Jim shows off the new packaging for Sunshine State Pils!
We met the brewer Luke, who previously worked at the Gordon Biersch in Brickell (which is now a CVS, he thought). The rest of the visitors semi-dissed one beer in particular, though all of the rest were awesome, and that's around 20 or more taps including some of their really great ciders. My favorites for the day were their new Sunshine State Pils and Florida Sweet Stout, so watch out for those soon! After the tour and a handful of samples, we decided to forgo going out to lunch in exchange for pizza ordered in to the tasting room and another handful of samples. Yeah, right? Our server was really attentive and nice as well, so expect great service when you visit!

Jim let us know that he still has a few private functions scheduled for the next few weeks. However, around April 28th (call first, or actually try their Facebook page or Twitter for the most up-to-date info), the tasting room will be opened daily. If you are drinking, they will stay open (I think I heard those are their approximate hours, though they are subject to change). But watch out for weekly specials for Monday Night Football and other similar regular sporting events are on TV. Florida Beer's Taproom will have a bunch of menus to order food in and plans on having a regular food truck lineup as well.

So after six plus hours of fabulous driving by Corey, we arrived home safely. Was a great day! This morning, however, my wife was pissed that I didn't take more pictures with me in them. She was even "tagged" (or whatever you call it) on the group photo above when SFLonTap did one of those Facebook-thingy-thing posts. But I reminded her of the zit on my nose and we both had a good chuckle.

Thanks for the hospitality, Jim. Thanks for the invite, Ed, Corey, Brett and Darren!