Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Results Are In!

Last week I had a couple of homebrew club events. The first being our monthly BJCP style session at The Old Toad, this month featuring...

Category 12: Porter

An awesome beer in an awesome-r bottle!
The Porter category is broken down into 3 sub categories, and Thomas, one of our BJCP gurus did an awesome job of sourcing some great examples of each.

12-A: Brown Porter

  • Old-Style Porter by St. James Brewery
  • Taddy Porter by Samuel Smith
  • Entire Butt English Porter by Salopian Brewery
  • London Porter by Meantime Brewing
12-B: Robust Porter
  • Porter by Sierra Nevada
  • Bully! Porter by Boulevard Brewing
  • New World Porter by Avery Brewing
  • Bad Elmers Porter by Upland Brewing
12-C: Baltic Porter
  • Baltika #6 Porter by Baltika
  • Porteris by Aldaris
  • Gonzo Imperial Porter by Flying Dog
After all those great porters, it was time to get some sleep because we had our UNYHA meeting the next day and I was ready to get my scoresheets from our annual competition!

I'd entered two beers in the UNYHA competition, both in category 16. 16-A Witbier and 16-B Belgian Pale Ale, and they both did pretty good. I was hoping for a little higher score, but I was pretty happy for my first time entering a competition.

Cover sheet for my judging notes
Both of my beers scored a 26 out of a perfect possible score of 50, which puts them in the range of "Good" beers. I was hoping to push a little closer to 30, but theres always next year! Most of the feedback I got on the beers was pretty good. They both were a little stale and oxidized, most likely due to the fact that these brews were about 4 months old at the time of the competition. They both also lacked a little head retention, which is something I've noticed about them and need to tweak my recipes.   Overall though, the judges seemed to think these beers were going in the right direction, just a few more tweaks needed. As a comparison, I think the beer that won my category scored a 32 or a 32.5, so I wasn't too far behind! Not too bad for a first effort!

With my scoresheets in tow, and some sanitizer that I picked up for helping steward the competition, it was time to head home, and to Columbus, Ohio for my annual concert weekend with my Brother-in-Law Andrew. We skipped the beers at the concert ($8 Bud thanks!) but picked up some more Ohio beers at the carry-out by his house. It was a great beer week and I brought a few great beers back to Rochester with me!


Friday, May 9, 2014

A Great Week for Beer!

I have 20 minutes left for my boil of my latest homebrew, so I thought I'd do a quick write-up on what's been happening on the beer front this week.

Last weekend I headed west to Ohio for our niece's 5th birthday party. While I was there staying with my parents, my thoughts turned to beer of course! Unfortunately the nearest brewery was closed on Sundays, but the next best thing was close by.

We made the short drive from Caledonia to Delaware, Ohio and and to Barley Hopsters. A pretty nice little bottle shop/homebrew store. I needed to get some yeast and then I took a look at all the beers they had, with a big focus on Ohio beers.

Part of my haul from Barley Hopsters

The next day it was time to make my long drive back to Rochester, but my parents gave me a pretty sweet parting gift. A new sign for my garage/homebrewery! They had picked it up and were planning to give it to me for my birthday, but they decided to give it to me early. (I think so they didn't have to keep track of it for the next 5 months!)

New Smuttynose Sign!
Wednesday came and it was time to start thinking about my next brew, so I grabbed my yeast and got a yeast starter going. This next beer was going to be a big one and it was going to take lots of healthy yeast to get through it. A Belgian Golden Strong Ale was to be brewed.

And brewed it has been. It was nice to not be shivering in the garage while this brew was going on, I guess Spring has finally gotten to Rochester. Speaking of which, my boil is coming to an end so I'd better get ready to finish up. 

2.5 Pounds of Cane Sugar for this Brew!
Hopefully you've all had a great beer week and have lots of great beer related things planned for the summer. Let us know what you're looking forward too as the weather warms and trips are planned.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

UNYHA Annual Homebrew Competition

Last week, the Upstate New York Homebrewers Association (UNYHA) held their annual competition.  In fact, this was their 36th competition, which is a pretty impressive stretch if you ask me.

I decided that I should enter a few beers into the competition, it's a great way to get some top notch feedback on your beer and brewing techniques, and I'm always looking for ways to improve my beers.

With that in mind, about two weeks ago I went and got some new bottles, sanitized and filled the two beers I was entering. Both of which were in Category 16 of the BJCP style guidelines.

16-A Witbier and 16-B Belgian Pale Ale. The reasons for picking these beers was pretty simple, I felt that these were the two best beers I've made so far, and they were the two that were in kegs and ready to go!

Packed, Labeled, and Ready to Go!

I went to the bursting to help get the beers unpacked and labeled with the competition info. Each beer got a randomly generated number to ensure that the judging was done blindly, and a few styles get some additional info. (Spices used, fruit used, base beer style, etc.)

Then on Wednesday the competition got underway. I went to help steward, which is sort of a cross between a file clerk and a waiter. The best part about stewarding is being able to sit, and sometimes taste the different beers and discuss them with the judges. I felt pretty good talking about different off-flavors, styles, and brewing techniques with the judges since I'd went through our BJCP training course last spring. Plus we had free pizza, and some growlers from Rohrbachs who were awesome enough to let us use part of the brewery to conduct the competition.

Judging went on again Thursday evening, then all day Saturday before all the beers, ciders, and meads that won their respective categories were lined up and judged for best of show. Unfortunately, my beers weren't among them, but that's alright, every beer couldn't be a winner. There were 273 entries, and UNYHA has some fantastic brewers!

All-in-all, it was a great week of judging, stewarding, trying great beers, eating free pizza, and just hanging out with fellow homebrewers. It got me really excited to get a few more brews under my belt. Stay tuned for the results on my beers when I get my scoresheets back.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's been Brewing?

I've been a little neglectful of this blog for the past few weeks, but fear not, theres been plenty of Beer, Brewing, and Breweries going on.

About two weeks ago I kegged and carbonated up my Witbier I brewed way back in January. It turned out pretty good and I'm going to be entering it into our homebrew club annual competition! (More on this to come)

My Newest Brew!

With my fermenters empty, I figured that it was about time I make my next batch of beer. Going on with this years Belgian theme, I printed out my recipe and started heating my water. A Belgian Blonde Ale was to be brewed!

Belgian Blonde 
The recipe was fairly simple, 80% Pilsner malt with a dash of Aromatic and White Wheat, plus a pound of Cane Sugar to dry out the finish. The brew day went great, though it seemed to ferment out pretty quickly. Hopefully that shouldn't be too big of a deal, because I had a Leffe Blonde last night, so I'm really excited to give this homebrew a try!

Have any of you been getting up to any brewing now that the weather has started to break a little bit? Let us know about them in the comments or drop me a note!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Having a Beer or Two in the City that Never Sleeps!

It's been a couple of week since my last blog post, but don't worry, there's a good reason, we were in New York City.

Sky Bar at our Hotel
My wife had some pressing work to do in the big apple, so we decided that I'd tag along and then we would have a nice long weekend together in NYC. We haven't been for a little over a year, and it was great to go back.

I didn't have many big plans as far as beer was concerned but there were a few places on my radar. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to any of the breweries in Brooklyn, but I need to keep a few things aside for next time! Luckily, there was great beer to be had a few blocks away.

The Pony Bar

We stopped at the Pony Bar after having dinner with some of the wife's work colleagues. (Luckily, they like great beer too!)

The Pony was a great little bar. Lots of great craft beer available, including two on cask, which is what I started with. A strong ale from Chelsea Brewing Co. This high gravity American Brown Ale was perfectly suited to being served on cask. Chocolate and slightly nutty, smooth from the low carbonation. I also enjoyed a Lembeek 86 from Other Half Brewing. A blonde ale fermented with 100% Brett yeast. It was interesting and slightly off-putting at first, but I think that was due to the drastic change from the strong ale. It grew on me quite a bit as I drank it and I hope to get another taste of it someday.

Pony Bar
The next day, the wife was off bright and early to go to the trade show that brought her to NYC, which meant that I had the afternoon to myself, and what better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan than on the corner of 41st and 8th 

Heartland Brewery

I have actually been to this brewery on a previous trip to New York, but this time was different. Last time we were in the heart of Santa-Con, a huge Christmas themed bar crawl that takes thousands of costumed Santas through the city. This time, it was nice and quiet as I got there right after opening time.  I ordered a reuben (my favorite) and a flight.

My flight included:

Indian River Light Ale
Cornhusker Lager
Harvest Wheat
Red Rooster
Indiana Pale Ale
Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout
Empire Premium Beer
Not Tonight Honey Porter

Of the flight, I enjoyed the Oatmeal stout the best. It was served on nitro and gave it that smooth creamy mouthfeel and it had a silky sweetness to it that I really enjoyed. The Empire Premium was probably the best made beer of the breweries though. It was a great example of an American Adjunct Lager, a style that many of us beer lovers love to hate, but that doesn't take away the fact that this was a well done example of a beer that's hard to do right.

After my flight, there were three more beers on the board. Our hotel was close, and no reason to drive, I  ordered the next. A good pour of their Full Moon Barley Wine. It was surprisingly great. It was loaded with a balanced complexity and sweetness. I finished off the board with two more sample pours, their Sorachi Wheat and Kelly's Irish Red Ale. After those two it was time to go to the hotel and take a nap!

After a way too short of a nap, my wife returned from her trade show to wake me up and tell me they were heading Heartland Brewery. Oh well, back on the horse, besides that oatmeal stout was pretty great!

The Ginger Man and The Blind Tiger

There were two more really great beer stops to be made on our trip, the first being The Ginger Man. Just a few blocks from the Empire State Building, this bar was stocked full of young professionals enjoying a pint after work. One of these young professional types was my wife's cousin, Tim! We'd met up with him after he finished work and I got to enjoy some really great and interesting beers. First up was their house beer, Ginger Man Ale, an American amber ale brewed by Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

After my pint of the house beer, I rolled the dice and asked our waitress if I could grab a flight of some of their draft beers. The menu said that it may not be available during their peak hours, which by all indications we were currently in, but she was awesome and said of course! Then she was really awesome when she said that I could get the cask beers as part of my flight!! Thanks Ginger Man!

Special Double Cream Stout by Bell's Brewery
Baciami Lipsia by Birrificio Del Ducato
Mango Habanero IPA by Flying Dog Brewery
The Hammer and The Sickle by Greenport Harbor Brewing

The next day we were wandering from the Chelsea Market to Little Italy, and our path took us down Bleecker St and to the Blind Tiger. The Blind Tiger is one of those bars that always ends up on the "Best Of" lists, and it's easy to see why. The first time I was in this pub I was amazed by the selection they had. Great beers from NY of course, but also all over the country, and several of them are on cask. I went with a He'Brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale by Schmaltz Brewing Company. It was served on cask w/ cocoa nibs and was fantastic! 

After all the running around, sightseeing, eating multiple slices of pizza, and a lot more walking than I was used to, it was time to head back to Rochester. It was a great trip with some great brews, hopefully more to come from this great city in the future!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! 


Me and my dad outside the Guinness brewery in Dublin

Take the Canal to Fairport Brewing Co.

OK, so we didn't take the canal, we drove. Though it's a quick 20 minute drive to the Rochester suburb of Fairport. It's a really nice area, built right on the Erie Canal. Lots of shops, small restaurants, and Fairport's very own small batch brewery.

Fairport Brewing Co.

Up until this past Sunday, I'd only ever had one of Fairport's offerings. An alt beer I took a growler of with us on our recent trip to NC. So needless to say I was very excited about giving their beers a try and to check out the tasting room.

The building sits right on the corner as you turn down Main street, and from the outside it looks really small. As you open the front door it seems small too, but the building opens up nicely to the bar and a second seating area to the side of it. They had 6 beers on tap, and a root beer which is what the Mrs. wanted a pint of. I ordered my tasting and sat down to enjoy what Fairport had on tap that day.

Toppling Jon's Shattered Elbow Amber Lager
Trail Town Nut Brown
Irish Farm House
Raiders Red Ale
Peter J IPA
Apollo 8 Double IPA

All the beers I tried were solid, but I enjoyed the Trail Town Nut Brown the best. It had great malt character with a nutty overtone throughout. The Apollo 8 was really good as well. A hazy appearance from all those IBU's.

All in all I'd say that Fairport Brewing is up to some good. They are getting more accounts throughout the area so I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Well, I was supposed to be blogging about my homebrew club meeting tonight, but Mother Nature had other ideas!

Here in Rochester, we are under a blizzard warning until tomorrow morning, so our meeting got cancelled. 

What beer pairs well with blizzards? I went with a barleywine. Anchor's Old Foghorn to be exact. 

A strong malty backbone with a hint of hops that help cut through the higher alcohols. Definitely keeping me warm despite the 50 mph winds outside! 

Hopefully you are being safe and drinking something great if you are in the path of this storm. If you aren't in the path of this storm, then I still hope you are drinking something great! 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

For any of you who may not know, I'm from Ohio. And as any good Ohio born beer-lover, I approve of pretty much anything that Great Lakes Brewing Company does.

Their Christmas Ale is second to none, and their Dortmunder Gold has won more medals than you can shake a stick at. In my eyes, GLBC can do no wrong.

Enter Chillwave Double IPA.

In 2013, I sat down and had a pint of Great Lakes newest Double IPA, Alchemy Hour. It had just been released and the supply was limited, so when I saw it on the board of the Thirsty Turtle in my home-town, I knew I needed to try it. It was amazing. The best IPA I'd ever had, and my favorite beer from 2013.

Fast forward to 2014. A new name was needed. (the name "Alchemy Hour" had already been claimed by another brewery) While "Chillwave" isn't nearly as sexy as "Alchemy Hour" the contents of the bottle remain the same. Mosaic and Nugget hops, with just a touch of sweetness from an addition of honey malt. It's so well balanced, the first one I had in 2013 opened my eyes to what a great IPA could be. (Sorry West Coasters, I'm from Ohio after all!)

Luckily we have some great local resources. AJ's Beer Warehouse and Great Lakes Brewing were doing a tasting of Chillwave and the Conway's Irish Ale last weekend, so I went and picked up a 4-pack of one of my absolute favorites. (Plus a very handy keychain bottle opener!) Great Lakes doubled the batch this year, so it should be easier to come by, I may need to stock up!

Hope you all are getting into the beers that you really dig this time of year. Seems like a lot of in-demand beers are hitting the shelves lately. What are some of your top picks? Anything I should search out for 2014? Let us know in the comments or drop me a line!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Farewell Queen City

It was a sad thing, putting my suitcase in the car for the long drive home, but all good things must come to an end.

It was a fantastic 10 days in Charlotte with some of our very best friends and some pretty great beers.

Charlotte's growth as a beer-centric city is pretty astonishing. When we lived there from 2007-2009, there wasn't much to speak of in terms of craft beer, but I suppose that's probably true of a lot of American cities at that time. It was great to see the breweries, and their beers being served at bars and restaurants around the city. It was cool seeing all the people in those small tasting rooms, enjoying pints with friends, bonding over beer.

All together, we got to check out 4 breweries:

Birdsong Brewing
NoDa Brewing
Triple C Brewing
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

Plus I got to try out a lot of other really good NC craft beer. 

Table Rock Pale Ale-One of the better pale ale's I've had
Green Man Forester-Tom's favorite brewery from Asheville
Big Boss Hell's Belle
Natty Greene's Old Town Brown-Dinner out for the birthday girls!

All said and done, it was a pretty great trip. If work or pleasure ever takes you to the Charlotte area, don't worry about the beer. They are doing a lot of things right, and I'd guess that even more is on the horizon. I know that I for one can't wait to head back south and get to the couple of breweries that we missed and check out some more great brews. If it doesn't stop snowing, that trip might be sooner rather than later!

Have any of you gotten to take a beer trip recently or have any beer trips planned for the upcoming year? Let us know about them in the comments section! I'd love to hear if you have any favorite destinations or recommendations for cities that I need to check out!