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!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mac's to the Rescue and Olde Meck

There were still breweries to be seen and our time was starting to run out. With a weekend full of plans, the time to head out to another brewery had come. Luckily (or so we thought) there was one right up the street.

Four Friends Brewing, which according to their website was established in 2007. Also according to their website, they have a pretty solid line-up of beers. So we were disappointed when we walked up to the doors and were denied access. Apparently we went on the day they were having some trouble with some permits (and apparently some trouble posting that info on their website, twitter feed, or facebook page)

As we hung our heads and trudged back to Tom's truck, a lightbulb went off and we headed a little further up the road to our beer heroes for the day.

Mac's Speed Shop

Mac's opened their doors at their original location in 2005 as a Bike and BBQ joint. I assume that meant that they served a lot of American light lagers, but their BBQ is amazing and they established quite the following. Fast forward to 2014 and they have 5 locations, a killer beer menu, and still probably those light lagers if that's what your into.

As we were not there for the light lagers, we looked to the impressive draft list, and they had added the ability to try a flight of beers to the menu. A new addition since my last trip there. So of course that's what we did. Trying to get as many NC beers in as I could in my trip, my first flight was all North Carolina.

For my first flight I went with:

Ruby Lager-Olde Hickory Brewery
Copperline Amber-Carolina Brewery
Honey Pie Double IPA-Birdsong Brewing
Chocolate Imperial Stout-Natty Greene's

For my second flight, I only had 3 NC beers left to try:
Devil's Britches-Highland Brewing
Bell Ringer-RJ Rockers
KA-BAR Brown-Railhouse Brewery

As we sat outside and drank our flights (that's right, outside, in February. Man I miss Charlotte's winters!) we talked about beers we'd shared, and beers we'd yet to have. I had another pint of Triple C's Cajun Stout (Yum!) and we started thinking about the next stop on our brewery tour.

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

The last brewery on our journey opened their doors in 2009 and made it their focus to serve high quality German beers. And speaking from a little bit of experience, they have managed to do that very well. Probably the best American examples of styles that I lived on for 3 years I've had since coming back to the states.

When you pull up to the brewery you can tell right away that OMB is the big dog of Charlotte breweries. A big window behind their bar shows off their impressive brewing capacity.  Their beer list is small, but captures many of the German styles and does them all well. We started with a flight as always, and I settled on my four pretty easily. The first four taps please! Brauhaus, Dunkel, Früh Bock, and Bauern Bock. I really enjoyed the Früh Bock, which was their spring release that they had just unveiled a few days prior, but they were all very good. After finishing our flights, we decided that some lunch was in order. The only one of the four breweries we visited that serve their own food, (the others have food trucks during their tasting room hours) they have a very German-centric menu. I settled on a pretzel sandwich with black forrest ham and German potato salad. Their Captain James Jack Pilsener was the perfect accompaniment to my lunch.

After eating our lunch and finishing our drinks, it was time to head back home. The sun was setting on both my time in Charlotte and our brewery trips.

Stay tuned as I wrap up my beer-venture in Charlotte. Thanks for tagging along with me on this adventure so far!


Friday, February 28, 2014

Foothills Flights and Triple C Brewing

There were still places to see and beers to be had on our Charlotte beer-venture, so when my friend Tom had an errand to run, I gladly tagged along. Mostly because of its prime location, right next door to Duckworth's. This self proclaimed Grill & Taphouse has an impressive menu for both food and drink, so if you are in the greater Charlotte area, I'd highly recommend checking them out.

It was pretty hard settling on my lunch (I went with a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, which was awesome, and possibly blasphemous to people in Buffalo and in Philadelphia) and it would have been even harder settling on which beers to try, but Duckworth's made it easy. February was Foothills Brewing month.

Sexual Chocolate
 As soon as I saw that they actually had it on the beer-list, I knew I needed to try Sexual Chocolate. It's one of those beers that you always hear about being great, but rarely ever see. An imperial stout that tastes like a bitter dark chocolate bar. It was fantastic and a great start to our lunch.

Foothills Brewing
After finishing our appetizer, the food came and along with it was a flight featuring other Foothills brews. Tom and I both went with the same line-up; Cottonwood Frostbite, Hoppy Medium Imperial Brown Ale, Jade IPA, and People's Porter. All fantastic, especially the porter, one of my favorite styles.

After settling our bill, it was time to make a beer-run, then home to rest up, the next brewery on our tour was just a day away.

Triple C Brewing Company

We were the first guests to arrive, right as Triple C was opening their doors. The space inside is great, pretty minimalistic and sharp. Clean concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and a great view into the brewery.

Triple C

After looking over their menu, we settled on a pair of flights. I went with the Golden Boy Blonde, Light Rail Pale Ale, Greenway IPA, and a Smoked Amber. Of the flight, I really enjoyed the smoked amber. It had just enough smoke to contrast the caramel flavors in the amber ale. There were still some beers to be had, so after our flights, I settled on giving a pint of the Cajun Stout a try, and I'm glad I did!   
It was fantastic, an extremely well made American stout with a nice spicy kick in the finish. Without a doubt the best Charlotte beer I had during my travels down south.

We were also lucky enough to have been at the brewery the same day they were releasing a new beer, so we also got to give their new Black IPA, Space Cadet, a try. I always tell you about the styles I like, but this is a style I don't typically care for. That said, this one was definitely better than most that I've had. The hops didn't clash with the darker malts, it had a nicely rounded flavor.

After our glasses were empty, we decided we probably needed a pair of glasses to take home, and a growler of the blonde ale, and a t-shirt. Triple C stole my heart that day with their great beers and very cool brewery. I'll definitely be back the next time I'm in Charlotte!

What other beery goodness did I get into in Charlotte? Stay tuned to find out!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Birdsong, NoDa, and Milestones

As our brewery tour kicked off in Charlotte, I found myself hovering on the edge of a milestone. I first joined Untappd and began tracking my beers on April 1st, 2011. The first beer I checked into was a Maibock from a brewery close to Frankfurt, Germany where we were living at the time. For my 1000th beer, I would go to the Birdsong Brewery in Charlotte, NC.

Birdsong Brewing Co.

According to Google Maps, Birdsong and NoDa Brewing are 171 feet apart, which is pretty awesome for the first leg of a brewery tour. So, we parked the car and walked down the shared driveway of these two breweries to Birdsong Brewing Co.

Birdsong Brewing Co.
Opening in 2011, Birdsong, like most of the places in NoDa is in an old industrial building. Lots of exposed bricks and beams. The tasting room was on the smaller size, and already starting to fill with people. We looked over the menu board and ordered some flights to try out a few of their beers.

I settled on my four; MexiCali Stout, EP Single Hop Mosaic, Jalapeño Pale Ale, and The Pride Belgian Dubbel.

1000th different Beer!

The MexiCali stout was the first beer I had of my flight, making it my 1000th different beer! It was a nice basic stout with just a touch of spiciness to it. Very subtle, it would have been easy to miss if not for the name. A very good start to the flight. I enjoyed all of my beers from Birdsong, especially the Jalapeño Pale Ale. Different, with a spicy, fruity kick at the end. Not overpowering but served as a nice contrast to the malty sweetness.

After finishing our flights, it was time to move on, so I bought a Birdsong tulip glass which has the simple but lovely logo on it and we made our way 171 feet to NoDa Brewing Co.

NoDa Brewing Co.

The NoDa Brewing Co opened in 2011, and has quite the following. The decent sized tasting room was full by the time we got there, but there was plenty of room at the bar for us to go order a few flights to try out some of their brews. Four more beers were on their paddles and heading to the table. I went with Gordgeous, Coco Loco (2012 Silver Medal GABF), Woody and Wilcox IPA, and Tart Attack a special release Berliner Weisse. 

It was a good selection of beers, and the CoCo Loco was probably my favorite of the bunch. Just a hint of toasted coconut rounded out the flavor of the porter. I typically don't like coconut, but it seemed to provide a little subtle sweetness to the porter that I enjoyed. The Gordgeous was excellent as well, and that's what we decided to get a growler of to take home with us. 

My only complaint with NoDa is they didn't accept my American Homebrewers Association Membership for the discount that they offer, which made me sad. Oh well, there was too much good beer to hold a grudge.

The brewery itself is a very nice build, with windows behind the bar showing off their 15 barrel brew house. Rugged and industrial, keeping with the them of the neighborhood.

After all those beers and the first two breweries down, it was time to head home. Thanks for driving babe! 

Stay tuned to find out about the next leg of our Charlotte beer-venture!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Left the Snow Behind...Hello Sunny Charlotte!

It's been a pretty whirl-windingly amazing last 2 weeks in my world of beer. It all started out several weeks ago when my wife announced that she needed to go to Charlotte, NC for some work something-or-other.

Having lived a few years back in the Queen City, we made some pretty awesome friends down there, so whenever my wife has reason to be down there for work, I try to tag along, especially whenever there happens to be roughly 3 foot drifts of snow in our yard.

After looking at the prices for flights from Rochester to Charlotte, I made a sad face, then decided that 12 hours in the car wouldn't be too bad to see my buds and the sunshine. Besides, if I drive, I can take some beer!

Packed and Ready to Go!
A few days before the trip, my friend Tom starts digging up info and planning some brewery trips for us while the wives were at work during the week. Sounds good to me, I'll bring some local stuff down with me to share, and we'll search out the best beers that Charlotte has to offer.

That Sunday we set off on our first beer-venture and headed out to grab some lunch in the trendy NoDa district of Charlotte (Hipsters hang out there!) Our first stop was to get some lunch, but when we got there the waitress told us it was going to be a 30 minute wait, so we looked across the street and laid our eyes upon Growlers Pour House, and our lovely wives suggested Tom and I go grab a beer. Growlers was a cool little bar and bistro that serves up some American fare and oysters, but they more importantly have a modest but impressive beer list, including two on cask, and we both went for the same one. Heavy Seas Siren Noire.

Siren Noire
Road to Nowhere Porter
 After taking a sip of this delicious Imperial Stout, we get a text saying our table is ready, hurry up. An imperial stout served from a cask doesn't lend itself to hurrying up, but we finish and head back across the street to meet the ladies for lunch. Fish tacos and Triple C Road to Nowhere Porter (more on them later...stay tuned!) were on the menu. We at lunch, then headed to our first brewery Birdsong Brewing Co.

To be Continued!

Stay tuned to A Year 4 Beer for the next thrilling installment!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tapping New Kegs and Rochester Beer

The last few days have been pretty eventful in my world of beer.

Over this past weekend, the wife needed to go pick up some wine club packages down in the Fingerlakes. The sun was shining, even though it was brutally cold. Keuka Lake had even frozen over, the first time since 2004 according to our host at Ravines Wine Cellar. We grabbed our wine, and I made a quick dash to the closest brewery!

Our first stop was at Abandon Brewing, a place I've been many times now, but still stop at almost every trip down to the lakes. Something about their beers that I really like. They had a pretty good crowd of people there Saturday afternoon and I did a tasting flight of four beers; Harvest Saison, Grape Dubbel, Farmhouse IPA, and their Pale Ale.  

Afterwards, we were in need of some food, so we made the long drive over to CB Craft Brewers for another flight and some dinner. I went with the reuben (which I always do, anywhere a reuben is on the menu!) and four beers in my flight. 2 that I'd never had, and two that I really like. Poor Richard's Ale and the Night Owl Cream Porter were the new ones. Caged Alpha Monkey IPA and the Joe Latte Vanilla Coffee Stout were the ones I'd had before.  I was really impressed with the Poor Richard's and whats not to love about a vanilla coffee stout?

Sunday night was another day of mourning. I had the final pint of my American Amber Ale, which meant I got to put my new keg washer back to use. This was a sad occasion because this beer was a pretty big milestone for me in my brewing. This Amber Ale was my first all-grain batch! (Special thanks to my dad who was my assistant brewer that day!) But as beer goes, when a keg runs dry, another needs to be ready to take it's place. So that's what I did yesterday. I kegged up my Belgian Pale Ale and hooked it up to the CO2 so it should be ready to go by this coming weekend. 

As a reward for my hard work I enjoyed the first taste of the last keg I hooked up, my Belgian Dubbel I mentioned in a previous post. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, filled with beers that helped keep you warm on these cold nights. Keep your spirits up, the days are slowly getting longer and the end of this winter is in sight....behind all those piles of snow!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snowstorms and Belgian Strong Ale

Yesterday, Rochester got hit pretty good by an early February snowstorm. We got just shy of 12" of snow here at the house, but luckily there were some tasty beers to keep my spirits up. Last night we had our monthly BJCP Style Session at The Old Toad. (They also happened to have one of my favorite beers in the world, Abita Turbodog...on Cask!)

The style in question for the evening was BJCP Category 18 - Belgian Strong Ale

Probably my absolute favorite category of beers. I love everything about them; I Love Belgium, and I Love Belgian Beer!

The category is split into 5 sections, and we had two samples from each section. Our BJCP leaders put together a great spread of beers to try, and luckily these beers are getting easier to find here in the U.S.

Last night we sampled:

18A-Belgian Blonde Ale
Affligem Blonde
Maredsous Blonde

18B-Belgian Dubbel
La Trappe Dubbel
Chimay Premiere (Red)

18C-Belgian Tripel
Westmalle Tripel
Unibroue La Fin du Monde

18D-Belgian Golden Strong Ale

18E-Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Rochefort 10
St. Bernardus Abt 12

These beers are all quite unique in a way that only Belgian ales are. Fruity esters, spiciness, dark candies, sweet, but not filling, and a very restrained alcohol presence, despite some of these beers getting up past 10% ABV.

After the tasting I'm even more excited about my brewing this year. I should be trying my Dubbel out this weekend, and I've got a Belgian Pale Ale and Wit fermenting. My next brew is going to be category 18A-Belgian Blonde Ale.

Have you all had the chance to try out any good Belgian Strong Ales? What's your favorite? If you've never had the chance to try any, they are worth picking up and sharing with friends, or keeping to yourself! (Just watch out for that ABV!)


Monday, February 3, 2014

Empty Kegs...Farewell Christmas Ale!

This week marked the end of my latest keg of homebrew, I drank my last pint of Willow Valley Scottish Winter Solstice.

Scottish Winter Solstice

After finishing my pint, my thoughts turned quickly to my next keg of homebrew. A Belgian Dubbel that has been on deck for quite some time now. The next morning I hooked up the new keg to the CO2 and started counting down the days until it's carbonated and ready to drink.

The only problem I had now was that I needed to clean this dirty keg. What I needed was a keg/carboy washer, and that required a trip to Harbor Freight and Home Depot. I still have a few tweaks to make to it, but the design is straight forward enough and should be easy to change as needed.

Heres a few pictures and a little video of it in action. Let us know if you have any beer projects lined up for this year.


1/3 HP Sump Pump
Down into a Home Depot Bucket

Use it with a Carboy


Or with a Keg

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Few Beer Updates

This week has been a cold and snowy one. Luckily there have been some good beers to keep me warm!

This past Wednesday I headed into the home brew shop to get a couple more vials of yeast for some upcoming brews. I picked up one each of the White Labs 400 and the 500 (Wit and Trappist yeast)

Later that evening I got a call from our UPS driver asking me to come down the driveway and sign for my package. My next shipment of beer-of-the-month had come in!

I got beers from Smuttynose (FinestKind IPA and Robust Porter) and Mustang Brewing (American Lager and Winter Lager) So far I've gotten a chance to try the Robust Porter and the Winter Lager. I was really impressed with the winter lager. Dark and chocolatey, but had that smooth easy drinking lager characteristic. The robust porter was really good too. A nice rich style that I enjoy quite a bit, and Smuttynose never disappoints!

Friday it was time to brew again. It was crazy cold outside, but I stayed warm inside the garage, mostly.        I milled my grains, mashed-in, sparged, boiled, cooled, and pitched my yeast. At the end I had 5 gallons of Witbier ready to ferment.

My recipe was:
45% Pilsner Malt
41% Flaked Wheat
9% Flaked Oats
2% Munich Malt
3% Rice Hulls

31 grams Hallertauer Hops for 60 Minutes
I threw in some Coriander, Orange Peel, and Chamomile at the end of the boil too. It smelled pretty awesome!

(I didn't take any pics of my brew day, it was too cold! But heres my dueling carboys)

The yeast is working it's magic on both of my beers, so hopefully I'll have them ready to drink soon!

Hope your all staying warm and having a great beer filled week out there!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First Brew of 2014!

Yesterday I got my first brew in of 2014!

My lovely wife got me a gift card to Northern Brewer for Christmas, and I knew exactly what to get. I ordered up a grain mill and my first order of bulk grains and started planning my first brew.

Deciding I'm going to focus on Belgian styles this year, I decided my first brew would be a Belgian Pale Ale.

My grain bill was:
91% Belgian Pilsner Malt
7% Caramunich
2% Biscuit Malt

Next it was time to mash. I overshot my temp a bit. I mashed for 60 minutes at 154 (was supposed to have been 152)

I collected my wort, started my 90 minute boil and added my hops. (East Kent Goldings. 1.22 oz 60 minute and .29 oz 0 minute)

Now it's up to the yeast

I can't wait for this to finish up so I can try it out. Hopefully if any of you are into brewing you've had a chance to brew something up this year. Let us know what you've got fermenting!