Monday, April 7, 2014


Drinking craft beer is its own joyful pursuit and while I need little incentive to drink that next beer, what's wrong with some encouragement.  Enter, Untappd, a beer logging app that lets you record, rate and "...socially share and explore the world of beer with your friends and family." according to their site.

I've been using Untappd to check-in almost 440 distinct beers I've drank, but recently took things a step further by listing my homebrewery and beers that I make on Untappd.

Take a few seconds and check it out at  If you are lucky enough to have had one of my homebrews, log it and give me some feedback.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Not by Beer Alone - Gin Kit

When I'm not enjoying my go-to drink, craft beer, you can usually find me with a gin and tonic in my hand.  I love the fruitiness of juniper and find that there is a seemingly endless variety to the blend of spices and botanicals that just "work" in gin.
For Christmas I received the gift of a gin kit from The HomeMade Gin Kit company. It's a simple way to, as the company says, "...make a small batch of gin at home without costly (and illegal) distilling equipment."
I started off with, not the full kit of bottles, funnel and strainer, but rather the Botanical Spice Refill Kit, that sells for a cool ten bucks. The kit contains one canister of juniper and one of a blend of botnaicals.
Add these herbs and spices to an affordable bottle of vodka and you are ready to go. The entire process takes about 36 hours.  
First, add the container of juniper berries to the bottle.
Let the bottle sit for 24 hours. After just 24 hours of steeping the juniper, the rather bland vodka had an AMAZING bright and citrus aroma. At this point I'm thinking, "Wow, this is actually gonna be gin."
Then add the blend of botanicals. It just fit in the 750ml bottle.
Let the botanicals and earlier added juniper, steep for another twelve hours.
At the 36 hour mark, strain the contents of the bottle to remove the juniper, herbs and spices. I used a small metal strainer and poured the gin into several pint glasses, before pouring it back into the original bottle.
The final product was a slightly off-yellow color, not the normal sparkling clear gin I'm use to buying at the liquor store.
The aroma and flavor are heavily spiced, with strong notes of peppery Rosemary and coriander.

While the company does not disclose the contents of the botanical blend, I could identify what looked like coriander, rose hip, bay leaf and rosemary.
The gin has a VERY strong pepper and spice aroma and flavor. I'm tempted to try this kit again and use only the juniper berries without adding the botanical blend.  The botanicals are overpowering and distract from the clean juniper flavor.
In the future I plan to make other batches of gin made with my own blend of spices.  My initial thoughts are a gin with only juniper, maybe some lemon peel and rose hips too.

The kit transforms a mediocre bottle of neutral spirit into a spicy and juniper fruity blend of flavors.  All I think we need is a splash of tonic and a wedge of lime to complete this beverage. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sage Saison

There is something special about cooking with fresh herbs harvested straight from your garden. Run outside and cut some Chives for your morning omelet, spruce up some store-bought salsa with fresh Cilantro or add a few springs of Thyme to a hearty stew.

Of all the herbs in my garden Sage is my favorite. I like the sharp aroma and earthy flavor that it adds to foods, especially meats like sausage and lamb.  So when I decided to brew my Saison receipt, for what would be the sixth time, I wanted to add Sage. 

I'd thought about how bold Sage is and worried about how it would pair with the delicate farmhouse character in Saison. My worries were calmed by DJ turned brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisinal Ales and a bottle of his Cellar Door, an American farmhouse ale with white Sage.

Sage Saison (10 Gallons)
  • 10 lbs Pilsner Malt
  • 2 lbs Flaked Wheat
  • 2 lbs Light Candi Sugar
  • 2 oz Sirachi Ace (1oz @ 60mins) (1oz @ 0 mins)
  • 4 oz Citra (1oz @ 60mins) (1oz @ 0 mins) (2 oz dry hop)
  • Saison Yeast Blend (WLP565, WLP566 and White Labs 3711)
  • 4 oz Sage, fresh picked (2 oz @ 0 mins) (remainder @ dry hop)
  • Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
  • Whirlflock tablet
  • Mash at 148° F for 90 mins.
  • 90 min boil

The simple grain bill of the beer really lets the the yeast character and hop flavors shine.  The low mash temp helps to ensure the wort is highly fermentable and will allow for the characteristic dry finish found in so many great Saisons.

Having brewed this recipe several times with small adjustments to yeast, hops and specialty grains each time, I've settled on this malt bill and yeast combination.  I previously had a pound and a half of Munich malt in the bill, but opted for a cleaner malt base and cut it out.  I've struggled with WLP565 (Saison) reaching the level of attenuation I want, but really like the flavor profile it creates.  The WLP566 (Saison II) is more forgiving to work with, but lacks the flavor profile I get out of the WLP565.  I've found that the Wyeast3711 (French Saison) is a good middle ground between the two White Lab strains, providing both high attenuation and notable farmhouse flavors and aromas.  It was the combination of a last minute brew day and a low inventory of yeast at my local homebrew shop that lead me to blend all three yeast strains.  I'm very happy with the results and plan to keep using the blend. 

I don't like to over control the fermentation temperature of farmhouse style beers.  Historically they would have been exposed to the daily fluctuations of temperatures and I think this works well for the style.  The batch was split between two 6-gallon Better Bottles. I started the fermentation on a cement basement floor that was around 65°F and kept it there until after high krausen.  Then I moved it onto a rubber mat to insulate it from the cool cement and the temperature crept up to 68°F and I held it there for 3 days.  After that it was moved to a warmer location of the basement that varies from about 75° to 80° throughout the day.  Here it sat for a month before half of it was dry hopped with the remaining Sage and Citra hops, the other half received no additional Sage or hops.  Ten days after dry hopping, both were bottled and labled either as the dry hop version or what I call the nude version.

The scientific name for Sage is Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin, salvere, which means "to be saved." Let's hope I can manage to save a few of these bottles for myself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weyerbacher Riserva Vertical

A vertical tasting is trying a selection of the same beer from different years.  It is a great way to see how a beer changes over time.  It is especially exciting when done with wild ales because the flavors imparted by souring bacteria can greatly change over periods of time.

This vertical was between a 2009 and 2010 bottle of Weyerbacher Riserva.  This American Wild Ale with raspberry puree has a wonderful tangy tartness and mild levels of funk.
It is amazing the difference a year can make.  The 2010 was much sharper with the flavors hitting you in distinct steps while the 2009 was much more rounded and allowed the tastes to gently flow together.  The 2009 finished drier and invites the drinker to take another sip while the 2010 makes you pucker a little and prepare yourself for another taste.
It will be very interesting to see how this beer changes over the next few years.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 1

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #1
Ayinger - Celebrator Doppelbock

When I think of Christmas this is the beer that comes to mind.  Strong, sweet and beautifully complex.  There are wonderful notes of raisins and cherry with a thick malty body.  As if this beer was not enough of a treat it comes with a small plastic ram on each bottle.  Each year I treat myself to a case of this and enjoy drinking them while I decorate the Christmas tree with all the rams that come with the beer.

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 2

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #2
Corsendonk - Christmas Ale (2009)

A dark ale with fruit and spice flowing all over the place.  Pours great and has a wonderful aroma.  This bottle has been aging for more than a year and is a real treat.

A special thanks to Colin from Wooltown for donating this bottle.

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 3

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #3
Rodenbach - Flemish Red Brown

Christmas has a lot of sweets associated with it, cookies, rum cake, egg nog and candy.  With all this sweet we need to balance it with some sour!  Aged in oak for more than two years this beer is actually a blend of older Flemish ale and young ale.  The sourness is mild and fruity with a slight acidic finish.  Wonderful to drink. 

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 4

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #4
Port Brewing - Santa's Little Helper

You may be dreaming of a white Christmas this year, but Santa's Little Helper adds a darker side to the holidays.  Rich and velvety with thick roasted notes of toffee and caramel, this Imperial Stout would make jolly old saint Nick... well, jolly.

A special thanks to Colin from Wooltown for donating this bottle.

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 5

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #5
Anchor - Christmas Ale 2010

Thirty-six years, that's how long anchor has been brewing Christmas ales.  Each year is different and it is only available from mid November to mid January.
It is a great spiced and fruity beer with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, plum and chocolate.  I can't help but thinking of Fritz Maytag, considered by many to be the father of American craft brewing, as he worked to create his first Christmas beer more than 35 years ago.

A special thanks to Chad for donating this beer.

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - 6

The Twelve Beers to Christmas - #6
Stoudts - Winter Ale

A wonderful amber/red ale with a nice amount of hops.  Two years ago Stoudts released a new winter ale and this being the second year, I have to say, it is growing on me.
It is a wonderfully hoppy beer with a nice malt foreground. Stoudts changes the recipe every few years and it is always a treat to try their new winter ales.

In this segment, "The Twelve Beers to Christmas" I will be sharing a beer each day leading up to Christmas.