Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Swamp Thing Tasting

Reviewed 8/27/12

I’m going to say that this is my favorite beer I’ve made to date—not all that surprising considering my favorite beers are some combination of hop-forward, yeast driven funky and fruity, pale, oaked, dry, and full flavored. This one hits all of those marks (I guess it isn’t all that pale… who cares though), so it had an unfair advantage in the “Riley’s Favorites” contest.

I wish I made more of this, although we’ll see if it ages into something less graceful. I’m hoping that as the amazing hop nose fades and the Brett gets meaner it doesn’t lose it’s charm.
Appearance: Swampy dark orange with no head but nice legs.

Aroma: Sugary passion fruit and pineapple with a sharp floral quality and hints of strawberries. The nose is predominantly fruit and earth from the 100% Brett fermentation, but the dry hoping gave it some big and sweet floral smells. I am looking for the oak, but it only really shows itself as more layers of tropical scents- coconut and pineapple- in the background. It is impossible to say where the Brett ends and Citra/Amarillo combo begins—they are super complimentary with their pineapple, passion, pear, honeydew, and orange notes.

Taste: First thing is a big passion fruit zing with a hint of tartness on the tip of the tongue, followed by some more tangy tropical sweetness and a tiny hint of oaky richness. Then the earthy , wet, flint-like, raw mushroom, subdued funk form the Brett comes in and mellows it out nicely. It finishes with a citric peel flash of sour and bitter and NO herbal hoppyness.

Mouthfeel: Super low carbonation works well to help lend a perception of body and helps the lingering tang shine.

Overall: This is so huge on aroma and flavor, despite it’s moderate gravity and IBUs, that it made the Meridian Chardonnay that I had afterward taste quite watery. After we were done with the review, Kel and I finished the bottle with a perfect pairing of strawberries and creamy goat cheese. The strawberries brought out the great acidity and fruity flair while the goat cheese emphasized the earthy Brett notes.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Making Messes: Smoked Coffee ReBeerd Chocolate Orange Brett Saison “side project”


Yup, the title of this post pretty much sums it up… I threw together a ridiculous concoction that will most likely be a nasty mess, but could end up being an interesting beer with a bit of luck.

I got bored while I was mashing and boiling the Brown this weekend (post pending), and started to reorganize the piles of beer in my “Cellar” (read as: dusty garage). As I was consolidating the cases of homebrews, I realized that I had quite a few that I don’t really like. Instead of just sitting on them and only drinking a few a year, or just pouring them down the drain, I figured I might as well put all that hard-earned fermented wort to experimental use while freeing up some bottles and space in the process.

I had an empty 3 gal carboy whispering in my ear, and some fun Candi Syrup and sweet dried orange peer calling out from the goodie bag, so I lined up all the rejects and did my best to repurpose them. The result is a blend of 3 homebrews, several bottles of commercial beers that had passed their prime, and various yeast, sugar, and spice additions to kick the can down a different path.

I did the “blending” and pitched the dredges form La Rouge on top.

Approximate (this was NOT a well controlled experiment) ratios of the new brew:

 15% Black Beerd- This is a beer I never posted about. It is a medium sized oak aged Stout that I brewed from a kit and finished a bit too sweet and oxidized (thanks to a mistake in the transfer to secondary) for my tastes. Kelly actually likes it, and it really is pretty drinkable, but I am tired of it and figured it would serve as the “anchor” for the blend. I know that oxidation blends in in a nicer way with dark beers, and I was relying on this one to keep it black.

40% Short Stack- This has been a loss since the pitchingincident, and although I haven’t done a formal review yet I have been trying to make friends with it to no avail. Too acrid from the roasted grains with no sweetness to round it out.  This one is filler.

30% NWA- Too mean for me, but I’m hoping that in this blend its coffee contribution will add some nice depth to compliment the oak, smoke, and roasted grains in the other beers and that the rye will help build body and give the Brett something extra to process. Also, I ‘spect that if this works out, it’ll take a year or two at which point the hops in will fade to the back.

10% New Fermentables and Spices- Belgian Extra Dark Candi syrup, some bakers chocolate, a lb of honey, and 2 oz of dried sweet orange peel should all blend pretty well with the dark, roasty, smokey, coffee, and toasty beers given some time. Hopefully.

5% Other- Randoms that got thrown in included a bottle or two of Hoptimum, a can of Gubna’, and two 22oz bottles of a Honey Octoberfest that I made a small batch of (no post) and hated.

My plan is to tackle the eminent, ruinous oxidation on three fronts:

1)      By adding plenty of new fermentables to up the ABV and take advantage of the O2 purging nature of yeast metabolism I’m hoping that much of the oxygen exposure gets cleaned out as it re-ferments.

2)      Keeping the beer big and dark will hopefully push the oxidized flavor more towards the port/ sherry end of the spectrum, and not the stale cardboard end.

3)      I pitched a good sized jar of harvested French Saison/ Brett C dredges from the La Rouge brew. The idea here is that the French Saison yeast will be able to take all or the component beers down a few gravity points (it goes LOW) and lend some nice new spicy phenols to compliment the Candi and Oranges, while the Brett C will be able to work its magic over the months and cover any skanky cardboard flavors with it’s nice, mellow, cellar-like (reminds me of a wine cork) funk.
Now we wait. Most likely this is just going to be a big mess, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

8/25/12- Covered with a blanket in the back of the garage. I will revisit it around Christmas.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chum Slum

Don't know about you but I've heard from a lot of sources that Chum Salmon is great for smoking.


Did my first batch of Chum (also known as Keta, Dog, or Silverbrite) last weekend and it was a total bummer. Ted (Em's dad) and I were to have a "smoke-off" out on Lummi Island during her graduation party. The party was great as well as the crabbing once we hit the motherlode, so that was a great success. The smoke-off, however, was a total disaster.

Windy, 60°, and an overcast rocky beach doesn't make for the best smoking weather. But hey, you learn to deal. First thing that went wrong–late start. I finally made it out to the island and got the salmon in the smoker around 1pm. Ted had his in around 11. Second thing that went wrong–electricity deficit. The power at the cabin was not sufficient enough to power two smokers apparently. This slowed down the smoking process immensely (ultimately ended up taking the salmon home and finishing them the next day). Third to go wrong–Ted's cord had been chewed through by a rat or something of the likes and further slowed his Big Chief. After realizing that his cord had been compromised, we moved all of the salmon to my Little Chief, filling every rack wall to wall. Rule of threes, this smoke-off just wasn't meant to be. So needless to say we didn't have any salmon that night. Ted finished them off on Sunday and delivered half of the batch that evening.

Bellingham Bay w/Mt. Baker
Taste time. We have a really similar brine so there wasn't much variation between the two. The fish however, the actual breed, was terrible. So many people have told me that Chum is a good smoking fish and after this I think it's just because Chum isn't really good for grilling or baking, therefor people just smoke it. It's a good-for-nothing fish. Maybe it's a fighter and fun to reel in, but when it comes to eatin' I give this fish two thumbs down. It is dry and has a mushy texture. Not much of a trace of that beloved salmon flavor either, plus the color is an off-pale pink. I say stick with Sockeye and King. Of course these are the best for grillin' too so one must pick their priority wisely. The oils in both of these breeds keep the fish perfectly moist and really grab onto the flavor of whatever chips you're using. Can't complain about free fish though, alas, beggars cannot be choosers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


We invented a sport!

You take what you can get.
This past weekend I was lucky enjoy a killer celebration in honor of my good friend John for his “Bachelor” party. While Kel and the girls raged in Healdsburg for Meryl’s Bachelorette bomb, we played on the beach in Cayucos. It was an amazingly rad time thanks to the awesome group of goodguys who kept the fun coming non-stop, the pretty little beach house that served up the fun, and the hole-in-the-wall bar with all the charming ‘n ugly ‘n lovely old ladies to dance the night away with. Mainly we drank horrible beer and great whiskey, smoked big embarrassing cigars, threw things, and thrashed on the beach. But enough about all that… the point of this post is that I have to share the best new sport since freestyle walking:


What you need:

1) An open field or beach that allows for hella fast running without crashing into anything. The football field at your local public school would work well. We played on the beach.

2) 2, 3, or 4 ring-type Frisbees. The ones that go like 300 yards with a good huck. 3) Double the number of players as there are Frisbees. So, if you have 3 Frisbees, you need 6 dudes- 3 for each team. We played with 2 Frisbees which meant 2 teams of 2.

How you play:

Each team goes to opposite ends of the field and alternates throwing the Frisbees to the other team. I recommend starting with at least 100 yards between the teams as the Frisbees go wicked far.

Points are only received by the receiving team. The throwing team simply has one player act as that point’s “server.”

The server throws ALL of the Frisbees (equal to the # of opposing players) as evenly to the opposing team. The idea behind the throw is to release all of the Frisbees in a stack so that they are flying more-or-less in even formation.

I don't recomend playing this game with horse shoes.
The Frisbees will inevitably move apart as they make their way to the other side of the field, where the catching teams’ objective is to have each player catch one. 2 points are scored ONLY when every receiver catches a Frisbees (meaning, all Frisbees have to be caught). No points are scored if any individual receiver fails to make a catch. So, if there are 4 guys and 4 Frisbees, and 3 guys catch a Frisbee each but one receiver doesn’t catch the 4th, the team gets no points.

Each throw is subject to a “repeal” from the receiving team if it determines that the release was faulty and rendered any of the Frisbees absolutely uncatchable. In that case the point should re-played.

The first team to score more than 7 points wins, but can only win by a margin of 2 or more points. The loosing team then buys the winning team the first round of drinks at the bar after the game.

DO IT!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sunny Side IPA Tasting

Reviewed 8/5/12

Oh boy! This beer is a great success in terms of drinkability and sheer enjoyment factor. Even though it is a bit off of the mark on some of the particular features I was going for, it is basically just what I set out to brew.  

A rad tropical and floral hop nose, hop saturated and wheaty mid-sip with a nice flash of thirst-quenching sweetness before a dry finish with super smooth but substantial bitterness (although it finished so dry that it doesn’t take many IBUs to balance).

Alright, so on to the tasting notes. I’m very pleased.

Appearance: Hazy honey hue with a very creamy 2 finger head and vigorous carbonation. The head is epic, but I find the beer to be otherwise pretty ugly.

Smell: Huge and sweet floral aroma of cantaloupe, passion fruit, pineapple, and orange peel that you can smell from 3 feet away. More pine than I expected and some black pepper spice in the back. I’ll say it again for emphasis: Floral, cantaloupe, passion fruit, pineapple, and orange peel.  A hint of honey sweetness from the malt but otherwise it is a hop-only nose.

Taste: Follows the nose with big hop flavors that flow from citrus to melon to pine to pepper. The malt is vaguely cracker-like with that doughy wheat thing and dominant honey-sweetness mid sip. It finishes dry with a soft lingering bitterness that tingles with the pepper notes.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with foamy carbonation. Really great for what a mouthful it is. Amazingly clean finishing for all the aromas and flavors leading up to it.

Overall: Great Summer IPA. Sessiony as hell balance and a bitchin play between the sweetness and hop bouquet.

Take aways for next time: The Citra, Amarillo, and Centennial combo makes for a great bouquet that is amazingly sweet-smelling  up front but has more pine in the mix than I expected… I reckon next summer I’ll switch the Centennial with some, Wakatu hops for more floral/lime notes and less pine (maybe I’ll just do all Amarillo and Citra?... Pacifica, NZ Hallartau, or Rakau are on the radar too). The grain bill worked well, but I plan on totally re-thinking it for the next Summer IPA. The Golden Promise worked fine as base, but I want to do pilsner malt as the base next time as I really love the ultra neutral, waxy-sweet-yet-dry foundation it lays down in my favorite Pilsners. The wheat was a great choice as a character builder, I love the doughy impression it gives summer beers so it will make it into the next beer in equal or greater quantities. The Carapils was totally unnecessary in this beer. The wheat did the job just fine, and since I want my next Summer IPA to be a touch smaller it has no place adding more body. The Honey malt is crazy! It is SUPER sweet, but since it provides so much sweetness in such small quantities it allows the beer to stay very dry… useful for later beers but it is a bit too “warm” tasting and I plan on switching to Carmel 15 for the next Summer IPA. Also, this one came out much darker than I wanted which is again something that will be easily remedied by the planned revisions to the grain bill. The hop quantities were great, although next time I’m going to do one more oz in the DH (I’m saving a more focused, cleaner hop profile for my Winter IPA). The water treatment worked perfectly as did the neutral yeast.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You say Obama, I say Obeerma...

Click here for a fun little article about White House Homebrew!

"Usually, when somebody hands me a beer I don't ask how it was made. I just drink it"- Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary.

NWA Tasting

Reviewed 8/9/12

This beer has been the bottle now for two months and it is just starting to come around. It is still pretty harsh thanks to a combo of near IPA level IBUs, an overdose of dark roasted coffee beans, and the sandy roughness from the 14% rye malt contribution, but as the hops and coffee “integrate” with time (read as: fade) it is becoming an almost enjoyable beer. Almost.
It is interesting, and I think it has a lot going for it, but in the end I find it quite hard to finish a bottle. Its bitter, dry, earthy, strong, quite caffeinated, and has a so much going on between the malt, hops, and coffee that it is teetering on the line between “depth” and “noise.” I like the red, raisin, spicy, backbone quite a bit, as I do the earthy contribution from the hops and the eye-popping coffee aromas, but I feel that any one of those three strengths would be better as a singular focus. All together it is a pretty mean proposition.
Appearance: Hazy reddish brown with an orange streak where the light shows through. Thin off white head with no lacing but decent retention. Vigorous carbonation.
Smell: Sweet breakfast coffee. The coffee is extremely dominant. It has the earthy mild brown coffee smell that good light roasts have. The Earthy coffee notes mix in a nice way with a slightly apply yeast character and if you concentrate you can get a hint of biscuits in the malt. Hops? Yes, but in a regular, beery sort of way…. Could call ‘em earthy or floral, but a generic “hop smell” is more accurate. I think I get a slight apricot note, but it is way down there.
Taste: Again, overwhelming breakfast coffee; It is actually stronger in the taste than it is in the nose. Smooth and dry with more apricot notes than I expected behind the coffee astringency. The malt is just a backdrop; this beer really has an un-sweetened coffee soda feel with a dry and bitter finish. There is some grainy spiciness form the rye before it finishes with a rough texture and a quick, bitter jab. This beer could have been balanced exclusively with the bitterness form the coffee. The hops are just overkill.
Mouthfeel: Dry, bubbly, and medium bodied. Somehow reminds me of Coke.
Overall: I reckon I accomplished what I set out to… a pale beer that relies on a hop-forward balance and coffee aromatics to provide interest against a relatively blank malt and yeast canvas. Why I set out to brew a beer like this I’m quite sure anymore… I know that I really enjoyed a similar concept from To-OL, but I should have realized that that beer struck a much different balance between it’s massive Imperial IPA malt bill and big, smooth, nutty coffee roast that played much closer to sweet than dry. My rendition has a nice subtlety to the dark crystal tinged malt bill and a pleasant earthy hop profile, but the coffee is much stronger than it needs to be and the Rye only accomplished giving the dryness more muscle rather than smoothing it out the way it could have if I had brewed a bigger and sweeter beer. I guess my take away for next time is that I need to cool the whole thing off by countering the dry fermentation and harsh bitterness with more crystal malt or lighter coffee. But in reality, I probably won’t re-brew this one or anything close to it.

Fun beer though I guess. I would like to use parts of this beer as inspirations for later projects including one that uses a similarly modeled grain bill with a Belgian yeast, and a sweeter, less hoppy beer that uses the huge coffee presence… probably a nut brown… who knows….

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy National IPA Day!

What will you be drinkin' to celebrate the wonderous world of pale, hoppy beer??

Ima stop by Whole Foods for thier 20% IPA sale to stock up (not too much though, I'd hate to have so much that some could go stale) and then try the first bottle of Sunnyside.


Juniper Smoked Salmon

Smoking salmon has become a favorite hobby of mine. Riley and I grew up with smoked rainbow trout. I moved to the PNW (salmon capital of the US) about four years ago and couldn't afford to buy smoked goods so ended up trying my hand with the Little Chief electric smoker. The first couple of rounds were overly salted. Ended up reducing the amount of salt in the brine and rinsing the fish more thoroughly post-brine bath.

After fine-tuning a basic brine, I've been using that as my control while experimenting with some different flavor profiles. My favorite so far has been adding crushed Juniper Berries to the brine. It sounds a little counter-intuitve; typically with smoking we want to avoid using any piney woods or cedar because the smoke renders the fish sour. However, balanced out with some sugar and spices, the Juniper berries offered up a nice unexpected tang that complemented the sweetness of the maple syrup I use in the brine. Juniper berries do get pricey though so if you plan on trying them out, do a small batch of fish first. Haven't tried them on trout yet but reckon the trout may be a little delicate for the strong flavor of Juniper, could be a hit though–let ya know when I get there.

Rubbing the brown sugar into the flesh
Juniper Brine:

4 Cups water
1/4 Cup Salt
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (or you can use Agave if    
   the maple is too bold for you)
Juice of 1 organic lemon
10 Cloves crushed garlic
2-4 Tbsp crushed Juniper Berries (depending on
      how much you want to taste)

I like to let it brine for at least 12 hours, sometimes longer. Rinse the fish really well to get the excess salt off (the majority of the salt has seeped into the fish which acts as the preserving agent), otherwise your fish is going to taste extremely salty. Then rub some more brown sugar into the flesh, you should see the sugar melting a bit to create a thick syrup on top. Fresh cracked black pepper is optional but highly recommended. I like to let the fish sit on the smoke racks for about 30 minutes to let any excess moisture from the rinse run off. Depending on your smoker and whether you like the salmon more dry or moist, smoking times vary. Again, this is a pretty sweet brine to balance out the tartness of the Juniper, but I think you'll be pleased. Enjoy.