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Beer Flights for Your Holidays

Lately I’ve preferred drinking small 4oz pours of 3-5 different beers rather than a larger pour of a single beer. Being able to compare and contrast multiple beers makes it easier to suss out the distinctive character of each individual beer. I’ve also found when I drink less when I drink mindfully.

The big box stores have released their holiday hours, Amazon is counting down to Black Friday, Vita.mn has released their Minnesota six-pack, and I’m studying up for a BJCP tasting exam. Roll that all together and I’ve had holiday beer flights on the brain. Each of the 6 flights below is designed for diversity and distinctiveness. I trust it will introduce you and yours to something new and interesting (and maybe even look at something familiar in a new way). All the beers were purchased in either MN or WI, though some are easier to find than others.

History Flight

Four pale, crisp, refreshing beers highlighting a brewing technique or ingredient that was once far more popular than it is today. Compare and contrast the tartness from the yeast, spicy from the hops & herbs, and the diversity in carbonation levels.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Antwerpse Brouw Seef (Belgium) 81
Olvalde Rise of the Burghers and the Fall of the Feudal Lords (MN) NA
Schell Star of the North (MN) 95
Orval (Belgium) 94

Hop Flight

The full spectrum of hop forward American pale ales. Notice the differences in malt sweetness and how the hop bitterness and citrusy hop aroma keeps ahead of it.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye (CA) 95
Ballast Point Big Eye (CA) 91
Indeed Day Tripper (MN) 90
21st Amendment Bitter American (CA) 87

Dark Flight

In these four big, dark beers look for roasted coffee, dark chocolate, prunes, and assertive alcohol presence. Compare the differences in smoke and roasted grains. Discuss with your companions whether or not you enjoy the 2 with peated malt (I do).

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Samuel Adams Wee Heavy (MA) 83
Boulevard Dark Truth (MO) 89
Fulton Worthy Adversary (MN) 93
Brouwerij De Molen Hemel & Aarde (Belgium) 89

Farmhouse Flight

From traditional to clearly American, these 4 beers interpret a rustic, complex, and refreshingly dry style. Compare and contrast the hop aromas and spicy yeast characters. Look for the ‘wild’ yeast character common in this style.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (NY) 92
Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (MO) 93
Hopothesis Drafty Window (IL) NA
Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont (Belgium) 93

Sour Flight

These four beers will stand up against any red wine at your holiday table. Like wine, they’re complex in aroma and flavor. Compare and contrast the levels of carbonation and prominence of dark fruit. Look for oak, tobacco, vanilla, and red-wine-esque tannins.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobin Rouge (Belgium) 96
Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium) 92
Rodenbach Grand Cru (Belgium) 95
Odell The Meddler (CO) 89

Cellar Flight

These are big beers, happily set down in a cool, dark, cellar and brought out for a celebration. Compare and contrast prominence of alcohol warmth and hop aroma. Discuss which beer is most reminds you of fruitcake. Look for caramel, oak, and comfortable place to sit down.

Beer (Origin) BeerAdvocate Score
North Coast Old Stock Ale (CA) 92
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (CA) 93
Avery Samael’s Ale (CO) 87
Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic (Austria) 89
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Big Beer Year #2: Flanders Brown from Brewing Classic Styles

The second beer of the Big Beer Year is Jamil Zainascheff’s Flanders Brown in as described in his book Brewing Classic Styles.

Well mostly. I made a couple malt substitutions based on availability and quantity tweaks to get closer to the numbers he specifies in the book.

On the process side, inspired by my torn bag mishap, I decided to do an overnight mash in the cooler. Last night, after I crushed the grain, I heated 7 gallons of water to in my boil pot. As that heated, I put the crushed grain in the bag and put the bag in the cooler. When the water got to temp 162°F (I estimate ~10°F loss once the water hits the grain) I poured it into the cooler. Once all the water was in, I jostled the bag around to make sure all the grain was sufficiently wet, folded the end of the bag outside the cooler and closed the lid. And ignored it until morning.

After I made a starter from 2 packages of Wyeast 1056, I went to bed. Easy.

This morning, I pulled 6 gallons off the still warm mash, boiled for 60 minutes, cooled the wort, and pitched the starter all by 10am. Brilliant.

Recipe:
8# Dingemens Pilsner Malt
4# Belgian Munich
12oz Belgian CaraMunich
8oz Belgian Aromatic
8oz American White Wheat
5oz Belgian Special B
1oz Belgian Debittered Black Malt

1oz Kent Goldings 5.8AA @ 60min
BU:GU: 0.24

Wyeast 1056 American Ale in the primary
Wyeast Roeselare Belgian Blend in the secondary

1.083 OG (Hopville says this is 82% efficiency – WOOT!)
1.015 FG (estimated)
18.5 IBU
9.1 ABV (estimate. perhaps this is an Imperial Oud Bruin?)

Flanders Brown from BSC @ Hopville

I need to keep an eye out for the DMS levels in this beer. If they’re at all noticeable then next time mash with 7.5-8 gallons of water so there’s at least 1.5 gallons to accommodate a 90 minute boil.

Update 6 Feb 2013

On Sunday, February 3rd, I pitched a starter of Roeselare right atop the finishing American Ale. Tonight, as I was checking what the gravity was (1.011) and what it should be according to BSC (1.012) I re-read the brewing instructions. It clearly says, move the beer to the secondary before pitching the Roeselare. Heck – my notes just a few lines above here say the same thing. Oh boy. Well, maybe I cut my losses and bottle this once the Roeselare completely falls – independent of sourness. Drat.

Update 5 Apr 2013

Arg, this batch turned out thin, grainy, and fusel-y with only the slightest background hint of the full rich, red-wine-iness I love in Oud Bruins. I’m pretty sure there are 3 culprits: inept sparge technique, weak yeast starter, and pitching the Roselare before removing the 1056. I don’t expect it to get better with age. Learning experience for sure. Level up! I’m interested to see what the judges at the NHC this weekend suggest.

Update 18 Apr 2013

This beer received a 27 & 30 @ NCH Round 1. Higher than I anticipated. Primary fault identified by the judges: diacetyl (caused by weak yeast & too warm storage) and lack of complexity (I’m blaming the sparge & yeast)

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Brew Day for the 2012 Hop Clearance

Today was brew day for the 2012 Hop Clearance and it could have gone much better. I forgot to put the false bottom in the brew pot (that’s step 1, even before turning on the burner).

So, the weight of 19 pounds of grain and the heat from the bottom of the brew pot burned a hole in my BIAB grain bag. Spilling out all 19 pounds of grain loose into the mash water. Thankfully, I had a leisurely 90 minutes before I needed to separate the soon-to-be spent grain from the soon-to-be hot liquor. In an effort to maximize my ‘it came to me in the shower’ chances – I grabbed my gym bag and headed out for a quick 30 minutes on the spin bike. Once on the bike, the answer was clear:

  1. grab the spare grain bag
  2. binder clip it into the unused large, rectangular, Igloo cooler
  3. dump the contents of the brew pot into the grain bag in the cooler
  4. put cooler on bar stool and drain back into freshly-cleaned brew pot

It worked slick and the walls of the cooler provide excellent resistance in squeezing every last drop out of the grains and into the brew pot. This process showed me the value of a separate mash/lauter tun and spigots – even for BIAB (admittedly this does mostly defeat the purpose of BIAB).

With the hot liquor ready for boil, I turned back on the outdoor burners and tidied up. Fifteen minutes later the temp was still reading 140°F. Oh sure, it’s only 16°F outside and the heat of mash has melted the snow off by back patio – but push through little turkey fryer – we gotta reach 212. I dove into the depths of the summer storage side of the garage, extracted the propane tank from the grill, and tagged it in. Fifteen minutes later – still 140°F. With both tanks giving up, it was time to take 6 hot and sticky gallons of grain juice into the kitchen to boil.

The Power Burner on the range quickly brought on a boil, and I prepped my first hop addition and an impromptu recipe tweak. Turns out my 4oz bag of Northern Brewer was hiding .8oz of Saaz. Fine. This is Hop Clearance – throw it in. It does mean, I don’t have as many IBUs as I planned, so while we’re here, let’s move the 10AA Centennial from flame-out to 45min. That’ll give us 10 IBUs back.

Then, I remember it’s January – which means the outside water’s been turned off for 2 months. Which means it’ll need to get turned back on, and hoses attached, to chill the wort. Now I have something to do between dropping the Irish Moss and flame-out. Perfect.

Through all of this, the starter of Headwaters waited patiently. I pitched them around 4pm and by 7:30 there was a nice solid krausen across the entire fermenter. Win.

With all the gear, the kitchen, the back patio clean, and Hopville’s calculators giving me a 73% efficiency on the mash (hitting 1.108 rather than the estimated 1.114) I’m tentatively optimistic on this one.

BTW – the fermenter smells fantastic.

Update 7 January 2013:

It’s been so long since I’ve brewed that I’d forgotten how wonderful fermentation smells.

Update 5 April 2013:

Turned out ok. Hops seem to be quickly fading. Overall, grainy/husky and less body than I’d like. I’m finding the strong finishing bitterness quite enjoyable. Barely any carbonation came through. The 12.8% ABV is quite prominent. I’m interested to see what the judges at the NHC think this weekend.

Update 18 Apr 2013

Received a 21 & 25 @ NCH Round 1. Higher than I anticipated. Primary fault identified by the judges: acetaldehyde (caused by weak yeast). Both judges describe the hops as low – glad I put so many in.

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Big Beer Year: #1 The Hop Clearance American Barleywine

One thing that beer class confirmed for me – I have a strong preference for the rich, full, maltiness of big beers. Hops I’m ambivalent about, but if a beer doesn’t have a prominent malt presence – it won’t make my Ongoing Beer List.

With this in mind, I’m planning 8 beers for 2013, each a different style with common thread: big and malty. The first of these is The Hop Clearance, a big American Barleywine that will eat the unused hops I acquired in 2012. Recipe below:

17.5 # American Two-row Pale
1.0 # Table Sugar
1.0 # American Crystal 80L
0.25# Belgian Special B
0.25# American Chocolate

2.75 oz German Northern Brewer @ 60
1.0 oz Sterling @ 60
1.0 oz US Golding @ 60

0.5 oz Centennial @ 45

0.8 oz Saaz @ 0
1.0 oz Styrian Goldings @ 0
1.0 oz Willamette @ 0

Headwaters Yeast

1.108 SG
1.014 FG (25 Jan 2013)
99 IBU
0.87 BU:GU

The Hop Clearance @ Hopville