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

Just Passed the BJCP Entrance Exam.

After mostly correctly answering 200 randomly questions on all aspects of brewing, beer styles, and running BJCP competitions, I’m now a Provisional BJCP Judge.


Now to study for the tasting exam.

Towards a New Beer City

“I think it’s very real, it’s here to stay. We’re on the cusp of a movement here and I think we’ll probably replicate what Portland or Denver have in terms of 80 or 90 craft breweries.” – Peter Remes, president First & First.

Last week Tom Elko and I went to Stouts Pub for beers. We did a tasting tour of Minnesota craft breweries:

Congrats to Minneapolis and Minnesota for having a so many delicious beer options that aren’t Summit – or even Surly. What a difference a few years and a few legislative changes can make.

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: Light Hybrid, Amber Hybrid, German Wheat & Rye

This week we worked our way through Light Hybrid (6A. Cream Ale, 6B. Blonde Ale, 6C. Kölsch, 6D. American Wheat or Rye), Amber Hybrid (7A. Norther German Alt, 7B. California Common, 7C. Düsseldorf Alt) and German Wheat and Rye (15A. Weizen, 5B. Dunkelweizen, 5C. Weizenbock, 5D. Roggenbier).

The hybrid categories are that blurry line between lagers and ales. The subcategories are either ales fermented with lager yeast (California Common) or lagers fermented with ale yeast (Cream Ale) or some similar jostling. The German Wheat and Rye styles were included to conveniently compare the wheat presentation against that within the American Wheat or Rye and Blonde Ale styles.

This was the most difficult class so far. The vast majority of the beers had significant faults, from minor things (stale) to more significant things (nowhere near the declared style). Adding to judging difficulty, the ranges of these styles is significant. As was the selection: 21 beers across 11 substyles.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 50
SRM: 2 – 25 (straw to dark brown)
OG: 1.038 – 1.090
FG: 1.007 – 1.022
ABV: 3.8 – 8%

On the plus side, a distinctive hop presence in flavor and bitterness is starting to become much more prominent. On the downside, it’s still mostly inappropriate.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – St. Blasius Weizenbock (Weizenbock, great example of the style and delicious: malty with deep plum and rum notes and pineapple sweetnees. You must find this beer.)
  2. 48 – Flensberg Weizen (Weizen)
  3. 47 – Ayinger Ur Weisse (Dunkelweiss)
  4. 47 – Flying Dog Amber Lager (California Common)
  5. 45 – Anchor Steam (California Common, considered the classic example of the style)
  6. 44 – Franiskaner Dunkelweisse (Dunkelweiss)
  7. 40 – Lake Superior Kayak (Kölsch)
  8. 36 – Genesee Cream Ale (Cream Ale, considered the classic example of the style)
  9. 34 – Bell’s Oberon (American Wheat or Rye)
  10. 32 – Weihenstephan Hefeweisbier (Weizen)
  11. 31 – Innstadt Weizenbock (Weizenbock)
  12. 28 – Uerig Sticke (Düsseldorf Alt)
  13. 28 – Pyramid Curve Ball (Blonde ale, to timid for the style)
  14. 28 – Widmer Bros Citra Blond (Blonde ale, way too big and hoppy for style)
  15. 28 – Alaskan Amber (Northern German Altbier)
  16. 24 – Schlägl Roggen Gold (Roggenbier, though it had nothing in common with the style)
  17. 20 – Schell Deer Brand (Cream Ale)
  18. 20 – Mankato Original (Kölsch)
  19. 20 – Anchor Summer (American Wheat or Rye)
  20. 18 – Pinkers Munster Alt Organic (Northern German Altbier)
  21. 18 – Mankato Stickem (Düsseldorf Alt)

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: European Amber, Dark Lager, Bock

This week we worked our way through European Amber Lagers (3A. Vienna Lager, 3B. Oktoberfest), Dark Lager (4A. Dark American Lager, 4B. Munich Dunkel, 4C. Schwarzbier) and Bock (5A. Maibock/Helles Bock, 5B. Traditional Bock, 5C. Doppelbock, 5D. Eisbock)

The overwhelming attribute of these 3 styles is a prominent toasty, sweet, and complex malt aroma – like the crust of freshly baked bread (melanoidin). Still little to no hop aroma or flavor. Again the hops only job is to cut the malt sweetness and provide a dry finish.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 35
SRM: 6 – 22 (gold to brown)
OG: 1.046 – 1.072
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
ABV: 4.2 – 7.4%
(notice all but OG & SRM are very close to last week's Light Lager & Pilsner styles)

While the Oktoberfests and Doppelbocks are still plentiful this time of year, the Maibocks are scarce, the Eisbocks are endangered. A visit to 5 of Twin Cities’ best beer stores (Four Firkins, Ale Jail, Merwins, SAV #1, and SAV #2) proved Traditional Bocks are extinct.

Even though my time in Germany introduced me to many of the beers from tonight’s selection, some pleasant surprises came up in the rankings. The Hofbrauhaus Maibock was an amazingly delicious and accurate example of a Maibock; pale, dry, malty, sweet, balanced, clean. Similarly, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier was an outstanding surprise; dark, clean, smooth, and roasty (just this side of burnt). Again, highly recommended. The biggest surprise came from Baltika #4 – this Russian interpretation of a Dark American Lager was clean, with a toasty rich malty aroma followed by a malty dark sugar taste and slightly sweet finish. Very enjoyable.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – Hofbrauhaus Maibock (Maibock/Helles Bock)
  2. 46 – Paulanar Salvator (Doppelbock)
  3. 45 – Köstritzer Schwarzbier (Schwartzbier)
  4. 43 – Haacker-Pschor Oktoberfest (Oktoberfest)
  5. 41 – Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  6. 39 – Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock)
  7. 39 – Spaten Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  8. 39 – Paulanar Oktoberfest (Doppelbock)
  9. 37 – Baltika #4 (American Dark Lager)
  10. 36 – Hofstetten GranitBock (Doppelbock)
  11. 35 – Capital Amber (European Amber Lager)
  12. 34 – Shiner Bock (American Dark Lager)
  13. 34 – Capital Eisphyre (Eisbock)
  14. 32 – Sam Adams Black Lager (Schwartzbier)
  15. 20 – Hofstetten HellenBock (Maibock/Helles Bock)

The Road to BJCP Certification

A year and a half ago when I started formulating my own beer recipes – my friend Chris asked me if I had looked into Since then, Hopville has helped me understand and target the bounds of beer styles. By the numbers. But not by the ingredients. Even in the latest iteration Hopville warns of that discrepancy.

To get a better understanding of style-appropriate ingredients and tasting profiles – I declared one of my 2013 goals is to be BJCP certified.

This week, I start the process – an 11 week course leading to the BJCP exam.

Roggen Brett – Just Bottled

Tonight, I bottled my Roggen Brett, a 60% rye beer fermented with 100% Brettanomyces. I’ve been savoring it since. Easily the most delicious beer I’ve brewed to date – and it’s not even carbonated yet.

The beer is the color of leather. The nose – a mix of dark fruit and horse blanket. On the tongue, the medium body starts out both spicy and tart then finishes sweet. Hints of cherry and apricot can be picked up the entire way.

Hemel & Aarde von Brouwerji De Molen


Tonight, I stopped by The Four Firkins to meet Nick Anderson from Rush River. I quite enjoyed hearing the story of Rush River – and the challenges they’re having keeping up with the demand for their beer (there’s a reason their Unforgiven and ÜberAlt are #1 & #2 on my all-time beers list). On the way out, I picked up sixer of ÜberAlt and asked Alvey to recommend something peaty like Sam Adams’ Wee Heavy.

Without hesitation, he hands me a bottle of Hemel & Aarde von Brouwerji De Molen.

‘We just got this in’, he adds.

Exactly what I was looking for: peaty, roasty, dark as midnight, with a nose like campfire.

“Made with the most heavily peated malt in the world from the Bruichladdich distillery. Almost pitch black and opaque, small head. Furiously peated aroma, hiding the malt, licorice and dark chocolate somewhat. Very full bodied, thick mouthfeel, like fluid bread. Dark chocolate, loads of peat, lapsang souchong tea, chocolate cake, culminating in an almost endless aftertaste that also has licorice.”

Whereas the Wee Heavy is like zipping into a sleeping bag next to a campfire on a chilly night, the Hemel and Aarde is telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows, and celebrating the sunset.

Besides, it’s hard not to love a beer with a label proudly exclaiming: ‘enjoy within 25 years’.