Monday, August 24, 2009

Philly Phun!

Michelle and I just returned from a wedding trip to Pennsylvania. We had Saturday to explore downtown Philadelphia and while Michelle had a worth while mission to experience Dunkin' Donuts and see the Liberty Bell, I needed to find numerous opportunities to chillindamos.
We left our hotel and traveled to the city via the SEPTA (local train) and practically tripped over Dunkin' Donuts, check. With a Dunkaccino and donut in hand, we headed to Monk's Cafe.
Monk's (pictured above) has two bars, one in the front and one in the rear, each with their own dining area. At the table, there's a beer bible that tells the story of Monk's and their famed owner, Tom Peters, who currently is an Ambassadeur to Orval. The bible discusses beer, the brewing process, and most importantly, the bottle list. A supplement card lists their current draughts. One could spend ages here drinking!
I started out with a Chouffe Houblon which was described as a cross between a Belgian triple and an American IPA. This was a good descriptor but being from San Diego, I felt it was more on the pale ale side. The Houblon was an easy drinker. Michelle started with an Allagash White which is always a good choice.
Michelle and I aren't into the cow so a Philly Cheese steak wasn't something we desired while in town. Instead, Monk's had an awesome vegan substitute that was awesome grub. The rest of the menu looked awesome as well.
I then had a La Rulles Estivalle which has a blond ale using Orval yeast and three American hops: Amarillo, Cascade, and Warrior. Another easy drinker with a light body, a lager-like smoothness with citrus notes and slightly sour. Michelle had a Unibroue Ephemere which was similar to a summer wheat ale but green apple infused (not a cider). She really liked this one and it felt like a great summer brew.
After Monk's, we headed over to Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant. Above you can see the outside of the brewery. Nodding Head refers to their collection of bobbleheads, even having their own bobblehead as tap handles. They have seven tanks and thus seven beers on tap. The atmosphere was very casual. Above is the bar at Nodding Head Brewery. I first had their BPA or Bill Payer Ale which was a nice medium bodied malty pale ale. It had a citrusy smooth hop character with caramel flavor in the malt profile, copper in color, and a dense head. Michelle had their Monkey Knife Fight which was a gold lager spiced with ginger and lemongrass, yet another refreshing summer brew. Last, we had a taster of their Berliner Weiss where Nodding Head adds a bit of Woodruff syrup to cut down the sourness.
Later that rainy evening, we returned to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant a couple of doors down from Nodding Head called Su Xing (pronounced SuShing and not Suking!). Good eats! After wandering our way to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (check), we found Triumph Brewing Company. With a focus on German beers, this place reminds me of Gordon Biersch in San Diego. Their tap towers and faucets were awesome and seeing that they had an altbier, I had to have one. I insisted Michelle try the helles. The Sticke Altbier was not exactly what I would expect from an altbier. I then read their description and found out that sticke in German means secret. To me, the secret was something happened that imparted astringency to the beer. Bummer. The helles, on the other hand, was right on. Light and delicate malt flavors with a creamy head, this beer seemed to be the 2nd most popular beer pouring. The most popular was their Kinder Pils, a lighter version of a pilsner. Wait, isn't that a helles then!? I also had the Munich Dunkel which was really good. It was malty sweet with a medium-light body and subtle hop flavor.
While at Triumph, the thunder rolled in and the sky started dumping. This slowed us a down to a near halt and we were soon jumping puddles to dinner.
I think we only scratched the surface on our short trip to Philly and hope we make it back someday, at least to visit Monk's if anything else!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brewers Unite!

If you haven't seen these videos, they are totally chillindamos! As a homebrewer, it makes me just all warm and fuzzy inside. Just watch it.

I Am a Homebrewer

"I Am a Homebrewer" was a video response and adaptation to its inspiration, "I Am a Craft Brewer" created by Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Company. Watch this too.

I Am a Craft Brewer

The only thing I disagree with in these videos is how they drop the use of corn and rice as an insult to the brewing giants. My contention is that corn and rice add to the numerous ingredients used in brewing beer, and when used creatively can be utilized to achieve a brewing goal. In fact, I know some craft brewers who use corn or rice but that doesn't imply they are trying to increase their margin. Heck, Dogfish Head has even made a malt liquor! Now when you substitute corn or rice for malt in all your beers and put it on a pedestal, that's a different story!
In the "I Am a Craft Brewer" video, it was great to see a number of my favorite brewers. In the homebrewer's world, they are celebrities!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Trappist, August 12 2009

I racked my previous Belgian ale to secondary (current gravity 1.010). This was a bit on the late side for me. I would have liked to rack this as soon as the krausen fell to ensure a healthy yeast bed. I wanted to brew last week and reuse the yeast bed but was delayed when I discovered that I was low on propane. Riding a motorcycle has its downside in this situation (Michelle uses our car to commute). Then came the bachelor party weekend and finally I was able to make a propane trip on Monday evening.
Home Depot Propane Story:
The Home Depot near our new house has this new system for buying and exchanging propane tanks. The idea for this system is that you simply go up to this ATM-like machine near the propane cages and slide in your credit card. It then opens a cage for you to put an empty propane container in (I suppose you could also hold up the flap inside the cage with a stick and it would think it received a propane tank). You close the door and it knows a tank is inside. Then, it opens a new cage with a full tank. Sounds easy enough and you don't have to wait for an employee to do the swap for you (I've waited too long, too many times for that). Potentially, you could do this at any time, even after regular business hours.
First time I did this (in the spring), the machine messed up the cage number and generated an error. I waited about 20 minutes for a Home Depot employee to help. They helped get the exchange I paid for and to make another exchange transaction for my second tank. This time, the transaction didn't go through but I ended up getting the exchange anyway (for free, very nice!).
On Monday, I went back to this machine after paying inside (didn't want to chance it). The machine read the barcode of my receipt and opened a cage to place my empty. Not only did it designate the wrong cage but an empty was already in there. I pulled it out and put it back in, ahem. It then gave me a full tank from another cage. The second tank exchange went just fine but I still had the extra empty tank.
I could have left the empty tank there or I could have waited an insane amount of time for an employee but I opted to just walk away with an extra tank. What's better than having two propane tanks!? Three propane tanks!
Found this on the interwebs and it shares my exact sentiment for the propane exchange machine:
Summer Trappist, Brewed August 8 2009
5 Gallons, Grain/Extract/Adjunct, Lazy Step Infusion, 90 Minute Boil

6lbs. Domestic 2-Row
1.25lbs. White Wheat
3lbs. Vienna
1lb. Munich
0.25lbs. Caramunich

144°F for 40min.
152°F for 20min.
Raised to 165°F for Mashout

Added at boil:
1lb. DRE
1lb. Trader Joe's Organic Sugar (Evaporated Cane Juice)

1oz. Styrian Goldings 60min.
0.25oz. Santium 30min.
0.25oz. Spalt 20min.
0.25oz. Hallertauer 20min.
Whirlfloc tab 20min.

Racked on yeast bed of Trappist Monk Ale (White Labs WLP500 Trappist Ale Yeast)

Will ferment warm (hence Summer Trappist) somewhere in the 70's. I will use a water bath for the first few days in an attempt to make the temperature consistent. It should be a bit cooler than the ambient air temp.

OG: 1.065 @ 72°F - Corrected 1.066
FG: 1.013 @ 38°F - Corrected 1.012
ABV: 7.09%

UPDATE 8/25: Racked to secondary though it was long overdue. Current gravity is 1.009 @ 78°F. This one will need a couple of months to age but has great flavor.

Kegged 9/27

Monday, August 10, 2009


Was out on a pub crawl during a bachelor party and visited Neighborhood. The draught and bottle list was amazing. Also, being just off the crowded Gas Lamp District in downtown San Diego, it was easy to order, drink, and chat with friends. The food looked good too! Sent from my mobile phone.
This place was cool enough to add to my watering holes list! I'll be back, especially whenever I go to a Padres game.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mr. T's 30lb. Necklace Tasting

Seanywonton's Mr. T's 30lb. Necklace
Belgian Golden Strong Ale
Brewed in November of 2008 by Seanywonton, I've had this bottle sitting at cellar temps in my wine fridge for about 3 months then in my fridge for about 1 month. Sean brought us the bottle during his visit here but we never got around to opening it. I've shown the bottle to a number of friends who all thought it was a commercial brew. I suppose the golden waxed top and great label gives it the product feel. Check out the awesome label (sourced from Seanywonton):
After pouring it for Michelle, myself, and two other beer fans not really experienced with Belgian Golden Ales, we shared a number of nice compliments. It was very refreshing on a warm summer afternoon. Although, it did warm up on the inside kickstarting some chillindamos :-)
I knew Sean entered this brew for competition (something I've yet to do with my beers) earlier this year and also that he had some tasting notes: Seanywonton's tasting notes. The day after this tasting, I went back to his notes to compare them with my impressions.
Sean, hopefully these comments will help! The carbonation was med-high as to be expected with a golden strong and the thin head quickly fell. This seemed to be what you experienced. As you can see above, the clarity has really cleared up. The aroma was clove and spice with hints of floral and malt sweetness. Your esters were gone in the aroma and only a hint in the flavor. The lactic acid addition was one of the first things I noticed in the flavor along with a gentle sweetness and the Trappist yeast characteristic clove and spice. The subtle hops complimented these flavors and showed up more in the after taste. Many other qualities mirror Sean's March tasting notes (mouthfeel).
Some thoughts after seeing Sean's notes from March. Clarity takes time to achieve, especially when bottle conditioning. Also, the esters can change with time along with the alcohol/sweetness balance. Lactic acid, on the other hand, seems to stick around leading me to believe that a drinking/competition time frame should be in mind when using it. Will it lend itself in a month or 10 months? The art is really in the yeast with Trappist ales. How much to pitch and your fermentation temperature schedule will express the highly desired bouquet variable. Thanks for sharing, Sean!
This was the first tasting in my self-education of Trappist beers. On Monday I picked up some Trappist ales to start tasting. I've had a number of Belgian beers in the past, I just haven't really paid attention until recently! I decided to first start tasting with the monastery group (coming soon):
  1. Rochefort #6
  2. Rochefort #8
  3. Orval Tripel
  4. Chimay White
  5. Westmalle Dubbel
  6. Westmalle Tripel

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ponies and Beer Fest

I'm at Del Mar Race Track to bet on some ponies and drink some brews. Oh! My trifecta box didn't come through, suppose I'll win drinking. Sent from my mobile phone.