Sunday, February 28, 2010

Los Abuelos Fortaleza Tequila

Guillermo and I with the Fortaleza Los Abuelos Tequila line-up.
I spend most Monday's at our local tequila bar, Cantina Mayahuel.  Needless to say, I've tried numerous tequilas and have learned so much from this gem in our community.  By far, Fortaleza (labeled Los Abuelos in Mexico) is my favorite.  Their blanco is undoubtedly the best.  A few have come close and I  challenge any new potentials to a side-by-side with Fortaleza.  In a Margarita, Fortalez Blanco gives the famed cocktail life, flavor, and smoothness.  While there is lots of competition for reposados and añejo, Fortaleza holds their own at the top of those lists as well.  While other distillers seem to have inconsistency among the types of tequila they offer, Fortaleza has a distinctive character present in all three of their tequilas.
Not long ago, we were fortunate to meet Guillermo Sauza, the General Manager of Fortaleza.  He sat down and chatted with us for at least an hour, answering our technical and whimsical questions centered around tequila production.  Great guy and with all that tequila he has at hand, there's certainly not a shortage of chillindamos!

Big Bottle Birthday

Inebriated adventures are in abundance around here.  Much so that I quickly get behind in blogging all the shenanigans.  Though my Big Bottle Birthday happened nearly two months ago, I had to post a couple of pics of that epic mid-week night.  Among other bottled beers we consumed that evening, the main event was a 6L bottle of Duvel:
Of course, we had help from family and friends.   Soon after dusting the bottle, the party got so out of hand that they had to shut down the grid.  The neighborhood went dark and we were forced to continue drinking games under candle light.
As to be expected, the 2007 Duvel was really good.  It was picked up at Hi-Time Wine Cellar in Costa Mesa, CA.  Hi-Time is a gem in Orange County and while this particular bottle wasn't inexpensive, they typically have reasonable prices and a great selection.  Big bottled beer is not economical, but hey, it was my birthday!   What does one do with an empty 6L bottle?  Not sure.  Got ideas?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

American Pale Ale, February 20 2010

Its been a while since I've brewed this style and I miss it!  When I started brewing a number of years ago, everyone brewed pale ales and IPAs.  In fact, a friend and I called hombrewer festivals "IPA Fests" since the dominant homebrew served was IPA.  For years, pale ale seemed to be the only micro brew on tap and the flagship of every small brewery.  Today, its more difficult to find craft pale ale that's good.  In observation, the mainstream perception of "good beer" today is light styles such as wheat ales (though everyone likes to incorrectly call them hefeweizens) topped with a lemon, blondes, goldens, browns, and light lager.  Along with those standards you'll see the less frequently poured beers such as amber and IPA.  The logical step missing in many craft brew pubs is Pale Ale.  In my opinion, Pale Ale is a gateway beer to bigger and more interesting styles.  Another trend I've seen with pale ale is that its often beyond style.  I've had some pale ales clearly more on the amber side or even more like an IPA.  Mislabeling is always intentional for marketing to the masses.  That's why many call their wheat ales, "Hefeweizen" and in one example here in San Diego, a kolsch is called a Pale Ale.
We have an upcoming Club Only Competition for Pale Ale giving a great excuse for me to return to this great beer style.  My brother-in-law, Ed, came over with his brew equipment and some homebrew buddies and they cranked out two beers, an amber and a pale ale, all in the same time it took for me to brew my all-grain pale ale.  I'm hoping that Ed also submits his pale ale to the COC and maybe to the next one as well since the focus will be brewing with extract.
As for the local homebrew, the California Common is in lagering and will remain there for about 3 more weeks.  I will be sharing the milds with QUAFF during this Tuesday's club meeting.  I tapped out the Agave Smoked Porter yesterday and luckily still have the two agave milds on tap.  Last weekend we were in Utah and I was able to sample a number of good brews (more on that later).

American Pale Ale, February 20 2010
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Step Recirculation Mash, 90 Minute Boil

4 lbs. Maris Otter Pale
4 lbs. Domestic 2-Row
1 lb. Vienna
1/2 lb. Munich
1/2 lb. Red Wheat Malt
1/2 lb. Victory (*slightly more than 1/2 lb.)
1/4 lb. Biscuit (*slightly less)
*I could use a digital scale!

1 oz. Homegrown Centennial hops for 60 min.
0.6 oz. Homegrown Centennial hops for 17 min.
1 Whirlfloc tab 15 min.
1/4 oz. Amarillo  for 10 min.
1/4 oz. Cascade for 1 min.
1/4 oz. Perle for 1 min.

White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast (vial to starter)

OG: 1.062 @ 66°F
FG: 1.015 @ 42°F
Kegged on March 8th, ABV 6.4%
Bottled some on March 17th for sharing and the Club Only Competition

Our house is still fairly cold so fermentation temps will be very low (60-64°F) but I know that I can count on WLP001 to pull through.

UPDATE 2/28: WLP001 is still chugging along though the krausen has been falling slowly over the past couple of days.  I should have put a thick blanket around the carboy during the initial ferment.  I just checked the ambient temp of the carboy's location, 58°F.

UPDATE 3/20: Been sampling for a few days now, good brew but is a bit malty sweet.  Next time, I'll wrap a blanket when the house is really cold.  For me, the sweetness hides the complexity of the malt but the hop profile is what I was hoping for.  On the other hand, this is a uniquely clean flavor profile for California Ale Yeast.  I wonder if I could have just increased the pitch rate and still fermented at this temperature to achieve a lower final gravity and less residual sweetness.  If so, this may be a golden ticket to chillindamos (happens to be better than heaven).

UPDATE 3/25: I usually force carbonate at my standard pressure for about a week before tapping.  Another week is often better.  The CO2 volumes have increased.  Also, maybe another week allowed some of the green qualities to dissipate.  Either way, I can't have enough of this beer! Delishioso!