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Whoa, we still have a blog!!

Don’t know what really happened with this… nonetheless, here I am drinking a beer and getting excited for Autumn’s favorite brews. Marzen, Ambers, Stouts – I can’t wait! Today I managed to swipe a few 22 ounce bottles of Fat Tire from the dwindling supply of one of the local stores.

The beer of choice for today is an oatmeal stout brewed with coffee – the Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast.

Tasty Tasty

I have to say this is quite delicious. An almost jet black pour with a full two or three finger head. Aromas of smoke and caramel sweetness are confirmed with the first taste. The smoked malt is very upfront and followed by chocolate and coffee flavors. The citrus-like centennial and cascade hops are surprisingly not out of place here. The oatmeal adds a smooth texture which does a fine job of balancing what seems like a higher-than-normal level of carbonation (for a stout anyway). The finish is smooth then slightly dry and lingering with tastes of black coffee, dark chocolate and some smoke.

I am reminded of a recent trip to Brewers Alley where I sampled a similar and perhaps more tame oatmeal stout. The Alley’s oatmeal stout was a little lighter on the hops and much sweeter with a fantastic coffee flavor at the finish. Still a damn good stout.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast – If you can find it, get it. Its worth the price at least once.

Beer Stuff:

  • Malt: Chocolate, Smoked, Caramunich, Brown, Pale Chocolate
  • Hops: Cascade, Centennial
  • Adjuncts: Flaked Oats, Roasted Barley, Gourmet Coffee
  • IBU: 40-60 (est.)
  • SRM: 40+ (est.)
  • ABV: 7.5%
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The Oh So Important Bottle

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
Tags: ,

Where would our beer be without bottles?

In cans most likely. Actually, the can is mostly superior to the bottle when it comes to storage and distribution of beer. Think about it…

  • Cans are much more “space-efficient”. More cans in a truck means more profit.
  • Cans are lighter, requiring less fuel to transport an equal amount of bottled beer.
  • Cans protect beer better. They keep out all light and oxygen. Even brown bottles let light in (skunked hops) and bottle caps can leak
  • Recent advances in “can technology” keep that metal taste out of beer with a fancy coating inside the can

The one thing that bottles have going for them (and that cans have going against them) is the fact that the equipment required to have a canning line for beer is exponentially greater in cost than equipment needed to bottle. This is the main reason why most small breweries (micros and craft brewers) bottle their beer. You can pick up a bottle capper and a gross of caps for under $25 retail.

The cheap cost of bottling makes it ideal for the home brewer. Pick yourself up a case of your favorite beer in a pop-top brown bottle and you’ve got your first set of home brewing bottles and some “free” beer. Now, back to bottling that home brewed beer.

For new brewers, bottling can be difficult to get right at first. There are a few variables that should be considered.

Time
Its very common for a novice to try their freshly-bottled beer too soon and be disappointed when their beer is flat or under-carbed or just plain tastes bad. Time is your friend here. The general rule is 3 weeks at room temperature to carbonate and about 1 week in the refrigerator prior to consumption. Some lighter beers will take less time and some stronger beers will take much longer. This time allows the beer to properly carbonate and adjust to the cooler temperature of the refrigerator after carbonation is complete.

Beer becomes carbonated when the suspended yeast leftover from fermentation produces additional CO2. The CO2 cannot escape from the bottle so it diffuses back into the beer. In order to get the yeast to produce CO2 after being bottled, fermentable sugar (often corn or cane sugar) is mixed with the batch before being bottled.

Time is also important with respect to taste. Over time, the flavors of the beer will meld together and off-tastes and overpowering flavors can fade out. If your new brew doesn’t taste very good. Try it again in a few months. You may be surprised at what a few months can do for a “rough” beer.

Temperature

Yeast are more active at warmer temperatures so, beer that has been bottled and stored at a warmer temperature will tend to carbonate quicker than bottled beer stored at cooler temperatures.

Process

You will most likely want to transfer the beer from the fermenter to another container to bottle from. This transfer allows you to transfer just the beer and keep the sediment from fermentation, in the fermenter. This container (a ‘bottling bucket’ is commonly used) will also provide space for you to mix in the sugar which will jump-start the remaining yeast and allow carbonation to occur.

Dissolving the sugar in a small amount of water and then boiling will ensure that the sugar solution is sterilized so as not to infect the beer. Adding the sugar solution carefully (so you don’t splash and oxygenate the beer) will ensure even carbonation once bottled. Care should be taken, especially with glass bottles, that the proper amount of sugar is used. Too much can be very dangerous as over-carbonated glass bottles can explode spontaneously or when bumped and send shards of glass in all directions.

Keep these considerations in mind and you should wind up with a delicious home brew. Anyway, enough home brewing lecture for now.

– Overclocked

The First Home Brewed Beer

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
Tags: , , ,

Finally got a recipe right and what resulted was a decent American Pale Ale. Copper red in color with a decent head and a hoppy, floral aroma and bitterness from Cascade hops. I could have added some more caramel malt to add to the malt body but it wasn’t bad as it was.

Up until this delicious batch my home brewing trials had been disappointing to say the least. The first two attempts had me wondering if it was even worth all the time and trouble. I had an under-fermented, under-carbonated, stale tasting Oktoberfest and an overcomplicated and horrible looking/tasting cherry brown ale.

After setting aside the “kit-in-a-can” and creating a simple recipe, I was able to get close to the desired result. I was originally aiming for an amber ale, not too hoppy. I probably went a little over on the hops though so what resulted was a nice Pale Ale – about 28 IBUs.

A quick rundown on how making beer works:

1). Malted barley (barley which has been allowed to start to germinate and then stopped) is combined with water at a specific temperature (normally between 150 deg. F & 160 deg. F) for a specific amount of time in a process called “mashing”. The mashing of the grains allows the starches to be converted into fermentable sugars. The liquid, now called “wort” is drained from the grains.

2). The wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients added at specific times to add bitterness to balance the sweet flavor profile of the malt.

3) The wort is then cooled and yeast is “pitched” to start fermentation. The fermentation is done at a specific temperature to allow the yeast to work efficiently. After the beer has finished fermentation, it can either be bottled and allowed to carbonate in the bottles naturally or kegged and force-carbonated.

Now, there are three main ways to brew beer at home. You have your “kit-in-a-can” (which is the cheapest and least involved way) which unfortunately results pretty crappy beer. The basic idea with these kits is to combine the basic beer ingredients (Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water) with a very simple process to make it easier for the novice brewer. The malt (often called extract) is actually wort that has been condensed into a syrup and “pre-hopped” – meaning hops have been added to the extract (condensed wort). All you have to do is boil the extract with water, cool the wort, pitch the yeast and ferment.

The next step up is what is called partial extract. A higher quality extract called DME (dry malt extract) is often used. The extract is a dry powder, rather than a liquid syrup which allows for a more stable shelf life and less chance of “stale” flavors. This method is called partial extract because the wort is only partially made of extract. The other ingredient is often specialty grains (steeping grains) and other adjuncts.

The specialty grains (crystal barley, chocolate malt, black malt, etc.) and adjuncts (oats, corn flakes, etc.) are steeped at a certain temperature for about 30-45 minutes. This isn’t the same as mashing since no conversion of starches to sugars takes place. Steeping is done just to obtain color, body (unconverted starches and proteins), and flavor from the grains and add that to the wort. The wort is created by steeping the grains, then adding and dissolving the dry malt extract. The rest of the process then continues normally.

The last and most advanced way to brew beer at home is called all-grain brewing. Brewers will use nothing but malted grains to create the wort. The base grains are mashed, sometimes along with specialty grains and the brewing process continues with boiling, hops addition, cooling, pitching yeast and fermenting. All-grain brewing allows a brewer to have complete control over what goes into their recipe. It also requires a more precise recipe and more involved equipment.

I find the partial extract method works well because I don’t need a ton of equipment or space (I can brew in my apartment kitchen), its not as time consuming as all-grain but I can still get great results (much better than kit in a can).

The next phase of home brewing, bottling/kegging I feel deserves it’s own section because there are so many variables to take into account.

– Cheers

Barleywine Anyone?

Posted: November 1, 2010 by Overclocked in Beer Thoughts
Tags: , ,

Tried my first barleywine today. Specifically, a 2008 Schlafly Reserve – Barelywine-Style Ale by The Saint Louis Brewery.

Seeing as this is my first barelywine, lets take a quick look at what this beverage actually is. Generally a barleywine is a strong beer ranging from 8% – 12% abv that has been aged a certain amount of time. Barleywines are ‘big’ beers meaning they use a lot of grain relative to the desired batch size. This means the beer will start with a high specific-gravity and therefore, will have a higher alcohol-by-volume when finished fermenting. The reason barelywines are aged is to mellow, or ‘marry’ the flavors in the beer. The large grain bill and high alcohol content will benefit from years of aging which allows the flavors to combine into something tasty rather than a ‘rough’ taste. (A beer that has little time to age will have flavors that are still very strong and can often overpower each other)

The pour produces a very nice dark amber almost red color with medium haze. A very small 1-finger head shows up and then vanishes. The aroma of very sweet caramel malt is present along with dark fruit (plums perhaps?). Two years of aging has almost eliminated any hop aromas.

Upon the first taste I realized I am using the wrong glass. A standard pint glass is not the correct vessel for this beverage. A goblet or wide-mouth glass would be more suitable. Nonetheless, it tastes very complex. The sweet caramel maltyness coats the inside of your mouth and combines with the aroma to become almost too sweet. Hop bitterness is very very slight but still there. Alcohol hides very well and is pretty much unnoticeable. The sweetness now combines with hints of dark fruit and the oak starts to come in at the end of the taste. The aftertaste is full of oak and sweetness.

Halfway through the pint glass and the taste has almost grown on me. Its still a very different beer than what i’m used to. Still a nice drink to try. I would personally prefer a sharper, perhaps more toasted oak flavor to balance the sweetness. This beer was aged on new Missouri oak with a ‘medium toast’. The new oak definitely adds to the sweet flavor. A heavier toast or aging with an older bourbon barrel along with more hop presence (perhaps a 1-year bottle) might have suited my tastes better.

– Overclocked

I’m still in the process of trying all different kinds of beers in an effort to further my beer knowledge and palate. We’ll call it “research”. In addition to being tasty and fun my “research” has another upside. I’m keeping all the bottles for my home brewing endeavours.

Seriously, who in their right mind would spend $35+ for 24 EMPTY low-quality bottles?? I can spend almost half that and they come with a tasty beer treat inside. The downside – cleaning. Meh, oh well.

I recently tried a few brews but didn’t post for each one of them. I’m going to lump them all in here mainly because i’m lazy.

St. Peter’s Cream Stout

The unique bottle is what drew me to try one of St. Peter’s brews.
St. Peter's Cream Stout

The malty beverage is dark ruby with enough light but black otherwise. A tan head is present but quickly dissipates. Almost no lacing at all. The aroma is sweet – chocolate, dark fruit (almost wine-like) some hints of coffee. The stout has a bittersweet taste which includes the chocolate and coffee flavors. Fuggle hops provide a warm earthy aroma and challenger hops provide a slight english bitterness. The creamy mouthfeel combines with the sweetness but is not overpowering. Aftertaste is clean and somewhat smokey.

Overall this beer is smooth, easy to drink and not too overly sweet. A nice “traditional” English brew.

Black Pearle Dark IPA – By RJRockers

Would you like some IPA with your chocolate and coffee? I mean holy hell, take a sip of this and it’s like someone dunked your head into a vat of espresso and chocolate sauce.

Their site reads:

The first release in the “Ales from the Dark Side” series…A dark, roasted twist on the traditional IPA that uses an absurd amount of malt and is “octo-hopped” with the German Perle hop. The biggest beer in the RJ Rockers linup to date.
9.5% abv

Absurd is definitely a good word. The malt hits you in the mouth with rich semi-sweet chocolate and coffee flavors and is just barely cut down by the hops that follow. I will be honest, I did not finish the 22oz bottle. This to me is something I could enjoy in a smaller goblet and just one at that. Not bad, just different and not my cup of tea.

Hefewiezens

I wanted to get away from all the run-of-the-mill pale ales, strong/Imperial brews and just wanted something that was easy to drink and enjoyable. I’ve tried three Hefewiezens so far. In order of personal preference, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Widmer Brothers Hefewiezen and Dream Weaver Wheat.

Sierra Nevada is by far my favorite of the three. You get that classic wheat flavor along with a tiny bit of spice from the yeast. Its balanced and not too “tangy”. I could easily down a bunch of these. Apparently SN ferments this beer “Bavarian style” where the fermentation is open to the air. This supposedly adds “depth and complexity”. I dunno, I just know its very good.

Widmer Brothers Hefewiezen is a little different. Whatever yeast they use in this beer must finish very clean because you get a very clean taste – almost lager-like. Good flavor but not as rich as the Sierra Nevada hefe. Number two on my list.

Dream Weaver Wheat. Do not like. Something about the finish just puts me off. Perhaps it was a sub-par batch but it seemed almost sour. Now I know some beers are purposely sour but I do not believe this is supposed to be. Definitely not dreaming about this beer.

Anyway, thats all I’ve got for now. Cheers.

Stone – Sublimely Self-Righteous

Posted: October 8, 2010 by Overclocked in Order It Again!
Tags: , ,

I figured it’s time for another blog/beer review

When I think of an Ale, stout is not normally what comes to mind. Yes, I know a stout is technically a type of ale but I think of an ale as amber to medium brown. Tonight I sampled the Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale by Stone Brewing Co. Far from medium brown and worlds away from amber, this dark ale surprised me.

Stone describes this as their 11th anniversary ale which was such a hit that they brought it back for “Limited Year-Round Availability”. Not a bad decision. The bottle looks nice – I’m a fan of the “painted on” labels (not sure of the correct terminology here but you know what I mean). They could have done without the novel on the back of the bottle but, it’s just a bottle. What I care about is inside.

The beer is dark, rich and produces a frothy head, which settles slowly and clings to the glass. Simcoe and Amarillo hops are immediately noticeable on the nose – floral and smooth. Both types of hops can produce a slight citrus scent but i’m thinking most of it is masked by the malty aromas that also comes forth from the brew. The first taste is mostly hops and smooth malt, the malt coming in towards the end of the taste and lingering slightly with the aftertaste. I can get hints of rich sweet caramel and chocolate aromas on the next few tastes. Delicious.

At this point i’m genuinely surprised. I was first expecting your standard “ale”, then upon pouring, realized that this was probably going to be closer to a stout, THEN upon tasting, I get a little of both worlds. IPA and Stout combined? Apparently this beer is rated at 90 IBUs. Very impressive considering it does not taste like a mouthful of grass and flowers. Stone did a great job on the grain bill. They balanced 90 IBUs (which is approaching double and triple IPA territory) with a good malt and body presence. Dry hopping is used in this recipe and that can lead to an excess of floral flavors and bitterness building up on the palate simply because this beer is so ‘big’. A small price to pay in my opinion.

Yes, I would definitely get this again. Definitely a sip and savor type of brew.

Beer Stuff:

  • Malt: 2-row; 6-row?; chocolate malt; black patent; crystal (all estimated)
  • Hops: Chinook (bittering); Simcoe, Amarillo (aroma and dry hopping)
  • IBU: 90
  • SRM: Who knows? It’s black!
  • ABV: 8.7%

Bewitched and Brewed With Pagan Spirit

Posted: October 5, 2010 by Overclocked in Uncategorized

Ahh yes, it is that time of year again. The time of the pumpkin beers has come!

My first “real” pumpkin ale – Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Imperial PumKing. The 22oz bottle reads:

Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of year when spirits can make contact withthe physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spcie aromas present themselves, let it’s deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape the Pumking

Well they certainly got the pumpkin right with this one. The immediate aroma is that of pumpkin pie and something that I cannot fully identify, almost coffee like, maybe a dark caramel malt? Upon tasting, the pumpkin flavors roll in along with the spices and bitterness. Holding the sip for a moment to taste gives you a chance to really identify the pumpkin pie flavor and again, that coffee-like caramel flavor appears.

I can say that I am not a fan of the hops in this brew. Magnum hops are used for bittering and they don’t hide. It is a clean bitter taste, not grassy, just not my cup of tea. Adding to the bitter taste/feel is the 9.0% ABV. Oh yeah, this is an Imperial ale after all. (Which may or may not be a good thing. Wait, who am I kidding? It’s fuckin awesome.) With this punkin’ ale, there seems to be more pumpkin than spice. I can barely make out the cinnamon and I don’t really get much of anything else. No nutmeg, no allspice. I guess it could just be me…

This brew seems to really get that pumpkin flavor across but also seems to be lacking in the spice department. I’m not disappointed with this beer but it’s not at the very top of my list. I doubt I’d go out of my way to get it again.

Beer Stuff:

  • Malt: 2-row pale; Caramel
  • Hops: Magnum (bittering); Sterling (aroma)
  • IBU: 20-30 (my estimated guess)
  • SRM: 10-12
  • ABV: 9.0%

*On a side note – as awesome as the title is, it’s not mine. I stole it off the bottle.

If Dogs Could Fly..

Posted: October 5, 2010 by Overclocked in Order It Again!

Would they also deliver me some beers? Man’s best friend, gliding on furry dog-wings with six-packs lashed to their backs? I think it would be a wonderful world…


Flying Dog “Doggie Style” Classic Pale Ale. If I could sum this brew up I think, “deliciously full flavored and hoppy” would do. A “beginner’s IPA” could also suffice.


I recently discovered this tasty pale ale after diving into the world of home brewing. While researching different styles of beer to brew at home, I came to the realization that for the homebrewer, ales can be easier to brew than lagers. More on that later.


I figured, if i’m going to be brewing mostly ales, I might as well start trying a few. I had always enjoyed lagers and their crisp clean taste, not realizing that there were plenty of ales with a similar “clean” feel. I had seen Flying Dog before but never really paid attention to anything other than the zombie-like cartoon dog on the front. I figured I’d try my luck and picked up a sixer of the doggie style pale ale. I knew nothing about this beer (or much about pale ales for that matter) other than the nice little “scale” on the pack which is supposed to represent how malty or hoppy the beer is. This one falls about three quarters of the way up from malty, closer to the hoppy side. Now for the details.


A good pour into a room temperature glass will produce an “ok” head – not astounding but not disappointing. The head will dissipate within a few minutes alluding perhaps to a pleasant mouthfeel without being “chewy”. They did get the ‘pale’ right on this one; A nice pale amber and almost reddish-copper in color. I’m guessing 10, maybe 12 SRM.


A noticeable floral aroma is present with a good sniff which will include a slight maltyness as the beer warms. The first taste is a burst of floral flavor with good bitterness. The bitterness isn’t a smack in the face but it is pronounced thanks to the dry-hopping with Cascade hops. The malt flavors follow but still allow the hops to show through. A very slight sweetness from the Crystal malt lingers but not for too long. I think the mouthfeel from this brew is perfect – just enough body while still clean at the end. As you drink up, the bitterness and floral notes remain on your tongue, kept in check by the relatively dark Crystal malt.


I thoroughly enjoyed this brew. Flavorful and pleasant hops balanced by sweet caramel malt with just enough body. Definitely on my list to brew myself.




Beer Stuff:
Malts: Pale 2-row; 120L Crystal
Hops: Northern Brewer (bittering); Cascade (aroma) (dry-hopped)
IBU: 35
ABV: 5.5%