Let’s Get the Band Back Together

I began homebrewing in January of 2005 with my friend Jesse Kasendorf.  Jesse had some earlier exprience brewing extract beers and he showed me the ropes as we brewed a beer we dubbed Resolution IPA. The recipe was loosely adapated from an extract recipe in Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. The beer loosely approximated the craft beers we enjoyed and we went on to brew another few batches in the next few years.

Eventually I picked up my own copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing along with some basic equipment and over the years the quality of the beer I brewed has steadily improved as I refined my processes, learned to identify better ingredients, and steadily more sophisticated equipment.  

This Saturday I’ll be returning to my homebrewing roots and inviting Jesse over for a brewday in which we make an updated version of our first IPA.  This time we’re calling it Resolved IPA and we’ll be applying all the brewing techniques and lessons I have learned over the last 8 years to take it to the next level.

Our original Resolution IPA recipe was a sort of hybrid English/American take on the IPA with some toasted malt, a mix of English and American hops and an attempt at Burtonizing the water. Here was the recipe we used for a 5 gallon batch:

5.5 lbs Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)
1 lb Crystal Malt
1/2 lb Toasted Briess American 2 Row Brewers Malt
1 oz Fuggle Hops (boil)
1 oz Cascade Hops (boil)
1 oz Cascade Hops (finish)
2 tsp Gypsum
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Irish Moss

Our Resolved IPA will respect the spirit of the original beer by combining the English and American brewing tradition, but there will be some changes as well. Here’s how we’re updating it

  • We’re going all-grain and we’re using English Maris Otter Base Malt for a nice bready malt backbone.
  • In the place of the toasted two-row we’ll be using Victory Malt, which approximates the same toasty effect in the final beer
  • To further emphasize the malt backbone we’ll use a small percentage of Munich malt – a tip I picked up from Mitch Steele’s IPA book
  • We’re losing the Fuggles and we’re hopping much more aggressively with American hops in both boil and dry hop additions. Cascade Hops will still be present along with other citrusy varieties such as Centennial and Citra, We’re also be looking to get a piny, resiny character out of some Chinook and Simcoe.
  • We’ll brew a 10 gallon batch and split it into two fermentations. Maintaining the dual English/American theme  we’ll ferment with one batch with Wyeast 1056 American Ale and other with Wyeast 1028 London Ale.

With these ideas in mind here’s the new recipe.

Resolved IPA

11 Gallon Batch Size (10 Gallons kegged after accounting for trub, yeast and hop loss)

Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt 21.0 lb 84 % Mash 36
Munich Malt I 2.0 lb 8 % Mash 37
Victory® Malt 1.25 lb 5 % Mash 34
2-Row Caramel Malt 60L 0.75 lb 3 % Mash 34

Mash at 149F for 60 minutes

1.5 oz Warrior  60 min (16.0% AA)
1.0 oz Chinook  10 min (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Cascade  10 min (5.8% AA)
1.0 oz Simcoe  10 min (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Simcoe 5 min (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Cascade 5 min (5.8% AA)
1.0 oz Citra 1.0 oz 5 min (12.0% AA)
1.0 oz Simcoe  1 min (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Centennial 1 min (10.5% AA)
1.0 oz Citra 1 min (12.0% AA)
1.0 oz Chinook flameout  (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Simcoe  flameout (13.0% AA)
1.0 oz Centennial flameout (10.5% AA)

Fermentation and Dry Hoppping
Split batch with one batch fermented with Wyeast 1056 American Ale (Chico Strain) and the other fermented with Wyeast 1028 London Ale, both fermented at 67F.

Dry hop in cornelius kegs in two separate stages. Each Keg will get the same charge:
Charge 1 1 oz Centennial, .5 oz Simcoe, .5 oz Chinook
Charge 2 1 oz Centennial, .5 oz Simcoe, .5 oz Chinook

Predicted Stats
1.065 OG
1.016 FG
63 IBU
6.4% ABV
0.97 IBU/OG

Biere De Mars Roundup In Men’s Journal and Assorted Odds and Ends

Men’s Journal

I knew that one of the challenges I’d have in keeping this blog would be the pressure to keep it current.  It’s been dormant for too long, but I have been busy in that time brewing up some tasty beers and writing beer reviews for Men’s Journal

To this point, all the beer reviews I’ve written for Men’s Journal have appeared exclusively on their website. I’m very proud to announce though that the first piece I’ve actually written for the magazine is in their February issue (pictured at left) and is available on news stands now.  The piece is a short round up of standout examples of Americn breweries takes on an obscure style of French Farmhouse Ale called Biere De Mars.  I spotlight the versions made by Southampton, Jolly Pumpkin and New Belgium. Unfortunately the article is availabe exclusively in the magazine so if you want to read it you’ll have to go buy a copy (but that’s kind of the whole idea – go do it!).

A couple other reviews I’ve written over the past few weeks have also been published on the Men’s Journal site recently.  Firestone Walker’s Pale 31 is my recommendation for a great beer to bring to a party, as my review explains it’s nominally an American Pale Ale, but is actually a blended beer composed of an American Pale Ale they brew for Trader Joes and a bit of their Double Barrel Ale.  Like most of the rest of their beers it’s killer.  You can read my full review on the Men’s Journal Site.

Men’s Journal also recently published my review of Troeg’s Nugget Nectar.  I’ve been wanting to write this one ever since I got the freelance beer review assignment for Men’s Journal.  It is in my view the standard bearer for hoppy red ales and one of my favorite seasonal beers ever.  The full review can be found once again at Men’s Journal.

Coming attractions: I was recently in Denver on a business trip and I took an extra few days to do some beer tourism.  I hit around 10-12 breweries and brewpubs while I was out there and interviewed a few of the area’s leading beer experts including Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave, Bill Eye of Prost Brewing Company (and formerly of Dry Dock) and Chris Black owner of Falling Rock – quite possibly the best bar I’ve ever visited. I sampled some great stuff while I was out there and I’ll be writing a roundup of Denver’s best beers for Men’s Journal that lays it all out.  All the stuff I can’t fit in there will show up here in the days and weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

Experience Columbus (Beer)

Rockmill Brewery Witbier and Cask Aged TripelOne of the nice perks of my standing assigment to write beer reviews for Men’s Journal is that it offers access to breweries and beers that aren’t available to the general public. Breweries and PR companies often ship beer to my house in the hopes for a favorable review and sometimes they will invite me to beer tastings or dinners. These events are an opportunity for the breweries to showcase their beers to members of the press and to tell their stories. Some of these breweries have little or no money in their budgets to advertise to the public so the editorial page buzz is one of few chances they have to get in front of customers. There is no promise made or implied that I’ll write about these events or the beers. Many beers that I write about are beers I buy with my own money and many beers sent to me don’t merit a recommendation, but if a company is willing to send me a beer or invite me to an event I always sample with an open mind.

Last night I attended a beer tasting dinner at Saxon + Parole hosted by Experience Columbus. The event featured OYO spirits, beer from Rockmill Brewing Company and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, all originating in Columbus Ohio. The spirits and ice cream were great, but I’ll focus on the beer here.

Rockmill Brewery was founded by Matthew Barbee in 2010. Barbee who is also the head brewer has a background in wine. His family owned two vineyards and he is a trained sommelier. He explained, “Beer was never my thing until one day I sat down for dinner at a local Columbus restaurant and decided to order a saison with a salad.” The beer was Brasserie Dupont’s genre-defining Saison and he quickly fell in love with the style’s vinuous qualities. The saison style serves as an inspiration for Barbee’s tiny two-barrel operation located on a former horse farm, but he makes commendable beers in four different styles (as of this writing). In keeping with the farmhouse aesthetic Barbee emphasizes traditional techniques with multistep mash rests and long boils and his beers are 100% organic.

Barbee spoke at length about the pristine water available to him in Columbus and how well it matches with the mineral content of the Wallonia region of Belgium. It’s a nice story and he’s not the first brewer to gush about the unique qualities of his water, but it’s a bit overblown. Water chemistry reports are easily available and any professional brewer worth his salt (pun very much intended) should know how to manipulate the water available to him in order to emphasize the best qualities of the beer he’s brewing. Great terroir makes great wine, but great brewers make great beer.

Fortunately, the Rockmill beers did prove that Barbee knows what he’s doing. We sampled five Rockmill beers during the dinner and they were all well executed. Here are the highlights:

  • Witbier – bright and refreshing with a great wheat flavor followed by zippy orange zest and coriander, very refreshing and bright example of the style. Might have been the best thing we tasted all night. The beer also benefited from a fantastic pairing of soft cured salmon with smoked lemon yogurt, apple, radish and fennel
  • Saison – spicy, dry, crisp and refreshing, everything you’re looking for in a saison. Again there was a dynamite paring and this one was surprising. The chicken liver patte with port and jelly was not something that Dee and I would normally order, but it was fantastic in it’s own right and really brought out the earthiness of the saison.
  • Cask Aged Tripel – The spicy and clove-like phenols of the tripel danced nicely with the vanilla and cocunut imparted by the whiskey barrel. Fantastically subtle use of barrel aging to impart flavor and complexities. They’re using barrels previously used to age OYO’s Wheat Whiskey, a very mellow spirit as whiskey’s go and the restraint of the previous resident carries through to the beer. Great to see barrel aging incorportated with such a light touch.

Rockmill Brewery hopes to expand their brewery’s production to around 20 barrels and widen their distribution to include New York and Chicago by the end of this year. When they do I’ll be looking to write a full fledged review of one of the above beers either here or in the pages of Men’s Journal.

Utopian Dreams Dismantled

Samuel Adams 10th AnniversaryThere are some moments in life that are so brutally embarassing that you can’t even bear the thought of trying to hide them. You need to embrace them and find a way to laugh at yourself because the only other choice you have is to keel over and die of shame. This is one of those stories

A rep for Samuel Adams invited me to a private tasting of their 10th Anniversary of Utopias this October. It was a small affair – they were gathering seven or eight members of the press to sample a new formulation of the high proof barrel aged beer blend while Sam Adams founder Jim Koch held court for an hour or so. The man is a legend in the beer world and for a reporter he’s a quote slot machine that pays out every time you ask him a question. So I was in high spirits going in.

It was a great evening and I generated two pages of super quotes from Jim to help me round out my review along with the all important tasting notes that would help me remember the beer when I was writing up the review later. I was gobsmacked to find out hat the goody bag they sent me home with included a bottle of Utopias along with the special Reidl tasting glass designed for the beer. I walked home on cloud 9, imagining how much fun it would be to share this unique beer with friends and family after the rehearsal dinner before my wedding in a few weeks.

Those plans were short lived. As I walked up the few steps to the porch in front of my apartment that night I slipped and my right hand instinctively shot out to brace myself and prevent a full blown fall. Unfortunately, that same hand held the bad with the Utopias in it. I heard a sickening crunch. Please God, tell me that was the tasting glass. No such luck, I put my hand on the bottom of the bag and immediately felt wetness as the beer and my half baked rehearsal dinner tasting plans soaked through the bottom of a paper bag. I felt nauseous. Why do I have to be such a putz?

brokenutopias300x200The porcellain bottle, built in the shape of a mash tun had cleaved perfectly into two pieces. Some beer still sloshed around the bottom of mangled vessel and I rushed inside to pour the six or seven ounces into a couple glasses. I handed one to Dee and told her to enjoy the most unusual and expensive beer we would ever taste. She enjoyed the beer a bit, but she also filed a thought away*.

I wrestled with the temptation of writing to the Sam Adams rep to ask for another bottle. I didn’t know if they’d give me a replacement or not, but in the end I decided that it felt wrong to ask. I already had everything I needed to complete my review and the beer was more than worthy. My notebook with the quotes and tasting notes was stained with the Utopias and smelled like a bourbon barrel, but it was still legible and the taste was stamped indelibly in mind by this point anyway. Beyond my desire not to look like a scrub though, there was also a deeper knowledge that had worked it’s way through my brain and became imprinted at the core of my being: If you can’t carry a $190 bottle of beer home without smashing it on your front steps then you don’t deserve to drink it. This is why I can’t have nice things.

Click here to read my review of Samuel Adams 10th Anniversary Utopias in Men’s Journal.

*I’ll pay off the thought that Dee filed away in a post later this week.

Brewery Ommegang- XV 15th Anniversary

Men’s Journal posted my review of Brewery Ommegang’s stellar XV – 15th Anniversary beer on their site a couple weeks ago but I thought it would be fun to follow up here with my initial tasting notes as I drank the beer. Whenever evaluating a beer for review I record my impression of the beer’s Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Overall Impression. It’s a familiar process to anyone that has done some beer judging and the BeerAdvocate and Rate Beer sites are packed with thousands of notes like these so the format will be familiar to many.

Tasting notes are by their nature highly detailed and geeky as opposed to the reviews I write which I hope will be accessible and educational for the casual beer fan but still useful to obsessive beer geeks. The review on Men’s Journal remains the best encapsulation of what I think of any given beer.

It’s a testament to how much I enjoy this brewery to note that I drank this beer out of the tenth anniversary glass that I have held onto since buying a variety pack of their beers five years ago.

Ommegang XV

Aroma: Sweet malt with raisin, burned toast, spice (peppery), perfumey with hints of molasses

Appearance: Deep brown with a creamy tan head that dissapates slowly and leaves Belgian lacing down the glass

Flavor: Mirror image of the aroma. Sweet but very dry. Huge malt complexity, crisp toast backbone with fruit and spice notes, predominantly raisin. Bitterness is low. No detectable hops

Mouthfeel: Moderate carbonation with no bite, very dry finish with no astrigency. Medium body, some warmth, but nothing like what you’d expect at 9.6% alcohol

Overall: World class example of a Belgian Dark Strong – as good or better than anything rolling off the line at a Trappist Brewery in Belgium. Hides it’s heft very well

NYC Craft Beer Week Sneak Peek

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the NYC Beer Week Sneak Peek for the press last night. Craft Beer Week is now being run under the auspices of the New York City Brewers Guild and as you might expect there’s a strong focus on the New York breweries as a result of this change.

Each of the NY breweries in the guild so far was on hand to pour samples of their beer (Singlecut was notably not represented, perhaps their brewery incorporated after the Guild formed?).  Of the new beers I tried* I thought there were four standouts:

  • 508 Gastrobrewery’s White House Honey Porter – Honey in beer is tricky, once the yeast eats all its sugars there’s usually very little evidence that it was ever there to begin with beyond an alcohol boost.  508’s new brewer Chris Cuzme (full disclosure he’s a friend and president Emeritus from my homebrew club, The New York City Homebrewers Guild) added his wildflower honey late in the boil to preserve wildflower aroma and the gambit worked better than I ever would have expected.
  • 508 Gastrobrewery’s Rookie Wookie – a single malt single hop beer spotlighting New Zealand’s Moteuka hop variety.  The aroma has a perfumey and floral aspec that is compelling and very unique.
  • Kelso – Rauchbier – Kelso sourced cherrywood smoked malt from a small malster and bought out the entire batch.  The beer pours a pale golden color and smoke dominates the aroma and flavor, but it’s still drinkable
  • Sixpoint – 3Beans – ridiculously flavorful coffee, chocolate stout that sneaks up on you at 10% alchohol.  Includes cacao (chocolate) beens from Mast Brothers, coffee beens from Stumptown and romano beans for extra protein and body in the mash.  Another off the wall but drinkable beer from the mad scientists at Sixpoint

*Several other breweries showed up with their regular production beers, most notably Brooklyn Brewery with their usual array of corked/caged Belgian inspired beers.

Click through to page 2 below for a rundown on this year’s NYC Craft Beer Week events

All the pigs are all lined up

In the early 2000s I kept a blog at madeofglass.com that chronicled various aspects of my life. This post chronicled Brooklyn Brewery’s 2005 Pigfest, a discontinued and sorely missed annual party. This post originally appeared in a slightly different format on madeofglass.com, February 24, 2005.

So Pigfest was this Saturday. I was hoping to get a real big group to go, but it ended up being just me, Jesse, and Andru. This is all I knew going in:


The brewery itself is in Williamsburg, the hipster capital of America these days. The party was held in their “yard” which is basically where their delivery trucks load up with beer from the brewery. It was a nice big space and they had it all decked out with big tents since there were predictions of rain. Luckily it didn’t rain until way after the event was over and we were drenched only in glorious sunshine.

I’ll just have wheat thins and beer

In 2005 I kept a blog at madeofglass.com that chronicled various aspects of my life.  One of those aspects was the beginning of my adventures in homebrewing. This post originally appeared in that blog on February 24, 2005.  In the 8 years that have elapsed since then I’ve made a lot more beer and have also learned to enjoy it a lot more responsibly.  This post is preserved for posterity and as a reminder of why I don’t drink like that anymore.

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted kids. Here’s the final chapter on the beer.

One great thing about having a varied group of friends is that it often feels like you can accomplish or fix anything. Computer problems? Get Tripp on the phone. Need a big truck to move your stuff in? Call Steve. Want to brew some beer? Needle Jesse. Want a cool label on the beer? Get in touch with Carter…

I like a good beer buzz early in the morning – and Billy likes to peel the labels from his bottles of Bud

In 2005 I kept a blog at madeofglass.com that chronicled various aspects of my life.  One of those aspects was the beginning of my adventures in homebrewing. This post originally appeared in that blog on January 25, 2005.

The adventure continues. On Saturday Jesse and I bottled our beer, if you haven’t followed the saga to this point you can catch parts 1-3 of the home brew saga here, here, and here. So it’s been two weeks since the boil and about a week and a half or so into our secondary fermentation. Activity in the fermentation lock is fairly slow and we think we’re ready to bottle. I left for Jesse’s at around 12:30 and got there around 1:30 or so. It was beautiful but cold when I entered the subway at Broadway and 79th and it was a full on blizzard when I emerged in Forest Hills.

Bottling begins, like everything in brewing with cleaning and sanitization. It’s ironic that creating something to make you sloppy requires so much cleanliness. We began with the bottles themselves – they were in relatively good shape from the start. After I drink every bottle in my apartment I rinse it out to keep the place from stinking. Ever my father’s son, I recycle the empties for a nickel a pop and a couple cases of empties in the closet can really start to stink if you don’t rinse them out so in that sense we have a head start. Jesse’s prior brews had relied on donations of empty bottles from local bars which invariably were filled with cigarette butts, gum, and other unspeakable foulness.

Click on page 2 below to see the rest of this post

Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

In 2005 I kept a blog at madeofglass.com that chronicled various aspects of my life.  One of those aspects was the beginning of my adventures in homebrewing. This post originally appeared in that blog on January 18, 2005.

A week ago Jesse and I left our homebrew in his closet to complete its primary fermentation. A sanitized tube was left in place to handle the discharge of foam from the top of the carboy. This is how we left it:

The foam at the top is caused by the fermentation process which creates both carbon dioxide and alcohol. The foam also serves another purpose, it protects the brew from germs and wild yeasts in the air. As the primary fermentation neared its end a couple day s ago the foam collapsed back into the brew. Commercial breweries sometimes take steps to remove the foam before it can fall back in, but that’s a pretty risky proposition for the homebrewer, fooling around with the beer at this point presents to big a risk of contamination.

With the protective layer of foam gone though we had to do something to protect the beer. So Jesse pulled the tube out of the carboy and insereted a sanitized stopper and fermentation lock. Here’s a picture:

Here's the fermentation lock

The fermentation lock is basically like a curvy straw, shaped like an S on it’s side. The lock is filled with water so that air from the outside can’t get in. However as the secondary fermentation process continues Carbon Dioxide that is produced in the carboy. As the carboy fills up with Carbon Dioxide pressure builds until a bubble travels through the lock and releases it. In this closeup picture you can see the water inside the lock and the explanation will hopefully make a little more sense.:

fermentation lock close up

This Saturday we’ll be bottling our brew – look for some more pictures and descriptions then.