REVIEW: Elder Betty Weiss by Magic Hat Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location: South Burlington, VT
Style: American Weiss Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 13
Appearance: Hardened Amber, Resembling Over-Brewed Iced Tea
Aroma: Wheaty Bread with Fruity Sweetness
Flavor: Hints of Fruity Sweetness, Light Malt, Elderberry Tart; No Hoppyness
Availability: Summer Seasonal
Pairs With: Elderberries, Crisp Salad, Grilled Fish, Mozzarella

I like fruit in beer if it’s done right. Too often fruit is overused, making the beer more akin to kids fruit soda or punch, then something worthy of more refined subtleties. Finesse and restraint, in my opinion, should be at the forefront of any brewers mind who has the idea of adding fruit to the fermentation formula.

I was intrigued when I saw Magic Hats summer seasonal was a Weiss brewed with Elderberry. I wondered what approach they would take. Would it be the light hand that is, seemingly, rare where fruit meets beer, or the heavy “fruit must be the main player” hand, so much more common in the fruit beers I’ve tried? And then it was Elderberry. I know Elderberry. I’ve brewed a very delicious plum and elderberry mead. Every year I forage elderberry. In fact, I went to my freezer and popped a few in my mouth just to reacquaint my memory with Elder Betty’s offerings. Then there was the way it was presented, a folksy Elder Betty Elderberry tree as the matron of summer, I had to give it a try.

“Tired and thirsty I did come, to an Elderberry under summer sun and found soothing balm within, ancient Betty’s weiss’ened grin.

Magic Hat as one of the most impressive lists of “interesting ales”, and though most are not available any longer. It is worthwhile to stay abreast of future offerings in their Reclusive Rarities; whatever is next in line is sure to be worth a taste if for no other reason than that it will be unique. This one is available and so it called to me like a Siren singing a slightly different tune then all her sisters.
[Read more...]

Wort Aeration & Oxygenation

In beermaking it is critical that you limit the beer’s exposure to oxygen. Oxygen can react with compounds in the beer to degrade the overall quality of the brew but perhaps most noticeably it can create undesirable flavors. However, exposing wort to oxygen is a whole different story. In fact, prior to pitching the yeast, you’ll actually want to make sure that there’s a certain amount of oxygen in the wort. Having oxygen in the wort will make for healthier yeast, better attenuation and an overall more complete fermentation.

It is important to note that you’ll only want to introduce oxygen to wort that has been properly cooled. Bringing oxygen into the mix with wort that is hot or warm will inhibit bacterial growth ultimately increasing the likelihood of infecting your beer. You should always make sure that you are cooling the wort to pitching temperature immediately after the boil is complete and before aeration.

There are a number of ways to introduce oxygen to wort but they all fall under two main approaches: aeration and oxygenation. Aeration is the process of adding air to the mix while oxygenation is the process of infusing pure oxygen.

The difference here is that air is only about 20% oxygen. Because of the difference in composition, using pure oxygen will be the quicker approach though aeration can get the job done just as effectively.
[Read more...]

The Different Types of Beer Regulators Explained

Whether you’ve been considering taking the plunge into the world of draft beer with your own personal kegerator or you’ve been serving beer on tap for years, you may have some questions about regulators. I know I did after I got my first kegerator.

CO2 Tank & Regulator Inside a Kegerator
CO2 Tank & Regulator Inside a Kegerator

Finding the perfect CO2 or Nitrogen pressure is, perhaps, the most tedious part of dispensing draft beer. Regulators help to perfect and ease this cumbersome task.

So, kick back, pour yourself a beer and get ready to learn the differences between the many different types of beer regulators.

What is a Regulator?

A regulator is the device that connects the gas cylinder to the air tube. As one of the most important components of a kegerator, the regulator controls the flow of CO2 or Nitrogen from the cylinder through the line. If the pressure needs adjusting, the regulator is where you would make those adjustments to find the right pressure.
[Read more...]

REVIEW: Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale from Humboldt Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Humboldt Brewing Company
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 32
Appearance: Hardened Amber, Resembling Over-Brewed Iced Tea
Aroma: Malty Backbone with Nutty Hints
Flavor: Sweet, Roasty & Slightly Hoppy
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Grilled Chicken or Pork, Pineapple, Colby or Asiago Cheese

This is my first foray into Humboldt brewing. The brewing company’s history writes like the “little brewery that could.” It was first started back in 1987, being one of the first craft breweries to come on the scene in California. From the very start this brewery was on a mission to brew responsibly and sustainably. It’s easy to see why when you look at where the brewery was located. Humboldt County is home to the awe-inspiring majesty and might of the redwoods and it is an easy step, after seeing nature at its most spectacular, to want to help preserve it.

In 2000 the brewery was having trouble keeping up with production and Firestone Walker Brewing stepped in to lend a hand. Then in 2005 Firestone Walker bought the brewery, changing its name to Nectar Ales. The brewery was then bought in 2013 by Total Beverage Solutions, but for the present, their line of beer is still being brewed by Firestone Walker.

It will be interesting to see where this “little brewery that could” will go from here. Will it reopen its own doors again? I don’t know and can’t find much information on the net about where they are headed. However, they have added a new beer to their line this year. It is a limited release double IPA named “500 B.C.”, referencing the age of the great trees that shaded this breweries humble beginnings; ten cents from every bottle sold goes to Redwood conservation. With a 26 year history, multiple awards, and a small flock of only 5 beers; I can only imagine each being a pretty intense labor of love.
[Read more...]

Why It Is Important to Clean & Sanitize Your Homebrew Equipment

You’ve heard that proper cleaning and sanitation in brewing are paramount, but you may find yourself asking, “Do I really need to spend money on a brewing-specific clean or sanitizer when I already have all of these effective cleaners around my house?” Well, the short answer to that question is “yes”.

Why You Should Clean Your Equipment

Homebrew Ingredients

Spending several hundreds of dollars on all the homebrew equipment your heart desires but deciding to skimp on cleaners and sanitizers would be like buying an expensive sports car and filling it up with regular unleaded. While you may initially save a couple of bucks at the pump, the inevitable repercussions make the frugality seem completely idiotic.

While bleach and other household cleaners are great for your bathroom and kitchen surfaces, you’re not consuming things that come in direct contact with these surfaces. These are very harsh cleaners that are great for their intended use but a less than ideal choice when making beer.

In brewing, it’s very important to create a happy and healthy environment for the yeast. Any bacteria, germs and the like will have adverse affects on your beer and it’s critical that you remove them from anything that will come in contact with the wort/beer at any point in time. This includes but is not limited to brew pots/kettles, brewing spoons and/or mash paddles, fermenters, siphons and tubing, airlocks, wort chillers, etc.
[Read more...]

Kegerator Glossary: Terms You Should Know

The world of draft beer has its own language, or so it may seem if you don’t recognize the terms being used. You may find yourself asking, They want me to connect what to the what? Whether you’re reading assembly instructions or browsing product descriptions, here are all the kegerator terms you need to know:

Keg Shell

Acid Cleaner — Removes beer and water stones from the beer lines. Not all acid cleaners are safe to use on all components, so these should only be used on your lines.

Barrier Tubing — Tubing lined with nylon or PET in order to better protect from the oxidation of your beer.

Beer Pump — A device that uses compressed air or CO2 to move beer great distances. Used when the faucet is far away from the keg.

Cleaning Pot — Also called a cleaning can. A vessel used to clean dispensing components. Once filled with cleaning solution, it is then tapped in the same fashion as a keg and dispensed through the draft system.

CO2 — In direct draw systems where the faucet is near the keg, carbon dioxide is used to push the beer from the keg.

CO2 Cylinder — Also called a CO2 tank, it’s the vessel that houses the CO2 gas mixture. Many kegerators arrive with a cylinder, but they are empty and need to be filled.

Conversion Kit — This kit contains everything you need to convert a refrigerator into a kegerator. There are different kinds of conversion kits, but they all typically include a faucet, beer line, air tube, coupler, draft tower, regulator, CO2 cylinder, and spanner wrench.
[Read more...]

REVIEW: Imperial Java Stout from Santa Fe Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Santa Fe Brewery Company
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.0%
Hops: Bravo & Fuggle
Appearance: Black with Brown Pancake-like Batter Foam
Aroma: Coffee, Chocolate and Hints of Malt Roastyness
Flavor: Cold Coffee, Sweet Malt
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Desserts

I was bouncing around town, stopping in at the different places that have decent beer selections with the burning question of what to do this week’s review on, when I wondered into the “local fares” selection and suddenly the thought it me, “Why not?” “Why not, review something local for a change.”

So I took some time (a lot) scrutinizing the New Mexico brews (you can never take too much time in making a careful survey and selection of what you will partake of for the next week). After what certain uninformed people might call an inordinate amount of shelf browsing, I decided on this robust-looking offering from Santa Fe Brewing Company.

Santa Fe Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in New Mexico. It reopened in 1988… that’s right reopened. The name was first incorporated back 1882, but unfortunately, closed up after 10 years, and only 22 years before probation hit. In 1988 Mike Lewis, after obtaining some unused custom made open top fermentation vessels, revived the Santa Fe name for another go at its already established brewing tradition.

This beer comes in a pretty simple, unassuming canned six-pack. This is part of the breweries “green initiative,” along with the recycled and completely reusable plastic six-pack carrier, which can actually be returned to the brewery and reused. On the can the Brewery’s humor shows through the simple design with a coffee cup on one side and the words “before noon”, while on the other side is a beer mug and the words “after noon.” A serious warning “Not For Use With Donuts” is also printed across the bottom of the can.
[Read more...]

What You Need to Bottle Your Own Beer

The brew day seems like forever ago and fermentation is finally complete. After all the waiting, your thirst has hit an all-time high. Unfortunately, you’ve got to properly package your product first. When bottling, there are a number of options to consider, you just have to think about what’s right for you and your beer.

Bottles

There are two main sizes of bottles to choose from when storing your homebrew. You know both of them well, the 12 oz. longneck and 22 oz. bomber. Both are equally great options and it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Homebrew Bottles

While 12 oz. bottles are great for personal servings, bombers are really handy when sharing with friends. You can even go with a combination of both to bottle your batch. You’ll also want to pay attention to the bottle’s collar which is just below the lip. American breweries typically use a bottle that has a flat collar that works well with cappers but watch out for imported bottles which may have a recessed or rounded collar which can cause the capper to slip.

Twist-off Style Bottles:
Whatever you do, do not use twist-off style bottles. These are the bottles commonly used by the massive breweries that we all know, and feature a threaded lip to allow the bottle cap to screw on. While it may be easy to find these in large quantities in your neighbor’s recycling bin these are not designed for reuse.
[Read more...]

How to Grow Your Own Hops

Growing Hops Right At Home Is Easier than You Think

Home brewing is becoming increasingly popular as more and more beer lovers discover just how easy it can be to a cook up a batch of your very own creation. An integral part of the home brewing process are hops, which infuse beer with its signature flavor. While some home brewers choose to purchase hops for the brewing process, many are choosing to grow hops on there own.

What Are Hops?

Hops are the female flowers of the plant known as humulus lupulus. Hops are used as a means of flavoring beer, as well playing a role in preserving the beverage. Hops offset the sweetness of malt to create a complex flavor profile that beer lovers crave. Depending on how much and what type of hops are used will determine how bitter a beer may be.

Hops were used as a method of flavoring beer as far back as the 11th century. Before then, many brewers imparted flavor to their beer by use of a variety of herbs and flowers. The resulting brews contained far less alcohol content, and were also more susceptible to spoilage. Today, hops are an integral part of the brewing process, with many growers taking a scientific approach to this age’s old traditional preparation.
[Read more...]

REVIEW: Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Alaskan Brewery Company
Location: Juneau, AK
Style: American Double IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 70
Appearance: Fresh, Shiny Copper with Fluffy Off-White Foam
Aroma: Citrusy, Fruity Mix; Notes of Apricot & Pineapple
Flavor: Balanced, Surprisingly Smooth & Mellow
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Spicy Food, Bitter Salads, Pizza, Wild Game (you caught yourself)

Most everyone knows the on-going love affair between the American craft brew industry and their IPA’s, Imperial IPA’s, and Double IPA’s. So, it will be no real surprise that here I sit reviewing another offering to this already crowded arena. Don’t get me wrong I’m right there with most hopheads in the feeling that “the more the merrier.” This latest addition comes to us from the far, cold north. Alaska. That’s right far to the north they labor to bring us their love affairs, their versions of the common styles.

Alaskan Brewing Company opened in 1986, but remained unknown to a large portion of the lower 48, until recently, when they widened their distribution. I didn’t know a thing about them until they expanded into New Mexico in 2013. This brewery is one of the most decorated Great American Beer Festival entrants and continually turns out high quality beers without taking themselves too seriously.

“A glass to the northern country, and a beer bearing hidden bounty.”

Hopothermia comes in a nice four-pack. The artwork is understated and nice. The cartoon is green with a frozen hop cone making up the degree sign between hop and thermia. There are funny things to read all over the cartoon (like I said, seems they don’t take themselves too seriously). They even wrote a poem to go with this beer. These guys are men after my own heart.
[Read more...]