Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Morning Brews

Fired up the the brew pot this weekend (two weekends in a row, maybe I should go for three). A friend of mine is having an engagement party in late October and asked if I could brew something for the occasion. How could I say no? I decided to go with a saison. I've never brewed a saison before, but I have drank my fair share. I covered the style a few weeks ago in my beers you've never heard of series here. The timing on this one is going to be tight, but I think the beer should ferment fully and hopefully bottle condition properly. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Keep it brewing,


Monday, August 25, 2008

Holzburg Happenings

Despite having an action packed weekend, I managed to sequester a couple of hours Saturday morning to brew. I experienced a near tragedy while preparing ingredients. Several months ago I stocked up on hops and had been storing them in the freezer. For a period of time I had so many hops in our freezer that it looked like we were peddlin' weed. In preparing ingredients during the boil I realized the hops I had planned to use on Saturday were completely spoiled and they smelled like rotten cheese. Fortunately other hops in the freezer had kept pretty well and I was able to substitute some whole hop cascades for the centennial pellets that went bad. I decided on brewing an everyday stout to have on tap around the house. My aim was Sierra Nevada's Stout. Just to mix it up in addition to black patent malt and roasted barley I steeped a 1/2 pound of Franco Belges kiln coffee malt. Its supposed to accentuate the coffee flavors you frequently taste in a stout.

As you can see in the picture above, we are already bubbling away. In fact, Meg and I got back from a long afternoon/evening of babysitting for some friends on Saturday and the fermentation had taken off and had practically exploded through the airlock. I caused quite a mess.

Keep it bubblin',


Old Dominion Brew Pub Closes

Bad news, looks like its over for the Old Dominion Brew Pub. I stopped going there last year when the new management took over, its a shame b/c I used to love going out there for a couple beers or the tour. Fortunately the brewery is still churning out that oak barrel stout, I love that stuff. My best guess is that the new ownership decided that they didn't want to be in the brewpub business. Frankly the location of the pub was kind of crappy, but regardless it was always worth the hike out there to try some of their new experimental brews. You will be missed.


Friday, August 22, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Schwarzbier

Back in Black motha' truckers. Schwarzbier is a style that defies the stereotypes. Typically people bucket beers into two categories light and dark beers. Usually when I tell people that I am a beer enthusiast they say, "Oh, do you like those heavy dark beers?" I usually respond that the color of beer doesn't dictate the body of the beer. Schwarzbier is German for "black beer." Despite "dark beer's" reputation, Schwarzbiers usually are light bodied and 3.5% to 5% ABV.

Unlike other dark beers, like porters or stouts, Schwarzbiers are not overly bitter with burnt and roasted malt characteristics that the others tend to depend on. Instead, hops are used for a good portion of the bitterness. Very refreshing and soul lifting beers, they also make a great alternative during the winter months. Especially when you are looking for a lighter beer, but one with depth of color and taste.

In doing research on the origin of Schwarzbier I found a wonderful article written by Horst Dornbusch over at I was planning on paraphrasing some of his article, but he is such a great writer that instead I thought I would quote this paragraph and list the link to his entire article. Its definitely worth reading!

"Schwarzbier is arguably the oldest European beer style for which we have hard, scientific brewing evidence and, because of this, Kulmbach [Germany] is probably the place with the longest uninterrupted brewing tradition in the world. The evidence for these assertions is an amphora-shaped crock that was discovered in a prehistoric burial site seven miles west of Kulmbach, in 1935. The grave dates from the early Iron Age, around 800 B.C., and belongs to the so-called Celtic Hallstatt culture. The crock is now in the Beer Museum in Kulmbach. And inside the crock scientists identified residues of crumpled up, blackened bread - the standard raw material of ancient Germanic brews. In this particular instance, the bread was baked from wheat flour. It ranks as the oldest evidence of brewing in Central Europe. Because the beer made from such toasted loaves would be dark, too, we can reasonably assert that the Hallstatt crock contains residues not only of the first known beer in Central Europe, but also of the first Schwarzbier!"

One of the very first craft beers I fell in love with was Saranac's Black Forest. The beer pours a dark black color with a creamy light tan head that possesses good retention and lacing. The aroma is sweet with caramel and hints of roastiness. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy.

Similar to the Belgian saison, American brewers make more schwarbiers than the Germans. Great American versions of this style include Samuel Adams Black Lager, Saranac Black Forest, and Sprecher Black Bavarian. Some excellent Bavarian examples of this style are brewed by Köstritzer and Einbecker.

The natural pairing for Schwarzbier or any German beer really is sausage. A surprisingly delightful pairing is cajun food. Schwarzbier is great with blackened chicken or pork chops.

Drink your Schwarzbier!


PS- This concludes the 5 beer styles you've never heard of series. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bottle Bombs Beware

I was perusing Beer Advocate yesterday and I noticed the following information was posted about some explosive beer bottles:

Man severely injured by Atwater beer bottle (Fox video)

See the following link for the actual story.

Apparently there have been issues with Atwater Brewery's bottled beer. Based upon some of the information that has been posted, its sounds like there may be a possible infection in their bottling system that has caused both off tastes in the beer itself and excessive pressure to build up in the bottles. Some of these bottles have exploded. I know Atwater is available here in the DC area and it might be prudent to wait on picking up some of their beers until they figure out what is going on with their brewing/bottling system. I believe they said they were going to conduct an investigation before pulling beer from the shelves.

Just an FYI,


Friday, August 15, 2008

Oktoberfest Update

An update to yesterday's post. I just received another email from Norm's in Vienna saying that they have just received Penn, Stoudt's, and Mendocino Oktoberfest as well.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oktoberfest is among us

Well its official, the summer is over. Oktoberfest beers are hitting the market and that's a signal that its the beginning of fall. I got an email last week from Norm's in Vienna, VA that said they just received the following Oktoberfest beers: Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Lancaster, Hofbrau, and Dominion. Last year my favorite 'fest beer was from Left Hand Brewery. I traded some posts on Beeradvocate with Mike a rep for Left Hand and he said that they are currently shipping their Oktoberfest and that Virginia should be getting some soon. That is great news!

As sad as it is to see summer go, I love the fall weather here in the DC area and thank God its almost football season. Let's Go! Hokies!


Monday, August 11, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Scotch/Scottish Ale

Aye! HolzBrew back again with another style discussion. This post is going to cover Scotch Ale (or Scottish Ale). Now I think everyone is familiar with a few Irish drinking songs, but the Scottish like their drinking and singing just as much, so I thought it would be fun to include a classic Scottish drinking song to start off this post, you may have heard it before if you've ever hung out with a Scotsman:

"Well, a Scotsman clad in kilt left the bar one evening fair
And one could tell by how he walked that he'd drunk more than his share
He fumbled 'round until he could no longer keep his feet
And he stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street.

About that time two young and lovely girls just happened by
One says to the other with a twinkle in her eye
See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt?

"They crept up on that sleeping Scotsman quiet as could be
Lifted up his kilt about an inch so they could see
And there behold for them to view beneath his Scottish skirt
Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth!

They marveled for a moment then one said we must be gone
Let's leave a present for our friend before we move along
As a gift they left a blue silk ribbon tied into a bow
Around the bonnie star the Scots kilt did lift and show.

Now the Scotsman woke to nature's call and stumbled towards the trees
Behind the bush he lifts his kilt and gawks at what he sees
And in a startled voice he says to what's before his eyes
Oh, lad I don't know where you've been but I see you won first prize!"

Officially "Scotch Ale" is the name given to a strong pale ale originated in Edinburgh in the early 1800s. The term "scotch" generally brings thoughts of a certain brown spirit. It is important to remember that whiskey is simply distilled beer and that this famous liquor did not even exist until the 1800's. By that time the Scots had been brewing beer for literally thousands of years. Catholic monasteries established commercial breweries in Scotland during the medieval times. By the 1400s public breweries began to appear throughout Scotland. During the 1800s Scottish breweries were major distributors to the rest of Europe, North America and India.

From the very beginning Scottish ale has always been different than most types of British beer. The main reason for this is because hops do not grow in the cold and windy Scottish climate. Originally the early Scot brewers used spices, herbs, and even roots to help balance out the sweetness of the malt. In more modern times the Scots have imported hops in order to brew their Scotch ales. The problem with importing hops is that they were both expensive and ENGLISH! All things "English" are held in skeptical regard by the Scottish people. Scottish beer drinkers did not care for the flavor of the English hops and that is why hops are only used sparingly in Scotch ales. In reality the Scottish brewers recognized the hop as having tremendous preservative quality and begrudgingly have used hops in their beers. Malt flavors were emphasized by Scot brewers and still are today.

Scottish Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown in colored brew and a higher level of unfermentable sugars which create a rich mouthfeel and malty flavors and aromas. Smoky characters are also common. Additionally, Scottish beer ferments differently than English beer. The colder temperatures lead to a slower fermentation. Long cool fermentations tend to produce malty beers with less fruitiness. Due to this some Scotch ales bare closer resemblance to Bavarian lagers versus English ales, despite the usage of ale yeast strains.

Strong Scotch Ale is also known as Wee Heavy. Examples of beers brewed in the USA under the name Wee Heavy tend to be 7% ABV and higher, while Scottish brewed examples, such as Belhaven's Wee Heavy, are typically between 5.5% and 6.5% ABV.

Some great examples of Scottish Scotch Ales (and Wee Heavys) that you can find easily around the DC area are: McEwan's Scotch Ale, Orkney Skull Splitter, and Traquair House Ale. As with all styles American brewers have taken to brewing this delicious brown ale. Exceptional American versions of this style that are readily available around the area are: Oskar Blues Old Chub (this is one of my favorites), Samuel Adams Scotch Ale, and Magic Hat Jinx.

To fully complement the maltiness of this delicious ale, buttery cheeses such as brie, gouda and swiss make great pairings. Additionally, all smoked meats taste great with this beer.

Go out and find some McEwan's or Old Chub when you get a chance and discover all that this style has to offer.

Drink your Scotch (ale),


Saturday, August 2, 2008

5 beer styles you've never heard of: Saison

The farmlands of Wallonia (right next door to Stankonia), the French-speaking region of Belgium, are home to an incredibly refreshing beer, Saison (also referred to as a farmhouse ale). “Saison” is the French word for season, and the season that is in question is Spring. During the early weeks of spring the Belgium farmers would brew there last batches of beer because in the days before modern refrigeration ales would be impossible to brew during the summer. These beers had to sustain the farmers into the harvest season. Although now most commercial examples range from 5 to 8% abv, originally saisons were meant to be refreshing and thus had alcohol levels less than 3%. Because of the lack of potable water, saisons would give the farm hands the hydration they needed without the threat of illness.

Saisons are not as prevalent as they once were, only a few saisons are produced today. They are brewed using pale malts which lends to the light and refreshing taste. Some recipes also use wheat and the usage of botanicals such as orange peel is not unheard of. These beer were aggressively hopped as they needed to be preserved though the hot summer months. Currently, saisons are moderately hopped. These beers are usually more carbonated than other Belgium beers lending to its light peppery spritzy taste.

Saisons generally go well with a wide variety of foods from meaty dishes to spicy dishes. Saisons are truly utility players. One of my favorite pairings is a saison with a spicy thai dish. The bright spiciness of the beer really makes the spices in the food shine through.

Some fantastic Belgian examples of saisons are: Saison Dupont, Fantome Saison, and Avec Les Bons Voeux. Interestingly enough there might be more American versions of this style currently in existence. Probably my favorite saison is Hennepin which is brewed by Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY. Frequently you can find a 750ml bottle of this fine brew for about $5, which is one of the best values for your money currently on the shelves.

If you don't go out and buy a baltic porter or doppelbock I understand because those beers are not for everyone. BUT you owe it to yourself to go out and buy a saison and try it out.

Drink your saison,