Sunday, September 28, 2008

NoVa Brewfest

Meg and I had a great time volunteering at the NoVa Brewfest this past weekend. I don't think there is any reason why we'll not volunteer for this one in the future. We met a lot of great people and tried too many great beers to list. We got the chance to pour for St. George Brewery. Wow, what a great group of guys!


Brews Brothers

Decided to get crazy this weekend and brew two beers at once. As you can see from the pictures above I went with a large and small batch. The large batch is a Belgian dubbel that should be spectacular. The OG came out at 1.075, so we're looking around 8.5% ABV. In addition to the light malt extract, I partial mashed Caramunich and Special B malts. During the boil I added 1 pound of brown Belgian candy sugar. The second beer that I brewed was really an afterthought. I had extra malt and some california ale yeast. I decided that we needed a west coast pale ale on tap while the belgian was fermenting. In the third picture I am trying to get the fermentation temperature down to around 65 - 68*F. This is a technique that I learned online. If you drape a wet t-shirt over a fermenting vessel and speed up the evaporation process by blowing on it constantly with a fan you can drop the temperature of a fermentation by 6-8 degrees. Usually I don't mind fermenting at the ambient temperature of our condo, but this belgian yeast strain really produces the best results if the fermentation occurs in the 60s. This is the first time that I have tried this. So far so good, the temperature was around 67-68 last time I checked. The only hassle is that you need to switch out t-shirts every 2-3 days or you will start to grow mildew. Nasty stuff. I'll let you know how it all turns out. Ask for a sample if you see me around.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

NoVa Brew Fest

Come on out this weekend to the Northern Virginia Brewfest. Its being held at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville. The event will feature over 40 different breweries. Some of my favorites will be there including: Victory, Dogfish, Lagunitas, Bells, and Oskar Blues. Additionally there will be live music and food. Meg and I will be volunteering Sunday afternoon from approximately 2pm - 6pm. I'm not sure who we will be pouring beer for yet, but hopefully something good. Check out the above link for all the details.

Here's the list of brewers (as of 9/25) and the beer that some of them will be bringing:

1. Abita (Fall Fest, Restoration)
2. Allagash (White, Tripel, some special stuff)
3. Ballast Point, California (Big Eye IPA)
4. Bear Republic
5. Beck's (Pilsner)
6. Bells
7. Birra Peroni (Peroni Nastro Azzurro)
8. Bitburger, Germany (Pils)
9. Blue Grass, Kentucky (Jefferson Bourbon Barrel Stout)
10. Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest, Boston Lager)
11. Boulder Brewing Company, Colorado (Hazed and Infused)
12. Brooklyn Brewing Company (Oktoberfest, Brown Ale)
13. Capitol City Brewing Co. (Amber Waves Ale, Hefeweizen, Capitol Kolsch, Prohibition Porter)
14. Clipper City (MärzHon, Loose Cannon, maybe a cask or two)
15. Dogfish Head
16. Duvel (Maredsous Triple 10)
17. Flying Dog (Dogtoberfest, Old Scratch)
18. Fordham (Helles Lager, Close Encounter)
19. Het Anker
20. Hofbrau Munchen
21. Hook Ladder (Golden Ale, Backdraft Brown)
22. Huyghe (Delirium)
23. Kona (Longboard Lager, Pipeline Porter)
24. Kostrizer, Germany (Schwartzbier)
25. Lagunitas
26. Lancaster Malt Brewing Co. (Oktoberfest, Hop Hog)
27. Leinenkugel (Sunset Wheat)
28. Mad Fox Brewing Company
29. Magic Hat (#9, Circus Boy)
30. Mendicino
31. New Holland (Mad Hatter IPA, Full Circle Kolsch)
32. North Coast
33. Old Dominion (Octoberfest, Ale)
34. Olde Richmond, Va (IPA & Brown)
35. Oskar Blues
36. Otter Creek/ Wolavers Brewing Co. (Oktoberfest, Pale Ale)
37. Peak Organic (Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale)
38. Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell)
39. Raven (Raven Ale)
40. RedHook (Long Hammer, Late Harvest Ale)
41. Sierra Nevada (Pale Ale, Anniversary Ale)
42. Shenandoah Brewing Co.
43. Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu (Octoberfest)
44. St George, Va (IPA, Porter)
45. Starr Hill (Jomo, Amber Ale, Festie (Oktoberfest Lager), Love)
46. Van Honsebrouck (Kasteel)
47. Victory
48. Vintage 50
49. Weihenstephaner
50. Widmer (Hefeweizen)
51. Wild Goose (IPA)
52. Woodchuck Ciders

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Early ‘fest reviews

It’s only mid-September and I’ve been fortunate enough to have tried several Oktoberfest offerings already. I thought I’d give you my take and hopefully steer your towards some fantastic fall beers. Here we go:

Left Hand Oktoberfest

The reigning champion of my taste buds does it again this year. Last year this one really took me by surprise. It pours a deep copper color with a thin cream colored head. The smell is outright malty and sweet. Taste wise this is on the sweet side from start to finish, but not cloyingly sweet or syrupy. The hops finish with mild bitterness, which really doesn’t change the flavor of the beer, but it does help balance it out.

If you were so inclined you could sit down with a six pack of this and finish it. This stuff is eternally drinkable. The only bad part of this beer is the price, somewhat steep at $12 a six pack, and availability.

Rating: A

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Sam Adams continues to disrespect the German spelling of this name by dropping the “k” in favor of a “c.” Perhaps this is Sam Adams’ (Boston Beer Company) way of keeping it American, no doubt. I’ve got friends who lose their minds every year when this comes out, this year I understand why. Last year this beer just seemed like a boring, watery ‘fest beer, but this year it’s like they remembered that this malt monster is something special. It pours an orange-amber color. The smell is subtle maltiness. The taste is an explosion of toasty, caramel, and roasted maltiness. The hops are middle of the road, but a bit more aggressive than the Left Hand and similarly they help balance out this brew.

This is a great one for fall tailgating or picnics. Another plus is that this one is a little easier on the wallet at around $8 a sixer.

Rating: A

Lancaster Oktoberfest

This one was a surprise. First to clarify my rating, I thought this was a cool non-traditional ‘fest beer as will be discussed, but I had to knock the overall down to a B, because of its departure from tradition. First, it poured an amber-copper color and slightly hazy. The taste was malty with brown sugar undertones and … wait for it … wait for it … a cider flavor. I don’t think that a cider flavor is desirable generally speaking in any sort of lager, but it kind of works in this one. Actually I think this one was Meg’s favorite Oktoberfest so far. I think that if you’re a lover of ales versus lagers then this might be the Oktoberfest for you. I say this because generally you associate ales with “fruity” type flavors and lagers are generally “cleaner” tasting.

We only bought two singles of this, so I have no idea how much a six pack will run you. Give this a try if you aren’t interested in the traditional Oktoberfest style.

Rating: B

Penn Oktoberfest

This one pours a clear tawny orange with a small foamy white head. Aromas and tastes are pretty straightforward: simple malty backbone with a touch of hops at the end and a clean aftertaste.

Rating: B-

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

Every year I try a couple German brewed Oktoberfests thinking that this year I’ve finally found the original, the mothership so to speak, but every year I am consistently disappointed. Maybe it’s because these German brewed babies are shipped all the way across the Atlantic and the conditions aren’t always optimal for storage. I suspect German brewed Oktoberfest tastes better in Germany. That being said this one receives pretty high marks on beeradvocate, so maybe I’m just off my rocker. Pours more of a reddish amber color, very clear. A little spicy in the nose, sweet upfront, but then it kind of just fizzles out. Not offensive, but I get kind of bored drinking this one.

Rating: C

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is the Doctor in?

The wife and I met a friend at Granville Moore's on Saturday. It's an out of the way Belgian beer bar located in the "up and coming" atlas district of DC. On your trip down H Street you might be asking yourself is there really a cool beer bar in this somewhat sketchy part of the city? The answer is you betcha. The restaurant is apparently named for the previous tenant of the space. Dr. Granville Moore was apparently a doctor who worked pro bono twice a week on H street.

To start, on a busy Saturday apparently the wait can be quite long for a table. As we approached the front door a lady was taking names and phone numbers and we were told that it was going to be close to a 2 hour wait to get a table. Fortunately, we were able to find standing room at the bar which quickly parlayed itself into three bar stools opening up. We started off with some beers on draft, Meg and Kevin got a Brasserie Caracole Nostradamus, and I got a Pauwel Kwak. A year or two ago I had a Kwak and wasn't overly impressed, but this time it was on point. We started off with an order of frites. The frites were done right twice fried, salted, and seasoned. Unfortunately the frites were so good that I think I ate too many. After awhile we placed our order, Meg and I both went with the Steak et Fromage sandwich(which came with a mountain of frites). My friend ordered a pair of scallops to start along with a bowl of gazpacho. To break up the wait for the dishes and to continue the revelry we moved on to another round of beers. Meg went with a Brasserie Lefèbvre Barbar, I can't remember what Kevin ordered, and I got a De Dolle Ara Bier. The Ara was very interesting. It started off with a nice Belgian yeasty-ness (is this a word?), moved onto a tart lemony flavor, and finished big with a wall o' hop bitterness. That was one unique Belgian beer. The food came and I think everyone was content. My steak et fromage was served on an onion brioche with a nice hunk of cheddar cheese, and a creamy horseradish sauce. Meg got the same thing and her opinion of the food was that she thought "it was something she could make at home." I got the opportunity to taste Kevin's scallops and they tasted very fresh and meaty (not rubbery at all).

All in all I think this is a cool little place tucked away in a part of the city that is still flying under the radar. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is up for a little adventuring away from the typical stomping grounds in NoVa and DC.

Keep it Belgian,


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Duvel on Draft

Just saw this on BA and I thought I'd put it out there:

"With all of the recent Duvel draft talk and Duvel Moortgat saying in the past that they'd never release Duvel in kegs, I figured I'd go to the source to get the 411. An official press release is in the works, but Duvel Moortgat told us that Duvel draft is indeed coming to the US very soon.

Here's what we can divulge to everyone in BA-land:

* The kegs are on their way.

* The official public launch will be Oct 1 or the 15th, at 20 or so bars in NYC--followed by a wider release. This all depends when the ship arrives.

* It could be pouring at The Return of the Belgian Beer Fest on Sep 27.

* Duvel draft is not the Duvel Gefilterd "green lettering" version seen here: , even though the branding shows that Duvel draft will have green lettering vs. red and seperate glassware.

* Duvel draft is the same exact beer that goes into the bottle version. The only difference being that unlike the bottle, there will be no third fermentation in the keg, which means it's fermented only twice and will have a lower ABV (6.8%) as a result. Duvel goes through a primary fermentation and then a secondary fermentation in maturation vessels, the bottles go through a third (aka - bottle conditioning).

* It sounds like the goal of this release is to compliment Duvel in the bottle by providing the same Duvel experience on draft, with a slightly easier to drink beer (less alcohol) that will hopefully introduce the Duvel brand to a whole new audience of consumers--like draft beer drinkers."

All in all I think it would be great if bars across America started regularly offering Duvel, so this seems like a good thing. If you've never had a Duvel stop by your local beer store and pick one up. The only issue is that it looks like they've tinkered with the recipe so to speak (no bottle conditioning), and hopefully they will continue to offer the bottle conditioned version as well. You can technically "bottle condition" a keg, so I wonder if that was ever discussed as a possibility.

If you find that you like Duvel try to find Lucifer by Riva, I personally think that its an even better strong Belgian pale ale.