Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hella Cool

I stopped by MyLHBS yesterday to pick up some ingredients for a maibock.  If you live in NOVA and homebrew you've probably heard of MyLHBS, it's a great little homebrew/winemaking supply store in the Seven Corners area run by guy named Derek.  I asked Derek what yeast strain he recommended for a maibock and he fortunately had a few activators of the Wyeast Hella-Bock strain left.  Apparently this is the same strain used by Ayinger.  From Wyeast:

"Direct from the Austrian Alps, this strain will produce rich, full-bodied and malty beers with a complex flavor profile and great mouthfeel. Attenuates well while still leaving plenty of malt character and body."

Sounds pretty good, right?  I am also using Hallertau and Saaz hops, pilsner malt, a little dextrin and crystal malt as well.  The wort ended up with an OG of 1.066 and looks like:

 Ah cloudy (the cloudiness should settle out during lagering) and golden deliciousness.  The only real snafu I foresee is that the yeast's optimum fermenting temperature range is 48 - 56 degrees Fahrenheit, I am fermenting this in my kegerator and the temperature that I usually serve my beer at is right around 40 degrees, so I may have to come to some sort of compromise here.  I am planning a 3 week primary fermentation followed by a two month lagering phase.  I'll keep you updated on the progress.

Hella sweet,


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trouble in Paradise

Had a little snafu this evening as far as the dry hopped keg of Hopsloitation goes.  The keg line must have gotten clogged by the hops in the keg and the flow of beer was stopped.  Terrible, I know.

In order to troubleshoot this problem I took the CO2 gas line and plug it into the out line (liquid line) and blasted it with CO2 for a minute.  Foam erupted out of the "in" line, but it was easy enough to clean up.

At least temporarily this seems to have remove the blockage and restored the flow of brew.

Keep the kegs flowing,


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed In

Like a lot of people in the Mid-Atlantic we were more or less snowed in yesterday. It gave me sometime to keg the Hopsploitation. The ABV came in at 7.2%. I dry hopped the keg with a half ounce of Amarillo whole leaf hops. I've never tried that before, so I'm interested to see how fresh, the hop flavor is. So I officially have nothing fermenting in the house. Sounds like a problem I will have to remedy over the holiday break. I think I might brew a maibock for spring. Also, lately I have been infatuated with Duchesse De Bourgogne, so I like to possibly brew a flanders red. The fermentation time is at least a year, if not 18 months, so this one will require a lot of patience and a good resting spot in chateau de HolzBrew. Anyone have a good recipe?

I also had a bottle of Two Turtle Doves (by the Bruery) yesterday and I was blown away. It is definitely a monster dessert beer, brewed with cocoa nibs and toasted pecans, flavor country, to say the least.

Hope you stayed warm yesterday and your back is not aching too bad from all of the shoveling!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Perfect Holiday Beer: Old Ale

Sitting around this evening decorating the HolzBrew family Christmas tree and sipping on some Old Ale (North Coast Old Stock Ale). Sounds like a bad thing, right? Despite the name, Old Ale is a very very good thing. The perfect beer to enjoy this time of year sitting around the fireplace.

While not easy to define, because barleyewines and some winter warmers taste similar, old ale generally refers to darker english ales lowly attenuated so there are a high level of residual sugars. Per the name, these beers are typically fermented longer than the average english style ales. The alcohol levels can be anywhere from 7% to 10%.

During the early to mid 1800's brewing was big business in England. Porters and pale ales were being churned out at a quick pace. Typically fully fermented in just a few weeks. This was a change in business plan from brewers who were hoping to turn their inventory over faster. Naturally, it wasn't that easy. These beers with shorter fermentation tasted different. In order to get around public backlash (due to different tasting beer) brewers kept a smaller volume of beer around for a very long time, hence "old ale", and they would blend this beer with the fresh beer to achieve the flavor profile desired by their patrons.

By the 1850s - 60s, porter started to decline in popularity, so brewers started selling "Old Ale" directly to the pubs. These Old Ales sold to the public began to be brewed to their own unique recipes instead the Old Ale that was used for mixing. These beers were typically fermented for a year or more.

These Old ales had another unique quality, a noticeable acidic flavor. Around the year 1900 the yeast responsible for secondary fermentation (while the beer was being stored in casks, for aging) in old ales was identified in the Carlsberg laboratories in Denmark, and given the name Brettanomyces. Which is commonly found in Belgain ales.

Examples of classic english style old ales are Theakston Old Peculier and Thomas Hardy's Ale. Some of my favorite American takes on this style include North Coast Old Stock Ale, Great Divide Hibernation Ale, and Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale.

Sometimes older is better,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blog Note

Per requests, I've tried to add some sort of social networking links at the end of each post. I am terrible at html, so I more or less copied and pasted some code I found on the web. If you are a code writing fool and have a better suggestion on how to add the social networking links to each post, please let me know, for I know not what I do.

Also, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page (ridiculous, I realize), and click on "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)" you should be able to subscribe using feedburner.

Bottling the tripel sunrise today, can't wait to try it.


Thursday, December 3, 2009


"I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart, but it's not really my fault because I was hopped up on that high gravity HolzBrew. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone, but everyone should enjoy a HolzBrew from time to time."

-Tiger Woulds

Shocking words from the golf-icon yesterday. Who would have thought that the 'ole HolzBrew played a role in his transgressions?

Seriously though, who is tired of this story already? Me. Tiger's coming back like Kobe next year and probably going to win the Grand Slam.

I spent a few days in Durham, NC over the holiday weekend and got the chance to try some brews that are not available in the NOVA area. Namely from Triangle Brewing and Big Boss Brewing. I had the Triangle Golden Strong Belgian Ale. It was pretty nice, a sweet banana smell, with a lightly spicy Belgian body to match. I also tried the Big Boss Coffee Stout (I think it is called Aces and Ates). Also, a nice offering, as you would expect the taste was nice and roasty with a very noticeable coffee bitterness. Until just now, I didn't realize both of these beers were 8.0% ABV, kind of explains why I felt half-cocked after having these two beers with lunch. I was also looking around for Foothills Brewing offerings at Sam's Qwick Mart, but unfortunately I didn't realize that they don't bottle their beer.

I brought back a 22 oz. of Rye Hopper by French Broad and a 22 oz. of Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout. I am looking forward to trying both of those (both from Asheville). The Misses and I also brought back a BrewDog Bashah and Punk IPA, because we don't really see the BrewDog stuff up in VA. Both of these beers were great. I had been hearing some hype about the Bashah and I had to see for myself. Believe the hype. The Bashah is serious flavor country. I'll spare you a lengthy review and just tell you to GET SOME, if you can find it.

The guys from BrewDog picking out casks in which to age the Bashah.

Also, I saw this comical article yesterday about another new beer from BrewDog:

A few highlights:

"A controversial Scottish brewery has launched what it described as the world's strongest beer -- with a 32% alcohol content. Tactical Nuclear Penguin has been unveiled by BrewDog of Fraserburgh."


"If BrewDog's new beer was called "Strategic Nuclear," the wary drinker might fear the high alcohol content would lay waste to him, her, or the whole bar. "Tactical" suggests that, if the beer is used judiciously, its effects are manageable."

Those Scots are crazy. A 12oz. bottle of this stuff, might kill you.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Cider Making Lesson #1

We all knew it would happen, when one just willy nilly starts brewing something new, there is bound to be a lesson learned. I kegged the cider on Friday and poured up a sample glass on Saturday and sure enough the taste was bone dry. More or less like sucking on a mixture of water, alcohol, and apple skins. The yeast fermented the cider down to a gravity of 1.002 (for non-brewing nerds, that's basically water, i.e. Coors Light). Well not to fear I had an idea. I boiled some water and threw in about a pound of light brown sugar. Once the sugar dissolved nicely, I added this to the cider (or "apple beer", as Mrs. HolzBrew refers to it). Shook up the keg and repressurized. By Sunday, the cider was tasting pretty darn good. Another day or two at higher PSI and it should be fully carbonated, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Crisis averted (probably not the last),


Friday, November 20, 2009

Holy Mother of Bourbon

Many beer aficionados are aware of the bourbon barrel fad that has passed through craft brew nation the last 3 or 4 years. Quite honestly, at times it seems like some late adopters have just started doing it in order to keep up with the Joneses. That's a shame because a well thought out bourbon barrel brew is a spectacle to behold. Well I haven't had a bourbon barrel brew lately that really stood out amongst the crowd, until this evening. While browsing the new arrivals at Norm's, I came across Backwoods Bastard by Founders. As a kid who went to school in southern Virginia (Go Hokies!) is apt to do, the bourbon barrel brews usually catch my eye. I couldn't resist.

The thing that really made this beer stand out from the other bourbon beers is that the bourbon flavor was big and fresh and in your face. This beer isn't for the faint of heart. Seriously, Mrs. HolzBrew had one wiff of it and turned up her nose. You've got to love bourbon (not just tolerate it) in order to appreciate this one.

Here goes:

Look:dark brown to deep copper in color. A thin tan head slowly forms during then pour and then instantly fades. The carbonation level is fairly low.

Smell: The initial nose is sweet maltiness followed by a pronounced woodiness. Then a bit of char and a whole lot of bourbon and alcohol.

Drink: The first sip is a malt and bourbon explosion. The alcohol is hot and spicy on the back end. Lots of bourbon in this one the scotch malts fill in the background.

Overall: Personally I love the fresh and biting bourbon side of this beer. Browsing some of the reviews on beeradvocate some people feel this is "over-bourboned." They are right, but thats why I like it. It's an A in my book, but if you have an aversion to bourbon this might rank fairly low to you.

“How well I remember my first encounter with The Devil's Brew. I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon -- and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter.”

-W. C. Fields

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Abandoned Breweries

I love pictures of old breweries or old breweriana, such as old beer cans or funny old beer advertisements. I particularly find artistic pictures of abandoned breweries fascinating. I'm not sure what it is about an abandoned brewery that seems interesting. Perhaps its that I find it appalling that a functioning brewery could be left to rust. It seems like a crime. Regardless, the following pictures from the web are some my favorites. The photographers have a real gift, the ability to capture the essence and despair of a place.

Old Stella Artois Brewery

Heurich Brewery (former DC brewery)


Gunther Brewery (former Baltimore brewery)

May your mash tuns never rust,


Monday, November 9, 2009

To Fruit or Not to Fruit

Few ingredients rouse greater passion than the addition of fruit to a beer. Many people are strongly opposed to fruit in their ales and lagers. Heck, the Germans enacted the Reinheitsgebot literally outlawing the addition of "foreign" ingredients, such as fruit, in their beer. Many guys won't even touch a beer if there is any indication of added fruit, as if drinking "fruited" beer is equivalent to drinking a Zima. Beer brewed with fruit additions at either the end of the boil or during secondary fermentation can add take a beer and add another layer of complexity. I think a critical point of a decent fruit beer is that it should be a beer with fruit, not the other way around. Meaning if it just tastes like alcoholic fruit juice then it ain't worth brewing or buying, but if the fruit enhances or adds another aspect (e.g. added acidity or sourness) to the beer then it can be a welcomed addition.

To experiment, I recently brewed a Belgian Brown ale and split it, one half of the batch remained untouched and the other half was racked onto several pounds of sour cherries for a month. The result was definitely interesting, the two beers didn't taste like they were brewed in the same kettle. The untouched brown (or brune or bruin) was more viscous, malty, and sweet with some moderate hop bitterness on the back end. The "cherried" version was tart, with a thinner body (and not surprisingly a lower final gravity), and ended with a blend of hop/fruit bitterness. To be quite honest I enjoy the regular brown more, but I think this was a cool experiment. Next time I think I will blend in some sweet cherries.

Several years ago I brewed a west coast style pale ale and added grapefruit to the secondary fermentation. The fruit really enhanced the natural citrusy taste of the cascade and centennial hops that I used. Thinking back to that beer makes me wonder, why I haven't tried this combination again, perhaps a future brew.

A commercial beer brewed with fruit that I think is worth a try is Dogfish Head's Aprihop.


Dr. Dremo's ... Back in the Saddle?

As reported on Yours for Good Fermentables (TM) there are plans to revive Dr. Dremo's, an old car dealership that became an old brewpub (Bardo Rodeo) that subsequently became a funky and eclectic bar. Almost every young Arlingtonian has some story about a fun and possibly blurry evening at Dremo's. One of the few bars at the time where you could regularly play beer pong, flip cup, etc.

Dremo's closed its doors in January 2008 because the landlord's wishes to redevelop the land, which currently sits idle. Read the interview with Dr. Dremo's owner Andrew Stewart about the possible re-opening of said Dremo's here in Clarendon in 2010.


PS - At lunch I oddly came across this article about Steven Tyler quitting Aerosmith. It's odd because "Back in the Saddle" is one of my favorite Aerosmith tunes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Disclaimer: No hops were harmed during the writing of this post.

A few weeks back I placed a sizable (for me at least) hop order from the good people at I purchased approximately 24 oz. of hops in variety of types. I've been itching to use them, so that's how it went down this afternoon. After brewing strange concoctions for the past couple of months like tripels with agave syrup, cherried belgain browns, cider, and wooded wild yeast beer, I decided to get back to my roots. What's that? Aggressively hopped west coast styles.

Enter the HolzBrew Hopsploitation. My main inspiration for this recipe was Nugget Nectar, the Imperial Amber Ale brewed by Troegs. I was at Norm's last weekend browsing the shelves and wishing I'd come across some Nectar. Unfortunately it is a seasonal and doesn't come out until February.

I decided to shoot for something close. I started with a split of approximately 50/50 pilsner and munich malt, which I think is fairly on point. I threw in about 6oz. of 120L crystal malt. My OG ended up at 1.064, probably a little lighter that I was shooting for, but that should put me around an ABV of 7% which is close to NN. Now for the hops. According to the Troegs website they use: Nugget, Warrior, Palisades, Tomahawk, and Simcoe. I did mine a little different: Nugget, Simcoe, Centennial, and Amarillo. The IBU calculator at rooftop brew, put this batch well past 120 IBU, but I think that's probably somewhat overstated. I'm fermenting with straight up California ale yeast from white labs, 'ole faithful.

I've got an empty keg that is begging to be filled with this IPA/Imperial Amber (What's the difference? Seriously, if someone can explain the difference to me I'd appreciate it.)

Life's better when it's bitter,


Thursday, October 29, 2009

What will $20 get you?

Nowadays a twenty spot doesn't go far. Maybe you can get a half a tank of gas or possibly an XL pizza.

Twenty dollars WILL get you a pack of cider yeast and three gallons of organic (code word for foolishly expensive) apple cider. That right folks, I've decided to brew up a batch of fermented apple drank. I really have no idea what I'm doing, but sometimes that works out, surprisingly. I hope the yeast will do most of the walking, so I can do all the talking (I'm not sure that makes sense here, oh well, when in Rome).

See the first day of HolzBrew cider bubbling away.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Scenes From The NOVA Brewfest

Well it was a muddy one for sure, but great beer was enjoyed by all who made it out to this fall's NOVA Brewfest. I poured for awhile at Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada. I always forget how darn good that Lagunitas IPA is, seriously, its world class stuff. Other notables included: Mad Fox Wee Heavy, Williamsburg Bourbon Amber, St. George Fall Bock and Star Hill Saison.

Keep the great beer flowing,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 NOVA Brewfest

HolzBrew and friends will be pouring beer at this weekend's NOVA Brewfest on Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 6pm. The fest is both days, Saturday and Sunday, out at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville. Tickets are still on sale, see all the details at the official site:

The list of brewer's and beers can be found here. My favorite Oktoberfests this year will be available, Left Hand and Flying Dog.

If you've never been to this fest you've got to come out for it. Or even volunteer for it.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fest Rundown 2009

While most Oktoberfest celebrations are dwindling, lots of Oktoberfest beers are available in the bars and on the shelves. I've done my best to try as many as I can and to take notes. When I tried some of them, I did not have pencil and paper around to record my thoughts, so the summary on some of these is limited. My favorites this year were Flying Dog Dogtoberfest, and Left Hand Oktoberfest (several years running now). Drink'em if you got'em.

Here goes:

Left Hand

This one has been my fave three years running and there is a reason for it. Left Hand knows what they are doing and they need to keep it up.

Look: Pours an orange-copper color with a thin cream colored head.

Smell: The aroma is downright malty, sweet, and some toffee.

Drink: As always this one is sweet all the way through. Not a cloying sweet, but big time caramelly goodness. Some noticeable hop bitterness in the finish to balance out the sweetness some.

Overall: As always, A.


Meg liked this one last year and was excited to see it on the shelves. Unfortunately, I think she was a little disappointed.

Look: Pours up a fairly clear bright golden orange body with a small white head which disappears quickly.

Smell: Some sweet malt smell and little hop bitterness

Drink: Initially caramel maltiness, but something here just ain't right. There is an odd sourdough bread thing going on here, then a little fruitiness. Finishes off with some hop bitterness.

Overall: The thing that threw me about this beer was the sour-tart thing going on. Its almost like they brewed it with an ale yeast strain instead of a lager yeast. Not my cup of tea, D.


Had some of this early on in the Ok-fest season and then again this weekend. Definitely my favorite German example.

Look: Pours up a deep orange-almost brown color with marginal head.

Smell: A nice mixture of caramel - toffee maltiness with touch of nuttiness.

Drink: Brown sugar, and spiciness up front. A little bit of some orange flavor and it finishes with the expected German hop crispiness.

Overall: I definitely like this one and it was easy drinking, B+.


Overall: Forgot to take notes with this one. I don't remember it blowing me away, but I remember it getting the job done. B-

Sam Adams

The BBC continues to disrespect this the style by spelling it with an Oct- instead of Ok-, I kid. I had a love jones for the '08 batch of Sam O-fest, but this year back to just liking it. I like to think that the beer keeps changing from year to year, but maybe its me.

Look: Amber color with a nice thick white head.

Smell: Smells malty, not much in the way of hop aroma.

Drink: Lots of munich malt up front. Sweet caramel with some roasted peanuts through the middle. Slightly thicker mouthfeel in comparison to some of its brethren. Finishes with a nice crisp bitterness.

Overall: B

Hacker Pschorr

Look: Bright and clear maple syrup color, with a thick ring of lacing.

Smell: Biscuit and nutty aroma.

Drink: Nice toasty malt and biscuit flavor upfront. Ends with a tart bitter finish.

Overall: B-

Flying Dog

Look: Pours up a a copper color, topped off with a thick foamy off white head.

Smell: Great mixture of caramel and bready aromas, blended with a pleasantly fresh floral hop aroma.

Drink: Great malt body, consisting of caramel, toffee, and something sweet like graham crackers. The body is somewhat thick with medium level of carbonation. The floral hops round out the back end with some bitterness.

Overall: I really liked this. Since flying dog moved from Colorado to Frederick, MD, I've found their beers more appealing, must be freshness. A

I also tried Paulaner this year, but I didn't take notes and I don't remember it being notable. Not sure where that puts it, but most likely in the B to C range.

Get'em while you still can,


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GABF Hardware and Best State For Beer

Last week's announcement of the Great American Beerfest ("GABF") winners got me thinking... BUT first, major congratulations are in order to DC/Baltimore area breweries that came away with medals:

-Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery, MD
Brewer’s Alley India Pale Ale won Bronze for English-Style India Pale Ale

-Clipper City Brewing Co., MD
Clipper City Marzhon Vienna Lager won Bronze for Vienna Style Lager

-DOG Brewing Co. MD
Pub Dog Black Dog Stout won Bronze for Classic Irish Style Dry Stout

-Flying Dog Brewery, MD
Horn Dog Vintage 2007 won Gold for Aged Beer
Dogtoberfest won Gold for German Style Märzen
Gonzo Imperial Porter won Gold for Imperial Stout
Barrel Aged Gonzo won Silver for Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

-Devils Backbone Brewing Co., VA
Gold Leaf Lager won Gold for International-Style Pilsener
Natural Born Keller won Silver for Kellerbier/Zwickelbier
Danzig won Silver for Baltic-Style Porter
Vienna Lager won Silver for Vienna Style Lager

-Great American Restaurants ( Sweet Water Tavern ), VA
Crazy Jackass Ale won Gold for Rye Beer
Wits End won Bronze for Belgian-Style Witbier

-Rock Bottom Brewery – Arlington, VA
Dude! Where’s My Vespa? won Gold for Coffee Flavored Beer

-Starr Hill Brewery, VA
Dark Starr Stout won Gold for Classic Irish Style Dry Stout

Also the “Mid Size Brewery of the Year” went to Flying Dog and Brew Master Rob Malone of Frederick, Maryland.

All of this talk about the GABF got me thinking again about the best city or state for beer. As you can see from the results of the HolzBrew poll on the right, California won the poll easily. What if we look at the state whose breweries have won the most GABF medals? I logged onto the GABF website and downloaded the results of the last four years, 2006 - 2009(it actually took a little Excel work in order to extract the necessary data, that's why I stopped after 4 years). The top 10 states in order of total medals were:

California: 158
Colorado: 134
Oregon: 67
Wisconsin: 51
Illinois: 43
Pennsylvania: 40
Washington: 35
New York: 28
Michigan: 25
Delaware: 21

According to this analysis California is the best state for beer in the US. BUT is this really fair considering that California is the most populated state in the US? I mean California can sustain a lot of great breweries with such a large population. What if you adjust the rankings to account for population? By using the 2008 census estimate, I divided the total awards won from 2006 - 2009 by the population of that state. This yields the following results (stated in medals per million residents):

Colorado: 27.1
Delaware: 24.1
Alaska: 21.9
Oregon: 17.7
Wyoming: 15.0
Montana: 9.3
Wisconsin: 9.1
Utah: 7.3
Washington: 5.3
Vermont: 4.8

Congrats to all GABF winners,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best City for Beer in America?

What's the best city in America for beer?

Thankfully this is not an easy question to answer. My initial knee jerk answer lends a few great ones, perhaps Denver, San Diego, Portland, or possibly Boston. But after thinking about it for awhile, its clear that there is no "best" city for beer and I think that's alright (as Americans we love #1, ain't that right?). That being said I think that there are at least some relative parameters for measuring your city's beer worthiness.

1) A wide variety of local brewed beer.

Let's face it, with the exception of the occasional barleywine or imperial stout, beer is a beverage best enjoyed fresh. Nothing is better than enjoying a freshly poured pint at or near the actual brewery. So in order to be great your town has to have accessible breweries or brewpubs. I think a a variety of local brewers is also important because it ensures more in the way of choice. Choice of what you ask? Choice of style, lager or ale, hops or malt, inspiration from afar (e.g. Belgium) or inspiration from home (e.g. west coast pale ales).

2) Great beer bars and restaurants.

A great beer city, has to have great beer bars with variety of draft and bottle selections as well as a knowledgeable staff. The knowledgeable staff part is key. I hate going to a place that has a wide selection of draft options and asking the waiter or waitress about a particular offering and they respond either that they "don't like beer" or "I mainly drink miller lite."

Also, not to be overlooked are great beer restaurants. In case you haven't noticed, beer is good by itself, but great with food. The trend in good beer restaurants the last couple of years has been beer and food pairings also beer used in the preparation of the food itself.

3) Great beer stores.

If you are like me, you like to try something new almost every week. That being said, I can't necessarily afford a trip out to my local watering hole for $8 - $12 pints of the newest Belgian IPA, but I can afford to purchase a four pack of the BIPA at a store for $10 and enjoy it all week long.

4) Great beer distributors.

This one kind of takes a back seat and isn't readily apparent, but it allows the first three items on this list to exist. You've got to have at least one to two distributors in your area who have a passion for good beer instead of just being sales focused. As highly as I regard great local beer selection, I think its still awesome if you get the chance to try stuff from either other US markets or even internationally.

So, how does DC rate in all of this? I think we do pretty well in items two through four, but we are still about a half dozen local breweries away from making it great.

How's your city hold up? What's your favorite beer town?


Friday, September 18, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

"Inside all of us is a Wild Thing"
— Where the Wild Things Are

Inside a bottle of Victory's Wild Devil is a wild yeast, whose name is Brettanomyces (or Brett for short).

From the Victory website:

"Bold, spicy, menacingly delicious HopDevil takes on an entirely new dimension when subjected to a ‘wild’ yeast fermentation. A sharp, tart edge has been added by this fermentation that plays into the caramel sweet malt deliciously and creates complex interplay with the citrus accented hops."

I picked up a bottle of this last night from Whole foods on my way home. Now I'm a big fan of Victory and I particularly love Hop Devil, so a Brett version of the Devil sounded intriguing. Here goes:

Look: First, I had to cool this one down quickly as I picked it up at room temperature and didn't get home from work until late. So in order to chill rapidly I used my Cooper Cooler. I think the combination of this naturally being a well carbonated brew and the spinning method used to cool it caused a massive eruption upon opening. Once the overflow settled down I poured into a Chimay goblet-style glass. Poured up a brilliant orange color with lots of off-white foamy head. After a few minutes the head dissipated some, but remained to some extent all the way through my consumption.

Smell: The smell is quite complex. Some citrus and floral hops, caramel malt, and wafts of the Brett horse blanket, leatheriness. Definitely funked up.

Drink: The taste is complex, but more muted than the nose let on. Citrus and piney hops up front. The caramel malt that is so noticeable in Hop Devil is there, but is blended in with some definite earthiness. The Brett funkiness kind of jumbles the flavors up, but not necessarily enhancing things.

Overall: B-, definite street-cred bump to Victory for trying something different like this, but it isn't quite mind blowing. Not bad, but not great. I think I'll keep to the standard Hop Devil and Victory's other fantastic offerings.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hotlanta and HolzBrew Happenings

During my stay in the glorious south I learned a few things. Chiefly, that Atlanta is a bad ass city for beer. I was somewhat surprised considering that until 2003 the state of Georgia was restricted to beers with 6.0% ABV or lower. Second, Sweetwater is the king of the thing in Atlanta.

While in Atlanta for the Hokie - Tide game (the game that need never be mentioned again, from hereon forward) I managed to sneak in a little beer travel. On the flight, I remembered to bring a BeerAdvocate from last year that featured Atlanta. We were put up in Midtown at the Hotel Palomar (great name, sounds like Shalamar). The closet bar to the hotel was Marlow's Tavern and as this trip was for a bachelor party, we spent many an hour at Marlow's. I was pleasantly pleased to find that Marlow's had a nice selection of draft craft. I got by with a steady diet of Sweetwater's 420 Pale Ale and IPA.

Other haunts that we hit up while on the prowl were The Vortex, a biker style bar with an impressive selection of draft and bottled beer; Engine 11, a cool bar setup in an old firehouse, make sure to ask for Quickie, he'll buy you a shot on the house; Taco Mac, this place wins hands down for most robust draft selection I have ever seen with 140 on tap; Sidebar, a sister bar to Engine 11; Front Page News, a New Orleans style bar with a bloody mary bar and plenty of Sweetwater on draft; and STATS, a massive sports bar, that I was lucky enough to find Terrapin Rye Pale Ale at.

I tried a whole lot of different beers while in ATL, but I'd have to say Sweetwater's IPA was the most impressive. A very balanced IPA, the maltiness and hopiness are quite evenly dominant. The hops provide an intense floral flavor. The malt gives a bready and biscuit flavor.

My only regret was that I did not get to visit the famous Brick Store Pub in Decatur. Oh well, I guess you've can't check everything off the list, because then you'd never have a reason to go back.

Other happenings lately in the homebrew world, I racked the Tripel Sunrise today to secondary. I siphoned off a little for a taste and was pleasantly surprised. Real sweet and fruit juicy up front with a noticeable hop kick. The only thing negative was that it was somewhat dirty in appearance, with lots of yeast in suspension. But considering that I plan to shelf it for at least another 2.5 months before bottling, I hope some of that yeast with fall out of suspension.

I also brewed a Belgian brune ( or brown) ale today. This one I kind of threw together without much in the way of research, but sometimes I find that you are pleasantly surprised when brewing with nothing but an idea. I racked the wort on top of the Tripel Sunrise's yeast cake. Instead of using my usual immersion chiller setup, which frequently takes well over an hour to chill to 75 degrees, I immersed the copper tubing in a bucket of ice water and ran the wort through the tubing. Next time I am going to have to add more ice, because the wort came out around 95 degrees, which is most likely going to mess with my brune.

Last, I have been kicking around a brew project in my mind for the last week or so. Operation barleyquor, why stop at barleywine? Barleyquor would be a naturally fermented libation hopefully reaching 25% ABV. Is it even possible? I have no idea. I have read up on some homebrewers making 120 IPA clones such as Homebrew Chef at 21% ABV. I think this would be a great novelty to brew that could be enjoyed over the next couple of years.

That's all for now. Stay inspired!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Football is here!

"I don't know what a Hokie is, but GOD is one of them."
-Lee Corso

Though usually reserved for discussion of beer and brewing, HolzBrew has been taken over by rabid Hokie hysteria. Tune in Saturday at 8pm to watch the Hokies (preseason #7) start off their season against #5 ranked Alabama. You'll witness some fireworks for sure and a great start to the 2009 college football season. I guarantee you'll see some great defensive plays (courtesy of St. Bud Foster). If the Hokies O-Coordinator Brian Stynespring can put together an offensive unit that doesn't lay a goose egg, I think we have a chance at a "W."

I will be down in Atlanta to witness the spectacle first hand (and hopefully drink some of the area's best brew). I can't wait to find some Sweetwater or Terrapin fresh on draft.

Let's go Hokies!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Tripel Sunrise

Last Sunday I set aside a few hours to myself to brew this year's HolzBrew Holiday ale. Well I decided to go big this year and as would be expected, something a little different. I concocted a fairly traditional Belgian Tripel recipe, but I substituted a pound and half of Organic Blue Agave Syrup for the traditional Belgian candied sugar. Why in God's name would I do this? Why not? If I want a great traditional tripel a trip to Norm's or Pizza Paradiso for Westmalle, Allagash, or even Victory can easily satiate that hankering, but neither of those establishments offers something as original as a tripel brewed with agave syrup. I've heard of people experimenting with agave, but honestly even using Google I wasn't able to find out much in regards to the results or even appropriate amount to add to a beer. And even if I had, who is to say how much is appropriate for a tripel. I relied largely on pale pilsner malt for the body and exclusively Czech Saaz hops and lastly Wyeast Abbey Ale yeast. The post brew stats show this one clocking in at a staggering 1.095 original gravity (expected ABV of 10%).

My plan is to ferment this through to November and then bottle it in Belgian beer bottles, cork it, and gift it to friends as a Holiday present. Depending on how the fermentation takes a full sized bottle of this could quite possibly kill you, jk.

Put on your shades, a warm winter jacket, and enjoy the tripel sunrise,


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brewer Collaborations

After seeing the news from Dogfish last week about their 2 new collaboration brews with Sierra Nevada, it got me thinking about brewer collaborations. It seems that collaborations are all the craze recently in the world of craft brewing. Just peruse the new releases board on BeerAdvocate and you'll see more than a few announcements for new creative brews constructed by 2 or even 3 breweries. This is truly a business practice unique to the craft brewing industry.

Can you imagine Anheuser-Busch and Miller collaborating on a new light (or lite) beer that had both "drinkability" and was "triple hops brewed"? With their recipes combined it would be ... indistinguishable from their current light beer offerings. But rest assured there would be a $500 million marketing campaign behind it. Enough bashing from high atop my soapbox.

Why the sudden increase in brewer collaborations though? Similarly to how Eddie Van Halen explains his virtuosity, "It's all in the fingers," well for brewers its all in the tongue. I think craft brewers respect other breweries that make good tasting and creative beers. And furthermore these brewermasters learn a lot working with there peers from across the nation or even across the globe.

I suspect there are also economic motivations as well. Now people get jumpy when you start to mention profits as motivation when talking brewing. What the heck is wrong with making money? The people who own and work at these breweries have mouths to feed and bills to pay. I suspect there are some economies of scale when working within two distributor networks. Also, these collab beers are usually very unique and they don't necessarily compete with the brewers' year round offerings. Generally speaking brewers don't collaborate and brew a session brown ale. It's usually some style defying high gravity brew. Last, from a marketing standpoint the very idea of a collaboration is exciting for consumers and it organically generates its own demand for the product.

Below is a listing of collaborations that I familiar with. Please feel free to comment and add to the list.

Avery and Russian River - Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

Stone and Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin - Special Holiday Ale

Stone and Ken Schmidt (a homebrewer) and Maui - Kona Coffee. Macadamia. Coconut Porter

Stone and BrewDog and Cambridge - Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

Stone and Mikkeller and AleSmith - Belgian Style Triple Ale

Nogne O and Mikkeller - Tyttebaer Ale

Ska and Avery - Wheel Sucker Wheat

Left Hand and Terrapin - Terra-rye'zd Black Rye Lager

Try a collaboration brew and experience the warm fuzzy feeling,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

HolzBrew Breakfast Stout

I just recently kegged a breakfast stout, brewed about six weeks ago. The reason for deeming this the breakfast stout is because I used oats, maple syrup, and organic espresso in the recipe. The oats were steeped prior to the boil in order to add a fuller velvety mouthfeel. The maple syrup was added during secondary in hopes of imparting some maple notes. I knew I wanted to add espresso to this brew, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. After research various methods (cold extraction, steeping, etc.) I decided to add 3 oz. of cracked espresso beans to the secondary fermentation just 24 hours before kegging.

I brought some of this new libation into the office this week to get feedback from a group of folks that like their coffee. To my delight I think it was pretty well received. Everyone commented on the big fresh upfront espresso flavor. The one element of the brew that I don't think shines through is the maple. I only used 24 oz. and I have read that amounts up to a gallon are frequently needed in order to shine in a dark grain beverage such as a stout. The great thing about this brew is that despite the size of my average brew this one weighs in at a fairly modest 5.3% ABV, which should make it a good option for the upcoming tailgate season.


Monday, August 10, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise: Ruddy Duck Brewery

The wife and I were looking for a day trip on Sunday and decided on a jaunt down to Solomons Island, MD. Before we left the house we did a quick check on the Solomons Chamber of Commerce website and noticed that there was a local winery, aptly named the Solomons Island Winery. Now, we aren't big wine drinkers, but it sounded like a nice thing for us to do together. The winery was located about 10 miles outside of Solomons. Now the website reads, "Located on 15 acres just north of Solomons Island in southern Calvert County Maryland..." This quote led me to believe that the winery actually grew grapes on premises. After carefully plotting our way there, we pulled onto Monticello Road off Rt. 4 and wound our way back into the woods following signs to the winery. At one point as we were driving through the woody lot Meg said, "I hate these little wineries that are hard to find, at least breweries are located right on the road." Which ended up being a foreshadowing comment. Well we found the "winery", which was actually someone's house. We walked around to the backyard and found the entrance to the "winery." There was 6 of us there for the tasting and that was probably two too many people to fit in the sampling room. We tried several things, both white and red, sweet and dry and really did not enjoy any of the wines. The lady running the tasting informed us that they buy grape juice just ferment it on premises. We politely purchased a bottle of white and peeled wheel out of there throw rocks all the way to Rt.4.

Now, here is where it gets good. As we were waiting for a break in the traffic in order to pull onto Rt. 4, Meg and I saw across the road a grain silo sticking out the top of a building and we were pretty certain that we just spotted a brewpub and noted it for the return trip. We then proceeded to spend some time in Solomons touring around and eating lunch.

On the return trip we pulled into where we thought we spotted a brewpub and sure enough we sat there staring at the Ruddy Duck Brewery. We managed a pair of seats at the bar and were approached by Jay the barkeep. He informed us that they had six of there own house brewed beers and I another six guest beers on tap as well. We asked for the flight of six sampler, in order to taste their full spectrum of beers and I'm glad we did. Most were really great, the six included a wit, a pale ale, an IPA, a porter, a trippel, and a golden ale. Probably the only one that was unremarkable was the golden ale, but I feel that is pretty typical for the style. After making short work of our flight, we each moved onto a pint. I went with the IPA which was very bright with citrus hop flavor. Meg choose the Wit, which is saying quite a lot, because she has a general aversion to anything brewed with wheat. We talked more with the barkeep and he informed us that the Ruddy Duck just opened in June and that in the last few weeks the place was really coming into its own. I inquired about the brewer and he said it was a guy named Jonathan who had 15 years of experience brewing in the DC area including brewing at Sweetwater Tavern.

We paid the bill and headed back to the big City, but we both agreed that another trip down to the duck for dinner might be in our near future.

Gotta love a pleasant surprise,


Friday, August 7, 2009

The End of Summer 2009

I hope you enjoyed it, because its over. I know you're looking at the 10 day weather forecast and thinking to yourself that this HolzBrew guy doesn't know what the hell he is talking about, but let's face it folks Oktoberfests are just starting to hit the shelves here in DC and that is a clear signal fall is fast approaching. According to last year's post it looks like summer 2008 ended on Thursday August 14 at 7:15 am. Wow, the summer just keeps getting shorter and shorter. What can I say? How does global warming factor into all of this? Is the Obama administration to blame?

A lot of folks get up in arms when they see 'fests on the shelf before September. Frankly, I for one will not let this get me down. Here's the good news, tonight I sampled 4 Oktoberfests, each wonderful in their own way: Spaten, HofBrau, Weihenstephaner, and Hacker Pschorr, rolls off the tongue. I decided upon a six pack of the Hacker Pschorr. Pretty good stuff again this year. I will withhold a review until I taste a few more this season and can accurately compare them. The one Oktoberfest that I dream about at night, Left Hand, has not yet hit the shelves here in the NOVA area. I can't wait for it.

The taste of Oktoberfest ensures that football and tailgating season are right around the corner. Nothing complements a bratwurst better than an Oktoberfest. Expectations are set high this year as the Hokies are ranked highly in the preseason. And the Hokies have decided to start the season off with a bang by opening against Alabama on September 5th.

Mandatory link to the 2003 VT-Miami Enter Sandman Entrance, click here.

Damn! I love the fall.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rye or Die

The Ruff Ryders! (What!?!) The Ruff Ryders! (repeat 4 times)

Unfortunately this post will not be about the classic (too far?) 1999 single released by the Ruff Ryders (ah yes, senior year of high school was fun).

Rye, a frequently overlooked grain that has been gaining acceptance in the craft brewing scene. Mention rye and the average person thinks of dense and flavorful bread, crispy crackers and various types of distilled spirits. Rye's ability to thrive in poor soil conditions and cold temperatures has made it a staple in the northern climate zones. Rye has long been associated with beers from Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia.

I personally enjoy rye as a fermentable agent. Rye lends a light, dry, spicy taste to a beer. In the last 5 or 6 years some American craft brewers have taken to brewing hoppy beers with rye. Bear Republic is well known for their Hop Rod Rye IPA. Terrapin Brewing makes a fantastic Rye Pale Ale as well as a big 'ole DIPA dubbed Rye Squared.

Well I experimented with rye last year when I brewed up a continuously hopped IPA named Kelly's R.I.P.A. The comments I received on that beer were largely complementary. About five weeks ago I decided to brew up a rye pale ale. I based it largely on a pale ale I brewed last year. Recipe as follows:

Minimash @ 156 F
-3 lbs. Rye Malt
-1 lbs. German Munich Malt
-.25 lbs. Special B (Super Secret Ingredient, now revealed)

Boil for 60 mins

-5.5 lbs. of extra light DME
-1 oz. of Summit Hops @ 60
-1 oz. of Cascade Hops @ 20
-1 oz. of Summit Hops @ 20
-1 oz. of Cascade Hops @ 0
-1 oz. of Cascade Hops for dry hop in secondary

Yeast - Safale US-05

OG - 1.058
FG - 1.010

ABV - 6.3%

The ABV came out a little higher than I planned, I was shooting for ABV at about 5.8%, but the wort boiled down faster than anticipated and I wound up with less liquid, thus making it more dense.

I kegged and bottled (split the batch) this last week, but unfortunately I haven't had much opportunity to review it so far. The tasting I did over the course of kegging was pretty enjoyable.

Live and let rye,


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DIPA Battle Royale

Double IPA ("DIPA") or Imperial IPA ("IIPA"), whichever you fancy, has become the crown jewel of the craft brewer. The DIPA allows the brewer to showcase his (or her) hop and malt prowess to the max. DIPAs typically have alcohol content in excess of 8% by volume. International Bittering Units (general measure of a beer's bitterness, although there is some controversy on how IBUs should be calculated) are very high, 70+ are typical for the style. The "imperial" reference in the latter name for this style is most likely a tip of the hat to the Russian "Imperial" Stout, a significantly stronger version of the English Stout.

This truly American invention, most likely started in San Diego - generally most people recognize that the first DIPA (at least the first commercial DIPA) was brewed in 1994 by Vinnie Cilurzo of the Blind Pig Brewing Company (currently the owner of Russian River Brewing!). Cilurzo claims he "accidentally" created the style by adding 50% too much malt to his mash tun. He then "corrected" this mistake by adding 100% more hops.

Some argue that many of the stronger DIPAs could be alternately classified as American barleywines or even, dare I say, a Triple IPA ("TIPA"). As a relatively new style, it is still being determined. It is currently one of the fastest growing styles in the craft beer industry.

In the last two weeks I had the pleasure of trying three new (at least they were new to me) DIPAs.

Ohhh it's on!

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

In this corner the east coast king of hops, Dogfish Head. Most everyone in this area is familiar with Dogfish and their portfolio of adventurous beers. Dogfish can claim at least 3 different DIPAs in their "regular" rotation of beers: 90 minute IPA, 120 minute IPA (although if you are going to have a TIPA category, this one would fit the bill), and Burton Baton.

Burton Baton as described by DFH is, "a blend of oak-aged English strong ale and our 90 Minute I.P.A." First, this beer is quite difficult to find, I had been looking for it for close to a year. Well having a wife who works at a beer store has its perks. Mrs. HolzBrew was able to pick us up two bottles of this last week, after Norm's received all of two cases from the distributor. It weighs in at a strong 10% ABV.

Look: Hazy amber with a moderate lining of off-white lace. Absolutely sticks to the side of the glass.

Smell: Aroma is noticeably oaky and woody, with a sweet, malty aroma. The hops are herbal and blend well with the oaky aroma, but not overly hop pungent as some DIPAs can be.

Drink: Citrusy, spicy, and earthy hop flavor, but no over the top hoppiness. Lots of maltiness, tons of sticky sweet caramel flavor. A little oakiness towards the end. Despite the high ABV level there is very little in the way of noticeable alcohol astringency.

Overall Grade: I thought this was a pretty cool beer. I guess my only critique was that it was a little too sweet, making it difficult to ever drink more than one per evening. Good stuff from a great brewer, I give it an B+ overall.

Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

In this corner, the west coast king of trash talk, Stone Brewing Company. A lot of people know Stone from their Arrogant Bastard Ales as well as their incredible IPA and regular year round DIPA offering, Stone Ruination. Multiple times Mrs. HolzBrew has claimed that Stone makes hands down the best American IPA on the market, this coming from a woman who knows her hops is no distinction to be taken lightly. Well every year Stone releases an anniversary ale and wouldn't you know they decided to go big this year to declare that they have finally become a teenager. As described by Stone, "Stone 13th Anniversary Ale has 4.5 lbs of hops per barrel-more hops per barrel than any beer Stone has ever brewed." Impressive to say the least. (Note: Technically Stone is calling this an Imperial Red, I'm not sure there is much of a significant difference and I thought it was close enough to a DIPA to be included in this competition.) 9.5% ABV.

Look: Pours up a deep red, but completely clear, no haze whatsoever. I'm always impressed at how clear Stone beers are. Thick ring of head.

Smell: Citrusy, grapefruit and piney hoppiness. Additionally, the malt is also there with caramel, and toffee aroma. Smells awesome.

Drink: Big citrus flavors come out in the front, a little oily. Then very malty flavors through the middle, toffee and caramel like flavor. Finishes noticeably bitter but not brutally bitter. Complex and very balanced.

Overall Grade: Pretty Awesome! If you can find it on the shelves and you like hops, pick it up. Overall Grade A-.

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.

In this corner the King of the Jews, He'Brew Brewing. I can't remember if I have tried this one before. But lucky me they had it on tap two weeks ago at Galaxy Hut in Clarendon. He'Brew makes some pretty good stuff, I reviewed their Jewbelation 12 back around Christmas (or more appropriately Hanukkah), and loved it. I actually believe they are a contract brewer and a lot of their stuff is brewed by Anderson Valley. You gotta love a brewer with a sense of humor though. I believe this one is dedicated to the late Lenny Bruce. Another big one at 10% ABV.

Look: Pours a very copper color. Topped healthy and thick, off-white foam head with great retention.

Smell: Piney and resiny hop nose with some slightly peppery notes most likely form the rye. Aroma also is sweet maltiness with caramel and even some tropical fruit in there.

Drink: A very dense chewy and creamy mouthfeel. The taste is malty no doubt with lot of syrupy fruit flavor and caramel, and toffee notes. Huge hop flavor of grapefruit, orange, and a spicy pine. A little noticeable alcoholic heat on this one , but it complements the spiciness of the rye and bready flavors quite well.

Overall Grade: This beer is straight baller. Crazy delicious like Mr. Pibb and Red Vines. A+++.

Well, it was a great battle, but my favorite DIPA of these three has to be the He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.. Quite honestly if you are a self described hophead you'll love all three of these.

Keep it DIPA, IIPA, or TIPA,


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Night of Debauchery

Ahhh yes, we all have our guilty pleasures. And sometimes we take it to the excess. Well, the wife has girls night tonight and I was left all on my lonesome. What's a fella to do? Indulge in temptation!

Knowing that I would be left to my own devices I swung by ... KFC on my way home. That's right HolzBrew, a man with such a sophisticated palate, secretly loves mass produced fried chicken. As I was near Norm's Beer and Wine, I stopped in to pick up some beer to accompany my bucket-o-sin. After informing Jeff, one of Norm's finest lieutenants, of my intentions he vehemently recommended Rogue's Dad's Little Helper Malt Liquor. I admit to have fallin' way too easily.

How does it end? Well the Colonel never disappoints (perhaps its his high ranking military title). First, don't be deceived by the measly three pieces of fried chicken you see served up above. I managed 7 pieces and that did not include any wings. I suspect my stomach won't be thanking me in the morning. But what about the beer? Well its a malt liquor, and it bought back some suppressed memories from college that's for sure. But here is a review for heaven's sake:

Look: Poured with some bubble bath style (sudsy) white head that faded expeditiously. Straight yellow in color.

Smell: Aroma of grainy malt. I detect some corn in the background and a slight note of ethanol.

Drink: Upfront sweet taste, just enough hops to keep the malt from being overwhelmingly cloying. Graininess and alcohol presence are showcased to say the least. Finishes sweet.

Overall: C

As far as malt liquor goes I guess this is the best I've ever had, but that's not saying too much. It served its purpose as a redneck accompaniment to my fried chicken. But I believe the shelf price was $5.99 for the 22oz. bottle, there are so many better choices in the same tax bracket.

Keep it greasy and malted,


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Northern Virginia to Get New Brewery!

This information came straight from Beer Advocate, I take no credit.

From the post:

"Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia, formerly brewers for Ashburn VA's Old Dominion Brewing Company are planning a fourth quarter 2009 opening of a new Brewery in Ashburn. M.A. Hagerman Brewing Company..."


"The Company will house two distinct brands: Rhino Chasers™ Brewing Company and later, Catoctin Brewing Company."


"Hagerman and Garcia are in negotiations for a local space, and they are actively raising funding from local investors by selling company membership interests through a private placement offering."

Always great news to hear new breweries opening in the area. The DC area is somewhat under saturated with local brewing in my opinion. I wonder if these guys would be up for a contract brewing deal with yours truly, to get the HolzBrew brand off the ground. Things that make you go, hmmmmmm.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

NoVa Brew Fest: Summer 2009

Volunteered once again for the 2009 Summer NoVa Brewfest. This festival is great and it's pretty much 100% jerk-free. Everyone is out for an afternoon of fun in the sun (or cloudy overcast-ness as it was today). My friend Brent and I worked the Troegs tent and poured Hopback Amber and Sunshine Pils all afternoon. People really dig the Hopback Amber, we poured a ton of that stuff.

I was fairly cautious with the drinking this time, because I was driving Brent and I home, so I didn't go too crazy tasting all of the great brews available. I did try a few things, and really loved the Star Hill Northern Lights IPA. I got the chance to try the Apollo Double IPA offered by Troegs as part of their scratch series. It weighs in at a monstrous 115 IBU. I asked the brewery rep what hops are used in it and he responded, "Pretty much everything that we could find." This thing was crazy hoppy, which was great for a hop head like me.

An awesome afternoon. Everyone should consider volunteering for the fall version of this festival, guaranteed great times. There is really no downside to volunteering. You get to attend the festival for free, get to know the brewery reps, and meet a lot of new people that approach your booth for a tasting. The volunteer management is always very helpful and they regularly come around and allow you to take breaks from your pouring responsibilities (i.e. walk around and sample beer).

Get your volunteer on,

Currently pouring beer for troegs @ the nova brewfest. stop by!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with a Brewer: Bill Madden

For today's post I arranged an interview with a really great guy, local brew legend Bill Madden. The interview was prompted by my interest in the Mad Fox brewpub that I have been hearing about around town for the last year or so that is supposed to be opening right in my backyard, Falls Church. Without further ado:

Holz: I heard about the possible future opening of Mad Fox Brewing last fall from some friends, how long has Mad Fox been in the works?

Bill: Mad Fox Brewing Company has been in the works for some time and has always been my dream. I think it got serious about three years ago when a great friend of mine and current business partner, Rick Garvin, started to mentor me on how to go about developing a business. We would talk and then I would be given a task list to go out and work on and then I would get busy with a beer festival or some other distraction. The business took longer and longer to develop. Then Rick got the idea to work with me and develop Mad Fox together for a stake in the business, he put up startup capital and he has been instrumental in helping me to deal with the startup business issues while I can concentrate on the restaurant and brewing concepts. Rick has started numerous businesses over the years and I have helped in the opening or restarting of 7 brewpubs in the area so our skill sets work well together.

Holz: According to the website, Mad Fox is slated to open November 2009, is that scheduled opening date still a reality?

Bill: Well, let’s say November 2009 is probably too soon but we had to pick a target date and last fall that seemed reasonable. I would say now that the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010 would be more like it.

Holz: A lot of my readers aren’t familiar with Bill Madden, would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?

Bill: My brewing career started with home brewing in San Francisco and a friend of mine liked my beer so much he suggested I look into going to the University of California at Davis, Master brewers Program. I graduated in 1995 from UC Davis and was hired by Capitol City Brewing Company before I graduated to become a part of their expansion team. Cap City was just the one location then at 11th and H in the District of Columbia and I was to be the brewer at Tyson’s Corner, which never happened. I opened the Cap City on Capitol Hill then designed the brewery for Shirlington, Bethesda and Baltimore. At various times I ran all those breweries and found myself the Executive Brewer for all CCBC locations. I based myself out of the Shirlington location which was the best brewery design of all the Cap City locations (if I do say so myself!). I also founded the Cap City Oktoberfest over ten years ago which is still running strong each fall season. I left CCBC after nine years to accept sweat equity in a small brewpub called Founders’ Restaurant and Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia. I lasted there for a year and left to pursue other interests. I was tapped by my current owner, Anthony Cavallo to restart the brewery of the former Thoroughbreds Brewing Company in Leesburg, Virginia now known as Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge where I currently brew and helped found the NOVAbrewfest that will be happening next weekend at Moraven Park in Leesburg, June 27th and 28th.

Holz: You currently brew for Vintage 50 in Leesburg; once Mad Fox opens do you still plan to brew for Vintage 50?

Bill: I will not be the day to day brewer at Vintage 50 once Mad Fox is in construction phase but V-50 hired Dean Lake who lives in Leesburg and has brewed at many breweries in the area including Old Dominion (RIP, very sad), Thoroughbreds (RIP but now V-50!), Rockbottom Ballston and Sweetwater Tavern Sterling. I will stay on at V-50 as an Executive Brewer and will check in periodically. There are some mutually beneficial business relations that will be maintained between V-50 and Mad Fox Brewing Company.

Holz: My site is dedicated to all things beer, one of which is my home brewing hobby, did you start out as a home brewer or did you jump straight into the big leagues?

Bill: I started as a home brewer and still maintain ties to the homebrew community since I am a member of the local home brew club BURP (Brewers United for Real Potables). My lovely wife, Beth, is the Editor of BURP’s monthly newsletter as well.

Holz: Are there any local brewpubs or beer bars that have inspired your Mad Fox brewpub concept?

Bill: No, really, the concept of Mad Fox Brewing Company is different from what is available in the DC metro area. We will be brewing our own beer and the restaurant will have a European Pub feel to it with a wooden bar and wood accents to soften the feel and atmosphere. The food will be locally sourced within reason and the focus will be pizzas, panini’s, salads and seasonally changing entrée offerings that the chef will have a major focus on to showcase his or her talents. There are great pizza places in this town and there are great beer places but no one to date has put the two together. I have seen this more on the West Coast than around the Mid Atlantic region.

Holz: By all accounts starting up a brewpub is an expensive process. To date, has raising capital been tough?

Bill: Raising capital started amazingly well in the spring of 2008 and then dried up in the fall with all the excitement we had on Wall Street. We put Mad Fox in hibernation until this spring when we were approached by the Landlord of the Spectrum property in Falls Church at 444 West Broad Street. The original tenant of the property had faltered financially and we had looked at this very spot the previous summer but were excluded by that very tenant for a competing menu item, pizza. Well, when the terms of the Letter of Intent were presented to Rick and me we realized that a bad economy presents some very good opportunities. Commercial real estate prices are way down, construction costs are down, stainless steel (brewery parts) are down and most contractors, architects and a host of others are competitive for your business. We presented the economic scenario and having a location changed our perception from an investor’s perspective and we are almost there on the first round of investment to start developing the location for Mad Fox.

Holz: Running a brewpub is about a lot more than just brewing great beer, unfortunately, are you also the brain behind the restaurant aspect of Mad Fox or are you working with a partner(s)?

Bill: I have a number of consultants from investors who are successful local restaurateurs to my current employer at Vintage 50, Anthony Cavallo, who is a consultant and has many years of restaurant experience running the former Blackies’ and Lulus’ restaurants. We will hire a General Manager and Chef which I have already had some very competent folks enquire about. I will oversee all operations but will focus on what I do best for Mad Fox and that is making beer.

Holz: The Mad Fox website details your intended beer offerings, 7-10 year-round offerings and a rotating selection with 20+ seasonals sounds pretty awesome, what size brewery are you working with and how often do you plan to brew in order to keep up with the aggressive selection of beers?

Bill: My plan for the beer at Mad Fox is to offer a lot of what I am known for and then add some new creations given that we plan for a large brewing system to support some limited off site sales. I will have my usual four core beers, Kolsch, malty middle beer (ESB, Amber etc.), hoppy middle beer ( IPA, APA etc.), dark offering ( Porter, Oatmeal Stout etc.), an ever changing Belgian style seasonal, Weizen year round, then all the rest will be seasonal along with my regulars like Wee Heavy and Stealth Beer like Molotov Hoptail etc. One thing I am excited to get into will be sour beers and other funk brews that I have been adverse to do given the tight quarters I have been in the last two breweries I have had to work in. Maybe some barrel aged fun is in the works as well. The brewing system will be determined by what we can find in the used market but I have a design in mind. I would like a 15 barrel system or one slightly larger with a fermentation capacity of at least 150 barrels to have a potential annual output of over 3000 barrels. The configuration will be similar to my old baby at Cap City in Shirlington.

Holz: Of the beers listed on your site, the Devils Due and Head Knocker look the most intriguing to me, what’s your favorite beer on the list and why?

Bill: The Devils Due is a Belgian style Strong Golden Ale, think Duvel, and it comes crashing in around 9% abv which has done some damage to our V-50 patrons. The Head Knocker was inspired by a trip to the UK and a sampling of Head Cracker from Woodfordes. It is an English style Golden Barley wine and it is divine on cask. My favorite beer on the list is a question I get all the time and it is hard to pick one child over another. I am proud to have an assortment of beers on tap that covers many bases for patrons coming to V-50 or any place I have worked and each beer is designed to please folks on many levels. To pick one I cannot since each beer I brew I put much effort in designing it to please. I can tell you one beer I brew each year that the patrons love but I have a hard time drinking a full pint of and that is Punkinator, my fall spiced pumpkin beer. I actually go through the trouble of picking the pumpkins at a local farm, Homestead Farms, who carry a heirloom varietal pumpkin called Cinderella. I core and roast the pumpkins and add 100 pounds to the mash. All that work and it is not my fave.

Holz: Which beer style do you enjoy brewing/drinking the most? The least?

Bill: I enjoy brewing all beers but some are more a labor of love like the Wee Heavy which is boiled for six hours to concentrate the wort and intensify the flavors. I enjoy most beers but am not a fan of many spiced beers like Punkinator mentioned above.

A big thanks to Bill for setting aside some time to answer my questions. I can't wait for Mad Fox to open. As mentioned by Bill, a reminder, the NOVA brewfest is this coming weekend at Moraven Park in Leesburg.

Stay Mad Like a Fox,


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Got Wood?

Well I decided to crack open one of the Old Woodie Ales that I bottled about 10 days ago and I've got wood ... serious oak flavor that is.

Look: Pours up an amber with major orange highlights. This beer has got junk in the trunk, lots of yeast settling down to the bottom of the glass. Fairly hazy, similar to a Hefe.

Smell: The brett really takes over the smell, major sweaty-horsey aroma. A perfumy oak characteristic manages to slip in there as well.

Drink: Brett and sour funk upfront, no doubt. Earthy with lots of Oak flavor. Maltiness blends in with da funk through the middle. Hops bitterness and some acidity on the back end.

Actually, I am fairly content with my first foray into the world of wild yeasts. Next time, maybe back off the wood some and go with some American hops to add a little grapefruit to complement the funk and sourness.

Make sure to remind me and I'll bring some by next time I'm in your neighborhood, you won't find anything like this at your grocery store, that's for sure.

Stay Woody,


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Running for Beer

Well, I managed to finish the Lawyers Have Heart 10K this morning. I'm pretty sure this is the 5th time I've run it. As always it was a fun event for a great cause and a great way to fend off some of those lbs that all this fantastic beer drinking tends to put on.

Yesterday I managed to pick up the two lovely brews pictured above. You'd think being Scandinavian that they would both be blond, right? The one on the right by Nogne O looks dark as night and I can't wait to try both. A review will surely follow.

My pre-race routine usually involves abstaining from beer for about three days prior to the race, so needless to say I tapped into some homebrew this afternoon. I've still had the two on tap for some time now, the imp pils and the Holz Bastard. I decided to pour up some bastard. This one has changed quite a bit since I first tapped it. The hoppiness has faded to mostly straight forward bitterness and the malts have blended together somewhat. I also notice a note of sourness, not altogether displeasing, but it might mean I've got a little bit of a sanitation issue. Although Meg swears the sourness has been there since the beginning, so maybe its all in my head. Regardless, its still a good beer. I should kick both of the kegs pretty soon and I've got nothing fermenting. I want to brew a rye pale ale soon, but I keep getting sidelined with budget constraints. Oh well, I'm sure I'll just go ahead and buy the ingredients soon. After that I'd love to brew some sort of fall harvest ale (or maybe an Oktoberfest). Thoughts?

Keep running for beer,


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Old Woodie

Managed to set aside some time Sunday afternoon to bottle and create labels for my newest brew, Old Woodie Ale. Deemed the "weird beer" by my father in law after I explained to him the concept I was going for. I kind of like it, "weird beer", it feels good.

Old Woodie should be ready to drink in about two weeks, so no review yet, but I can explain what went into it. I stuck relatively closely to the grain and hop bill for a big English Style IPA, I even used English Ale Yeast. Here is where things get weird, I decided in addition to the English Ale yeast I tossed in some wild yeast (Brett) and I also added 1.5 ounces of oak chips (I've used the cubes before, but never the chips, curious to see the flavor it imparts) and let the whole thing sit for close to six months. The ABV came out at 7.6%. So my beer is some sort of Old Ale-English IPA-Wild Ale Hybrid, consequently THE WEIRD BEER.

Stay weird,