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,