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,