Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tucker Carlson should be ...

I thought I'd go with a potentially risqué title for this blog post, but decided to exercise my better judgment. I hope Mr. Carlson is reading. Go Hokies!

I digress. Our trip down to North Carolina for the Holidays was a success. Define success, a fun trip filled with new great beer experiences. A new brewery in NC has been causing some stir on the Beeradvocate boards, Mother Earth Brewing based out of Kinston, NC. My sister-in-law knows me well enough to know that the perfect Xmas gift for me was a selection of fine craft brews. Included in the gifted beers was a four pack of the Mother Earth Bourbon Barrel Aged Tripel Overhead (as an accountant this name really rings home). Needless to say I loved this brew. It reminds me a lot of Allagash's Curieux. Mother Earth also makes a really nice IPA called Sisters of the Moon (the name is a little too crunchy, don't you think?). If you find yourself in the Triangle Area for any reason, seek out a beer from this brewery, you won't be disappointed.

Happy Holidays,


Sunday, December 5, 2010

To be a Gentile during Chanukah

A few weeks ago I heard about a Holiday gift pack being released by He'Brew (or Schmaltz) Brewing. Every year He'Brew puts out a "Jewbelation" brew as their holiday ale and to commemorate the brewery's anniversary (I use the term brewery loosely, as I believe the beer is contract brewed). Last year was their thirteenth anniversary, so the beer was 13% ABV, and made from 13 different types of malt and 13 types of hops. They have used this same formula for all of the Jewbelations.

This year's gift pack is a very cool concept. It's a vertical collection of Jewbelation beers from the last 7 years and a Cuvee or blend of all seven years aged in rye whiskey barrels. The gift pack also includes a He'Brew glass, menorah candles, and a ninth empty bottle to be used as a shamash. The intent is for you to create a menorah with the used bottles. It's a fun concept to say the least (the included instructions are very tongue in cheek). The last Jewbelation I had was the "twelve" and it was fantastic (I reviewed it here). Needless to say I'm excited to crack into these beers in the coming weeks. I'm particularly interested in seeing how the Jewbelation 8, released in 2004 has held up over the years.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends

It's so hard to say goodbye. A couple of weeks ago I learned that Flying Dog would be discontinuing the 21-year old Wild Goose line of beers. Wild Goose was a creation of the original Frederick brewing company which was purchased several years ago by Flying Dog. Apparently Flying Dog needs more space in the brewery to grow the Flying Dog brand. My favorite Wild Goose brew is their winter seasonal, Snow Goose. After checking for it this year at Norm's, I was informed that the final batch of Snow Goose would only be distributed in MD. While in Mason Dixon line state for Thanksgiving I stopped by the Perfect Pour to pick up a few things you can't get in Virginia. While there I came across Snow Goose and had to pick up a sixer for old times sake.

Last weekend I didn't have time to brew, but I still felt the urge to ferment something (it's a sickness). So I thought I'd try my hand at another cider. Cider is incredibly easy to "brew." A couple of gallons of organic cider and yeast is about all that's needed. Last night I decided to throw in a third ingredient, a quart of cranberries. Why a quart? Why not. I think I will finish this off with about a pound of turbinado sugar to add some residual sweetness and rummy undertones.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Gift Idea

For the men in your life. Guaranteed to please. Nothing says I love you better than a side saddle for a man's brew. See the following link for details.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hokie Victory, IPA Joy, and Carbonation Woe

Mrs. HolzBrew and I had some friends over to watch VT play UNC on ESPN. The game was fantastic, despite an early Carolina lead the Hokies came roaring back in the third quarter and that's all she wrote. As Natie always reminds me, we are a second half team.

The VT game was a great chance to unleash the Hopping Mad IPA and see what everyone thought. For the most part the reviews were positive. Most people went back for seconds, or even thirds. Lot's of citrusy flavors and all around hoppiness!

At half time I broke out a bottle of my holiday ale, reindeer games. Again I think it was well received. It is a Golden Strong ale in a similar vein to Duvel. I also broke out a bottle of our Noir Favorite Ale (a belgian dark ale blended with Framboise). I corked the bottles two weeks ago and they weren't exactly carbonated yet. We'll have to see if a couple more weeks does the trick or will I need to take more extreme measures? Hopefully the yeast is just slow moving. Otherwise it will be a pain in the arse to pitch new yeast in such a small batch (only a 2.5 gallon batch) and then recork the bottles.

Let's go Hokies,


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hopping Mad

A couple of pictures from kegging the Hopping Mad IPA. The first picture is a shot of the left over dry hops in the fermenter and the fresh whole leaf dry hops added to the keg. The second picture was taken while checking the finishing gravity, which is done to calculate the ABV %. Isn't it beautiful? The Hopping Mad ABV came in around 7.7% ABV.

Keep it hoppy,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Been Brewing

I haven’t been blogging much lately. There, I said it. Why? I’ve been busy brewing:

1) A few weeks ago I corked the 2010 HolzBrew Holiday Ale, dubbed “Reindeer Games.” This was my first experience using a corker, but after a test run it was pretty easy to figure out. I basically followed the steps laid out in the following excellent article in BYO magazine.
If you brew and are interested in presentation, investing in a corker is the way to go. I think for something like a Holiday Ale that you pass out to friends and family as gifts, it really makes your homebrew unique.

The beer is a Belgian strong golden ale that I brewed back in July and subsequently lagered for approximately two months. I understand that Duvel-Moorgat lagers Duvel and I hope to emulate some of the fantastic flavors you find in that beer.

2) A few months back I was inspired to focus on brewing Belgian ales after reading Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus (a great gift for the holidays), an excellent book for those interested in trying their hand at Belgian brewing. To contrast with Reindeer Games, I brewed a Belgian dark strong ale a few weeks later. My main inspirations for this ale were St Bernardus Abt 12 and Ommegang Three Philosophers. The end result is probably leaning more toward Three Philosophers as the beer definitely has a fruity-raspberry kick. Long story short, I bottled that beer this weekend and am eagerly waiting for an opportunity to crack one open.

3) About two months ago I brewed an Extra Stout. This is currently on tap at la casa HolzBrew. I dry hopped the keg with 3 ounces of cracked espresso beans, which really imparts a fresh coffee flavor. I love dry hopping kegs and I'm not sure why it me until recently to start doing this.

4) About 5 weeks ago I decided to get back to my roots and brew up a good 'ole fashion tongue scorching IPA for kegging sometime in the next couple of weeks. This is the first time I have brewed an IPA with something other than California Ale yeast. I decided to branch out and try some yeast from the other side of the pond, Ringwood Ale Yeast. I hopped with a combination of Centennial, Simcoe, and Warrior hops. The IBUs on this thing is off the charts, can't wait!

5) This past weekend I brewed up a batch of lambic. I stuck pretty closely to a partial mash recipe that I found online. This brew should be done fermenting sometime in 2012 (no kidding), so I'll have to exercise some patience. I'm already planning on splitting the batch and bottling some of it unblended and blending the other half of the batch with Marionberries (that's right, there is a berry that shares it's name with the infamous DC mayor).

That's the basic run down of brewing operations over the last month. I'll keep up the blog better in November. Go Hokies!


Friday, October 1, 2010

'Fest Frenzy

Tomorrow from 12 - 7 is the Shirlington Oktoberfest as known as the "best thing to ever happen in Shirlington." I can joke, because I lived there for a year. The brewery list is impresssive, 51 in total:

1. Capitol City Brewing Co.
2. Rogue
3. Southern Tier
4. Hacker Pschorr
5. Woodchuck Cider
6. Heavy Seas
7. Boston Beer
8. Starr Hill
9. Troegs
10. Sierra Nevada
11. Mad Fox
12. Dc Cophouse
13. Gordon Biersch
14. Vintage 50
15. Specialty Bev.(Belgian)
16. Specialty Bev. (German)
17. Specialty Bev. (mixed)
18. Olde Richmond
19. Hebrew
20. Duck Rabbit
21. Hofbrau
22. New Holland
23. Wetten Imports
24. Alewerks
25. Bell’s
26. Dogfish Head
27. Stone Brewing
28. Avery
29. Founfers
30. Lagunitas
31. Oskar Blues
32. 21st Amendment
33. Victory
34. Left Hand Brewing
35. Terrapin
36. Blue Point Brewing
37. St. George Brewing
38. Bluegrass Brewing
39. Boulder beer Co.
40. Green Flash
41. Hops
42. Old Dominion
43. Firestone Walker
44. Flying Dog
45. Allagash
46. Abita
47. Brooklyn
48. The Raven
49. Climax Brewing
50. Shenandoah
51. Sweetwater Tavern

Meg and I will be out there early trying to beat the crowds and get back to watch some of the Hokie game starting at 3:30. I hope to see some familiar faces out there.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where Brooklyn at?

Above, a slightly edited camera phone picture from my trip to Brooklyn Brewery on Sunday.

We enjoyed some of the brewer reserve offerings, Blast and Detonation, as well as, the Weisse and Sarabrossa. All excellent beers. The chill environment at the brewery made for a relaxing visit. Highly recommended if you are in the NYC area.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Touring and drinking brew at Brooklyn Brewing in Brooklyn. Great atmosphere! Brewmaster reserve Blast and Detonation are fantastic!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The difference between an ale and a lager

Here's a question I get all the time when I'm describing one of my newest creations. What's the difference between an ale and a lager?

Sometimes I'm a little surprised when people I know who are burgeoning beer enthusiasts are unaware of the difference between the two houses of beer, ale and lager. The essential difference is simply the type of yeast used to ferment the wort (beer before it's beer).

Ale yeast is the so-called top-fermenting (or top-cropping) yeast. Ale yeasts are so called because they float to the surface and ferment (and form a foam) at the top of the wort. Ale yeast typically ferment at ambient room temperatures (approximately 70 - 80 degrees). Ales typically are characterized as beer high in esters, which lends to the fruitier flavors. Ale yeast strains are used for brewing porters, stouts, IPAs, pale ales (pretty obvious), and much much more.

Lager yeast is the so-called bottom-fermenting (or bottom-cropping) yeast. They are best fermented at temperatures ranging from 45 to 55 degrees approximately. At these temperatures, lager yeasts grow less rapidly than ale yeasts, and with less surface foam they tend to settle out on the bottom of the fermenter. This is why they are often referred to as "bottom-fermenting" yeasts. Lager beers are usually characterized by a crisp clean finish, but the final flavor of the beer will depend on the strain of lager yeast used. Now there is also a process called lagering which is usually employed when brewing lagers, but is sometimes used when brewing ales as well. Lagering a beer involves dropping the temperature of the largely completed fermenting wort close to freezing for an extended period of time (weeks to months) in order to round out the flavors and lends to the crisp finish of most lagers. Some lager styles made from bottom-fermenting yeasts are Pilsners, Märzens, Bocks, and much much more.

I hope this was helpful.


Friday, September 3, 2010

World's 'oldest beer' found in shipwreck

Pretty cool article on CNN about finding a 200 year old bottle of beer that is beleived to be still drinkable. Apparently the yeast strain is still alive in the bottle. Pretty freaking cool. Check out the story here.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Little Bro

Although not beer related, I couldn't help but post my brother's recent interview on you tube:

Last season, in his first year as head varsity football coach, Jim led the Century Knights to a county championship. If you live in Maryland and want to see some good high school football, head up to Carroll County on a Friday night.

I can't help but be proud.

Good luck this season Century Knights!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The difference between a Stout and a Porter

I get asked this question all of the time and I'm not quite sure there is a really good answer. What's the difference between a Stout and a Porter?

It is an understandable question. They look more or less the same, the strength (ABV) is about the same, and gosh darn it if the flavor profiles aren't too terribly different. Every year inevitably a brewer at the Great American Beer Fest, wins a medal in one of the Stout categories and the brewer themselves describe the beer as a porter. See category 72: American Stout from last year's winner list, Dead Reckoning (great beer, by the way) by Troegs Brewing in Harrisburg won a silver medal. Check out the Troegs website, they call this beer a porter. In spite of this phenomenon, Stout and Porter are classified as two separate animals in the world of beer.

First, there are several sub categories of each style, stout has the following: dry stout, sweet (or milk) stout, oatmeal stout, foreign export stout, russian imperial stout, and american stout. The porter sub categories are as follows: brown (or english) porter, robust porter, and baltic porter.

I'm going to focus on american stout and robust porter. The following descriptions are from the BJCP guidelines. Specifically, the flavor and vital stats sections of robust porter:

"Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt, black malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of roasty dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet, depending on grist composition, hop bittering level, and attenuation. May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, although should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. Medium to high bitterness, which can be accentuated by the roasted malt. Hop flavor can vary from low to moderately high (US or UK varieties, typically), and balances the roasted malt flavors. Diacetyl low to none. Fruity esters moderate to none.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.048 – 1.065
IBUs: 25 – 50 FG: 1.012 – 1.016
SRM: 22 – 35 ABV: 4.8 – 6.5%"

And from the flavor and vital stats sections of american stout:

"Moderate to very high roasted malt flavors, often tasting of coffee, roasted coffee beans, dark or bittersweet chocolate. May have a slightly burnt coffee ground flavor, but this character should not be prominent if present. Low to medium malt sweetness, often with rich chocolate or caramel flavors. Medium to high bitterness. Hop flavor can be low to high, and generally reflects citrusy or resiny American varieties. Light esters may be present but are not required. Medium to dry finish, occasionally with a light burnt quality. Alcohol flavors can be present up to medium levels, but smooth. No diacetyl.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.050 – 1.075
IBUs: 35 – 75 FG: 1.010 – 1.022
SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 5 – 7%"

Pretty similar, no? The only differences are that american stouts are "on average" slightly hoppier and slightly darker in color. Conventional brewing wisdom says that porters are brewed with Black patent malt and Stouts are brewed with roasted barley, but I've seen a study or two that shows only homebrewers stick to this convention, where as, commercial brewers use both malts in formulating their stouts and porters (I wish I could find that study, but alas I have not been able to).

This issue is constantly up for debate, simply use the search function at and you'll find many threads discussing this issue: see generally this post.

The history of both styles is very intertwined, for the cliff notes check out the wiki page for stout.

The only observation that I can lend after trying dozens of brews from each style, is that "on average" porters are a little smokier and generally are more likely to have that "burnt" characteristic. Stouts are more likely to have that coffee and dark chocolate flavor. BUT that is a very broad, "on average" observation.

Either way, fall is around the corner and nothing is better on a cool fall afternoon than a fresh stout or porter.

Keep it dark and roasty,


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The End of Summer 2010

Well folks it's over. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. Summer 2010 is officially coming to an end. How can I make such a wild proclamation? First, experience is on my side, I've accurately announced the end of summer 2008 and 2009. Upon checking my records it looks like summer 2009 ended on August 7th at 11:05 pm. This year summer lasted a little longer. What's the deciding factor in determining the end of the summer? Temperature or the lack of summer thunderstorms? Clearly not the case here. Nope, it's the the release of Oktoberfest brews, officially flooding the shelves at your favorite local DC-area beer store.

I've had the opportunity to try the Weihenstephaner and (my long time favorite) Left Hand Oktoberfests and I haven't been disappointed. Nothing says football season is right around the corner than Oktoberfest. Thank God too. I can't take anymore baseball. Living in this corridor of baseball mediocrity (see generally, Orioles and Nationals win-loss records for the last 5 years) wears on you and causes you to become jaded towards the entire sport.

I'll attempt a decent run down of this year's 'fest beers after I've had a few more.

In the world of homebrew I whipped up a batch of Strong Stout 2 weeks ago in anticipation of football season. My inspiration was the XXXXX Stout by Pike Brewing out of Seattle. This is the first time I've used a pacific NW yeast strain, so I'm curious to see how it turns out. Also, I'm kicking around a recipe in my head for a strong Belgian dark ale. Hopefully, I'll have time next weekend to brew it up.



Friday, July 16, 2010

Enjoying a cask porter at Mad Fox! It's packed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Enjoying an IPA at the southernmost brewery in the US. Kelly's in Key West. Cheers!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Golden & Strong

Just like Tango & Cash, Golden & Strong make a beautiful yet deadly combination.

For my birthday, my in-laws gave me a colonna corker. As I am excited to use this nasty red corking machine, I decided to brew a golden strong belgian ale Sunday afternoon for ultimate packaging in a wire-cage belgian bottle. I think this one is going to be the 2010 HolzBrew Holiday Ale. Current front runner for a proper name is "Reindeer Games." Thoughts?

I've got a little footage from brew day, that I may package into a montage, but only when I have time to do such things. Currently, I am employing an old homebrew trick to keep my primary temperatures around 68 degrees for the first 3 days. I placed the fermenter in the bathtub with about a 2-3 inches of cool water in the tub. Then I draped an old t-shirt over the fermenter making sure that the t-shirt touches the pooled water. The water works its way up the shirt soaking it through. Next I have a fan pointed at the wet t-shirt which causes the water in the shirt to evaporate faster. As the water evaporates it takes some of the heat from the fermenter with it. Ultimately cooling the fermenter several degrees. As seen below:

It's good for dropping a fermentation a few degrees, so it's great for summertime ale brewing. It's not quite enough for lager brewing.

Keep it cool,


Sunday, June 27, 2010

NHC Update

A big congratulations to Pete Britton (of Lake in the Hills, IL), Brian Steuerwald (of Brownsburg, IN) and Matt Haugo & Scott Wellington (of Aliso Viejo, CA) for taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively in Category 22: Smoke-Flavored and Wood-Aged Beer in this year's National Homebrew Contest.

Unfortunately, Old Woodie ("OW") didn't quite make the cut. Actually, I recieved my second round scorecards this week and OW didn't score as well as it had during the first round (average score of 33 in the second round versus 39 in the first round). I kind of suspected that the judging would be a bit tough in the national rounds versus the regional rounds.

See the following link for the results. All in all a great showing this year with well over 6,000 entries. This was my first competition, but I suspect not my last.

Congrats to all winners!

In other news, Meg somehow bamboozled me into doing the South Beach Diet with her. So no beer for me for the next two weeks.

Even though I can't drink it, I suspect I'll be brewing up something during the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beer Haul

Unfortunately I've been extremely busy at work since my recent trip to the Pacific NW, so I haven't been able to report a proper run down of the beer related events. Maybe I'll find time this weekend. Regardless, Meg and I returned with lots of beer. We have drank some of it. Tonight at dinner we tapped into my favorite named brew (for obvious reasons), Eric's Ale. It's a sour ale through and through. My fascination with sour's is increasing by the day. I forsee more sour brewing in the future. The only thing is that a decent sour takes at least a year to brew (more like 2-3 years to perfect) so it requires some patience.

That's all for now!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2. Sour ales are all the rage on the west coast, and for good reason. They are awesome.
1. Porters are better in the Pacific NW. Something about the cool and cloudy weather makes porters taste better
I've learned at least two absolute truths during our west coast trip thus far:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back in the USA

Meg and I are traveling the Pacific NW because she just graduated from her Masters program. She gets one last hurrah before starting a real job. We just spent three days in Vancouver. Vancouver was a beautiful city (see picture of a cloudy day in Vancouver), highlights included seeing grizzly and black bears up on Grouse Mountain, fantastic sushi, Granville Island, and hikes along the waterfront. Unfortunately the beer in Vancouver was pretty mediocre. We tried brews from many local establishments and the only place of note was Yaletown Pub.

Last night we pulled into Seattle and found a proper pint or two at Pike Pub and Brewery (their 'XXXXX Extra Stout' was life changing). It felt good to be back in the US, drinking American beer. We've got a couple of more days in Seattle and then on to Portland.



Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Heard About It

A couple of pictures of the NHC 1st round certificates (Gold, Silver, and Bronze for Old Woodie, Tripel Sunrise, and MarzBock, respectively) and the 1st place ribbon I won for Old Woodie. Onto round two for Old Woodie, the judging occurs June 17th in Minnesota. Fingers are crossed.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

4.0 GPA

Sadly the title of this post is not referring to my grad school marks. I was back in the lab today whipping a new summer brew, mad hopologist style. The HolzBrew 4.0 GPA is a an American Pale of modest strength, but full flavored. Pairing 4-varieties of American hops with ... fresh grapefruit, hence the G.P.A (Grapefruit Pale Ale). Who's excited?

In other news, the Flanders Red Ale has been moved to long term storage and is just starting to develop a slight pellicle. Only 17 months left.


Monday, April 26, 2010



Ahh yes, it is freaking sweet. I received my scores from the first round regional judging for the National Homebrew Competition and one of my brews placed 1st! So on to the national competition, for that beer at least.

The scoring guide is as follows:

45 - 50: Outstanding
38 - 44: Excellent
30 - 37: Very Good
21 - 29: Good
14 - 20: Fair
0 - 13: F'ing Terrible, just kidding, Problematic

Here were my results:

-Old Woodie Ale entered in category 22C (wood aged beer), received a final score of 39 and 1st place in the region

-Tripel Sunrise entered in category 18C (Belgian Tripel), received a final score of 33.5

-Marzbock entered in category 5A (Maibock), received a final score of 28

All in all, I was pleased with the overall results. Though, I was shocked that Old Woodie was rated the best of the three and the Marzbock was rated the lowest of three. I would have thought it to be the opposite. Regardless, I'll take victory where I can. The next 2 rounds of competition take place in Minnesota this summer.

I also did some brewing and bottling this weekend. If you haven't read in my posts, I've fallen in love with Flemish ales, in particular, Duchesse de Bourgogne. So I thought I'd try my hand at one of these delicious brews. The real kicker is that they take 18 MONTHS to brew. All those bugs take awhile to do their job souring the beer.

Recipe the recipe I decided on was...

Partial Mash for 75 mins at 154 degrees:
-2 lbs Crystal 40L
-1 lb Honey Malt
-2 lbs Flaked Maize
-2 oz. of Black Patent

Then a 90 minute boil consisting of the partial mash and ...
-5 lbs of DME (2 lbs. of Pilsner, and 3 lbs. of Amber)
- .5 lbs of sugar

-1 oz. of East Kent Goldings at 90 mins
-1 oz. of Fuggles (isn't that fun to say) at 10 mins

The primary yeast is US-05 and most importantly the secondary yeast was the Wyeast Roselare Blend. The description of the Roselare Blend from the Wyeast website:

"A blend of lambic cultures including lactic bacteria. Produces beers with a complex, earthy profile and distinct pie cherry sourness from a Brettanomyces culture. Aging for up to 18 months is required ..."

The only ingredient I'm wavering on is adding maybe a quarter ounce of medium roast french oak for the long haul, but it might be too over bearing to have in with the beer for 18 months. Not sure, so I'll keep mulling it over. Another funny thing about this beer is that in 10 months I have to brew an identical batch and let it age for 8 months and then blend the two batches before bottling. I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.

I shot some footage from the brew day, and one clip from bottling the imperial wit:


Sunday, April 25, 2010

HolzBrew goes to work

Every other month or so, I get organized enough in the morning to bring in some homebrew to enjoy after hours with my friends at work. As you might be able to see above, I brought in a couple of varieties: Tripel Sunrise (which you can see in the picture is a foamer for sure), MarzBock, Not-Quite-Black IPA, Brune, Red Dawn, and Old Woodie. I think the MarzBock was the "crowd pleaser." I entered that beer in this year's National Homebrew Contest, I hope the judges feel the same way about it as my co-workers did. Fingers are crossed.

We also just renovated the kitchen at my office and it looks great, all the more reason to bring beer in for sampling after work.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Get Witty Wit It

It's a shame that working has to get in the way of the important things in life, such as writing about beer. Thus is the burden I bear.

No major news in HolzBrew land. On Monday I racked the Imperial Wit that I brewed a few weeks back into secondary. The sample I tasted was coming along nicely. Per the picture, I have been soaking 1 oz. of medium french oak cubes in Grand Marnier for last 3 - 4 weeks and I added those cubes as well as the rest of the bottle in the picture to the secondary fermenter. In short, I liquored up my brew and I'm hoping to score.

Dogfish's Red and White has served as inspiration for this interesting brew. Wit beer is generally a style that I hold in the realm of good. Tasty and refreshing, but not quite fully satisfying. If you don't believe me, pour up a glass of Allagash Wit and then do a side by side tasting with Allgash's Tripel (or better yet the Curieux), most likely you'll find the Wit to be somewhat bland when compared to something like a full flavored tripel. That's not to say that there isn't a time and place for Wit, just that the time and place is usually low on the HolzBrew list of thangs to brew. BUT after trying DFH Red and White for the first time a few months back I realized that a Wit pared with another libation might take the beer into the taste stratosphere. We're talking flavor country here folks (as opposed to flavor county) DFH brews their Wit with Pinot Noir and ages it in Pinot barrels. Additionally, their brew tips the scales around 10% ABV. My only knock on this near perfect brew is that it is a little too syrupy and sweet for most everyday consumption.

Now I realize that Grand Marnier isn't pinot noir, but in my usual style, I like making up a recipe that is truly my own. That being said, a traditional Belgian Wit is usually brewed with bitter orange peel, so my thought was the wonderful orange essence that is GM would naturally jive in a slightly larger than normal Belgian Wit. Success? I'll keep you posted.

Stay Witty,


Friday, March 26, 2010

Samichlaus 2006

This is a follow-on from my post last year (check out last year's post for all the delicious details) about the 2006 Samichalus that Meg and I were gifted for our wedding. This was the final one left in our wedding gift 4-pack.

Much like in the financial markets, 2009 was hard on the 2006 batch of Samichlaus. A lot of the "complexities" from last year mellowed out even futher making the beer taste like a root beer tootsie pop with a little alcohol sting on the back end. I wish there was more to describe, but that was pretty much it, a sugary brown alcohol laced perma-flavor across the palate. Great if you forgot what tootsie pops taste like, but not so great if you were expecting beer nirvana.

Oh well, the 2008 and 2009 tastings were pretty nice, so 2 out of 3 ain't bad.


PS - Stop by Norm's (in Vienna) tonight, to try some Yards beers from Philadelphia!
The brewery’s sending Chris down to pour some samples between 5-8pm.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In the Land of Beer

I labeled the Maibock this evening, now dubbed the MarzBock (translation: March Bock). Most people wonder how I make the labels and get them on the bottles. Pretty simple, I design them on Excel and then glue stick them on the bottles. Hard to screw up.

I also bought some stick on letters this weekend and emblazoned my growlers with "HolzBrew."


PS- I got confirmation today that the beers I entered into the National Homebrew Contest arrived safely in Zanesville, OH. Judging starts next week, fingers are crossed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pour of the Day

What to do when you can't eat meat on a Friday? Drink beer. Specifically, The Bruery's Saison de Lente.

It's Friday Baby!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Quick Update

I don't really have time to formulate a witty and intriging post, but I thought I'd let everyone know what's up in the HolzBrew homebrew world. I brewed a Imperial Belgian Wit (the OG was 1.066, does this really qualify as Imperial? I say yes), this weekend that I am pretty jazzed about. The plan is once it gets through primary fermentation to add some french oak cubes that have been soaking in Gran Marnier, and most likely I'll add some additional Gran Marnier as well. I'm looking to accentuate the orange flavor in a Belgian Wit.

I also bottled the maibock I brewed back in December. Its really turned out well and I'm pretty sure I am going to enter it into the upcoming national homebrew competition . I am considering entering my holiday ale (tripel) as well as the Old Woodie Ale (specialty wood aged beer). This would be the first competition I've ever entered my beers in and certainly some of the steepest competition. Regardless of winning any awards I think it would be cool to get back some constructive criticism.

That's it for now.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

10 Questions for a Sweet Brewer

It's been a few weeks since the last post, largely due to a busy work schedule. It's not like I stopped drinking beer, don't worry. I haven't had time in the last month to brew anything, but I've got some ideas kicking around. A few weeks back I had sent out some questions to Nick Funnell, the head brewer at Sweetwater Tavern. He was nice enough to get back to me. In case you haven't been there Sweetwater Tavern operates three locations in Northern Virginia: Merrifield, Centreville, and Sterling. It's one of the best restuarants near me in the Merrifield area, with a great food selection ranging from steak and fish to more casual offerings like sandwiches and salads (think Outback Steakhouse, but with good food and service). Also, the beer is made in-house and pretty darn good to boot. Nick has amassed some hardware from the Great American Brewfest over the years and it shows. Here goes:

Holz: First, can you give my readers an idea of how you got started in brewing? Were you originally a homebrewer?

Nick: I got started in brewing after getting a degree in Chemistry and finding an apprenticeship in a brewery. I have only ever homebrewed once, without distinction.

Holz: Did you attend any school to study brewing or did you start right out working at a brewery?

Nick: I studied brewing as part of my apprenticeship.

Holz: Sweetwater Tavern always has a nice selection of year round and seasonal offerings, how do you approach the creative process of crafting a new brew?

Nick: When we create a new beer we look for a gap in our portfolio that needs filling.

Holz: I believe Great American Restuarants (owner of Sweetwater Tavern) won two medals this year at the Great American Beer Fest, congratulations. Which beers won?

Nick: We won a Bronze medal in the Belgian Wit bier category for Wits’ End and a Gold in the Rye beer category for Crazy Jackass Ale.

Holz: Were you able to make it out to Denver this year for the festival?

Nick: I was lucky enough to be in Denver for the festival.

Holz: Occassionally, I see Great American beers available at the store, do you guys bottle your beers? Any plans to ramp up bottling production?

Nick: We do not bottle any beer for stores. We concentrate our efforts on getting people to come to us where we are able to fully guarantee the flavor and freshness of our beer. We do sell growlers of beer to go and they are filled on a counter pressure machine that ensures quality.

Holz: Which breweries and/or brewpubs inspire you?

Nick: Almost all breweries and brewpubs inspire me as there is something to be learned from each one.

Holz: Besides drinking the final product, what do you enjoy most about brewing?

Nick: The satisfaction of producing a great product that has developed a passionate following.

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

Nick: All beers are equally satisfying to make as the process is essentially similar. As a brewer it is important to not favor one style over another when it comes to making the beer, or some will be better made than others. That wouldn’t be fair to the drinkers.

Holz: Is there any Sweetwater Tavern news (major or minor) that you want to share with my readers? New beers, locations, etc.?

Nick: Keep checking the website to see what we are up to.

Eat and Drink at Sweetwater. It is so ordered.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aging Beer

You are staring at 4 years (2007-2010) of Sierra's Bigfoot Ale, a delicious American barleywine which comes out this time of year. To the uninformed, the thought of "old beer" is probably a turnoff. To the beeradvocate, properly aged (or vintage) brew can be a real treat.

Most people think that wine is the only fermented drink that should be be aged, not true. Various styles of beer benefit from aging as well. Now this isn't for all types of beer. Your typical brew only has a shelf life of about 4-5 months, before it starts to noticeably degrade. The type of beer that may benefit from aging are your big beer styles like barleywines, strong ales, imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, old ales and etc. Aging can add a whole lot of complexity to a beer like this. A general rule of thumb is beers over 8% are good candidates for aging.

Starting to age or cellar beer is easy enough. The toughest part is the patience required. If you've got a beer you love sitting around it's real easy to pop the top and quaff that delicious brew. Make sure to buy at least two of every beer you plan to age. You'll want to try one immediately in order to have a baseline in which to compare the aged version. The "second" or remaining beer should be aged for at least a year, but sometimes for several years (some beers can be aged for 15-20 years).

Where the heck do I store this stuff? Most importantly the beer should never come into contact with heat or light. Both will punk your delicately aging hooch. Beer that is allowed to sit in direct sunlight for too long (more than a few minutes) will develop a skunky flavor. You should store your beer in a cool area, away from direct light. Ideally you should store this aging brew at a constant 50 - 60 degrees.

That being said for most people it'll be near impossible to store at those temperatures unless you've got a temperature controlled room in your house. For many people a dark and cool basement is the most practical and best environment in which to age beer.

Counter intuitively, long-term refrigerator use is not ideal. Refrigerators are designed to keep food dry, so dehydration of cork or cap can become an issue (laid-down or upright), allowing the beer to become oxidized.

Now that you know how to cellar, what should you expect a year or more from starting to age your stash. Honestly, no one knows for sure. There are lots of variables that come to play. Some beers age exceptionally well, others don't. One word of advice, big beers like double IPA's that showcase a large hop presence, usually don't get better with age. The hop characteristic tends to degrade quickly with age.

Age some beer,


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blizzard 2010

Not exactly beer related, but I put together some footage from the blizzard today. I also arranged the instrumental track for the video.

I hope everyone stayed safe.


Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Brew Beer in 3 Minutes

It took way too long for me to put this together, but here it is:

From my brew day this past weekend.

Note: At the end of the video, I meant to place an approximate length on secondary fermentation of 4 -6 weeks. Obviously, this is subject to change if you are brewing either a huge beer or a smaller session beer.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keep on Racking in the Free World

I decided to rack the Maibock into secondary fermentation today and store in the kegerator for lagering.  Some people have been asking what lagering is versus a lager beer.  A lager beer is a beer that is fermented with a lager yeast (bottom fermenting).  Lagering is a conditioning period where the beer is stored at cold temperatures (approximately 33 to 38 degrees) for an extended period of time (atleast a few weeks, but sometimes months).  Lagering helps round out a beer brewed with a lager strain and will help achieve that "smoothness" that is desirable in a lager beer.  Lagering also helps clarify beer as any particulate matter tends to settle to the bottom during lagering.

As pictured above, I took a gravity (a measure of the density of the liquid) reading before racking into secondary and noted it to be about 1.022 brix (a scale for measuring gravity).  Hopefully when done this brew will have a final gravity around 1.015 coming down from a starting gravity of 1.066.  Beers with higher final gravities will have a more noticeable sweetness relative to those with lower final gravities, due to the existence of unfermented or residual sugars.  In my opinion, a good maibock should have a noticeable sweetness.

I was messing around with my new ipod nano, which now takes video (in case you've been living in a cave and didn't hear), and I took a quick video of the inside of the HolzBrew kegerator:

Surprisingly the video quality wasn't too bad for being on an mp3 player.

I hear that Northern Virginia is getting 22 ouncers of Troegs Nugget Nectar in this week, as well as, Bells Hopslam. Now that's a great week for beer. I've put an order in for a sixtel of Nugget Nectar, hopefully it all fits in the kegerator.

Keep it racking,


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Temperature Control Woes

I love a full flavored and well made lager, but I hate making them myself.  Over the years I've built fermentation chambers and used temperature override controls for freezers in order to achieve lager fermenting temperatures.  All of which have been a pain in the butt (and a storage nightmare, considering we live in a small condo) and I've never quite been satisfied with any of the lagers I have brewed and I blame it on the difficulty of maintaining the proper temperature.  I can brew ales, but a great lager has yet to roll out of the holzbrew kitchen.

Below the Maibock fermenting away three days in:

The first day I stored it in my kegerator at about 41 degrees F, but the fermentation was non existent.  The second day I took the fermenter out of the kegerator and let it warm up slowly.  All of day 2 it was fermenting in the 50 - 55 degree range and a nice fermentation was underway.  Today as you can see it has warmed to about 60 degrees which is too high for a lager, I've placed it near the fireplace as that is a very drafty and cool area in our condo, but it seems to be maintaining a temp of about 60 (and it is bubbling away quite fiercely).  I think I'll let it go here for at least a few more days in order to get the majority of the fermenting done and then move it into the kegerator for a week around 42 degrees and then drop the temps for 2 months closer to 34-35 degrees for lagering.  Hopefully the lagering will help even out any off flavors from fermenting a little on the warm side.

Keep it cold,