Friday, April 29, 2011

One Down - Three To Go

If you'll recall from Monday's post, I have a very busy weekend this week which actually started yesterday (the work started yesterday, that is - not the weekend!  lol )  That's four days filled with beer-related activities. 

Last Night:
Last night my wife, Lynn, and I went down to Larry's Brewing Supply in Kent to help sort and categorize entries for the Puget Sound Pro-Am homebrew competition.  We had approximately 1,800 bottles to sort and label in preparation for the judging, which will take place tonight and Saturday. 

Each entrant sends three bottles to the competition.  The bottles must be separated from the paperwork they are submitted with (entry form, recipe sheet & entry fee), and labeled with stickers containing numbers and the style category the beer has been entered into.  This is done to ensure the anonymity of the entrants, so there can be no perception or possibility of judges showing any type of favoritism.  No judge ever know who's beer he's evaluating; only the style category the beer was entered into. 

We had a decent sized group of peple helping out, but the task of sorting and labeling all the entries took several hours.  Things got rolling at around 5:30/6:00, and we finally finished and left for the evening at about 10:00PM.  It also took me a while to get to bed after getting home so, yes, I'm kind of tired today.

So now it's Friday; day two.  Today I have to run over to Mountain Homebrew & Wine Supply in Kent.  I'm brewing a batch of Imperial IPA on Sunday, and I need a strain of yeast sold by White Labs.  For reasons I can't fully understand, Mountain Homebrew is the only homebrew supply shop in the Seattle area that carries both Wyeast and White Labs brands of yeast.  All the other homebrew shops around here only carry Wyeast. 

There is a conversion chart, showing which Wyeast yeasts are suitable 'substitutes' for White Labs yeasts, but they are just that, substitutes.  In most cases, you're not really getting the very same yeast strain, and I can be somewhat particular about my yeast at times. 

The yeast I would like to use for my Imperial IPA is White Labs' WLP001 - California Ale Yeast.  The Wyeast 'substitute' for WLP001 is their #1056 - American Ale Yeast.  I've used Wyeast #1056 a number of times.  It's a good yeast, don't get me wrong.  It just provides a slightly different flavor profile and attenuation (defines how far the yeast will ferment out before 'pooping out') than I'm looking for.  So, because I'm picky about these types of things, I need to make a trip over to Kirkland on my way home to get that yeast. 

I'll probably also pick up my hops there too, or at least as many as I can for this batch.  I need a lot of hops for this Imperial IPA, and I prefer to use whole leaf hops rather than pellets.  They just work better with my system than pellet hops.  This way, if Mountain Homebrew doesn't have all the hops I need in leaf form, I'll just get what I can there and get the rest at Larry's Brewing Supply when I get there this evening. 

I need to be back at Larry's Brewing Supply tonight by 5:30, when the first round of judging for the Pro-Am gets under way.  That leaves me little time after work to get to Kirkland for my yeast, get home briefly and then down to Larry's, so I can't dilly dally.  Tonight is just the first round of judging, but I wanted to participate in both days of judging because I could use the experience. 

Tomorrow, Saturday, I'll be back at Larry's Brewing Supply yet again by 8:30AM to judge the morning round of the competition.  I'll make sure I print up a bunch of BJCP Beer Scoresheets today and pre-fill out my information on each, so I don't have to worry about doing it while I'm judging for either Friday or Saturday. 

I can't stick around for the afternoon round of judging on Saturday though, because I'm still trying to see if I can arrange a meeting that afternoon/evening with a few members of the board of the Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, so we can discuss plans for moving forward with the membership numbers growing so rapidly. 

On the last day of this weekend, I need to keg my Chamomile Ale that's been in the fermenters for three weeks now, add a bit more extract to my strawberry cider to kick up the strawberry flavor a bit more (though I may do that on Saturday if I can find the time), brew my Imperial IPA, and then collapse!  lol 

Cornelius Kegs

The Chamomile Ale will condition in the fermenters for just under three weeks before I pull out my counter-pressure bottle filler and fill some bottles to bring to my next Impaling Alers homebrew club meeting.  Our next meeting is the 'swap meet', and I'd like to have some of my Chamomile Ale and some of my strawberry cider to swap. 

Next weekend (May 7th), I'm planning to brew an Oktoberfest lager.  May 7th is also the Big Brew National Homebrew Day, so I'm thinking about bringing my whole brewing system down to Larry's Brewing Supply in Kent and brewing there that day.  It's a lot of extra work to bring my whole system down to Larry's like that, but it could be a lot of fun.  If I wind up doing it, I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and maybe a video.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Judging, Brewing & a Co-op Meeting Next Weekend

I have a busy, homebrew-filled weekend coming up, and it's starting early too; on Thursday instead of Friday. 

If any of my readers are homebrewers local to the Puget Sound area, you may already know that this weekend is the judging for the 2011 Puget Sound Pro-Am Competition.  This is a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) qualifying event, with the ultimate goal being to win a Gold Medal from the GABF Pro-Am competition.  If you haven't gotten your entries in, tomorrow (April 26th) is the absolute last day (extended deadline). 

In addition, at least fifteen (15) breweries will be selecting their favorite hoembrews from the best of show competition round at the GABF to scale up and brew on their own systems.  This is a shot at homebrew glory, if you are skilled enough and lucky enough to have your entry selected for either a medal or to be brewed on one of the 'big guys' systems. 

Thursday - April 28th:
Homebrew competitions take a lot of organization. With entries flooding in from all over, it's extremely important to keep track of everything and make sure no entries get mixed up.  The last thing you want is to award a medal to someone for a beer they didn't brew and submit (how embarrassing!) 

In preparation for the judging that will take place on Friday and Saturday (At Larry's Warehouse Brewing Supply in Kent, WA), I will be heading down to Larry's on Thursday evening to help sort the entries and get them ready for Friday and Saturday.  Having all the entries properly sorted, numbered and placed together into their categories makes things go much more smoothly and efficiently during the judging. 

Friday - April 29th:
The main judging is on Saturday, but the early judging gets under way at Larry's on Friday evening.  I've signed up to judge for both Friday and Saturday, so I need to spend some time this week 'practicing' a bit by trying a few new beers and writing up some beer judging score sheets.  This will help me hone my skills a bit, as this will be only the second competition event I've ever judged at. 

As many of you know, I'm in the early stages of preparing for my BJCP Certification exam.  The earliest I may be able to take the exam is this November.  Of course, that test is already full so, barring enough drop-outs, I'll have to head down to Portland to take my exam sometime next February (2012). 

In addition to a passing score on the exam, however, being fully certified requires at least 5 experience points.  By participating in judging events, I'm starting to earn those experience points.  I hope to have all 5 necessary points by the time I take the exam so that, when I pass, I will a fully certified judge.  Those who pass the exam but do not yet have the necessary 5 experience points are classified as 'recognized' but not yet certified. 

Saturday - April 30th:
On Saturday, it's back to Larry's for more judging.  There should be both a morning and an afternoon judging session.  I will stay to help with both if it's needed, but if there are enough judges to cover everything, I may only attend the morning session.  As I pointed out, I have a very busy weekend.  I still need to find time to keg my batch of Chamomile Ale and to brew a batch of Imperial IPA. 

Another project I've been involved with is the new Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery.  I was an early adopter for the coop (there were 9 original members who started the coop - I'm member #12), and things are just about to get rolling with committees forming and the first event(s) for members to meet and celebrate the launch. 

The Flying Bike membership drive started on Monday, April 11th.  The goal was to have the 300 'founding' members by the end of June.  Well, things just blew up and the 300-member mark was reached sometime on Friday, April 15th; and the memberships continue to roll in.  I'm hoping to find some time on Saturday evening to meet with Jeff Hicks and some other members of the Flying Bike Board to discuss the website and forums, the committees we need to form and other important coop business. 

Sunday - May 1st:
Those of you who have been following my brewing know that I have a batch of Chamomile Ale that's been in the fermenters since it was brewed on April 9th.  Today is the day to get it out of the fermenters and move it into kegs where it can start to carbonate and condition.  I plan to let this ale condition in the kegs for just under four weeks before giving it a try (I need to bottle a bit for my next homebrew club meeting, since it will be our club 'swap meet' and I want to be able to share some of this ale).

Also on the agenda for today is brewing a batch of Imperial IPA.  This will be only a 5-gallon batch, since I've decided to drop down to brewing only 5-gallon batches for a while in order to increase the variety of homebrew I can have available to chose from at any one time. 

A week later, I plan to brew an Oktoberfest lager, so it can be ready by mid-September (the proper time for Oktoberfest beer).  For those who don't know, despite how many U.S. establishments do things, Oktoberfest does not start on October 1st.  It starts in mid-September and ends the first week in October.  Of course, that doesn't mean many people, myself included, don't enjoy drinking a good Oktoberfest beer well into and even past October.  ;) 

On top of all this, I really need to find some time to start studying the BJCP style guidelines.  With 28 styles (each with multiple sub-styles), I really need to start memorizing so I can be ready for the exam in November or February.  I'm also signed up for a BJCP Exam study class that kicks off in August. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sanitization & Infections

Yeast is the smallest ingredient in beer brewing; in fact it's microscopic.  But yeast is the crucial ingredient that gives us all of our wonderful brews.  Without yeast, there would be no beer.  So raise your glass and thank God for yeast!

Yeast is a living thing.  It's a micro-organism whose function in brewing is to consume sugar and oxygen, and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol.  What a wonderful little organism, isn't it?  As a living micro-organism, however, it will eat and interact with whatever you provide it.  This is why sanitization is so important in brewing.  Introduce a yeast to a wort or some brewing equipment that is unsanitary, and you risk introducing any number of undesirable micro-organisms into your beer.

Don't worry.  It's not possible to produce any pathogens from brewing.  There's nothing that will kill you or make you horribly ill or anything like that.  If an unwanted organism does make it into your beer, however, it can infect the beer and definitely impart some off flavors, smells, aftertastes, etc.  An infected beer is never a good thing. 

Sanitization & The Boil:
When brewing, you always want to use clean equipment.  I always clean and sanitize nearly everything my beer or any of its ingredients will touch.  Before reaching the boil kettle, however, full sanitization is less crucial.  Sure, you want everything to be clean and sanitary, but it's less important before the boil than after it.  That is, of course, because boiling your wort for approximately and hour would definitely kill any micro-organisms that might have found their way into your beer before it reached the boil kettle. 

After the boil is when proper sanitization becomes crucial.  Once your finished wort drops below boiling temperature, it becomes susceptible to infection.  If you allow the wort to come into contact with anything dirty or unsanitary, it has a chance of picking up something unwanted.  That is why it's important to keep the boil kettle closed while cooling the wort after the boil, and why you want to get the wort cooled and into an airlocked fermeter as soon as possible after the boil is complete. 

I Use 'Star San' Sanitizer To Sanitize My Brewing Equipment

Later, when you move your beer to a secondary fermenter, to a keg or if you bottle it, you must continue to make sure that anything that touches your beer is clean and sanitized.  Even though your beer may be finished fermenting, the yeast is still alive.  It's merely gone dormant after consuming all the available sugar and oxygen, but it can 'wake up' again if it finds a new micro-organism to interact with. 

One Piece of Faulty Equipment:
In my previous post, I was discussing the importance of patience in brewing.  I was becoming unhappy with the first batch of IPA I'd brewed this year, because it seemed to be a very mediocre beer, and I had been blaming my impatience in rushing the beer into the keg and into the glass.  I still maintain that patience in brewing is important and that I absolutely did rush that batch of IPA, but I discovered last night that was not the reason the beer was not as good as it could have been - and actually seemed to be getting worse over time. 

I was adjusting a few things in my fridge last night when I made a shocking discovery.  The bottom of my fridge was a bit wet and rather sticky.  Closer inspection revealed a slow leak around the liquid-out fitting on the keg I had been serving from.  The ball-lock fitting for the liquid out connection wasn't sealing securely and I had, apparently, had a leak from the keg. 

Ball-Lock Fittings (Grey = Gas | Black = Liquid)

Thankfully the leak was very slow and not serious enough to flood the fridge with beer or drain my newly-exchanged CO2 tank.  However, it seems that the leak in the connection was just enough to allow the beer in that keg to pick up an infection.  The ball lock fitting had a thin layer of yeast crusted around the edges, and I found the same sticky, yeasty liquid leaked liquid all around the fitting and even down the side of and under the keg.  Clearly, whatever had infected the crusty yeast on the keg had also gotten inside and spoiled the beer. 

I decided to dump the keg.  Why keep a beer around that doesn't taste good? Drinking homebrewed beer is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not something that becomes work or a chore to be checked off.  That's no fun.  And since this beer seemed to be getting even worse, not better, I saw no reason to save it.  Who wants to drink an infected beer? 

A Wonderful Discovery:
If you'll recall from back when I brewed this batch of IPA, I wound up a bit under the 10 gallon mark.  In fact, I wound up with just slightly under 9 gallons due to equipment and evaporation losses.  That means I wound up having one keg with just under 5 gallons in it and one keg with just about 4 gallons in it.  Unfortunately, the keg with the leaky ball-lock fitting was the keg with 5 gallons in it.  Up to that point, I had been serving beer only from that 5 gallon keg and allowing the other keg to just sit near the back of the fridge. 

Well, last night after pulling the bad keg from the fridge and dumping it, I went to try a beer from the 4 gallon keg.  I was fully expecting the possibility that this keg either had an infection as well, or still suffered other detrimental flavor effects due to my impatience.  I crossed my fingers and grabbed a glass. 

Immediately after tapping off the beer I brought it to my nose and was very pleasantly surprised by an instantly citrusy, hoppy nose, with some subdued caramel malt aromas in the background.  I took a sip.  Amazing!  Despite my impatience early on in the fermentation and kegging process, allowing this keg to sit for a couple of weeks before tapping it really made a difference.  Sure, it still had a bit of haze to it, but even that was not as bad as the beer from the first keg.  This was a beer I wanted to drink; a beer that I would be proud serving to my friends and family.  Thankfully, the problem with the one leaky keg had not been transferred to this keg.  But it was a great learning experience about how easily beer can become infected and how important it is to always check your equipment for leaks or other faults. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Patience & Planning Ahead

Brewing is an art that requires patience - not only on the day of brewing, but also in the days, weeks, months and sometimes years that follow.  A lack of patience can lead to undesirable results.  You don't want to interrupt an active fermentation to move your beer to another fermenter.  You don't want to be impatient about letting your beer condition a while before kegging it.  You don't want to tap a newly filled keg without allowing it time to settle a bit.  Etc. etc.  All of these things can lead to problems with your beer. 

Brewing also requires planning.  If you want to have a beer ready by a certain date, you have to plan well in advance to make sure you hit that date.  Take, for example, an Oktoberfest beer.  Since Oktoberfest is a Lager, it will take longer to ferment and condition as an Ale would.  Preferably, you want to age an Oktoberfest for several months and, ideally, they should be ready by mid September.  That means, if you want to make an authentic Oktoberfest beer and have it ready on time, you should be thinking about brewing it around May or early June at the latest to allow it sufficient time to ferment and condition. 

The Price of Impatience:
Sometimes, as homebrewers, we can forget about patience.  The result is a noticeable difference in the quality of the finished beer.  Take, for example, the batch of IPA I brewed back on March 20th of this year.  It was my first batch of homebrew in nearly seven years and, as a result, I was impatient.  I hadn't had any of my own homebrew in several years, and I was eager to take my first sip and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  So, I left this beer in the primary fermenter for only a week - and in the secondary fermenters for only one more week before kegging it.  To make matters worse, I started drinking that kegged beer almost immediately. 

I could taste a few 'off' flavors in my beer.  But I attributed this to it being so 'young', so I forgave it's problems and kept on drinking it.  Don't get me wrong.  It is by no means a horrible beer.  It has a good color, a good, medium body, holds a head quite well and has an overall decent flavor.  However, it does have it's share of problems, mostly associated with my own impatience.  It's hazy, it's a bit husky/grainy and it's slightly astringent.  Definitely not my best beer and nothing I'd be particularly proud serving.  As a result, I have resolved to work harder at exercising my patience going forward. 

Slow it Down:
The Chamomile Ale I brewed on April 9th, for example, has now been in the primary fermenters for 9 days, and I plan to leave it in those fermenters for nearly another three weeks before moving it to kegs and allowing it to continue to condition for another 3-5 weeks.  Admittedly, I may tap some of it just a bit 'young', so I can bring some to my next Impaling Alers homebrew club meeting on May 20th, but I'm taking my time with this one. 

I also recently learned something new about today's yeasts and how the strains have improved over the years.  For example, when homebrewing was young (back in the late 70's and early 80's), it was common to recommend racking your beer off the yeast in the primary fermenter as soon as primary fermentation was complete.  The idea was to get your beer off the yeast cake at the bottom of the fermenter so that your beer wouldn't pick up any 'off' flavors from the spent yeast. 

Now, that concern is mostly gone.  Most experts agree that, with today's yeast strains, you should only have to rack your beer off the yeast in the primary fermenter if you plan to do a true secondary fermentation (adding more ingredients to the second fermenter for the yeast to do it's job on) or unless you plan to dry hop your beer or add any fruit or other adjuncts.  Less racking of your beer means less chance of oxidation or introducing any contaminants that could infect your beer.  With today's yeasts, you should be safe leaving your beer in the primary fermenter, on the spent yeast, for up to four weeks before having any issues with the yeast imparting any off flavors to your beer. 

Adjusting My Schedule & Batch Size:
All of these considerations along with some equipment restrictions have made me rethink my brewing schedule and realize that I have to slow down a bit.  Originally, I had planned to brew an Imperial IPA this past weekend, but I had to reconsider due to the time my 10 gallons of Chamomile Ale still needs in the primary fermenters.  I only have one water bath with an aquarium heater to regulate the fermentation temperature, and that bath holds only two six and a half gallon carboys.  So, I have to wait until the Chamomile Ale is ready to be moved to the kegs and start conditioning in the fridge before I can brew another batch. 

Another issue is keg and refrigerator space.  I have a fairly large brewing fridge.  It's big enough to hold up to four full Cornelius kegs and my CO2 tank and regulator.  However, when I brew 10 gallon batches, that means two kegs per batch (unless I bottle half).  That would mean I could only have two different beers on tap in my fridge at any one time. 

That seems insufficient, so I have decided to drop down to brewing only 5 gallon batches for a while.  I'm sure I'll still brew the occasional 10 gallon batch, but if I stick to 5 gallon batches it will afford me many advantages.  First, I'll have room for two different batches at a time in the heated water bath I use to keep my fermenters at proper fermentation temperature.  Second, it virtually doubles my capacity to ferment and keg beers - since each batch will only be half the size of what I've been doing.  Finally, with only one keg per batch, I should be able to keep up to four different beers on tap at any one time in my fridge. 

What's Next?:
I still want to brew an Imperial IPA once my Chamomile Ale is done, but I would also like to make an Oktoberfest this year to be ready by mid-September.  Since each of these will only be 5 gallon batches, however, I think that should definitely be doable. 

My Chamomile Ale should be out of the primary fermenters and into kegs for conditioning on or about May 7th.  That means, I can brew my Imperial IPA on the weekend of May 7th or 14th and my Oktoberfest on May 14th or 21st.  I should have enough fridge space for the two kegs of Chamomile Ale and the fermenter for the Oktoberfest, while the Imperial IPA will ferment in my heated water bath. 

I also have a 5 gallon batch of strawberry cider in the works, but that should be ready to rack off the strawberries and into the keg by next weekend (April 23rd).  I plan to keg it and then fill some bottles from the keg a week later.  I will definitely have some of this cider to bring to my next homebrew club meeting. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

IPA Spring Is In The Air

Spring is here (at least on the calendar that is; you wouldn't know it around here by looking or going outside!)  And Spring means IPAs.  I'm a huge IPA fan, so I always love a good IPA, and right now they're in abundance around Seattle.  Here are threee local happenings that highlight IPAs and the northwests Love of them.

Cooper's Alehouse 9th Annual IPA Fest: - April 8 - 29 (8065 Lake City Way NE, Seattle)
If you're a regular reader, then you already know about Cooper's IPA Fest.  64 IPAs will be rotating on Cooper's taps from the start of the event back on April 8th, through April 29th.  For a few reviews and the full list of all the IPAs that either have been on, are on now or will be on during the fest, look HERE

Beer Valley Brewing IPAs featured at Brouwer's Cafe: (Brouwer's: 400 N 35th St, Seattle - Beer Valley: - 937 SE 12th Ave, Ontario, OR)
Today only, April 13th, Beer Valley Brewing's head brewer, Pete Ricks, will be on hand to enjoy with you three IPAs from Beer Valley: Rosebud IPA, Leafer Madness Double IPA and Black Madness Double Black IPA.  At only $4 each, you can easily afford to come on down and try 'em all.

Brouwer's also, of course, has plenty of other great beers on tap, including these other IPAs:
-Avery Majaraja Double IPA
-Skagit River Gospel IPA

And the following barleywines currently on tap, if you're still in a barleywine mood:
-Stone Old Guardian '08
-Stone Old Guardian '10
-Hood Canal Breidablik '10
-Mad River Wheatwine '08
-Mad River john Barley Corn '07
-Hales Rudyard's Rare '07
-Elliott Bay Barleywine '10
-Diamond Knot Icebreaker '09
-Stone Belgo Barleywine '10
-Moylan's Old Blarney '10
-Laurelwood Old Reliable '10
-Marin Old Dispsea '10
-Sierra Nevada Bigfoot '08
-Big Sky Old Blue Hair '10
-Lagunitas Gnarleywine '10
-Big Time Bill's Bearded Wonderfulness '10
-Full Sail Old Board Head '08

IPA Throwdown at Full Throttle Bottles: (5909 Airport Way S, Seattle)
Take 8 different IPAs from Washington, Oregon and California and pit them against each other in a no holds barred throwdown to see which one comes out on top.  That's what's going on tonight at Full Throttle Bottles from 5-7PM. 

To quote from Full Throttle Bottles:
"Now we won't be comparing Imperial or Double IPAs, but regular straight up IPAs. It's not about who has the highest IBUS or can make the most extreme beer, but who has the best tasting IPA. These were chosen at random so don't think there aren't hundreds of other top notch IPAs out there!"

This is a free event, pouring 2oz samples.  That means WA state beer & wine sampling laws apply.  You'll only be able to try 4 out of the following 8 IPAs available, so you'll have to chose carefully.  If you find one you like or you'd like to try the others you can, of course, always grab a bottle (or a few!) to take home with you.  You can vote for your favorite and the winner will be 10% off at FTB for the whole month of May. 

The 8 beers in tonights tasting, of which you can chose 4:
-Boundary Bay IPA
-Diamond Knot IPA
-Schooner Exact 3-Grid IPA
-Snoqualmie Wildcat IPA
-Laurelwood Workhorse IPA
-Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic IPA
-Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
-Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

For a full description of these beers to help you select the 4 you'd like to taste head HERE.  See you there.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ever Drank & Smoked So Much You Went Blind?

If you're a fan of single-malt Scotch and good cigars, you might want to check out one of Brouwer's Cafe's 'Blind Lion' Scotch Nights.  Brouwer's usually hosts a few of these special nights a year.  On these nights, Brouwer's doors are closed to the public, so that the Blind Lion night can be fully enjoyed by only the ticket holders for the evening's event. 

I have yet to attend a Blind Lion Scotch Night, but I'd like to try and attend one sometime in the next year or two.  

As you can see from above, the next Blind Lion Scotch Night is on Saturday, April 16th and there are still tickets available.  Go to or visit Brouwer's Cafe (400 N 35th St. Seattle, WA) and ask to see a manger to purchase tickets. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there! 

Cooper's Alehouse IPA Fest is Happening Now

If you're an IPA fan, you need to get down to Cooper's Alehouse.  Going right now is their 9th Annual IPA Fest, with over 66 different IPAs being rotated on their taps through April 29th.  You can simply order pints or, a better deal is 4 8oz tastes for $8 and change. 

Things kicked off on Friday, April 8th, and I managed to make it down for a few 8oz samplers:

Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA - Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville, CA).
Aroma - A nice floral, citrusy (grapefruit) and piney type hop aroma.  Subdued carmel malt aroma in the background.

Appearance - Clear (not cloudy), with a brilliant copper/orange hue.  Foamy head with medium head retention and good lacing throughout. 

Flavor - A citrusy/piney hop flavor dominates, and the hop bitterness sticks around to the aftertaste.  This is balanced well with a touch caramel sweetness of malt, but the hops clearly dominate here. 

Mouthfeel - A light to medium body with light carbonation (still acceptable for the style). There is no astringency and the beer finishes clean with a slightly creamy feel. 

Overall Impression - A well balanced IPA with an emphasis on floral/citrusy/piney hop aromas and flavors.  This is one of my personal favorite IPA's. 

Avery Dugana Double IPA - Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO).
Aroma - Citrus hop aroma is the first thing noticed, with slight/subdued peach/apricot-like aromas.  Very pleasant.

Appearance - Clear with a very light copperish color.  Poured with a good head, but the head faded quickly and left only some lacing (low head retention). 

Flavor - Very prominent piney hop bite followed closely by Earthy malt undertones.  The piney and slighly fruity hop flavor lindegers through to the aftertaste with a slight bite. Little to no sweetness aparent. 

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with some slight alcohol warming and definite hop aggressiveness.  Good/appropriate level of carbonation with a hop bite that sticks around. 

Overall Impression - I had never heard of Dugana before this IPA Fest.  Like most others, I had heard of Avery's Maharaja (which is antoher very good IPA), but not Dugana.  It is a solid double IPA, but lacks enough malty sweetness to fully balance out the aggressiveness of the hops.  Regardless, this was my second favorite IPA of the day. 

Black Raven Wisdom Seeker - Black Raven Brewing Company (Redmond, WA).
Aroma - Grapefruit, orange and some pine notes dominate the nose with a slight carmel malt sweetness in the background. 

Appearance - Light golden hue with good/appropriate level of carbonation.  Poured with a good head that stuck around fairly well and left good lacing (Good head retention). 

Flavor - Piney and citrusy (grapefruit/orange), very well balanced with a moderately prominent carmel malt sweetness.  Finishes clean with just a slight citrus hop aftertaste (still balanced with the malty sweetness). 

Mouthfeel - Medium body with slight alcohol warming.  Complex with the fruity/piney/carmel flavors balancing well. 

Overall Impression - Probably the best balanced IPA I had today.  Appropriately hoppy in the nose and on the front end taste, but so well balanced with the malt sweetness - while not diminishing the hop character.  My favorite of the day. 

Boundary Bay Cask IPA - Boundary Bay Brewing Company (Bellingham, WA).
Aroma - Fruity/citrusy hop nose is present, but is subdued by too much yeast aroma and some minor carmel malt sweetness. 

Appearance - Light brown mud.  Clearly the cask was either agitated and/or had too much trub left over.  Even my glass had a VERY noticeable (1/8" or more) layer of trub on the bottom of my glass.  Far too much yeast still in suspension.  This adversely affected head retentiton as well, which was poor. 

Flavor - Some citrus and very slight pine hop flavors are present, but again subdued by the presence of too much yeast still in suspention. 

Mouthfeel - Thick.  Unpleasant.  Poor carbonation level.  Needed lots of water to cleanse my palate of yeast before continuing. 

Overall Impression - Unfortunate.  I've had this beer before in better conditions.  I think this may have been a bad cask or poorly handled (over-agitated).  Not reccommended for this IPA Fest. 

Bridgeport Hop Czar - Bridgeport Brewing Company (Portland, OR). 
Aroma - Slighthtly sour and musty.  Not appropriate at all.  Suspect an issue.  Clearly apparent vinegar in the aroma as the beer warmed up. 

Appearance - Almost cider-like.  Extremely cloudy with a color similar to dark brown apple cider.  Poor head retention. 

Flavor - Sour/spoiled.  Subsequent sips revealed a slight vinegar taste. 

Mouthfeel - Astringent.  Thick.  Not inviting. 

Overall Impression - This was clearly a 'bad' keg.  I had one of the staff at Coopers taste it as well - and it was immediately pulled from the taps.  I beleive they may have had another keg to put on later - but I never got a chance to try it.  They 'replaced' this beer for me - and my selection was Hop Ottin IPA (Above). 

As you can see, I had a few unfortunate pours in my tasting flight.  Between Hop Ottin, Dugana & Wisdom Seeker, however, I was still a very happy IPA drinker.  I wasn't able to make it back to Cooper's on Saturday, but I did make it back for a few more on Sunday.  I'll be writing up my tasting notes for the other beers I had that day in a later post (later today or tomorrow). 

For now, here is the complete list of all IPAs that either have been on tap, are on tap now or will be on tap during Cooper's IPA Fest:

First Class IPA - Airways Brewing Company (Kent, WA)
Sky Hag IPA - Airways Brewing Company (Kent, WA)
Anacortes IPA - Anacortes Brewing Company (Anacortes, WA)
Hop Ottin IPA - Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville, CA)
Dugana Double IPA - Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)
Maharaja Imperial IPA - Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)
Racer 5 IPA - Bear Republic Brewing Company (Healdsburg, CA)
Big Al's IPA - Big Al Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Bridgeport IPA - Bridgeport Brewing Company (Portland, OR)
Bridgeport Hop Czar - Bridgeport Brewing Company (Portland, OR)
Single Wide IPA - Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO)
Boundary Bay CASK IPA - Boundary Bay Brewing Company (Bellingham, WA)
Boundary Bay IPA - Boundary Bay Brewing Company (Bellingham, WA)
Trickster IPA - Black Raven Brewing Company (Redmond, WA)
Wisdom Seeker - Black Raven Brewing Company (Redmond, WA)
Iversion IPA - Deschutes Brewing Company (Bend, OR)
Hop Henge 'Experimental' IPA - Deschutes Brewing Company (Bend, OR)
Hop Lava - Double Mountain Brewing Company (Hood River, OR)
Hop Lava CASK - Double Mountain Brewing Company (Hood River, OR)
Diamond Knot IPA - Diamond Knot Brewing Company (Mukilteo, WA)
Diamond Knot XIPA - Diamond Knot Brewing Company (Mukilteo, WA)
Diamond Knot Industrial IPA - Diamond Knot Brewing Company (Mukilteo, WA)
Shipwreck - Diamond Knot Brewing Company (Mukilteo, WA)
Dick's IPA - Dick's Brewing Company (Centralia, WA)
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head Brewing Company (Milton, DE)
Earth Thirst - Eel River Brewing Company (Scotia, CA)
The Immortal IPA - Elysian Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Double Jack - Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Interurban IPA - Fremont Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Lucille IPA - Georgetown IPA (Seattle, WA)
Glacier Brewhouse IPA - Glacier Brewing Company (Anchorage, AK)
Hercules Double IPA - Great Divide Brewing Company (Denver, CO)
Titan IPA - Great Divide Brewing Company (Denver, CO)
Green Flash West Coast IPA - Green Flash Brewing Company (Vista, CA)
Green Flash Imperial IPA - Green Flash Brewing Company (Vista, CA)
Supergoose IPA - Hale's Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Point Defiance IPA - Harmon Brewing Company (Tacoma, WA)
Iron Horse IPA - Iron Horse Brewing Company (Ellensburg, WA)
Lagunitas IPA - Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, CA)
Lagunitas Maximus Imperial IPA - Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, CA)
Hopworks Organic IPA - Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland, OR)
Lompoc Centennial IPA - Lompoc Brewing Company (Portland, OR)
Hop Monkey IPA - Laurelwood Brewing Company (Portland, OR)
Workhorse IPA - Laurelwood Brewing Company (Portland, OR)
Lazy Boy IPA - Lazy Boy Brewing Company (Everett, WA)
Alpha Dog IPA - Laughing Dog Brewing Company (Ponderay, ID)
Devil Dog Imperial IPA - Laghing Dog Brewing Company (Ponderay, ID)
Maritime Pacific Imperial IPA - Maritime Pacific Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Nectar IPA - (Contract brew from Firestone Walker - Paso Robles, CA)
Ranger IPA - New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)
Tricerahops - Ninkasi Brewing Company (Eugene, OR)
Total Domination IPA - Ninkasi Brewing Company (Eugene, OR)
Pike Double IPA - Pike Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Wipeout IPA - Port Brewing Company/Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA)
Rogue XS Imperial IPA - Rogue Brewing Company (Newport, OR)
Pliny The Elder - Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA)
3 Grid IPA - Schooner Exact Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Sierra Nevada Hoptimum - Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA)
Southern Tier XIPA - Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY)
Wildcat IPA - Snoqualmie Brewing Company (Snoqualmie, WA)
Indianola Pale Ale - Sliver City Brewing Company (Silverdale, WA)
Whoop Pass Double IPA - Silver City Brewing Company (Silverdale, WA)
The Gospel IPA - Skagit River Brewing Company (Bellingham, WA)
Ruination IPA - Stone Brewing Company (Escondido, CA)
Evolution IPA - Two Beers Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
Hop Wallop - Victory Brewing Company (Downington, PA)

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brewing, a New Coop & Beer Judging, Oh My!

It's been a crazy past few days for me!  Since last Friday, I have come to realize just how fully I have thrown myself back into brewing and beer culture.  This will be a bit of a trip down memory lane, as well as an update on my progress in brewing and obtaining my BJCP Certification, so bear with me!

Looking Back:
Flashback to 1995.  I was living in South San Francisco, CA and attending San Francisco State University, working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Communication.  My brother in law, who had been introduced to homebrewing a few years earlier, got me interested and, if I remember correctly, gave me my first, basic kit.  You know the one: 2 plastic buckets, an airlock, some strainer bags, a big spoon, a stovetop brewing kettle and a book (The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian - a great first brewing book). 

A Basic Homebrewing Kit

A trip to my local homebrew supply shop for some malt extract, a few specialty grains for steeping, some hops and a packet of yeast and I was on my way.  Like most homebrewers, I started out brewing on my kitchen stovetop with malt extract (usually in syrup or dried powder form).  This process involves creating a concentrated wort (think of wort as, basically, beer that hasn't been fermented yet), and then adding that concentrated wort to a volume of water to make up the total batch size (usually 5 gallons). 

I brewed with extract for a couple of years, until I reached a point where I wanted to have more control over the brewing process and the flavor of the finished product.  Don't get me wrong, some great beers can still be made with malt extract, but I wanted to take the next step and go all grain. 

The Switch To All Grain:
By now it was 1998.  I had moved from the San Francisco area to Issaquah, WA, just outside of Seattle and I decided it was time to take the plunge and change from brewing 5 gallon batches with malt extract to brewing 10 gallon all grain batches.  All grain means that no malt extract is used.  The beer is made 'from scratch', using just water, grains, hops and yeast. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Popped My Judging Cherry

Today, I had the opportunity to be an official judge as part of the first round of the National Homebrew Competition - Northwest Region.  This was my first time ever acting as an official judge for an AHA/BJCP sanctioned competition.  It was a great experience, and makes me look forward to much more judging in the future. 

As luck would have it, I was assigned to judge BJCP Style Category 14 - India Pale Ale (pretty much my favorite style of beer).  This style section inclues the sub-styles of:

14A: English IPA
14B: American IPA
14C: Imperial IPA

During the course of my judging today, I tasted eight (8) different IPA's - 6 American IPA's (14B) and 2 Imperial IPA's (14C).  Of those eight, our tasting group sent on two for a 'mini-best of show' competition.  I was not a judge for that portion of the competition. 

As a first time judge, the process was enjoyable but slightly intimidating.  For each beer sampled (1-2oz), I had to fill out a complete BJCP National Homebrew Competition Beer Scoreshet.  All of the following sections had to be filled out in their entirety:

-Bottle Inspection
-Overall Impression

All of these aspects, except for Bottle Inspection, are assigned a numeric score according to a scale.  Those points are added to create the beer's overall score (from 1-50).  I also had to comment on the accuracy to the intended beer style, the technical merit of the beer and my overall impression of its 'intangible' qualities.  I had 10 minutes to evaluate each entry in the competition, and then to discuss my score and it's aspects with the other judges score(s) and notes, so that we could reach a concensus on a fair score for each entry. 

This was a great first step in my journey to my BJCP Certification.  I look forward to my next judging experience.  It looks as though I may have another opportunity to judge near the end of April. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.