Friday, May 27, 2011

Seattle Beer Week Is Wearing Me Out

My wife, Lynn, and I had so much fun at the Firestone Walker & Homebrew Chef dinner at Brouwer's on Monday and in the few days prior, that we were wiped out on Tuesday.  We never really got home on Monday until around 1:30AM and didn't get to bed util at least 2:30/3:00AM.  So, needless to say, we slept in on Tuesday the 24th. 

Even when we did get up, we just felt too wiped out to hit any Seattle Beer Week events that day.  I wanted to hit up the IPA Fest at Big Time Brewery, but I just couldn't find the energy.  I live 22 miles from Seattle, so I have to make a conscious effort to come into the city for even a single event. 

I finally got back into the swing of things on Wesnesday.  There was no early event this day at Brouwer's, but I went there for an early lunch anyway.  I was hoping they'd still have some Firestone Walker beers on tap.  I was not disappointed.  They even had Firestone Walker's 'Sticky Monkey' on tap by itself.  This is extremely rare.  Sticky Monkey is a beer Firestone Walker brews specifically for blending purposes.  It is usually not seen available by itself (i.e. Not blended as part of another FW beer).  We have Sean Paxton (The Homebrew Chef) to thank for that one, as he brough up this beer to use as an ingredient for the beer pairing dinner I attended on Monday the 23rd

Firestone Walker's 'Sticky Monkey'

After kicking things off at Brouwer's, I hit up the Firkin Firkin event at Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill.  This was a WA vs. CO event, with beers from breweries in both states available on Cask.  There were 15 casks to try and participants were urged to vote for their favorite.  Since I'd arleady been to Brouwer's for a few and was planning on heading back there later for an event at 6:00PM, I only had 3 5oz tasters - and a few other sips from some friends I ran into at the event. 

Unfortunately, I left my notes & photos from this event on my other PC, which I won't have access to until tonight, so I'll update this post then with photos, which Firkins I tried and which I cast my vote for. 

After Firkin Firkin at Elysian, it was back to Brouwer's Cafe for their Beer Cocktail event with Hopworks beers and Brewing Up Cocktails.  After the Union Jack Hurricane and the Parabola/Sticky Monkey/Mint Syrup Ber'lip I'd had at Monday's dinner, I wanted to give a few more beer cocktails a try. 

While the Hurricane & Ber'lip I'd had on Monday were pretty heavy on the beer - with just a bit of flavoring added, the offerings at Brouwer's for Brewing Up Cocktails were quite different, and generally only used beer as one ingredient among many or as a 'top off' after mixing the other ingredients.  I decided to try a 'West Coast Radler' and a 'Single Speed'. 

Since the Radler was topped off with a light lager, I barely noticed it.  It did provide a thinning of the other ingredients to mute their strength of flavor, but in a way that didn't water things down.  Very nice.  The Single Speed was a bit more unusual, but then I don't usually have any cocktails with Aquavit.  The mix of IPA and apricot/lime flavors in this one provided the bulk of the flavor and color.  Not bad. 


After my two cocktails I couldn't resist, so I ordered another Firestone Walker Sticky Monkey.  I had to take advantage of it while it was still around.  Brewing Up Cocktails at Brouwer's was my last event for the evening.

Unfortunately, the next day, Thursday, I had to be back to work.  I also had a few things to take care of at home, so I only had the time to hit one event last night on my way home.  I stopped by Elliott Bay Brewing in Burien for their 'IPA Feast'.  All 5 Elliott Bay IPAs were on tap (or cask) and available in pints or as a taster tray.  I opted for the taster tray, which included: Organic Ebay IPA, Organic Demolition, Black Ops CDA, Hellmouth IPA, and Organic Hop von Boorian.  No surprise to me, my favorite was the Hellmouth.  At 7.1% ABV and 100 IBU's it was the 2nd strongest and the hoppiest/most bitter beer in the bunch.  And I'm a sucker for a good, strong IPA. 

My IPA Feast Taster Tray at Elliott Bay, Burien

I found the Organic Ebay decent, but a bit too light flavored for my palate.  Demolition was probably my 2nd favorite (7.25% ABV and 98 IBU's).  Hop von Boorian was OK, but I've just never gotted used to the mix of Belgian yeast combined with strong hops.  To me, those are conflicting styles/tastes and I can't seem to get into them.  I know the 'Belgian IPA' style is getting more popular lately, but I'm not a big fan.  The CDA was decent, but again, the over-toasted flavor of black patent or other dark malts doesn't agree with my palate when mixed with a strong hop flavor.  I guess I'm discovering that, with a few exceptions, I'm a sucker for sticking to the classic, defined beer styles. 

Today is Friday, and I plan to hit a couple of events after work today.  First, I'd like to hit up the Naked City Drink Naked Night event at Naked City Taphouse.  After that, if I can tear myself away, I may head to Night of the Living Nanos at the Fiddler's Inn.  This will be a showcase of beers from three of Washington's smallest breweries. 

See what too much beer makes a nice, consevative girl do? (Oh, who'm I kidding?  Conservative?  lol)

I haven't decied what events I might attend this Saturday or Sunday yet, but I also have to think about kegging my latest batch of IPA and transferring my Oktoberfest Lager to kegs to start it's 3-month long lagering period.  So you'll have to check back to see where I'm at.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Firestone Walker & The Homebrew Chef Collaboration Beer Dinner at Brouwer's Cafe

Last night, Monday, May 23rd was, for me, the highlight of Seattle Beer Week.  My wife and I attended the Firestone Walker & The Homebrew Chef Collaboration Beer Dinner at Brouwer's Cafe.  This was a 10-Course dinner, paired with 12 different Firestone Walker Beers and beer creations.  Brouwer's Cafe closed at 3:00PM to prepare for this special event, and the doors opened for ticket holders shortly after 6:00PM. 

As we were brought in and seated, servers came around to present us with our 'Reception Beer': Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA on Cask.  Other than Brouwer's few booths, most of the seating for the dinner was at long tables.  So we enjoyed our Union Jack as we introduced ourselves to the other attendees at our table and marveled at the menu for the evening, which was laid out in front of us on large, beautiful menu sheets.

As we were finishing up our Union Jack, Matt Bonney (Owner of Brouwer's Cafe), Sean Paxton and David Walker (Owner of Firestone Walker Brewing Company) came out to welcome us all and to tell us a bit about the evening we were about to experience. 

Course 1:

The first course for our dinner consisted of Cajun Prawns.  These were prawns, brined in Firestone Walker's Pale 31, dusted with Creole spices, coated in a Pale 31 beer batter, coated in shaved coconut, fried crispy sweet and served with apricot DBA mustard sauce.  This was paired with a Firestone Walker Solace - a Summer Wheat beer. 

I'm sure many of you have had coconut prawns as an apetizer at one time or another.  These... were nothing like that.  The succulence of the prawns was easily apparent due to the Pale 31 brining, and the subtle yet slightly spicy Creole spices came through beautifully in contrast with the apricot DBA mustard sauce. 

Intended as a light opening course, it paired perfectly with Firestone Walker's Solace, whose citrusy/fruity notes and clean finish complimented the prawns without obscuring the flavors. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seattle Beer Week Rolls On

Today, Monday, May 23rd, is the 5th day of Seattle Beer Week.  The first four days have already been a whirlwind of amazing beer-related events and activities, and we still have 6 more days of fun to go.  Thankfully I have today and Tuesday off, but heading back to work Wednesday is gonna be so hard!

So far, I've been able to attend the following Seattle Beer Week events:

Day 1 - Thursday, May 19

-Seattle Beer Week Kick Off at Maritime Pacific Brewing:
You can read all about my experience at this event HERE.  It was a great night filled with good food, great beer, old and new friends alike.  Everyone was having an amazing time in the great weather, and enjoying the Official Seattle Beer Week beer: Decompression Ale. 

At the Jolly Roger Taproom at Maritime Pacific

I followed up the SBW Kick Off at Maritime with a brief stop at Uber Tavern.  I wanted to drop by because I'd heard they were having Dogfish Head World Wide Stout on tap as well as Dog Fish Head 120 Minute IPA.  Now, I've had both of these beers before, but it's rare to find them on tap.  Both were amazing. 

-Cask-O-Rama at Beveridge Place Pub:
This is an annual event at BPP.  Casks cover the bar and you can have a pint or go with a taster tray.  I chose the latter.  You can see my selections and read a bit more about what I thought HERE.  I hung out here, enjoying myself and the great lineup of Cask beers until nearly 10:00PM, my last event for the night (I had to be at work on Friday!)

My Taster Tray at Cask-O-Rama

Day 2 - Friday, May 20th

I was unable to attend any SBW events on Friday due to the monthly meeting of my homebrew club, The Impaling Alers.  I had a great time at the meeting with my fellow members, enjoying some great homebrew, and some delicious hummus and salmon dip, both provided at the meeting by my beautiful wife, Lynn.  By the time the meeting/socializing wrapped up, it was nearly 11:00PM.  Time to call it a night. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seattle Beer Week Kick Off at Maritime Pacific Brewing Company

Yarrr, me mateys!  Yarrr!

Last night was the kick off for Seattle Beer Week.  I arrived at Maritime Pacific Brewing's Jolly Roger taproom early, so I'd be sure to capture all the action.  Early on, 3:00 or so, the place wasn't crowded at all:

The Calm Before The Storm

As the day progressed, however, it started slowly getting more and more crowded:

The Crowd Was Growing

My friend, Brian Williams (Of, and I had some great seats staked out at the bar, but later found out that the first keg/firkin of the Official Seattle Beer Week beer: Decompression, would be tapped out in the brewhouse; so when 5:30 drew close, out we went. 

It was now 5:30, the line ahead of us wasn't too bad, but little did we know they were not pouring Decompression yet.  They couldn't start pouring it until the Official reading of the Mayor's Proclamation, declaring Seattle Beer Week open.  However, since Brian & I had given up our bar seats to head out to the brewhouse, we decided to wait right there until they started pouring it.  It turned out to be a great place to wait too, because a few miutes later, the reading of the Proclamation took place:

If the video link above is not working, you can also view the video on Youtbe HERE.  
You can see the rest of the photos from this album/event that are not included in this article HERE

After the reading of the Procclamation, Brian got the very first pint of Decompression from the firkin and I got the 2nd.  Not a bad way to kick off Seattle Beer Week, 'eh?  We hung around at the Jolly Roger for about another hour, gretting friends, meeting new ones and enjoying the festivities, but then decided to move on to another stop. 

Ironically, with the plethora of events listed for Seattle Beer Week, our next stop wasn't even on the list!  We had heard that Über Tavern (7517 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA), had Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout and 120 Minute IPA on tap.  Now, I have had both of these beers before, but finding them on tap is extremely rare, so to Über we went!  We hung out there long enough to have a World Wide Stout each and share a 120 Minute IPA (remember, moderation people!) 

My Cask-O-Rama Selections

After that, it was off to Beveridge Place Pub for Cask-O-Rama.  We each got a sampler tray of six different cask beers.  My selections included:

-Big Al Old No. 1 Barleywine (On tap for the firs time anywhere).  This was probably my favorite of the 6 I tried.

-Elysian Prometheus IPA.  I'd had this one before, but it's a good one so I had some more. 

-Naked City FNG ESB.  A bit on the 'grainy' side, but drinkable.  Meh.

-Schooner Exact Ealiente Golden w/ Serrano & Anaheim Peppers.  Unfortunatley, this brought back my dislike for chili beers immediately.  My impression?  A distinctly dishwater taste - I didn't finish it. 

-Three Skulls Poison Dry-Hopped Winter Warmer.  This one was extremely grainy.  I felt like I was drinking the grains the beer was made from.  I didnt' finish it.

-Two Beers Evolutionary IPA.  A decent beer, but Big Al was the winner here for me. 

My Tray & Brian's Tray of Cask Beers

By now it was approaching 9:00PM.  We both had to work the next day (today), so off we went on our way.  All in all, a solid opening day for Seattle Beer Week.  Today I may only have time for one early event before I head to my monthly homebrew club meeting, so I'll have to choose wisely.  Watch for many more photos and videos as Seattle Beer Week rolls on.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Detailed Look at Seattle Beer Week - May 19-29, 2011 - UPDATED (5/18)

Seattle Beer Week is now just a few hours away.  I wanted to give you an extremely detailed run-down of all the events, so you can plan out your week to get the most out of it.  There are loads of great events to chose from.  Here we go!

UPDATED!  5/18/2011

Seattle Beer Week starts tomorrow!
Even more great events have been added.  New (or moved) events since our last update are indicated by a red asterisk *. 

Day 1 - Thursday, May 19th:

All Day-Growler Madness: Stone Brewing Co. at Super Deli Mart (9051 35th Street SW, Seattle, WA).  Stone will be tapping a cellared keg of Double Bastard and maybe a few others.  10% off all Stone bottled beers. 


-Elliott Bay IPA Feast at Elliott Bay Brewing - West Seattle (4720 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA).  Five Elliott Bay IPAs on one sampler tray.  Come get your IPA on. 


-Boundary Bay Brewery Appreciation at Collins Pub (526 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA).  6 tap handles, showcasing beers from one of Seattle's finest breweries for over 15 years. 

5:00PM *

-*Lazy Boy Brewer's Night at Blaefire (1801 Hewitt Ave, Everett, WA).  There will be $10 beer flights and Lazy Boy schwag giveaways. 


-Seattle Beer Week kicks off with the tapping of the official Seattle Beer Week beer, brewed this year by Maritime Pacific Brewing Company (1111 NW Ballard Way, Seattle, WA). 

-*Schmaltz & Vine at Malt & Vine (16851 Redmond Way, Redmond, WA).  Taste beers by Coney Island's Schmaltz Brewing, including 'Human Blockhead'- a 10% Imperial American Bock, a 7-vintage vertical tasting of Jewbelation, and see Donny Vomit of Coney Island fame. 


-Seattle Cask-O-Rama at Beveridge Place Pub (6431 California Ave. SW, West Seattle, WA).  Cask beers from all Seattle breweries participating in Seattle Beer Week will be on the bartop!  Come on by and have a cask!

-Pike Brewer's Dinner at Emmer & Rye (1825 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA).  This is a food and beer pairing dinner, featuring the food of chef Seth Caswell and beers from the Pike with Charles and Rose Ann Finkel.  The menu is yet to be announced. 

-Hales Brewer's Dinner at DeLuxe Bar & Grill (625 Broadway Ave E, Seattle, WA).  A beer and food pairing between DeLuxe Executive Chef, Beth Fuller and Hales beers.  A four-course menu has been prepared.  Contact DeLuxe for tickets and info or call them at (206) 324-9697.  The cost is $35 per person (tax and gratuity not included). 

-North End Kick Off at Fred's Rivertown Alehouse (1114 First St, Snohomish, WA).  If you're in the North end and can't make it down to Seattle for the Beer Week kick off, come celebrate it at Fred's.

-Schooner Exact Night at The Beer Junction (4707 42nd Ave SW, Seattle, WA).  Come enjoy some Schooner Exact beers at The Beer Junction. 

-Upright Brewing Night at Old Town Alehouse (5233 Ballard Ave N, Seattle, WA).  Upright is a Belgian-inspired brewery using Northwest ingredients.  Come on out and have a few at Old Town Alehouse. 

-*Bayern Brewery Night at 74th Street Alehouse (7401 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA).  Bayern's owner & head Brewmaster, Jurgen Knoller will be on hand to open an Oak Firkin of his new Cask Summer Bock beer.  He has driven the firken himself from Missoula, MT to be here for this event. 

-*Colorado Invades Ballard at the Barking Dog Alehouse (705 NW 70th St, Seattle, WA).  All Colorado beers will be on tap at the Barking Dog.  There will be taps from New Belgium, Left Hand, Oskar Blues & Boulder Brewing.


-Alaskan Brewery Smokin' Beer Dinner at Julia's on Broadway (300 Broadway E, Seattle, WA).  An enticing menu, paired with beers from Alaskan Brewery.  You can see the full menu HERE

-Seattle Beer Week Kick Off Stop 2 at Brouwer's Cafe (400 N. 35th St, Seattle, WA).  The kick off party rolls on at Brouwer's! 


-Seattle Beer Week Kick Off Stop 3 at Pyramid Alehouse (1201 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA).  The party's still rollin' - now at Pyramid Alehouse near Safeco Field. 

-*Carnies & Cronies at the Unicorn (1118 E Pike St, Seattle, WA). Come see Zak from Schmaltz brewing & Donny Vomit of Coney Island fame.  Coney Island Ales & Unicorn corndogs. 


-Seattle Beer Week Kick Off Stop 4 at Naked City Taphouse (8564 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA).  And the party is still rolling.  Are you still standing?  24 Taps - 12 will be devoted to Naked City Beers and 12 to beers from other Seattle area breweries. 

-Heavy Metal Beer Bash at Highline (210 Broaday Ave E, Seattle, WA).  Come enjoy some heavy metal from: Lightning Swords of Death, Saviors and Black Queen.  There will be pint specials on metal-themed beers such as: Back in Black IPA, TNT Doppel Weizenbock and Helmet Pale Ale. 


-Heavy Metal Beer Bash at The Galaway Arms (5257 University Way NE, Seattle, WA).  Come enjoy a show with live, local heavy metal bands, along with brews from Left Hand, 21st Amendment, etc. etc. etc.

Seattle Beer Week Starts Tomorrow

Seattle Beer Week is here!  In just over 24 hours, things will kick off with the very first event, the Elliott Bay IPA Feast at Elliott Bay Brewing in West Seattle starting at 11:00AM.  Personally, I'll be at work, so I can't make it to that one.  The first event I will likely attend is the 5:30PM Seattle Beer Week kickoff at Maritime Pacific Brewing Company - brewer of this year's official Seattle Beer Week beer.  After that, I may head over to Brouwer's Cafe for 'Seattle Beer Week Kickoff - Stop 2', starting at 7:00PM. 

On Friday, I won't get the chance to attend many events besides my monthly homebrew club meeting.  This month is our annual 'swap meet', where members can swap/trade/sell brewing equipment.  I also plan to bring a few beers an ciders to trade or just share with my fellow brewers. 

Saturday will keep me busy too with Beer & D'oh Nuts at 99 Bottles in Federal Way at 10:00AM, followed by Keggs & Eggs with American Brewing at the Brave Horse Tavern starting at 11:00AM.  Later, I'm thinking of attending the World Class Brewer's Reunion at Pike Brewing Company, which begins at 2:00PM. 

Do you have your strategy for Seattle Beer Week planned out yet?  With an average of 12 or more events each day, you're sure to find something you'll enjoy.  So rest up tonight, for tomorrow Seatlle Beer Week begins!

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Washington Brewer's Festival Is Coming Up Fast

Not that I want to distract you from Seattle Beer Week, which starts in just two days, but the 2011 Washington Brewer's Festival is approaching.  It happens in Saint Edwards State Park (14445 Juanita Dr. NE, Kenmore, WA) on Father's Day weekend, June 17-19. 

This three day event is a fundraiser for the Washigton Beer Commission, which represents all of the breweries in Washington State (over 100+ & counting), and works to ensure that Washington beers are made, as much as possible, from Washington ingredients to support our states brewing and agricultural industries. 

You can go HERE to get advance tickets.  The prices are:

Advance/Door $15
4:00PM - 9:00PM

Advance $20 Door $25
11:00AM - 9:00PM

Sunday:Advance $20 Door $25
11:00AM - 6:00PM

Prices include a taster glass and beer tickets (4 for the Friday session - 6 for the Saturday or Sunday sessions).  All attendees must be 21 or over - no children or pets allowed.  Go HERE for further details. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery Meet & Greet Was A Great Success

This past Saturday, May 14, was the official Meet & Greet for the founding members of the Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery.  The event was held at The Stables, a great rentable space in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.  The Meet & Greet was the initial opportunity for the founding member/owners of Seattle's first Cooperative Brewery to meet one another, hear about the vision and direction for the Brewery from the Coop President, and to start getting to know each other and kicking around ideas of what they each want Flying Bike to be. 

When the space for the Meet & Greet was originally booked, Flying Bike was expecting maybe 100 people to be present; perhaps 125.  After all, the membership drive had just begun and was supposed to generate 300 members by the end of June.  Little did everyone know that the 300 member mark would be passed in a mere 5 days.  In fact, by the end of this event, there were a total of 374 Flying Bike mebers, including a few guests of members who showed up for the Meet &Greet and purchased their membership.  As a result, the Meet & Greet event had to be broken up into three different sessions (due to occupancy limits). 

Derek & Drew's IPA Showdown

At each of the three Meet & Greet sessions, members had a chance to pickup their 'Founding Member' pint glass and T-Shirt, sample some beers made by some of the Flying Bike board members, have a little food and hear a welcome and vision speech from Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery President, Jeff Hicks. 

Anyone interested in viewing the member welcome and vision for Flying Bike speech Mr. Hicks gave at the first session of the Meet & Greet can see it HERE on Youtube. 

Attendees of the first two sessions of the Meet & Greet also had the opportunity to vote on an 'IPA Showdown' between Flying Bike Board Members Derek Drennan and Drew Wilson.  Each had an IPA on tap to sample, and membes were encouraged to try both IPA's, decide which they liked best and vote for the winner.  I'm not sure which IPA won but both were pretty tasty.  In fact, demand for both IPAs was high enough that the third session of the Meet & Greet didn't have the opportunity to judge these two IPAs.  They were all gone! 

There are still plenty of steps Flying Bike has to take before they're ready to open their doors to the public.  The actual brewery itself is still in the planning stages, and a location has yet to be selected.  Now, it's up to the drive and determination of the board members and all 374 member/owners of Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery to keep on peddaling and see that this thing gets off the ground.
(See more photos from this event HERE.)

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Puget Sound Pro-Am Results & Big Brew Day 2011

Last weekend was the 2011 Puget Sound Pro-Am homebrew competition.  There were a total of 403 entries made by 109 different homebrewers.  By last Monday, the results were posted for the homebrew competition.  Congratulations to the winners! 

Just this past weekend, however, was the time for the majority of the breweries involved to select which homebrews from the competition they wanted to scale up and brew on their own systems. 

The participating breweries included:
Ram Restaurant and Brewery
Elysian Brewery
Big Time Brewery
Rock Bottom - Seattle
Rock Bottom - Bellevue
Big Al Brewing
Baron Brewing
Diamond Knot Brewery
Snipes Mountain Brewing
Naked City Brewing
Harmon Brewery
BJ's - Tacoma
Powerhouse Brewery
Issaquah Brewhouse
Silver City Brewery
Elliott Bay Brewing Company

Each of these breweries could select one of the homebrew entries from the competition to brew.  It was not necessary for the breweries to select a beer that placed well in the actual homebrew competition, but most did. 

Here is the list of what each brewery decided to brew:
Baron Brewing – Mike Ritzer’s Grunge Effect, North German Altbier
Big Time Brewing – Ken Reister’s Reisterbrau’s Czar Russian Imperial Stout
BJ’s Brewery Tacoma – Trevor Nichol’s Biere de Printemps Biere de Garde
Elliott Bay Brewing Company – Tim Hervyford’s Black Pepper Porter
Elysian Brewing Company – Travis Nye’s Rye PA
Harmon Brewery – Ben Schielke’s Expedi-ale New American Pale Ale
Issaquah Brewhouse – TBD this week
Ram Brewery Tacoma – Jonathan Permen’s Fruition Raspberry Biere de Garde
Rock Bottom Seattle – Jesse Perez’s Siberian Baltic Porter
Rock Bottom Bellevue – Dan Hansen’s Bohemian Pilsner
Snipes Mountain Brewery – Karl VanEvenhoven’s Cascadian Dark Ale
Naked City Brewery – TBD this week
Silver City Brewery – TBD this week

Big Al Brewing – TBD this week
Powerhouse -Ryan McGee's Mai Sharona, Maibock
Diamond Knot – TBD in a few weeks

Once again, congratulations to those selected!  They will soon have the opportunity to see their own beer on tap at these breweries.  What an honor, and a great way to celebrate and share their homebrew with their fellow brewers and friends. 

I didn't have any beers ready to enter for this year's Pro-Am or this year's National Homebrew Competition, but I hope to have a few things ready to enter for both events next year. 

AHA Big Brew Day:
This past Saturday, May 7th was also AHA Big Brew Day.  It's an annual event where homebrewers are encouraged to gather together in groups to brew for the day.  Bringing along, family, friends, and anyone else interested in learning more about or getting in volved in homebrewing. 

For me, the closest place to celebrate Big Brew Day was at Larry's Brewing Supply in Kent, WA.  I didn't have the means to bring my own system down to Larry's (I brewed later at home - video coming soon), but I was there for the festivities (as well as there to assist with the brewery selections from the Puget Sound Pro-Am homebrew competition - so I was rather busy). 

There were plenty of brewers at Larry's that day, and everyone was having a great time and brewing batch after batch of beer.  The smells coming from all the brewing were amazing.  I took a short video you can check out, to see how crazy/busy it was, but also how much fun!  You may need to 'Like' Beer Monger on Facebook in order to see the video. 

As for myself, I brewed my Oktoberfest Lager this weekend.  Its currently sitting in it's fermenter at 42 degrees in my beer fridge, and I plan to slowly raise the temperature to 48-50 degrees over the new few days.  There it will sit, fermenting for three weeks before I raise the temp a bit for a dicetyl rest and then lower the temp again before kegging the beer to allow it to Lager for three months.  It should be ready to drink by September 17th, the first official day of Oktoberfest in Germany this year.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Limitations of Time & Space

No, this is not a physics post.  It's about the demands of 'real life', the realities of space limitations and trying to find the time to get everything done. 

What's In The Fridge?:
Those of you who have been following my brewing know that I currently have a 5 gallon keg of Strawberry Cider in my beer fridge along with 2 recently kegged 5 gallon kegs of Chamomile Ale.  That makes 3 kegs plus my 20lb CO2 tank taking up space in my fridge.  Also, I was planning to brew an Oktoberfest Lager this coming weekend.  I could still squeeze one more keg into my fridge if I needed to, but not a carboy (the vessels I use as fermenters).  Carboys are 'fatter' than Cornelius Kegs, so they take up more space in the fridge. 

Lager vs. Ale:
Lager beers, like the Oktoberfest I want to brew this weekend, are fermented at lower temperatures than Ales.  Ales typically ferment in the temperature range of 64-75 degrees, depending on the yeast strain used.  That's why I, before the summer months, I have to keep my fermenters in a water bath with an aquarium heater to keep the fermentation temperature steady and in the proper range. 

Lager yeasts, on the other hand, work best in the range of 45-60 degrees, depending again on the yeast strain used (though Lager yeasts can be used at Ale temperatures for some styles).  That means, to keep the fermenter at the proper fermentation temperature, I will need to keep it in my beer fridge - or get a second fridge just to house my lager fermenter(s). 

I'm not sure I'm quite ready to buy another refrigerator, so my only other option is to make more space in my current beer fridge.  To do this, I will need to get at least one keg out of the fridge so that I have room for the fermenter for my Oktoberfest.  The best way to do this would be to bottle the contents of one or more of my kegs. 

A 5 Gallon Cornelius Keg

Bottling From The Kegs:
I haven't bottled anything in quite a while and, months ago before I got back into brewing this often, I got rid of some extra bottles I had due to space concerns.  Now I'll need to take an inventory to see how many bottles I have and whether I have enough to bottle a full 5 gallons worth of beer or cider from one of my kegs.  If I come up a bit short on bottles, I can always raid my recycle bin.  I have at least a dozen 12 and/or 22 oz bottles in there that I can de-label, clean and sanitize to use for my own beer or cider. 

Since I still want to allow my Chamomile Ale to condition for a few more weeks before I bottle it, that leaves my keg of Strawberry Cider.  This past weekend, I added a bit more extract to the cider, and now the flavor is right about where I want it to be.  So the cider is the keg I'll be looking to bottle sometime this week. 

A Jet Bottle/Carboy Washer - Hooks to Sink Faucet

My first step will be cleaning and sanitizing my bottles.  I'll also need to de-label any newer bottles I plan to use, which can be accomplished with a soak in a simple ammonia solution to dissolve the glue on the labels.  Once the labels are off, I give the bottles a good cleaning with a jet bottle/carboy washer.  This device provides a powerful spray to clean the inside of each bottle.  Once cleaned, the bottles go onto my bottle tree to dry.  This device holds the bottles upside-down and allows them to drip dry. 

Bottle Drying Tree

Once clean, the bottles then need to be sanitized.  For this, I use a sanitizing solution injector that sits atop my bottle tree.  I press each bottle down onto the injector a few times, and the inside gets sprayed with sanitizing solution.  Place back on the bottle tree to drip dry again and then the bottles are ready to be filled. 

A Sanitizing Solution Injector

Using A Counter-Pressure Bottle Filler:
There are a few different ways you can bottle your beer or cider from kegs, but the best way is by using what's called a counter-pressure bottle filler.  This is a device with a few different valves and knobs, which allows you to fill a bottle from your keg without any significant drop in pressure or loss of carbonation. 

A Counter-Pressure Bottle Filler

The counter-pressure filler has two input valves: one for liquid and one for CO2.  The liquid side is hooked up to the keg you want to bottle from while the CO2 side is, obviously, hooked to the CO2 tank.  To start the process, the bottle to be filled is placed below the filler and the filler is lowered into the bottle until the stopper seals the mouth of the bottle.  The relief valve on the filler, which lets pressure out of the bottle, is opened slightly and then the bottle is filled with a blanket of CO2 by opening the CO2 valve and allowing the gas to fill the bottle.  The air in the bottle is displaced and escapes through the relief valve.  The relief valve is then closed, allowing the pressure inside the bottle to match the pressure inside the keg.  Then the CO2 valve is closed. 

Now that the bottle is filled with CO2 and its pressure matches that of the keg to bottle from, the liquid valve can be opened.  Then the relief valve is opened very slowly; just enough to allow the beer or cider to start flowing from the keg into the bottle.  There should be very little to no foam during the filling process, since the counter-pressure filler allows you to keep the majority of the keg pressure on the beer or cider as you fill each bottle.  Once the bottle is full, the relief valve is closed, followed immediately by the liquid valve.  Then the relief valve is cracked slightly and the filler is removed from the bottle, which is immediately capped. 

This may sound like a lot of work but, once you get going, it actually goes pretty quickly.  I made things even easier for myself by constructing a bottling table to mount the filler and capper on.  I will video myself filling some of the bottles when I'm ready, so you can have a look at my bottling table and the whole bottling process. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.