My First Homebrew

The title is kind of a lie. I’ve brewed before, but I’ve never created my own recipe or used my own equipment, so this was a first…of sorts.  Whatever experience I had, it didn’t feel like this was going to be easy.  I kept telling myself it would be ok.  My friend, Hunter, came over to help me brew.  He had done a few Homebrews himself and I thought having him there would help me stay calm.  Plus, I had Charlie Papazian in the back of my head whispering , “Relax, have a Homebrew”.  As it turns out, despite my apprehensions, the whole process was pretty painless.  Instead of homebrew (because I didn’t have any), we bought a six pack of Sam Adams Latitude 48.  I wanted to make a strong pale wheat ale.   I’ll tell you from the beginning, I ended up with a pale  ale, but it wasn’t strong or carbonated enough.  I think we put too much water into the batch. At the end of this article, maybe you can tell me what what you think….

Around 3pm, we started brewing.  First we sanitized everything using Star Sans.

Sanitizing Things

Then we began by steeping a 1/3 lb of Victory grains for 30 minutes in 1 ½ gallons of water.  This gave us the doughy base I wanted.

Victory Malt SteepsSMells like Warm Bread

We let that cool, filtered out the grains, and put it back in the pot. Then we added our malts, 5 lbs of Briess Bavarian Wheat and brought to a boil for 75 minutes.

Filtered Victory MaltPouring Beer Back in

We tried a method of continuous hopping (check previous article) with pellets.  We added an ounce of warrior hops right off the bat, for the bitter (Warrior’s high in alpha resins).

Stirring in Hops

We waited about twenty minutes, and then continuously added another ounce of Warrior over the next 20 minutes in increments of an eighth an ounce every 2 ½ min.  We continued the flavoring with an ounce of New Zealand Motueka and an ounce of Mt. Hood from 40-60 minutes in ¼ ounce increments (on the same schedule).  These hops have relatively low alpha but high beta resins, and they smell and taste wonderful.

Beer:Hop Wonderful

We added the same hops for aroma.  Specifically, we added an ounce of New Zealand from 60-68, and an ounce of Mt. Hood from 68-75.  To be honest, at this point, we got a little lazy and just started dumping hops.  At 75 minutes we took our brew off.  We added 3 gallons (I think?) of clean cold water to a carboy and then poured our mixture in via a funnel, and filtered out the hop pellets (for no reason).

Straing the Hops for No reason

We waited till it cooled down, then I took a measurement.  The specific gravity was 1.027 at 80 degrees F, so the real specific gravity was about 1.0032 (way lower than I wanted).  I waited till the temp got down to about 76, then added a tube of California Ale yeast (which was warmed up and shaken).

The Yeast

I should mention here that all of our ingredients came from the Whole Foods Beer Store on 2nd ave, the F, M stop in NYC.  After brewing, I let my wort age in a dark corner of the room.

The Wort

After a few days, I had to add a tube to catch the run off because it ended up being much more than I expected (I think I may have loss some carbonation here).

Run off 2Run offSediment at the Bottom of Wort

After 2 ½ weeks, I decided to bottle.  I tasted at this point, and while it was very good, there wasn’t much carbonation.  I added priming sugar, and then bottled the beer.

Clean BottlesBottling 1Capping 2

CappingMy Girlfriend, Jade, Labels BottlesBottles Galore

The specific gravity at the end was 1.004 spg at 75 degrees F.  So the beer was very weak at about 2.8 or 3 percent.  That being said, it tastes better than most beers that I buy, and it was a lot cheaper.  I spent about 25-30 dollars on ingredients, and I was able to brew 3 cases of good beer.   I’m going to brew a strong English ale next, and use more malt and two yeasts.  If you have any other ideas about how to brew a better beer, let me know. It was exciting to see something I made grow and change over the weeks, and to be able to savor my creation. I hope that some of you who read this will consider doing the same.  Oh, and get a bottle dryer.  Get a bottle dryer.

Beer, the cause of, and solution to all of life’s problems.”
– Homer Simpson

Founders-Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale

Overall: B

Price: B+

Taste: B-

Type: Bottle

8.5% ABV-50 IBU

First off, if you don’t like Scotch style ales, you won’t like this.  And if you haven’t tried a Founders before, this isn’t a good place to start.  This beer is pretty readily available now, and I don’t think it really represents the style or Founder’s.  It’s not a terrible beer, it just has some odd notes in the bitterness which usually balance out in a traditional Scotch ale.  There are some wonderful citrus hops, especially orange, and spice notes of chesnut and hazelnut.  The beer pours a little cloudy, a deep red with brown amber edges.  It’s got a smooth start, and a bitter finish, but it’s missing something in the middle.  It’s missing real passion.  One friend, who had never had a Scotch ale before, said, “This beer tastes like blood.”  I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I don’t think it was good.  BUT, if you love Scotch ales, this is a fanastic deal for about 12 or 13 dollars a six pack.   It’s a great beer for those who want a bitter, hoppy, strong Scotch that’s drinkable and affordable.  I’m just not that into this.

Conclusion:  Great price, but only for those who love Scotch ales.  I don’t think this is Founder’s best work.  It needs to be more balanced.

Food Pairing: Corned Beef or Pastrami, Kidneys, and Haggis (obviously).

What event is more awfully important to an English colony than the erection of its first brewhouse?

-Reverend Sidney Smith

Sixpoint-Resin-Double IPA

Overall: A-

Price: B+

Taste: A

Type: Can

9.1% ABV-103 IBU

Pours a hazy golden orange, with a light amber tint, like a sunset in the forest.  The aromas are lemon, orange peel, and peach.  I expected strong hops, but the taste is surprisingly smooth, making this an easily drinkable IPA.  It’s also a pretty good price, at ten dollars for a four pack of 12 ounces.  I’d put it on par with Dogfish Head 90 minute, as a solid example of the American IPA.  If you like Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger, this is the next step up.  I have to say though, that in some ways, the hops are stronger in Bengali.  Don’t be fooled though, this is still an imperial IPA, just without the bitter punch.  I love Sixpoint for maintaining  the complexity and strength of the best.  This is the perfect IPA for people looking for complex hop taste, without the extreme bitterness associated with imperials.  The smooth creamy flavor takes over after the complex bitterness, and on multiple sips, the hops are just a joyous after thought.  I think Sixpoint should make more doubles out of their normal beers (especially a double wit based on the Crisp).

In Conclusion:  For people who are looking for a complex IPA, without the extreme bitterness.  Wonderful light lemon notes, very drinkable.

Food Pairing: Hearty and Spicy foods, especially Spicy Indian, Mackeral, and Chorizo.

Whiskey and Beer are a man’s worst enemies… but the man that runs away from his enemies is a coward!

– Zeca Pagodinho

Brewery Bus Tour: Update

Good news!

If you couldn’t make the September 22nd Brewery Bus Tour, we’re doing another one on November 17.  We’re heading to all the same places (Weyerbacher, Fegley’s, and Riverhorse), so get your tickets now before they sell out.  Just go to http://www.twogirlsonepint.com, and click on the brewery bus tour flyer.  Also, keep an eye out for more information about bus tours coming in December and January.  It’s going to be a blast!

God made yeast, as well as dough, and he loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Magic Hat-Blind Faith IPA

Type: Bottle

6.2% ABV

60 IBU

C

Magic Hat makes a series of IPAs and Pale-ales, many of which are quite good.  Sadly, Blind Faith isn’t one of them.  The brew pours a hazy dark copper.  It has a decent malt base.   On tasting, there are immediate notes of stone fruit and creamy fat, but even those feel thin, and any detectable hops are lightly laced into the end.  When the hops finally come on, they evoke a hint of citrus bitterness, but don’t feel specific. Each sip I had tasted different than the one before.  The aromas don’t particularly evoke an IPA, and it certainly doesn’t taste like one.  The hops don’t feel nearly powerful enough.  For example, I think #9 has more hops than this, and that’s a slightly pale ale.  Blind Faith tastes more like a malty pale ale, than a proper British IPA.  I was very disappointed with this beer.  In the past, Magic Hat has fostered a balance of hops and malts, creating some really interesting and unique brews.  Blind Faith just doesn’t add up. The beer provides  a deep syrupy malt, with a hint of hops, and very little to get excited about.  For 10-12 dollars a six pack, it’s a pretty good deal, but the beer is lacking, so ‘ll give it a B for price.

In Conclusion: A decent beer, but not a very good IPA.  I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re devoted to Magic Hat.

Food Pairing: Roasted garlic, mushrooms, and potatoes.  Slow-roasted meats.

You sit back in the darkness, nursing your beer, breathing in that ineffable aroma of the old-time saloon: dark wood, spilled beer, good cigars, and ancient whiskey – the sacred incense of the drinking man

-Bruce Aidells

Ommegang-Abbey Ale

Type: Bottle

8.5% ABV

25 IBU

A-

Ommegang does a great job of duplicating Belgian recipes for an American audience, and their Dubbel does not disappoint.  Abbey was Ommegang’s first beer, and I can’t think of a better way to start off a Belgian style brewery.  After 15 years on the market, Abbey Ale is still one of the standards for American Belgians and an original take on Trappist Dubbels, without ever straying too far from tradition.  The brew pours a cloudy dark amber (almost caramel), but has a small head for such a distinct Dubbel.  When the bubbles and yeast hit your tongue, the aromas are rich and complex, complimented by the creamy yeasts.  The roasted malts dominate the initial flavoring with a hint of  dark candied sugar.  As the beer swooshes around the palate, the sugars expand, providing notes of prune, peach, orange, raisin,  and anise.  You can taste the beauty and fullness of the belgian yeasts, and yet the whole experience still feels light and refreshing.  The beer actually finishes quite dry, making it very drinkable.  There’s still not quite enough yeast for me, possibly because I’m so into classic Belgian Dubbels.  Also, I would have preferred the ending to be  a little less dry.  Many people will give this beer a solid A, or even an A+.  However, despite it’s incredible flavor profile, I still feel like something’s missing (probably the yeast).  A Belgian Dubbel should feel fuller, and not so syrupy.  This beer, at times, tastes more like a dark Tripel.  I also feel like this would have been better in the 750ml bottle.  The 12oz just doesn’t give it enough room.  But, at 10-12 dollars a four pack (or 7 for a 750 ml), there aren’t any Belgians that can compete.  Therefore, Abbey Ale definitely deserves an A+ for price.

In Conclusion: A great take on a traditional Dubbel, and a perfect beer for Belgian lovers on a budget.  This is an awesome brew to introduce anyone to the Trappist style.  However, the beer can be a bit too sweet out of the 12 oz bottle.

Food Pairing: Large italian dishes, and any meats cooked with a lot of spice and flavor.  Abbey Ale can also be used as a marinade for mushrooms, onions, or chicken (much like a Cabernet).

All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me – so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer.”

-Homer Simpson

Weyerbacher-Blithering Idiot Barley-Wine Style Ale

Type: Bottle

11.1% ABV

35 IBU

A-

One of the best Barley-Wines in America, Blithering Idiot showcases the two things which Weyerbacher does best: high alcohol content and smooth drinkability.  Idiot pours a dark brownish red and the head is fluffy, but thin.  As it hits the glass, the brew exposes the scents of plums, figs, and honey.  If you’ve never had a Barley-wine (or Barley-Wine Style Ale), the first sip can be shocking.  It’s got a big kick of alcohol, which thankfully emerges from a smooth creamy sweetness.  Slight citrus hops sustain throughout, as the beer manages to balance the alcohol of the dark fruits with full bodied notes of coffee, caramel, walnuts, and molasses.  You can definitely taste the influence of sweeter Barley-wines, but Weyerbacher has found a way of grounding this ale in a dense bouquet.  Blithering Idiot is a solidly priced Barley-Wine, at around 12 dollars a four pack.  I’d give that an A-.  There are comparable Barley-Wines on the market, but Blithering Idiot is definitely one of the stand outs  due to its mosaic of dark undertones. My only complaint is that, if it’s not aged long enough, the alcohol can overwhelm the subtle intricacies. For a first time Barley-Wine drinker, this might be a big step.  However, for those who fiend for the sweet warmth that comes from a night of sipping yeast by a fire, look no farther than this strong, hearty, excellent American ale.

In Conclusion: Blithering Idiot is very drinkable for a beer which harkens back to the flavors of an English Barley-Wine, and it’s great for aging.   The longer you age it, the more vibrant the notes of the hops, fruits, and nuts will become (Weyerbacher says the best by date is 5 years after bottling, so they aren’t goofing around).

Food Pairing: Roasted meats, bacon, and bleu cheese.  Anything you would pair with figs, dates, and raisins, you can pair with this.

“Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies come to life and fade away. What care I how time advances; I am drinking ale today.”

-Edgar Allen Poe

Ommegang-Hennepin

Type: Bottle

7.7% ABV

25 IBU

A

Probably Ommegang’s most  accessible beer, Hennepin remains the strongest and freshest American Saison I’ve had to date.  The brew, named for Father Hennepin who informed Europeans of the beauty of Niagara Falls, mimics the monstrous and crisp sound of Niagara’s cascading beauty. Hennepin pours a beautiful golden yellow with a white foamy head.  The light aromas of sweet pear and honey bubble off the glass.  When it hits the tongue, the beer tastes sharp and full, with an earthy yeasty body, and notes of coriander, lemon, and spice.   It cleans the palet and infuses the senses with a fruity, doughy, and herbal vigor.  Hennepin is very drinkable, even with its deep complexity and spicy accents.  It’s an excellent beer which has helped Ommegang continue the astounding success of their Belgian-style Brewery in Cooperstown.  At ten to twelve dollars a four pack (eight dollars for a 750 ml long neck bottle), I’d also give Hennepin an A for price.  You won’t find many cheaper Saisons, and none of them are as good as this one (even the Belgians).  If you’ve never had an Ommegang, this is a great way to start a relationship with one of America’s best craft breweries.

In Conclusion: Perhaps the greatest American Saison, a fresh, earthy addition to any meal, and one of Ommegang’s best brews.  This is a wonderful beer for late evenings in the summer and early fall, with good friends and light conversation.

Food Pairing: Spicy asian dishes, especially those with seafood and ginger.

“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.”

-Dave Barry

THE FIRST EVER TWO-GIRLS, ONE-PINT BREWERY BUS TOUR

Hey, this is just a reminder that Two-Girls, One-Pint recently announced their Inaugural NYC Brewery Bus Tour!  Here are the details:

On Saturday September 22, your favorite brewery web-series, Two-Girls, One-Pint, is taking a bus of fifty lucky New Yorkers to three of the Best Breweries on the East coast. We’re starting the day at the Pony Bar in Manhattan.  Once there, everyone should use the bathroom and grab a drink, because then we’re driving our bus out to Pennsylvania (there will be bathrooms on the bus, so don’t FREAK OUT).  On the bus ride out, they’ll be games, entertainment, and maybe even some beer (wink, WINK).  Sooner or later, we’ll arrive at our first destination, Fegley’s Brewery, in Allentown, PA.

Fegley’s are known for their India Pale Ales (I previously reviewed their triple IPA), and their Blueberry Belch, Rude-Elf’s Reserve, ESB, and Chain Link Pilsner (all silver medal winners at the World Beer Championship).  They also have a wide variety of seasonals, as well as fantastic food (just look at their menu: http://www.thebrewworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/ABW-Menu-ver-10-web.pdf), so we’ll be eating a meal there along with our tasting and tour of the facilities. After we fill up on food and beer at Fegley’s, we’ll take a short drive over to Weyerbacher in Easton, PA, one of the most famous craft breweries in the North-East.

Weyerbacher, renowned for their “huge” beers, have been awarded several times in recent years for their achievements in brewing. In 2010, they took home the bronze at the Great American Beer Festival for their Imperial Pumpkin Ale, and they also received a bronze at the World Beer Cup for their Merry Monks Belgian Style Tripel.  And in 2011, Weyerbacher was awarded a gold at the Great American Beer Festival for one of their famous “anniversary” beers, Sixteen (an incredible modern day Braggot).  Some of their other celebrated brews include a Double Simcoe IPA, a Blithering Idiot Barley-wine (a review of which is coming shortly), and the “Quad”.  They were also one of the first breweries to implement the idea of aging beers in wooden casks, a fad which has now caught on across America.  After a tour and tasting at their superb facilities, we’ll drive the bus back toward the city stopping at our final brewery for the day, Riverhorse, in Lambertville, NJ.

The Riverhorse Brewing Company, located on the Delaware River, is probably best known for their Triple-horse (previously reviewed), Hop Hazard IPA, and Special Amber Ale, all widely available in NYC.  They have several excellent seasonal beers including an awesome Imperial Pumpkin Ale and a smooth Double Wit-Belgian Style Wheat.  They also happen to be New Jersey’s oldest craft brewery.  And, like Fegley’s and Weyerbacher, they have many unique concoctions which are only available for tasting at their facility in New Jersey.  We’ll receive a private tour and another group of tastings at Riverhorse before we head back to the city.   And don’t worry, they’ll be more beer related entertainment on the way back (if everyone’s up for it of course).

Now, get this: Tickets are only 79 bucks! (includes all three tastings, a meal at Fegley’s, the round trip bus ticket, plus games and surprises).  And we’ll back in the city by 9:30pm, in case you want to go out and brag to your friends about all  the amazing things you’ve seen (and drank).  So come on!  Join us!  If you love beer, if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about craft brewing, or if you just want to try some amazing beers that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, this is the tour for you.  I promise, you wouldn’t want to miss this for the world!

Buy your tickets now at: twogirlsonepint.com

Any questions? Email me at: Josh@twogirlsonepint.com

Shawneecraft-Bourbon Entire Porter

Type: Draft

Place: The Mint in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

6.5& ABV

30 IBU

B+

Shawneecraft’s porter proves to be an extremely smooth and clean porter for a good price. The draft pours a beautiful cloudy dark brown (almost opaque), with a small head. It smells of roasted malt, coffee, and smoked wood.  On tasting, the malt is really light for a porter of this strength, and there’s wonderful touches of bourbon.  Inside the bourbon are notes of smoked oak and a hint of coffee.    However, my main complaint about this porter, is that all of these tastes fade too quickly.  The lack of lasting aromas makes this beer very drinkable, but also lowers the strength and complexity of the brew.  For price, it’s even with other porters of it’s caliber, so I’d give it a B.

In Conclusion:  A great porter, but lacks the lasting complexity of the best.  However, this is a fantastic beer for bourbon drinkers (like me), who also enjoys porters and stouts.

Food Pairing: Rich and creamy foods. Duck, or roast pork, and sweet cheeses.

On an additional note, the Mint in Bethlehem, PA is a great place to go for dinner or drinks.  They have a huge selection of craft beer (draft and bottled) and also offer inspired gastropub dishes at good prices. I thoroughly recommend stopping by if you’re in the area, and if you see Chef Mimmo, talk to him about the food and beer.  He’s very friendly and knows as much as anybody about food/beer pairings.

“The roots and herbes beaten and put into new ale or beer and daily drunk, cleareth, strengtheneth and quickeneth the sight of the eyes.”

-Nicholas Culpeper