August 20, 2011

General ramblings

I'm stuck at home this weekend, left to my own devices. My wife is visiting friends in Boulder, CO and as I type is at Avery Brewery enjoying beer. I was unable to go since I have entirely too much schoolwork to do, even though it is only the first week of class. However, I am still enjoying a world of beer tonight. I recently scored a bottle of Liefman Goudenband and Cuvee Brut, an oud bruin-liek provisional ale and an oud bruin-based kriek, respectively. I also brought home a smattering of early oktoberfests (all American, fairly widespread breweries) and a few household favorites we haven't had in a while. Unfortunately, I left behind a lot of beers I really wanted to try (such as the Jester King and Mekkeller hoppy wheat) because I was already buying $50 of beer. Fortunately I was able to buy the beers in single-bottle incremenets, thanks to the generous policy at Central Market that allows you to break six packs (and four packs) for a slight premium. It's worth the premium (~$2 for a bottle) to get to sample many beers rather than paying $8-10 for a six pack of something less than enjoyable or pay $5-8 for a pint at a pub.

Additionally, I am enjoying drinking on and off homebrew and some of the beer I bought. I am currently drinking one of the last two homebrews of the brown ale made from grains I roasted myself. It has held up ok. It has sort of a rustic, hand-made quality that smacks of amateur roasting. After this it's time to sample the Redhook ESB.

I am also brewing up a one gallon batch of a 60 shilling Scottish ale, made out of the leftover ounces of various grains and hops from prior recipes where the shop required me to buy in larger amounts than I needed or gave me too much. It's going to be a whopping 2.8% ABV, so a session beer for sure. At any rate, it's an easy way to curb my growing desire to brew without adding a huge volume or exhausting a recipe waiting to be made. At this time, I'm sitting on about 23 gallons of homebrew, comprised of beer, cider and mead. I also have a gallon of mead fermenting, six gallons of lambic in the solara, one gallon of dark saison for my Christmas beer and now this additional gallon. I like brewing even more than drinking, so every time I start to drink down my stash I find ways to build it back up quicker than I can take it out. I have several wheat beers in the waiting but they are 3-5 gallon batches so I don't want to brew them until I can bring my stash down into the mid-teens. Plus, they are good summer beers more than anything so I may try to hold out until late winter or spring next year to brew them.

I have plenty of dark beer and high ABV Belgian ales that will be great in the winter but are all a little too heavy to be good summer beers. Right now the wife is enjoying the kolsch I made for her this spring, although it seems to have a bit of an infection growing in the bottle. My hope is that she will finish the batch by the end of the summer with 17 bottles left. I've been trying to drink the last few bottles of several 2010 batches to clear room and clear out the older beers. Those Belgian beers will stand up to aging, even over several years, but the brown ale and wild ale and and random other things need to go before age starts to degrade the quality.

We started the summer with 22 types of bottled homebrew and right now we still have 19. It's great to have so much variety but it's also somewhat limiting. When you have so much beer and so many types on hand but you want to try out some new commercial beers or just mix in an old favorite it's easy to reject buying beer when you have so much on hand it would seem like a waste to buy more with so much free at home.

Changing gears a bit, fall and winter are definitely the best beer times. Fall brings oktoberfests and pumpkin beers. While I am not a tremendous pumpkin beer fan, the wife is. However, we are both huge, huge oktoberfest fans. Maybe more importantly, winter is the time for those steller winter warmers. Belgian Noels and American/English winter warmers makes winter the best season of all. I'm not always a fan of the American winter warmers but I have yet to meet a Belgian Noel I didn't love. I find some American winter warmers are too heavy handed with the spices, which makes the beer completely lost and gives the impression I am drinking a water gingerbread smoothie. Too much!!!!! I'll be interested to see how my Noel -- the dark saison with brett, dark candi sugar and cinnamon -- will turn out. Maybe good, maybe gross.

Winter will also bring the end of the school semester (yay!) and Christmas and the first refill of the lambic solara. I am beyond excited to taste this beer and get to bottle some. Once I am making some of that lawyer skrilla and move into a bigger house I will have room for multiple solaras and really get into blending lambics of different ages and make phenomenal beer. I'd also seriously consider starting an oud bruin solara, which I think would be fairly easy if fermented with only saccharomyces and lactobacillus. I have two corney kegs that would probably be perfect for that process.

Lastly, I also have several cuttings of various hop varieties recently endowed upon me that seem like a promising start to next year's hops garden. My planted sterling was doing ok until the locusts chewed up almost all the leaves while I was gone on my honeymoon in June and the drought and incredible heat have dried up the rest of the plant. My Mt. Hood is struggling under the same conditions. I hope the root crown is sufficient to survive the rest of the summer to return next year. The cuttings I received went into water with some rooting hormone. The cuttings are Brewer's Gold, Swiss Tettnanger, Styrian Goldings, Strisselspalt, Precoce de Bourgogne and Tardif de Bourgogne. So far the Brewer's Gold seems to be dying off and the Tardif is really struggling. If I get four new plants going, I'll consider it a success. Tomorrow I plan on transferring them into some potting soil and letting them build some roots over the fall for a hopeful return in the spring. I'd like to reconstruct the hop garden to support all of them. Over the winter I want to transfer all the plants into grow bags with a better mix of topsoil, a little native soil and lots of quality fertilizer so they can grow better than the haphazard garden I whipped up this spring. The sterling will hopefully hop a delicious new batch of gratzer and the rest will be great additions to various Belgian styles and whatever else I can find to use them in, provided next summer is more forgiving than this one.

Ok, I think that's all the general ramblings for tonight. I have some other ideas working for future beers I'll share as I better compose those ideas.

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