September 26, 2012

Spelt Saison Tasting/Review/Criticism

Sorry I don't do very distinct reviews on my beers, at least those that I'm not happy with. These notes are really reminders to myself what I need to change in the next rendition. 

Several misses on this recipe.

I was concerned about how much yeast character I would get from this beer since the weekend I brewed it was unnaturally cool for August. Sure enough, the beer is lacking a lot of the big yeast flavor a warmer fermentation would have provided. I left the beer in the low 70s and tried to finish warm in the upper 80s but obviously I did not get the Dupont dregs I used get warm enough in this beer to bring out some big flavors. There's hints of pepper and clove but not a lot of the more funky and fruity flavors that should be present.

The spelt makes for a nice flavor complex, so I'm happy with that. The oats were definitely a wrong decision. The body is way too thick for a saison even though I kind of like the slight oat flavor. I guess I should have added table sugar along with it to balance the body. Otherwise, the munich was a little too light to give it a sweet edge.

The first wort hopping was also a mistake. There's not a lot, if any, hop flavor coming through and the beer needs more bitterness that a regular 90 minute addition would have provided. It also needed some flameout or dry hop additions to create some hop aroma.

Not the worst beer I've ever made. Not even the worst of the year. Actually as it warms up, like most saisons, it gets more complex and flavorful. However, I'm not happy with the notes above so next year I will look towards modifying the grain bill to cut out the oats and probably the vienna and aromatic as well. I'll definitely use a more standard hopping profile and maybe play around with using some more noticeable hops in the aroma. I'll also add some table sugar to the boil to help thin the beer out. Additionally, a really warm fermentation will be necessary to drive those flavors out.

I won't try brewing another saison until the warm months approach next year so I'll have plenty of time to fine tune my thoughts.

September 24, 2012

Petrus Aged Pale Clone

Petrus aged pale is an interesting brew. It's not dark like a flanders red or oud bruin but not funky like a lambic. For a sour beer, it's got a lot of bitterness to it from the unusually large amounts of hops for a sour beer. Usually sour beers are very lowly hopped but aged pale is very much a pale ale gone sour. It is not only sold as a beer in its own right but it's also blended with a clean brown ale to produce Petrus Oud Bruin.

My wife has taken a particular fondness for the aged pale so I agreed to brew her up a batch of a clone, although I also plan on drinking a good portion of it myself. Fortunately, Wild Brews does a good job of discussing this beer and provides a solid clone recipe. The same recipe formed the basis for my clone. The difference is that I am using up the last of a couple bags of hops so I changed the types of hops to fit my needs. Otherwise, everything is kept the same. The beer is going to be fermented initially with the yeast strain I bottle harvested from a bottle of South Austin Golden Ale. I can't tell exactly what strain it is but some websites suggested it is a trappist strain. The South Austin Golden Ale has a lot of the pear notes typical to the Duvel-inspired style but more fruity notes common to tripels. The fermented beer will be racked to secondary in a corny keg and the dregs of a bottle of the aged pale will provide the souring.

Here is the recipe I am using for a five gallon batch. That's right, I'm deviating from my usual gallon recipes.

Batch size: 5.0 gallons
OG: 1.054
Est. FG: 1.012
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 26.0
ABV: 5.51%

Grain bill:
9lb Belgian Pilsner (2.0 SRM)
1lb Carahell (10.0 SRM)

Mash temp: 154F for 60 minutes

Boil volume: 6.5 gallons

Boil time: 90 minutes

Boil additions:
0.30oz Magnum (14%) (90 min)
0.50oz EKG (5%) (90 min)
0.35oz Saaz (4%) (0 min)

Fermentation schedule:
Pitch South Austin Golden Ale strain in 1 liter starter at 68F
Ferment at 66F for 24 hours
Ferment at 72F for 24 hours
Ferment at 76F for 24 hours
Free rise for 11 days
Rack to secondary, add Petrus dregs
Ferment at ambient temperatures for 6-12 months.
September 20, 2012

Homebrew for non-beer geeks?

I'm in my last semester of law school and after graduating I have ten rough months of hardcore bar studying, followed by a three day test. After passing the test, I am planning to throw quite the fiesta. I'd like to put out some homebrew to cover the beer end of the liquid libations (there will also be liquor) but I need to put out something that will appeal to the handful of people who will enjoy craft beer and those who drink beer as an alcohol delivery system. Since school has really gotten in the way of throwing parties, I'm not terribly experienced with finding the right recipes to meet those needs. I know I could brew something really basic, like a very simple blonde ale, but I'm trying to make my job more difficult by choosing something that I'll want to drink if we end up with several bottles left after the party.

I have a big 3L bottle of Chimay Gran Reserve for the party. I'm also going to fill my party pig with an ESB for sort of a cask option, so that will give the craft drinkers bold enough to drink room temperature, under-carbonated beer something to drink. However, I think I could use a little more beer and something more widely appealing.

I know there's several usual go-to beers suggested but I've struck, or at least put on the bottom of the list, several for one reason or another:

  • Simple blonde ale - it would be a fine choice and probably the most widely drank across the crowd but as I said, I don't want to end up with a lot of that left behind. I guess it's still on the table since it's an option that works but I would rather not.
  • Hefeweizen - a good option on its own but a lot of people, both craft and non-craft drinkers, don't like hefeweizen. I've also had a rough go at trying to lock down the right yeast profile, so I would rather not find myself in the position of trying to force that beer on people.
  • Lagers: nice idea but I haven't made a lager and it seems like the wrong time to try it.
  • Belgian blonde - a better option than a generic blonde ale but I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of the Belgian flavor.
  • Stout - a fine option for craft drinkers, but non-craft drinkers think of stout as a very acrid, filling beer and probably wouldn't drink very much. Porter is probably struck for the same reason.
  • English brown ale - another simple option that I don't want to get stuck with at the end of the night. I would keep it as an option but it would be too much like the ESB so people who drink the ESB probably won't want to drink the brown ale, too.
  • Pale ale - too hoppy for non-craft drinkers.
  • Kolsch - similarly probably too hoppy for non-craft drinkers.
Some options on the table:
  • American wheat - a not-too-hoppy American wheat would be a reasonable option with enough flavor for craft drinkers to enjoy but not too much for non-craft drinkers. 
  • Amber ale - similarly, an amber would be a good option but I'd be afraid it would be too similar to the ESB in flavor.
  • Alt - I like a good alt but it's pretty much an amber ale so I don't know if it would be drank a lot with the ESB sitting over there. I don't know, maybe I am overthinking who will drink the ESB. 
  • Blonde/Belgian Blonde - still on the table, although I'd rather not.
Right now I'm leaning towards the ESB cask plus an American wheat and maybe keep a few of my personal supply of homebrew available for the craft drinkers to try. I need to make a decision soon, because I'm about to make another big grain purchase for my 2013 brews and plan ahead to brew those beers in time for the party.

So what do you think? What goes over well with your non-craft drinking friends that doesn't bore your craft drinking friends to tears? Leave comments and let me know what I should do.
September 17, 2012

A couple tastings over the weekend

Over the weekend I popped open a couple of my newer homebrews to see how they were doing. Unfortunately it was not as pleasant of an experience as I had hoped.

First was the perry I brewed a few months ago. I knew it would be light on flavor since I really watered it down but it is a lot lighter than I expected. There is very little pear flavor, it is a very gentle flavor but because of how thin it is there is a lot of unpleasant cidery flavor that comes across like an off flavor. I guess I shouldn't have watered it down at all. It is more cidery at cool temperatures but at room temperature more of the pear comes out and it's not too bad. Definitely not worth the price of pear juice in my opinion. I've made better cider (not that it was great) using just fermented store-brand apple juice and considerably better using frozen apple juice concentrate and tea bags (adds some tannins and complexity). Since I got the juice on sale at a very good price it was worth the experiment.

Second came the third rendition of dogtails, this time as a sour mashed version. The sourness is fantastic. It is tart and cleanly sour. That's great. The problem is right after the sourness comes a horrible garbage/sewage flavor that reminds me of when I tasted the first attempt at that brett saison after only three months. What's odd about it is this beer has already sat for nine months, which is the same amount of time I let the second version ferment and it didn't have any of that terrible flavor. Like the first batch, time cured the problem but it took a lot of time. Almost two years. So I guess I will commit the remaining 21 bottles to a very long storage. I will look at bringing this beer back out around May, at which time it will be 17 months old. If it still sucks, more time. I have decided this will be my last go with this particular culture. I don't feel like the flavor is so special that it deserves two years to reach a drinkable place. I could easily make a brett saison with a commercial brett strain and drink it 3-6 months after brewing. 
September 14, 2012

Wit...No Clever Name Yet

I've been a fan of wheat beers for about as long as I have been drinking craft beer but I never really got on board with wits until the past couple years. Most of my experiences that turned me off from the style were drinking Hoegaarden and Hoegaarden-like wits with overwhelming amounts of coriander. The overspicing makes the beer unenjoyable. (I am even less inspired by White IPAs, which as best I can tell means a bastardized we-can-make-anything-an-IPA wit with a ton of hops. Exactly what the style is supposed to lack. And if you are going to make a white IPA, do us all a favor and don't call it a wit.) It wasn't until I decided to give the style another try and tasted Blanche de Brussels. Blanche has a lot of spice character, specifically chamomile, but it's also light, refreshing and well balanced. Since then, I have found a lot of other wits I enjoy as well, including Wittekirke and 512 Wit.

What really nailed down the style for me was a wit-ish beer I had at Funkwerks. Funkwerks White is a wit-style beer but fermented with saison yeast. It's full of character from the yeast and spice additions. Saison yeast isn't too far off from wit yeast. Both give off peppery notes but you can usually coax out more fruit esters from the saison yeast at higher temperatures. What I found really interesting is the combination of spice additions they use. White included orange peel, coriander, ginger, chamomile and grapefruit peel. Yeah, grapefruit peel. It came through in a really interesting way as citrusy but also tart and very distinguishable. Unfortunately, the wise brewers at Funkwerks have decided to swap out grapefruit peel for lemon peel because they felt the grapefruit left an unwelcomed bitterness. Personally I liked the grapefruit but I'd like to try the White with lemon peel next time I'm in Colorado.

Following my new-found appreciation for the style I decided to try my hand at a recipe. Specifically, I wanted to formulate a recipe that combined the smooth character of Blanche with the complex flavor and citrus character of White. I definitely wanted to avoid overdoing the spices or making anything that would resemble a white IPA. I envisioned a grain bill that would keep some of the rustic feel so I kept out any complex specialty malts. Instead, I made the beer mostly wheat (both malted and unmalted) with some two row and pilsner malt for some grainy character. A touch of oats will help add smoothness to the body but also add to the rustic flavor. However, all that wheat and oat will make a very thick beer so a sugar addition in the kettle will help thin out the beer.

No wit is complete without some fun in the kettle. A later hop addition for bitterness would help add a hint of hop flavor and enough bitterness to balance the beer without the sharper bitterness of a 60 minute addition. The yeast character needs to come through in a big way but I also wanted to add small amounts of a few spices to give the beer some added complexity. I chose coriander, sweet orange peel and grapefruit as spice additions. I also wanted to add a little wheat flour to help ensure good haze and a little more starchy flavor. I have some concerns that all the wheat, oats and wheat flour will make the beer too thick for the style, even with the table sugar addition.

Bottle of harvested yeast and boil additions
The yeast came out of a bottle of Adelbert's Naked Nun Wit. I'm not sure what strain it might be since the brewery claims it is proprietary. This beer was my first attempt at using my fermentation chamber to control fermentation temperatures so I needed to think about the right temperatures for a wit strain. As a Belgian strain, it pumps out flavor at warmer temperatures but since a wit doesn't need the fruity esters produced at warmer temperatures as much as it needs the phenolic flavors produced at lower temperatures, it needs to start cool and warm up to fully attenuate.

So here is the one gallon recipe:

Batch size: 1 gallon
ABV: 4.73%
IBU: 14.2
SRM: 3.3
Efficiency: 75%
Est. OG: 1.048
Est. FG: 1.012

0.38lb. white wheat malt
0.25lb. Belgian two row
0.25lb. Belgian pilsner
0.50lb flaked wheat
0.13lb. flaked oats

Step mash:
Dough in at 89 for 10 minutes
Raise to 148F for 15 minutes
Raise to 158F for 45 minutes
Mash out at 168 for 10 minutes

Boil volume: 1.14 gallons
Boil time: 60 minutes

Boil additions:
0.20oz EKG 5% at 30 minutes
0.15oz whole wheat flour at 10 minutes
0.13lb. table sugar at 10 minutes
0.05 oz grapefruit peel at flame out
0.05oz sweet orange peel at flame out
0.5 tsp crushed coriander at flame out

Bottle harvested Adelbert's Naked Nun Wit

Fermentation schedule:
12 hours at 64F
12 hours at 68F
48 hours at 72F
Ambient temperature (~75F) for 18 days (all in primary)

As I write it is in the midst of aging at ambient temperature. Fermentation was restrained at the lower temperatures and seemed to carry on for a long time. Smell is peppery and wheaty. Although krausen dropped (mostly) by day four the beer remained cloudy until day eight, at which point it obtained some clarity but some haze remains.

This is the first run at the recipe but so far I'm happy with it. I am concerned about the body being too thick. If that is the case, I'll start off with axing the wheat flour and increasing the sugar addition. I'll also be sensitive to whether the yeast strain gives me as much character as I want in the beer and look to adjust the spices up or down. I may also play with some ginger or chamomile additions.

Spelt Saison Recipe

I am ending my brewing drought with this spelt saison recipe I concocted last November. After playtime at Funkwerks in Colorado I am really hyped up about saison like a kid on Christmas, so what better way to benefit from that excitement but to brew a nice saison?

Unlike my brett saison brewed here, here and here in different formats, I wanted to go with a more simple saison recipe to round out the summer. Besides, I just bottled two gallons of sour mashed brett saison (the third link above) if I want something more funky to drink.

I decided to go with a solid saison strain and no yeast depicts saison more than the Dupont strain. Although many people despise the Dupont strain for it's laziness at low temperatures (often depicted as slow to finish), it's one of the best strains for that rustic, saison flavor. Lost Abbey uses the Dupont strain for flavor but pitches it with 3711 for attenuation. With it being in the 90s-100s in Texas for the next few weeks, I'm not too afraid of finding a home for this beer that will ensure full attenuation. I bottle harvested this yeast, which worked surprisingly well since the bottle had a 2011 cork and had sat in my fridge for about five months before opening it last week. Many people also seem to have problems getting the bottle harvesting to kick off but I had visible activity after a couple days. (I also have a bottle of Jester King Le Petit Prince I plan on bottle harvesting from because I really like the yeast they use and I think it is superior to Dupont in flavor and aroma but it's good to have options and I'm sure Dupont will work great here.)

To give the beer a slight twist I wanted to use spelt instead of wheat malt or unmalted wheat in the grist. Spelt is getting a lot of attention, especially in saisons, Spelt actually is a wheat species but it has a different flavor from common wheat. It's being grown more thanks to attention from the organic and health food industries. Spelt has a nutty, slightly sweeter flavor than common wheat (the usual red and white varieties) that adds a different set of flavors than regular wheat but will still add the haze and head retaining proteins one wants in an unmalted grain, although you can find malted spelt. If you are on the lookout for spelt, you may be able to find it at local organic/health food stores but it may be expensive. Check local prices at food stores against prices at homebrew shops. It's expensive either way but I've heard of people seeing spelt for $4/lb at food stores but malted spelt for a little over $2/lb at homebrew shops. I'm not really sure how different the two are, especially as a specialty grain added for flavor.

Additionally, I decided to add some oats to the recipe. I usually am not a fan of adding things at the last minute or adding without purpose but I decided the oats would help add that saison haze and some body and add some depth along with the spelt. This is the same reason I decided to leave out any table sugar additions to dry out the beer. So the oats used here are grocery store, quick oats. Since they are pre-gelatinized they don't need a cereal mash. Just direct addition to the mash.

One other note before I outline the recipe, I decided to go ahead and try first wort hopping in place of my bittering addition. I've wanted to try FWH for a while but finally decided today was the day to pull the trigger. Let me say, I am a convert. The aroma from the FWH'd wort was incredible. The aroma was powerful but delicate rather than bitter. So we'll see how that turns out. I know there is conflicting opinions on how much bitterness it will contribute but I'll find out for myself.

Ok, enough blabbing, here's the recipe. Note: This recipe is one gallon, should you want to copy the recipe for a larger batch you need to multiply everything by the number of gallons you want to brew.

One gallon post-boil
1.2 gallons pre-boil
0.6 gallons mash water at 166F strike
1.0 gallons sparge water at 180F
90 minute boil

1lb. Belgian Pilsner Malt 52.08%
0.25lb. Vienna Malt 13.02%
0.25lb. Unmalted Spelt 13.02%
0.19lb. Munich Malt 9.9% (0.19lb. = 3oz)
0.13lb. Aromatic Malt 6.77% (0.13lb.= 2oz)
0.10lb. Quick Cook Oats 5.21% (0.10lb. = 1.5oz)

Hop Additions:
0.25oz EKG 5% AA at FWH
0.25oz EKG 5% AA at 5 minutes

Pitched slurry from 400ml starter at 85F, activity within four hours.

OG: 1.053
Est. FG: 1.011
Est Color: 7.4
IBUs 31.3
Est. ABV 5.42%

This recipe would be fine to play with some spices although the yeast character should be bold enough to bypass the need for spices. This recipe could also easily be retooled as a non-spelt recipe by replacing the spelt with unmalted wheat, malted wheat, unmalted rye, malted rye, emmer, buckwheat, or other grains of your choosing.

Wild Ale 2.0 -- Two Months

It's been about two months since I rebrewed the wild ale and I thought I would check in on it. Like other irregular beers, there's a lot of waiting and not a lot of exciting changes to see along the way.

The beer has dropped brilliantly clear, which is a bit surprising for a beer with a lot of wheat in it. There is a very thin, light pellicle. I rocked the fermentor gently to see if any of the ropy character I saw in the starter would carry over. I didn't see any. I'm not even thinking about giving it a taste yet because last time I brewed this beer and tasted it two or three months in it was a huge diacetyl bomb. No reason to relive that. I seem to think the brett character really started to show up around month three or four so I'll continue to review and update if anything exciting changes.
September 12, 2012

Lambic Solera Update #10: Project is still rolling

It's been a couple months since I last wrote about the ongoing saga of my lambic solera so I thought I'd offer a few quick points.

Over the weekend I did a side-by-side comparison of the straight lambic and the framboise. The framboise is definitely better carbonated so I think the addition of wine yeast at bottling was extremely successful at maintaining some carbonation to the beer. So that will be an ongoing part of my process, probably with all of my sours. The straight lambic maintained some fizz but at an obviously lower level of carbonation. If I had to guess I'd say the framboise was carbonated to somewhere around 1.5 volumes of CO2 and the straight lambic around 1 or slightly less. So it's well within style but I find that extra bit of carbonation helps spruce up the acidity. The straight lambic is still showing lots of cherry pie and funk with the acidity but the acidity is definitely smoother and less biting than at bottling. The framboise has great color and the raspberry is tucked well into both the aroma and flavor of the lambic. It's not overwhelming but the acidity is definitely sharper. I enjoy both a lot but I enjoy the straight lambic slightly more just because the fruit covers up some of that great cherry pie aroma and flavor in the lambic. It's nice to have that variety though. I definitely plan on doing another fruit when I pull the next round in December.

The main solera is still running as expected. It is crystal clear with a not-too-interesting pellicle. It is very thin and shiny. The sour brown I inoculated with dregs from a bottle of this lambic has a dusty white pellicle, which is what I seem to recall the solera had about this time last year. I'm not too worried about how the pellicle looks (even if it means no cool pictures to show) as long as it is doing its job. The solera smells tart and very lambic-like. No signs of acetobacter in either appearance or smell. My plan remains the same to pull three gallons in December and replace it with three fresh gallons (last year I pulled and replaced four gallons). One gallon will be bottled, one gallon will be aged an additional six months on fruit (probably blackberries) and one gallon will be set aside to make gueuze next year.

The gallon from last year I set aside for gueuze is still about the same. There is a patchy white pellicle with a couple patches that seem to be growing in thickness. I don't know what that means, and I don't particularly care, as long as it is doing its job. I don't open that beer for fear of disturbing the pellicle and losing it to acetobacter so I have no idea how it smells or tastes. I do know it is a slightly darker color than the solera, which is just an effect of continued aging. I assume it probably tastes about the same as the lambic in the bottles, since they were all pulled at the same time.

I've been very sparing in drinking the lambic because I want to make sure I enjoy it the whole year and I hope to keep a bottle behind for a vertical tasting some day in the future. Right now I have around a gallon and a half of the straight lambic and about 2/3 of a gallon of the framboise. I thought for sure I would be out of lambic by spring but I guess thanks to my busy schedule and commitment to trying to kill off the remainder of several prior batches I have been very patient with it so far. It also helps that we are starting to see more sour beers in the store and on tap so we can mix in commercial sours with our own.

Unless something super awesome happens with these beers I'll probably leave it alone until the brew/bottling approaches in December.
September 10, 2012

Party Pig...

The party pig, as best as I can tell, has been around homebrewing for a while. It's popularity has seemed to wane in the past few years I've been actively homebrewing although I get the impression that it never really caught on like it could have. Between direct competition from the tap-a-draft system, people rigging those Miller and Coors "home draft" systems to be refillable and the overall growth of home kegerator/keezer set ups, the party pig seems to be a struggling product. Nonetheless, I do see people asking about it from time to time and I think it's a product that gets a lot less attention than it deserves. So since I'm trying to get back on to just talking about homebrewing, I thought I would give this under-appreciated product a little attention here. I have a party pig but don't use it as much as I like because I usually my fridge is occupied with bottles but I need to get it out there more often...

What is the Party Pig?

The party pig is a refillable, 2.25 gallon beer dispenser that uses an expanding bladder to maintain pressure in the pig for about four to six weeks. It is very similar to the tap-a-draft system and the Miller/Coors "home draft" box systems except while those systems use CO2 cartridges for pressure, the party pig relies on a "pressure pouch" that expands inside the bottle to maintain pressure. It is somewhat more like a cask because although the pressure pouch maintains pressure for a while, eventually the beer starts to lose carbonation if it isn't fully dispensed within a few weeks. (I don't mean a cask can or should last weeks, only to compare that it won't keep beer carbonated and oxygen-free indefinitely like a forced CO2 system will.)

I could tell you step by step how the pig works but the directions are fairly straightforward on the manufacturer's website.

Benefits to the Party Pig

The party pig is superior to bottling because there is a lot less time spent filling bottles, although that can be said for any non-bottle packaging. However, if you find bottling annoying but don't have the space or money for a kegging system, it is an available option. Not only do you not have bottles to fill, you also don't have bottles to wash or store. Of course, with a smaller system, to package a full five gallon batch you'll need a couple pigs or to split it and half bottle, half into the pig.

Additionally, the Party Pig system is reasonably priced and can be used for more than just dispensing beer. The starter kit runs around $40 and unless you damage it or fail to maintain it, the only future purchases you will need to make are for more pressure pouches, which run $4.45 each. It's a little more pricey than buying bottle caps. The pig can also be used as a fermenter for two gallon batches with the addition of a drilled stopper and airlock. The price issue is a little different than tap-a-draft. Tap-a-draft runs around $65 for the starter kit but that includes three 1.6 gallon bottles. Each bottle has to be filled with a CO2 cartridge, which are about $2 a piece. However, Tap-a-Draft bottles are reusable for "at least six batches" although I'm not sure what happens after that. The bottles run around $9. Tap-a-Draft is cheaper but it seems like a less reliable product if the bottles degrade after an unknown number of uses.

Another benefit is the portability of beer. You can transport a single pig instead of a case of 12oz bottles. The pig is definitely easier to carry. It even comes with a handle. You can buy a cooled jacket for it (possibly also help keep fermentation temperatures low?) to transport it and maintain cool temperatures. Some breweries actually distribute their beer in party pigs by filling it like a growler and then sealing it up with a pressure pouch. I'm sure people with kegging systems could do the same and transport beer without having to worry about moving a whole keg, keeping the keg cold, etc. Also, since it doesn't have any glass parts, it's safe to take on boats, to parks, etc. However, this isn't any different than the cartridge-based systems.

Downsides to the Party Pig

There are some drawbacks to the pig, too. For one, the price of the pressure pouches can be cost prohibitive if you use it a lot because $4.45 to package 2.25 gallons of beer is much more expensive than some bottle caps and free bottles.

Also, it can be really tricky to work with. Although the instructions seem simple enough, it's a little more complicated than you think. The Party Pig uses a combination of priming sugar and the pressure pouch. The priming sugar does the work to carbonate the pig and the pouch maintains pressure. Well, the instructions tell you an amount to use but in my experience and the experience of many others, the pig needs considerably less priming sugar. Pressurizing the pig is also a pain in the ass if you use the handpump. Personally I have to step on the pump quite a bit to get the pouch to pop. Disassembly is also a chore. The instructions tell you to insert a curved, sharp metal object to pop the pouch but I haven't figured out what curved, sharp metal object really works best. I usually end up with a face full of the powder from the pressure pouch (it's safe).

The length of time the pig can stay filled may also be a problem. Since you only have a few weeks to drink the beer, if you decide you're tired of the beer half way through or you drink it slowly, there's no option to stop the clock. Unlike a keg, which can just be taken off the tap, the party pig will continue to lose carbonation over time. However, the CO2 cartridge systems suffer the same fate. So plan accordingly. Don't put a beer in the pig you won't want to drink 2.25 gallons of within the next few weeks.

A Unique Use for the Party Pig?

The biggest downside, in my opinion, for the party pig is really the cost factor. In writing this post I looked around at prices and saw the pressure pouches run as little as $3 to as much as $6, not counting shipping. ($3 was at Midwest but with $11 of shipping. $6 was at a local shop.) I've often wondered if the party pig can be used without the pouch, thus dramatically reducing cost. Specifically, I've been interested in whether it can be used like a cask or gravity keg. This would be ideal because I love cask ale (and gravity pours are good, too) and this would give me the option to cask condition a couple gallons of a session beer. It seems this question has floated around the internet for a while but hasn't received many answers. I finally found a few people who discussed some success using the party pig like a cask.

So the process is very simple. Just use 1/4 cup corn sugar for priming and fill as normal. Let it carbonate and condition for a few weeks, then serve. Descriptions were fairly consistent that it poured in a very cask-like manner and stayed fresh, even at warmer cask temperatures, for over a month. So I am definitely going to give this a try when I get around to brewing that ESB I've been planning for a while.

I think the important distinction here is to recognize it won't pour like a beer engine because there's no pump or sparkler (although I suspect you could design one). Instead, it's likely coming out more like a gravity pour with light carbonation and very little head. So if you try this out, make sure you have the proper expectations. (The only difference between a gravity keg and a typical cask set up is the lack of beer engine.)

If you have some spare fridge space in your kitchen fridge or your kegerator, this is a perfect opportunity to add a cask option to your home set up.You can often find party pigs on craigslist or ebay for little to no cost. It seems like people buy them, use the two pressure pouches included, then decide they don't want to buy more pressure pouches so it never gets used. So if you just want to go with a cask option, you can probably find them used online for $10-20 with very little use.

Do you have a party pig? Hate it? Love it? Have you tried using it without the pouch? If so, leave your comments below.
September 7, 2012

Brewing wit/Bottling saison

Finally getting that wit brewed this week. It's looking good so far; just waiting for hot break to start the boil timer. The boil is getting several additions: EKG hops at 30 minutes; table sugar and wheat flour at 10 minutes; sweet orange peel, grapefruit peel and coriander at five minutes. I'll post the recipe up soon, probably next week. I know some of the additions are strange but they make sense in the recipe. I'm also boiling down some excess runnings to replace the starter wort I used to harvest the wit yeast so I can keep a constant supply in the freezer. I'm excited about getting to try out the new fermentation chamber and make sure it doesn't catch on fire and burn my house down.

I don't have a free fermentor for the wit so I'm also bottling the spelt saison brewed a couple weeks ago (recipe here). I don't expect further attenuation so it's time to get it in the bottle and carbonated. I'll also try to post an update of how the beer turned out in three or so weeks when I give it a sampling. Maybe I'll try it side by side with my sour mashed brett saison that I bottled last month but haven't tried yet.

I missed brewing...
September 5, 2012

Austin Beer Adventures -- August/September 2012 Part 2

Friday ended on a less positive note than we had hoped but we made up for it in a hurry on Saturday. Saturday started bright and early at 11am with our first of two tours.

Thirsty Planet Brewing Co.

Thirsty Planet is a small brewery located just west of Austin in the growing alcohol hub of Dripping Springs. Dripping Springs is home to Thirsty Planet, Jester King and Twisted X breweries along with Dripping Springs Vodka. I believe there is also a tequila or whisky distiller out there, too. Thirsty Planet is a neat little operation just a street east of the exit for Jester King. They are a fairly new operation but they have been steadily growing in the Austin area by offering a limited but high quality line up of beers. Their flagship beers are Thirsty Goat Amber, Buckethead IPA and Yellow Armadillo American Wheat. They also make an incredible coffee dubbel, a couple pale ales, a smoked porter, an oktoberfest and something else I am forgetting. They are also working on a couple more coffee-infused Belgian beers.

The tour is the standard quick tour of the brewery and how brewing works. It is a free tour and happens twice on Saturdays, once at 11am and once at 1pm. Going on the tour is not required to sample beer. You can get three free four ounce pours with the tour or pay $7 for a pint glass and get three full pints. So it's a good deal either way. Since we were still recovering from excessive drinking on Friday night we stuck to the samples (although the brewer running the taps was nice enough to give us a fourth taste).

I hit Thirsty Goat, which is a really nice amber. The brewer on the tour disclosed that it's brewed with an ale yeast but it's really clean and could just as well pass as an amber. I suspect, but failed to ask, that all of their beers are strictly ales since they do not have cold storage and running glycol jackets at 32F for months in an un-air conditioned facility would be cost prohibitive. Plus they don't have enough tanks to give up room for storage.

I also tried the Yellow Armadillo which was a really pleasant American wheat. I'm usually not a fan of American wheats because they either tend to be unnecessarily hoppy or disappointingly bland. This beer was neither. It was light and crisp with a nice lemon-citrus note. The lemon-citrus note is not overpowering or make you feel like the beer is served with fruit (if that kind of thing offends you). Instead, it makes the beer thirst quenching and easy to drink, which is what you want on a hot Texas day.

I had a couple tastes of the pale ale available, TraditionALE. This beer would probably ruffle the feathers of most pale ale fans because it lacked a noticeable bitterness. Instead, the hops were present as more of a flavor and aroma element. The malt came through a lot, similar to an english-style pale ale rather than an APA. It would probably ruffle fewer feathers by being called a bitter or even an ESB but I'm not a stickler for style so I just enjoyed the beer for what it was: tasty. TraditionALE is not among the standard line up for the brewery but I hope it becomes one because I'd like to enjoy it again.

In addition to the bit about the amber being an ale, the other interesting point on the tour was that they use their yeast for a surprising fifteen generations. For homebrewers who are scared to reuse yeast more than a few times, it goes to show that careful sanitation practices can really extend the life of your yeast purchases. The tour wasn't really much more exciting than that but if you're heading out to Jester King or find yourself in Austin and looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon it's worth the trip.

Jester King Brewery

Jester King has a solid following for their beers, partially due to their very effective marketing strategy of hyping up their beers and staying engaged with their customers. I'm not a particularly huge fan of the hype or all of their beers but I do appreciate their efforts to bring farmhouse-style brewing to Texas. They do a great job of taking legendary saison strain 3711 and coaxing out some great lemony esters out of it that I have seen few American brewers do so well. However, I think they bowl over a lot of the hard work of the yeast with an unnecessary amount of hops. They have started displaying several of their beers on cask and/or gravity kegs, which is a strange thing for farmhouse ales which have a long history of being highly carbonated. Jester King has started putting some of these options on their tour tastings which is a nice way to try them out without having to drop $6 on a whole pint to see if you like it. (I tried Le Petit Prince on cask some months ago and found it lost all the yeast character and what little malt profile the table saison had. It was just very watery.)

On this trip we decided to skip the tour because it's not particularly interesting and with how hot it was on Saturday (almost 100F), standing in a small space with no breeze and a bunch of people sounded terrible. Instead, we enjoyed lazily sipping on the beers available that day and tried to wait through the long lines that developed as the day progressed. So here's what we had at ol' Jester King:

The guest tap was filled with Middleton Brewing's (Wimberley, Texas) Belgian Golden Strong Ale. I gave it a whirl because we don't get their beers in Dallas. I'm ok with that. It was not nearly dry enough and the yeast character was suppressed and uninteresting. It needs some work. Although I don't believe all BGSA need hop character, this one would benefit from it.

Mad Meg Provision Ale is a boozy biere de provision (or biere de garde) ale clocking in at 9.6% ABV. This beer was a great example of how Jester King overwhelms some beers with too much hops. The hops overrode the yeast character and the malt, which really isn't appropriate for the style. I could see the beer being better after laying down for a while to allow the hop character to break down and slide into the background. Otherwise the beer wasn't too bad. As it warmed the alcohol became more noticeable. It wasn't particularly bad but not one I feel I need to have again.

Das Wunderkind! is another sour offering from Jester King (following the very delicious Boxer's Revenge). It is a sour saison missing the strong brett character of Boxer's Revenge. A hint of saison yeast character was present but subdued, along with some malt character. However, the souring bacteria left the beer with some slight funk and tart aromas that develop into tart lactic acid in the flavor. I enjoyed this beer a lot although I think it's missing some of the complexity that goes along with sour saisons when the brett is more present. The lactic character was very noticeable and stood out from the beer, which is a quality I notice in my sour mashed brett saison. At any rate, the beer is very good and worth trying if you can get your hands on it.

Weasel Rodeo is a collaboration between gypsy brewer Mikkeller and Jester King. It is a substantial beer at 10.1% ABV and lists as an imperial oatmeal stout. It contains smoked malt, chipotle and Vietnamese coffee. These flavors dominate the beer although they are well balanced. There is a hint of heat, a hint of smoke and a nice slug of coffee. It reminded me of the chile stouts and porters from Colorado but lacking the depth of either Copper Kettle's Mexican Chocolate Stout or New Belgium's Cocoa Mole Porter. Maybe this kind of beer just needs the chocolate to bring everything together. Weasel Rodeo was a good beer but not one I would seek out myself because it seems to lack that depth and element of completeness.

Bonnie the Rare is an exceptionally hyped berliner weisse. I had recently read some less than promising reviews but since this was only my second berliner weisse I wanted to try it out. As the other reviews suggested, the beer lacks any real tartness but there is a lot of funky flavor. There isn't a lot of malt character to the beer but there is some funk to it that comes across like greek yogurt but without any tartness. The aroma had a cheesiness to it that wasn't exactly pleasant. I suspect that this berliner weisse was either not boiled or boiled for a very short period of time to produce the more funky flavors that do not show up after my sour mashed beers get a 60 or 90 minute boil. I've seen other homebrewers talk about the cheesy aroma from beers either not boiled or boiled for short periods of time. I thought this beer was interesting to try but I think I am just not the biggest fan of the style.

Noble King is Jester King's hoppy saison and what I consider to be it's flagship farmhouse ale (although they might disagree that any one beer acts as their flagship). It's a beer I like in spite of the hoppy overload but this weekend it was served on gravity keg so I wanted to see how that changed the beer. Was I ever glad I did. The beer underwent a complete transformation, much in the same way a cask can really change a beer. Gone was most of the carbonation but it took a lot of the bitterness from the hops and some of the hop flavor, leaving behind a beer that was slightly thicker in mouthfeel, but without feeling heavy, and allowed the yeast character to shine through and play well with the Saaz and EKG hops. It developed a great complexity. It was everything I had hoped Le Petit Prince could have been on cask. Easily ranked right up there as my favorite beer at Jester King with Das Wunderkind! and possibly surpassing it. If I could find this beer on gravity keg locally I would drink a lot of it.

So that was my experience. I think these reviews read negatively but there were some standouts and some misses but when you're trying new beers you can't expect every beer to be a knockout for your particular tastes. The tour is $10 for six 330ml pours and you keep the glass. We took our time drinking on this tour so I left only slightly buzzed instead of our rapid paced drinking last time where we left a lot more than slightly buzzed. It's good value, especially on slow weekends when the lines to the taps are short. It's also better when the temperature is less oppressive. Jester King is very good about updating the list of available beers for the tours each weekend and it changes from weekend to weekend. The problem is the list can update several times during the week so check it Saturday morning before you ride out. You may not find six beers you really want on the list.

Various Other Beers Worth Mentioning

Although our touring was over mid-afternoon we wanted to drink some other beers around Austin. Most of the beers we had were outstanding so I'd like to give them a quick review as well because they deserve some love. We brought back a few beers from the very excellent bottle shop Specs, including: Ranger Creek Small Batch #1 and #2; A'Chouffe McChouffe; New Belgium Peach Porch Lounger; Great Divide Wolfgang; and DeProef Zoetzuur. So those are nice additions to our growing beer cellar. We also stopped for beer at Whip In, Gingerman and Abel's on the Lake, all providing us with good times and good beer.

Live Oak Roggenbier was phenomenal, as all Live Oak beers are. I've never had a Live Oak beer I didn't like and the roggenbier did not disappoint. The grain flavor is a combination of rye and wheat and that combination creates a beer with a nice, thick mouthfeel just shy of their hefeweizen. It isn't hoppy, instead it lets the rye and wheat come through unhindered. The rye gives the beer a spicy tartness that keeps the beer in line.

Rahr Hatch Chile Blonde on cask was a surprising find in Austin but since I also have a recipe for a hatch chile blonde I had to try it out. The underlying beer was a very basic blonde and the hatch chile came through clearly but sits more in the background than in my own recipe. The cask added a nice creaminess to the beer. I don't know if the chile would be more prominent under higher carbonation but I felt like it could use some more chile flavor. Otherwise it was a good beer.

Ranger Creek is a fairly new player from San Antonio that has seen the light about how saturated the craft beer industry is so they have diversified their business by brewing beer and distilling. The brewery is owned by homebrewers-turned-pros so they are kind enough to put up homebrew recipes for their major releases. We found Ranger Creek's Small Batch #2 on tap at Whip In and had to try. It is a smoked spelt saison in which the malt is smoked over four kinds of wood: peach, apricot, apple and plum. I'll be honest, I never thought I would enjoy a smoked saison but being a saison lover, I could not resist trying it out. I'm glad I did and ever more happy I brought home a bottle. The smoke is perfectly balanced in the beer; it sits in the background adding a noticeable smokiness but without being abrasive. The smoke from the fruit woods is more gentle than beechwood (used in rauchmalz) or oak (used in smoked wheat malt). Hints of the fruit comes through and marries with the fruity yeast esters and spicy phenols. The spelt offers some rustic character to the malt bill and keeps it from getting lost behind the yeast flavors and smoke. It is complex but dry which allows you to drink it faster than the beer deserves. It should be thought over and enjoyed slowly as it warms and allows the flavors to develop. Although a smoked saison might not be my preference every time I reach for a saison, I would put this one up there with my favorites from Funkwerks and Dupont. (Completely unrelated to the flavor of the beer, the bottles used for the small batch series are the same bottles Russian River had designed and cast for their own 330ml bottling.)

Last, I was able to track down Real Ale's current Mysterium Verum offering: Scots Gone Wild, a sour scotch ale. Since I enjoy both scotch ales and sours, I really wanted to find this beer. Real Ale took its scotch ale (Real Heavy) and aged it for six months in oak barrels with a mix of souring bacteria and brett. It was a really complex beer. It is similar to an oud bruin with the dark grain flavors and sweet-sour mix of flavors but far more complex than any oud bruin (or backsweetened Flanders red) I have tried. The prominent flavors were the heavy caramel flavors from the scotch ale, vanilla oakiness from relatively short time in the barrels, slight brett funk and cherry pie. Although it's an excellently complex beer, I probably wouldn't pay $10 for a half pour again just because I found it a little too sweet for my tastes. The sweet-sour blend reminded me of Duchess de Bourgogne but lacked that foul balsamic vinegar flavor of Duchess. I hear a local bar is pouring it at $4 so if I find myself there I'd probably pick up another half pint to ponder over but I don't think I could drink it all night. I just prefer a drier sour for myself. Regardless, it is an excellently constructed beer and worth trying if you can find it.

Well, that's it. This was a shorter adventure than my recent Colorado trip but a good trip nonetheless. Had some great beers and some beers I didn't necessarily like but I enjoyed the experience anyway. Trying new beers both good and bad is good for me to see what works and what doesn't for my own brewing. Since the school semester is starting up and it seems to be just as busy as the last several I don't see myself venturing out for a lot of beer adventures in the near future, so my posting going forward for the next several months will be more focused on homebrewing.
September 4, 2012

Austin Beer Adventures -- August/September 2012 Part 1

Good times are always abound in Austin, especially when beer is involved. Although most people think of drinking in Austin as limited to partying on 6th Street in college bars with cheap drinks, Austin sports a very diverse nightlife from extremely cheap drinking to live performances to college bars to upscale clubs to beer bars and other more casual drinking environments. It's also home to a vibrant and still growing beer community with a growing number of local and almost-local breweries putting their beers in local bars. In Austin, most places beyond the national chains seem to stock at least one local brewer on tap or in a smaller package. Since Dallas and Fort Worth have very nascent brewing scenes (Fort Worth less so than Dallas) we get a few Austin brewers breaking into our bars but we don't get all of them or all the limited releases. (Oddly enough, you're almost more likely to find Austin beer in Dallas bars than you are Dallas beer. The same is true of Fort Worth but in Fort Worth you're likely to find Rahr in a lot of places with no other craft options.) So it's worthwhile to visit Austin, among the many other reasons, just to score some of those beers. My wife and I, if you can't tell, both really enjoy checking out taprooms and trying to score some limited releases or secret tastes of yet-unreleased beers. So we get the added benefit in Austin of getting to drink at the breweries and sampling beers unavailable in our own area. So this trip we carefully and onerously designed our Labor Day weekend trip around maximizing our exposure to Austin beer. We were damn close to knocking it all out, too. We would have gotten through it all if not for the foreseeable effect of drinking too much...

Flix Brewhouse

Located just north of Austin in Round Rock, Flix Brewhouse takes the bar/restaurant plus movie theater combination to another level by running a brewery in the theater. We stopped here first because my wife was on the hunt for Twisted X's Fuego, a jalepeno pilsner, and Flix was one of the few places that claimed to have it on tap. They did and it was pretty good. Like jalepenos, there was some good flavor but also a lot of heat. So it was well made but one she felt was best drank in limited quantities. I took the opportunity to try a beer brewed in house and chose a berliner weisse. I've talked a bit about sour mashing and berliner weisses before but I can say before this weekend I've never drank one. Well, I ordered it and then took a more careful look at the menu and saw it was actually a recipe designed by one of the Austin Zealots (the major homebrew club in Austin and a major player among Texas clubs). It was light with a lot of lemon and yogurt-like tartness. It was fairly clean in flavor, which suggested to me it was sour mashed and then given a full boil treatment to produce more of a clean beer. Nobody else at the table was a fan of it. I realized it was a well made berliner weisse but I'm not as much of a fan of the style as I thought I would be.

North by Northwest Brewpub

We then stopped back off at North by Northwest because we liked some of their beers and they are just a short drive from Adelbert's, our next destination. The seasonal offering was supposed to be a wit but they were out. Instead, we resigned ourselves to more of their Jack Daniels barrel-aged porter. I have no idea what they did differently but the beer this time was tremendously better than last time we tried it, even though we liked it the first time around. The barrel and whisky flavors seemed to fit better with the porter, coming through as more distinct flavors but without being overwhelming. It was a nice blend of the chocolate and dark crystal malt in the porter with the vanilla-oak and the Jack Daniels sweet whisky flavor. Maybe they were newer barrels or they let it mature longer. No idea what changed but it was excellent. We hit NXNW at happy hour so our beers were extremely reasonably priced as was the food. Good times.

Adelbert's Brewery

Adelbert's is a small Belgian-focused brewery that seems to focus a lot of its production on bottling rather than its keg accounts. It's unique in that regard whereas so many young breweries focus on keg account and grow into a bottling line. Their tours run 5-8 on Friday evenings and $10 (but $8 for AHA members) for six half pint pours. Well, that's what they say at least. We definitely received more than six pours. The bartenders were extremely nice and extremely willing to keep up the pours. Between the taps and bottles available on the "tour" we were able to sample each beer produced by Adelbert. I say "tour" because there doesn't seem to be an actual tour scheduled. It just seems like an opportunity to make some cash giving away beer (an idea I am very much ok with). I thought the staff seemed familiar and it was confirmed that most of the staff, at least those available that night, were former Austin Homebrew employees. I don't know if they are still employees or on what terms they left. They might have left because Adelbert's hired them away or they may have been part of the alleged housecleaning that occurred a year or so ago at AHS when people went from believing AHS could do no wrong to believing AHS was doing very little right. Nonetheless, they were all extremely nice. We eventually asked if we could have a tour of the place and since it is a small operation we assumed it wouldn't take too long. Before I get into the tour, I'll talk a little about the beers.

Adelbert's makes eight beers and they were all available that night except the biere de garde, which we have a bottle at home from our last Austin adventure. I hate to be sour about a brewery where the people we so nice and freeflowing with the beer but sadly, these are not great beers and some were downright awful. We had tried the wit prior and thought it was a decent wit. It's not great, but it was ok. That's really the high point for their beers. The other beer we thought was ok is Flying Monk, a quad aged on local rum barrels. I suspect the barrels have a lot to do with the quality of the flavor.

Here's where it gets bad. The saison (Philosophizer) reeked of coriander and bitter orange peel with no real saison character to it. It wasn't bad but not good, either. The tripel (Tripel B), similarly, was overwhelmed by coriander and bitter orange peel. It was much, much darker than a tripel should be. The typical yeast esters were missing. Instead, there was a slight dirt character to it. The dubbel (Dancin' Monks) had the same flavor profile as the tripel but with some slight dark fruit flavor. The blonde (Rambler Ale) tasted like a very plain blonde but then you were hit with a terrible sewage flavor that made me think it was infected. The worst was Black Rhino, what they call an "earthy dark ale". Whatever that means, it was pretty accurate. It tasted like old black tea mixed with compost. Honestly, I can't figure out why anybody would think that beer is good. Like I said, I really hate to be that mean about their beers but I would be doing a disservice to anybody to be less than honest about those beers. I should have known the beers would be poor quality when I saw all the Austin Homebrew expatriates and when we said we were from Dallas they all remarked how great they think Deep Ellum Brewing is (we are, as you can imagine, not fans). 

Ok, so after drinking quite a bit more than we thought we would, we were given a private tour of the brewing space. My wife was kind enough to whip out her iphone and take some pictures along the way. I figure you can never have too many pictures of breweries. I think what makes me most disappointed about Adelbert's is that I could really get behind their brewing process.

All Adelbert's beers follow a decoction mash and as you can see in the picture to the right (sort of) there are two mash tuns. The vessel closest to the control panel is the main mash tun and the vessel on the left is the decoction mash vessel. They pump from one to the other and when it is time to return the decoction, there is a switch they throw -- located behind the beam in the picture -- and it allows them to pump it back in. I am a fan of decoction mashing, especially when it comes to Belgian beers, so I like the idea of a brewery that decoction mashes everything. Too bad there is just something going wrong with the beer design or brewing process. Maybe a yeast issue.

I was told Adelbert's uses two proprietary strains between their beers although our guide didn't know which strains were used in which beers. I suspect the wit does not include whichever strain produces all the dirt flavors in some of the beers. I am suspect of the brewery using proprietary strains in the sense that they were cultured from some secret monastery or Belgian yeast bank. They were probably the owner's homebrew strains he bought from Wyeast or White Labs. Who knows. I do plan on using the yeast I cultured out of the bottle of their wit in my wit. I just hope it doesn't make my wit taste like dirt.

As I said, Adelbert's does a lot of bottling. The bottling line is spacious and designed to handle those stubby Belgian bottles and 750ml Belgian bottles. However, they do also keg their beers in both 1/2 and 1/6 barrel kegs.

There is no cold storage on site. All the beers are packaged and kept at room temperature. Since the bottles are bottle conditioned and kept around for several weeks before they are released to the distributor, this makes tremendous sense.

Adelbert's also has a small barrel program where they are experimenting with some different kinds of barrels and different critters in the barrel. Unfortunately our tour guide had no idea what was in which barrels but we did convince him to let us have a taste out of a couple barrels.

One barrel had a lighter beer in it. It was somewhat sweet. I suspect it is either the blonde or the tripel, but possibly the wit, aged in the barrel simply for barrel flavor. It was pretty good.

The second barrel was definitely more interesting. Judging by the small white chunks floating in the sample, it looked like he had to break a pellicle to reach the beer. It was darker, suggesting it might have been the dubbel or quad getting barrel treatment. It was slightly sour but there was definitely a brett funk in the beer. That was easily my favorite beer at Adelbert's. Too bad I'll never know what exactly it is.

The exterior of this barrel vexes me. If you can't read it, the writing on the right ends with the following statement, "failed keg beer lost". Does that mean the keg was infected or bad and they decided to sacrifice it to a barrel in hopes that the barrel or souring it would make it better? Will it be sold away to unsuspecting customers as a premium offering, as some breweries have been known to do? Or is it an experiment that will never leave the brewery doors? Is it perhaps a meaningless statement? I'll never know.

Most of the barrels had red stains coming out of it, which suggests to me most of their barrels are pre-used red wine barrels (my powers of observation are that good) although I know they do use rum barrels from a local rum distiller for at least the barrel aged quad.

Well, at a minimum I hope you enjoyed the pictures. After Adelbert's we decided we had too much to drink so we skipped our late dinner plans at Banger's, a downtown sausage-based restaurant sporting one hundred taps. That's the only part of our weekend plan we failed to complete.

I'll try to get the rest of the trip up and running in the next few days but as I always complain, I have a lot of school work to get done. I meant to knock out brewing my wit on Labor Day but I ran out of time to get everything done today. Maybe I will also knock that out later in the week as well.