March 28, 2014

Spontaneous Fermentation Project Part 8 -- week 11 of fermentation

If you have been following the spontaneous fermentation project I started earlier this year (or if you want to see what I am talking about you can see all the posts here) then you know I was diligent about taking daily pictures of the changes to the beer and posting them up but after a few weeks I gave it up because there just wasn't any significant day to day changes. That is still the case. The fermentation moves slowly but there has been enough change in the visual aspect that I thought it was a good time to take a few pictures and fill in what has gone on.

The picture below is the surface.

If you look back at week four, the last week of pictures, you can see these tan globs were quite small but clearly they are growing in size and they are quire foamy. I still don't have a good idea what this is. Here's a picture from the side so you can see what the underside of these things are. (The top of the picture is just below the surface.)

I've tried looking at pictures of different ferments (and not just beer) to get a sense of what's going on. I haven't ruled out mold but I feel confident it's actually just some weird saccharomyces fermentation. I found some pictures on a kombucha site of "bad" yeast ferments that look really close to what I have here. It's definitely not the weird pancake appearance of a kombucha scoby nor is it the jelly-textured vinegar mother of acetobacter. I read a research paper that studied Allagash's coolship beer and found that saccharomyces was fermenting as late as 3-4 months into fermentation, so that would match the timeframe for what is going on in my beer.

You can see there is no pellicle, which is unusual in my experience with sour brewing out of lab
cultures and dregs. Normally by this point there is enough oxygen seeping through the CO2 over the beer to see brett and/or bacteria form a pellicle. Nothing here. I believe the pellicle is absent because the foamy whatever-it-is is slowly pushing out CO2. Not like a vigorous fermentation but the airlock has some bubbles trapped in it (see the picture on the right) which happens when there is a slow release of gas under the airlock. That would certainly make sense with all that foam around the globs.

I'm still not brave enough to capture a taste. Maybe next month.
March 17, 2014

Melting Point Imperial Saison

I'm a huge saison fan but my favorite saisons are the very light, low ABV versions which offer all the thirst-quenching, summer-defeating attributes one needs in a hot Texas summer but packs enough flavor that it is still worth slowly exploring. I enjoy the bigger saisons that are easier to find on the craft market but few in that category compare to one of my favorite saisons, Dupont's Avec les Bon Voeux. Bon Voeux is Dupont's winter seasonal so unsurprisingly it is a beer with more heft than Dupont's other offerings. It is intensely complex. The Dupont yeast unleash themselves on this beer with a huge offering of fruit and spice. There's plenty of European hop in the mix and what seems to be a far more complex grain bill than the 100% pilsner Saison Vieille. It's also slightly tart, which helps make this 9.5% beer drink easily. It easily holds its own in terms of a complex beer against even the best imperial stouts.

Since I made it a point this year to brew more saison I couldn't help but add something in the Bon Voeux style to my brewing list for 2014. I didn't want to shoot for a clone.  Instead I wanted to look at Bon Voeux as an inspiration. During my research for this beer I used as a template a recipe from the Maltose Falcons which was itself inspired by but not cloning Bon Voeux. (The recipe has since disappeared from their website.) So perhaps my recipe is really twice removed from Bon Voeux.

This recipe has a lot going on but each piece plays a particular role. The grain bill features some specialty malts to add complexity into the maltiness from the munich. There's also plenty of hopping going on here. There's four hop varieties: one French; one noble; two American hops working together to blend the grassy and gentle character of continental hops with the fruity notes of American hops. Then the yeast, 3711, will drop its fruit and spice notes all over the beer. Complexity going everywhere. I also want to capture that tart edge that Bon Voeux enjoys that really awakens the flavors but I will do that by adjusting the water chemistry to a low ph. I toned down this recipe away from Bon Voeux's 9.5% ABV to make it slightly easier to drink through the summer.

FYI: There's nothing clever about this name. It gets stupid hot during the Texas summer so the name is a reference to how I feel most of the summer.

Melting Point Imperial Saison

Batch size: 3 gallons
Est. ABV: 7.9%
Est. OG: 1.068
Est. FG: 1.010
Est. Efficiency: 72%
IBU: 42.5
SRM: 5.9

The Grain Bill

5 lb. 8 oz. German Pilsner malt (2 SRM) 72%
1 lb. Wheat malt (2 SRM) 13.1%
12 oz. Munich malt (9 SRM) 9.8%
2 oz. Aromatic malt (26 SRM) 1.7%
2 oz. Biscuit malt (23 SRM) 1.7%
2 oz. Honey malt (25 SRM) 1.7%

The Mash

Single infusion mash for 75 minutes at 148F with 9.93 qt at 162F
RO water adjusted in Bru'n water to yellow bitter profile
Sparge with 3.39 gallons at 180F

Mash Water Profile

Calcium 53
Magnesium 10
Sodium 5
Sulfate 108
Chloride 45
Bicarbonate -44

1.1g gypsum
1g epsom salt
0.2g baking soda
0.9g calcium chloride
0.8ml lactic acid

Sparge Water

1.5g gypsum
1.4g epsom salt
1.2g calcium chloride
1.8ml lactic acid

The Boil

90 minute boil

0.50 oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 90 minutes 31.4 IBU
0.40 oz. Aramis [8% AAU] at 10 minutes 5.6 IBU
0.30 oz. Cascade [5.5% AAU] at 10 minutes 2.9 IBU
0.30 oz. Celeia [4.5% AAU] at 10 minutes 2.4 IBU
0.25 oz. Aramis [8% AAU] at flameout
0.20 oz. Cascade [5.5% AAU] at flameout
0.15 oz. Celeia [4.5% AAU] at flameout

The Fermentation

Pitch 64ml 3711 slurry at 70F and let free rise for 24 hours. The raise temperature to 85F for remainder of fermentation.

Dry hop schedule:

0.50 oz. Aramis
0.30 oz. Celeia
0.20 oz. Cascade

Dry hop for three days at room temperature.

Bottle to three volumes.

The Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Doughed in 3/16/14 at 10:30am

First runnings: 1.074 1.75 gallons
Pre-boil gravity: 1.043
Pre-boil volume: 5.35 gallons

Post-boil volume: 3.5 gallons
Post-boil OG: 1.058
Effiency: 71%

Pitched at 75F 3/16/14 at 8pm
Set temperature to rise to 85F on 3/17/14 at 8am
Kept temperature constant at 84-85F until 3/20/14 and let temperature come down to ambient

FG reading 3/26/14: 1.010 ~6.1% ABV. Will let the beer sit for another 7-10 days before dry hopping. Really good flavor. Nice mix of citrus fruit, grass and spice. Not quite as dry as Bon Voeux but some carbonation will help add to the dryness. 

4/2/14: Dry hopped with the above schedule. Plan on bottling after three days. Stable gravity at 1.010.

4/5/14: Bottled beer to 3.2 volumes CO2. Recovered 14 12oz. bottles and four 22oz. bottles. Racked one gallon into a secondary vessel with 0.30oz. medium oak cubes soaking in brandy with roughly 0.30oz. (by weight) of brandy from the oak cubes. Plan to start drinking in June and bottle the oaked version around early July.
March 9, 2014

Blacula Rye Porter Recipe

Blacula is the second beer beer to be aged for my 2015 blending project. Yeah. Blacula. I said it. Blacula. Blacula is an awesome 70s blaxpoitation movie and a fitting name for a dark beer that will slumber. Come on, it's not the worst name I've picked for a beer.

Blacula is a big 8% rye-supported porter--perhaps more appropriately labeled an imperial rye porter--designed specifically to age into a mellow porter with some hints of oxidation but a big bite of rye. The combination of Blacula and Old King Clancy should be interesting, not to mention how I end up blending them with young beer next year. While I expect Old King Clancy to add a lot of sweetness, I expect Blacula will be biting (get it?) or at least more balanced in what it adds. Not only is there a big slug of rye malt but rather than using lots of crystal and munich malt, as is common in porter recipes, I opted to go more roasty and nearer to a stout. Anyway, let's get to the recipe.

Blacula Rye Porter Recipe

Est. OG: 1.085
Est. FG: 1.020
Est. ABV: 8.1%
Bitterness: 42.3 IBU
Color: 39.6 SRM
Est. Efficiency: 72%
Batch size: 1 gallon

The Grist

58%  2lb. Maris Otter [3 SRM]
29%  1lb. Rye malt [4.7 SRM]
7.2% 4oz. Chocolate malt [350 SRM]
3.8% 2oz. Crystal 120L [120 SRM]
2%    1oz. Black patent malt [500 SRM]

The Mash

Single infusion of 4.31 qt at 163.7F for 152F rest for 60 minutes
Sparge 1.14 gallons of 180F water
Water adjusted in Bru'n water to black malty profile

Mash Water: 1.08 gallons

Gypsum 0.1g
Epsom salt 0.2g
Canning salt 0.2g
Calcium chloride 0.1g
Chalk 0.5g

Sparge Water: 1.14 gallons

Gypsum 0.1g
Epsom salt 0.2g
Canning salt 0.2g
Calcium chloride 0.1g
Lactic acid 0.6ml

The Boil

60 minute boil
0.25oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 60 42.3 IBU
0.15 tsp irish moss at 10 minutes

The Fermentation

Ferment with S-04 at 63F with rise to 66F once gravity dropped 80% to estimated FG. Age with 0.25oz whiskey-soaked oak cubes.


Brewday 3.9.14

First runnings: 1.073
Pre-boil gravity: 1.053
Pre-boil volume: 2 gallons
Pre-boil efficiency: 90%

Post-boil gravity: 1.084
Post-boil volume: 1 gallon
Efficiency: 71%

Bottled 12.20.14. FG: 1.014. ABV: 8.9%.
March 4, 2014

Water: The Book Review

Courtesy of Brewers Publications
I know I'm a little behind the curve here because Water has been out on the market for about six months. I finished it a month or so ago but for whatever reason I didn't get around to reviewing it before. Water is obviously about...water. It's part of the brewing ingredient series published by the Brewers Association along with Yeast and For the Love of Hops. (Will there be a grain book coming out?) Most homebrewers probably first interacted with the Brewers Association's publishing arm (Brewers Publications) through the style books published in the 1990s like Scotch Ale, Altbier and Barleywine. Their publications through the 2000s have been more in-depth and focused more on brewing technique over particular styles, such as Yeast, For the Love of Hops and Gordon Strong's book. The style-oriented books like Wild Brews, Brewing with Wheat, IPA and Brew Like a Monk have all been more in-depth and technique-focused than the smaller 1990s publications. Water follows suit.

Water is a highly technical book, at least as far as something that might be included as a homebrewing text. These Brewing Association books are written with an aim to reach both pro brewers and homebrewers as an audience. Increasingly, the books are turning more towards commercial brewing and Water spends a great deal of space dealing with issues homebrewers have little or no need to apply, such as dealing with caustic cleaners in waste water. The text is extremely technical and packed full of chemistry discussions and equations. For somebody like myself who enjoys understanding the science without an interest in performing the chemical equations by hand, I found myself glossing over a lot of the book. This book is a good read for somebody who has a greater love or professional familiarity with this level of scientific writing. I feel like this is a book I will come back to and digest slowly over years to come as I start looking into tweaking the finest points of water chemistry. I'm just not there yet.

I suspect most homebrewers will find the material in the first few chapters, introducing water chemistry concepts, useful but then get bogged down in the overly scientific discourse. It is less useful to have access to that kind of information when there are so many solid brewing water calculators (like the free and paid versions of Bru'n water) that explain the concepts more succinctly and do all the equations for us. Honestly I think the information is so technical it is more likely to turn off homebrewers from trying to deal with their water. A better use of money for many would be picking up the paid version of Bru'n water or another piece of software with water chemistry calculators included. I know there are some of you out there who digest science at a higher level than me and if that's you then the book will probably be a very interesting read.

I would have liked to see more discussion applying the water chemistry concepts to help guide us to produce better beer through water chemistry. The book does a great job of explaining why certain water conditions are important for producing good beer on a technical level, such as adjusting ph for mash and sparging conditions, how water relates to fermentation conditions and how water profiles affect beer color and clarity. What's largely missing is greater depth of information about how creating a water profile affects flavor/aroma attributes and how adjusting the water makes particular changes. There is a very small amount of application on the flavor aspect but it's a small amount of content and it didn't bring anything new to the discussion. Sure, it's well known that a higher chloride to sulfide ratio makes a beer more malty but what ratios produce what kind of results?

I think this gap in the content is well reflected by the issues raised across forums and podcasts discussing water after the book was released trying to figure out to make precise changes to water to produce certain results. I think the issue here, at least in part, is that the widespread focus on water is too new to have enough data to publish meaningful data. Even among commercial brewers there are many who at most filter their water and add calcium with little or no other adjustment.

The short version of the review: very technical discussion but adds little new ideas or information to the existing discourse on water chemistry. A good read for people who appreciate scientific texts but likely lacks the information about applying water chemistry concepts that most homebrewers seek. Not a bad way to spend $11 but probably money that could be better spent on quality water chemistry software.
March 3, 2014

Drinking in Austin: The 2014 Edition

My wife and I were able to carve out some time in our busy schedule to take a weekend visit to Austin for some drinking. If you've read about any of our other beer vacations then you know we come in to an area like locusts. We arrive and systematically consume as much beer as possible before moving on. This trip was just as meticulously planned as the rest but for whatever reason we ended up drinking a lot less than we usually do. Nevertheless, we scored some fantastic beers and visited some great breweries so it was great downtime and great drinking. Let's get to it.

Hops & Grain Brewing

Hops and Grain is a small(ish) outfit in east Austin that features a core line up of five beers with a wide array of brewery-only releases. On occasion one of these brewery-only releases makes it out of the brewery but the easiest way to track down their crazy options is to visit the taproom. Among these releases include their barrel aged and sour (and barrel aged) beers. What's most interesting about their special releases is that they use their Alt--the flagship beer--for so many of their barrel and sour beers. A soured alt isn't just another take on a Flemish red.

The recently expanded taproom is a nice and spacious. It's the exact opposite of the old taproom, which was small and ridiculously hot no matter how hot or cold it was outside. The new taproom has plenty of seating and lots of air conditioning. The expanded taproom was supposed to coincide with a changeover to a brewpub license so H&G could sell beer by the pour. What H&G apparently did not realize is that their current zoning prohibits them from selling beverages. So they can sell a glass with multiple free pours but they can't sell by the pour. So $10 gets you either three full pours (sort of) or six half pours. The barrel and sour beers only sell by the half pour regardless of which option you buy so it doesn't make much sense to get the full pours. You can also only get one of each of the barrel and sour beers although there didn't seem to be much control on that policy unless the bartender just happened to know that he had served you that particular beer.

We were fortunate to get our hands on SupPorter, a Baltic porter with coffee that is helping raise money for Whole Planet, a microlending organization that works to alleviate poverty. It has big coffee and chocolate character. It definitely isn't messing around with the coffee addition. It's a big 8% beer but goes down really easily, especially if you're a big coffee fan.

The two barrel/sour beers available were Funkin' Alt and ALTerFUNKtion. Funkin' Alt is a barrel-aged version of the Alt with some bacteria and brett. It has low acidity and moderate funk. The biggest change in the beer is the mellowing effect of time (and micro-oxygenation) which smooths out some of the chocolate character in the base beer. I believe these beers either go into new or extremely gently used barrels because the oak character is prominent without any spirit or wine coming in. There's lots of vanilla and some woody character. The taste of oak is unmistakable.

ALTerFUNKtion also begins life as the Alt but goes in as a second fill in the barrels that once held Funkin' Alt. It is more funky and definitely more sour with a less prominent oak character. There is obviously more brett involvement in this beer because the transformation of the malt character is more obvious on the funky barnyard edge. As much as it may look like a Flemish red and taste like a close cousin of that style, it is definitely a different beer. No obvious acetic character shows up. The funk and sour is far more restrained compared to most Flemish reds. The restrained sweetness from the Alt results in a beer that carries a different set of flavors from the crystal-forward recipes of many Flemish reds. It's a drier taste that might be mistaken for less complexity but is just more subtle.

512 Brewing Co.

I've been trying to get inside 512 Brewing for a long time. Almost as long as I waited to score access to Live Oak last year. This trip I finally scored tickets to the tour. What a surprise. The actual brewery is surprisingly small for how prominent they are here in Texas. I didn't get a picture of the whole brewery but it's very tightly fit together. They self-distribute all the beer they make, which relies on six core beers (Wit, IPA, Pale Ale, Black IPA, Pecan Porter and Cascabel Cream Stout) plus an anniversary beer and a few one-offs like Double Pecan Porter. The picture to your right is part of the small set of barrels 512 uses to release a barrel aged version of the Double Pecan Porter, plus some casks. 512's beers are solid on all fronts and they are doing great business producing beers that are high quality but approachable. Lots of the C hops up in their beers. No scrambling to find the newest hop to shove in their IPA, which is half of all sales (Pecan Porter is another 25%).

If you've been on one tour you've heard the standard, "beer is made of four ingredients..." speech. It's rare when you start hearing something new along the way. We were fortunate enough to get a tour from the head brewmaster, who did a really good job of balancing technical discussion with the basics. What I found surprising is how low Austin water is in minerals, although it is ground water. 512 only filters out the chloramine from the municipal water and adds a little calcium. Sure would be nice if I could get by on the same thing here.

Perhaps the best part of the tour is that it's $10 for a glass plus unlimited amounts of beer. Well, I imagine there is a limit but whatever it is I didn't get to it. I really enjoyed the Black IPA but my favorite drink at the brewery is a half and half of the Pecan Porter and IPA that they call "The Hamilton" after their distribution manager (I think that's who he is). It's a really interesting blend of citrus and pecan. However, aside from the beer I enjoyed talking to one of the brewers, who was extremely friendly. We talked about Portland, which will be a nice long visit in April.

Twisted X Brewing

Twisted X has been on my radar since I first tried their beers a few years ago. They finally moved out of their initial space northwest of Austin (Cedar Park) into a permanent home southwest of Austin (Dripping Springs). Twisted X refers to its beers as "Tex Mex" which they sort of explain on the website is due to their "Mexican-style lager" centered lineup.

The line up includes (moving left to right in the tasters) a Mexican-style lager, a jalapeno lager, an amarillo-forward IPA, a Vienna-style lager, an imperial schwarzbier aged in tequila barrels and a prickly pear lager (not shown). My wife and I were huge fans of the schwarzbier and that's what we were hunting down when we made the trip out to Twisted X. We were a little less impressed with the beer this time. It seemed like the tequila flavor was more dominant and distinctly fruitier than our initial interaction with the beer, so much so that it really took away from the beer. The rest of the beers are fine but honestly not something worth driving out of the way to find. The "premium" Mexican-style lager and Vienna-style lager are both explained on the brewery's website to replicate commercial examples from Mexico. That's accurate but I guess I don't see why I would drive out to the middle of nowhere to drink the same thing that I can find in every gas station and grocery store. The other beers might be slightly more exotic but they aren't done so exotically that I feel a future visit is necessary. It's too bad about the schwarzbier. We were so looking forward to it. I'd drink it again but it doesn't call out to me anymore.

Jester King Brewing

If you've read any of my past Austin drinking reviews then you know I have had an ax to grind about Jester King the past few times because I find many of their business practices more focused on creating a cult following and then draining those folks of money rather than making beers that stand up to the image Jester King has put out for itself. Since we were already near Jester King we decided to give them another shot and see if things had changed with their conversion over to a brewpub.

If you know anything about the recent hype around Jester King then you know they have moved into spontaneous fermentation and using local wild yeast over their prior use of commercial yeast strains. Surely, then, you know the massive hype among beer douches beer traders hunting down these spontaneous beers. There is definitely massive hype around these beers.

I was interested in trying some of the new beers because I actually do like several of Jester King's beers even if I rarely buy them due to price and various other complaints I've aired out enough not to need to repeat them here. We were able to score atrial rubicite and la vie en rose. Atrial is a highly sought after beer on the beer trading market. It's a spontaneously fermented beer with raspberries. After the barrels are drained they dump the base beer for la vie en rose on the raspberries and let it ferment out. I have to say, I just don't get the hype. These are some mediocre at best beers.

Atrial has a huge raspberry character to it. It's surprisingly sweet for being a spontaneously fermented beer (but I don't know how long it aged or aged on the fruit). The sourness is "tart" and it seems like it's all coming out of the raspberry. There's some funk in there but it's not necessarily a pleasant funk. It's not typical brett character (and not the brett character in Boxer's Revenge, the sour beer Jester King makes with brett isolated locally) it's more like a wild sacc strain. It's not very strong in the beer but it's just sort of in the background. It reminds me most of saisons brewed with the Dupont strain on the cool side. There's just sort of a weird muddled funk.

La vie en rose is lighter with far less raspberry character. There's actually not a lot going on with the beer in general except for the yeast character is very pronounced. A little acidity but lots of that muddled funk character. My wife said it smelled and tasted like piss. She wasn't wrong, really. It was one of the less pleasant beers I've ever drank.


Whip-In/Kamala Brewing (Formerly Namaste Brewing)

Ok, back to happier times. Whip In was a pretty badass place before they started brewing but they have really taken that dingy place to a new level with their beers. Initially releasing their beers under the name Namaste Brewing they ran afoul of Dogfish Head. Dogfish Head owns the trademark to the term Namaste for brewing purposes. When Whip In's brewers scored medals at the GABF they ended up on DFH's radar and the race was on. DFH said either stop using the name or limit yourself to only selling onsite. The Whip In owner pointed out how ridiculous it is that a white guy can legally own the name of a word that has religious meaning in another culture--the culture of the owner of Whip In--for its own profitability. Then the Whip In feller gave in. They rebranded themselves Kamala Brewing. Kamala is the Hindu goddess of greed.Our bartender the night we visited is also a brewer and said at the end of the GABF he was rolling around the conference with the medal for their ESB and came across somebody from DFH. The DFH guy saw the label on this bartender's shirt that he was from Namaste Brewing and that led to the whole mess.

Kamala Brewing is dumping out some great beers on a half barrel system. Yes, a half barrel. They are looking to upgrade to a three barrel system. That's a tiny system but they are working it really well. There were two beers on tap from Kamala that night so I had to give them a whirl.

Smoked Austiner is a smoked berliner weisse. I'm not a huge berliner weisse fan but I really liked this beer. The smoke came and cleaned up all the things about berliner weisse I dislike and left behind a pleasantly tart and smoky beer that was dangerously easy to drink.

The other beer was Shiva Love, an imperial oatmeal stout with strawberries. I've had strawberry stouts before and liked them well enough. This one was incredible. The stout came out boldly with the roast, coffee and chocolate you expect but with the creamy oatmeal edge. Surprisingly, the strawberry flavor and aroma was really powerful. Strawberry is tricky to work with because it's not a fruit with a lot of acidity so once you ferment out the sugar there's not a lot to drive the fruit flavor. Like New Glarus's fruit beers, Kamala killed off the yeast before adding fruit so the beer would stay sweet enough to keep that fruit flavor up in your face. The pours were expensive but really worth it.

And some other great beers worth mentioning...

Among our drinking around town there were some beers we came across separate from an associated brewery visit worth mentioning:

  • Live Oak Schwarz Rauch (at Austin Draughthouse): Live Oak is well-regarded for their German-style brewing for good reason. Their regular schwarzbier is their spring seasonal and a tasty beverage with a subtle smoky tone but the addition of rauchmalz really picks up the smoke flavor and brings it to the forefront. It's a good smoked beer that balanced a solid smoke character while allowing the rest of the beer to shine. I believe this beer was either a substitute spring seasonal or a one-off variant released for the season.
  • Real Ale California Common (at Craft Pride): Real Ale was often disregarded by craft drinkers as one of those breweries with good but boring beer. Their core lineup harkens back to their 1990s founding although those beers are fantastic examples of the craft styles popular at the brewery's inception. They have been stepping up their game over the past several years by releasing beers out of their barrel program and their "Brewer's Cut" series which releases beers in styles more popular today. The newest Brewer's Cut is the Cali Common with a nice hop punch and unmistakable lager character. I really liked this beer although Cali Common is a style I rarely reach for.
  • Infamous Sweep the Leg (at Craft Pride): Infamous is a new brewery in Austin and I've heard comments ranging from average to great about their products. Sweep the Leg is a peanut butter stout. I haven't been a huge fan of many of these kind of stouts (e.g. graham cracker stout, smores stout) and I think that has a lot to do with the execution rather than the idea. This beer was surprisingly good. The peanut butter taste was distinct and just what it should be. Not sure on the process but I was fairly certain peanuts were used. Not sure whether actual peanut butter went into the beer or peanuts plus diacetyl created that flavor. The stout character itself isn't very interesting but it works well with the peanut butter because the beer acts like a platform for the peanut butter character rather than trying to compete for attention. Not the kind of beer I would want to drink in large quantity but one I am glad I got to try. I'd like to see what else infamous is doing.
  • Austin Beerworks Lotion in the Basket (at Craft Pride): I haven't been overwhelmed by ABW beers I have tried but I actually really enjoyed this one. It's hard not to like a beer with a Silence of the Lambs reference. This beer is a zwickelbier/kellerbier, whatever you want to call an unfiltered pilsner. While pilsners are normally crystal clear with smooth, clean flavors, an unfiltered pilsner has a little more edge and some subtle complexity normally missing from lagers. This was no exception. A well-made pilsner with bright noble hop character and grainy malt takes on a slightly rough hop character and showcases more rawness in the grain that could put this beer closer to a saison (but minus the yeast character) than the sharp and clean character of a modern pilsner.
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (at Whip In): BCBS is a well-sought after beer and while I love it in the bottle, this was the first time I found it on tap. Delicious. The draft version seemed smoother and less boozy than the bottled version. That may have just been my perception in the moment. 
  • Real Ale 2006 Sisyphus (at Whip In): Real Ale Sisyphus is Real Ale's American barleywine released once annually at extremely reasonable prices ($16 per four pack) especially when compared to many barleywines currently sold for $10+ per bomber. Plus, it's one of the few quality barleywines sold in a 12oz format. Sisyphus is honestly one of the best kept secrets in craft beer. Whip In apparently is keeping a horde of kegs of the stuff in its cold storage because this keg was from 2006 and I had the same thing last summer when we visited. American barleywines are not known for aging well but this one sure is. I don't know whether it is the beer, the storage method, or both, but this one really holds up. Hop flavor and aroma are surprisingly punchy and fresh although the bitterness is subdued. Nice aged malt character behind it. 
  • Real Ale Codex Tripel (at Whip In): See, I told you Real Ale is stepping up their game as a major player in the Texas craft scene. Real Ale produces a tripel (Devil's Backbone) as part of their regular line up. It's a pretty good version of the style. Absent the obvious munich character of Chimay White, it is more akin to Duvel. Real Ale took this beer and dumped it into barrels with some brett and slept on it for two years. What came out was an amazing beer with big oaky tannins are huge brett funk. It's the kind of brett beer you aspire to brew. The funk is strong and complex but removed of the funky flavors that can be off-putting to people (often described as fecal-y, mousy, etc.) in brett beers. The oak comes through very cleanly. I suspect this beer was aged in new barrels rather than spent spirit or wine barrels. Hard to find but worth finding in Texas if you can.
So that was Austin. I'd like to get back down one or two more times this year but we'll see. We are traveling from Portland (and Bend) to Seattle next month and LA to San Francisco in May. That's a lot of time out of the office and a lot of money spent on vacations, so we'll see what our budget looks like for the rest of the year. Plus, I have to have some time to brew and drink my own beer.