Sunday, February 17, 2013

Single Hop Pale Ale

I think it's safe to say that I often find pale ales a bit boring. Part of it is probably that I tend to crave bolder, stronger, more intense styles of beer. Also a factor is that there are few locally available pale ales I find that interesting (Driftwood Ale can be delicious, but sometime it gets a bit catty, not a flavour I enjoy). However I think the biggest factor in my boredom over the style is that so few examples manage to stand out from the pack. Like many stouts, the pale ale seems to just be... and rarely seems to be great. I encountered one notable example on my travels south of the border, while in Santa Rosa, California, home to Russian River Brewing. Russian River is, in my opinion, one of the finest breweries in the world, and their pale ale does not disappoint. Named Row 2, Hill 56 for the location of the first vine of Simcoe hops ever grown. (according to my dodgy internet sources) This beer is predictably hopped only with Simcoe, and when I had this on tap at RR I was blown away how smooth and easy drinking it was despite having a huge amount of hop flavour and aroma.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back to the Blog

It has been more than six months since I have posted on this blog, but now I can tentatively say I am back. At the end of this past summer I started working for Parallel 49 Brewing, moving to Vancouver in the process. I haven't brewed since then as I've slept on friend's couches, moved temporarily into a house share, and finally moved to a more permanent location off Commercial Drive near to the brewery. The huge task of moving my life to the mainland is done and I've finally gotten my brewing system up and running again. I had pondered whether to come back to writing here, what I would gain from it, whether people would still be interested, etc., etc. In the end I decided that maintaining this site was worthwhile, even if only as a way to look back and reflect on my hobby over the years. But enough about that, time to talk some brewing...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BrewVic Saison Meet

Finally a return to blogging. I moved house again at the start of this month and this has led to the inevitable slowdown in brewing and blogging, but its good to be back. Last week the BrewVic saison meet was held at my place, and it went off well. We had good attendance and lots of beers to try. There were around ten of us who brewed saisons specifically for the event using a variety of recipes, techniques, and yeasts. We began with a quick talk on the history of the saison, which emerged from time immemorial on the farmhouses of Wallonia to nourish and refresh the harvest workers. We then tried a couple commercial examples like the classic saison DuPont and the excellent local saison Deckhand, from Lighthouse brewing. Finally, we moved to the homebrew tasting, taking notes and allowing the brewers to talk about the details of their beers, followed by a round table discussion. There was a great variety in the ingredients used in the beers, from rye, to orange, to pepper, to brettanomyces and one thing that impressed me was the overall quality of the beers in general. Another thing that stood out was the different characters of the yeasts used, there was a pretty even split between people using the DuPont yeast (Wyeast 3724/WLP565) and the Brasserie Thiriez yeast (Wyeast 3711). The DuPont yeast really kicked out that classic saison fruitiness, whereas the Thiriez had that intense satisfying dryness that the DuPont couldn't quite achieve. This was a great event and it was awesome to see so many Victoria brewers getting together, hopefully we will have more events like this one in the near future.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brewday - Witbier

I had never really been into witbiers, but after a recent taste of a great homebrewed example and a couple bottles of Hoegaarden and Blanche de Chambly, I decided to brew one. For the grain bill I wanted to go local, using red winter wheat grown in Metchosin and combining it with organic oats and what was almost the last of my Belgian pilsner malt (If anyone knows where I can get more I will pay/trade handsomely) The yeast was something I spent a lot of time on, propagating the lees in a blend from bottles of Blanche de Chambly and Cheval Blanc. I added this into about 100 mls of well aerated wort and then the next day into another litre of wort. Looking back, I should have waited longer before stepping it up, and after several days there was still no airlock activity. Just when I thought the experiment was in vain the airlock began to bubble, and after it slowed I put it into the fridge to flocculate the yeast before pitching into 3 more litres of fresh wort. On brewday, I poured off the wort and tasted some of it to ensure a clean fermentation in the starter. I tasted potent vinegar... an acetobacter infection. God damn it. Moodily pondering a certain Robbie Burns poem concerning a mouse I drove to the brew shop and was lucky to find a wit yeast, fresh from the newest shipment. The brew day was back on.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Beard of Zeus - The Beard is Back

I hadn't expected to brew my old Russian imperial stout quite yet, but events conspired to rush things a little. Back in March I was getting ready to send some of my beers to the first round of the National Homebrew Competition. Winners in this Canadian qualifier would get to move on to the final round of the NHC, the biggest homebrewing competition in the world, held this year in Seattle. The stakes were high so the field was going to be strong. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, but the thought of advancing to the finals and maybe having my beer judged alongside one brewed by Jamil Zainasheff or Gordon Strong was an inspiring thought, not to mention a scary one.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pitch Slap IPA

My return to IPA brewing has come after a long hiatus. For months Belgian beers were the only thing that mattered, but its good to have gotten back to my first love, the almighty hop. My mental shift away from hoppy beers coincided with my own IPAs taking a bit of a downward slide. These things seem to be connected; the beers that I am currently into always seem easier to brew well. As my mind shifted away from hops and toward the yeast and fermentation aspects of Belgian beer, so did my best beers seem to start emerging as saisons, belgian pales, and golden strongs, where once they had been IPA's.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brewday - Belgian Pale Ale 2

Going into this brew I was a little unsure of how to improve on my previous effort. My first Belgian pale ale was a beer I really liked, but seemed to meet with a lukewarm reception from a number of people who tasted it. I had sent this beer into the Calgary homebrew competition and neither judge (neither of which were BJCP certified) liked it very much. This I could handle as competition is the best way to get unbiased, educated advice to improve your beers. Their comments however, left me scratching my head a bit. One of them said "phenolic spices quite bold in flavour... are too big in this beer". The other said, "a little spicier would enhance it". To muddy the waters further a couple weeks later this beer won third place at the competition in Lethbridge, leaving me a bit confused.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Batch # 50 - Faustian Bargain Golden Strong

For my fiftieth batch of all-grain beer I wanted to do something special, so I decided to go after a style that I hadn't tried before, the Belgian golden strong, or strong pale ale. This style has a pretty wide set of parameters and there is a lot of overlap with the Belgian tripel, but in the tradition of its most famed example Duvel, it tends to be drier, lighter in colour, and lighter in body than most tripels. It is also often more fruity, where the tripel tends to be a bit spicier.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Brewday - The Platypus India Brown

My lack of blogging of late seems to have coincided with most of the other beer blogs in Victoria slowing down or grinding to a halt. Fortunately, there is a new blogger on the block as local homebrewer Russ has started chronicling his brewing exploits. Its good to see someone else on the Island blogging about homebrewing, as as far as I know, I've been the only one up until now. Hopefully this will help infuse new energy into Island beer blogging. On to the beer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brewday - The White Whale Oatmeal Stout

He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it 
- From Moby Dick by Herman Melville