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Wednesday Food: Homebrew Take Two

One month behind me, I have maintained my dedication to the Year of Beer.  As my first homebrew post was at the beginning of January, it seems appropriate that I will contain my beer blabbing to the first post of the month.

What I’ve surmised:

The most exciting part of the experience is the sampling of successful wort, as it provides an idea of what the final result will be, and produces an adrenaline rush and fleeting indulgent thought that, “this could be the beer that changes everything.”

The most antagonizing part is sanitation.  When the tiniest patch of dried sediment can contain enough bacteria and wild yeast to bust the whole batch, cleanliness is of the utmost importance.  In terms of bottles, I can’t imagine spending money on store-provided clean empties when, between myself, the neighbors, and the occasional get-together, I can assemble a handsome collection at home.  But removing the labels, cleaning, and sanitizing takes the most determination and elbow grease of the brewing process.  Oddly, it has afforded me an unexpected education on types of labels, not design so much as material: which breweries use a plastic coating, what kind of adhesive is applied, which bottles I end up giving up on and recycling (Magic Hat) who uses ridiculous screw-tops (Peak Organic), and who allows for the most agreeable label-removal (thank you, Bell’s.)

The most gratifying aspect of the process is the simple pleasure of opening a bottle at the end of a laborious day.  Expertly crafted beer may be tastier or more complex, but the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that similarly accompanies a great home-cooked meal, also delivers with homemade beer.  Though I also get a kick out of keeping a detailed fermentation log.

Pictured is the first go (my glassware remains limited to Special Ex pints, but I find a pinot glass makes a great substitute for a tulip), about which you can read tasting notes after the jump.  Carbonating right now is a Scottish Ale, then this weekend I may try out an Imperial Blonde, after which I will have met the three-kit limit I set for myself, and will be onto recipes– the promise of higher learning and exploration.

By the way, if anyone is planning on attending San Francisco Beer Week, ESPECIALLY Toronado’s Barleywine Fest, your reports and comments would be coveted.

The Imperial Pale Ale that began this experiment, is more accurately an American Strong Ale, technically comparable to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, but in reality, much more akin to the Double Bastard.

I spent a quiet January Saturday afternoon running a one-woman taste-off between the Double Bastard I’d lugged back from CA, and Bell’s small-batch Oracle, DIPA, that I acquired from Michigan in the Fall. As you can see from this terrible picture the color is identical to Double Bastard and though my version is more hazy, the head on the Bastard is slightly smaller, (please enjoy the idiocy of that phrasing.)

Further comparison on hold until I get home and have my notes in front of me.

I think my batch enjoyed unexpected success from accidentally being more concentrated than the instructions recommend.  I was short about a gallon of fresh water at the time of pitching, yielding just shy of four gallons (the goal being five.)  This made the bitterness of the Columbus hops and strength of the malt all the more intense and striking, not to mention the single-beer buzz.  However, the downside of this added strength is that the high alcohol is palatable and bitterness lingers longer than desired.  Besides being a hopbomb, a liked this beer best for the color, most visible



February 3, 2010 - Posted by | boredom, Wednesday Food


  1. Not sure if I can make it over to the Toronado — though, really, when the original Rosamunde is just sitting there, beckoning, there’s no reason not to do so — but I’m definitely taking part in the week’s festivities when and where I can. Esp. looking forward to the event at the Trappist (closer to my ‘hood, in downtown Oakland) with the brewer @ Allagash.

    Comment by Brad Johnson | February 3, 2010

  2. Oh, and the next night, the brewer from Russian River is going to be there, too. Just realized that. Gadzooks!

    Comment by Brad Johnson | February 3, 2010

  3. My heart goes out to all the beers to be consumed. Please Brad, for the love of all that is holy, share with the class. And very exciting about RR- they’re so incredibly solid across the board.

    Comment by ebolden | February 3, 2010

  4. Definitely. I would imagine he’ll bring along some of their 2010 Pliny the Younger. I hope so, anyway, as the drive up to Santa Rosa is kind of annoying. Though they do serve a mean calzone.

    Comment by Brad Johnson | February 3, 2010

  5. I certainly enjoyed your first batch.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | February 3, 2010

  6. Oh beer, beerbeerbeer. Still waiting on my quarter-cenury to arrive in the mail? My imperial IPA hits the bottles this weekend, and suggestions for next up to bat?

    Comment by Vanessa (previously posted under ebolden's login) | February 3, 2010

  7. Finally, an advantage to living so close to toronado!

    Comment by ben | February 3, 2010

  8. Yo 6, get out of my mind! I mean, my login.

    And Ben, I had you in mind when I mentioned the Barleywine.

    Comment by ebolden | February 4, 2010

  9. I was just at the New Belgium thing at Toronado, and can report that their two Flemish red ales, La Folie and Love, are respectively intensely sour and very intensely sour, but that the Transatlantique Kriek is very good—quite dry, unlike Lindemans’ abominations, but also not puckeringly sour (in fact not sour at all, even nicely beerily bitter) like the other Belgian krieks I’ve had.

    Comment by ben | February 6, 2010

  10. Oh, crap, I didn’t notice the fucked-up italics there.

    Comprehensive list of beers had during beer week to date, by brewery (and chronologically, too!):

    New Belgium: La Folie; Love; Transatlantique Kriek.
    Lost Abbey: Red Poppy Ale. I can’t really remember much about this; sour flemish ale, pretty good, completely obliterated in my taste-memory by
    Port Brewing Co: Older Viscosity. Unwisely served in a 13oz tulip instead of a 6oz glass. Tasted like a very hot (as in, you could tell it was quite alcoholic) dessert wine. I both couldn’t finish the pour (it was very good but there was just too much) and sort of instinctively looked for a cheese plate while I was drinking it.
    Russian River: Supplication 2007, Toronado 20th Anniversary, Rejection, Beatification. Commentary suppressed; they were all nice but the Supplication wasn’t nearly as good as the New Belgium kriek. Beatification and Toronado Anniversary both sour ales, Rejection black ale.

    (what follows from barleywine festival)
    FiftyFifty: Old Conundrum. Unremarkable.
    Valley Brewing: Old Inventory 2008. Very smooth given alcohol content, and actually kind of beery given the style.
    Anderson Valley: Barkley’s Sour Horn. This is fucking amazing; way more interesting & complex than the other two (I should maybe mention that they had 48 barley wines and I was not exactly prepared to sample even a reasonable fraction of them). A little sour (obviously) but also with the richness and raisiny sweetness that the Older Viscosity goes overboard with.

    The Anderson Valley and the NB kriek are the super awesome winners IME, but I missed Allagash night and Toronado was out of Lost Abbey’s Angel Share Grand Cru by the time I bothered to try getting in (there was a line to the end of the block 30 min. before they even opened) but will have it again tomorrow.

    Comment by ben | February 13, 2010

  11. I had more barleywine today but learned last night that a fellow occasional commenter sampled them all (forty-eight)!

    Comment by ben | February 14, 2010

  12. Thanks for letting me know about the Anderson Valley, maybe it’s something I can get my hands on. What’s your impression about the retail availability of what you sampled? I’m in California next week and want to load up for the trip back to Chicago. And your patience is commendable with the lines. This weekend Delilah’s had a Barleywine tasting with what was rumored at over 60 choices including ten vintages of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, but the line was out the door and I couldn’t convince anyone to wait with me.

    Ben, I tip my hat.

    Comment by ebolden | February 16, 2010

  13. I have no idea what the retail availability is. Toronado was selling some bottles on the brewery-specific nights, but I don’t know anything about the broader availability. And the Anderson Valley thing doesn’t appear to be mentioned anywhere on the web at all, much less on their own website. So god only knows what the story with it is.

    Comment by ben | February 16, 2010

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