Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Honey Saison

UPADATE: Sam e-mails to correct a misconception of mine.  He was never thinking of harvesting the yeast - he just wanted to get a sense of it from Upright's Five - though they did harvest a little to study in the lab.  My mistake.

Additionally, Sam writes:

As far as the beer goes, the first tank is done actively fermenting (finished at 1.4 degrees Plato (1.0056)) and we're going to lager it at 34 F for two weeks before we partially filter it and package it. We partially filter it so we can get target a yeast cell count in the bottle and that way get the exact amount of haze we want. Haze is good, chunks are bad! We brewed the last two brews yesterday and they are looking good so far.

I can't wait to try it!

My brother Sam is a brewer for Minnesota's Summit Brewing Company and as such, he gets to make is own beer that will be bottled and sold as a part of their Unchained Series.

He is also getting married this summer (far off in the Minnesota north woods - thanks for that Sam).  So for his own personal brew he decided to brew a Saison.  His recipe calls for honey so he decided to name it 'Honeymoon Saison.'  Here is a Summit video which shows Sam adding the honey to the kettle.

His inspiration, in part, came from Portland's own Upright.  He asked me to send him two bottles of the Five, which I did (at great expense), one of which apparently created a stir when he brought it to work to share. Sam was thinking of harvesting the yeast until Jeff told him the identity of the yeast which is far from a secret.  I hope he is ready to deal with it.

What is particularly wonderful is that the character of this beer will continue to evolve and so if you grab a bottle and store it for a little while the little indefatigable yeasties will keep eating away and the beer will get dryer and dryer.

Anyway, for those in the Summit distribution region, look for it in July and for my buddies, I'll be bringing some back from the wedding.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Misadventures in Brewing: Brewing with Salt Redux

Some time back, while I was on an all-things-English-beer kick, I decided to try and brew a totally traditional English bitter, even down to an attempt to recreate the hard ground water prevalent in English beer.  So I added a dose of 'Burton Salts,' a mixture of calcium sulfate (gypsum), potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate (epsom salts),  to the water.  I tried to be conservative, taking Portland's beautifully neutral water only about half way to Burton-upon-Trent.

I wanted to recreate that lovely and distinctive minerally quality of British beer in an authentic English Best Bitter.  Should have left well enough alone.  The beer, now known (not so affectionately as) 'Old Salty' is exactly that: just plain salty.  It does not have that nice mineral quality, but it does have saltiness in spades.   Oy.

Rather than dial back the salts even further I think I will just brew with the wonderful Porltand water unadulterated. 

Chalk this up to the sometimes difficult learning process (pun intended). I mention this as a caveat emptor to those of you thinking of amending Portland's lovely water.  I figure I offended mother nature and she punished me.

The 'Old Salty' does do a bang up job of cooking brats...

Beer Business News

A few news items to note:

The Toronto Sun is reporting that the barley crop in Western Canada is poor again this year.  As the quality of the barley determines whether it becomes malting barley or feed barley, it is still unclear how much will end up in malters.  Thus, once again, there are supply conditions that might make the cost of producing beer increase.

The Guardian newspaper in England is reporting that Budweiser is set to become the new sponsor of the FA Cup, further evidence that InBev is trying hard to make it a true global brand. 

Reuters is reporting that Carlsberg expects strong growth in beer sales in Russia as the economy there rebounds and as government efforts to reduce alcohol consumption push more drinkers away from vodka and toward beer.

And finally the BBC has a nice report on the vitality of Welsh brewing:

James 'Arfur' Daley, of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), believes that Welsh brewing hasn't been in such a healthy state for 85 years.

The new frontline in the fightback are small brewers and micro breweries dotted around Wales, from Snowdonia to the south Wales valleys.

The doors of the Motorpoint arena in Cardiff open on Thursday, with organisers hoping many of the 45 Welsh breweries will have their beers featured among the 150 cask ales on offer over the next three days.

In 2008, Mr Daley feared that the smoking ban, combined with the economic downturn - which saw seven pubs a week closing at its height - would soon spell the end for real ale and pubs in Wales.

"At least one pub a day was going bust in Wales, people were losing their jobs left right and centre, supermarkets were selling beer cheaper than brewers could brew it, and the smoking ban was keeping away at least a third of what custom did remain," he said.

"Don't get me wrong, pubs and brewers are still facing a battle for survival, but since that lowest point, many have found a way to survive in a way which is actually benefiting real and cask ales."

"There's not really one reason; though ironically chains closing pubs has provided a bit of growing space for independent traders."


Justin "Buster" Grant, is chair of the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers, which was founded in 2007.

He said: "In Wales in the last 10 years the figure has gone up from 12 to 45 and in the last 12 months, three or four new micro brewers have opened.

"The small brewers have broken into the market and it is growing."

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome to the Neighborhood: PUB, PDX Bottle Shop and Sellwood Cycle Repair

All things beery just got a whole lot better down here in the little old Sellwood/Westmoreland neighborhood.  Until just recently the only real craft brew presence was Lompoc's Oaks Bottom Pub, which is a very fine establishment that serves fine Lompoc beers as well as guest taps.  They also have, as long time readers are well aware, in my opinion the finest pub fish and chips around. 

But most craft beer adventures take me far afield (well, okay, not that far), particularly two pursuits: home brewing and sampling rare and imported beers.  The first always leads me to Steinbart's and the second to Belmont Station. Both generally require me to hop in my car, something (given my long commute) I loathe to do. 

Now, happily I shall have a local alternative for both.

The Portland U-Brew and Pub (PUB) on SE Milwaukee (across from DQ) in Westmoreland is a home brew supply shop, a brewpub and a brew-for-yourself-on-our-equipment place.  They have been working to completely renovate the space for months and months and are now finally open!  I hope to check in on them this week, but I am immensely grateful to have a place nearby to dash off to when things go arse up in my homebrewing (which they do far more often than I like to admit).  I also look forward to their careful selection of taps.

The Portland Bottle Shop on SE 13th just across and up the bock form Grand Central sent me a card to say that their grand opening will be on Saturday (June 18) from 1 to 8pm.  They promise both beer and wine (unfortunate, in my opinion, I prefer that they focus solely on beer but given the demise of our local wine shop, I understand) a selection of beers on tap to enjoy there or to take away in a growler.  They are still hiding behind papered up windows, but I have high hopes.

And since I am in a welcoming mood, it is also worth mentioning the new store just across from the Portland Bottle Shop, the amazing Sellwood Cycle Repair.  These guys are the best and are longtime neighbors who have relocated to a space that is ten times bigger than their old shop on SE Milwaukie.  The new shop is gorgeous and they are now open - just in time to give my bike the old once over as I prepare to ride around to the new beer haunts.  And don't let the name fool you - this is now a full service retail store, chock-a-block full of bikes and equipment. 

I have full reports on all three places (well, mainly the two beer places) soon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Kind of Beer Festival: Single-Hop Fest

On (a gloriously sunny and warm) Saturday, Amnesia Brewing hosted the Single Hop Festival. The festival itself was great: interesting beers that allowed drinkers to get to know the characteristics of the hops used in brewing. And there were some standouts, my little cabal agreed that Amnesia's Cream of the Crop, Uprights Pils and Double Mountain's Cluster F#%k were real winners. Many of the beers, interestingly enough, were very small - which turned out to be a good choice given the sunny day in the 80s. Smaller beers kept the malt at bay so the hops could chine through. But Double Mountain brought the hop bomb and was both my favorite and a revelation.

Their beer was hopped entirely using cluster hops, which my learned and pedantic friend explained was the genetic forbearer of Willamette and Cascade hops and was, at one time used as the main bittering hops for US macro lagers. Thus I expected very little in terms of flavor characteristics - a mild, neutral hop.  But no!  The beer had the most amazing aroma and flavor of passion fruit.  If I had not known otherwise I would have sworn passion fruit was used in the brew.  It was a lovely beer and I ended up having a second.  Who knew that cluster hops were so delightful and distinctive?

And this is really the point of this post: festivals with a strong theme (a raison d'etre if you will) such as this one are really the way to go.  I learned interesting things about beer and brewing.  If I just wanted to drink good beer, I can stop in any one of about 100 places in Portland for a tap list that insanely great.  A festival should be enlightening and novel.   A theme also gets local brewers to brew special beers with a purpose and the drinker can see the brewer's personality in their take on whatever theme is highlighted. 

I also prefer small laid back affairs like this one.  The boisterous OBF has its place, but we really need only one of those.  I enjoy a relaxed, quiet affairs conducive to good talk and appreciation of the beer.  More such themed events are coming - the next one that my learned friend assures me is going to be great is the Fruit Beer fest.  Let's hope this is a trend that will continue.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Beware Stampeding Scotsmen

What does it take to move a herd of Scots to stampede? Ridiculously low beer prices, apparently.

From the BBC:

An error which slashed the price of beer and cider led to a stampede of customers at a number of Tesco supermarkets in Scotland.

A deal offering three boxes of various alcoholic drinks for £20 was going through the tills at three for £11.

Police were called to Tesco in Greenock after heavy congestion was reported in the car park as customers rushed to get the deal.

A spokesman for Tesco said the pricing error was quickly spotted.

He said till operators changed the prices manually until the system was corrected.

It is understood the offer was supposed to be "buy three boxes of beer and save £11".


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beer Quiz

From Mark Nowlin of The Seattle Times comes a beer quiz. Click here to see the answers at The Bellingham Herald.

Q: What country is the world's No. 1 beer producer?

Q: What country was the first to first brew beer?

Q: When was beer first brewed by Europeans in the New World?

Q: Where is most of the United States' hop crop grown?

Q: The most popular beverage in the world?

Zoo Brew this Friday

There are a lot of cool beer festivals in Oregon, but this has to be among the coolest: Zoo Brew!  It is this Friday from 5 to 10pm at the Oregon Zoo and has a stellar line up of breweries including faves like Cascade, Hopworks, Laurelwood, Ninkasi and many, many others.  For $30 you get a glass, 10 tokens and zoo admission.  Unfortunately it is not clear the weather is going to cooperate, but what are you going to do, sit inside and mope about our second straight Juneuary in a row?

This is yet another beautiful John Foyston photo that I ripped off.  I hope he is not litigious...