Sunday, October 28, 2012

Barrel Project

Photo by a G.L.U.B member

Yesterday was a Multi-Club Group Barrel Project put on by Keystone Homebrew. My club participated in filling our Bourbon Barrel with an Allagash Curieux Clone. The day was pretty much perfect for brewing and every once in a while it is great to wake up at 7am and get started. A little over a dozen clubs were involved from all over the area. Beer was poured by Round Guys and Free Will and food was served by Iron Abbey and a few others. Checking out other brewer's setups is fun for me. When brewing solo I am pretty simple. I heat up my strike water in my mash tun, dough in and insulate if needed. My SS mash tun loses about 1 degree in a 60 min mash and 2-3 degrees in a 75 to 90 min mash. I fly sparge with a whirly-gig and boil as normal (unless I have a high hop amounts going in and I use a SS Hop Spider). Five gallon batches are easy this way. But with 13 or so clubs and 5-10 club members per group, there were plenty of propane burners, single tier rigs, 10 gallon kettles, 55 gallon kettles and everything in between. The gist of this project is that we collect from the barrel is that it will part of a giant club night event at NHC in Philly next year. I don't have the complete low down on how long it stays in the barrel.

One of my last posts ended with my eagerness for the Farmer's Cabinet Tamarind Brew Challenge. The event changed a few weeks prior to the date and ended up turning into a tasting at Keystone. The date didn't work for me and even though it was a friendly-style competition to start with I never entered my beer. It was a Tamarind Brown Ale with a few Belgian specialty malts in there as well.

My end result on the Tamarind wasn't really what I was shooting for. My original intention was to brew a few different styles and go from there. I slacked. I brewed other beers that  I had planned. I don't know why. I ended up brewing 2 sours and I have nothing but time to sit an wait on those. I had a British Yeast in mind for this one. I picked up a pack and it was pretty old. I had my doubts from the start. It was one of those decisions that homebrewers make that seems even more wrong when you walk out the door of the brew shop. I put in on the stir plate for 36 hours with little to develop. I probably could have stepped it up a few times. Instead I hoped and pitched. The next morning was a sad morning. A sad Monday morning with the only Homebrew shop open an hour away. I gave it a few more hours, but I wasn't going to kid myself. So Nottingham Yeast it was. I am not blaming the yeast on this brew. In fact I was pleased and intrigued after a vigorous fermentation. The tamarind was super noticeable. Maybe too prominent, but I didn't care. I thought it would fade in time. It did. At this point I am letting it sit a bit. Maybe my taste buds will come around. I can't put my finger on the issue with it. I want to say oxidation and thought my Brew Club would agree with me. There is nothing like a group of brewers palates to find the flaw. No one picked up on the oxidation. Most said it was a fine session beer. I am almost out of the last few bottles of them and that is just fine with me.

But a las. My art opening at Sweet Mabel Folk Art is 6 days away. The Oatmeal Stout is ready to be kegged. In the meantime Jules and I found the time to brew up a Dark and Hoppy Harvest Ale. I haven't had to much time to sample it out of the fermenter, but we dry hopped it the other day and 8ozs of uncarbed, deep brown, slightly murky and beautifully hopped beer looked nearly ready. Tracy at Sweet Mabel did mention her fondness for IPAs. I hope this one makes the show. The grain bill on this started out like a Black IPA minus the roast and it's currently the color of a Victory Yakima Glory.

Curieux Clone
Belgian Pilsner Malt, Carapils and Dextrose
Hallertau and Tettnang  Hops
WLP 550 and Wyeast Belgian Ardennes Blend

Monday, October 1, 2012

Taste! Belikin Chocolate Stout

Belikin Brewery's one-off chocolate stout (almost 7%!)
by douglas reeser on October 1, 2012
I consider myself a beer lover. Like many craft-beer connoisseurs, I enjoy trying new beers and I drink the hoppy, the malty, the sour, and the weird. When I moved to Belize almost a year and a half ago, my beer drinking took a turn for the boring. It's a small nation, with just over 300,000 people in the entire country, and as with most Caribbean and Latin American countries, craft beer has not yet happened in Belize. Needless to say, the choices are slim. The national brewery, Belikin, has a corner on the market, but thankfully they actually offer a few options. They brew some lagers (Lighthouse and "beer"), they have one of the few concessions outside of Ireland to brew Guinness, and they also brew their own stout (that clocks in at about 6.5%). As a daily drinker, I drank the stout, even resorting to adding a bit of coffee to my glass, that actually worked quite well. Regardless, I didn't have all that much choice in my beer drinking endeavors.

To my surprise, the brewers at Belikin decided to get creative after I moved to the country (although I doubt I had anything to do with this development). The brewery announced a series of seasonal beers, and they started with a sorrel stout. Sorrel, also known as hibiscus, has a sweet, berry-like flavor, and is common in Belize, especially around the winter holidays.  It's typically known as a wine or tea, but it worked great as a stout . I quite enjoyed this uniquely flavored beer last winter, and was looking forward to a spring beer that never came. However, Belikin released a chocolate stout for the annual cacao fest held in the south of the country every May (They also later released "Verano" - a Blue Moon type summer beer). I drank as much as I could during the cacao fest celebrations, and then stashed a few in the fridge to enjoy over the ensuing months.

Gold foiled and stickered cap...
Well, my time in Belize started to wind down, and I had one chocolate stout left. It was Belize Independence Day (September 21), and I was home alone after celebrating the night before. I decided to break out the choco-stout and write down some notes. I poured it into the typical 10oz Belikin glass, and immediately, the strong, rich chocolate aromas hit my nose. It poured a dark brown and had a fizzy carbonation with virtually no head retention. As I lifted the glass to drink, the smell of chocolate overwhelmed my senses, and that smell transferred to my tongue. While not as rich and thick as some craft chocolate brews, the Belikin chocolate stout still tastes like a chocolate bar. It was carbonated in the mouth, and a bit of the bitterness of the stout came through at the end, but there was virtually no aftertaste.

I can't say that this beer would stand out if put up against some of the specialty craft brews from the States, but I do think it would hold its own against most. In either case, it was a welcome change of pace in a country where the men drink stout and the women drink Lighthouse - with pride. It was also unique enough to stand out from other chocolate stouts that I've had in the past. And this should not surprise, as the chocolate is from cacao grown by Maya farmers in southern Belize, something to which no other beer can lay claim. After drinking about half the bottle, I was actually reminded of the traditional cacao drink of the local Maya population - a kind of watery, sweet, chocolatey drink popular in the nearby villages. The stout is sort of like that cacao drink, with very little in the form of additional flavors coming through. In the end, the beer left a chocolate taste in my mouth, and I love chocolate, so I would never complain about this beer! Thanks Belikin, and thanks Belize. My beer-life for the last year and half did lack in variety, but I made it through thanks to the adequacy of the brewers at Belikin.

And in keeping with the spirit of things around here, how about a poem in the form of the Belize National Anthem:

O, Land of the free by the Carib Sea,
Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty
No tyrants here linger, despot must flee
This tranquil haven of democracy
The blood of our sires which hollows the sod,
Brought freedom from slavery oppression's rod
By the might of truth and the grace of God.
No longer shall we be hewers of wood.

Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Put on your armours, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants let despots flee-
Land of the free by the Carib Sea!

Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,

O'er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold
Drove back the invaders; this heritage hold
From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
Through coral isle,over blue lagoon;
Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
For freedom comes to-morrow's noon.