Ann Arbor Beer Updates

Since we’re not fully-attuned enough with current events in our (well, now just my) fair city, time for a brief update. First, from David Bardallis on AnnArbor.com: Beer events Friday (at Jolly Pumpkin), Saturday (at Arbor Brewing Company), and Tuesday (at Corner Brewery in Ypsi and Grizzly Peak). The GP event sounds particularly interesting:

Over at Grizzly Peak, 120 W. Washington, the monthly Brewer’s Night is back. Drop in from 6-9 p.m. for discounted beer samplers, brewery tours personally conducted by brewing demigod Duncan Williams, and a taste of something special on cask — in this case, all your correspondent knows is it will be blended and oak-aged.

Very interesting. Click through for more details. Also at Grizzly Peak, you can pick up a commemorative Oktoberfest pint glass for the next two weeks only. Stop in to get the full details.

Elsewhere in town, Wolverine State Brewing isn’t open for the drankin’ quite yet, but you can join their mug club in anticipation of the brewpub license coming through.

More substantive content coming in the next few days.

Review: Arcadia Brewing Company

The Location:

103 West Michigan Avenue – Battle Creek, Michigan

The Facts:

Arcadia Brewing Company, the producer of Arcadia Ales, opened in 1996 in downtown Battle Creek, during a revamp period in area spurred by a request by Kellogg for the city to unghettofy or else they would move out of the area  (and when the largest employer of your city gives you an ultimatum, you obey). They rock a 25-barrel Peter Austin system and are in the process of adding additional fermentation tanks.

Several of their beers are hopped with locally grown hops picked from the fields owned by Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, MI.

Notable Beers:

  • Arcadia Amber Ale – American Amber
  • Arcadia Angle Ale – English Pale
  • Arcadia IPA – IPA
  • Arcadia Jaw Jacker –  Pumpkin Ale
  • Arcadia Whitsun – Witbier
  • Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA -DIPA
  • Arcadia London Porter – Porter
  • Arcadia Scotch Ale – Scotch Ale
  • Arcadia Nut Brown – Brown Ale
  • Arcadia Cannonball Gold – Wheat Ale
  • Arccadia Cereal Killer – Barley Wine

Review:

As the only brewery in my hometown of Battle Creek, I have a special attachment to this place. Most of their beers are decent to good (the Scotch Ale is phenomenal). None of their beers I’ve had do I really dislike, though the wheat beers aren’t exactly my style (few are).

Pricing is average, generally around $4/pint, with a few of the larger beers being abound $5.  They have typical brewpub food, that is pretty good, but expensive, and a staff that at least knows a bit about the process/beers, even if they can’t tell you the exact type of hops added in a particular beer.

Bottle of Arcadia Ales can be found throughout Michigan and in other parts of the midwest, and is turning into a top 5 Michigan brewery in terms of distribution. If you haven’t tried any of their beer, and see it in the story, I’d recommend picking up a sixer (try the Scotch!).

Recipe: Boiling Greens Double IPA

The third (and as of now, final – unless I come up with some other recipes, and soon) in our Football Series 2010. This beer is for Michigan’s contest against Bowling Green this weekend, and as the pun in the name implies, there are a lot of hops in this bad boy.

Fermentables

  • 10lb Golden Promise
  • 1.5lb American Vienna
  • 0.5lb 10L Crystal Malt
  • 4lb Dry Light Malt Extract

Hops

  • 3oz 16% A.A. Columbus (60, 30, 15)
  • 1oz Fuggles (dry-hopped)

Yeast

Wyeast 1272, American Ale II

Brewing Notes

This bad boy bubbled forever once it got going (pretty quickly – probably before the Beat the Irish Stout, which we brewed a couple days earlier), which I guess you’d expect from a high-gravity beer. Alas, with only 3 corny kegs, we didn’t have a place to put this beer once fermentation was complete, and didn’t even get to taste it prior to the football game for which it was brewed.

Tasting notes coming when the beer is ready.

Bare-Bones Basics #4: Grains

Aside from perhaps yeast, grains are arguably the most important aspect of beer. They provide the sugar for fermentation, a great deal of the flavor, enzymes to help the yeast break down difficult-to-digest sugars, and almost solely are responsible for the texture of a beer. In short, grains are to beer as grapes are to wine (suck it, Jim Koch).

The sugars in harvested grains are not readily useable by yeast. They start as starches, which are long strings of sugar molecules in a chain. Yeast can’t work it’s magic on these so they must first be broken up. Fortunately, this can be done by a process called “malting”. Basically, to malt a grain, you let it start to grow (germinate, for the botany-inclined) by soaking it in water. The germination process releases enzymes that break down the starches into sugars. It is then, in a controlled fashion, heated (kilned) to stop the germination. The amount of kilning affects the grain’s flavor and color.

The most common grain used in beer (and the only one allowed in Germany while still called ‘beer’) is barley. Barley used in brewing comes in various strains, each of which are processed in any number of ways, allowing for a wide range of options for ways to change your beer. In a general sense, most barley grains fall into two categories: Two-row and Six-row. Two-row is the traditional barley strain used in most European beers. Six-row is more common in American beers and has been bred to have higher enzyme content that will help break down more complex sugars in adjuncts added to the beer.

Wheat is used often in certain styles of beers (the over-arching category would be aptly named ‘wheat beers’). Germany and Belgium are most known for their various styles of beers featuring wheat. Wheat malts can not be used as 100% of your grain bill as they lack enough of the enzymes needed, and therefore should be used in conjunction with barley. Wheat also adds a noticeable haze to beer.

Other grains, such as oats, rye, even potatoes can be used to add fermentable sugars, too, but are more rare. We’ll try to do a beer and post about these on an individual basis.

Recipe: Beat the Irish Stout

Apologies for the lack of posting. We’ve been bad bloggers.

Second in the Football Series 2010, this Irish Stout serves as the theme beer for Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish) and UMass (the country’s largest Irish population per capita). It’s based on a modified version of the Sullivan Irish Stout, my 2010 birthday beer. It’s a little lower gravity, and hopefully a bit better balance.

Grains

  • 8lb Maris Otter
  • 1/2lb 120L Crystal Malt
  • 1lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1lb Black Patent
  • 1/4lb Roasted Barley

We had a long mash at about 170, lasting about an hour and a half. Coming out of the mashing tun, our runnings started jet black (and thick), eventually tailing off to dark brown.

Hops

We added hops in several additions, starting at 60 minutes with 2oz of Williamette, then 1/4oz at :45, :30, and :15. After the cold break, we added the final 1/4oz.

Yeast

After cooling to about 90F, we transferred to our carboy, and added Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale Yeast). After a few days, it seemed like it hadn’t started, so I bought White Labs WLP004 – which I didn’t have to use, because it finally got going on its own.

Tasting Notes

Standard stout. Not strong alcohol or hops flavors. Tastes like we maybe should have tried to ferment it down a little more (still a too-malty flavor). In all, a very good beer, but not our best effort.

Pepper Porter v2.0

We made a second running of the chili pepper beer, though there were a few changes to the recipe that made for some interesting new flavors. The majority of these changes were on the basis of ingredient availability.

Whereas last time, we used habanero peppers for heat and chipotle peppers to give a smoky flavor, the grocery store, unfortunately, was out of habaneros when I went to acquire ingredients to make another batch of our (outstanding) recipe. Instead, I picked up the peppers with the highest Scoville rating out of what the store had available, eventually settling on serrano huasteco. Unfortunately, they’re only 1/10th as hot as habaneros.

So, with the same number of chipotles, but replacing habaneros with serranos, to secondary we went. After a few days, we still weren’t getting the heat we wanted (oh, the glory of a spigoted ale pail), so it was back to the grocery store to purchase habaneros. We threw a couple of those bad boys in, and then waited a week or so.

Eventually, we tested again, and the beer had plenty of heat, but not the smoky flavor we wanted. Using a slotted spoon, we scooped out most of the hot peppers, but left the chipotles. I kegged five days later…

Tasting Notes

This edition is much hotter than the first, primarily since the peppers stayed in secondary longer. Whereas batch #1 would sneak up on you after a couple sips, this one isn’t hiding any heat. It also has a different flavor mix, with a bit more earthiness (from the serranos) to go along with the heat. Alas, the chipotle smokiness is covered up by the other things.

If we were to make this beer again (something I think is probably pretty likely), I would prefer to make it from the original recipe, with an emphasis on the smoky flavors, and just enough heat to complement that. Regardless, I’m good to relax and not worry…

Recipe: BREWConn Blueberry Wheat

The first in our Michigan Football 2010 series, BREWConn is a standard summer wheat ale, with 2 quarts of blueberries (about 4 pounds) added in secondary. This was our first extract brew in a while, though it did include some specialty grains.

Sugars

  • 8lb Liquid Wheat Extract
  • .5lb Flaked Wheat (steeped)
  • .5lb Flaked Oats (steeped)

Hops

  • 1/4oz Columbus pellets, added at 60 and 15.

Yeast

Wyeast 1056.

Secondary

The beer ended up being much darker in color than we were expecting as we took it out of primary. We bought 2 quarts of locally-grown blueberries, pureed them in a blender, and added it to our secondary fermenter before siphoning the beer into secondary.

Tasting Notes

Decent. Originally had a yeast-y taste that has gone away the longer we’ve let it age. Of course, one of the reasons we made this beer for UConn was to hope for a blue color… and we ended up with a red/maroon by the time the blueberries were pureed. That’s life, I guess.

Expanding Your Taste Buds: Drambuie

When developing your palate, it is important to explore various sources of new flavors. Different and unique beverages can provide you with a starting point, an new direction, or simply a nice change of pace when developing your recipes. EYTB is here to provide unique things to try that might give you the spark for your next great beer.

I came into possession of a 750ml bottle of a drink I’d never even heard of before: Drambuie. While, perhaps those of you readers who are well versed in Scottish beverages may have heard of this drink, for those who haven’t, it’s a scotch based liqueur. Weighing in a 80 proof, this Scottish dram is featured in several mixed drinks, such as the Rusty Nail. However, if you’re trying to EYTB, it’s sweet enough to enjoy on the rocks.

Drambuie, the name deriving from the phrase the drink that satisfies, is scotch whisky based, blended with Scottish honey (made from something else truly Scottish, heather pollen) as well as several other herbs and spices. It pours a light golden color, similar to most scotches. Honey and anise dominate the nose of the liqueur, along with a light floral aroma.

Once you take a sip, the anise subsides and allows the whisky to warm your mouth, but the honey’s sweetness cuts the burn perfectly. In truth, I’m a bit shocked the proof is so high, as the honey hides it extremely well, without feeling like you’re just drinking sugar water, which many such beverages tend to lean toward.

In one small glass, I fell in love with this stuff. Initially, I was afraid the anise aroma was an indicator of the flavor, and thought I was about to drink a weak Jagermeister clone, with no color. The second it hit my lips I changed my mind. I must say, this stuff rocks.

Now, taking this to the next level, three flavors/aromas I hadn’t put together before I now know work pretty well together:

  • Scotch/Oaked Scotch
  • Anise
  • Honey

Using this as a starting point, a host of ideas come to mind:

  • Adding scotch soaked oak chips into a mead
  • Using anise as an adjunct in a scotch ale
  • Using anise in secondary for a mead
  • Putting some honey into a scotch ale

While these are just a few ideas from off the top of my head (some of which I know for a fact have been tried several times), I may (or may not) have been skeptical of their merits. I now have a pretty good idea as to how these things interact and have some new ideas for the next time I go to draw up a new recipe.