The Fruits of Our Labor

This weekend, after 2 weeks in primary, 3 weeks in secondary and 3 weeks bottle conditioning, we cracked open our first bottles of the Joe Paterno Is Old Ale that we brewed in January.

Unfortunately, despite what felt like very admirable patience (some of it due to the fact that we didn’t have caps or priming sugar or a car to get to Brew and Grow), it still wasn’t quite ready when we poured it. There was a bit of gas escaping when we popped the top, but that was about all she wrote. It was barely carbonated at all. In another month or so, it should really be hitting its stride. This is also a beer that I’ll be interested in trying in about a year or so. I bet it will cellar really, really well.

Tasting Notes

Despite the lack of carbonation, I still really enjoyed this beer. I really like the simplicity of it. A bunch of Maris Otter, a bit of Crystal and a dash of Special B. A couple ounces of hops were added and then just the standard British Wyeast. What comes out of the bottle, though, is rich and complex. Tons of flavor and great balance between the sweetness of the malt and the heat from the alcohol (this bad boy clocked in right around 7.4%).

It did get a bit cloying as you drank through an entire glass, but I bet a bit of brightness from carbonation would really help with this. Still, overall this beer is just as good as I remembered it being when we made it 18 months ago.

One things I was a little worried about was diacetyl.  We got a bit of that buttery, slipperiness in the Two Hearted clone we made. With the high gravity of the wort and forgetting to get starter going, I was worried that might be more pronounced in the Old Ale. Luckily, I think the extra week in primary and the extended stay in secondary allowed the yeasts to clean up most of the excess diacetyl.

Coming Up

My birthday is coming up, and brewing a beer for the occasion seems like the thing to do. I think we might try mail-ordering since getting the local homebrew store is sort of a pain. For the birthday, I’m thinking a nice RyePA (unsurprising to anyone who has followed this blog). I’ve heard good things about Northern Brewer, so I think I might order the Denny’s Wry Smile Rye Kit

Since they do a flat shipping charge, we might as well do a bigger order. One thing we had talked about was brewing an imperial stout now for next winter. It will be interesting brewing a beer in Spring for the Winter, but if we actually pull it off and have the patience, it could be really, really, good. That’s a big if, considering I thought waiting 8 weeks was an eternity.

Trying Weird Beers

Hopcat Turkey Tears

Seriously. Turkey.

When most people turn 21, they start out drinking the American macros (OK, many of them before they’re of legal age). Some may move on to a limited selection of craft brews, and even some home brews. Few, however, probably move into the realm of trying things that are downright off-the-wall.

As I’ve grown – both in age and as a beer lover – I’ve become more likely to try something new. Though that doesn’t apply just to beer (I was a pretty picky eater as a youngster, now I’ll try just about anything at least once), I’m most interested in it from that perspective. There have been plenty of inspirations for the change, at least from a beer perspective:

  • Homebrew clubs – The Ann Arbor Brewer’s Guild was where I first started trying truly new things. Whether it was a creative adjunct or an extreme style, the first few meetings I went to really started expanding my horizons.
  • Dogfish Head – Yes, I know the brewers from Delaware aren’t the be-all and end-all of creativity in craft brewing, but that doesn’t prevent them from being a huge influence. For example, before watching Brew Masters (flawed though the show may be), I doubt I would have tried a beer that was made from chewed corn.
  • Other Creative Brewers – I’ve had a beer literally brewed with turkey, and one that was designed to be an homage to bacon, even if it wasn’t brewed with any of the savory stuff.

I’ve probably grown to the point where I’d try anything that could be classified as “beer.” Whether it’s to post about on this site, or just for the experience, I’m all about trying new things.

That willingness extends not only to drinking, but to brewing. I probably never would have been willing to brew a chili pepper beer, or have tried to craft a brew that was s’more flavored had it not been for my expanding horizons. Though it’s been quite a while since I’ve brewed (sadly), when I get back into the game, I plan to primarily experiment with off-the-wall ingredients or processes.

I encourage you to branch out, and be creative (even if it’s just in what you choose to drink). There’s a lot of good beer out there, and I can’t drink it all.

Review: O’Fallon’s Smoke Porter

When Michigan (finally) instituted its indoor smoking ban, Ashley’s–a consistently smoky bar–had a smoked beer festival. I hadn’t really had many smoked beer before then, but on that day I tried the 440 Pepper Smoker from Original Gravity, and I was hooked. Smoke beers are definitely a weird creation. Malt that has been smoked over hardwood picks up a savory, almost meat-like flavor along with the predictable smokiness.

I can see them not necessarily being for everyone. They could trend too far from what beer should taste like, but personally, I like seeing people push the boundaries of beer and coming up with different and interesting flavors. Also, I drank one of these beers along with a Diavolo sandwich from L’Appetito. The mix of the smoked, cured meats, spicy mustard and smokey beer was absolutely amazing.

Tasting Notes

O'Fallons Smoked Porter

O'Fallons Smoked Porter

Appearance: Dark brown with hints of copper shining through when held up to the light. It poured with a creamy, 2 finger thick tan head that dissipated somewhat quickly and without much lacing.

Aroma: Savory, woody and smoky. It’s like a campfire in a good, aromatic way. I’ve had beers that have crossed the line into cigarette butt, but this stays well away from that.

Taste: The taste comes in a few waves. It begins with a nice, acrid smokiness, which is quickly followed with roasted, malty sweetness. The aftertaste is a lingering, but not unpleasant acridity.

Mouthfeel: This beer has a medium carbonation. I think it could be just a bit a lower, actually. That might help it feel a bit richer. As it is, it’s a bit too thin.

Overall: I don’t know why, but I had been craving a smoked beer. This hits all the spots. I don’t regret picking up a six-pack.

Arcadia Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter

What. A. Beer.

Arcadia Shipwreck Porter

Arcadia Shipwreck Porter

If you’ve read more than a couple of our posts, you’re probably well-aware that I’m a big fan of darker, maltier beers (i.e. porters), and Paul and I are both true lovers of a good bourbon-aged ale. So, this was a beer I was really excited to try (though that’s worked against a couple beers in the recent past). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in Ann Arbor – and in my search I realized there’s really no good bottle shop in Ann Arbor. There are a few that are OK, but nothing that you go into expecting to find whatever you’re looking for, regardless of how rare or new it is.

Fortunately, Paul was able to find this beer in Chicago at the always-excellent Binny’s. He brought a bottle with him to Ann Arbor prior to heading back west for the Winter Beer Festival, and we kicked off an epic, boozy weekend by trying this bad boy out.

At first, I was really taken aback by the twist-off cap. When you go through the care of sealing every bottle with wax, it seems counter-intuitive to bother with twist-offs. On the other hand, I guess the wax goes a long way to ensuring freshness, despite the less-perfect seal. Anyway, on with the show.

The beer pours plenty dark, with a nice caramel head. Since we were splitting a 12-oz. bottle, each got half a glass. On the nose, there was a ton of bourbon flavor, with vanilla and malty flavors, to go along with standard brewing malts. A very, very sweet and thick-smelling beer.

The taste… my mouth is watering just remembering what this tasted like. Tons of malt, excellent bourbon flavor. There was a surprising amount of chocolate flavor in there as well, but it was just a complement to the main malty and bourbony flavors, of course. When you’re drinking it, you can tell it’s a big beer, but there’s not enough alcohol in the flavor that you’d guess it’s a 12% beer.

Basically what I’m trying to say is I really liked it.

Winter Beer Fest – Our Reviews

Just a few reviews of beers that we were able to rate on the WBF App before our phones started dying. The scale ranged from “Bad” to “Great,” with five total graduations. I’ve added a couple comments for each beer as well.

Reminder: If you used the app, please comment and tell us what you thought about it, what you’d like to see improved, etc. Hopefully in the future, we can turn it from a glorified beer list (useful in itself) into something really cool down the road.

Great Smoked Chili Pale Ale Odd Side Ales
We’re suckers for a Chili Pepper beer, and this was an excellent entry into the field. Though many that we’ve tried (and all we’ve brewed) have been darker varieties, I’m growing more interested in a lighter variety for a chili pepper recipe. This beer wasn’t too hot, but the smoke flavor came through nicely in the aftertaste.
Great Sour Plead the Fifth Stout Dark Horse Brewing Co.
I think this was our unanimous (voting body of 2!) Best in Show winner. As we said prior to the festival, this was a combination of so many things that we like, it would have been damn near impossible for us to not love it. Plus, Dark Horse had a “tunnel of stouts” which was weird yet awesome.
Great Whiskey Richard Sour Ale Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Aside from the punny name, this was a pretty good beer. It didn’t have so much of the Belgian-type sourness, but rather whiskey sourness. I found that pretty interesting, as usually you get more vanilla and malty-sweet flavors out of bourbon beers.
Good Irish-style Mint Stout Odd Side Ales
Using mint in a beer is no revelation, but I don’t think I’ve seen a mint stout before – obvious though it may seem with stouts often having coffee and chocolate involved. The mint flavor came through nicely, and it wasn’t overwhelming.
Good Ryeclops Imperial RyePA Corner Brewery – (ABC)
I’ve had this beer before, so it was nothing new. Only one of us is a huge rye fan/expert, but we both agreed it was a good, not great, beer.
Good Robert the 4th BOB’s Bourbon Barrel Beer B.O.B.’s Brewery
As we were seemingly on a mission to try every single bourbon-aged beer at the festival (we didn’t come close), there was a lot of competition within the field. This didn’t stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Good Scotty Karate Scotch Ale Dark Horse Brewing Co.
We’ve both had this one before. It’s a good scotch ale (as most Dark Horse offerings are good within their category), but nothing distinctive.
Good Moonsqualler Scotch Ale Frog Island Brewing Co.
Similar to the above, but this was a huge (12%, if I recall correctly) scotch ale. It was good, but it seems that the whole purpose of the beer was “let’s make this really strong” – a goal I don’t necessarily have a problem with, but not at the expense of making it delicious.
Good Hoppopotamus American IPA Hopcat
We’ve had this one before. This isn’t a special IPA, in terms of over-the-top hop additions or really distinctive hop varieties. Just a solid IPA.
Good Bourbon Barrel Aged Fourth Dementia Olde Ale Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.
We’re big Olde Ale fans, and big bourbon barrel fans, so this beer had a lot to live up to. It fell short of our expectations, though that’s probably more our fault for setting the bar high.
Good Lunar Eclipse Amero-Bel IPA Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.
The Solar Eclipse that Kuhnhenn had at the Summer Beer Festival was among our favorites, but this
OK Espresso Love Breakfast Stout Corner Brewery – (ABC)
We’ve had this one before, and it’s a fairly-standard stout. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
OK Reserve Special Black Bier Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Another entry from the “tunnel of stouts,” this was a decent black bier, but there was nothing special about it.
OK Slammin’ Salmon American Pale Ale Hopcat
Eh, this was a standard APA. Again, nothing wrong with it, but nothing to get excited about either. Considering these guys have brewed a turkey beer in the past, I was hoping it would have fish in the recipe, just to be interesting.
Meh Devil in the Details Imperial Stout Frog Island Brewing Co.
As imperial stouts go, there wasn’t much to set this one apart. It was big, but hardly flavorful at all. I was really disappointed, as I’m a big lover of stouts.
Meh BBQIPA Smoked IPA B.O.B.’s Brewery
This was probably the most disappointing beer of the day. I was hoping for a truly smoky, barbecuey flavor (perhaps even some peppers, tomato, vinegar flavors). Instead, it had smoked applewood flavor barely present, and was mostly a standard IPA. Darn.

That’s just a selection of the beers we tried. Our rate of… rating… slowed down later in the day, and we stopped bothering with beer’s we’d had before pretty early in the day.

Winter Beer Fest Denouement

Paul and I were a little more concerned about enjoying ourselves and drinking good beer than taking extensive pictures (also I forgot my camera) and notes, so we don’t have a ton of original information to share. We are apparently alone though, as several other people have recounted their experiences on the internet:

Any links I’ve missed? I’ll gladly hear them in the comments (especially from other bloggers!)

On another note, if you used the YBD Winter Beer Festival App, I’d love to hear how it worked for you in the comments. What’d you like, what didn’t you like, what other features would you like to see added?

It kinda started out as a lark early last week, and if people like it enough, we’ll gladly update it (and, you know, put more than 3 days worth of work into it) for future festivals.