Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Firkin Holidays

The Groveland Tap was the place to be tonight for beer geeks. As part of their "12 Nights of Christmas," which features a different drink special every night leading up the birthday of Christ, tonight they offered five firkins of different beers from Schell's (Pils), Summit (Winter dry hopped with Fuggles), Surly (Bender bourbon barrel aged), Bell's (Cream Stout) and Big Sky (Powder Hound). (A firkin is a keg for serving cask-conditioned beer. Cask beer is beer which is carbonated in and served directly--"pulled" from--the container.)

Reps from most of the breweries and other notables made an appearance, along with other beer fan-boys and girls . I joined the folks, and between us, we were able to sample most of the offerings. The Summit Winter was hands-down my favorite, followed by the Pils. The Bender, despite a nice bourbon undertone, seemed a little premature, as it was still a bit uncarbonated. The Bell's was good, but nothing to write home about. We unfortunately didn't get around to the Big Sky.

Many beer-related events are on the calendar this time of year, giving my palate a nice warm-up for the coming week with Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Get yer hot beer here!

I'm not one to go out my way for a limited release beer or anything (hahahahahaha), but I was especially intrigued by Town Hall Brewery's Festivus 2007, a Belgian Dark Ale aged on Belgian Dark Chocolate. It was rich and creamy and, yes, chocolately. I picked up a growler of it for an upcoming holiday gathering.

I also had a cup of hot mulled ale, Town Hall's annual Christmas present to their loyal customers. Yes, hot beer, but not any hot beer. It was a scotch ale with spices and a shot of rum. It was more incredible than I thought it would be, much better than mulled wine. It went especially well standing around a camp fire adjacent to Washington Avenue and Cedar Avenue during rush hour.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's getting very dark

If you've been keeping up with lately, then you know that Surly Brewing put up for sale a limited number of 750 ml bottles of their imperial stout Darkness this past weekend. Simple enough, right? Wrong. The first people to show up at the brewery on Saturday morning were some crazies from Iowa, setting up camp around a fire pit at around 2am.

Ok, truth-in-advertising here: I was crazy enough to arrive at 8am and stand around in the cold for an hour before Omar and crew opened the doors. But 2am?

I'm not that surprised, really. Darkness has swept the beer community, which will go to extreme lengths for hard-to-find beers. Surly had only 480 bottles to sell, allowing two per person. With no one really knowing what would happen--all we knew is that sales were to start at 2pm --our originally-planned arrival time was 10am, but it kept getting earlier and earlier as the hype kept increasing. I was lucky I suppose to get my two bottles, but tickets didn't sell out until 12:30pm on Saturday. Still, it was a good time and Surly took care of it's loyal fans with free samples all day, live music, and an inviting atmosphere.

My friend, neighbor and fellow homebrewer Don shot some video of the day. Check out his results below.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Lagers are....

While December is the perfect time to pour a dark, big beer--porters, stouts, barley wines, heavy browns--it's hardly the time to be brewing them, at least when the basement hovers around 50 degrees. I typically stray away from most lagers, which uses yeast that needs to ferment at lower temperatures. Dopplebocks can cause me to turn my head and tip my glass, but I would rather have an ale than most maibocks, Octoberfests and of course American lagers.

I had to swallow hard to face the fact that Tony's basement is under a constant chill and perfect for lagers. So we brewed our first ones last week: a Pilsner Urquell clone, which uses nothing but Saaz hops; and a lager using dry yeast, and Pride of Ringwood and centennial hops. It should be duly noted that centennial are typically used in West Coast IPAs, so we'll see what happens. Similarly, we just bottled an ale using mainly Saaz. Ya gotta experiment to learn, even if it results in a beer that's better as a marinade.

About 6 months ago, on a hot and sweaty July day, we brewed a double IPA and a barleywine. The double IPA is sadly about gone, but we're just now cracking into the barleywine. It's full of caramel and pipe tobacco, balanced with a slight bite of green apple.

Hahahaha, at about 10%, please ignore that last sentence. It's just fuckin' good.

Final note: I've been spending a lot of time blogging over at, so please check 'em out if you haven't already.