Thursday, October 26, 2006

One Year of Bloggin'!

Well, I've missed it by a week or so, but it turns out I've been running this blog for a year! My first posts were on October 13th 2005. Click here to see my first post. Its been an interesting year -- I was living in Fort St. John, BC and was horribly lonely, I got a lead on a job in a brewery in Edmonton, and I got that job. I've now moved to Edmonton and been a brewer for almost 8 months! How quickly the time passes...

Now its time to think about what will happen in the next year...

I have two choices... stay on with my awesome craft brewery, or go off to get a masters in brewing in Scotland (or possibly Australia). I love my job at the brewery now... I participate in every part of the process from brewing all the way to packaging. I've started to develop my own recipes, and who knows... maybe one of them will get picked up as a seasonal. Its a great small brewery and I actually feel like I make a difference, and I love the fact I can say I brew the beer and that we're so small. My boss gives me the freedom to just get the job done and make good beer without watching over my shoulder every second. Its really great. And I love living in Edmonton right now too, I own a condo in a lively area, have lots of friends nearby, an excellent roomate/tennant, and a messy room I really don't want to pack up again.
But of course, going to get a MSc in Scotland would certainly be good for my career... but it depends on where I want my career to go. Would getting my MSc make me overqualified to work at the smaller craft breweries? I don't think I would fit well with a large scale brewery. Do I want to do research?? What if I would enjoy running the brewery at a brewpub more??? How much do I want to move around the world????
It seems like almost every day I change what my decision is, or I put it off more. Eventually I will have to decide and that decision will decide the rest of my life! AHHHHHHHH!

Well, for you few but faithful, thanks for reading over the last year. I know I haven't been as posty as I could be, but I like to think that I post "enough". In the last year I have done 166 posts, which is almost half a post per day of the year (0.45479 per day). So a post every 2 days on average ain't too shabby!

Cheers to a new year!

Article on NYC

Here is an article I've written to appear in the Edmonton Homebrewer's Guild Newsletter on my trip to NYC:

New York, City of Awesome

The word "awesome" is certainly by far overused in society as well as my vocabulary these days. However, there isn't a better word to describe how I feel about my recent trip to New York City. The word "awesome" means "something which inspires awe", and New York City certainly does that. The city is about being big -- big skyscrapers, big money, big population, big parks, big traffic headaches, and most importantly: big beer selection.

First off, a little about the city itself. I had the fortune to be able to stay with a friend who lived on the the East side of midtown Manhattan. From that point pretty much anything you would want to do was within 45 minutes walking distance, if not closer. The NYC Metro is... interesting, but functional. Once you figure out the difference between "local" and "express" trains you're set (you figure this out quickly after you see your stop whiz by... and the next two stops too... and find yourself in a sketchy-looking spot of Harlem). Oddly, Manhattan seems to be a very safe place, even at night, which surprised me. I wandered the streets alone for a few hours very late at night and never felt "in danger" -- in fact, I saw several young, attractive females jogging alone in the wee hours of the morning. That certainly defies the stereotype that I had of the city. I could walk around the city for hours, and see something interesting every few minutes. Every couple of streets brings something new.

Of course, one of the reasons I went to New York was to try some great beers. I visited almost 15 bars/pubs on my visit, but I'll only write about the highlights. My first stop was at Heartland Brewpub in Union Square. While they have what looks like a full brewery in the back, they don't actually brew there anymore. Most of the beers I tasted there were not "awesome", and in fact some of them had a very soda-like flavour I disagreed with. Their "Cornhusker" lager is actually advertised as being brewed with corn being an advantage somehow. Not surprisingly, it was a very corny and horrible beer. However, they did have a couple of gems. They make a very good IPA as well as a decent seasonal Saison. They also produce an Imperial IPA (7.75% abv), which was by far one of the best beers I had during my entire stay. It seemed unfiltered, amber-brown, nice flowery hop aroma (but not too strong), and a beautiful balance of sweet malty goodness on the forefront with a great bitter finish that sticks like glue. Every other Imperial IPA I've had seems to put too much effort into the hops and ignores the malt to balance it, I think this brewer got it perfect.

My next stop was to a German pub called Zum Schneider. I had the opportunity to try many German beers I've only heard of on TAP (including Weinsephaner Hefeweizen and Spaten Doppelbock). Definitely book off an afternoon + evening at this place if you're ever in NYC.

One of the best stops I made was to Sixpoint Craft Ales in lower Brooklyn. Located in a somewhat run-down industrial area, this very small brewery produces some excellent beers. I spent the afternoon with Aaron Stumpf, the head brewer. I helped them move their bags of malt around, and was well-rewarded with some of their fine beers (so much so that my ability to find my way back to the metro was hindered). They don't filter any of their beers! They use a combination of highly-floculant yeasts and longer aging of each batch to achieve a semi-clear beer. One of the best beers that I had on my trip was their Brownstone Ale, a very complex malty beer made with 10 specialty malts. I am currently trying to replicate this beer, however I can't get any samples out here to compare to! They sent me home with several bottles of some of their beers, I will bring one to this month's meeting (unless I drink them all...)

Last, by certainly not least, I visited The Ginger Man Beer Bar. This bar boasts ~66 draught beers plus 1-2 cask beers, and >130 bottled beers from around the world. I was in heaven... my only mistakes were to visit this place only once, which was on the second last day of my trip when I was pretty much "over-beered" (yes, it IS possible). Their cask ale was the Sixpoint Ales Bengali Tiger... a MASSIVELY bitter beer that was even too much for me. I also made the mistake of ending my night with two half-pints of barley wines on draught... Victory Old Horizontal 10.5% (the name is quite suiting for my position an hour or so later), and the Rock Art Ridge Runner (7.5%). Both very excellent beers, especially the Victory... it didn't taste like an 10.5% beer, and it went down very easily, which is a very bad combination.

Certainly, New York City isn't known for having a lot of breweries, but because of the large population (8.5 million) the beer selection is great. Even the nearest pub or grocery store will have some Dogfish Head or Stone in bottles. I imagine within the next year I will return to New York City... amongst all the places in the world I think I had more fun there than anywhere else!

Monday, October 23, 2006

A trip to the beer store

I was in Calgary this weekend where I took a trip to my favorite beer store, Willow Park Wines & Spirits. I always limit myself to as much as I can carry in a basket. This trip I picked up:
Chimay White Cap
Fisht Tale Ale Anniversary Reel Ale
Tree Brewing Spy Porter
Tree Brewing Jack in the Bock
Unibroue Chambly Noir (The new one I think)
Duckstein Copper Gold (I've never heard of this, but the beer manager reccomended it)
Midnight Sun Espresso Stout
Gouden Carlous Triple
Belhaven St. Andrews Ale
Fuller's London Porter
Traquair House Ale
Bigrock Espresso Stout Seasonal

Looking forward to trying them all... I'll try to actually review them too :)


Just a quick post to say that I've ordered myself a macbook :)
Intel Core Duo 2.0 GHz, 1 GB ram, 60 gb harddrive (which I will quickly replace with a 120gb drive that is waaaay cheaper than is available on the site).
Hell yeah.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Super Amber Brown Ale - Try #2

After tasting my last try at making a really nice malty beer with not too much hop bitterness, just enough to balance it with maybe a slight hop flavour. I really want to bring out a chocolatey-roast flavour, and I'm trying to figure out how to do that. I figured adding more chocolate and roast malt might do it, but I may be wrong.
Anyway, from the first try at this I removed all the munich malt, replaced ~1/2 of the weight with pale malt, then added a dash of honey & melanoidin malts, plus upped the percentage of chocolate and roast malts. I'm going for a complex maltiness, so maybe the addition of the honey and melanoidin will help.
I may regret taking out the munich though... as you can see now only about 70% of the malt bill comes from fermentable-sugar producing malts! Luckily the blend of 2-row malt we get at the brewery gets excellent extract :).

Anyway the old recipe is here.

The new recipe is here:
2006-10-09 Super Amber II

A ProMash Brewing Session Report

Brewing Date: Monday October 09, 2006
Head Brewer: Brian Westcott
Asst Brewer:
Recipe: Super Amber II

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (L): 26.00 Wort Size (L): 26.00
Total Grain (kg): 5.71

Anticipated OG: 1.062 Plato: 15.30
Anticipated SRM: 28.2

Anticipated IBU: 29.5

Brewhouse Efficiency: 85 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Actual OG: 1.062 Plato: 15.20

% Amount Name SRM
17.5 1.00 kg. Pale 2-row Harrington 2
56.1 3.20 kg. Pale 2 Row (Alley Kat Blend) 2
15.8 0.90 kg. Crystal 75L 75
4.0 0.23 kg. Chocolate Malt 475
2.0 0.11 kg. Honey Malt 25
2.0 0.11 kg. Melanoidin Malt 32
2.0 0.11 kg. C120 120
0.7 0.04 kg. Roasted Barley 575

Potential represented as Degrees Plato per pound per gallon.

Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
40.00 g. Goldings - E.K. Pellet 5.50 22.8 75 min
20.00 g. Goldings - E.K. Pellet 5.50 6.6 20 min

Alley Kat Ale Yeast


Saturday, October 07, 2006

It had to happen eventually

I figured that some time in my brewing career I would perform an error so bad that it would cause an entire batch of beer to be dumped.
Well, this week I performed that error, and had to dump 20 hL of beer down the drain (thats 2000 L for those unknowing of the metric system).
What did I do? Well we had two 500 kg bags of barley malt for making beer with. One was pale 2-row malt (light in colour, lots of enzymes for converting starch, and lots of starch for converting to sugar) and the other was Munchi (which tastes "maltier" or a littly "nutty", has less enzymatic power, and is darker in colour). So when milling the grain for a batch of our Aprikat beer (which is ~50% pale 2-row, its mostly wheat malt) I accidentally grabbed the munich rather than the pale 2-row. Thus, the beer was much darker than usual, and tasted like, well, munich malt.

Cheers, and happy thanksgiving to ya'll you Canadia folk.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Yellow Shirts

I always seem to have a better time in whatever I'm doing when I wear a yellow shirt.

Thats odd.

But I like yellow shirts (unless wasps attack me).


Odd placed comments

Sometimes I get emails from comments posted on my blog and I go to my most recent posts, where I find no new comments. Which means somebody has commented on an old post of mine. But of course there seems to be no way of knowing which blog entry these comments were posted to so I can reply or see the profile of the poster or whatever.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

the lokey massive

A good friend of mine who does some awesome/interesting 'reconstructed decompositions' work as a DJ just launched a new website with a podcast feed for his work. Check it out... and download some mixes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Homebrew - Super Amber Brown Ale

So I came to a realization... If I'm going to be a brewer, one day I will have to actually produce recipes for new beers. I haven't really done any homebrewing / small batch brewing for several months. And I kinda abandoned those batches anyway. So I have to start doing my own recipe formulation, and yesterday I did! Here is the promash info:

BJCP Style and Style Guidelines
12-B Porter, Robust Porter

Min OG: 1.048 Max OG: 1.065
Min IBU: 25 Max IBU: 60
Min Clr: 22 Max Clr: 42 Color in SRM, Lovibond

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (L): 46.00 Wort Size (L): 46.00
Total Grain (kg): 9.95

Anticipated OG: 1.063 Plato: 15.50
Anticipated SRM: 24.9

Anticipated IBU: 35.2

Brewhouse Efficiency: 85 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Actual OG: 1.063 Plato: 15.50

% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
70.4 7.00 kg. Pale Malt Canada 1.044 2
16.1 1.60 kg. Crystal 75L Great Britian 1.034 75
8.0 0.80 kg. Munich Malt Germany 1.037 8
3.0 0.30 kg. Chocolate Malt Great Britain 1.034 475
2.0 0.20 kg. C120 Great Britain 1.033 120
0.5 0.05 kg. Roasted Barley Great Britain 1.029 575

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
75.00 g. Goldings - E.K. Pellet 5.50 29.5 75 min
46.00 g. Goldings - E.K. Pellet 5.50 5.7 20 min

So, as you can see, this is should be a fairly malty beer. I miscalculated something as I only wanted about 30 IBUs, but 35 isn't much more and hopefully the beer is malty enough to make it balance well. I pretty much hit all the numbers I expected to. I used our brewery's ale yeast for this. Oh, and I also used a simple single step infusion at 68 C.

The recipe is basically a suped up version of Amber Brown Ale that we produce commercially, hence the weird name given that I've classified it as a robust porter. Note, however, that I've changed a lot from the commercial recipe, or else I probably whould be posting it here on the internet! I expect 6% alcohol when finished, with lots of chocolately malt flavour and a hell of a lot of mouthfeel.

I'm actually trying to replicate an excellent beer I had from Sixpoint Craft Ales in Brookyln called brownstone. It has such a great complex malt character with lots of chocolate malt that I just had to try to make something similar. I may have even gone too easy on the chocolate and roast barley... we'll see.

Anyway, for those of you in the Edmonton area it should be ready for trying in about 3 weeks.


Heartland Brewpub in NYC

On my 2nd day in New York we went down to the Heartland Brewpub in Union Square. Its a pretty nice place, and it wasn't too busy (being a Sunday evening and all). Lots of beer related stuff all over the place... posters, brewing equipment, etc. It looks like they had a full working brewery from what I could tell, but they don't brew there anymore. The service was ok, not too slow, not too fast. I ordered their beer sample tray, and the results were...

Apricot ale - (Seasonal, 4.5%) Not all that pleasant... some kinda soda flavour in it. Not a lot of noticeable apricot flavour. My brewery makes an apricot ale... this beer was certainly more bitter than ours. Overall... I wouldn't order it myself.

Smiling Pumpkin Ale - (Seasonal, 5.5%) Quite nice! Good spicy/cinnamon note. Maybe even some cloves. However, I wasn't a big fan of the finish, which was fairly bitter that didn't really go with the spicy flavour. I'd drink it for the initial taste though.

Cornhusker Lager - They actually advertise and seem proud of the fact this beer is made with corn. And it certainly is, you can taste the cornyness quite strongly. I didn't bother finishing the 4 oz sample, just terrible, for me.

Harvest Wheat - Was served with a lemon, which I took out but the damage to the flavour had already been done. Cloudy & light coloured. Very clean flavour, with an odd bitterness, probably damaged by the lemon flavour. Might be nice on a sunny patio though.

IPA: This was my favorite one until I tried their Imperial IPA (see below). Decent hop flavour, mild aroma. Dry finish that sticks for several minutes. Seems like some combination of English and American hops maybe? Somewhat spicy, somewhat floral notes. Reminds me of Tree Brewing's Hophead IPA from Kelowna, BC but with less dry hopping. Medium "plus" body. Head stuck to the side of the glass all the way down. Definitely a great beer.

Red Rooster Ale: Nice malty start, but jumps into a harsh bitterness (as well as a strong bite from the carbonation). Not much hop flavour. Seems to be a lot of munich malt in this one. Not too bad of a beer, overall.

Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout - This has won several awards. Medium body. Fisrt note very chocolatey & burnt flavour. Not a whole lot of aftertaste. Some bitterness from the roasted malts. No hop flavour or aroma. I ordered a pint of this after the sample tray, its a decent beer... but I wouldn't say it blew me away with its flavour.

Empire Ale - I only had like 2 sips of this, and it was a pretty good Czech style pilsner/lager. Crisp, clean, nice hop finish.

Imperial IPA - (7.75%) Just AWESOME. I came back the next day with a friend because we had to have another two. Slightly cloudy, Amberish brown. Beautiful balance of sweet malty goodness on the forefront with a great bitter balance on the finish that makes you want to come back for more. I like this because while it was quite bitter, it wasn't a harsh bitter... it was quite a smooth and relatively easy drinking beer for an imperial IPA. A lot of IPAs, especially ones labeled 'imperial' seem to go overboard with the bitteness and don't balance it with enough malt. This beer was still balanced towards the bitterness, but not overdone. A very good beer in my opinion.

Matrimony Saison - (5.0%) Golden yellow, cloudy, "hoegarrdenny" yeast character, lots of citrus flavour/aroma. High burpy carbonation. Not bad, I only had a few sips of someone else's pint though.

All in all, it was a pretty good visit. Evidently I wasn't impressed by a lot of their beers, but their Imperial IPA makes this a place I would definitely go back to over and over again... if I only lived in NYC.