Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beer Launching Fridge!

Below is a link to this crazy beer launching fridge some guy with lots of time came up with. Its very cool, theres a link to a video too. Check it out:

If only the beer was better...


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hop Tasting, Session One

Today with several other brewer and homebrewer types we had a "hop tasting". Basically, each of the following varieties of hops were dry hopped into a bottle of Coors Light for 5 days. Coors Light was used because it basically has very little other flavour (being the "coldest" beer available... and whats with that marketing crap anyway? Coldness isn't a property of the beer... its a property of the fridge its in. Guh). Of course this only gives the dry hopped flavour and aroma of the hops, but its still pretty interesting.
In this session we tried Czech Saaz, German Tettnanger, US Tettnang, German Tradition, German Hersbrucker, German Hallertauer T-45, New Zealand Organic Hallertauer, German Spalt, US Santium, German Northern Brewer, French Strisselspalt, US Ahtanum, US Glacier, US Amarillo, US Galena, US Chinook, and US Warrior.

I found that the traditional noble hop types (basically the first 9 or so in the list) had very tea-like characteristics, with spicy, lemony citrus, and sometimes mint. I want to make a pilsner with Hersbrucker from flavour & aroma hopping. It was a very nice hop. My favorite was probably amarillo, which I have never knowingly had before. It would make an excellent dry hop, its very grapefruity and strong. I was surprised by warrior hops, they are very high alpha acid (16%) but don't have the harshness and bad flavours associated with other high alpha hops. Warrior is slightly citrus with some tea and floral notes. It doesn't have a lot of flavour either... I believe I will be using these for bittering hops for many an ale in the future.

The bad hops... Chinook is horrible, its a high alpha hop, but has a harsh and somewhat metallic flavour. Maybe a lot of that would boil out if boiled for long enough, but I'm not going to take that chance. Galena was pretty bad too... one guy described the aroma as "new plastic garbage can". At best, it would be used for bittering... but not by me.

I was surprised to find that Saaz didn't seem to have as strong of a flavour or aroma as I thought it would have compared to the other noble hops. Although it is a famous hop, you really would have to use loads of it in any application, be it bittering, flavour or aroma.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ordinary Bitter

Planning on brewing a simple English Ordinary Bitter on Monday. The style is interesting because it is low alcohol (this one ~3.5-3.7%) but still has plenty of flavour. Thus, I could have a few pints after work without getting drunk but still get all the benifits of the yeast, hops, proteins, and carbs that beer includes. Really, 4 pints are like 2 and a bit!

Here is the recipe that I'm pondering right now:

Ordinary Bitter

8-A Standard/Ordinary Bitter

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 40.0 L

Efficiency: 83%

Attenuation: 74.9%

Calories: 169.72 per 500 mL

Original Gravity: 1.036 (1.032 - 1.040)

Terminal Gravity: 1.009 (1.007 - 1.011)

13.2 (4.0 - 14.0)

3.56% (3.2% - 3.8%)

32.74 (25.0 - 35.0)


5.3 kg Canadian Craft Brewers Pale Malt
0.3 kg Extra Dark Crystal
0.25 kg Crystal Malt 120°L
0.15 kg Torrified Wheat

65 g East Kent Goldings (5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
28 g East Kent Goldings (5%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
28 g East Kent Goldings (5%) - added during boil, boiled 1 min

300 mL Alley Kat Ale Yeast


00:03:00 Mash In - Liquor: 12.0 L; Strike: 76.2 °C
01:03:00 Saccharification Rest - Rest: 60.0 min
01:04:00 Mashout - Water: 8.61 L; Temperature: 98 °C
01:49:00 Sparge - Sparge: 33.44 L sparge @ 78 °C, 48.05 L collected, 45.0 min; Total Runoff: 48.05 L

Yep, thats the plan!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Beerfest Wrap-up

The Edmonton International Beer Festival this weekend worked out pretty well. I had seen most of the beers/vendors at other festivals so most of it was "same old" for me. However, there were a few new things for me:

First was the presence of Paddock Wood Brewing from Saskatoon. I've only just recently seen their products on Edmonton liquor store shelves. Its good to see another craft brewery on the scene! So far they seem to make some really "big beers" with lots of flavour and alcohol. I haven't had as much of a chance to try all of their beers yet, but I did have a few
Bête Noire Oatmeal Stout last night and they were pretty good... although quite a "thick" beer that takes time to drink.

I was also surprised by Molson's "craft" branded beer Rickards' who is now producing "White", which actually wasn't a bad attempt at a Belgian Wit style. Its fairly subdued in flavour, but it does have some of the coriander and orange notes you'd expect in a wit. It also appears unfiltered, or at least not filtered tight enough to remove the haze found in the wit style. I bet this will be a big seller in the summer.

There were several imports represented as well. It looks like product from Brooklyn Brewery is here to stay, which is awesome since they make some pretty good beers. I tried some "He'brew" barley wine which contained some pomegranate juice... quite tasty! Its very subtle, if I hadn't been told there was pomegranate juice in it I would have thought it was a yeast character perhaps.

Noticeably absent was Maverick Brewery from here in Edmonton... they had a booth reserved but didn't show up. Apparently they didn't pay either. If you ask me, it seems like their operation may not last too much longer...

As for us, Alley Kat, we had a pretty good showing. People devoured our Aprikat (a wheat ale with some apricot in it... a "beer cooler"). We had a great booth location which helped for sure.

The event in general was pretty good, although I never have much patience for retartedly drunk people. The first evening wasn't so bad, but the second night seemed a lot rowdier... dumbasses getting kicked out as early as 7. I heard somebody got pushed down some stairs and there were maybe 3 fights. And the end of the night is never fun when you cut people off... they always want more beer. But I guess thats the business... luckily I just spend most of my time making beer and not selling it :).


Friday, February 09, 2007

Edmonton Beerfest!

This weekend I'll be serving up our fine Alley Kat beers at the Edmonton International Beer Festival, which is being held Feb 9 & 10 at the UofA Dinwoodie Lounge. Come down and chat with me about beer for awhile!

You can also check out the booth that the Edmonton Homebrewer's Guild will have set-up. The guild is one of the best in North America and have some of the beer-nerdiest people you can find!

It should be a pretty good event, although I worry that with it being held on campus there will be a lot of "drink to get as drunk as possible" types attending, which gets annoying. But hopefully lots of "beer nerds" show up, I love talking to beer nerds :)

Cheers and see you there!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Perhaps Brewing Sunday

I'm thinking of brewing at least one beer this weekend on Sunday, but I'm not too sure yet. If you're interested in helping out, let me know.
I'll probably brew the fourth in my series of Amber style beers, not sure what to do differently this time.


Monday, February 05, 2007

George Conrad Reifel, 1893-1958

When I was staying in Delta, BC (just outside of Vancouver) this xmas with my parents, we stayed at a hotel not far from the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. My suite was called the Reifel suite, and I was interested to read that Mr. Reifel was, in fact, a brewmaster according to a plaque on the wall. Well, sounds like this was the right room for me to be in!
Here is what the plaque read:

The Reifel Story
Born in Nanaimo May 15th, 1893, George Conrad Rifel was the son of Brewmaster, Henry Reifel Senior.

Together the father and son worked in the Union Brewing Company, Nanaimo, B.C. until 1910. The Reifel's moved to Vancouver and built the brewery, which is still in operation, now owned by Carling O'Keefe.

During prohibition, Henry and George C. traveled to Japan to assist in the establishment of the Anglo Japanese Brewing Co., a joint venture of Japanese, British, and Canadian.

Prior to the Japan trip, George C. married Alma Lucy Barnes and they had three children: Audry, George Henry and Alma Jane.

In 1922 the Reifels refurnished and re-opened the Vancouver brewery and the family business diversified with the establishment of the B.C. Distilleries Company in New Westminster.

During the late 1920's, George C. became interested in an area of southwest Delta, then known as Smoky Tom Island. Close to the mouth of the Fraser River, it was a virtual paradise of birds and wildlife.

As a big game enthusiast, George C. traveled extensively throughout British Columbia and the Yukon on hunting trip, often taking son George along. He recognized the island as an ideal retreat for pleasing his hobby of hunting and preserving game birds. George C. realized that with care and management, the area would remain a haven.

In 1927 George C. purchased a large parcel of land and over the next few years he installed dams and dikes where the Fraser River split into three narrow channels. George C. recovered additional land for his retreat forming three sloughs; Robertsons, Fullers and Ewens, that would attract birdlife.

He then proceeded to build the Reifels family home on the property in 1929. The house still stands and the land is called Reifel Island.

The Reifel story continues to grow. George Henry continues to add to the families accomplishments with unfailing enthusiasm for life.

The original sanctuary site, "George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary" was given to the Crown by George H. Reifel in 1973 as a tribute to his father's memory.

So, anyway that was somewhat interesting to me.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Its been a pretty long time since I've reviewed a beer, so I thought I throw one in. And what a worthy one it is: the seasonal Black Chocolate stout from Brooklyn Brewery in ... well, Brooklyn is a damn fine beer.

I had the chance to visit the brewery when I was visiting NYC, I was even supposed to meet up with the famed brewer Garrett Oliver. However, I was an idiot and got to the brewery too late on the day I was supposed to be there, at which point I had to leave to meet a friend. Fired!

The beer pours BLACK... I can't see through it at all, and my glass is pretty thin at the bottom. Very little head, which is quite brown. No lacing, although seemingly very thick running down the side of the glass.
I get a slight alcohol aroma off the initial nose, as well roasty and dark chocolate notes as well. Possibly a fruity note in there as well... I can't tell if its from hops or the yeast though.
There isn't a whole lot of carbonation in the beer, maybe 2.1-2.2 vol CO2.

The first thing I notice about drinking this beer though is how smooth it is. It goes down VERY easily. I had one of these last week, and I felt a little more buzzed than I expected... then I checked the bottle... this beer is 10.6% alc/vol! It certainly doesn't have the characteristics I associate with a very strong beer. I detect no fusel alcohols (which tend to give me a slight sinus headache), not a lot of alcohol warming in the stomach, and no biting finish that would make me cringe. The beer is so well balanced... very thick body and solid malt character. I detect little hop bitterness or character until the finish, about 5 seconds after a sip I get a slight bitterness bite on the side of my tongue. But it seems the hop character are just there for balance, the flavour of this beer is dominated by the chocolate & malt roasty character.

Overall, this beer is quite interesting... its a very strong beer, but it goes down so easily. You almost have to force yourself to drink it slower. Usually the strong beers make you drink them slower by their intense overpowering flavours. While the black chocolate stout is very flavorful, there is nothing overpowering about it. Its so smooth... so well balanced.

I give it a 9/10 for the style and for beer in general :)


Friday, February 02, 2007


I've decided that I should start climbing. Yes, the rock type. How? Well I plan to take a lesson this Saturday. I think I'll be good at it and I'll like it. I'm already in pretty good shape from brewing (which, by the way is still leaving me sore at the end of the day sometimes), its a physical job in which I'm moving around all day and moving heavy things around all day too... so I'm not too worried about climbing (although I'm sure it will use some muscles I'm not used to using, but in general I should be better than your average office worker :)

Anyway... indeed this post isn't about beer, but too bad.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Barley Wine!!

So on Monday here at Alley Kat Brewery I had the honor or brewing the 2007 edition of the Old Deuteronomy Barley Wine. This is a very VERY big beer, and is only brewed once a year. The recipe is pretty heavy... I can't say what it is, but the initial gravity is supposed to be 24.5 P (but I got 24.8 out of my mash!) and the IBU is supposed to be ~100 (depending on what calculation method you use).

Normally after the boil we are only supposed to have 12 hectolitres, but I finished at 13.5 hL. I think I got so much beer because I spent the extra time to make sure the mash was a solid 78 degC from top to bottom on the mashout (which makes sugars more soluble and protein less soluble, apparently), plus I took a very long time to run off from the mash-tun to the boil kettle (we only took the first runnings from the mash, no sparging... with a longer run-off time the liquid has more of a chance to trickle through the mash bed to the drain).
Anyway, we used a scottish ale yeast to ferment the beer, as the yeast had fermented out most recent seasonal "Kiltlifter Scotch Ale" very well... in previous years the barley wine was done with our house "english" ale yeast, so the switch to scotch ale yeast should be interesting.

Anyway, we're not going to tank-age it for as long this year, look for the 2007 barley wine by mid-March I think :)