Showing posts with label alt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alt. Show all posts

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Get Your Smokey On!

Tomorrow sees the release of a very exclusive beer at the Starr Hill tasting room, where, I am sure you are aware if you've been reading Fuggled or a while, I occasionally work behind the bar and give tours of the brewery. The beer in question is hopefully the first in a series of brews designed and brewed by the tasting room staff, and available only in the tasting room.

This first beer is a smoked altbier, brewed with Pilsner, Munich, and Carafa II malts, as well as mesquite smoked malt from the Copper Fox distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. In terms of hops we used Perle as a first wort hop, and for the bittering addition, with Hallertau for flavour and aroma. Rather than using Starr Hill's standard top fermenting yeast, we used the Wyeast German Ale strain, which is from Düsseldorf's Uerige brewery.

A few weeks ago at the monthly tasting room team drinkies we got to sample the beer before it sat in cold conditioning, and it was everything we wanted it to be. The smoked malt is evident, without overpowering the rest of the beer. The Munich malt adds body and a malt richness, and the hops balance everything delightfully. At 5.6% and a deep brown colour, this really is a fine beer for an autumnal Friday evening. It's only a shame there is no fire place in the Starr Hill tasting room.

The name of this august brew? Smokey Das Bier, and it will only be available tomorrow from 5pm at the tasting room in Crozet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting Old

One of my most precious beer memories comes not from the hospody of Prague, the brewpubs of Nelson County or even the pubs of Kent on a sunny day. Rather, it comes from an arts festival in Berlin in 2008, when wandering around eating various types of wurst I spied the name Schumacher Alt and made a bee line for it. What followed was a revelation, a beer with the flavours that I love in a warm fermented beer with the crisp dry  finish and prominent hop bite that I love in a Pilsner.

The manly brew of which I speak is of course altbier, which as everybody and his uncle knows translates as "old beer", as opposed to the pale lager which was in the mid 19th century, new. I could argue here that 19th century pale lager was the craft beer of the day, but that would be too much fun.

Ever since I started homebrewing, I have wanted to make an altbier. As I am prone to do, I spent hours poring over style descriptions, the websites of alt luminaries such as Schumacher and Zum Uerige and various other media in order to get a real handle on how my project would shape up. From the outset I knew that I wanted to brew a straight up alt, not a sticke, doppelsticke or any other derivation thereon. I wanted a reasonably sessionable beer, call me crazy but I actively like drinking.

The one sticking point though has been the absence of a refrigeration chamber for lagering the beer in. Recently though I had a idea, and yes it hurt. I quite often buy 2.5 gallon bottles of water for brewing with, and so I wondered if I would be able to fit the 2.2 gallons of beer that I get out of a batch, once it is off the trub, into one such bottle.

As you can see, the hole in the bottle is in a slightly awkward place, so with a measured 1 gallon jug, I poured 2.3 gallons of water into a used bottle and hey presto, it comes to about half an inch below the hole. Suddenly I found myself with a surplus of lagering vessels, but still no refrigeration chamber. Then again the power of the mind fell upon me, with excruciating vehemence this time, I have a fridge! Any spare water in the bottles after brewing, I would store in the fridge, simply turn the bottle upside down and it should work fine, so I put the bottle in the fridge, and as you can see, I have a viable lagering system! Well, viable for doing altbier and k?lsch, which is just as well as they are styles I really like.

Having solved my little lagering issue, I finally got round to designing a recipe for the beer itself, and here it is:
  • 50% Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 49% Munich Malt
  • 1% Carafa III
  • 31 IBU of Spalt Select for 90 minutes
  • 4 IBU of Spalt Select for 20 minutes
  • Wyeast 1007 German Ale liquid yeast
Apparently, this will give me the following details with my system
  • OG - 1.048
  • FG - 1.012
  • SRM - 13 (copper to red)
  • ABV - 4.8%
I will be brewing this beer, which I am calling Old Cobbler's, on Saturday, and then lagering it for all of December. When we get back from our Christmas trip to France, I will bottle it in preparation for being able to drink again after my annual beer fast, which many people call "January".

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Come Autumn Come...

It's one of the those days here in Charlottesville, warm, cloudy and wet. It isn't actually raining at the moment, more that a damp murk has been drawn over the city. If it were about 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler I would be sat here thinking about it being the kind of weather I grew up with in Scotland, and would be as happy as a pig in clover. I like cool, damp and dark weather you see, it is perfect pub weather - honestly, can you think of any place better to be during a downpour, or more likely back home, a steady soaking of drizzle, than a comfy pub with a pint of something good in your hand?

The problem though with such weather is that when you add in the extra heat and attendant humidity, my brain just turns to mush and I have problems deciding on what to write about. But as the weather has put me in mind of autumn and its delights, I have of late started stocking up the cellar with beers for the coming dark months - winter being my favourite season of all. As such, the following beers have been added to the cellar in preparation.

Ok, so a lot of people think of K?lsch as more of a summer beer, but in my experience it has a malty sweetness which lends itself just as much to supping as the leaves change to amber as it does to refreshing yourself in the heat of a German biergarten. Doppelsticke is an extra powerful Altbier from the Uerige Brewery and Alt is again one of my favourite styles, and I love that bottle. Rauchweizen I have discussed at length elsewhere and the bottle of G?se is there because I want to try and get more of a handle on that style, which uses salt and coriander.

These bottles are just the beginnings of the dark nights cellar, sure there will be plenty of homebrew being stocked up, my imperial stout and spiced Belgian amber ale will make appearances, and come Thanksgiving the first of my 1 year in the bottle barleywine will be cracked open. Another batch of the peat smoked Mild previously known as Experimental Dark Matter will be in the works soon, renamed as Machair Mild.

Sure, there are plenty of sunny days to enjoy, but it is the dark and cool of a winter's beer that I am looking forward to.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Challenge to Bloggers/Readers

My somewhat over active brain has been at it again, damned thing really should know when to quieten down and just let me get some sleep. Today's post really comes out of a conversation I had with a colleague from the Starr Hill Brewery yesterday in the tasting room. Sundays are usually seriously quiet and so we have more time to talk, one topic that came up was the kind of range of beers a brewery has, in particular the core brands, using Starr Hill as an example, the core range is as follows:
  • Jomo Lager - a Southern German style lager
  • Amber Ale - an Irish Red Ale
  • Pale Ale - erm, guess what, it's an American Pale Ale
  • Northern Lights - an American India Pale
  • The Love - a hefeweizen
  • Dark Starr - a dry Irish stout
Obviously some breweries have far larger ranges, but I think in general Starr Hill covers the bases of what most people drink in the US. Part of the conversation was what range of beers would we have if we had our own brewery? A challenging thought, especially given all the styles of beer that are out there, but it got me thinking, what kind of beers would I make if I owned a brewery or brewpub - which is in some ways like asking which of the beers I already brew at home would I carry over into a business?

The first thing that I would say is that I would want to push cask ale as much as possible. Having tried the same beer on keg and on cask at a brewpub near Washington DC recently, all I can is that Tandleman knows a thing or two because the cask was infinitely superior. Running concurrent to a commitment to cask ale would be insisting on bottle conditioning. I know of only one brewery that bottle conditions over here (admittedly there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the American scene at the moment), but I think it is no coincidence that Bell's Brewery make my favourite beers at the moment.

As for the range of beers, I would have a core consisting of:
  • Experimental Dark Matter - dark mild, very dark, complex and yet perfectly sessionable
  • Blondynka - a proper pilsner, yes, triple decoction, Saaz hops, only Pilsner malt, at least 45 days lagering
  • Copper Head - a best bitter, like many things British, a much maligned style because it isn't done properly
  • Old Baldy - an American IPA, big malty brew with hops galore, none of your thin hopbominations here
  • Skippy Porter - a smoked chocolate porter, hopped only with Fuggles and it tells
  • 94 - a Dortmund Alt, not a common style over here, but one that I love so it would have to be there
My challenge then to my readers and other bloggers is what kind of beers would you make if you ran or owned a brewery/brewpub? I know a few of my readers already do brew on a commercial scale, what do you think of my line-up?

Happy thinking!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

No Blues in the Porterhouse

On our trip to Ireland last weekend, there was only one thing which was an absolute must as far as I was concerned, visiting one of the Porterhouse brewpubs whilst in Dublin on the Friday. I had heard much about their Oyster Stout and Wrasslers XXXX, and was hoping that they still had some of the their seasonally brewed Alt. Coming into Dublin on the bus from Westmeath took about an hour through some lovely countryside and past a plethora of houses that if I had the money I would buy at the drop of a hat. My first impressions of the city were that it reminded me a several other places that I like, in particular Limoges and Glasgow.

Having strolled around the centre for a few hours I suggested that we find somewhere to sit down and have a coffee or similar - admittedly I only made this suggestion once I had spied the Porterhouse Central. The pub put me in mind of the classic image of a New York bar, dark with a long bar, I liked it, and so headed to the bar to get some sustenance in the form of a pint of Alt, which was still on tap much to my delight, and it was a nice example of the style, perhaps a little thin in the body but it had the right combination of malty sweetness and refreshing drinkability.
The one I was most looking forward though was the Oyster Stout, and as I said to Beer Nut on Monday, I was a little disappointed. I had heard so many good things about this beer and so was expecting great things. It is isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it is just that perhaps I had stretched my imagination too far and even ambrosia wouldn't have lived up to its reputation. What it is though is a nicely dark and flavourful stout.

No problems however though with the Wrasslers XXXX, which is a reproduction of an old time stout which was apparently the drink of choice of Michael Collins, and what great taste in beer he must have had. The aroma of hops and coffee were teasing my nose as I carried my pint back to the table, urging me to dive on in and enjoy. Enjoy it I most certainly did, full on roasted coffee and liquorice flavours, wonderfully dry and with a long finish. The Porterhouse website say that this was beer like your grandfather drank - makes me wish all the more I had known him in that case!
With about half an hour to go before meeting up with our host's husband to head back to Westmeath, I squeezed in a pint of Plain Porter. I was starting to wonder about porters, not being a big fan of the examples I had tried already, too much soy sauce in the nose and taste for my liking. Plain was a different beast altogether, easy drinking, with light roasted flavours and a slight touch of burnt toffee. Given more time I would have have been alternating between this and the Wrasslers.

One thing though which stands out in my memory was an old fella sat on the table next to us who ordered a whiskey and water, which came already mixed - a big no no. When the barman had gone, having ever so gently been put in his place, the old fella began to talk about how the job of a barman in the modern world has become so devalued - was interesting to sit and listen to his stories (bad habit of mine is earwigging!).

So that was our wonderful trip to Ireland, the fulfilment of a long held dream. Sláinte!

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