BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers

Continuing from BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, and BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Beers, we move on to the 2014 proposed changes to the BJCP Style Guide in the areas of ales and specialty beers.  These are the categories of beer that have the most entrants, the most variation, and the most contention.  Here is where the enhanced and expanded concept of Descriptors really steps into the ring swinging.

It’s also the section that includes the most uproarious new style – the oxymoronic Black IPA (or is it Cascadian Dark Ale?).  Everyone wants a definitive ‘what is a black IPA’ and a ‘what is NOT a black IPA’ to work with.  (What’s next?  Dark Pale Ale?  Schwarzweisse?  LOL.)  With the use of descriptors, the powers that recommend have easily stepped around this issue – and put an end to the Imperial IPA vs Double IPA discussion at the same time.  (More on that below.)

English Pale Ale

  • Standard/Ordinary Bitter naming simplified to Ordinary Bitter.
  • Special/Best/Premium Bitter naming simplified to Best Bitter.
  • Extra Special/Strong Bitter naming simplified to Strong Bitter.  Can’t say I’m entirely happy about this one.  I like the idea (see the explanation in the Overview in my last post), but not the names.  I see the concept of similar naming by strength, but I would have preferred the ESB name stay in use within the Style Guidelines.
  • A new style that has become popular in England in recent decades is English Golden Ale, also known as Summer Ale or Golden Bitter.

Scottish and Irish Ale

  • The Scots don’t refer to their beers by shilling price (60/-, et al.) any more, so the names are being updated to reflect current usage.  The names in use reflect a simpler differentiation, so the number of different-strength Scottish ales have been reduced.
  • Scottish 60/- and Scottish 70/- ales have been combined into the new Scottish Light style.
  • Scottish 80/- and Scottish 90/- ales (sometimes submitted as 80/- ales and sometimes as Scotch ales) have been combined into the new Scottish Heavy style.
  • Scotch Ale, a naming source of MUCH confusion in the beer world, has been renamed to Scottish Wee Heavy, reflecting both current usage and eliminating the Scottish/Scotch naming confusion.
  • Much to my sadness at the continued nationalism displayed, Irish Red Ale currently remains with the Scottish ales.  Personally, I’d like to see this moved into the English Brown Ale category with Milds, perhaps renaming the category British Amber Ale.  The flavour profile does not belong with Scottish Ales.  In fact, British Amber Ale could include Milds and Irish Reds, while British Brown Ale could include the brown ales and the Scottish ales – much more appropriate groupings, if the focus remains on judging the final products’ traits.

American Ale

  • Perhaps because it’s a simple catchall category for everything that does not fit somewhere specific, American Pale Ale, American Amber Ale, and American Brown Ale remain the same.

English Brown Ale

  • There has been confusion about the difference between a light-coloured Mild and a lightly-hopped Ordinary Bitter.  In order to clear this up, Mild is being renamed Dark Mild.  This should make the differences between an English Pale Ale (lighter colour, lighter hops), an Ordinary Bitter (lighter colour, heavier hops), and a Mild (darker colour, lighter hops) clearer to a potential entrant.
  • Southern English Brown Ale is (a) not called that by the English and (b) near impossible to find commercially, so it is being renamed London Brown Ale and being described as a Descriptor under the new Historical Beer category.
  • Northern English Brown Ale (also not called that by the English) is being renamed to simply English Brown Ale, as it reflects the brown ales currently on the market in England.

Porter

  • Nobody in the world outside of BJCP judges has ever heard of a Brown Porter or a Robust Porter – small wonder entrants often have a hard time deciding how to enter a porter in competition.
  • In reality, the Brown Porter style describes the modern British porter, so the name and description are being altered to more accurately portray an English Porter.
  • In reality, the Robust Porter style describes the drier, bolder, roastier porter made in the USA, so the name and description are being altered to more accurately portray an American Porter.
  • Baltic Porter remains the same.  IMHO, however, they are getting harder to find and seldom seen in competition – Baltic Porter may be a good candidate for moving into the Historical Beer category.

Stout

  • Some things remain the same.  Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, American Stout, and Imperial Stout remain unchanged.
  • Dry Stout is being more accurately renamed Irish Stout and the description is being revised to describe the Irish house stouts, often served on nitro tap.
  • In practice, stouts served in Ireland are generally around 4% ABV, so the higher gravity 5.5-6% stouts that are generally bottled for export are being split off into the new category Irish Extra Stout.
  • Perhaps Irish Stout and Irish Extra Stout will end up grouped with Scottish and Irish Ales?
  • In addition, due to popular request from the southern hemisphere, Foreign Extra Stout will remain while Tropical Stout is split off as a new category.  Although with the new dependence upon Descriptors, it seems the Tropical Stout substyle would be an ideal candidate.

India Pale Ale

  • Okay, I know…this is the one y’all are waiting for.  It’s also some of the biggest change in the entire list.
  • First, there’s this:  there are only two styles of IPA:  English IPA and American IPA and they will stay English IPA and American IPA.
  • Imperial IPA has been deleted.  It was an arbitrary name chosen by the BJCP that became part of common beer parlance.  Confusion with Imperial IPAs and Double IPAs has led to both being used in the marketplace, and Double IPA is becoming the preferred term.  At this point, the BJCP will only recognize the term “Imperial” as referencing Russian Imperial Stout.  Of course, the industry has grabbed the term and run with it, giving us Imperial Reds, Imperial Browns, Imperial Hefes, etc. that will still continue to be downgraded for being too strong for their styles unless they are entered as some sort of Specialty beer.
  • IPAs will now have a Descriptor for strength.  A Standard strength IPA does not have to be stated as such – if no descriptor is written, the assumption will be as a Standard IPA.  Lower-gravity IPAs may be listed as a Session IPA.  Higher-gravity IPAs are to be listed as a Double IPA (remember that Imperial IPA no longer exists).
  • There will also be a Descriptor for the IPA substyle.  Examples listed by Gordon Strong include Black IPA, Brown IPA, Red IPA, White IPA, and Rye IPA. This is also where you may add your own notes (for example, you may list your American IPA as a Chocolate IPA or your English IPA as an English Smoked IPA).
  • He also listed Belgian IPA on the same list, but I’m not sure how that would work, listing a Belgian IPA as a substyle of an American IPA?  Perhaps the Belgian IPA is more appropriate at the same tier as the English/American style split?
  • You can also use multiple Descriptors from the list.  Thus it is possible that a new IPA entry may list a Red Rye American Double IPA as the beer style, for example.
  • Crazy, yah?  But remember, this is also about taking the categories that have ridiculous numbers of entries and splitting them apart for manageable judging.  This will allow a competition to have the often-several tables of IPA judges be able to have a more consistent palate at each table, granting more accurate judging and less palate fatigue.

German Wheat and Rye Beer

  • The category is being simplified to include wheat beers only, removing the rye.
  • Weizen/Weissbier is being renamed to simply Weissbier.  I can understand the confusion of Weizen and Wiezen, but don’t agree with the Weissbier choice personally.  This is one of those American-viewpoint naming issues.  The fact is, in Germany, what we know as hefeweizen is more commonly called hefeweiss or simply weiss.  The BJCP is trying to correct the industry usage to reflect the naming in the style’s home country.  However, an awful lot of people are going to wonder where to put a hefeweizen.  And surprisingly, I see no accomodation for krystallweizen.  Perhaps Hefeweizen and Krystallweizen are better as Descriptors for the new Weissbier category?
  • It get worse when we see that Dunkelweizen, in the same category, remains unchanged as Dunkelweizen.  Somehow, I would really like to see the terms Hefeweizen, Krystallweizen, and Dunkelweizen at the same tier, side-by-side with Weizenbock.
  • Speaking of Weizenbock, it is being renamed to Dunkels Bock (which sounds strange to me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beer labelled as a Dunkels Bock, although I’ve seen a few Dunkelbocks).
  • Roggenbier (German rye beer) has been hard to find for some time and is being removed to the Historical Beer category (if it were still easy to find commercially, it would have moved to the Alternative Grains category).

Belgian and French Ale

  • A weird junk drawer of north-central European ale styles, most of it remains the same.
  • Witbier, Belgian Pale Ale, Saison, and Biere de Garde remain unchanged.
  • Personally, I think a Continental Wheat Ale category would be nice, including witbier, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, and weizenbock.
  • Biere de Garde and Biere de Noel seem to be disappearing from the marketplace.  Perhaps these should move under Historical Beer or be considered a Descriptor-level substyle to Saison?
  • There is a new Trappist Singel style for monastic-style table beers that will probably land in this category.
  • The Belgian Specialty Ale category has been deleted.  Many will move to Belgian IPA, Trappist Singel, or Specialty – Clone Beer.

Sour Ale

  • Berliner Weisse and Flanders Red Ale remain the same.
  • Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin has been renamed to simply Oud Bruin.
  • Lambic (I assume this includes the Gueuze and Fruit Lambic styles as well) remains the same naming-wise, but now must list the Carbonation and Sweetness levels as Descriptors.

Belgian Strong Ale

  • Praise be!  An entire category that remains untouched!
  • Belgian Blond Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, and Belgian Dark Strong Ale remain the same.
  • Personally, I would like to see a Monastic Beer category spun off including Singel, Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel.  This would leave Pale, Blond, Golden Strong, and Dark Strong together for a basic Belgian Ale catchall category.

Strong Ale

  • Old Ale is being redefined to explicitly require an aged character.
  • Old Ale without the requisite aged character is being spun off into a new style called English Strong Ale.
  • A new category named American Strong Ale fills the remaining gaps, creating a new home for difficult-to-place beers such as Stone’s Arrogant Bastard (the example Gordon Strong used).
  • English Barleywine and American Barleywine remain unchanged.
  • Although they will be supplemented by a new Wheatwine style.

Historical Beer

    • So here’s a weird one.  We finally have separate styles listed under Fruit Beer and Specialty Beer, so we can avoid having the same thing written for category and style on a beer (something that can confuse over-imbibing judges’ beer goggles) – more on that below – and BAM! there’s a new category with NO styles whatsoever.  Instead of listing styles that may come or go in popularity, and wanting to accommodate new styles without needing to renumber again, the suggestion being made is to list the actual historical style of a beer entered into the Historical Beer category as a Descriptor.  The new BJCP Style Guide will describe the basic details of a number of example historical styles, for judges to reference.  However, entrants are NOT restricted to the example Descriptor styles listed.  So here’s what was directly mentioned in one way or another:
    • London Brown Ale – as noted above, the former Southern English Brown Ale is the historical style, so it has been renamed and the description will move here.
    • Roggenbier / Rauchbier – as noted elsewhere, these styles are less in commercial production than they were and their descriptions are being moved here as well.
    • As noted earlier, the Classic American Pilsner has been more accurately renamed as Pre-Prohibition Lager and moved here.
    • A Pre-Prohibition Porter has been proposed, to cover the styles known as East Coast Porter or Pennsylvania Porter, typified by Yuengling Porter.
    • Gose – a salty, coriander-dosed refreshing light beer (recently highlighted by Samuel Adam’s 26.2 beer for the Boston Marathon).
    • Grodziskie – also called Gratzer, this is a Polish style of beer made with 100% smoked wheat malt (the entire reason that Oak-Smoked Wheat Malt is even on the homebrew market), often with bread yeast
    • Lichtenainer – a sour style of smoked beer
    • Kentucky Common – a darker style of Cream Ale, currently in resurgence
    • Sahti – a Finnish beer made with juniper, often with bread yeast (recently getting press in the craft beer publications)As one might expect, selecting a Historical Beer style that is not delineated would require some notes about the style for the judges to use – and would face a greater challenge being accurately judged for the style (and brewing to style IS the focus of what we’re judging at a BJCP event).

Fruit Beer

Gordon Strong on the BJCP definition of “fruit”

We are being more explicit in how we define “fruit.” We are explicitly saying that we’re using the culinary definition of fruit and not the botanical version, because I don’t know how many times I’ve heard arguing about that. And we actually do use the phrse in here . . . umm . . . try to remember it exactly . . . “If you have to use the word ‘technically’ to justify a beer being in this category, that’s NOT what we mean.” Because . . . you wind up with cocnut, or, you know, tomato or something like that – and people argue endlessly on that. So we just . . . you know, if you wouldn’t eat it for breakfast, it’s probably not a fruit.

  • Fruit Beer, a formerly style-less category, now has three separate styles.  As always, all fruit beers are required to list their Base Style and what fruits are added.
  • The Fruit Beer style remains as a designation, although it now refers to a beer from a classic base style with only fruit added.
  • The new Fruit and Spice Beer style in pretty self-explanatory.  Be sure to list all of the featured fruit and spice additions.
  • A third catchall is the Specialty Fruit Beer style.  This may include fruits and overlap into the herbs or vegetables additive lists.  This does NOT include sour fruit beers, however.  Again, list all fruits and special ingredients.

Spiced Beer

  • The category formerly known as Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer is now named Spiced Beer, with three styles listed.
  • The first grouping is where the old category designation Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer lies now at the style level.  Although it is still written this way, Gordon Strong pointed out in his presentation that it was never meant to be said or used in full that way.  He stressed that the original intent was to have a grouping that would allow people to enter a Spice Beer, and Herb Beer, a Vegetable Beer, a Spice and Vegetable Beer, etc.  He was not quite clear whether this should be written as the style name itself or as a Descriptor for the style.
  • The second style group under Spiced Beer is the old Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer that has been renamed as Winter Seasonal Beer (a little easier to read and is descriptive of the full range of winter brews involving spiced.
  • A new style is Autumn Seasonal Beer.  Obviously, this includes pumpkin beers and harvest beers – there are many styles that capture the bounty and flavours of the season, just remember that this style needs to include some sort of spices, herbs, or vegetables.

Smoked Beer

  • Classic Rauchbier has been renamed to the more broad Classic Style Smoked Beer.  True German Rauchbier is rare enough that it is a Descriptor style under Historical Beers.
  • Other Smoked Beer has been renamed Specialty Smoked Beer.

Wood-Aged Beer

  • Many judges complained about the palate fatigue of having to judge smoked and wood beers together, so the decision was made to separate them into two different categories, each with a classic style and a specialty style.
  • Wood-Aged Beer remains as a style listing, although the definition is being clarified that this style is meant for first-use wood (i.e. clean wood flavour).
  • A Specialty Wood-Aged Beer style has been added to encompass all of the beers aged in liquor/wine barrels, as well as the standard special creations that homebrewers come up with.

Specialty Beer

  • Again, a formerly style-less category, Specialty Beer not only has its own styles now (to break up the often HUGE number of specialty beers that don’t fit in other categories), but two new categories have been added to further break it up.
  • One new Specialty Beer style is Clone Beer.  Like it sounds, this is meant to pick up (amongst other things) many of the clones that ended up clogging the Belgian Specialty Beer style.
  • Another new style is Mixed-Style Beer.  This is for things like Marzen/Oktoberfests made with ale yeast, etc.
  • Finally, the old Specialty Beer category has been replaced with the Experimental Beer style – something that Gordon says brings the grouping much closer to the original intent.

American Wild Ale

  • An all-new category that was formerly under the umbrella of Specialty Beer, this does not necessarily mean sour or literally wild organisms are required.
  • The first style is Brett Beer, meant to include 100% Brett and Brett-finished beers.
  • The second is Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer.  Fairly self-explanatory.
  • The third is Soured Fruit Beer (that do not fall under Lambics and the like).

Alternative Fermentables

  • The last new category in beer is for beers showcasing different grains.  American Rye Beer is now here.
  • The new style Alternative Grain Beer encompasses all of the standard and non-standard grains and sugar sources that can be used in beer.  Some native beers, such as Chicha, may be a tough call to enter here or under Historical Beer.
  • There is also a separate Honey Beer style.  Use of honey has gotten very popular and this is to help judges split the category for mini-BOS rounds.

I gotta run off to work at the brewery.  Hopefully, I’ll have time to get through the meads and ciders and a final wrapup tonight.  Cheers!

Stay tuned for BJCP Update Part 4 – Meads/Ciders and Wrapup posting soon!

Hop Update – Early Growth

I’ve been doing a lot of running around lately and haven’t had much time at home.  Thankfully, my bucket reservoir system (see my previous post on Preparing Hop Boxes here) has been keeping the rootstock at a nice level of moisture – never too dry and never too flooded.

On May 18, the first shoots broke ground, all reddish-pink mini phalluses (phallusi?) poking through the top layer of peat moss almost obscenely:

First Tettnanger shoots, May 18

First Tettnanger shoots, May 18

First Cascade shoots, May 18

First Cascade shoots, May 18

A bit of time, and a nearly two-week road trip later, I returned home on June 18, to find some nice bines stretching out and rigged some short climbing lines out of some cheap twine I had kicking around.  As I want to be able to move if the fiscal opportunity arises, I really don’t want the bines to wrap the porch railings too tightly.  Side shoots I can untwist later, but the main shoot needs to avoid being woven through the wooden structures – I can lower the line and gently coil the bines on the buckets if need be to move.

Tettnanger Hops, June 18

Tettnanger Hops, June 18

Cascade Hops #1, June 18

Cascade Hops #1, June 18

Golding Hops, June 18

Golding Hops, June 18

Amallia Hops, June 18

Amallia Hops, June 18

Cascade Hops #2, June 18

Cascade Hops #2, June 18

Two days later, the lines already needed extending as these hungry gals climb for the sky:

Tettnanger Hops, June 20

Tettnanger Hops, June 20

Cascade Hops #1, June 20

Cascade Hops #1, June 20

Golding Hops, June 20

Golding Hops, June 20

Amallia Hops, June 20

Amallia Hops, June 20

Cascade Hops #2, June 20

Cascade Hops #2, June 20

They are starting to take hold solidly in their buckets.  They will soon be ready for some ground cover in the form of creeping thyme and oregano.

I noticed that one plant (a Goldings) had a single leaf well-chewed up by some itty critter, but no sign of the critter.  There are no signs of mildews, root rot, or other possible bugs. Nutrients from the M-G dirt are still holding strong – I’ll probably dose a little fertilizer near the end of the month.

I also noticed that there was a 1.25″ hole extending into the dirt on my last bucket (Cascade #2).  It’s possible that my neighbor bored the hole with the garden hose (he just told me that he’s watered lightly a couple of times…but he can be rather uncoordinated when he’s drunk – which is most evenings), but it extended past where I could reach with my finger with pretty parallel sides…thinking maybe a mouse…also thinking it may have munched the Golding rhizome that was in that bucket, as it’s the only one that didn’t sprout yet.  Seriously debating a thorough flood of the bucket – see if I can flush out the bugger before the bucket drains (if I do, I’ll have to remember to fertilize to replace whatever nutrients I flush out).

Homebrewing a New eIPA

Finally found time for another brew day at home!  I have a nzIPA ready to bottle and need to recycle the yeast for today’s batch (more on that later).  Continuing one of my experiment series, today I am brewing another full-flavor, light-bodied India Pale Ale.  Today’s IPA is focused on earthy English IPA flavours.

The grain bill includes a majority of Maris Otter malt for full English flavour.  There is a bit of domestic 2-Row too keep it from being too rich (remember I’m shooting for a light-bodied beer).  A small portion of Crystal 60 to round out the flavours and scents while enhancing the viscosity and some White Wheat Malt to add a balancing tang and aid the head rounds out the grain bill.  To ensure a drier, more complete fermentation, the entire grain bill is reduced slightly and replaced with a portion of post-boil dextrose.

The grains sat through a long lower-temp mash before a combined vorlauf/mashout.  The tun was drained onto Fuggles first wort hops for 6 gallons of 1.038 first runnings.  Another 4 gallons were added as a batch sparge and drained for 1.018 second runnings.  Pre-boil collections came to nearly 11 gallons at 1.034.  Roughly 8.5 gallons was left in my 10gal kettle (that spans 2 burners on my natural gas range) and the remainder of the second runnings was reserved in my 5gal side kettle.  During the boil, all additions were made to the larger kettle, as the smaller one was left to caramelize a bit with only the FWH floating around (and later, a small bit of whirlfloc).

A fistful of Fuggles and Columbus went in at the start of the boil for bittering, followed up by some Hallertau Tradition (with the whirlfloc) at the 20 minute mark for some noble flavor.  I inserted the immersion chiller some time between the 10 and 15 minute marks to sterilize in the boil.  Yeast nutrients, dextrose, and more Fuggles dropped at the 5 minute aroma mark . . . followed by a bit more Fuggles right after flameout (just to be sure – LOL).

At flameout, both of my kettles had reduced in volume due to boiloff evaporation and I was able to combine them into the larger kettle, leaving me with slightly under 9 gallons of wort.  Before combining, the larger kettle (with the sugar addition) was at 1.051, while the smaller caramelizing kettle (that is pure second-runnings) had concentrated to 1.032.

My 50′ immersion chiller is running now and a final OG reading will be taken after whirlpooling and separation to fermentors.  Now, off to get some bottles filled and wash some yeast real quick!  Have a good night, y’all!

Distribution Sales Begin!

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write a new post.  Time for a quick update on the Stark Brewing Company activities!

We are currently shipping out Milly’s Oatmeal Stout and Mt. Uncanoonuc Cream Ale.  We have TTB labelling approval for kegs of Milly’s, Mt. U, Tasha’s Red Tail Ale, and Bo’s Scotch Ale.

Three shipments of kegs (15gal half-barrels and 5gal logs) have gone to the warehouse at Amoskeag Distributors.

Amoskeag is still getting their inventory/sales software updated to include our products, so distribution has been slow to start and we are relying on marketplace rumour to find where kegs are ending up.  The TAP in Manchester and Penuche’s in Nashua are confirmed to be serving Stark brews.  Todd is updating the Stark Brewing Company page on Facebook as accounts are confirmed.

Even more exciting, we have received labelling approval for 22oz bomber bottles of both the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout and the Mt. U.  We have black Stark logo collar labels and full-sized bottle labels.

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We have also shipped out 40 cases (12 bottles per case) of each beer to Amoskeag to start delivering to retail accounts.

(After a lot of trial-and-effort, our bottler is finally working right…the auto-labeller, not so much.  How long do YOU think it takes to hand-wipe, -label, and -package that much beer?)

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We have another 50 cases of stout and 70 cases of cream ale packaged and mostly labelled at the brewpub.  We are proud to announce that in addition to growler fills of anything on tap (generally 17 or 18 house beers to choose from!), we now have bottles available to take home from the brewpub (cool new shirts too).  Tentative price point is $6.99 per 22oz bottle.

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In fact, the first bottles have begun moving!  Pictured above are the buyers of the first direct sale of Stark Brewing Company bottles.  Amoskeag has started moving them into stores.  As might be expected from anyone who knows the Manchester area, Bert Bingle of Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett was one of the first in line to be stocked.  Again, Todd is updating on the Stark Facebook page as accounts are confirmed….I think were past 15 accounts a few days ago.

I’ll to put up a few short posts about our new in-house releases before I get back towards the backlog of 40+ posts I owe y’all that are half-written.  😉

Until next time, raise those pints high and drain ’em low!

Rhizomes Arrived!

I decided to start up some new hop plants this year.  (My previously-documented Cascade, Fuggle and Willamette plants were destroyed in their fourth year by a vindictive ex a couple of years ago.)

At a spur-of-the-moment decision during a quiet spell at the brewery, I placed a fresh order for some rhizomes on Tuesday.  Once again, I ordered my rhizomes through Vickie Olson at RNV Enterprises.  Robert Olson is the former CEO and Vickie ran the analysis lab at HopUnion.  They source 100% fresh-cut Yakima Valley hop rhizomes and ship amazingly quickly (I received my rhizomes via UPS in NH in less than 48 hours from placing the order!)

Tettnang Rhizomes

Tettnang Rhizomes

Opening the box and unwrapping the bubble-wrap with eager anticipation, I was (again) not disappointed.  I had placed an order for 1 Tettnang, 1 Golding, 1 Amallia, and 2 Cascade rhizomes.  Once again, Vickie hooked me up and I received 3 Cascades and 2 each of the others.  (Last time, I had ordered 1 each of the Cascade, Fuggle, and Willamette and received 2 of each.)  Thank you Vickie!

Cascade Rhizomes

Cascade Rhizomes

Not only were there extra rhizomes packaged, they were all showing significant early sprouting with numerous shoots off of every rhizome (some a couple of inches long).  They were also quite large, including a MASSIVE Golding root.  These photos can be a little deceiving – I should have added in something for a size reference.  These are GALLON ziploc bags, if that helps…and the big Golding rhizome is nearly the full width of the bag and over an inch thick!

Golding Rhizomes

Golding Rhizomes

There was also two new hops from New Mexico on their list and I decided to try one.  RNV currently carries rhizomes for Neo1 and for Amallia.  Amallia is described as:  “Has an earthy smell.  Great for a brown style beer or darker style ales.  Estimated alpha is 5.5-9% with a beta of 4.2-8.3%.”  Sounded interesting, so I added some to my list.  (The Neo1 is lemon and citrus….and I have been playing with Citra, Falconer’s Flight, Falconer’s 7C’s, Galaxy, Motueka, etc….all set on citrus right now.)

Amallia Rhizomes

Amallia Rhizomes

After an inspection (and some pics), I needed to store the rhizomes until I can plant them.  I don’t currently have the containers, soil, or soil amendments to get them going – I’ve been on the run for the last three weeks (as my lack of regular posts lately attests).  To make sure they don’t dry out, each bag was opened and the rhizomes were gently wrapped in two damp (but NOT dripping) paper towels.

Wrapping Rhizomes in Damp Paper Towels

Wrapping Rhizomes in Damp Paper Towels

After wrapping, they were carefully placed bag in their bags.  Each bag was gently rolled and the excess air squeezed out (again, GENTLY…don’t break those young shoots!) before being sealed shut.

Rhizomes Wrapped and Bagged

Rhizomes Wrapped and Bagged in 1-Gallon Ziploc Bags

All four bags are currently being stored in the deli/crisper drawer in my refridgerator.  Hopefully I can source some containers this weekend and get them in some dirt next weekend.  Stay tuned for updates on how they’re doing…by late June, these babies will be popping up to the tune of 12-18″ PER DAY!

Quick Lunch: Chicken IPA Salad

I’ve been pretty busy for the last few weeks (hence my recent lack of posts) and my home larder is starting to get a little low.  I suppose that’ll happen when it’s been nearly a month since I did a grocery shop.

As I’m pondering between the merits of the reasonably empty, but instant, gratification of oatmeal or pasta weighed against the time delay of thawing some meat for something more substantial, I spotted a can of chunk chicken in the cabinet.  Far from a favorite, probably loaded with unpleasant things if I dared to read the label, but a handy staple in moments such as these.  On the next shelf sits a box with a few sleeves of saltine-type crackers.  Jackpot!  Quick, easy, and filling…if somewhat flavorless.

Out came some so-so pickles (won’t be buying that brand again, but they’re edible) and sweet onion….to season, to season……  Eureka!  HOPS!  Here is what I came up with, and it’s pretty darn tasty, even if I am saying so myself.

Hopped Chicken Salad

Chicken IPA Salad before Mayonnaise

RECIPE:  Chicken IPA Salad

  • 10oz drained shredded chicken (I used 1 can)
  • equal amount diced sweet onion (1/3-1/2 an onion)
  • equal amount diced sweet pickles
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp ground pellet hops (I used Galaxy)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/4c blue cheese salad dressing
  • 1/2-2c mayonnaise

Drain and shred chicken with a fork in large bowl.  Add pickles and onions to form a mix of equal parts by volume.  Add all spices, sugar, and hops, with an extremely light sprinkle of salt.  Toss thoroughly and allow to rest for ten minutes.  This will let the salt and sugar start to dissolve, which will release the juices from the ingredients to rehydrate the parsley and hops.  Stir in blue cheese and 1/2c mayonnaise.  The hops will accentuate the pepper, garlic, and especially the salt.  Let rest for two minutes before stirring and tasting.  Adjust salt, pepper, garlic, and sugar to taste.  Add more mayonnaise until desired consistency/flavour is reached.

Serve on the cheap with plain crackers, or dress up in a sandwich with lettuce and tomato slices on toasted spent-grain sourdough bread.  Serves 2-4.

The parsley and leafy/grassy notes of the hops serve to enhance one another, as the spices bring forth the spicier notes from the hops.  The rich umami notes from the garlic, chicken, and crackers/bread create an impression of bready hearth warmness.  I am quite pleased, as the overall effect is of a chicken-based IPA with the cracker/chicken standing in for base malts, brown sugar for caramel malts, garlic/onion for slight meaty yeast notes (and the blue cheese/mayo for a light tanginess), and of course the parsley/hop flavors cutting over the top with a complex pickle/vidalia sweetness layering into the garlicy hop-bitter dryness.

Pair with an IPA and you’re rockin’!

Brewery Intern: Day 11 (Russian Imperial Moves)

A busy day today, we started by firing up the kettle with some warm water left in it from yesterday.  Thankfully, the machine spirits of the burner flame were appeased to ignition by the application of sacred unguents and the sacred rubber mallet of correction, as the appropriate holy words were chanted over the box of indicator lights.

As soon as the ritual had concluded successfully, I set about getting the hoses down and hooking them up to brew kettle through the pump and to the Grundy Room access pipe (that goes through the walls and over the hallway).  I also ran the second pump into the Grundy Room and set up hoses for both transferring water from the kettle to fill the tank and to recirculate the cleaning solutions.  We ran through the cycles of caustic, acid, and iodine (with all of the appropriate rinses) as quickly as we could.

As soon as some CO2 pressure had blown out the last of the iodine, we moved the hoses in the Brewhouse to move the half batch of Russian Imperial Stout into the newly cleaned Grundy tank.  A few switches and levers and off she went.  It was a beautifully quick and complication-free transfer (although the fact that we don’t filter our stouts helps a lot).

The moment the FV was empty, we immediately swung things around again to use the tap water feed and the kettle water to alternately rinse and clean the FV through all of the caustic, acid, and iodine cycles.

After packing everything up and handling a couple of brewery tours, we sat down for a few pints….and swapped out an empty keg or two while we were there, talking with the customers.

Sorry I’m so behind on posts…I’m trying to catch up with some content – I’ll come back and add some photos soon.

Brewery Intern: Day 10 (Hosing Everything Down)

Back for Monday and the routine starts again.  Craig already had the kettle heating up when I got in and were out of sight, so I got to work clearing space in the Grundy Room, moving kegs around, and pulling out the keg washer.

As I was gathering up hoses and tri-clamps to hook up the pump and keg washer, the guys were busy in the office.  While finishing up rigging the pump (to pull the outflow of the kettle over the hallway into the Grundy Room for the washer’s basin), Karen showed up.

Being the detail-oriented person that I am, I’ve developed the habit of shutting off the gas and beer valves on each keg tap on the washer before connecting or disconnecting a keg.  Bryan and Craig don’t bother, happy to save a few seconds of effort in each cycle.  All three of us have a habit of draping the taps off the sides where they are easily located.  Today, they gave Karen a quick run-down of the washer and she and I got started washing kegs.

After disconnecting the first set, I did not notice that Karen had left one of the taps draped over the front of the keg washer….with the valves left open.  Not thinking about any cause for concern, I brought in the next set of kegs and hooked up the first one.  I opened the valves to what was theoretically a closed system (except for the drain) to have the keg empty its tepid, stale contents directly onto my denim-clad crotch from point-blank range.  As it was under pressure, it blasted right through the paltry protection of my jeans and soaked me to the skin – from hip to hip and down to my right knee.

By late afternoon, the liquid was finally maintaining my body temperature….and finally started to dry 7-8 hours later.  Thankfully, my jeans were dark and didn’t show much after the first hour or so (which of course had to be during the lunch rush)!

We finally got through cleaning all of the kegs and Karen had to take off.  Bryan and I stuck around to empty out the bright tank of John Stark Porter into the newly-washed kegs.

Had a few pints and headed for home….hopefully will add some photos soon.

Certified Cicerone Exam Day

The morning of Thursday, February 27, I woke up early and had a big breakfast on my way out of town.  Driving into the sunrise, the song “Daybreak” by a friend of mine, Dave Osoff, was a perfect soundtrack.

Arriving at Merrimack Valley Distributors in Danvers, MA, I made my way upstairs to the conference room to find a number of somber-faced people awaiting the start of the exam.

Although there was not much talking going on, a couple of things were quickly apparent:  first, that most of the people there worked for MVD – and second, that the majority of the test-takers were re-taking the exam.  Two were on their third re-take.  Obviously, this is NOT an easy exam.  One examinee had come up from Pennsylvania for the exam!

The sheets on our desks restated the fact that discussing the contents of the exam in any sort of detail is grounds for revoking your certification.  We also had to pick a seven-digit “blind number” to go on each page of our exams.  This unique exam id # lets the graders split up the exams page-by-page to send out around the country for impartial grading.

The written portion of the exam is closed-book and scheduled for three hours.  It is mostly shorter write-in answer questions with a couple of longer ones and three full-length essays to write.  For many of these questions (and especially the essay ones), partials credit is available for imperfect answers . . . but not having taken the exam before, I’m not sure how generous they tend to be.

While I can’t discuss the specifics of what was on the exam, I will say that I was shocked at how much of the exam aligned with the practice exam available on the Cicerone web site.  Yes, there were some of the same questions (and many that were VERY similar), but more than that, the style and type of questions were consistent with the actual exam.  The biggest difficulty of this exam isn’t the individual questions – it’s the breadth of knowledge that you are expected to know in-depth and not knowing which of the details will be asked.

The was one question that actually stumped me – on long-draw draft line troubleshooting.  I’ve asked the question of a few brewers since (without mentioning the source) and they’re stumped too . . . one suggested it is a Kobayashi Maru scenario.   The one that really got me was a simple blank-out.  I’d studied the list of Trappist abbeys and when called upon to name a number of them, I blanked out after writing in Westvleteren and Chimay.

I finished the written portion in a little over two hours, a little less than halfway through the pack.  A couple of the examinees worked right until the last minute.  After a short bathroom break, I amused myself doodling until we were ready to start the tasting portion of the exam.

The Cicerone tasting exam consists of three parts.  You are expected to complete all three parts in 45 minutes.   For the first portion, you are presented with a sample beer that is your undoctored control and four samples of the same beer.  One is a control sample that matches the original and the other three have been doctored with adulterants to mimic common off-flavors in beer.  It was not hard to separate the doctored samples from the control, but the the levels were subtly low and it was difficult to pick out WHICH off-flavor we were tasting.  (We got to talk about the samples in the period after the tasting was over – the same sample had as many as three or four people detecting something different!)

The second portion of the tasting exam involved four more samples.  For each, we were told it was one of two styles and had to select the correct one.

The third portion of the tasting exam was the trickier real-world scenario of evaluating a returned beer.  Each of four samples was given to us.  We we told the brand of beer and whether it was from bottle or draft.  Our task was to decide it was worth serving – and if not, the reason why and probable cause.  This was very tough and it seemed nearly everybody got at least one wrong.

Finally, was the much-mysterious demonstration portion of the exam.  This is the part that had me pretty well freaked out – with the amount of material, I really had no idea what to expect and searched the net exhaustively for hints.  The best I found was a vague comment that it *might* have something to do with draft systems.  Yes, it did, but I won’t tell you what we had to do for our demonstration.

We each had three minutes alone in a small meeting room in front of a recording digital camera to demonstrate and explain our given task.  If you are concerned about this portion of the exam, take a good long look at the Draft Quality Manual – know your systems and parts, their names and what each part does, and ideally you should have taken apart each piece of equipment mentioned.  If you’re comfortable with that material, the demonstration will be a breeze.

Overall, it was a great experience that really tested the limits of my knowledge in the fringe details.  I’m positive that I didn’t ace it, but am equally confident that I didn’t bomb it either. I definitely know that I made some mistakes – with the partial credit possible, I honestly have no idea whether or not I’ll end up with a passing score, but am confident in how I did overall.  Fingers are crossed that I won’t need to re-take, but I’ve got a 1-3 month wait to find out.  At this point, I’m glad I can stop studying so hard every night and can relax a bit more for a while.

Time to brew something!

Brewery Intern: Day 06 (Kegs, Casks, and Yeast)

Today started with doing some rearranging in the Grundy Room and restacking the full kegs, including moving a few into the cold storage in the back of the house.  We put a few feet of water in the kettle to heat, got the keg washer pulled out, and hand-trucked a pile of 14 kegs from the back door up to the Grundy Room.

During all the walking around, I said something to Bryan about noticing how much the brewery smelled like hops today, joking it must be leaking out of the fermentors with the fresh IPAs from Friday.  Turns out….yup, literally.  FV1 hasn’t been used in some time because the coolant coil in the top half isn’t working right.  We only put a half batch of HFR IPA in it, so the lower coil was just fine (as we found out, unfortunately, on Friday) – however, the heavy rubber gasket around the manway door had torn a bit on the side (and the fill level is currently well above the bottom of the manway door).  Bryan actually sounded relieved that a small amount of IPA was appearing in the edge of the seam around the gasket (which is why we could smell the hops so much).  He pointed that he first noticed the blowoff tube wasn’t bubbling and freaked out that the beer still wasn’t fermenting after nearly 3 days – after spotting the leak and pulling a sample to test gravity, he was much relieved to find it was fermenting just fine.

Once the water was up to temp in the kettle, I got to work running kegs through the keg washer cycles (something that continued through the early evening).  During waits for cycles to finish, Craig and I took the empty metal cask of Apple Cobbler offline, cleaned it, and pried the bungs out.  We took apart and cleaned the beer and gas lines, as well as the cask breather.

Cask Breather

Cask Breather

Later on, we brought out a metal cask of Pumpkin Bread (a sour pumpkin ale blended with a portion of dark porter), set it up on the stand, and installed the saddle (a specially-designed cooling coil that drapes over the top of the cask under its jacket).  Craig hammered a soft spile (porous wooden peg) into the hole in the center of the plastic bung to allow some carbonation to escape through the pores of the wood.  After judging sufficient pressure had off-gassed, he pulled the spile out and screwed the attachment to the cask breather into the bung hole.  While the cask was allowed to rest, a line cleaner solution was mixed up and pulled through the hand pump for a bit before allowing to rest with flooded lines.  The hand pump was pulled periodically for an hour or two before clean water was pulled through to rise.  Craig hammered in the tap, installed the hop filter, and reconnected the line.  We pulled the hand pump until the water was replaced by beer, then poured a couple of samples.  It was lightly sour (but my palate might still be wrecked from judging the sour category at the Boston Homebrew Competition two days ago) and tasted like gingery pumpkin cookies.

Cask Breather Spigot on a Cask

Cask Breather Spigot on a Cask

We carbonated a keg of the house root beer (non-alcoholic) and put it on tap, kicked the last keg of oatmeal stout, and replaced a keg of American pale ale.  We taste-tested the Hopzilla from last Friday: still very yeasty, quite bitter, very piney hops up front (lots of Simcoe in this one) and took gravity readings of the oatmeal stout in the fv (which, of course, ended with tasting….quite roasty).  We took apart, cleaned, and pressure-tested 3 older 5-gallon corny kegs that are used for yeast – then dumped a bit of trub from the fv (fermentation vessel) full of stout and filled two of them with fresh yeast, leaving a fair amount of head space.  After settling, we will pull another 5-10 gallons tomorrow too.

After cleanup and putting the keg washer away, I did some more keg re-stacking in the Grundy Room and pulled most of the freshly-washed Sanke kegs back in.  It was getting late, so before I left, I helped Craig start filling kegs from one of the large holding tanks.  It was acting as a serving tank and had about 6.5 barrels left, so the first keg filled was stacked and tapped immediately to keep the barfront functional.  As I left, Craig was filling the rest of the kegs and planning to rinse out the tank before he left.

Tomorrow is planned to wash that holding tank, fill it with oatmeal stout from the fermentor, and clean out the FV once it’s empty.