BJCP Update Part 4 – Meads/Ciders and Wrapup

After reading through the previous posts of the BJCP Update Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we are finally ready to look at the non-beer categories of meads and ciders before I wrap up the presentation with links to Gordon Strong’s presentation slides (as a PDF file, graciously hosted by the bjcp.org website) and full video of the presentation posted to youtube by Chip Walton of Chop and Brew (as well as a few final notes of my own).  I will also point out the venues available for you to provide your own feedback and possibly influence the impending changes.  So, here we go:  meads!

Traditional Mead

  • This category remains unchanged with the three styles of Dry Mead, Semi-Sweet Mead, and Sweet Mead.
  • As before, all meads must list Descriptors for carbonation (Still, Petillant, or Sparkling) and for strength (Hydromel, Standard, or Sack).
  • As before (and true for all meads), the type of Honey used should be listed in the Descriptors only if there is significant character from that honey in the final product – if you list it, the judges will be looking for it and downgrade you if they can’t find that character.  There is never a need to list your ingredients unless the judges need to know to look for it.  In other words, don’t say that you used orange blossom honey if the final mead does not smell or taste of citrus!
  • It is interesting to note that all of the other mead categories (spiced, fruited, and specialty) have three Descriptors required:  sweetness, carbonation, and strength – yet the Traditional Mead category lists the strength at the style level.  The engineer in me balks at the same spec being listed for similar products at different tiers (style vs descriptor), however, many competitions have a large number of traditional honey-only mead and this is their way of saying they want organizers to split them by sweetness first.  I get it, but definitely have some mixed feelings about that – like I said, the engineer in me wants consistent logic in listing specifications of anything.

Melomel (Fruit Mead)

  • Our original two specific melomel styles still remain – Cyser (Apple Melomel) and Pyment (Grape Melomel).
  • Two new styles have been added to help break apart the growing number of “other fruit” meads:  Berry Mead and Stone Fruit Mead.
  • A final catchall style for Other Fruit Melomel remains.
  • As mentioned above, all meads must now list the Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, and strength.  Fruit meads must also list the fruits used.

Spiced Mead

  • Metheglins (spiced meads) were originally listed as a single style under the Specialty Mead category.  As fruits lends certain semi-consistent flavour profile notes, the same can be said for the use of spices – and a growing number of meadmakers are using spices, often in combination with goodies from the garden.  To ease splitting up entries and reduce palate fatigue, metheglins have been split out to form a new Spiced Mead category with two styles.
  • The first new style is Fruit and Spice Mead.  Clearly, both fruit and spice character is required.
  • The second is Spice/Herb/Vegetable Mead.  As with the S/H/V Beer style, the intent is to list NOT as a S/H/V Mead, but as a Spice Mead, or an Herb & Vegetable Mead, etc.
  • Starting to get a bit repetitious, but yes, all spiced meads must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, strength, and all character-bearing honey/fruits/herbs/spices/vegetables used.

Specialty Mead

  • As mentioned above, Metheglin is no longer a style under the Specialty Mead and has been moved to its own category (see above).
  • Braggot remains as the first specialty mead style.
  • A new Historical Mead style has been added.  With the number of new, experimental meads coming out now (largely fuelled by local mead superstar and fellow active member of Brew Free or Die, Michael Fairbrother or Moonlight Meads), this gives meadmakers a place to specifically identify more traditional meads to avoid being judged alongside the wild cornucopia of new flavors and styles in mead for fairer judging and less palate fatigue.
  • The Open Category Mead style has been renamed to Experimental Mead in order to be more consistent with the Experimental Beer style, and to more properly reflect the nature of most entrants in this style.
  • All Specialty Meads must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, strength, and special character-bearing ingredients.  If a special technique was used that would create a different experience for the drinker, that should be mentioned too.

Standard Cider and Perry

  • Common Cider and Common Perry have been renamed to New World Cider and New World Perry to more accurately reflect the heritage of this style of cider/perry.
  • English Cider, French Cider, and Traditional Perry remain the same.
  • All ciders/perries must list Descriptors for sweetness and carbonation.  Like listing honey types for meads, you should only list Descriptors for your apples/pears if they make a distinct difference in the character of the final beverage.

Specialty Cider and Perry

  • New England Cider remains the same.
  • Fruit Cider has been more accurately renamed Cider with Other Fruit.
  • Apple Wine has been renamed Applewine, which is more consistent with its heritage.  This may have something to do with the ever-growing number of people brewing and entering EdWort’s fortified Apfelwine recipe over the last half-decade (which I have made several versions of myself, with outstanding results).
  • A new style for Ice Cider has been added.
  • Another new style, by popular demand from the judges themselves trying to avoid palate fatigue, is Cider with Herbs/Spices.  Yes, like S/H/V, this should be entered as Cider with Herbs, Cider with Spices, or Cider with Herbs & Spices.
  • Finally, Other Specialty Cider or Perry remains the same.
  • All ciders and perries must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, and whatever character-bearing ingredients the judges need to look for.

Wrap-Up / Conclusion

So . . . that’s the full rundown of what Gordon Strong presented.  There were a number of things that he discussed that leave a lot of vagueness and the fact that this is still relatively early in the process was clear.  I’ve had to do a lot of guesswork to try to figure out what the new list would look like.  I’ve gone through several iterations of an Excel spreadsheet, first based on only the slides, then on his presentation, then again upon re-evaluation for this writeup.  The new categories could be put anywhere in the list and this will require renumbering all of the categories below them – this means that a number of styles, particularly among the meads and ciders, that will remain the same but be renumbered.  Either way, we will no longer be able to trust (for some time, anyway) that Category 17 is Sours or Category 23 is Specialty without asking “Is that Category 23 under 2008 or 2014?”

 My Thoughts

Those that know me well, know that I pretty much always have some thoughts or observations and am generally not shy to speak up about them.  (Actually, my high school yearbook lists me as “Most Opinionated” for my ready willingness to debate pretty much any point.)  As you’ve probably noted as you’ve read through, I’ve had a few things to say already. 😉  Here’s what’s on the forefront of my mind as I finish this review/writeup of the potential changes:

  • I have never liked the idea that the Scottish/Scotch ales (that all have the same flavour profile, ingredients, and techniques) were split into so many separate styles, simply on the basis of strength.  Also, the method of identifying by the schilling cost was both archaic and, unless versed in the notation, nobody outside of the UK would translate /- to mean schillings.  Bravo to simplifying it to Scottish Light, Heavy, and Wee Heavy.  Although, to be fair, taking it further to Scottish Ale and Wee Heavy would be better, I think.
  • While I appreciate the simplification of the naming for English Bitters, I think it could stand condensing to simply Bitters and Strong Bitters.
  • As a judge, it has never made sense palate-wise to have Irish Reds in the same category with the Scottish ales.  As I mentioned above, the styles are based on Michael Jackson’s work and being the good Englishman he was, some of the old English Imperialist attitude led him to create several broad categories for English ales and one small grouping for the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish beers (that collectively received less attention than any one of the broad groupings of English ales).  I would really like to see the entire grouping of British ales re-sorted.  Stouts and porters are certainly their own categories (so distinctly so that even Jackson grouped the Irish stouts with the English ones).  Likewise, pale ales and IPAs are distinctly unique.  However, this entire mid-range from light bready beers through ambers and on into brown ales is a muddled mess, with some very similar beer styles in different categories.  Scottish ales certainly share a flavour profile with many brown ales.  The breadiness of Irish Reds, milds, and ESBs likewise put them in a similar flavour profile.  I think it would be really nice to see these re-sorted into something like British Light Ales and British Brown Ales.
  • I feel similarly with the broad grouping of Belgian Ales.  I really think (especially with the new Trappist Singel style) that a separate Monastic Beer category would make sense, to group the Singel, Dubbel, Tripel, maybe Quadrupel together away from the more experimental secular Belgian brewers.  Belgian white ale, Belgian pale ale, Belgian blond ale, Belgian golden strong ale, and Belgian dark strong ale could all go together as a Belgian Ale category (although I think the pale and blond could be combined into one category – either that, or the blond ale could be split between the pale and golden strong styles and eliminated).
  • The new American Wild Ale category is interesting – I think there will be a lot of discussion over exact interpretation.  I’ve always felt the French and Belgian Ale category something of a random junk drawer, misfitting in the same way as Irish Red amongst the Scotsbeers.  This new category includes many beers that are also similar to many of the less-wild ‘farmhouse’ beers.  I propose that we have a category called Farmhouse and Wild Ales to include the new Wild Ale styles, as well as Saisons and Biere de Garde/Noel.
  • If Belgian specialty ale is deleted, Belgian pale ale is regrouped, and saison/biere de garde are moved, this leaves Witbier orphaned.  However, with German Wheat and Rye Beer being simplified to German Wheat Beer, we could take that one step further to Continental Wheat Beer and include Wit.  Either that, or it could be considered a Spice Beer style (but the flavor profile is a wheat-plus-fruity-spicy mix not that far from hefeweizens).
  • Like I mentioned earlier, the idea of changing weizen to weissbier, while keeping dunkelweizen is going to confuse an awful lot of people.  Then consider that weizenbock is being renamed ‘dunkels weissbier’ – sitting right next to the retained ‘dunkelweizen’ – leaving us with similar-flavor weissbier-vs-dunkelweizen and similar-colour dunkelweizen-vs-dunkels weissbier.  Weizen, dunkelweizen, and weizen bock had a consistency in naming that we now lack.  Perhaps the change (since is this is trying to reflect what they call these beers in Germany) should be to Weissbier, Dunkels Weissbier, and Strong Weissbier?  Although honestly, I would really like to see krystallweizen called out as a separate style under a new style heading – the final product is a distinctly different experience when these beers are filtered bright.
  • Berliner weisse would fit under the Continental Wheat Beer category ingredients-wise and historically speaking, but yeah, should probably stay under Sour Beer.  With the introduction of the new Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer and Soured Fruit Beer styles, perhaps these could be grouped with Berliner weisse into a new Sour Beer category with a Wood-Aged Sour Beer style and an Experimental Sour Beer catchall.  This would allow the remainder of the current Sour Beer category (Flanders red ale, oud bruin, lambics, and gueuzes) to be renamed Belgian Sour Beer and possibly expanded in the future to reflect the growing worldwide popularity of the wide range of sour Belgian experiments.  A Blended Sour Beer style could be useful for beers such as Ommegang’s Three Philosophers that use a small percentage of sour beer.  Although an amazing beer, the sourness would probably cost some points as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  Interest in sours in still growing, alongpace with interest in barrels – I believe that we will be seeing many more of these sorts of slightly-sour blends in the years to come that will be hard to place otherwise:  not sour enough to compete with true sours, but sour enough to be inappropriate in base style categories.
  • Be there no doubt, there will be much screaming and tearing or hair over the changes to the IPA styles.  However, before the clamour begins, I DO feel the need to point out (although Gordon did not) that this provides a beautiful step-around of the Black IPA vs Cascadian Dark Ale battle.  As it is written as a Descriptor that is expecting Black IPA, there is nothing to stop the entrant from declaring the Descriptor as a Cascadian Dark Ale if it does indeed have the specific flavour profile of the Pacific Northwest hops and the correct malt balance!  Gordon mentioned Specialty IPA as a possible descriptor in his talk, but did not list it on his slides, so my assumption is that write-in style Descriptors would be allowed (so you could also list as, say, a Chocolate IPA or a Smoked IPA).
  • Gordon mentioned trying to change things to avoid people having to judge high-gravity and low-gravity beers together, but the IPAs will now have the Imperial-strength ones spread across the stylistic categories as Doubles.  I suppose that this does allow the organizers to sort out the IPAs by either strength or by colour/style.
  • I honestly don’t know what to think about replacing the Pilsner category with a Czech Lager category.  My first question is “Why?”  The second is “Wouldn’t splitting out German Lagers be a more distinct stylistic difference?”
  • The expansion of many categories, such as the Strong Ales and Stouts make a lot of sense.  Strong Ales cause intense palate fatigue – further splits in styles will help ease this, or allow organizers to spread the high-gravity stuff across more judges.  Stouts had way too many entries and further breakdown is good – at many competitions, it’s the stouts and the IPAs that overwhelm everything else in terms of numbers.
  • The reiteration of how things should be called out in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable styles is a necessary thing.  Entrants should be labeling their beers as being a Spice Beer or a Spice & Vegetable Beer – this is actually useful to the judges and organizers.  This was always the intent of the S/H/V Beer category.  In trying to avoid listing every permutation (spice beer, spice & herb beer, spice & vegetable beer, spice herb & vegetable beer, et al.), this intent was never adequately conveyed to the BJCP community – with the greater focus on description this time around, enforcing this is a very good idea.
  • I wonder about a few of the new styles.  Are there REALLY so many German leichtbiers, kellerbiers, topical stouts to need separate styles for each?
  • I think that the Historical Beer proposal could still stand to have some styles to split it up before the Descriptors are applied to specify the actual beer.  In the coming years, I believe that there will be a huge interest in historical re-creations, many of which will not fit elsewhere under current style listings.  I think a Primitive Beer style could be useful to separate the new-found interest in beers such as chicha that do not depend upon malted barley.  It may be useful to have an Unhopped Beer style as interest in historical beers continues to grow and be encouraged – this would allow a clear place to put gruits other than S/H/V Beer or Specialty.  Likewise a Historical Beer Hybrid could cover the ground between non-barley beers, gruits, and mead or wine crossovers.  Calling out a specific style groupings for Historical American Beer and Historical European Beer (vs a Historical World Beer?) could be useful differentiation for beer based on certain points in Euro-American technological advancement.  Of course, any of these style groupings would still require the specific beer to be called out as a Descriptor – but this mid-level grouping would allow organizers to split the historical beer entries more easily into logical groupings for the judges.
  • I’m not quite sure whether we even need to differentiate between the of ‘spices’ and ‘herbs’ in beers, wines, or meads.  Their use is very similar and they have the similar effect of sending the aroma/flavour direction of the beer into someplace that traditional ingredients do not reach.  I suggest we simply consider herbs to be a type of spice and simply things to Spice/Vegetable throughout.
  • It seems strange to see all meads requiring sweetness, carbonation, and strength while the style dictates the allowed extra ingredients – yet the traditional mead category lists the sweetness as styles.  It doesn’t feel right to have the same spec at different levels for meads, but from the knowledge that pure-honey meads have been the largest mead entry category, I know it was needed to split them apart.  However, this time, it would be nice to see traditional mead at the style level in with braggot, historical mead, and specialty mead with all three required Descriptors.
  • I dig all the alterations to ciders, though!
  • The BJCP has acknowledged the randomly-impetuous decision involved with naming Imperial IPA as a style.  Like the Black-vs-Cascadian issue, the Imperial-vs-double issue has long led to heated discussions (and even rumours of an occasional fistfight).  The industry itself, while having no clear consensus, has been leaning towards the use of Double IPA in the majority of late, and the 2014 BJCP is reflecting that.  It is interesting to note, however, that the industry has only settled on ‘double’ for IPAs – most over-strength beers outside of IPAs are being labeled as Imperial hefes, Imperial reds, Imperial browns, etc.  The widespread use of the term ‘Imperial’ outside of Russian Imperial stouts is purely the result of the earlier BJCP decision to use Imperial IPA as a style name.  Only time will tell how this change will proliferate through the market.  I think this will reinforce the industry lean towards ‘double’ and we will see more Double IPAs than Imperial IPAs.  Whether there become more double reds and double browns than Imperial reds and browns, only time will tell.
  • Dealing with re-numbering after so many years of judges having memorized them, there will be much confusion during discussions.  Likewise, organization for competitions and all of the forms will need to change slightly to adjust to the changes.  There will be many people asking “2008 or 2014?”
  • As Chip Walton puts it at the end of his video recording of the presentation:  “The BJCP is being progressive, and proactive, and seeing the changes and the evolution in beer, and instead of, you know, sticking to those categories as they stand and forcing everything into place, they’re lettin’ it kind of . . . they’re opening the gate and they’re redefining things and they’re helping us redefine what we do in brewing as they go along, and I think that’s amazing.”

Like the list of styles itself, the reasons for the changes are myriad.  Some are logical splits of categories/styles that had way too many entries to manage well.  Some are reinterpretations to reflect the original sources more accurately.  Some are to accommodate future changes (prime example being Gordon talking about the heavier use of Descriptors to avoid needing to renumber categories or styles again).  Some seem a little random.  Look at each change yourself and think about why it’s being proposed, if it really makes sense alongside the rest of the style guidelines, if it’s really an accurate depiction of expected entries, and whether it would be judging easier or more confusing.  Speak up!

Places to voice your opinions:

  • Right here on this blog, just respond to any of the posts.  WordPress forces me to moderate and approve posts by hand, but as long as you’re on-topic and not too offensive, I’ll approve pretty much anything.
  • Chip is encouraging everyone to post responses at any of the Chop & Brew locations: website, youtube presentation page, or facebook.
  • Twitter feeds:  @DarkBroodBrews (Me) or @chopandbrew (Chip) to discuss our posts.  Other possible feeds are @BJCPComms, @GordonStrong, @HomebrewAssoc, or @brewingnetwork.
  • Finally, direct comments may be emailed to style@bjcp.org.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Obviously, this is all my interpretation of Gordon’s presentation to the 2014 National Homebrew Convention, which is, in turn, his interpretation of the conclusions of the panel working on this update (who are spread far and wide).  If you don’t know his name yet, you haven’t done much with beer judging or the BJCP – Gordon is the President of the BJCP, not by dint of elections, but because he has accumulated more judging experience than anybody else in the world . . . and by a significant margin.  His experience points rank him as a Grand Master Level VIII – there are no other judges ranked above Level V (and only three of them, only three at Level IV, and only five at Level III).  If you would like to see for yourself what he has to say, the Beer Judge Certification Program has shared his presentation slides as a PDF file.

Gordon Strong’s Slides from NHC 2014 (direct link)

If you don’t know him, Chip Walton is the beerophile videoman behind Northern Brewer’s first set of Brewing TV episodes (with Jay Keeler and Mike Dawson), and who now does video marketing work for Summit Brewing Company.  He is also the creator of the Chop and Brew video blog – one might easily notice that he and I have some similar passions. 😉  Chip has been working hard to record a number of the wonderfully informative presentations at the National Homebrew Convention and will be editing and posting them for everybody over the coming months.  Aware of the time-sensitive nature of this one, he has already edited and posted Gordon’s entire presentation to his blog and youtube accounts.

Gordon Strong’s NHC 2014 Presentation

Finally, I have put together an Excel spreadsheet tracking the changes.  The Excel file contains one tab that lists the 2008 BJCP styles and a second tab that tracks the changes into the 2014 proposals.  If you’re not interested in playing around with the information on the sheet, I have also output it as a PDF file that will print on two 8.5″x11″ landscape pages.

2008-14 BJCP Changes Excel / 2008-14 BJCP Changes PDF

(one final round of updating and I’ll upload these two files)

Over the next few weeks, the BJCP will post the full text of the proposed 2014 Style Guidelines and there will follow a comment period of up to a couple of months before being closed to write the final draft.  Then forms will need to be updated, all the versions of the BJCP software (competition software, web apps, and phone apps), new exams, new organizer guidelines, etc. – Gordon says he hopes to have it all phased in by the beginning of 2015.  Of course, then will follow the updates from everybody else, like updates for BeerSmith and such.

Be sure to provide some feedback!  Make your voice heard!  These are OUR guidelines that we use on a regular basis around the globe.  The mighty Brewers Association style list used for the GABF will likely reflect the changes to the BJCP in the years to come.  The entire craft beer industry reflects in beer styles brewed and in naming conventions how the BJCP organizes and defines beer.  I encourage you to comment on these posts and start a good discussion on the subject.  By weighing in on this subject, you personally have the opportunity to have a direct influence on the future direction, operation, and names used across the world in the beer hobby and industry.  Chip has also encouraged everyone to post comments on his youtube page for Gordon’s presentation.  And of course, use the BJCP forums!  This is our chance to mold the style guidelines for the future – it will be a long, long time before an update of this magnitude is considered again.

See also:  BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, BCJP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles, BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers.

BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles

Continuing from BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, we delve into the 2014 proposed changes to the BJCP Style Guide.

A small revision in 2008 caused a small hurricane of grumbling – one would never have guessed it was a minor update from the uproar, but that’s what happens with passionate people.

Now, the BJCP has announced the next long-awaited update (through a presentation by Gordon Strong) – and whoo BOY, it’s a DOOZIE!  Huge changes proposed throughout, even different information to be specified by the entrant for some beers.  I will step through it all with you here, as now is our time to review and comment.  In general, there was some effort put into simplifying the descriptions and names to reduce confusion and redundancy.

  • For one thing, all of the comments such as: “No diacetyl.” are being eliminated – as judges, we should primarily be looking for what IS supposed to be there.  Unless the style states it is acceptable, assume that it isn’t.
  • Many descriptions are being rewritten to focus on the experience of the taster and less on the ingredients and/or process – we judges can guess all we want about what was done, but our job is to evaluate the final product.
  • Many descriptions are just being simplified but removing unneeded information.
  • Likewise, many style names are being simplified.  The original idea was that Jackson’s special bitter, best bitter, and premium bitter were similar enough to consider one style (although there were subtle differences originally) – common practice has led to people actually referring to the style out loud, saying:  “special-best-premium bitter,” which was not the intent.  To make things easier on everyone, this style is now simply best bitter.
  • Many styles being updated or added have suffered from years being interpreted from an American view and are being corrected to properly reflect how they are viewed in their countries of origin.
  • Some beer styles have been moved around to avoid beer judges facing a category that has low- and high-ABV beers in the same grouping.
  • Some categories have been split or added to allow more-similar flavour profiles to be isolated together (such as smoke beers being separated from wood-aged beers).
  • A few styles currently require Descriptors.  Fruit and specialty beers need to name their base style, meads have to list sweetness, strength, and carbonation, etc.  This concept is being HUGELY expanded.  Styles that now have required Descriptors include IPAs, lambics, and pretty much every kind of specialty beer – many with several different required Descriptors.
  • For conventions of this post, I will be colouring the text for the beer styles.  Red text will signify a 2008 style or category name, while green text will signify the 2014 names.  If something is being called out as a specific required Descriptor, you will see it in orange text.  If a name remains black, it is just being used for descriptive purposes.  I hope this helps to keep things clear.

Okay, so why don’t we step through the changes, shall we?

Light Lager Category

  • Lite American Lager renamed to American Light Lager (for consistent naming conventions).
  • Standard American Lager renamed to American Lager, which now includes the lower-ABV range from Premium American Lager.
  • the former high-ABV range of Premium American Lager renamed to International Pale Lager.
  • Munich Helles remains the same.
  • Dortmunter Export renamed to German Exportbier.
  • German Pilsner has been renamed German Pils and moved to the Light Lager category.
  • German Leichtbier added (like an American Light Lager with German character).
  • Kellerbier added (both Munich and Franconian variants).  This may be listed as two separate styles, or it may be one style with the variant (Munich/Franconian) needing to be listed as a Descriptor (how I have shown it in my tables).
  • It is possible that Munich Helles, German Exportbier, German Pils, and German Leichtbier may be grouped as some sort of German Pale Lager style as all be listed as Descriptors.

Category 2 – Pilsner / Czech Lager

  • Pilsner is dead as a category – it is now replaced with Czech Lagers.  A new catchall category for all flavours Czech, it includes the new styles of Czech Light Lager, Czech Amber Lager, and Czech Dark Lager.
  • As mentioned above, German Pilsner has been moved into the Light Lager category.
  • Bohemian Pilsner remains as the anchor for the category, although it is now being called Czech Pilsner.

European Amber Lager

  • A new catchall style, International Amber Lager, heads the category, including all of the amber lagers that are not distinctly Czech – sort of the lager equivalent of American Amber Ale.
  • Vienna Lager remains the same.
  • Oktoberfest/Marzen is being split up.  The traditional copper malty Oktoberfest ale shall hence be known exclusively as Marzen.  To Germans, a beer known as an ‘Oktoberfest’ must have been brewed by a Munich brewery and served at the Oktoberfest event – something most of us can’t manage.  To avoid issues with the semi-appellation, the choice is for the more historical name of Marzen, or March beer (when it was traditionally brewed).
  • What is served at Oktoberfest in Germany today is NOT Marzen.  It is a much lighter style, often called Wiezen.  With some confusion already stemming from the similar names of hefe/dunkelweizen, Berlinerweisse,  weissebier, and witbier, the powers that be have decreed Festbier to be a much more descriptive name to use.  I can’t disagree with that.

Dark Lager

  • Dark American Lager renamed International Dark Lager.
  • Munich Dunkel remains the same.
  • Schwarzbier (Black Beer) naming simplified to just Schwarzbier.

Bock

  • Maibock/Helles Bock naming simplified to just Helles Bock.
  • Traditional Bock is more descriptively Dunkels Bock, as it is called in Germany.
  • Doppelbock and Eisbock remain the same.

Light Hybrid Beer

  • Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, and Kolsch remain the same
  • American Wheat or Rye Beer has been simplified to just American Wheat Beer.  Rye-centric beers are now meant to be in the Alternative Grains category (except for rye IPAs – more on that in the next post).
  • By popular demand from long-clamouring Aussies, the Australian Sparkling Ale style has been added

Amber Hybrid Beer

  • Northern German Altbier has been eliminated and subsumed into International Amber Lager – although you can probably still list it as a Descriptor.
  • California Common Beer renamed to simply California Common, reflecting current usage.
  • Dusseldorf Alt renamed simply to Alt.

In BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers later tonight, I will continue the review of the proposed changes.  Time for a beer break for me!

BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles

Michael Jackson’s original work into sorting the Beers of the World into categories and styles in order to be able to compare them was a groundbreaking way to look at the huge variety of beers across the western hemisphere.  It was an immensely useful discussion tool for beer-o-philes and brewers, to compare the results of different ingredients and techniques – spawning an entirely new vocabulary around beer.  It also become an indispensable crutch for the beer sales industry to describe unseen products to potential customers, finally allowing marketers to avoid the dreaded:  “it’s like ThisOther Brand, but . . .” descriptions, who then conveyed this terminology down through the tiers.  After wholesalers and retailers passed it to taphouses and servers, it rapidly got picked up by the consumers – who included a number of homebrewers, starting to organize into larger clubs and groups.  It was inevitable that the homebrewing community would latch onto this new way of looking at and describing beers.  Competitions between homebrewers were getting larger and harder to select a single Best of Show from the wide variety – many had begun to apply some of Jackson’s categories to split the large number of entries into groups, allowing beers to be more accurately judged against more similar beers.

Geeks being geeks, heated discussions arose over interpretation of which category a beer belonged in – or about which categories had been selected from the large list to sort the beers with.  From this silliness, the first inkling of what would become the Beer Judge Certification Program was born – first, to delineate and codify a standard set of styles for the purposes of consistently running homebrew competitions to the same standards and definitions – their secondary purpose was to write up a “Robert’s Rules of Order” for running competitions – and thirdly, to determine a method to certify someone as adequately knowledgeable to fairly and accurately judge a beer.  Heady list, that.

The biggest problem was that, like Imperial measurements, the categories are based on real-world observation and not consistent specifications.  By way of analogy, the Imperial measurement system (inches/feet/yards) was based on the length of feet, fingers, and strides, the height of dogs and horses, etc. – which of course, varied depending on who was doing the measuring.  (i.e. Sue and Henri measuring the same distance with their feet will get very different results, just as a Belgian and a Londoner mean very different things by ‘dark ale’.)

Most of Jackson’s beer styles were based on his own experiences, so ales from Britain and Belgium have the most differentiation.  His general preference for ales also categorized a significant number of German ales.  For example, most beers are not considered separate categories based on strength, if all else is equal, yet Scottish ales have 4-5 separately-identified strength levels, English Bitters have 3, as do Porters.  Mild, Southern Brown Ale, Northern Brown Ale, Old Ale, and Barleywine are distinguished primarily by their increasing strength and body (although there are some subtler differences).  Belgium has a bewildering array of bizarre and unusual beers that are completely different from most of the European beers’.  The sheer size of the market forced American Lagers to be split into several styles on the basis of strength and/or colour (although, compared to most beer styles worldwide, they are all pretty much the same).  Germany had some of the strictest brewing laws in the world and many styles were only permitted to be made by certain brewers or in certain locations.  In fact, many cities only made one consistent style, leading Jackson to name many styles as the locals did, simply after the name of the city:  Dusseldorfer (Alt), Bitburger (pilsner), Munchen (Marzen), Dortmunder, Einbeckisch (bock), Vienna, Cologne (Kolsch).  Many styles were also named for their traits, such as dark ale (dunkel), the black lager from Bitburger (schwarzbier), the white beer from Berlin (Berlinerweisse), the yeasty white wheat beer from Munich (hefeweizen), its crystal-clear filtered version (krystalweizen), or its dark counterpart (dunkelweizen).

Category groupings were also complicated.  British ales were essentially grouped by colours into light, brown, porter, and stout – yet the historical English arrogance still forced Jackson to separate out Irish and Scottish ales, (although the English browns of the time ranged from light and bready (like Irish reds), through smoky and malty (like Scottish ales), up to nearly as dark as porters without the roast character.  Likewise, English and Irish stouts were only slightly different in the use of roasted vs. black barley.  Belgian beers were grouped more by characteristics, grouping all of the wide array of differing sours into one group (then throwing German Berlinerweisse in with them), the abbey/monastic styles in another, and pretty much everything else between England and Germany/Austria into a third.  This last group includes the crisp-clean, cloudy Witbier, which logically, one might group with wheat beers, or perhaps white ales.  It includes the Belgian pale ale, something that describes a malty, light-coloured beer in the gravity range of a dubbel (a monastic beer from the second group) with a little less fruit than a tripel would have – and he completely ignored the in-house abbey table beers, now known as singels.  Interestingly, it also includes the Belgian/French farmhouse ales full of spices and wild grains (and often yeasts), such as saisons.  Sort of a wild card category based on the geographic area.  Yet lager styles, overall, are grouped more my colour than geographic or historic relations.

Does all this lead to a bit of a confusing mess?  You bet it does.  The Beer Judge Certification Program worked very hard to pull all of these different concepts into a usable set of categories and style descriptions, and for the most part, it has worked very well for everything from in-club competitions to the National Homebrewers’ Competition. The Brewers’ Association now has their own (expanded) set of styles and categories for use in commercial competitions, such as the Great American Beer Festival.  From the start of the ‘craft beer revolution,’ with Jim Koch educating American drinkers that there was more to beer than American light lager and cream ale, the craft beer industry has embraced the use of style definitions to market their products.  As the industry exploded in leaps and bounds, the BJCP and BA styles became totally ingrained in the language and thinking at all levels – until it became so accepted that the newest generation of brewers are rebelling against being confined by ‘the rules’ and are celebrating each and every ‘not-to-style’ brew they release.

Stay tuned for BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles in a short bit.

Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding

I decided to get a little decadently rustic tonight . . . my first full day at home in weeks – and time to prep!  Chocolate Stout Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms.

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Okay, so I did this at the beginning of June and never finished the post…just found the unfinished draft (thought it was up weeks ago!)…guess it’s time to finish it up!

As this was a bit of an experiment (and just serving myself), I stuck to a single bird.  Start with thawing and unwrapping your Cornish game hen (really, just a small chicken).  Rinse it thoroughly, inside and out.  Check for giblets (not usually included in a game hen, but often held in plastic if they are there).

Soak the bird in a beer brine for 2-3hrs, tossing or rebasting regularly.  Use 12-16oz brown ale, 2-4 Tbsp malt vinegar, and a few whole cloves and peppercorns with some bay leaves.

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Season inside and out with salt and pepper (I also used some bay leaf, paprika and a small amount of granulated garlic and onion powder).

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Pin or sew the neck opening shut, upend, and stuff with dried spent grains (I used grains from my Black Imp Quintipple Chocolate Stout).  Pin opening shut (don’t sew this one just yet) and set aside to let rinse water and meat juices start soaking into the grain while the rest is prepped.

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

I used Basmati rice for this recipe, as it has a nice light, neutral flavor and does not get super-sticky…wild or long-grain domestic rice works quite well too (although more hard and will make more of a rice-side than a rice pudding texture).  Try to avoid super-soft or super-sticky rices, like jasmine…also try to avoid strongly-flavoured ones, such as domestic brown rice (we’ll be adding more than enough flavor).

Measure your rice by pouring it dry into the bottom of your roast pan until 1/4″-3/8″ deep (which will end up coming close to halfway up the side of the bird, when all is said and done).  Mix in some light seasoning, maybe 1-2 tsp.  I used whole black peppercorns, a pinch of Herbes de Provence (a French blend of green herbs mixed with lavender), and a small amount of crushed coriander.  Avoid adding salts to the rice at this point – salt will make the rice “skin up” in the hot liquid and make a harder rice than we want (some salt will come off of the bird, anyway).  I also added 1 Tbsp of brown sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Add in 1 can of sliced carrots, perhaps cut in half if large.  I know, I know, canned carrots don’t taste nearly as good as fresh ones (and are missing most of the nutrients), but for soups and quick-bakes, I don’t have the patience to blanch/parboil them ahead.  The canned ones give that nice carrot sweetness and a nice soft texture.  This is primarily a soft-textured dish, so I really didn’t want anything too crunchy involved.  Add 1 can sliced mushrooms or 1/2-3/4c sliced fresh mushrooms.  Throw in a handful or two of dried cranberries for some bits of zip (again, if they are large, you may want to cut them down a bit).  Mince up a fresh garlic clove or two and stir it all together thoroughly with 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream.

Adding Beer Brine

Adding Beer Brine

The first time I made this, I had placed the bird, poured the brine and more beer over it, then added the rice mix back in.  While it worked, I tried it differently the next time and it worked much better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo the second time around.

Push the rice mix into a mound in the center of the baking pan.  Here’s the fun part.  Hold your game hen neck-down over the mound and gently open the stuffing-flap.  Slowly pour the beer brine into the ass end of the chicken so that is flows through the spent grains, drains out the neck hole, and pours down onto the center of the rice mound.  This can take a few minutes, depending on how tightly you packed the grain and how sealed the neck hole is – the slower it goes (as long as it DOES go), the more flavour you will get from it.

When the dripping has (mostly) stopped, set the bird down and sew the buttflap shut.  Push the rice mixture to the edges of the pan and nestle the bird into the center.  Push the rice mix back down to form a fairly level layer all the way around the bird, covering the entire pan bottom that is not in contact with the chicken.  The liquid level should be about halfway up to the level of the top of the rice.  Remember that more liquid will drain from the bird and carrots, while some will be soaked up by the grain and cranberries.  Accounting for this, add a little beer or water if you’re concerned it’s too dry (but remember that if it’s too wet, your rice will be a soggy mess…and if it’s too dry, it’ll burn).

Cover the pan and roast at 375*F for 45 minutes.  Pull the pan out and uncover.  Brush a little melted butter or olive oil over the bird.  Sprinkle on a little smoked paprika or dark chili powder.  Visually inspect the rice.  If it looks like it needs it, lightly fluff with a fork (VERY lightly) and/or add a little water.  (If it looks too wet, there’s not much you can do to fix it, so start thinking about another quick side dish.)

Return to oven uncovered for another 15 minutes (until skin is crisping, juices run clear, and the thickest part of the meat measures at least 165*F).

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Remove from oven.  Lift bird from the rice and set on large cutting board.  Unpin/unsew neck and butt.  Scrape out the spent grains and toss away (we want the flavours and scents, not the crunchies).  Using large chef’s knife or cleaver, Cut bird in half down the breastbone and spine.

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

With a large fork, lightly toss the rice mixture to break it up and separate it from the bottom (there will generally be a little burned down that you don’t want to mix in).

Place half game hen onto each plate.  Spoon rice pudding on the side.  Drizzle edges of plate with Sriracha.  Accompany with a small dish of Pub Pickles.  Serves 2.

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Complimentary Pairings:  We need rich, malty ales to enhance earthy root vegetable notes – everything in this dish lives within +/- 8-10 inches of the soil line and we want our compliment to bring out the full, rich darkness of the soil itself and the warmth of the sunshine.  I would serve with an English brown, Vienna/Märzen, Belgian dubbel, Roggenbier/Rauchbier, Scottish ale, or sweet/oatmeal/imperial stout to bring up the caramelly/melanoidin, chocolatey, and roasty/smoky notes, all of which have fairly low carbonation levels to allow the flavours of the beer and the dish to mingle freely.  Be careful of going too far into the same flavour spectrum.  An English mild, alt, or bock would just get lost next to the dish.  A full-on Scotch ale would be sickeningly sweet and cloying after a few bites/sips.  A dry stout or schwarzbier would seem sharp and acrid/astringent next to the umami-heavy flavours and oils in the dish.

Contrasting pairings:  To contrast flavours, we need crisp, light ales/lagers to offset the dark, earthy notes with brightness and palate-scrubbing carbonation to reset the palate.  I would serve with a not-too-hoppy pale ale, Kölsch, Berlinerweisse without syrup, or a Bohemian pilsner.  A Belgian golden strong could be interesting, but the carbonation of a tripel would be more appropriate.  A bready ESB or a malty Belgian singel or English pale ale would not have the right crispness to offset the flavour profile, but too much hoppiness could make for an unpleasant pairing.

Complex Pairings:  This dish could be enhanced by pairing with:  earthy funkiness to let the root veg flavours shine; enhancing spice, roast, or toffee to boost the seasonings; sweet/tart/sour notes to balance the very umami-heavy flavour profile; and some nice carbonation to reset the palate.  I think any of the following pairings would give an attentive diner/imbiber plenty to ponder and experience:  saison/biere de garde (enhancing spice, contrasting citrus, high carbonation), Flanders red (enhancing berry and oak, contrasting sour, low carb but acidity serves similar purpose resetting the palate), gueuze/lambic (earthy funk of course, sour/tart brightness, high carb+acid), barleywines/old ales (each is so uniquely complex….).  The flavours of a dunkelweizen could certainly take the entire dish in a new direction.  I think an oud bruin or weizenbock would run afoul of the same “getting lost” problem of the mild and alt to properly stand out.

Seasonal Pairings:  This would make an excellent dish at any time of year, however, root vegetable flavours are most reminiscent of autumn and winter cooking.  This would pair beautifully for Thanksgiving with any of the autumn seasonal beers such as harvest ales, pumpkin ales, and oktoberfests (avoid the fresh-hop IPAs/IPLs, though) and a side of cranberry sauce instead of the pickles.  Christmas ales provide a rich, dark maltiness and loads of spices and preserved-fruit flavours, which would certainly suit a Christmas dinner (as would a Belgian dark ale).  Likewise, later in the season, the maltiness and spices of winter ales would suit as wonderful pairings without the decadence of the fruits from the Christmas beers.

I hope you enjoy (I certainly did!)

Let me know what you think – if you give it a go yourself, send me tasting notes and a pic of how it came out!

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.

image

image

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?)

image

image

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.

image

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 12 (I Wanna Mount U)

It was another brew day today, so we started early at 9.  I started to hook up hoses, but the burner was being ornery again.  Bryan had already been trying to reset it for 20 minutes or so and passed it off to me to watch the lights on the box and walk around to hit the reset every few minutes.  Not really long enough to accomplish much of anything else.  After about half an hour of tapping the igniter tube, adjusting the flue venting and blower fan, and resetting the box, it finally fired up and got the water heating.

The hoses and pump were set up and then we dragged the grain sacks into position.  It was an early morning and the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, so some of the hoses needed to be moved around.  The sacks were opened up and the grain augur lowered.  The water wasn’t nearly up to temp, so some time was spent moving kegs around, straightening up the Grundy Room, and preparing some backup kegs (the smaller 5 gallon logs to fit into the kegerators out in the bar) of the Chocolate Stout and the Crabby Apple Ale (which includes some apple cider).

Once the water was close to strike temperature, the input hose was attached to the side of the hydrator and the flow was turned on.  As in the past, we preheated the mash tun and filled it up to just a bit above the false bottom before was started sending the grain up the augur.  The augur chute dropped into the top of the hydrator and the wetted grains fell down into the mash tun.  The oar was constantly moving to avoid any doughballs in the mash.

After the water was shut off, the mash was let to rest.  Then recirculated by pump through the sparge head to set the grain bed.  Once the sight glass ran clear and clean, the sparge water was turned back on and the pump started to move mash to the kettle.

The Mt. U (short for Mount Uncanooc) beer is a cream ale. It has a fairly light grain bill and hop schedule, so it is correspondingly light in colour and intensity.  It is a pleasant introductory beer with a bit of flavor that is good for wooing macro beer drinkers into craft beer.

With the light recipe, the boil, chill, and transfer went very smoothly without any memorable complications.  This time, Karen ended up cleaning out the mash tun while I clambered into the boil kettle to clean it out.

The kettle is much more awkward to get in and out of than the mash tun for a few reasons.  The manway hole is much smaller – and much closer to the ceiling.  Although there are lots of pipes and such around, nothing is strong enough to use to brace yourself, which makes it awfully hard to get your feet and legs up through the hole without becoming unbalance and tipping over.  This effect is significantly magnified by being tall, as I can attest.

For an extra bonus, there are no handholds or footholds inside the kettle, and the opening is above your head.  The one safe brace is a bolt through one of the old mill ceiling beams.  Attached to it is a length of plastic-coated steel cable that is clamped in a loop at the end to drop through the kettle hole and use as a step to get high enough to pull yourself out.

That awkwardness of getting in and out aside, I much prefer cleaning the kettle to the tun.  I can stand up inside, it’s much less claustrophobic, not nearly as hot, and much less messy.

Tired from a long day, we cleaned up everything else, paused for a few pints and went home to rally for the next day’s cleaning.

(Once again, catching up on posts – photos will be added soon.)