Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hop crop, pt. 4

Something [dramatic pause] magical could be happening. "Life", as Jeff Goldblum once said, whilst pushing his glasses up his nose, "finds a way." And with the image above of young growth appearing near the topmost leaves of the bine (that's bine, not vine) which I oh so unfortunately bisected back in May as possible testimony to that fact, I'm cautious to announce that the Willamette may not have yet given up the ghost. Time will only tell. Not exactly like a bunch of reproducing female dinosaurs, but, perchance, we'll be making a homegrown ESB in the autumn after all...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Careful with that umlaut, Eugene

Keoni's wedding being a done deal, a cozy chunk of warm fuzzies in the short term memory region of my brain, it's time to consider for a moment the surprising success of one of the beers we brought along for the festivities: Carrie's Kölsch. With all due respect, we should respectfully refrain from calling one of my favorite summer ales kölsch unless we're brewing it within the vicinity of Cologne, Germany - but considering how nobody out here pronounces it correctly anyway, we could think of it as a whole different word. It can be a great beer, but has probably developed a self-image problem since it's induction into the field of that taproom "for the ladies" staple, the blonde ale.
As deliciously realistic an interpretation as David Sedaris' Billie Holiday, the Kent Lake Kölsch from Iron Springs was the first local version that proved to me that a spot-on imitation could be made here (even then, the owners cautiously comment on how highly they regard the Kalifornia Kölsch from local brewers Magnolia). Truth is, the difficulty it provides is in its simplicity - it's a low alcohol, pale, and clear beer that has to have just the right amount of floral aromatics and quickly finishing bitterness to keep from tasting like fizzy water. In other words, a well-made version is the closest a top-fermented ale can come to a bottom-fermented pilsner. Blonde ales, by comparison, are generally thin second runnings that are designed to appeal to the "usually don't have a beer but it's nice out what the heck" crowd. If, on the other hand, you're in the "I know it's only 10am but what goes better with a bagel anyway" crowd, maybe it's time you deepen your knowledge of kölsch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New (to me) mixed (beer) drink

Upon questioning a local bartender within a somewhat swank restaurant whether he had any recommendations for an obscure, bitter, appetite-rousing drink, I was introduced to the Blue Collar Kir. Also known more suavely as Picon Biere, it's simply a tall pilsner served with an ounce of Amer Picon, a French bitters made from cinchona bark, cucacao orange, gentian, and some other assorted medieval-sounding ingredients. Appropriately named, it comes off like the riding lawnmower version of a Campari and soda - bitterly refreshing, yet delightfully chuggable. Not that I would, though, seeing as I can't find Picon anywhere... So if any of you out there have a French connection, please let me know.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Did you know, asks my good friend John, there are "four seperate beer podcasts"? Make that five, my friend! Now if someone would just tell me what a podcast is, we're in business!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Dogfish heads west

If you're a Northern California craft brewery snob, you've likely given up on tasting any of Sam Calagione's award winning beers unless you have a trip planned back east. This coming Wednesday, however, we leftcoasters finally get a chance to try some fresh kegs of some Dogfish Head goodness for ourselves.
Hell, even if you want to see what a 20% alcohol (that's boozy!), 120 IBU (that's hoppy!) beer tastes like, come on down, pull a seat up to the bar, and ask Mr. Calagione a couple questions about his wacky creations. Oh, and he has a new book or sumptin.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Free beer, kind of

Sure, there may be thousands of recipes online for every conceivable type of beer freely available to anyone brave enough to trust the creative whims of a complete stranger, but how many of them can claim to be open source? Quoth the Dane: "We've effected a slight merger of the software world and the equally geeky world of home brewers."
As cute as the idea is, I think I'll join Alan in running this recipe through ProMash and see what it looks like. Thankfully you won't have to feel guilty were you to "tinker with the ingredients", as you may be none too eager to brew with guarana (not to be confused with guano) beans.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Celebrate life's precious moments with beer

As the weekend nears, and the (hopefully) last rainclouds of the season scuttle towards the horizon, the same crew that donated its valuable time to form a wedding beer tasting panel last February will reunite to celebrate the first result of that experiment - the newly minted Sonoma Solstice Hefeweizen. Let's just hope it meets with the happy couple's expectations...
And why not allow beer a position of ceremonial importance? Consider that the origin of the term nowadays most commonly followed by the word "shower" (although probably not with this in mind) has its roots in an ale that was traditionally made by the bride's party before a wedding. And, the source of the term bridal is just one of the charming (and probably inaccurate) etymological tales relating to brewing and marriage, when you also consider that the origin of the word honeymoon also relates back to a ceremonial post-nuptial mead.
I guess if you're a brewer, though, you probably come up with as many excuses as possible to mash together a batch for each of life's special occasions. Really, now - is there anything that can't be said or any day that can't be celebrated with an honorary tall cool one? I think not.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Germany - Kings of Recycling

Don't know what to do with all that leftover goo you've got stuck to the bottom of your fermenter, you ecosensitive brewer, you? Stumped with how to reuse all that yeasty trub and coagulated proteins you feel so guilty about pumping down the drain? Why not do what the Germans do, and build yourself a beerpool? Great for the skin - and the soul!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Free! Organic! Booze!

And within stumbling distance from my couch, to boot. This weekend, as part of the Fairfax Festival's EcoFest, there will be an organic wine (and beer!) tasting at the Pavilion. I'm hoping that an in-depth sampling of brews from two local houses might change my (somewhat lukewarm) impressions of their craft beers. And if that doesn't float your boat, the locals will be at the main fair pouring their own goods. So if you're feeling hippierific this weekend (and the thought of the Union St. fair sends chills down your spine), you've got somewhere safe to go.