Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hop poetry

Well, it's become obvious we won't be harvesting any hops this year, as the minimum number of hours of direct sun necessary for the production of flowers wasn't met in our hobbitty backyard. At least we can find solace by trying to understand googlized translations of German pages about the hop harvest that's going on right now. Like the vineyard harvest that's only a month's away, the hops that are picked now are the only ones that will embitter the beer you enjoy for the next 12 months (lambic notwithstanding). So, onto the poetry of the hop harvest...

Tasting notes: Moinette Brune

Saisons. Anyone who has read more than two posts on this blog knows I have a soft spot for saisons. Dark beers. Ditto. Put them together and it's exponential love. Moinette Brune is such a beer that generates such a love. Beer love.
Recently, a friend asked me, "What makes a beer dark?", which I thought was a very good question. A good question, since it's one that falls in the "might be a stupid question so I'm afraid to ask it" category. Fact is, there are three ways that brewers affect the color of their beers. The most common way is by adding malts that have been specifically kilned to impart color, from the wide range of crystal malts, to the chocolate, black patent and roasted barley that generate the pitch black you would see in a stout, black ale, or some porters. Another method, not really used much anymore due to the sheer time and energy required, is the use of immensely long boils. What can now be generally replicated by tossing in a dash of crystal malts was once achieved by boiling the wort for up to 18 hours, a process that would slowly darken the color through caramelization. Truth is, when these folks of yore needed to cook their wort, they couldn't really achieve a true rolling boil like any of us modern day ramen cooks know. Instead, it was like a long, painfully inactive simmer which gave rise to the popular "red" beers of Flanders. Lastly, and most importantly to anyone studying the fine art of Belgian artisinal brewing, is the use of darkened sugars, or candi sugars, in the wort to both ramp up the alcohol content and lower the body of your beer. Forget it, let's talk Moinette.

Delicious, glowing, dark and mildly funky. Simply put, it's essentially a wild dubbel. It's light enough in body and sweet enough that I'm inclined to believe its color derives from the use of dark candi sugar and maybe just a smidge of a cara- malt, like CaraMunich or carastan. It's got enough of the aromatic qualities you would expect from something a little wild, but then it settles into the dark fruit and warming joy that you would also want from a darker abbey style.
As early as it seems, we're already waking to the tinges of dawn's indigo scrapes across the horizon. The breeze hints at a cold run of salmon already on their way back north. The fog lingers just a little longer inland than at the coast. Is the wild/dubbel style the perfect choice for this coming of autumn feel? It depends on how many crickets are out, and whether you debate closing all your windows before going to bed. Have you bought your firewood for the winter yet? Are you thinking about it?


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This blog best viewed with...

So yeah, my fridge is on the fritz. So I google "leaking water fridge", and get some very good advice. Advice, however that is apparently best viewed, with a beer. Bless them and their possibly inebriated home repair tips!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Beer and the New Weird America

Pioneering, yet rooted in mysterious traditions and a somewhat cryptic, coded oral history. The same could be said about both the brewing (and operations) practices of New Belgium, in Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as the music of gangly master-troubadour Devendra Banhart. Makes sense they'd find some common ground. (Links via My Old Kentucky Blog.) Near genius, except for the somewhat tacky, hastily slapped on endings.

Beer abroad

Lest anyone think I've run out of beery things to chat about, let me explain that the recent dearth in postings was due in part to recovering from a pretty rough year with some time off spent in the forested wilds of northern Montana. And don't you worry - there's beer up there, too.
The ubiquitous Moose Drool aside, there is another brewery catering to the greater Kalispell-Whitefish-Polson megatropolis worth mentioning. Lang Creek Brewery (pictured above) is noted not so much for their pleasant but unamazing American takes on the pale, amber, blonde, and wheat beer styles, as they are for their claim as "America's most remote brewery." And, as rumor has it, the brewery's for sale. So, if you're an amateur pilot with a hankering for taking over a 13-barrel brewery and need some peace and quiet for that manifesto you've been meaning to write, Mr. Campbell might have a deal for you.
On a side note... In what's perhaps the strangest regional twist on fruit-flavored beers, breweries in the glacier region of northern Montana seem quite drawn to the huckleberry (yes, as in "hound" or "Finn"). I can't speak highly of the addition, as in the beers I got to sample, the huckleberry addition was made in a juice form, post-fermentation and pasteurization. Ick. I did, however, read Jeff Sparrow's *wonderful* Wild Brews whilst soaking my toes in Flathead Lake, a phenomenal tome on the intricacies of brewing without the aid of brewer's yeast, so the concept of a huckleberry lambic was never far from my thoughts...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hop crop, pt. 5

Hoo boy, looka. While I'm not going to get too excited just yet (some friends of ours already have little cones blossoming on their bines already), I will say it's quite a relief to see how well the Willamette has recovered from its initial injury.

Yowza, my friends. Egads. All those bines you see are side sprouts from a single initial shoot. Hops, however, like many other plants, require a certain number of hours of direct sunlight every day in order to bloom. While we're not sure we can provide the necessary amount in our shaded Ewok village, time will only tell. At least the vines warn visitors: Beware! Annoyingly obsessive homebrewer resides within!