Raising The Bar With My Homebrewing

I have just moved my home brewing efforts up a new level. This now allows summer-time brewing as well as creating an opportunity to brew some lagers. Lagers must be lagered…..yes, I know that really doesn’t paint a clear picture. Lagers are typically fermented at temperatures much lower than “room” temperature and then once bottled/kegged lagered for several months, i.e., held at say 35 degrees F. I can’t do that in my dining room!

What, do you ask is needed to up the efforts? I have purchased a small used chest freezer and a Johnson Controls, A 419. digital temperature controller. The current batch of beer I have been brewing was transferred into my 6L mini Tap-a-Draft kegs yesterday. The conditioning phase requires that this Father’s Day Amber Ale condition for 7 days at a strict 68-70 degrees F and then at 55-65 for two weeks. I cannot afford to cool the house to those temperatures, after all this is summer in Houston.

I had been watching the local listings in the “Kingwood Yardsale” website for several weeks. Yesterday I found a working small chest freezer for $ 70.00. The next step is to buy and install a controller that will keep the freezer temperatures in the range I need for my purposes. The Johnston Controls controller has a very wide range that will more than adequately cover my needs.

Stable fermenting temperatures provide the best environment for the yeast to work its magic. The conditioning process is many times aided by a reduced temperature to allow the beer to best express its flavors. In the past I have used a big plastic tub filled with water in the corner of the dining room. My wife is both tolerant and patient with my hobby but I can now give her most of the dining room back…..it is still a bit of a home office for my consulting business.

The Controller set at 68 degrees F

The Controller set at 68 degrees F

The 3 six liter bottles. I added a lot of my glass bottled home brew to create some additional thermal mass to aid in managing temperature swings. I will also use this as my "cellar" after this current batch has conditioned. I added about 60 bottles of beer ....... Seems to be wrking pretty well.

The 3 six liter bottles. I added a lot of my glass bottled home brew to create some additional thermal mass to aid in managing temperature swings. I will also use this as my “cellar” after this current batch has conditioned. I added about 60 bottles of beer ……. Seems to be wrking pretty well.

Two of the 3 six liter bottles sitting in the freezer this AM.

Two of the 3 six liter bottles sitting in the freezer this AM.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly


Beer Trumps All

I spent last week in California, more precisely, Coalinga, Paso Robles, Bakersfield and San Ardo.

In Coalinga we stayed at Harris Ranch Inn. Great beef, great ranch style rooms and good beer to. Tuesday night we shifted locations to Paso Robles, 27 minutes south of San Ardo oilfield. We were in the midst of some of the finest red wine growing and nearly 300 wineries, from little tiny to very, very big! Just a note, we should have had a 27 minute drive but due to cattle guard issues with a local rancher and some drilling activity we had to drive another 8 or 10 minutes north, hook back across the Salinas River and meander through some  lush produce fields adding 15 minutes to the drive. We witnessed seemingly endless vistas of vineyards, cattle grazing on the rolling hills, cabbage harvests and lettuce planting….This stretch of Highway 101, El Camino Real that parallels the freeway is the most amazing display of the earth’s bounty.

Harris Ranch Inn pool vista. Actually pleasant arounf the pool - the wind from the Harris Ranch feedlot was not tracking toward the hotel!

Harris Ranch Inn pool vista. Actually pleasant around the pool – the wind from the Harris Ranch feedlot was not tracking toward the hotel! Thank Goodness

The altar at the San Miguel Mission near Paso Robles. Built in 1794!

The altar at the San Miguel Mission near Paso Robles. Built in 1794!

My workmate, Murray and I had worked in the region this past December. While in Paso Robles we dined at the pub associated with the Firestone Walker Brewery. Great beer and now great food to boot.  We treated ourselves in December to a bottle of Parabola, a barrel aged Imperial Stout. We shared the 2011 “vintage” – I think it is ok to use that term since we are in an incredible wine growing region! The 2011 bottle was amazing! We both agreed that it treated the senses to a mouth feel, taste and aroma that could be used to describe a great Port! I would love to have hauled an unopened bottle back to Texas but they wouldn’t agree to sell one to me for that purpose. I tried to explain that I was Bishop Decker, world famous beer drinker and blogger extraordinaire! I guess my fame is restricted to Texas!

Murray's good side with his 4 beer sampler at Firestone Walker Pub.

Murray’s good side with his 4 beer sampler at Firestone Walker Pub.

Surrounded my great wines, vineyards and wineries, so what do Murray and I drink? Beer!! We had the DBA, the 805, a 4 beer sampler – see Murray’s good side, and of course the Parabola. Rules seem to have change or maybe Murray and his west coast of Canada charm worked some magic – the rascal convinced them to sell him a bottle of the 2011 Parabola in a “to-go” box. In fact it was the last bottle and stamped as the No. 2 bottle from that batch.  We shared the 2013 bottling on the advice of our server….he said the 2012 was a bit too sweet. The 2013 is superb!

The Parabola 2013

The Parabola 2013

I treated Murray to a dinner with my Mother on Wednesday night at her favorite seafood place in Morro Bay. She ordered her favorite meal – the chicken breast – FYI the old gal doesn’t eat fish. She was her usual perky self at 84-ish. She conducts a Tai Chi class 3 days per week – as much a social gathering as it is fitness – a mix of mind and body. PS – Mom, Murray thinks you are pretty special. I hesitated putting that comment in because it could go to her Head!!!!

Friday we trekked back to Bakersfield the long way, through Santa Maria, similar vistas as the 101 north of Paso Robles but now strawberry fields add to the mix. We took Highway 166 through Cuyama…endless vistas of carrot fields! We continued our beer sampling at Lengthwise Pub out on Calloway in Bakersfield with their Centennial IPA.

Saturday on the plane very early, fingers crossed for an on time flight….My youngest son was graduating High School with over 600 of his classmates. The event was held in one half of Reliant Stadium…the same place that the NFL Texans play their games! At the celebratory graduation I tried a bottle of beer from Bear Republic, Red Rocket Ale – I really liked it!!!!!!

Red Rocket Ale is a bastardized Scottish style red ale that traces it’s origins to our homebrew roots. This full bodied and hoppy brew finishes on the palate with sweet, caramel malt flavors. 2009 California State Fair – SILVER 1999 Great American Beer Festival® Other Strong Ales or Lagers – SILVER 1998 Great American Beer Festival® Other Strong Ales – SILVER


Drink Local and Drink Responsibly – I am sipping on a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale as I write….made with fresh hops…Murray has promised to bring me some fresh hops for my home brewing efforts next fall – Grown on the island of his residence, Salt Spring BC – said that he would supply me a kilo of the good stuff! A KILO OF HOPS Y’ALL!!!!!

Dinner at son Joe's graduation - he is far right, my big maroon body with my Red Rocket Ale is near right.

Dinner at son Joe’s graduation – he is far left, my big maroon body with my Red Rocket Ale is near right.


American Craft Beer Week

At least this reflects something positive on the news wires this week! I apologize to Nathan Berrong who writes Eatocracy’s Beer column, “Berrong on Beer” beacause I am stealing a piece out of his column’s headline…. when I think about craft beer or homebrewed beer I have a new phrase to use when offered a “real” beer – I can exclaim, “Ale Yeah!” So this being American Craft Beer Week – thanks to Mr. Berrong and I stand up and shout “Ale Yeah!”

This is a great opportunity to set down your Coors or Bud or other variation of yellow fizzy water and broaden your horizons. The variety of offerings in the craft beer section of the store is very broad.You can take a small step out and go with a Blonde Ale of some sort. You may surprise yourself and find that Amber Ales can be surprisingly easy to drink…..don’t be misled that an amber color equates to “dark” flavors….. Dive a little deeper and try a Brown Ale.

Now there are some lessons to be learned…A Pale Ale can have a very broad spectrum of flavors and aromas. The spectrum is influenced by the varieties of hops and yes by the malts too, yes there are a myriad variety of hops, which lend the beer the bitterness and aromas. The hops are my real focus when sampling Pale Ales. If you are a bit of a geeky numbers person find the IBU designation on Pale Ales. If the number starts creeping north of 40 or so it indicates a more “hoppy” beer. I like the Pale Ales designated as IPA – India Pale Ales – they are higher in both alcohol and bittering – historically made to survive the boat trip to India. The style has survived and thrived. If you didn’t figure it out, I love IPA’s.

The choices for broadening your beer experience include Stouts, Porters, Wheat Beers, Belgian Styles and more. If you see the word “Imperial” in the name be prepared for a higher ABV – Alcohol by Volume. Some can even approach wine levels…10-12% and sometimes more. Then the craft industry is using barrel aged beers and “oh my” the complexity of flavors goes through the roof. Firestone Walker in Paso Robles California has a barrel aged Imperial Stout labeled “Parabola” that is just out of this world….unfortunately it is not sold retail!

From Mr. Berrong’s article here are some suggestions he gleaned from others;

The Brewer’s Association, a not-for-profit trade group that represents small and independent brewers, is the driving force behind ACBW. Below are some tips from them on how to get the most out of this year’s beer week:

• Conduct a craft beer tasting or pairing. • Visit your favorite local brewery, restaurant or tap room and enjoy local craft beers. • Host a tasting at home featuring craft beer from small and independent producers. • Tweet your pride for U.S. craft brewers using the hashtag #ACBW. • Seek out other like-minded folks by attending an official ACBW event. Use the official ACBW events page to find an event in your area. The link below takes you to the full article.


My weekend sampling will include my homebrews – a Pumpkin Ale, Imperial Stout flavored with roasted oak and bourbon, a 4.2% Pale Ale and my share of a batch of Raspberry Wheat Ale. I will also be racking my Father’s Day Ale over into my secondary fermenter this weekend. I will look to local beers to add to the weekend mix….Mom I will not drink all of them – just a nice smattering of beers. Karbach, St Arnolds, Southern Star, No Label, Buffalo Bayou and ????

Guys, your GF or wife may enjoy some of the Belgian Wit Beers that have a hint of orange peel and coriander – they also tend to have a broad spectrum of how spicy they come across. I have to pat Coors on the back because their Blue Moon Belgian Wit has helped many of the fairer sex wander away from Miller Lite!

The list of beer styles is extensive…I have only scratched the surface – follow the link below to see what beer nerds love…beer styles listed and IU ranges for reach style.


Plan your week and your weekend….be adventurous!!!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly


Never Stop Learning – About Beer

As a Homebrewer, I am always reading, learning, experimenting and deepening my knowledge around this noble craft. Non-brewers, it is also important to continue exercising the brain and learning more and more about beer is a perfect topic.

My friends over at “Good Beer, Better Hats” posted a great educational article that I think every beer loving individual should cruise through. It features 24 wonderful factual items and for my edification, there is a rich history of women and their role in the history of beer. So, with Mother’s Day just around the corner I think all beer drinkers should read the article and also give thanks to the nurturing and critical role that women have played in the rich history of beer! So, pour yourself a cold one, sit back and tickle the brain!


Drink Local – Drink Responsibly


Karbach Brewery and Beer Butt Chickens

Please be advised that I am still enamored with all things beer, ale or homebrewing involved. Work sometimes gets in the way of my Beer Blogging efforts but the desire never wanes. I worked in Lafayette Louisiana two weeks ago and was introduced to an Abita Seasonal. The Abita Spring IPA is outstanding!!!!! My wife and daughter are drinking a very Abita like Raspberry Wheat Ale tonight that was a shared effort with my friend Mike…..he did most of the work and I absconded with 2.5 gallons of a very nice tasting beer. I carried mine home in my 6L Tap-A-Draft mini-kegs. Sorry Mike…I couldn’t wait and charged up the mini-keg and my wife is happy. She says it is smooth and silky on the tongue!

Abita Spring IPA....my vote would be to add it to the full time line-up

Abita Spring IPA….my vote would be to add it to the full time line-up

Ok – back to the title – My wife went to Sam’s Club and brought home a couple aof big fat roasting chickens and a hankering for Beer Butt Chicken. I normally use cheap beer in cans for the effort but decided to go gourmet with the recipe. In the fridge were a few cans of Karbach. I said, “Why not!” I use about a half of a can for each chicken. I pulled a chilled glass out of the freezer poured half of each can into the glass – it was then I realized that I had sinned. See photo below;


Oops – Sympathy for the Lager mixed with Rodeo Clown IPA!

I will have to admit that the two beers blended in the glass sitting on the counter were complimentary. Maybe Karbach could see if a blend may be commercially viable. They blend wines don’t they? It was a busy kitchen day, over on the left is my chunky strawberry jam. Into each can I add my secret rub seasoning….not really secret – I am a simple man so I used garlic salt and a hometown blend from Luigi’s Deli, Oh, by the way, I have tried using the Luigi’s on scrambled eggs for my son the way his Aunt Denise does and I fall short….she must be hiding things from me. I think she still resents that I am the favorite child!

I really like these combination pan and stands for holding the chickens upright. They  also captures the dripping grease preventing massive flare-ups. That can ruin your day and your chicken. We found these at Walmart. A bit of advice….spray the metal parts with lots of oil. it will help with clean-up! Now slip the chickens over the stand and beer can like so.

Dressed and ready to go to the BBQ!

Dressed and ready to go to the BBQ!

I try to keep the grill in the 400 F range as they cook. These big boys took about 75 minutes before the legs and wings had that floppy looseness that indicates they are done. I also removed juices from the catch pan at the bottom using a turkey baster before they over flowed and caused a flare up. The chicken was so moist that it pretty much fell off of the breasts.  The serving photo was not taken….the meat disappeared too quickly for me to get the shot.

On the grill and ready to transform into yummy goodness!

On the grill and ready to transform into yummy goodness!

Now, in answer to my wife’s question after the new beer kit arrived, “Yes Dear, we have room for more beer.” Secretly I hope that I am right. I will document my efforts today! It is a Father’s Day Ale.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly