Let’s start with Great Change Brewery in Bakersfield, California. My wife Kathy had arrived in Bakersfield a few days earlier to care for her mother. The evening of the 14th of November we met up with an old friend and his wife at the brewery. Kathy and I had arrived a bit early so I started on a flight and Kathy had a pint of Poncherello Pale Ale.
The Idaho Fresh Squeeze IPA was up first. Day Ride – a nice 7% American IPA with cascade and Simcoe hops…. I really enjoyed it. The Spotted Pony Session IPA was easy drinking at 5%. The Yo Mr. White is a double IPA that is smooooth. The malt bill is like a Belgian Wit beer and nicely hopped with Amarillo, Idaho 7 and Simcoe.
Sassy Red Ale, 5.2% ABV – not overly hoppy but very nice.
This is a post that got lost in the editing process. Several of the beers I had that night are not in production now but looking through the current list of beer available it seems to be very well rounded.
I began brewing beer with a few neighborhood buddies around 1991 in Bakersfield California……and we are still friends! LOL Along the way we have learned a few lessons, the first was to not boil the wort in the kitchen……when the wife is home! That actually took several lessons, not necessarily very painful but she does have leverage!
My current brewing adventure is a Bell’ s Two Hearted clone recipe. I will have to admit that every step in the process I have been pleased with flavor and color. The words of A Beer Connoisseur describing the breweries offering of the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale- “ A fairly clear orange-amber beer with a low white head offers a very complex aroma that speaks of American hop varieties – floral, citrus, pine and a little orange. Gradually, some caramel notes appear. “ Those would have been my words exactly during the process.
I mentioned earlier that I was a brave man. Bravery. Hmmm, what is it? Courage is a word that usually comes to mind!
“ Courage is not the absence of fear. Courageous people do feel fear, but they are able to manage and overcome their fear so that it does not stop them taking action. They often use the fear to ensure that they are not overly confident and that they take the appropriate actions. “ https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/courage.html
So how does apply to me, today? Well…… today is November 25th, 2021, Thanksgiving Day in the US. It is a very busy day in the kitchen and it also the day I chose to keg my Two Hearted clone on and around the same kitchen space being used to prepare our Thanksgiving Feast. Now, I am not completely stupid so I started early, while smoking the turkey and drinking a beer……yes it was 5 O’clock somewhere. I strove to overcome my fear……fortified with an adult beverage, maybe a couple!
It was a bit of a surprise when I learned that earlier in the month, Mr. Bell sold the brewery. I some respects i admire and respect Larry Bell’s journey to create and build an iconic brewery. I love his beers. I am including a link to article describing the sale. He did not sell out to and Anheuser-Busch type…..and the great beers brewed by Larry Bell will still be true to his craft.
I want to report out on the 2020 best beers according to Zymurgy magazine. Not familiar with Zymurgy? Zymurgy is the publication of the American Homebrewers Association. The 20 best beers are the opinions of American Hombrewers Association, AHA, members and may not reflect the opinions of drinkers of swill. Swill may be a harsh term but there really is a flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and quality difference for the beers in this list.
I am pleased to report that a handful of my go to beers, including 3 at the top of my list are in the top twenty.
Number 1…. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI. I was introduced to this beer on one of my many work trips to North Dakota and it is now being distributed in Texas…..yes, it is in my fridge. Two Hearted is brewed year round.
Number 2….. Pliny the Elder, from Russian River Brewing Co. It is a double IPA coming in at 8% but….. drinks very smooth with an incredible mix of aromas and broad but smooth bitterness. I have only been able to have this beer on three occasions and can probably give you date, time and location when I was able to enjoy this beer! It really is that good. Drawback, very hard to find……gotta know somebody! Available year round but…..only in limited quantities.
Number 3…… Pale Ale by Sierra Nevada. This was probably my first exposure to real beer nudging me away from my usual swill….the beer came out in 1980, it probably was late 1980’s before I was treated to the wonderful, bottle conditioned ale featuring, new at the time, Cascade hops. Confession, I did experiment with non swill in the late 70’s, Anchor Steam beer after it was reintroduced in 1971.
Number 4……..Heady Topper by the Alchemist in Stowe, VT. This beer has not blessed my lips, but…….I am on the hunt now. This is a double IPA and according to the recommendation printed on the can…..it is best consumed from the can. According to the review in Zymurgy that is to “allow your senses to enjoy the maximum hop experience.”
Number 5……. Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery….. my go to Double IPA. It is best consumed fresh……..but I have hoarded it far into the year, hidden away from the local beer gnomes that raid my stash. Very high on my list. Mark your calendar, this beer is distributed in January and February……then the dearth sets in. Dearth, a beekeepers term when nectar is not available for the bees and also appropriate for this nectar of the gods hoppy beer. At 8% it will help make you toasty….nice!
Number 6 …….. Zombie Dust by Three Floyd’s Brewing Company, Munster, IN. Three Floyd’s describes it as “intensely hopped”. That description places it on my list of beers to hunt down. The Zymurgy review calls it “Insanely drinkable”….. sounds like a gotta have beer. Only 6.2%…..yum.
Number T 7……. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, by Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO. Very nice beer coming in at 8% …..very good hoppy aroma and and hop flavors. I have been able to track this one down, although not in my top list I would never turn it down.
Number 7 T……. Kentucky Breakfast Stout, barrel aged, by Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. It is a strong Imperial Stout that I find Rivals my favorite Imperial Stout, the barrel aged Parabola from Firestone Walker. It is 12.3 % and best shared in 4-5 ounce glasses with good friends. Complex flavors and aromas and really warms going down. Patting myself on the back, my home brewed Imperial Stout, also aged on toasted and bourbon soaked oak, is on par with this beer.
Number 9………Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR. This is a beer that almost always graces my fridge. Two of favorite hops are used for this beer, Citra and Mosaic, both during the boil and during fermentation. It is a very fresh and clean drinking beer.
Number 10…….Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA. I have had an opportunity to sample this beer and it is treat for the palate with wide variety of flavors and complex set of pleasant aromas. At 9% ABV it will warm you up nicely.
The remainder of the top twenty; Treehouse Julius, sounds delicious, Founders All Day IPA …..a go to session ale loved by me and my beer drinking partner, Focal Banger by Alchemist….I know nothing of this beer but need to hunt it down, Jai Lai by Cigar City….I have had it a couple of times and it is a very pleasant beer, Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada…..damn good beer, I really like it! Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath, the reviewers were very complimentary of this beer – yep another one to chase down, White by Allagash Brewing, apparently a real nice example of the classic Wit Bier style, Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids, this is a NEIPA this is an 8% beer, Odell IPA, , been there, done that beer many times and bought the shirt, the Odell IPA knocked my socks off the first time I tried it! Very yummy! Hazy Little Thing by Sierra Nevada Brewing……I love this beer, great aromas and flavors…yum
I have a couple of new brews to share and a kegerator build to share.
Since the Wit Bier i wrote about last, I have brewed and bottled a Honey Blonde Ale using honey from one of my apiary locations. Next up was a deviation from anything I have brewed in the past, it was a New England style hazy and juicy IPA. I didn’t bottle it but it is the first beer into my new kegerator…..see photo above.
The Wit Bier was a success but, ……… the choice of Citrus zest was not as good as the prior batch, at least according to my wife. Others tasting the current batch give it high marks but don’t have the reference point of the prior batch.
What made the prior batch special? The zest for the Wit Bier makes a bigger impact than I would have expected. I used a store bought grapefruit as well as a store bought Blood Orange. The lemon was a homegrown Meyer Lemon, sweet and very aromatic. At my wife’s request no coriander is ever used in my Wit Biers due to her dislike of it from my very first batch. The current batch was brewed with all store bought citrus. The brew store Guru, Preston Brown, down at “The Grain Cellar” in Humble, TX, has suggested using all blood orange in the future. Interestingly, if it is not in the stores it can be brewed with blood orange purée. I may have to research this approach.
Let me turn my attention to the kegerator. I toyed with the idea of using a chest freezer but finally settled on in upright refrigerator with the freezer on top. I brainstormed a little with myself, small storm and no sparks, and decided that top freezer portion could be used as a chalkboard as well as a magnet surface. I used chalk paint and framed it as if it were a real chalkboard. The space will be used to note which beer is on each of the 4 taps.
The interior of the bottom portion will easily hold 4 Cornelius kegs as well as one or two commercial style 5 or 7.5 gallon kegs along with the Cornelius kegs. One concern is tap handle clearance for opening the freezer where frosty mugs will be located. I measured concern and maybe twice…… I decided to run a horizontal center line on the third 1X4 below the freezer.
First up was the aforementioned New England Style IPA. Lots of hops, very little up front for bittering, a good dose at flame out, another good dose steeped after the boil and three rounds of dry hopping. I have learned the this dry hopping schedule give the beer it’s haze and the citrusy hops provide the “juicy” part of the flavor profile.
Scientifically speaking, “haze is a combination of polyphenol and protein molecules that associate via hydrogen bonding and become visible,” explains John Palmer, author of How to Brew. Suspended yeast, which is different than protein-polyphenol haze, also causes cloudiness. There are some banter back and forth on this style, but to me it comes down to you and your preferences. Me, I can drink almost any and every style…….except for Sours……not for me!
In the fermenter now is a West Coast style IPA. “West Coast IPA — West Coast IPAs are known for the huge hop aroma bursting with notes of citrus and tropical fruits. Their malt character is understated, and they finish dry to let the layered hop flavors and aromas take center stage.” By JOHN VERIVE, Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2014.
This brew will be heavily dry hopped and should mirror the description from the Times article. Chinook for bittering, then good doses of Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo hops for very late addition, steeping and dry hopping. Should be kegging it in about 12 days!
I am brewing beer for my wife again. The time has come and the last two bottles of the Wit Bier that I brewed for her are chilled and begging to be consumed. It is an all grain recipe with one key difference from a standard Wit Bier, she doesn’t like the flavor of the coriander seeds in most Wit Biers. The flavorings are just confined to the zests of grapefruit, lemon and an orange. Potential variations suggested for a future match will be to use the zest of 6 blood oranges. They are a seasonal thing…..usually early winter into spring.
I have the 5.5 gallon batch in the primary fermenter and it is bubbling away nicely. It was brewed a couple of days ago in conjunction with extracting 65 pounds of honey…..yep, honey. Once the honey was in the bucket the prep work started for the beer….clean the equipment and have everything laid out and ready.
Today, I am taking the grains and making a spent grain loaf of sourdough bread. I will freeze a bunch and take the remaining grains over to my apiary location where the property owner has chickens. When they see me coming they come running to greet me.
I have 5 apiary locations all within about 20 miles of each and the variation in color and flavor is significant. One location has a darker color and according to my wife, a sweeter flavor. In the planning process is a honey blonde ale……the question is, which honey to use???
While writing this post my ADHD kicked in and I had to check out honey blonde ale recipes. The honey is a fermentable sugar and actually ferments out without leaving honey notes. Using honey in the wort would also drive off the aroma of the honey……that said, I found a recipe where the honey is added after primary fermentation has slowed. The brewers follow up notes on tasting the beer were pretty positive, not much in the way of honey aroma in the beer but it did come through while drinking the beer. The brewer also suggested some hopping variations……it is now on my list. I will keep y’all posted on the progress.
I have started a dialog with the owner of my brewing supply store. Heis the guy who convinced me to make a “bochet” with a 6 pound jar of honey that I warmed up a bit too much. Fortunately it caramelized rather than scorched. From 1393 – an archaic and delightful description of my intended effort.
“BOUCHET. To make six sesters of bouchet, take six pints of fine sweet honey, and put it in a cauldron on the fire and boil it, and stir continually until it starts to grow, and you see that it is producing bubbles like small globules which burst, and as they burst emit a little smoke which is sort of dark: and then stir, and then add seven sixths of water and boil until it reduces to six sixths again, and keep stirring. And then put it in a tub to cool until it is just warm; and then strain it through a cloth bag, and then put it in a cask and add one chopine (half-litre) of beer-yeast, for it is this which makes it the most piquant, (and if you use bread yeast, however much you like the taste, the colour will be insipid), and cover it well and warmly to work. And if you want to make it very good, add an ounce of ginger, long pepper, grains of Paradise and cloves in equal amounts, except for the cloves of which there should be less, and put them in a cloth bag and throw in. And after two or three days, if the bouchet smells spicy enough and is strong enough, take out the spice-bag and squeeze it and put it in the next barrel you make. And thus you will be able to use these same spices three or four times.” -Le Menagier de Paris, France, 1393”
I shouldn’t say a discovery, rather it was verification of a FaceBook discovery. I saw a post for a Craft Beer and Wine bar on Hamblen Road in Forest Cove. Well, it was well worth the stop. “Only” 31 beers on tap and I can only “sample” a few ……… each visit. I may have to schedule a couple of visits per week….yee haw!
The place has only been open three weeks and new has not even been rubbed off! It is well worth many return visits. The location has a great patio area and is very dog friendly.
My lucky day was today……….honestly, every day is a lucky day for me when I wake up on this side of the grass! Also lucky for a great variety of beers……. and to top it off – today was $4.00 IPA day. It doesn’t get much better than that!
As Arnold once said, ” I’ll be back!”……..and I will add – often!
Over the past several years I have conducting training classes in Williston, North Dakota and have been miserable due to the lack of Breweries in the area. I am in North Dakota during this last week of September and I am thirsty……I am also anxious to spend my free time down in Medora to shoot photos in the Teddy Roosevelt National Park and of the scenery along the backroads of North Dakota and Montana.
My wife, she certainly loves me…..how do I know? She sent me a text message on my drive from Williston to Medora. The text came in shortly after I passed the turn off to Watford City, home of a good brewery that has excellent pizza baked in a wood fired oven……I pulled over and stopped in order to reply…..I told her that maybe, on the way back I would stop at that brewery. I then headed south to the park.
I drove through the North Unit of the Teddy Roosevelt Park and was rewarded with an abundance of Bison…..and too many tourists….I now know why I like the end of October or into November for my fall trips!!!!!! It also seems as if more wildlife is out….Bighorn sheep, Mule deer, whitetail deer, coyotes and those cute little prairie dogs. After my pass through the North Unit, it was on down to the town of Medora.
I was up early to see the sunrise the next day and …… well much too overcast to be treated to a great sunrise.. I did see my first wild Mustang horses in the park as well as my fist sightings of Pronghorn Antelope. I also ran into a guy while hiking a trail, quizzed him on his home base and it turned out to be Dickinson ND….I was guessing it was more than an hour away but no….33 miles from Medora. Hmmmmmmm, now the beer-wheels are turning!
It was now a bit after lunch time and I have eaten at every place in Medora several times – I also yearned for a good beer. I remembered my wife’s text message from the day before and I mentally mouthed the words, “Yes Dear!” – I googled Dickinson and breweries and Phat Fish Brewery came up….35 minutes away…..how fortuitous! (that means lucky).
I have done training classes in Dickinson several times a few years back and no mention of a brewery by any of the attendees. They were either ignorant, hiding the truth from me or……maybe Dickinson was quaint enough to be barren when it comes to craft breweries. It turned out to be the latter.
I hustled east on I-94 and found the brewery at 1031 West Willard….obviously on the west end of town. I walked in and was impressed with the size, the layout and the crisp cleanliness of the place. The lunch crowd had pretty well thinned out and the crew was busy prepping for a special event that night, they planned on being busy as they were also expecting the regular crowd for Thursday Night football. Two young ladies one chair down from me were sharing a pizza and drinking a beer that looked a little anemic…..I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask. It was Miller Lite, Miller Lite for the both of them. That should tell you that they do have some guest taps at Phat Fish until they can further educate to town.
Gotta love the Phat Fish logo
I went with a pint of the Pipelayer IPA…an easy drinking and satisfying IPA – ABV 6.8% and 44 IBUs. I hope I wasn’t too pushy but I did encourage the young ladies to branch out and dip their toes into the beers on tap other than the domestic lagers. They admitted to being a bit less adventurous. While we chatted and ate, I had a thick crust Spicy Righand pizza with a decent dose of Jalapenos! I went reverse style and then ordered a 4 beer flight after my pint of the IPA. Blue Hawk Belgian – Belgian Wit, Nodak Sunrise- Oatmeal Porter, Roughrider Razz- Raspberry Wheat and the Hazy Honey. I think I had the Nurses convinced to try the Hazy Honey on their next visit.
The Belgian Wit was very nice. The coriander was not overwhelming and the citrus zest was perfect. I really liked the Raspberry Wheat, not over the top on raspberry! …. the girls had tried a taste of the Raspberry Wheat previously and enjoyed it….so there is hope for them.The Oatmeal Porter was my favorite of the 4 beer flight. Very good coffee flavors, smooth and robust! The Hazy Honey was light, smooth and refreshing.
Next week they will have a sour beer on tap…..I have to admit……sours are not in my wheelhouse but more and more people are finding them to be very drinkable. More power to them and it just adds a bit more variety to the Craft Beer world.
After the nurses left I damaged to spend a good 10 minutes talking with Melissa Scharf, one of the four principals of the business….10 barrel brewhouse, two – 10 barrel fermenters and two – 20 barrel fermenters. They found a great deal from a brewery that was upsizing and made a smart purchase…..the equipment was so clean it looked as if was set new when they opened 3 months ago…..I find that adherence to cleanliness a great attribute. I am impressed with her knowledge, energy and commitment.
Wow, is that a beautiful and clean image or what?
My four beer flight
Now I just gotta find a way to get back up here…..sooooooon!
I have included links to their website and their Facebook page.
I was out inspecting my bees today and had the good fortune of visiting my apiary two blocks south of the Megaton Brewery in Kingwood. I took a quick look at the activity and made plans to open the two top bar hives to harvest a bit Sunday morning before the Women’s World Cup Final. I intend to leave them with enough honey to get into the fall. I had not broke much of a sweat, my deodorant seemed to be in place, so I decided to pop into the brewery.
I am normally an IPA guy but I still had one more apiary to visit. I chose a 9 oz pour of the Blueberry Lemon Heimdall Farmhouse Ale. Surprisingly good! Next up was a pint of the Cranberry Kolsch. Easy to drink but not what I expected….little or no noticeable cranberry flavor nor aroma. Now a 9 oz pour of the Wildberry Kolsch. The berry flavor came through nicely and a pleasant aroma. Of the 3 I really enjoyed the Blueberry Lemon Heindall. As I was waiting to order a 32 oz growler can to go of my favorite of the day, the board flashed and it was no longer available! Damn! I needed to bring some beer home to my wife and daughter.
It was suggested that I try the Heimdall Farmhouse Ale, sans the Blueberry an Lemon additions. I tried a taster, and although a pleasant beer, I didn’t think the girls would go for it. I asked them to can up the Wildberry Kolsch………and guess what? The keg went dry. What’s a guy to do?
Scratch the Wild and add Cran for the Cranberry Kolsch. Hope the girls like it!
I had intended to go to the Santa Barbara Brewing Company on State Street as my wife shopped, hopefully for something on sale! My destination no longer exists. So, plan B.
Gotta love it! Blue sky, trees in bloom and a horrible 66 degrees…..sans humidity. I was dealing with bees in Houston the past week @ 92 degrees and humidity that sucked big time!
Even better, the beers are very nice.
I went big on my first beer with the Vacancy IPA. Poured with a perfect head and the aroma was very pleasant. Kathy went with the Mango Day Dreamin and she enjoyed it.
Next up for me was the Mosaic – Pale Ale. I love Mosaic hops! Very nice….crisp and clean. As I ordered the young lady forced, twisted my arm and shamed me into sampling the 2019 Spring Seasonal-100% Mosaic hops. Wow!!!! I am sure glad I have no will power.
The beautiful clean Mosaic Pale Ale.
Institution Ale Company is based in Camarillo, I need to talk to my son-in-law about hiding this brewery from me for nearly 6 years!
Every beer poured was perfect! Why do I say that? They use a tall pint glass, clearly marking the pint line with very sufficient space for head on the beer. Much of the aroma of the beer is from the head. As those bubbles burst your senses are treated to Hop and malt aromas, my opinion!!!! It also looks great, the aesthetics of the presentation!
We didn’t try the food here but the items passing by our table heading to the lunch crowd visitors looked and smelled amazing. This place is high on my recommended breweries list!!!!
Just an FYI, our go to list in the area includes; Rincon, Island Brewing, and Brew Lab in Carpinteria. We have visited all 3 this week. Santa Barbara choices include Figueroa Mountain, the newly added Institution Ale Company and the Brewhouse.
More to come as we wander north on Highway 101 next week.