Surprise, Surprise, Surprise – Phat Fish Brewery

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

Pipelayer IPA

Now I just gotta find a way to get back up here…..sooooooon!

I have included links to their website and their Facebook page.

https://www.phatfishbrewing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Brewery/Phat-Fish-Brewing-369363400278107/

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

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Santa Barbara Discovery

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.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Correcting My Recollection

Correcting my recollection for my last post, Confirmation – Bees and Beer are Linked. My new apiary location wasn’t due to a response to my request for a yard closer to home, it was via serendipity.  I was in the Home Depot parking lot to pick up timbers and concrete blocks to set up some new hives. On the rack on the back of my truck were two empty hive bodies. I friendly guy asked if  was a bee keeper and I answered in the affirmative. He wanted bees!!!!!! Yee Haw!

This, if anything, reinforces the karma between bees and beer. Out of nowhere, kindred spirits are connected in the midst of 4 million people in the grater Houston area…..I say, it must be be undeniable proof proof that Bees and Beer are linked!!!!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Confirmation – Bees and Beer are Linked

So, how did I arrive at this epiphany? I am certainly one data point. I started brewing beer around 1991 and became a beekeeper 6 years ago. Ok, not a strong link, but I have more that I would like to offer up.

I have a prolific 8 frame hive, already has 3 supers, in the backyard of some friends, Mike an awesome beer brewer and his wife Annette loves his Chocolate Porter. Synergistic relationship I am certain. The beer fridge, with two beers always on tap, is less than 25 feet away from the hive. There has to to bee and beer intersection in the respective auras influencing honey production and quality beers brewed here! A stronger link don’t you agree?

Well, here is the confirmation! A few weeks ago I put out feelers for an apiary location closer to the house to host a few of my hives. Out of the blue came an offer…..just 2 miles outside my parameters but close enough. Several acres, with a nice tall berm that is above the flooding that plagues our area, a pond and…….next to 100 acres of Tallow Tree – the biggest nectar source for SE Texas beekeepers. First move was a swarm that had moved into a newly built top bar hive in my backyard.

The small top bar in place. Room left for two more hives. I have two Langstroth hives that we’re not doing as well as I wanted out at Berry farm just begging to be moved closer. Today I gathered them up and hauled them over to the new and closer location.

I  have a 10 frame and an 8 frames Lang that were picked up Ready to go. They are loaded on the rack and they were set, opened and bees flying by 8:30 AM. Confirmation of the indisputable link between bees and beer happened at approximately 8:45 AM CST. My Goo friend John and I were packing the truck up when Terry, the property owner, asked if we wanted some homemade wine. It was red and sweet so we declined but mentioned beer is preferable. Terry turned and indicated that we should follow him.

There was a nice “Speak Easy” style door off the garage leading the BREWERY. – Yes a brewery…. 5 gallon style brewery, all electric, set up for all grain brewing. Sweet set up…..over to the right was the bar and a double tap. A lager on one, yes he truly brews and lagers his beer, and a nice Bock. John and I behaved ourselves as we had duties but we did sample and agree the Bees and Beer are joined at the hip.

Do you need anymore proof?

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Easing the Pain of Loss

A beer and bee story, bittersweet, poignant yet ends on a comforting note!

I went off to one of my bee yards to add a couple of supers as the nectar flow is on. One hive is swollen up and really needed some room so adding the super was the perfect thing to do. The bees immediately crawled up into the new space – Yee Haw!

Unfortunately the hive next to it…very active two weeks ago, was void of activity…..no need to add a super to it. Pulled the top off and no signs of bee life. As I dug in deeper I was amazed at how clean the girls left the house. I got there just in time, no small hive beetle larva present and no evidence of wax moths!

Here is the, glass half full, view. I now have 20 deep frames, fully drawn out and 10 medium frames, also fully drawn out! I now have some deep frames to help accelerate the growth of the swarms I have been catching and some medium frames to add to supers, ready to be filled with liquid gold. All 30 frames are in the freezer to kill any eggs and/or critters lingering. My smile is beginning!

Loaded the truck feeling a bit let down but knowing I still have some great opportunities for growing my apiary. I decided to swing by the beer store on the way to my “Goo” friend John’s house. They usually have a great selection and I scored big time!

Wow, this beer is amazing! Made with Northern California orange blossom honey. Wanna know more? https://coopaleworks.com/our-beers/

It is a double IPA so I need to be both selfish and careful😜. This beer is so smooth. I bought 3 – 4 packs, one 4 pack left at John’s house, minus the two beers as we consumed to help sooth my wounds over the loss of a hive!

It helps!

So now this gray bearded old man is a bit happier and now making plans on where to use these nicely drawn out frames! FYI- this is what a drawn frame looks like.

It really helps the bees. It takes 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax.

PS, I have two 4- packs of Alpha Hive in my fridge if you are interested and I may be willing to share. Yes, 9.7% ABV beer warms the soul and makes me smile.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Wife’s Wit Beer – Another Opportunity to Mop the Floor

This is a Belgian Wit beer and made for my wife!!! It is very similar to a Blue Moon made by one of those “evil giant conglomerate brewing companies”. A key difference with this batch is the absence of coriander. It does contain the zest of a grapefruit, locally grown, zest of lemon off of my tree and the zest of a store bought blood orange. Preliminary tastings while racking and checking the gravity have been very nice. Gotta wait 3-4 weeks to let it condition properly.

The all grain beer recipe;

The original gravity was dead on target and the final gravity looked good at 1.013.

This batch will be bottled – I wanted to use my 6 liter Tap-a-Draft small kegs but they are out of business and I need parts! Dang! I added 3.6 ounces of corn sugar to carbonate at around 2.4 volumes. Bottling is tedious and sometimes a little messy, so, I will most likely mop the floor again. I do hope it passes inspection!

Important decision before I start bottling – what should I drink to aid in the bottling process, my SMaSH IPA? A stout? No, too heavy. And the winner is……..

Yum…….. just one – Double IPA’s can sneak up on an unwitting and inexperienced beer drinker. I definitely have the experience part down several times over. Unwitting, well, I know the issue but sometimes that third or fourth IPA can cloud a persons judgement. The bottles have been sanitized and placed in a handy drying rack.

I hope I counted correctly! Yes Haw – I had two bottles left over and about 6 ounces for a little taster. It definitely passes muster. I don’t always label my bottles, I distinguish them by the color or type of cap. I asked Kathy which one she would prefer but she deferred to me. My choice! Gotta love Ben Franklin!

Waste not want not! I use recycled bottles, many consumed by me but I do get a little help from my friends. My supply is getting a bit depleted so I will need to gather up some before the next batch. I even recycle the 6 pack carriers. A couple of my favorites represented here.

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is awesome but their Hopslam is amazing!

I was rushing and trying to get too much done before “Leaving on a Jet Plane”……. Peter, Paul and Mary was playing that song in my headphones just as that song popped up. I need to make a folk singer playlist…….. I know, this doesn’t have anything to do with beer brewing or consuming, but that is how brain works, or according to some, doesn’t work! The rush also translated into riling up my bees during inspection and adding a few supers earlier that afternoon. I took a couple of stings through the gloves and at the next stop I took two in my left bicep……looks awesome! Makes a nice peak when I flex. I mopped half the kitchen and left a few 5 gallon buckets drying on the counter. I hope my wife knows where I keep them!

Get back on track now! Next, I think I will brew a double IPA or maybe a Pliny the Elder clone??? Maybe if I score some really good fresh hops a Hopslam kind of creation that is heavily dry hopped. Stay tuned I will get around to it in April …….. possibly.

Finishing up a few days in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. There is a nice little brewery in Watford City called Stonehollow. Awesome beers!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly.

Bishop