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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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 carefulūüėú. 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

It‚Äôs 11:37 AM in Houston

Yes it is. The ribs are in the smoker and 4 homegrown Poblano peppers are on the top rack. I am giving the peppers a 30-45 minute dose of apple and pecan wood smoke preparing them for a batch of Smoked Poblano pepper jelly.

Skin is beginning to crinkle as they suck up the smoke. I am biding my time waiting on smoked pepper perfection- we’ll, maybe not perfection but “excellence” is a better term, before pulling the peppers. To aid in the wait, a Pete’s dark roast and an Odell’s India Pale Ale – yes both!

Not sure life can’t get much better than this! (FYI- that is an untruth but I was lulled into a cliche statement!)

The ribs will take a lot longer than the peppers to finish up. Thus, a few more ales to aid in the process and maybe another coffee or two to prevent too much cloudy judgement.

I am saving one of my SMaSH IPAs for dinner time to go along with the ribs and some all beef franks, special request from my daughter in law.

Just gotta love 90+ degrees and 75% humidity here in Houston! The beer helps but the coffee works against the body in regulating core body temperature! Ok, Bishop, you convinced me, no more coffee – just cool clear water ( converted in to beer)!

I just finished a Red IPA from Sierra Nevada and pulled the peppers off. Peppers are in a bag for a little more humidity…… LOL. Makes it easier to skin them prior to jelly making!

Now I have a tough decision, our guests are pushing back arrival time so, I may need to lighten up and slow the ribs down.

Next morning now-

Blogging was interrupted by the arriving guests. I am back home now after picking wild dewberries and checking on some of my bees.

Ribs were a big hit as well as the dogs! My wife made a very simple beer based margarita that was also a hit. I had to dig into my special stash while she and one of our neighbors enjoyed their “beer-Rita!”

The recipe-

One can of frozen limeade

One limeade can of tequila

One limeade can of Sprite or Sprite Zero

One bottle of Corona

Mix in a pitcher and pour over ice. Squeeze a lime into the glass and enjoy. It was very refreshing, after she finally decided to share one with me….. there is much more to the back story but I will let it be!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Bees & SMaSH IPA

I made a run to my two most distant Apiaries today. One in Splendora and the other in Grangerland – also known as the “berry farm”. I needed to add a deep box to one of my new hives in Splendora and poked my nose into see if the supers were filling with honey on the other three hives. They look promising but still a few weeks away from being ready for extracting.

Out at the berry farm I pulled 5 nicely filled frames. Would love to have had more Ready but – it will be a very good season based on the activity I saw today. The weather – 90 degrees F and 57% humidity made for a warm day. The bees were bearded up on the outside to keep the inside temperatures under control.

FYI- I am not feeding the bees, just haven’t removed the feeder yet! It was hot and I couldn’t beard up! I just had to sweat my ass off! For whatever reason, and they won’t tell you, the girls in the 8 frame hive were a little defensive today – Therefore, full gear and lots of sweat!

Upon return home and before unloading the truck – oh yes, and setting up in the garage to extract honey – I treated myself to my excellent SMaSH IPA! How can I tell what I’m drinking as in, I don’t put labels on my bottles? I use a bottle cap code. The SMaSH is a patriotic beer!

A hint of honey money in upper left background of the photo…… yes, I sell honey.

Ah, there is the box needing extraction! Now, I was interrupted at about 2/3 finished with my beer by my phone ringing. My friend and fellow Home brewer, Mike H, severely twisted my arm and forced me to delay extracting honey- Beer was the reason. “Meet me at Hop Stop in Humble”, more of a statement than a request.

Every Thursday they offer a rotating sampler and….. good folks, good conversation and a good place to drink beer. Traffic was crap, especially on the return trip, but it was well worth the trip….thanks Mike!

Still managed to extract and clean up. Lovely amber honey from the berry farm- “Blakelock’s Berries”. Check them out on Facebook.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

First Taste – Honey Blonde Ale

My wife’s comment pretty well sums it up! “I can drink that,” she says with a smile and a nod¬†of her head.

I am a little more critical and would like to see a little more carbonation…It¬† has been about two weeks or so since I bottled it. I will give them all¬†a little shake to stir up the yeast to¬†wake them up and then sample again in a week. Flavor is very nice….not tickling¬†my hop loving palate but it was designed to please the love¬† of my life – her nose goes up and wrinkles when one of those “hop bombs” that I love comes anywhere¬†near her nose. The color….definitely honey as you can¬† see from the photo below. There is a bit of honey taste and aroma….I used my dark and robust honey in the recipe…it does¬† come through.

Nice beer....look close and you can see some bubbles rising and this blog post in progress on the lap top in the background.

Nice beer….look close and you can see some bubbles rising and this blog post in progress on the lap top in the background.

Choices…… the freezer is now available for use as a fermenting chamber….. I had a hive super that the bees had cleaned for me residing at 10 degrees F for a few days….kills any wax moth eggs that may¬†be lurking and wanting to do their damage. The super is out, wrapped and ready for service next spring!

A mead is one choice…. small problem…..I need a bunch of honey, like 15 pounds. I am really not so much interested in the mead as I am in producing¬† some honey wine vinegar.¬† It may take almost 9 months to finish the vinegar ….. maybe a little longer to let it age. It might be ready for my “Farmer’s Market” table when I sell my honey next summer…….That is another story you can find on;

http://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/

Maybe a tandem effort….a mead and an Imperial IPA…..yeah that sounds good!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Honey Blonde Ale – One Step Closer

I racked the Honey Blonde from the primary to the secondary fermenter this morning. I was a few days tardy but it should not hurt the final product. I hope to bottle over the weekend and sit back and enjoy a cold one on or around October 17/18. 

The hydrometer reading indicates that fermentation is complete so I will let the beer clear up in the glass carboy secondary for a few days, chill, then bottle. ABV calculates at 5.64%. Not an all day session beer but very nice. I drank the sample I pulled – can’t let it go to waste! 

Color is nice – like a light honey color…. Go figure. Yes, a bit of sweetness in the flavor and a pleasant after taste. 

  From left to right, my honey in a squeeze bear, a bit of the extra sample I pulled and the hydrometer sample back right. The honey color is definitely evident.  The beer should clear up nicely in the next few days….. I will keep all y’all updated. 
Drink Local and Drink Responsibly 

Bishop

A Beer for my Honey

I have put back 5 pounds of a dark rich honey collected¬† from my bees.¬†¬†I have been planning to make a beer utilizing my honey but haven’t made the time, until now.¬†I asked my Honey for input, as we tend to like different styles….this beer is for her! In her cute way of saying it….A¬† “Honey Ale”, I have¬†translated that to¬†a “Honey Blonde Ale”. Now comes the¬† daunting part….selecting a recipe. There are so many choices!

This will be an all grain batch targeting an IBU number of around 20…..again, this is for my Honey and she prefers beers on the lower end of the IBU scale.

The challenge is add the honey in such a way as to not completely lose it’s flavor completely.¬† Obviously, it should be added at or near the end of the boil. Research also shows opportunities to add some honey to the secondary….Hmmmmm – I continue to do my home work.

I have a bit of time to plan…I won’t brew this batch until the eye doctor¬† give me permission to lift loads heavier than 20 pounds. I am having cataract surgery in a couple of days and would hate to lift a 5 gallon fermenter and have the implanted lens pop out….. Maybe I can draft my eldest son, a little over 6’5″ and now outweighs me and has the benefit of stupid young man strength, to help me out! PS – after challenging me to arm wrestle on his 21st birthday and losing badly – I still maintain a bit of a fear factor over him…it keeps him in line! He is now 25 and hasn’t asked for a rematch. Brew date is toward the end of the week of September 14.

I teat my son well....on the right is a Session IPA....his favorite and on the left is the Yes Dear Raspberry Wheat Ale....a little left for my wife.

I do treat my son well….on the right is a Session IPA….his favorite and on the left is the “Yes Dear Raspberry Wheat Ale”….a little left for my wife.

Brewing notes will be forth coming, in less than a fortnight!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop