Twenty Best Beers

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

On hand as of yesterday. My beer order was off a little as I was not specific enough. I am still on my walker due to hip replacement. The Double Bell’s Two Hearted is a nice sub as is the Odell Mountain Standard IPA!
A look into my patio beer fridge. Home brews in bottle include Mosaic SMaSH IPA, Honey Blonde with my Honey and a real nice Wit Bier for my wife.
Don’t believe the tap handles….. I have my Juicy/Hazy IPA on one, my West Coast IPA on another and Scrimshaw Pils on another. Waiting to brew again for the number 4 tap.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Beer and Spent Grain Sourdough Bread

Sunday afternoon and I am enjoying a warm slice of bread made with the spent grains from the SMaSH IPA, I brewed during a nice thunderstorm late Friday afternoon. The beer is destined to be good! Why? The grains were in the mash tun and there was a big flash and a powerful boom from very nearby lightning. Almost immediately AC/DC came up on my playlist…………and yes, it was Thunderstruck! A very good omen.

The recipe for this beer is well known to me, I have it three prior times. Simple all grain recipe, 12 pounds of Marris Otter malt and 6 ounces of Mosaic hops. One ounce at the start of the 60 minute boil, 1.5 ounces at 10 minutes and another 1.5 ounces at flame out. Two ounces are reserved for dry hopping. WLP 1051 yeast and it is off and running. I ran it through Beer Smith and used a single infusion with two step sparge I also hate to throw spent grains away so all 12 pounds will be used. I have composted them in the past but I think they have more value.

I hauled a gallon bucket of spent grains over to one of my nearby apiaries that has chickens on the property……the chickens seem to recognize me or maybe it’s the gallon bucket full of grains, regardless, they come running for the sweet treat. I bagged 4 bundles of grain, again about a gallon each and placed them in the freezer…….future treats for the chickens. I kept about 2 quarts to partially dry and make ready for use in bread making.

I have been diligently making sourdough during our social distancing exercise and I am getting pretty good at it. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. I searched the web for a simple and straightforward sourdough recipe utilizing the spent grains………. I’m a simple guy and I got lucky – finding a simple recipe within my skill set! See below.

Sourdough & Spent Grain Bread – based on a recipe from this site….pretty much followed it but just a few tweaks. https://noteatingoutinny.com/2010/04/13/sourdough-spent-grain-rye-bread/

1 cup sourdough starter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – I used 3 and it was just enough.
1 cup spent grain, still a bit wet
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups water – varies depending on how wet the spent grains are.

Combine the starter, 3 cups of the flour and enough water to allow the dough to just come together, in shaggy strands(I didn’t know what that meant so I googled for images). Knead about 5-6 minutes( I used dough hook) and let rest in a bowl, covered with a towel. Keep in a warm place and let sit for 1 hour. Fold in the mash with your hands and dust on the remaining flour as you combine it to help keep dough from being too sticky( I used my stand mixer and a dough hook). Form dough into a long, oblong loaf (or put it in a prepared loaf pan, I had a 5X9 loaf pan, sprayed a little Pam on the sides and coated the top of the dough with flour. I did a couple rounds of stretch and fold like do with my regular sourdough prior to the final rise. Let sit in a warm place covered with a towel for an 1 hour or so. Score deeply before placing the oven.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I used a big pizza stone that was also preheated. Bake for about 20 minutes, monitor, I used a thermometer to chick internal temperature. It took an additional 10 minutes to reach 200 F. Remove and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating. My wife didn’t want to wait…… I held my ground and gave her the first warm slice with butter. She forgave me!

During one of the several stretch and folds.
Doesn’t that look good?
Very nice crust, very nice crumb ….. wife loved the crust and the nice soft texture inside.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Brewing My Wife’s Wit Beer

It has been in the fermenter for almost a week now. One more week and it should be done. I brewed this all grain beer on one of the many crappy wether days that have been far too abundant over the last few months. Not horribly cold, but very wet. How wet? Nearly 20 inches over the past several months. Not any gully washer rains, but far too many wet days.

Let’s talk beer and brewing. My SMaSH IPA, made with Mosaic hops and Marris Otter malt, is conditioning in the bottle as I Wait! Sometimes waiting is difficult. I now wanted to brew a beer that would match something that my wife would like! Brewing is good for her in that I manage to mop some and sometimes all of the kitchen floor during the beer making machinations. I found a very interesting Vanilla Cream Ale recipe and sent it over to Preston at the Grain Cellar in Humble, Texas. FYI, for non Texans, the “H” is silent in Humble. By the time I had arrived, Preston had reviewed the recipe and noted that he’d had all the ingredients on hand that I needed.

As I visited with Preston, I notice on the chalkboard was listed a beer callled, Wife’s Wit. Well, I cancelled picking up the Cream Ale ingredients and went with the Wit. Preston tells me it is very popular and one of his most frequently brewed beers. I liked the grain bill and the additions, excepting the coriander!

The citrus added an amazing aroma. The lemon was off of my backyard Meyer Lemon tree. The grapefruit off of a tree in a yard where I keep a number of hives. The grapefruit came off of a tree visited by my bees kept on the property. The orange, sad to say, was a store bought blood orange.

Brewing day always calls for savoring some excellent beverages. First up……..

To the best of my knowledge I have never partaken in Strain G13, nor have I ever sampled this IPA.

Although not winterish in Houston, I did go with a winter beer as the grains steeped.

This is a familiar Ale, I last had one this past October while visiting Portland.

Lastly, before all the work of boiling, chilling and racking into the fermenter, I enjoyed a non beer beverage.

2.65 fingers of Woodford Reserve Bourbon. In the background is tire with a little sleigh attached. In December my daughter drug it 13.6 miles, a half marathon, just because!!!

After 14 days fermenting I will bottle this brew and then wait another 30 as it conditions….that will test my patience!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Beer Thirty

I made a bee run this morning, feed a few and finish setting boxes for the 6 NUC’s I will pick up on Thursday. Now it’s time for a brew. Next last stop on my route;

I added a third Langstroth box at the end of the stand. It is now ready to receive it’s NUC on Thursday.

Now, enjoying my SMaSH IPA! So, any guesses where I might be? City, county, state or state of mind? Search the photo for a hint!

Another beer note, my Amber ale should be ready to bottle this weekend. Yee Haw, at the Crawfish boil On May 12th I will have my Russian Imperial Stout, my SMaSH IPA and my Sugar T—s Amber Ale. Could be an excellent day!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly,

Bishop

SMaSH IPA – Wait is Over

Bottled on the 18th of February so I have waited the requisite 10 days before I popped the top on the first bottle….couldn’t wait any longer. One of the bottles was only 3/4 filled so it became the sacrificial lamb.

Partially filled a “Back Pew” pint glass. Enjoyed my taste test while watching a very strange X-Files episode!

Good color – actually seems to be a bit more amber than on bottling day. Pretty well carbonated and very nicely hopped. I was a bit spoiled with the Hopslam I recently found but….. this Homebrew, even though not a double IPA, has top notch hop flavors and aromas…….thank you “dry hopping”. I will definitely use fresh hops again!

I may let it go a few more days to condition a little further but it is very, very drinkable right now!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

The SMaSH IPA is Bottled

Yesterday, February 18th was bottling day for the SMaSH IPA. I wanted to bottle it at the end of day 4 of the dry hopping….2 ounce of whole Mosaic hops…..didn’t happen until day 5th day. I did pull a small sample while bottling and saved it until the task was done.

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Priming Bucket set and ready for bottling.IMG_4464

Sanitized and cleaned bottles ready for the elixir of the Gods!!!!!

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Painfully slow but such a rewarding process. Clean, fill, cap, rinse and store until properly conditioned.IMG_4465

A bunch of mutt sized 12 ounce bottles and one 22 ounce bomber.

12 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt

1 ounce Mosaic hops 60 minutes

1.5 ounce Mosaic hops10 minutes

1.5 ounce Mosaic hops at flame out

2.0 ounces of Mosaic hops – dry hopped 5 days

1/2 tsp Irish Moss at 10 minutes

1 pkg. White Labs #WLP-051 California Ale V

OG 1.050

Final 1.008

Single Infusion, Medium body, batch sparge.

4 Gallons into the fermenter….

Dry hopped in the secondary fermenter.

First impressions – daughter Lisa who is my IPA drinking buddy gave the sample a thumbs up, great aroma and a nice pleasant citrus like flavor. I agreed. Now to condition for 10 days or so and it should be more than ready for my birth day on or around the 12th of March.

Drink Local and drink Resonsibly

Bishop

Brewing a SMaSH IPA

I’m in the backyard on a very pleasant day! Wearing short pants, T-shirt and the usual Crocs on my feet. The freezing weather is hopefully far behind us. Fingers crossed, I just planted sugar snap peas again – grrrr, freeze took care of my early planting, Blue Lake green beans and more beets. Yes, those comments belong in my garden blog but I couldn’t resist!

Started with 12 pounds of Marris Otter malt. It is a single infusion, batch sparged recipe with whole Mosaic hops and also dry hopped with 2 full ounces of the Mosaic hops! Fermented with White Labs WLP # WLP051 California Ale yeast. Yum! Tasters in about 30 days, just in time for my 67th Birthday.

Mash tun sitting full of grain waiting on the water to heat up. Looking to start with 15 qts of 164.8 degree F water. Now, sit back and wait!!!!! Just looked at the clock and Yee Haw, it is 12:10 PM. Beer time, a session IPA should go well with the wait!

One of my favorite session beers. The “Great Carnac” sees a clone of this beer on the horizon! Now an update on my Russian Imperial Stout.

It won’t be quite so Imperial nor stout, 7% or a little more ABV. The error is in my brewing technique! I won’t embarrass myself and give the details but it was something about my sparging that caused the problem. Taste is very good…..more like a Porter. I have added medium dark toasted oak spirals that had been soaked in bourbon for a bit of a more exotic flavor( intended for a Russian Imperial Stout). I will give it a few weeks and then bottle and age it for a few months.

My neighbors, Doug and Cindy, will be my taster’s panel. They love the Southern Star Brewery’s Buried Hatchet Stout! I also suspect they will be honest in their feedback.

Brewing process is on track. I will soon be boiling the wort and dropping in the hops and Irish Moss. Now, while the wort chills and before I pitch the yeast, I’ll make a bee run, feed and inspect my hives. A minor gardening chore along the way, at one of the apiary locations I help maintain a vegetable garden and I have some sugar snap peas and green beans that have been soaked and ready to plant! No, not in bourbon!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop