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



Southern Star Brewery – Plan C, A Better Plan

Saturday was supposed to be a morning trip to NRG Stadium here in Houston for the RV and Boat Show. The return trip was in the trip advisor as a stop at Karbach Brewing Company for beers and a tour. As they sometimes do, plans change and options must be assessed. The participants on this field trip were good friend John, son Benjamin and his fishing buddy David. Benjamin and David decided to check out the Boat Show on Friday evening.  Both of the boys were interested in a seminar on winter fishing for Speckled trout. That lead to the first change. Even though storms were forecast for Saturday morning, the 25/26 year old fishing fools took the boat down to Trinity Bay on the recommendation of the seminar speaker. They got very wet but did catch a few fish.

Two participants had now bailed on me. The storm did materialize and it hammered our house with wind, rain and some hail from near 4;30 AM, when the boys left, until 6:30 AM! My son’s dog hates lightning and thunder so I was trying to get her settled down, I will chat with him later. John realized on Friday evening when I sent him the remindern that he had scheduled the Direct TV installer for Saturday AM.  Due to the stormm the installer was late and he was begging off. So, what’s a guy to do?

I called daughter Lisa at 11:30ish and sought out her company….bag the Boat Show and head to Karbach Brewing Company. I needed to salvage part of the day’s plan. She agreed and off we started. It was now near 12:45 before we got on the road. Just for grins and because of the storm, I asked her to check with Karbach and make sure they were open. Oops…….Karbach hours on Saturday are 12:00 to 3:00 – Mmmmm, just a bit too short. Plan C now. Let’s check on Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe. Good news, on Saturday they are open from 1-5 PM. We could be there by 2:00 if we were quick. So, turn the Suburban around and head North Westish in the direction of Conroe, Texas.

Lisa snapped a shot of the speedometer of the Suburban as we dashed off toward Southern Star Brewing Company. We made good time!

Lisa snapped a shot of the speedometer of the Suburban as we dashed off toward Southern Star Brewing Company. We made good time!

Here is the “Paul Harvey” – The rest of the story twist. The electronics in the dash are messed up. While parked the speedometer reads 80 mph…, I am not a menace on the highways, but it sure makes a fun image.

Great news on arrival, the first pint is “on the Brewery”….Yee haw cowboy! We did behave since I was driving but Lisa did go after a few of the bigger beers, the Valkyrie Double IPA was her first and she finished with one of my favorites, the Buried Hatchet Stout. I experimented and tried the Waloon, a grisette style beer that is not broadly brewed. I liked it but it would more appeal to my wife. I also sampled the Old Potentate, it has a nice maltiness and is hopped very nicely. I finished up with a Pine Belt Ale. My favorite of the day.

We took the brewery tour. It was a high speed, energetic yet informative tour….The teaser for  is the description of the future plans for capacity  expansion and an increase in the amenities that will set it apart from many of the local breweries. There will be a nice outdoor grounds, and Old House on the location will most likely house the taproom. The brewery expansion will be significant. Look for news of the opening in late 2015!


The Tourmeister…..very entertaining and knowledgeable. Loves his beer and is passionate about brewing.

Lance at the bar ordering hos next Libation.

Lance at the bar ordering his next libation.

Lisa. not my daughter Lisa, but Lisa from College Station - she knows her beer too! She was working her way through the sampler.

Lisa. not my daughter Lisa, but Lisa from College Station – she knows her beer too! She was working her way through the sampler. Lance is still trying to decide.

Empty cans waiting to be filled with the liquid gold! The blue cans are the Bombshell Blonde, the number on seller and the Buried Hatchet Stout the brown cans.

Empty cans waiting to be filled with the liquid gold! The blue cans are the Bombshell Blonde, the number on seller, the Buried Hatchet Stout the brown cans and the center pallets are the Pine Belt Pale Ale cans.

The brewery is a very casual and a great atmosphere for meeting people. Granted the cool weather and the Holiday season may have kept the crowd down. We wound up making some new acquaintances, got to know a few by first name and if you are there…….you are a lover of beer!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly!



Bombshell Blonde Beer Butt Bird

Southern Star Brewing has been getting a lot of exposure in my recent blogs….good beer and great people so that is not a bad thing. I used Bombshell Blonde cans for a weekend meal – see photo below.

Bombshell Blonde cans sitting in my beer butt holders.

I could not bear wasting this great beer on the chickens, so I spent a leisurely afternoon enjoying the Blondes – BEERS! – and then split a yellow fizzy water brew between the two cans – added garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoning salt and cumin powder to each can – inserted the cans – and grilled with indirect M/H heat for about 80 minutes.

The results – two very moist, tender and tasty chickens. I had an Alaskan Amber as my bread with the meal and salad for my greens –

The chickens – done, tender, moist and oh so good. One was too tender – darn – and fell apart as I removed it!

I peeked at my Imperial Stout this morning and there is a nice krausen up about two inches inside the fermenter and the air lock is bubbling away. I placed my nose close to the air lock and the aroma is heavenly….Need to check the polling results to see how will I enhance the flavor in the secondary!

The vote so far – 50% coffee and 50% bourbon infused oak – help me out – go to the link for the “Brewing Day” post and express you opinion…it really does matter!



Billings Montana? Ok, Twist My Arm, I’ll Go

I have been asked to deliver one of my training sessions in Billings, Montana for a small energy producer. I have been doing a little work for them over the past few months. Sessions in Midland, TX, Houston, TX, Laredo, TX and Williston North Dakota.

Midland – beer offerings are ordinary and lack variety for craft beers lovers.

Houston – Making its mark with some excellent local choices and establishments. I am working on trying them all – Karbach, St Arnolds and Southern Star are top notch. No Label Brewing in Katy is on my bucket list, as is Bayou Brewing….

Laredo…sorry my research is coming up empty.

Williston – pubs maybe

Billings Montana – Jackpot !!!!!! 8 craft breweries in the city limits and 10 in the greater Billings area…. Three days is only going to whet the appetite – I will provide a report out sometime around the 7th or 8th of September….maybe some updates via iPhone posts…. I do have to real work to do  – kinda….I have a trout fishing float trip scheduled for the 5th and the class is on the 6th. I will behave appropriately!

There are 4 beer brewers within walking distance of my hotel and Angry Hanks looks like a short cab ride away…. Most will offer tasters…those little 5 oz glasses……an easier way to taste a broad suite of beers….. it used to be that 5 pints wasn’t much effort but I would like  not be swayed by that 5th pint….The truth and only the unbiased/unhazed truth.

A little research brought up this photo…..looks like people I can relate to !!!! Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. Staff.

Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. – Head Brewer Ryan Koga, Room Manager Donnie Veltri, and Manager/Brewer George Moncure

I apologize if I am using your photo  without permission… were just such a handsome bunch that I could not resist.



Just a thought – old stories, mountain bikes, blood, beer and essentially flat trails……a birdie dropped a little something in my inbox today and the stories, to the best of my recollection, may find a forum here……beer and blood in the early mornings…could be fun. Thanks Pat.


Missed Beer Opportunity

It wasn’t quite the end of the world – it was a matter of electronic communications and proper behavior on my part. I rolled off to Bass Pro Shop Sunday afternoon for a manly man shopping day. When I arrived I looked at my iPhone and saw that I had an email from a Kingwood buddy and an awesome homebrewer and he was in need of some help.

My Mailbox indicated a 3:25 PM message that I did not get a chance to respond to until I was stopped in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot – Pearland, TX. Note for Mike….it said that you sent the message on Wednesday May 7th 2003 at 9:25 pm – I think something is amiss with your mail account. Message sent to me and good friend John.

“Sent: Wed 5/7/2003 9:25 PM

Just got thru putzin around the garage an figured itz time for a beer.  If you guys can get away, I need help finishing off the Bock so I can fridge my Pilz before the summer is over.Come on by for a brew or 2.”

I replied that I was in Pearland and would be happy to help with the inventory problem….I am good at reducing beer inventories!

I was able to swing by his house at 5:20 PM but alas….no answer to my thirsty knock.

Plan B – I saw a tweet that Flying Saucer had Southern Star’s ProAm 2012 in stock. This is a Double IPA that I sampled a few weeks ago at their brewery tour. It is an awesome beer. The local HEB typically has Southern Star offerings so I swung by…if I can’t get one of Mike’s homebrews I will seek out an acceptable alternative.

I struck out again but there was still an out left before retiring the side….I wandered the aisle and found – a six-pack of Alaskan Amber. Ok I am on base now, made my purchase and headed home where 3 thick T-bone steaks were seasoned and ready to throw on the grill. Photos via iPhone.

The Alaskan Amber fulfilling the role of grill-mate, a job well suited for this Alaskan offering.

Three Tbones – mine closest to the front with lots of coarse ground black pepper! Garlic French bread lingering in the far corner.

Salad with spicy ranch dressing joined the meal and finished off with a Lazy Magnolia Pecan Brown Ale. Shared the meal with my wife – she just cut the tender part out of the T-bone and told – no – asked me to keep my hands off of the remainder…she loves cold steak! I poured her a Bombshell Blonde from Southern Star – life really is good!

Mike – I am always willing to help reduce inventory….please invite me again…




Fishing and Beer

Friday night this past week we invited our best friends, Bev and John and their newly employed son Ryan over for fish tacos….from the Spanish mackerel caught earlier in the week. My son Ben caught the fish, prepared the fish and the prep for frying them up was all his doing! He did well! I also contributed my Flounder to the mix and wrapped it in foil butter and secret seasonings – done up on the grill.

The beer component – a Newcastle mini-keg, Lazy Magnolia Pecan Brown, Yazoo Hop Project, Bombshell Blonde, Pinebelt Ale, few that were lingering in the back of the fridge and young Ryan – the newly employed Ryan brought over a some offerings from Southern Star – a seasonal that was very good…more on that later.

The fish tacos were superb! The company and fellowship were superb! It was too friggin hot to be outside very long……We fried the fish outside on my beer boiling and turkey frying burner…..last batch of fish the gas ran out…the back-up bottle was empty but I saved the day with my single burner camp stove….not real stable with a big pan of hot oil on it but we finished it off and secured the hot oil without incident. We also celebrated Sierra’s birthday. Ben claims she turned two on or about this day…see photo below.

The Livezeys rolled off to the house about 10 ish and I wasn’t far behind. Ben had planned another kayak trip for dark thirty Saturday morning….It turned out to be an interesting trip. The weather report did not indicate much wind but the surf was up, choppy and muddy brown…What the heck….I was first out. Wow! It was a challenge to bust out through the breakers – several  pounded down on the deck and filled the cockpit. Fortunately my kayaks are sit on tops and self draining. I was committed – there was no way to turn around and abandon this folly now. It kept pounding and pounding and pounding and finally 250 – 300 yds out the waves stopped breaking. The swells were 3-4 feet and it was work to fish and keep the bow into the waves. Fishing was bad.

The return trip was going to be a bigger thrill. I was oblivious to the wind and drift. Finally we need to head to shore and I was lost. Ben pointed out the launch point…..probably a good 2 miles against the wind and subject to the big rollers coming through. It was a workout. We discussed how to secure all loose items and then Ben went first – I was sitting 200 yards out and catching a glimpse of the rhythmic dipping  of the oars into the water then nothing! I looked for a couple of minutes and then finally saw him struggling in surf with the orange kayak. It took him a while but I finally saw him drag it up on the beach. Now it was my turn.

I caught a few of the rollers coming in, you could feel the acceleration but also the power. I would attempt to steer and was doing a decent job until……a big one lifted me up…..My kayaks are not designed for the surf… rocker. They are 14 feet long and my previous experience with the kayak showed a tendency to bury the nose in the surf. In the past, leaning back, steering hard and being patient was enough. Not today, the nose buried itself deeply and veered right, I steered hard left and leaned and leaned and just when I thought I was going to stay up right…..over I went.

I had asked Ben to video my attempt because I knew it would be a source of amusement. He later told my that it happened too quickly and it was not recorded…… I would love to post it here but all you have is my poor attempt to describe it. I hope you laugh at me just the same.

We fish a little more on the Bay side, caught a few undersized Redfish and fought the wind again. We were tired puppies coming home. At home I popped the top on a Southern Star Seasonal, sighed, enjoyed the great taste and also savored the adventure and great day out with my son!

Fish fryer Ben and his birthday girl Sierra. Happy 2nd birthday!

TTFN – Drink Local!


Southern Star – Fishing and Homebrewing Aids

Well, I am starting over with this post…tried something new and the picture of Ben and two Spanish Macks was posted but the time spent with the blog story went off into cyber space somewhere….do you think it may reformulate and appear in the future? Oh well – what did I try to write earlier?

Three AM yesterday my son Ben and I left Kingwood Texas and headed south to the Galveston area. Our first planned stop was Tiki Island just before the big bridge over the intercoastal Channel. We launched with the intent of fishing under some lights around the docks of the homes on the island. We found some lights…we could see a lot of fish cruising through the lights with a few much bigger than the others. Fish were jumping all around us – in fact one jumped and landed on the bow hatch and then back into the water. A couple of sand trout took our offerings, I had a big. heavy strike and the line broke off – 6 lb line……

The sky began to get some color so we headed off to the grass and marsh area back toward I-45. I caught and land a real nice flounder on a soft palstic….not much else was biting so off to IHOP before the next location. After breakfast we headed south toward Jamaica Beach.

On arrival we saw several people wade fishing out about chest high in the water. As we were rigging up the kayaks a man and his daughters came out of the water, done for the day.They had a stringer of nice speckled trout. One of the daughters wanted to see some photos of the Jack Cravelle that the girls caught….big smiles on both of the young ladies. Another fisherman waded out of the surf with another nice stringer of specks. We were late for the speckled trout bite we were still there to fish.

As we were getting ready we also learned that the Spanish Mackerel were biting, so off we went…..Ben got into the Spanish Macks right away. I kept breaking off with the light line so I switched to the pole rigged with 15 lb line….I still couldn’t match Ben…..he was hammering the fish. Mackerel, sand trout, Jack Cravelle, sharks…. yes a few sharks, Gaff Top Catfish – I caught several of those too and paid dearly….I got punctured badly by the dorsal spine and bled like a stuck pig for a bit….I kept expecting Jaws to show up!

I was near Ben when he hooked one of the bigger sharks….the kayak swung around and he was being towed off to deeper water…..stripping line off the reel. Finally after a big jump the 4 foot +/- shark broke off and swam away. I was catching fish but at a much slower pace than Ben was. When we ran out of bait….I caught a few on soft plastic lures after the bait ran out, we paddled in. I saw Ben get himself lined up straight into the beach and surfed the kayak up on the small swells….. I also got a little lift in on the swells and had a little fun.

Where id the beer in this story? Ok I did have an ice cold Pine Belt Ale in 16 oz can by Southern Star Brewery before calling it a day…. just one. More once I arrived home safely. We fileted out the macks for fish tacos …. Friday night and I prepped the flounder to be baked. A couple of Pinebelt Ales aided the fish cleaning!!!!!

Today on the never ending honey do list I added the kegging of my American IPA ….. it had been deferred several times and I needed to get it into the 6 L minikegs. It always take a little bit of good beer to do any home brewing task. So – Bishop – how does a Pinebelt Ale sound – duh…always good! I also had a Bombshell Blonde – my wife Kathy says the aroma is good but the taste lags a little….everyone has their own opinion. I like it but it is a bit light on the robust flavors of the IPA’s I have grown fond of….

I continued scratching at an ongoing honey do bullet…clean the garage but that is a long-term project…take a break and fire up the grill. Pour a Diamond Bear Pale Ale from Little Rock Arkansas. That almost made it through the chicken grilling and fire management efforts….just a small fire…. minor carcinogen build-up before I controlled the blaze and also put the fire out in the drip pan….standard grilling procedures.  To go with the meal and aid in posting I popped the top on a Lazy Magnolia Indian Summer Spiced Ale…pretty tasty and I know Kathy would like this…she loves Shock Top And Blue Moon Belgian Wit so this would have a similar but I think less spicy flavor…just enough.

Now if I were in London, sampling the Olympic offerings……would I have some sweet choices at the local pubs… doubt.

I am a fan…. You need to try it….it kinda grows on you. Just bough another 4 pack this evening for the fish taco night tomorrow.

A little humidity sweat forming on the can…yes there is a temerature differential and a little moisture in the air….better drink it quickly!

Ben…still rubbing it in with his mackerel.



Southern Star Brewery – Conroe Texas

Saturday August 4th I organized a trip over to Conroe TX for a chance to tour the Southern Star Brewery over in Conroe and most importantly sample some of their beer. I had previously consumed the Bombshell Blonde Ale on several occasions and found it very drinkable –  one that my wife finds enjoyable….she is slowly broadening her tastes away from yellow fizzzy water! “Toureess” on this very warm and humid day were the true fans of craft beer. The brewery/warehouse is not airconditioned… would not be cost-effective! Big industrial fans stirred the air around to help!

My son Ben, best friend John and his son Ryan were in our group attending the tour. A hint for those touring during the summer…dress appropriately – three of the four in our party wore those breathable fishing shirts – Columbia and Magellan brands – Ryan was Mr. T-shirt. Yes I sweated as did most everyone expended energy to lift the glass to their lips. The tour was awesome – The head-brewer was very knowledgeable, answered all of our beer geeky questions and I learned some valuable tips to incorporate into my home-brewing activities. The crowd was packed with home-brewrs…..a great sign!

Although not in stores yet – the brewery’s new Pro-Am recipe is an Imperial Double IPA and it is awesome…. This is a great beer for IPA lovers. Bring your own lawn chair and misting fan if you want….The also serve up some killer beer brats as well as being some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Drink and buy local – Houston has some great choices and Southern Star is a great choice….canned/kegged beer – they don’t bottle – cans are a better way to keep beer fresh and makes hauling them around easier….cans are much more easily recyclable!

Southern Star Brewery – Pine Belt Pale Ale – Yummy!