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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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

Dry Hopping Dilemma

I should not read any more! If you have been following along I am brewing an “inspiration” IPA based on my mistaken read of the chalkboard at the Lengthwise Brewery Pub out in the Marketplace, Bakersfield, California. The ale is designed to be a “Golden Wheat Red IPA” based o the combined three individual local beers on tap. I failed to report that the bartender had poured a mixed blend for some customers who gave the blend high marks. I just decided to try and brew that blend. Post with recipe located here;

http://wp.me/p1qlvz-ec

So here is my dilemma. I transferred the beer into the secondary carboy with 1 ounce of Amarillo hop pellets sitting on the bottom. Once the beer was transferred, I gave the carboy a nice swirl to get the pellets to settle. I then carried it out to my temperature controlled chest freezer. I now need to decide on a temperature scheme/schedule during the dry hopping phase. From my exploration of the web I find too many choices, schemes, schedules and opinions!

  • Two days at room temperature and then crash to 35 degrees for up to two weeks.
  • Five to seven days at low room temperatures then rack off and package.
  • Five to seven days at room temperature and then crash to 35 degrees for 2 days prior to packaging.
  • And too many variations to list!!!

My choice – the logic I like is; hold the beer at a temperature that will allow the aromatic oils in the Amarillo hops to best express their amazing aroma.  So, five days at 65-67 degrees then crash to 35 degrees for a couple of days to aid in clarifying the beer before I bottle. I am convinced that the beer will be very good!

While racking the beer into the secondary I noted that the fermentation was vigorous – the Krausen was thick and reached the lid of the primary. I guess that I was lucky that it didn’t lift the lid or fill the airlock. Note to self: consider a blow-off tube next time for the early yeast activity!

Transfer from primary fermenter to the secondary and hop pellets floating on top.

Transfer from primary fermenter to the secondary and hop pellets floating on top.

Hop pellets floating on top of the beer - kinda look like the rabbit pellets we fed them!

Hop pellets floating on top of the beer – kinda look like the rabbit pellets we fed them!

 

Evidence of the Krausen on the sides... gotta be a good beer.

Evidence of the Krausen on the sides… gotta be a good beer.

I bet some of you are thinking, is he going to drink that? Yes I am!

Drink Responsibly and Drink Local

Bishop

 

Grand Junction, CO – Two for One Post

What a nice change of environment, three plus days out of the Houston heat and humidity. The only drawback – I wasn’t able to share this trip with my wife. I know sooner or later  the benefits of a mostly empty nest will be evident. What does mostly empty mean? Our oldest son has finished all of his on campus requirements for graduation from LSU’s Construction Management Program – one remaining class that can be completed via distance learning. It is cheaper to have him in Houston with us until all of the boxes for graduation are checked off and the job search begins.

The second night of the stay my workmate and I visited the Rockslide Brewery & Restaurant. Side note; the state of Texas has taken a giant step forward with recent legislation easing some of the restrictive regulations for small brewers and brew pubs but still lags far behind Colorado, California and others. The next night we drove about 15 minutes out of town to the little village of Palisade. The drive took us through some of the vineyards and orchards that cover the Colorado River Valley in this more temperate part of Colorado. There is a mall brewery in Palisade, Palisade Brewing Company.

Let’s talk about Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant. Located on Main St. in the old downtown section of town that has been nicely remade. The road has been shrunk to two lanes that meander around small plaza like areas sprinkled with benches and pleasant landscaping. It definitely slows traffic but adds a nice quaint old town feel. The restaurant is bright, clean and was hosting a party celebration of some sort in the back half of the upstairs seating area. The waiter had decent knowledge of the beer offerings and I have to admit, the food menu was broad enough to satisfy most visitors. My travel mate tried the Widow Maker Wheat – “pleasant and easy to drink” were his comments. Me, I went with the four beer flight, Rabbit Ears Amber, Cold Shivers Pale Ale. Kokopelli Cream Ale and the Horse Thief IPA. They were all very good beers, the IPA was my favorite but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  The food fare – my work mate had the fish and chips with a twist. The twist was  – the fish was battered salmon rather than cod. He said it was surprisingly good. I had the steak salad, medium rare and it was perfect with their house Balsamic dressing.

http://www.rockslidebrewpub.com/

Rockslide flight of beers

Rockslide flight of beers

Rockslide Beer list.

Rockslide Beer list.

Palisade, small village as I mentioned before, and the journey to the brewery is only for those that know where they are going, have been there before or you are paying close attention the GPS. We had a driver, one of the client reps that attended the training session, who also happens to like good beers. He was a bit tentative but eventually we turned down the right street and pulled up at the brewery adjacent to the railroad tracks. We had the good fortune of live music out on the patio on a perfect evening for  dining and sipping al fresco. The seating was ample but all three of us noticed an odd split in the seating designations. At least 75% of the seating is designated for SMOKING! That is right, only 25% labeled for the non-smokers. If it hadn’t been for the three of us occupying 3 of the 20 plus seats on the no-smoking side it would have been empty. The smoking side was packed! Another observation, I felt like I had been transported back to the 60”s. The crowd was very reminiscent of SFO’s Haight Ashbury in the heyday of the 60’s hippy movement. I wonder if the 2012 ballot initiative that passed in Colorado had any influence on the seating arrangement and attendees.  More about being transported back in time later in this post.

Food was typical pub food with lots of Jalapenos available for every dish if you so desired. James, my workmate, had a huge appetizer portion of Nachos with the Blonde Ale offering. Our client driver, Rob, hmmmm, I forget what he ate but we both ordered a flight of beers, 6 beers served in 4 ounce Mason jelly jars. High marks to the brewery. Not a bad or even average beer in the bunch. I gave high marks to all 6 beers sampled.  Rob enjoyed the High Desert Red, James the Laid Back Blonde Ale  and me, the IPA, so well in fact, that I followed up with a pint of that nice IPA……Rob was driving! The “Off Belay IPA” was really, really good in my estimation……that is why I sampled it twice in order to confirm my first impression.

http://www.palisadebrewingcompany.com/

Palisade Brewery flight of beers in jelly jars

Palisade Brewery flight of beers in jelly jars

Uber healthy brisket, cheddar and Jalapeno sandwich. I paired it with a cucumber salad to solidify the healthy aspect!

Uber healthy brisket, cheddar and Jalapeno sandwich. I paired it with a cucumber salad to solidify the healthy aspect!

Dirty Hippy T-shirt from Palisade Brewery

Dirty Hippy T-shirt from Palisade Brewery

Upon return to the hotel I realized why it felt like I had been transported back to the 60’s. Parked out front was Emmett “Doc” Brown’s “Back to the Future” 1981 DeLorean, flux capacitor and all! I peaked inside and sure enough the dials were set to 1969! Not really, I am stretching the truth a little. Look at the photos and I think that you will agree that it is a remarkable replica of the movie vehicle. Why was the car there? I’ll tell you.  http://www.fireballrun.com/teams/182

Doc’s car and a companion car, a fairly stock DeLorean, are participating in the Longmont, Colorado to Riverside, California Fireball Run. The Fireball Run is a 2000 mile long scavenger hunt designed to create awareness for missing children and obviously raise funds. Check out the info online and the Facebook page to read about the successes they have had finding missing children. I made my donation to Doc and Team # 15. It is “small world after all”. Team #15 is driven by Paul “Doc” Nigh, a 4th year participant and from my home town of Bakersfield, California. He is a bit younger having graduated from North High in 1974 but sure enough, we had a few mutual acquaintances!

https://www.facebook.com/fireballrun

Look close - set to 1969 - Not

Look close – set to 1969 – Not really but could have been!

BTF car

BTF car and sister DeLorean in the background

Oh by the way, if your beverage of choice is wine, the area is dotted with small wineries with growing reputations. If you are on Interstate 70, make the decision to slow down and visit Grand Junction, Palisade and Fruita!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

West Texas Drought

There was been a little improvement from the severe 2011 drought – but not much. I am in Midland Texas this week working for a few days. The drought is extensive and pervasive….I cannot find a good draught beer anywhere. Now a couple of establishments will have a Shiner, or a Blue Moon and once in a while a Sam Adams Seasonal but that is where Midland’s deviation from the Bud or Coors beer mindset ends. This town is nearly barren. Now, I can go into a store and pick up some bottles of good craft beers but my thirst needs a pint of a good microbrew to cut the dust..An IPA with a good dose of bittering hops and a nice hit of floral hops at the end of the boil for a good nose. California beers, Colorado beers, Pacific Northwest beers – Texas has some really good breweries but apparently kegs can’t roll all the way out to West Texas.

Dinner was good this evening, grilled scallops but the choices for a beer to wash them down with was sad. I had a Shiner…..the other choices besides the standard yellow fizzy water everyone serves were Peroni – not a bad beer but a little weak, Stellas Artois – ok but still just so so – and Shiner….At least Shiner is a Texas beer! I ate and drank lightly so I could get my work out in back at the hotel. Watched the recap of the Tour de France on NBC Sports network…. Go Mr Wiggins!

I have googled for some help in finding a decent pint between Midland and Odessa and have come up empty….The Wall Street Bar & Grill did have a Bass Ale in bottles but where can I get a good, really good pint out here? Help Needed!

Signed – Mr. Dried and Parched Decker

Dick’s Danger Ale is Fermenting

Busy day yesterday. I brewed the 5 gallon batch yesterday and it was a hectic effort. I did not dive in and do an all grain recipe….. my CFO would need to authorize a $600 investment in mashing equipment…maybe a little more depending on the quality. This was a partial grain batch and the grain bill was pretty heavy – 2.5 lbs of 2-row pale malt, 7 ox. of crystal mall 80 (L), 9 oz. of Briess black malt 550 (L) – the black malt really gives it a dark look. I also added 3.15 lbs. of Briess light extract and 1.5 lbs of dried malt extract. I used severla of my dear’s kettles and had to be a little creative to rinse the grains.

Magnum hopsused  for bittering and Mt. Hood hops for aroma – the Mt. Hood hops have a great aroma! Dry English Ale yeast, pitched at 74 degrees and aerated well. A day later there is a good krausen ring around the edges of the fermentation bucket indicating the fermentation is well underway.

I should be ready to bottle in two weeks and enjoy for the Thanksgiving Holiday Season. I ran a taste test on the sample I pulled to check the OG(original gravity) and the color matches up with the recipe – about a 28 on the SRM scale vs. a 35 or more for my Stout. The taste is nice… not sure how it will mature after it conditions. Folks in the Northwest rave about the beer so I am anxious but willing (need) to be patient.

SRM Scale link if you are interested; http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/02/28/beer-styles-srm-color-chart/

For you folks in Houston…. some good beer news. We have a new brewery, Karbach Brewing Co. The Brewmaster is well seasoned… looks like the Houston Chronicle mixed his name up with the Brewery name in the article… oh well, Eric Warner has somegood  roots and spent time with Flying Dog as the CEO…. I like the Flying Dog offerings and the irreverent humor expressed through the artwork on their labels. The article touts Karbach’s “Sympathy Lager”….. and now the hunt begins.

Hey hun….er, Ms. CFO – how about a good sized refrigerator for the garage so I can brew some Lagers….. I found a great article for clone lagers like Hamms and Oly…..real classics…how about a real good MGD?

Maybe I shouldn’t press my luck.

The Photo below was taken on my 60th birthday – Pat Love – We named a Wheat Ale we brewed after him, John Livezey, my partner in crime at the Humble Beer Festival ( the H is silent in Humble), me.. looking good in that Bush t-shirt and a non-brewing neighbor Alan Wooten…. he did a little quality surveillance for us.

My Bakersfield Brewing Buddies on my 60th Birthday

The Belgian Wit was a hit at dinner tonight. My daughter Ashleigh had a friend over and her review of the beer was pretty spectacular… head swells, chest puffs up and I grin like the Chesire cat…. I do love to hear nice things!

TTFN

Bishop

 

Humble Texas Beerfest – May 7, 2011

My good friend John  and I made a brief appearance at the Humble Beer Festival this past weekend. For you none Texans, the H in Humble is silent. We both were a bit dismayed with the brief part….. the entry fee was double what it should have been but as true lovers of beer we winced when the wallet opened and closed but we were treat to some outstanding samples. Now don’t be too judgemental of  John’s appearance. The photo was taken quite early in the event, probably no more than 5,  two ounce samples under his belt.  I just forgot to say, “1, 2, 3, smile.”

It really was a nationwide festival, Brooklyn to Seattle and a few “fereners” notably the Ruskies. Every sample was good! although a few were much better than others. We met some interesting folks, the guy with a hops hat wearing a kilt was interesting to say the least. He was part of the Foam Rangers brewing club. I asked a young lady with bright pink hair to pose with me and she complied. I shared the photo of me and my friend on Facebook and my mom commented – “I was sent to the office in 1945 for having hair that color.”

Many new and even 3 day old start-up breweries were plying their marvelous concoctions. My primary interest was to assess how some of my recent efforts stacked up against the professionals. And yes maybe just drink a few as potential brewing candidates. I think my brews compare well! Hooked up with a local brew club here in Kingwood, TX so my brewing knowledge will continue to grow.

As for my brewing efforts;

The batch of wheat ale made for Lindsay Waterman went sour due to….. just my guess, cat dander from my wife’s cats. We rebrewed, is that a word – I guess now it is, and I bottled it yesterday. The sample pulled prior to bottling to check the gravity was might tasty! tonight I boil a new one for my daughter Lisa. She asked for a special brew that her friends from the band ‘Downfall 2012″ to take on their summer tour. I will try to replicate the recipe I shared in an earlier post. The only change I will make is to dry hop an ounce of the Amarillo hops. So, why mess with a good thing…. just to see if we can make it better. I will not send the full 5 gallons out with the band….i willjust keep some brew to replace the sweat I lose in the brewing process.