Saturday, December 29, 2012


 After many months of not brewing, I finally made another batch today.  This one is a doppelbock, and it should be just over 7% ABV.  I did a partial mash today, with 4.5 pounds of ground malts, and 6 pound of malt extract.  I added 1 ounce of Fuggle pellet hops and 2 ounces of fresh (frozen) Nugget hops.  It's fermenting with a simple dry lager yeast.  I plan to let it ferment for 3-4 weeks before kegging it.  I also plan to add a few cups of fresh brewed coffee at kegging time, I just haven't decided what kind yet.

I have tried several interesting beers since I last wrote, and hope to have a few reviews posted soon, so keep checking back.
This is Dale (to the right,) he's by brother in-law.  This is what happens to him after I give him too many home brews!  I think he sat in the corner and played his ukulele (or ooh-ka-lay-lee as he pronounced it,) for well over an hour.  We all get through the holidays different, but they are always better with a great beer in hand.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bacon beer??

 Rogue Maple Bacon beer, sounds like a good idea, right?  I'm still not sold on it.  At first the beer starts smooth, sweet, and full of maple flavour.  Than, it's followed by smoke, smoke, and bacon grease.  Of course, the first 3 ingredients are smoked malts.  A little over kill if you ask me.  I don't know if I would want to drink a whole 22oz. bottle, but it's worth trying and sharing.  I also wouldn't mind having it with some bacon and eggs, it might be decent.
 I'd like to give a big thanks to the good people at DeSchutes Brewery.  Last month a received a Hop Henge beer for my birthday, unfortunately, it was totally flat.  As I said earlier, the aroma was amazing, and it was still the best flat beer I ever had.  When I let the brewery know about the flat beer, they immediately offered me a refund.  I declined.  They promptly refused and said they'd send it and a bottle opener for good measure.

A few weeks later, a bad day, was made better by what I received in the mail.  A hat, bottle opener, sticker, and a hand written card from Gina at DeShutes Brewery.  As far as I'm concerned, they didn't owe me anything, so obviously this went above and beyond my expectations.  I can't wait to try more of their brews.  Thank you Gina, you made my day!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Good beer = good people?

I recently received a Hop Henge beer from Deshutes Brewery.
Unfortunately when I popped the top, the was no carbonation left in the bottle.  I soldiered on, and poured the beer anyway.  It had an amazing fruity/hoppy aroma.  Even though it was flat, I drank the entire beer.  It was very good, and that can only mean it would be amazing if fresh and carbonated.  I decided to email the brewery to let them know of the problem.  Within a few days, they emailed me back offering an apology, and a refund.  I decline the refund, but was very impressed they offered to do that.  They emailed back, insisting on sending the refund, and are also throwing in a bottle opener for my trouble.  Than went above and beyond my expectations, and I will be buying one of their beers at the first opportunity I get.

The Kentucky Bourbon Ale has great bourbon flavour, but is a pretty weak beer

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Still drinking after al this time

 So with 3 mostly full kegs, I haven't been brewing lately, of course that doesn't mean I stop sampling, or research as I like to call it.  A few weeks ago, we took a family trip to Des Moines, and stayed at a waterpark hotel.  It had several water slides, and a pirate ship for the kids to play in.
 I had a "Floppin Crappie" from Northwood Brewing Company to play with.  It was a traditional American style Lager.  It had more malt flavour and hops than one of the big 3 American Lagers, in fact, in reminded me of a Schlitz.  Not something I'd drink all the time, but a good beer to have by the water, poolside or dockside.  This beer turned out to be better than I expected.
 My wife and I recently took a day trip to McGregor, IA.  We had lunch at Old Man River brew pub.  Fist the bad, the service was terrible, there was no beer list, so I couldn't learn about any other their beers, and their food was a bit over priced for what they gave.  The good, the beer was pretty good.  I got an IPA, and it was very solid, not mind blowing, but a beer I'd have no problems drinking again.  The food was even better than the beer.  I would like to give this place another chance, just to see if was an off day for the staff, and of course to try more of their beer.
Have you had any beers from New Glarus Brewing yet?  If you haven't, you need to.  They make good solid year round beers (their IPA is one of my favorites, right up there with Dogfiish Head's 60 minute IPA,) but they specialize in Belgian style beers.  Anything cherry related is fantastic, and they do their "Thumbprint" series year round as well.  These are specialty beers their brewmaster wants to make, and lucky for us, decides to sell to the public.  This beer is from their Thumbprint series, and is their Double IPA (9.7 ABV.)  This beer hits you with a ton of citrusy hop aroma, and tastes just as good.  It's not thick and syrupy like many high alcohol brews, in fact it drinks more like an IPA near 6% ABV.  This is a great beer.

If you've had a great beer lately that you think I should try, let me know, and I'll feature on this blog.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Templeton Rye Ale

It's finally ready, fully carbonated and aged to perfection.  You get a nice aroma of citrusy hops, mixed with oak and Templeton Rye whiskey.  This is one of the most balanced beers I've ever made.  A great mix of grain, hops, wood, and whiskey flavor.  Other than the color not being quite as red as I had invisioned, this beer turned out awesome.

I have liked most of the beers I've made over the years, but I'm also realistic enough to know I only have a handful of recipes that are good enough to be sold.  This is definately one of them.

Last weekend I went to Des Moines with my 2 brother in-laws and my father in-law.  We hit up several bars that night, and enjoyed quite a few great beers.  This shows out stop at the Hessen Haus, and out liters of German beer.  Prost!
Larry enjoying a liter of beer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Traverse City

 Recently, we took a family trip to Traverse City, MI.  Other than an 11 hour car ride, it was a great trip.  We saw beautiful beaches, and very cold Lake Michigan, stayed at a great waterpark hotel, had some good food, and discovered some great beers.

To the right, you can kind of make out my wife and son climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes (110 ft tall.)  If you like nature, food, beer, or wine, you need to visit this place, I wish we had an extra week to explore more.

After the dunes, we headed back to town for lunch and North Peak Brewing.  The food was great, the beer was a bit of a mix.  Half of my 8 beer sampler was pretty plain, but the other half was pretty damn good.  I especially liked the Blueberry Rye (front left in picture below,) and the barrel aged IPA (front right below.)

 If you're in Traverse City, and you want to buy some beer or wine to take home, you have to go the the Beverage Company.   The beer selection was amazing, and the service was even better.  They spent 1/2 hour with me pointing out must have Michigan beers.  I picked out a 6 pack sampler, and 2 large bottles that they recommended.  I can't wait to try the Neapolitan Milk Stout from Saugatuck Brewing and the Triple Goddess Kombucha Ginger Beer from Unity Vibration.

My other favorite stop was the Grand Traverse Distillery.  You can actually buy un-aged whiskey and a small barrel to take home.  So that's exactly what I did.  Since I'm such a fan of rye whiskey like Templeton Rye or Russell's Reserve, I figured I would buy their rye whiskey.  After a quick sample, I decided not to go that direction.  Don't get me wrong, it was a good tasting rye whiskey, but after drinking Templeton Rye and Russell's Reserve, it just couldn't measure up.  Their Bourbon, on the other hand, was fantastic. Great flavour, aroma, and extremely smooth.
This place is worth checking out.
Right now, I'm curing my barrel.  Basically, I filled it with distilled water, and let it sit for 1 week.  This will allow the barrel to absorb some of the water and expand the wood.  After that, I'll put in the Bourbon, and let it sit for 2-3 months.  The best part about this, after I'm done using the barrel for the bourbon, I can start adding my homebrew to it, and make small barrel aged batches whenever I want.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kegging time!

 Sunday, I kegged my Rye Amber Ale.  It was aged for 2 weeks on some oak from Templeton Rye Whiskey.  While adding the beer to the keg, I also added a half cup of Templeton Rye Whiskey to the keg as well.  This brew will end up around 6.5% ABV.  It will need 2-4 weeks in the keg before it's time to drink. I'll post my first try of it soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rye Amber Ale

 So I've been slacking a bit on getting this in the blog.  Last Saturday, I turned the ingredients seen on the left into beer.  It;s going to be very similar to my usual Amber Ale that I make, except, I added a pound of rye to the grain bill.  The rye will add some spicey undertones to the beer.  It's also well hoped, and I used Wyeast Northwest Ale yeast to finish it off.

This brew was a partial mash, over 4 pounds of grain, mixed with 3 pounds of light dry malt extract (DME,) I also had a pound of corn sugar laying around from when I used to bottle, so I added that to the boil as well.  That will add an extra percent of alcohol to the finished product as well as allow the yeast to fully attenuate, meaning it should have a crisp, dry finish.
After 3 days the fermentation was starting to slow down.  I figured this would be the ideal time to add some more flavor to the party.  A few years back, I wrote to the good people at Templeton Rye Whiskey, in Templeton, IA.  I told them I was a homebrewer, and wanted to do a wood aged beer using their oak.  The quickly shipped out a board from one of their used whiskey barrels, and I try to use it sparingly for one brew a year.  I always use two 6 inch long pieces at once.  Before adding it to the fermenter, I bake them in the over for a half an hour.  This kills any microscopic critters that can add some interesting flavors to the beer.  I'll let this sit for at least two weeks before kegging.  I guess that means I need to finish the last of my Weizenbock to make room for this.  So once again, thank you to the people at Templeton Rye for making such an awesome product, but for being generous enough to share your barrels.  If you haven't checked them out yet, you really need to.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mad Town

 This weekend we went to Madison, WI to visit family.  It was also the annual neighborhood art walk that my sister participates in (see makes and sells pottery.)  Every year her husband does beer samples during the event.  The past 2 years he's sampled my homebrew there.  This year I brought just over 8 liters of beer for sampling, a Weizenbock, Cherry Stout, and Ginger Saison.

Little did I know, it was Madison Craft Beer Week.  What perfect timing!  Dale (my brother in-law) had a connection with a local brewery, and got us a short private tour.  The House of Brews is a small Co-op style brewery.  Paige, the owner and brewer, is working very hard, and producing high quality brews.  I highly recommend the Bungalow Rye ESB.

We also checked out a cask ale festival, and had 2 very interesting beers there, went to a few local markets/liquor stores, and also hit a local distillery, Old Sugar Distillery.  Their rum and ouzo were very tasty.  Spending time with family, and enjoying great local brews is my idea of a great weekend.
Above and to the right is the haul of Wisconsin beer that made the trip back to Iowa.  
Above and to the left is a Maibock from Capital Brewery.
Below is an IPA from Ale Asylum.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hop Wrangler

 I enjoyed a nice Hop Wrangler from Peace Tree Brewery (Knoxville, IA) tonight.  If you like hops, this is the beer for you.  The citrus flavor of the hops smacks your taste buds with the first sip, and the oils coat your tongue and throat on the way down.

Peace Tree has been around for 3 years or so now, and they make some great beers.
The hoppy IPA goes great with spicy food.  Tonight I made grilled pork chops (with Galena rub from Penzy's Spices,) zucchini, and jalapeno poppers.

This weekend I'm off to Madison, WI to visit family, and it also happens to be Madison Craft Beer week.  I hope to enjoy many local Wisconsin brews while I'm there.  Prost!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ginger Saison 2

1 1/2 weeks carbonating in the keg, and it's ready to drink.  This is the perfect spring/summer beer that I was hoping for.  Light, tangy, and refreshing, now bring on the sun!  It also goes great with food.

Rib eye, zucchini, asparagus, and jalepeno poppers ready for the grill.  Sorry, no after pictures, the food went too fast.  Especially when washed down the my ginger saison.

Going to get supplies for my next brew this weekend.  Still not sure what I'm doing yet.  I'm leaning towards a Rye Amber Ale.  We shall see.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beer Review

I've tried in the past to keep a beer journal.  A log of all the different brews I've tried, maybe a brief summary of what I thought and a 1 to 10 rating system.  That lasted about 2 months.  I love my beer, but I simply do not have the dedication to stick with that for the long haul.  I will however use this blog as a chance to review the occasional brew.  This week, I chose a smoked porter by O'Fallon.

In general, I've like their brews in the past.  I don't consider them to be a top tier, must have brewery for me, but they usually have good, solid beers.  This however, is not one of them.  If I wanted to drink liquid smoke, I'd go to some crappy, faux BBQ joint and drink their sauce.  The smoke flavoring was over powering, and absolutely fake.  I don't like that in my BBQ, and I don't like it in my beer.  To top it off, the smoke flavor was followed by a weak malt background.  I would not buy this again, nor recommend it to anyone.  I will still continue to drink and try different beers from O'Fallon, just not this one.

First Dark Cherry Stout taste

10 days after kegging, and it's time to try a beer.  As you can see, there's a nice, thick, foamy head on the Cherry Stout.  The cherry aroma is followed nicely by the dark malts in the beer.  Turned out to be a very smooth, tasty, and easy drinking beer.  Props to Jerry at the Bluff Street Brew Haus in Dubuque, IA for putting this recipe together.

As I said in a previous post, I don't usually make my beer from kits, but this was a Christmas gift from my wife.  Also, she knows if I am going to brew a kit, it has to be one of Jerry's.  If you're ordering supplies, check him out online at or stop in to his shop next time you're in Dubuque.  Thanks Jerry for a great beer, I'll be stopping in for more supplies soon!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kegging Time

My stout is ready to be moved into the keg.  It's been two weeks since I put it in the fermenting bucket, fermenting is complete, and the yeast has dropped to the bottom.  This is a quick and easy process.  After cleaning and sanitizing the keg, syphon, and tubing, I simply transfer the beer from the fermenter to the keg, and attach the CO2.

While syphoning, I simply keep the wand about 1-2 inches off the bottom to avoid the trub (yeast that has dropped to the bottom of the fermenter.)  This helps keep the beer nice and clear.  A lot of people I know like to transfer their beer to a secondary before kegging to help keep the unwanted trub out.  I found if your careful, it's just an extra, unnecessary step, and extra steps always add the chance of either contamination or oxidization, both of which can cause off flavors in the final product.

After all the beer is in the keg, I add some CO2, than open the pressure relief valve to purge out any oxygen in the keg.  I repeat this step about 3 times to ensure the oxygen is out.  Than I move the kegs to it's proper location, and leave it hooked up to the CO2 for about a week.  I'll pour a test beer in a week to see if it's fully carbonated, or if it needs more time.  This is another one of those difficult sacrifices we homebrewers must make.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Neighboring Porter

A few weeks ago, a neighbor, fellow homebrewer, and beer blogger brought me a bottle of his latest Porter.  I forget his exact words, but he thought it wasn't as smooth as he'd like it.  I'd like to say, I thought it was a fairly smooth, easy drinking Porter.  There was a lot of roasted malt character, and that may be what he was referring to, as roasted malt can add some harshness if used in large amounts.  I can think of a few commercial porters I've had that tasted pretty similar to this one.  Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good porter, and look forward to trying more of his beers in the future.

I will say this, the bottle seemed never ending.  I obviously misjudged the size of the bottle thinking I'd have no problems having 2 glasses out of it, but it was easily 4 to 5 glasses.  Not how much I intended to drink when I sat down that night, but these are the types of sacrifices us beer geeks have to make.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ginger Saison

Spring seems like it's here, so I thought I'd brew a light, tart, refreshing beer, a Ginger Saison.  Made with mostly pilsen malts, light dry extract, and a little munich malt.  I'm doing a partial mash this time, using 4 pounds of grain and 3 pounds of extract.  I added 2 oz. of liberty hops in a the start of the boil and 3 oz. of candied ginger near the end.  I'm also using White Labs Saison liquid yeast.  

The majority of the brewing I've done over the years has been partial mash.  It's a little cheaper than all extract, and gives me a little more control both in flavor and in color.  It's super easy to do, and you don't need a ton of extra equipment.  I use a 2 gallon beverage cooler as a mash tun and a stainless steal vegetable steamer as a filter.  It's an incredibly simple, yet highly effective way of doing this.  

Shown below are pictures of the cooler and vegetable steamer, the candied ginger and Saison yeast, and a shot of my immersion chiller in action, cooling the wort after the boil.  I'd like to note, I simply don't dump the unused water down the drain.  It can be used to water the garden, wash the car, or my most common use, I dump it into the washing machine when doing a load of laundry.  The grains don't have to go to waste either.  You can cook with them, making bread, pizza dough, granola, or dog treats, I compost small amounts like today, or on all grain brew days, I'll donate the grains to someone with livestock.  It's great for chickens, peacocks, goats, and cattle.  

One more week until I keg my Dark Cherry Stout, and 2 more weeks for today's Ginger Saison.  Until than...Prost!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dark Cherry Stout

Time to make more beer.  Last weekend I had a family party and was in a homebrew competition in Waterloo, IA at Beers to You.  I went through 8 gallons of homebrew, and I'm running low.  Today I'm brewing an extract kit put together by Jerry in Dubuque.  He owns Bluff St. Brew Haus, a homebrew supply shop, and make his own kits. His kits are great.  Now, I usually don't make kits, as I like to brew my own recipes, but my fantastic wife got me this kit for Christmas.  Also, for the last year I've been brewing all grain, instead of extract.

All grain takes twice the time as extract, but you control every once of ingredient and temperature during the process.  Most homebrewers start off with extract, move to partial mash, than go all grain.  Many who go all grain never look back, and just keep making larger and more expensive system.  That's great, if you have a ton of time, and lots of extra money lying around.  I know I don't.  When I brew all grain I use a 5 gallon cooler as a mash tun, and have 2 -5 gallon pots that I split the boil on my stove.  This system works great for me, not so much for others.  That's one of the great thing about homebrewing, there is no one way to do things, there are lots of ways.  Just figure what works best for you, your space, time, and money, and you can make great beer at home with or without all he fancy, shiny equipment.
Above is the heart of my all grain set up.

Below is my stout starting to boil, and me adding the first hops at the beginning of the boil.

Below is my immersion chiller.  At the end of the boil, it's important to cool down the wort (unfermented beer) as quick as possible.  This decreases the chances of an infection in the beer.  Next we add the yeast, and let it sit for a couple of weeks before transferring to the keg.

Of course there's always the clean up afterwards.  This is an important step, both in the beer making process, and keeping a happy wife!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coffee Talk

For those of you that didn't grow up in the 80's, you may not get the Crinkle Talk/Coffee Talk reference.  First, Crinkle is my college nick name that has stuck with me through the years.  Second, the great Mike Myers on SNL had a re-occurring skit called Coffee talk, and played Linda Richman.  He'd always ask the audience to talk amongst themselves.  Here, I'll give you a topic.  The chic pea is neither a chick, nor a pea, discuss.


We are lucky in eastern Iowa to have a few great craft breweries.  My two favorites are Millstream Brewery and Peace Tree Brewery.  In my last visit to Millstream I tried a Weizenbock (wheat bock.)  This is a style I've never had before, but very much enjoyed.  Nearly a year later, I decided to brew my own.  One of my favorite things about homebrewing, is creating my own recipes, than seeing them through the process.  I really enjoy being able to come up with a recipe, brew the beer, and when I taste it, it comes out just how I thought it would.  My Weizenbock was no exception.  At nearly 8% ABV it will warm you up, but it also has a nice sweetness to it.  So, thank you Millstream for not only making great beer, but inspiring myself (and many others,) to make great beer as well.  Prost!