Friday, February 25, 2011

Introducing: Sphynx Cat Home Brew

Today, I opened my first bottle of home brewed beer. I wasn't sure at all what to expect. It was hoping for "Well, that's all right."

I was pleased to discover that what I had was "Wow, that is really good!" Now, of course, this is a beer brewed from a kit, but considering it was my first attempt I feel really good about it. 

Sure, it seems cheezy to name your home brew, but I am doing it anyway. My beer is named after my Sphynx Cat, Piglet. This first beer is the BareKitty Brown. And it is yummy.

I am excited to brew my second batch now. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Atlanta Winter Beer Carnival 2011

Yesterday, Matt and I attended the Atlanta Winter Beer Carnival in Midtown Atlanta.  I just wanted to stop by to let you all know that it was a great time.  I loved the idea of a festival that wasn't just a beer tasting but offered other entertainment opportunities including roaming performers, carnival games and a fun house.

I thought the beer selection was interesting.  There were certainly several craft brews from all over the country but also a lot of more mass produced beers than I typically see at a festival.  There were several breweries I was unfamiliar with and was able to experience some new beers.  We tried Point Brewery out of Wisconsin.  I enjoyed their 2012 Black Ale and Matt liked their Pale Ale. We also tried Strangford Lough's two offerings, the St. Patrick's and the Legbiter.  I thought it was a micro brew out of Ohio based on the signs (that appears to be the distributor, however) but I have learned that they are a real Irish beer from Ireland.  I was also able to try Wild Heaven beers. Because they are higher alcohol beers I had been careful not to try it when out in a social situation.  Since we road MARTA to the Carnival I felt safe giving this one a try in a small dose.  Their Ode to Mercy, an imperial brown, was probably my favorite beer of the day.  It was complex with a sweet malty taste with a hint of a smokey tobacco flavor.

Just like other beer festivals we have been to in Atlanta, for some reason Bell's Brewery out of Kalamazoo Michigan (where Matt and I went to college) seems to be a favorite of this southern city.  At the Decatur Beer Festival, I stood in a very long line to get a sample. Their booth had the longest line at this beer festival as well.  We began to stand in line but then realized that we had some Bell's at home so decided to continue on. It would have been worth it, though.  

We did very much enjoy the non-beer entertainment as well.  The fun house was our favorite - what a great idea to have a fun house at a beer festival!  Matt also enjoyed the snow tubing!

Also at the festival were volunteers from Safe Ride. This worthy organization is a great service to anyone who enjoys beer in a social setting.  If you find yourself out and unable to get back home, give them a call.

In other beer news, Dogfish Head brewery was recently the subject of a misdirected tweet by an employee of the Red Cross.  Check out the story here. I assert that people who enjoy beer are a community and we can put our love of this art form to a very good use when we feel like it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The consequences of questionable decisions

There are a lot of poor decisions that beer consumption can lead to*. "Drink Responsibly" is not just a catch phrase in advertising for alcoholic beverages. Understanding your own responsibility when it comes to beer is probably the most important thing you can consider before enjoying that beverage.

There are some lesser infractions, however. This Super Bowl Sunday, I gave in to one of those. The "Free Beer Glass" decision. I love collecting beer glasses. I have a growing collection. Occasionally, though, it is probably a good idea just to say no.

As you may have seen recently, I just spent a week's vacation traveling in the south east. On that trip, with friends, we went to a local sports bar to watch the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Being a Detroit Lions fan, it is sometimes difficult for me to get really into the super bowl game. We arrived by cab at this sports bar a little before the game and planned to stay until about half time and get some wings and have a couple of drinks. The waitress approached and told us about her specials, which included "blah blah blah blah with free football shaped beer glass blah blah blah blah." I was sold. I didn't care what it was, I wanted that beer glass. She even told us that since we get to keep the glass after we drink the first beer we could just get pitchers of other beer and use the glasses. This sounded like the best idea ever.

Turns out, the beer was Coors Light. Now, if you enjoy Coors, that is fine for you. What ever you like, I'm okay with that. I do not, however, like it. Many years ago, our friend Dann (who we were traveling with) offered me a Coors Light style beer when we first met and I looked at him and said "No! Beer Yucky!" which he thought was hilarious. It was a shock to him when he learned I was enjoying beer at all. Well, for me Coors is the epitome of "Beer Yucky." But for the good of the Football Shaped Beer Glass (tm), I was willing to suffer through.

Thankfully, we did have that option to purchase pitchers to fill up our Coors Light glasses after the first sampling. We resolved that problem with Sweetwater 420. Interestingly enough, I am just starting to explore pale ales. I find that this Atlanta brewery's flagship beer is a very drinkable beer.

Later in the week, I felt the need to make reparations for the partially regretted decision to get the Football Shaped Beer Glasses (tm). While on a visit to the beautiful Biltmore in Asheville on the last day of our vacation, Matt and I enjoyed some Biltmore brewed beers and acquired a more sophisticated pair of pints. I enjoyed the brown ale and Matt had the pale ale.

I suppose this will not be the last time I fall victim for the free glass with purchase trap. Sometimes you get nice glasses, and sometimes you get Football Shaped Beer Glasses (tm).

*Please be aware that this video is pretty intense. No matter how intense it is, the Australian PSA might be one of the most powerful drunk driving commercials anyone can watch.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bottles of Beer!

Another step in the beer brewing process has been achieved today.  After returning yesterday from our vacation we spent today bottling our first batch of home brewed beer. 

We cleaned the kitchen, got everything set up and sanitized our tools.  We popped the carboy up on the counter and siphoned it into the bottling bucket on the floor.  During this process we also took a sample for the hydrometer and we added the priming sugar solution.  We realized at this point that we had recorded our initial gravity reading incorrectly and because of that we were unable to calculate our alcohol content.  So, the recipe suggested that it would be about a 4.5% alcohol beer so we're going with that. It was also a good time to taste the beer.  The color was a perfect brown color and it tasted like not-half-bad flat beer, which I suppose is exactly what it is supposed to taste like at this point.  I can't wait for it to condition in the bottles so we can taste it with the right carbonation. 

At this point, it was time to  bottle the beer.  We used typical amber colored 12 ounce bottles which we had washed, sanitized and rinsed.  We used the sweet bottle rinsing attachment on the kitchen sink.  It is a little brass doohickey that goes on the faucet and points up with a lever that when you push the bottle down, pressurized water swooshes into the bottle.  What fun! 

We put the bottling bucket up on the counter and tried at first to use the spigot to bottle the beer.  I found this method messy.  So we attached the siphon hose to the spigot along with a nifty spring loaded attachment.  You stick that into the bottle and press down until it fills up to the mouth of the bottle and when you remove the device the bottle is filled to a perfect level.  It worked very well.  Then we set the bottles in the dishwasher just to dry, which you can see behind me. 

Of course, after bottling comes bottle capping. We have the simple hand held bottle capping tool and it was so easy to use that even I could do it.  It didn't require any sort of brute force, just the right downward pressure and it was a snap. 

As I said, now it is a waiting game.  The bottles need to sit and condition in a cool, dry place.  This will ensure that it they are carbonated properly.  I believe that we will end up with a thoroughly drinkable beer. 

In other beer news, I also received a package today containing the ingredients for my next two batches of beer.  I found a great website called Austin Homebrew Supply where they sell "kits" for beer making but not the traditional beer kit in a box like the one we just did.  Essentially, they have developed several recipes and sell you the combinations of ingredients to brew that particular beer.  It opens the door for some experimentation as well.  We ordered the recipe and ingredients for another brown as well as for an ESB.  We are in Atlanta this coming weekend so we think we might brew up our second batch of beer while we're home. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Savannah and Charleston Microbrews

I am currently on vacation.  We left Atlanta Friday night right after work and arrived in Savannah Georgia just around midnight.  We met some friends from Detroit and now we are on a tour of the south east.  We started in Atlanta and now are in Charleston and at the end of the week we will end up in one of my favorite cities in the world, Asheville North Carolina.

Of course, one of my goals for the weekend was to experience some local brews.

Savannah is home to a great brewery called Moon River.  I have been there before but I wasn't drinking beer then. We were there on a haunted pub tour and, honestly, by the time I made it to that location I was so freaked out by the tour that I couldn't go into the haunted room. I stayed downstairs and waited for my tour companions to rejoin us.  I tend to be easily scared, however.

My friends, Dann and Cindy, along with Matt and me went to Moon River on Saturday afternoon and had a beer that day. I tried the Apparition Ale, which I greatly enjoyed.  This is a traditional English Pale ale more like a Bass than the types of pale ales that are common in the US.  Because it is lighter and less hoppy I found it very tasty.  Matt didn't like it as much because he prefers a little stronger tasting beer.

On Sunday, however, my companions decided to go golfing.  This is an activity that I do not typically partake.  Instead, I wandered over to the Unitarian Universalist church of Savannah for service.  After church, though, I decided to go back to Moon River for lunch by myself. I sat at the bar and Richard, the awesome afternoon bartender, was delightful.  I got another Apparition Ale to start with and ordered a burger for lunch.  As I finished my burger I decided to give the Captain's Porter a try.  It was a coffee flavored beer with some smokey notes.  I found it tasty but I liked the Apparition better.  I left the brewery to meet up with my travel companions but after wandering around the city on Sunday afternoon we found ourselves back at Moon River.  Richard greeted me warmly and I said "Well, if I had known they wanted to come here..."  While there, Matt tried their Swamp Fox IPA.  I am exploring pale ales but the IPA was a little too strong for me right now.

Tonight, we find ourselves in Charleston SC for the first time (for all of us).  After checking in to our hotel, we made our way to the bar in the hotel lobby where I discovered Palmetto beer.  I had read about this beer but the brewery is not near where we are staying so I didn't expect to give it a try, but it appears to be widely distributed throughout the Charleston area.  I started with the Amber Ale.

After the hotel bar, we were on our way to check out the town, eventually ended up at a delightful sushi restaurant.  Prior to that, though, we walked over to a local brew pub called South End Brewery.  While there I tried two of their beers, the Oatmeal Stout and the Bombay Pale Ale. Both beers were quite tasty.  The oatmeal stout was more up my alley in regards to the type of beer I normally drink.  The Bombay Pale was not an IPA specifically but a little hoppier than a typical pale ale.  I did enjoy it thought.  The universal observation I cam make when it comes to hoppy beers is that the hops does hit your palate heavily at the front end kind of ruining your taste buds for the remainder of the beer but if you can get past that the rest of the beer is generally flavorful and smooth.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a market to get some beers for the hotel room.  I found the Palmetto winter seasonal beer, the Bocat Chocolate Bock.  Honestly the first taste is pretty good with a heavy chocolate flavor but after that it tastes just kind of watered down.  I wouldn't name it among my favorites but it isn't bad.

We are turning it a little early tonight and plan to visit a local plantation tomorrow and the just hanging out on the town until we leave on Wednesday for Asheville where we will undoubtedly have more beer.