All posts by Marc

“PALE ALES Makes” at 2014 National Homebrew Convention Club Night

For the first time in club history, PALE ALES was represented at the National Homebrew Convention Club Night. Four members loaded up a van with a bunch of kegs and drove to Grand Rapids (and met a 5th member there). Clearly, a good time was had by all. The club owes a huge thanks to everyone that spent their time, energy and money pulling this off — Ryan Hansen, James Manley, Thackman, Dave Rollins and Tim Kowalski.

 

Annual Club Competition Results

Congratulations to Tim Kowalski (1st); Mark Russo (2nd); Russell Acevedo (3rd); and Ryan Hansen (4th). A big thanks goes out to all our sponsors: Princeton Homebrew, The Firkin Tavern, White Labs, Kane Brewing, Hop Union, Hub City and the Harvest Moon. Thanks for all the great pics, Dawn.

Arrogance — It’s All Relative: February Meeting

Dennis Flynn, the Regional Sales Rep for Stone Brewing Company, was kind enough to spend Valentine’s Day Eve with us at Trenton Social. Dennis led about 30 PALE ALES members through a tasting of a variety of Stone’s brews. Of course, it was only fitting for a meeting of the PALE ALES homebrew club to start things off with Stone’s flagship beer — the Pale Ale. From there, the arrogance came in heaps. We had the Arrogant Bastard, the Double Bastard and finally the 11.11.11 Vertical Epic.

Stone’s ability to push the progression of brewing has helped it set new standards along the way for US craft brewers. Few would argue with the idea that it was Stone that single-handedly created the “west coast style.” And I’m not talking about putting out a rap album based primarily on Parliament Funkadelic samples. I’m talking about a balanced, hop forward style that really didn’t exist back in the early 90s when Arrogant Bastard hit the shelves for the first time. As Joe Bair, owner of Princeton Homebrew tells it, “When I first opened my store, a 5-gallon batch of hoppy beer had no more than 3 ounces of hops. That all changed when the Arrogant Bastard clone recipes started circulating. Now, its not unusual to see a half-pound of hops in a single batch of beer.”

Its great to see that despite Stone’s incredible growth, that they manage find and keep well-versed and passionate people like Dennis working for them. His presentation struck a great balance for the few PALE ALErs that were new to Stone as well as all the Stoners (long-time Stone fans) in the room. Having been a part of a dozen or more of similar tasting meetings like this, Dennis is definitely among the best of his peers. We greatly appreciate him taking the time to come all the way down from Brooklyn! You can follow Dennis on Twitter @stonetristate and on Facebook.

January Meeting: What Not to Brew

It’s not often that the beer we sample at our homebrew club meetings doesn’t get completely drank. Of course, there is the occasional brewery that is anxious for us to taste samples of their latest attempt to dethrone Blue Moon. But, this is a little bit different. The purpose of this meeting was to intentionally taste bad beers to isolate different flavors and aromas that are associated with brewing defects. Its one thing to know that something smells or tastes “off.” But its another thing entirely to be able to isolate it, learn from it, and prevent it from happening again.

A huge debt of gratitude goes out to Dr. Steve Rowley for putting together a fantastic set of powerpoint slides and tinkering with a case of cheap Mexican beer. He added chemical compounds to each beer to emulate about 8 different brewing defects. We covered Dicetyl, Isoamyl Acetate, Phenyols, Iron, Chlorophenol, and Dimenthyl Sulfide. The crowd favorite was the good old fashioned Skunked Beer! And this is one you can try at home without a chemistry set! Find yourself a brown bottle, a green one and a clear one. Pour the exact same beer in all three and put them in the sun for a few minutes. Now, starting with a control beer that never was put in the sun, taste each of them. The results will surprise you.

A big thanks to Triumph for putting us up in their Sky Box for the evening and keeping pint glasses full so that we had some FINE beer to drink between mouthfuls of unpleasantries. And of course, thanks for the pics, Dawn!

 

PALE ALERs Featured in BYO Magazine

Aphrodisiac Valentine’s Beers

Categories: (Beer Styles | Featured | Jan/Feb 2012)
Author Richard Bolster
Issue Jan/Feb 2012

Love is in the air in Princeton, New Jersey, or at least the stuff that inspires it. The Princeton And Local Environs Ale And Lager Enthusiasts Society (PALEALES) homebrew club gathered recently for their annual club-only homebrew competition, with a Valentine’s Day twist. The organizers set the adventurous, or I should say, amorous, brewers among the club’s members to the task of creating a beer with an “aphrodisiac” ingredient. This category featured a veritable heart-shaped box of beers brewed with assorted ingredients to help drinkers get in the mood.

The members of the PALEALES club, which was founded in 1995, gathered at Princeton Homebrew, the homebrew supply store owned by brewing oracle and PALEALES founder, Joe Bair. They came from Princeton and Piscataway and from right around the corner in Trenton, all with the hope of scoring the grand prize (besides bragging rights, of course): a $100 Princeton Homebrew Gift Certificate. About two dozen members, including first time attendees and longtime club members — mostly men, but with a solid female presence — met on an unseasonably warm day that didn’t feel much like February outside. Inside, too, things were heating up as PALEALES members’ hearts were pounding with anticipation and love . . . of homebrew.

The rules were simple. Beers were given an identifying number and the judges were told the intended style of each contest entry. All members tasted and scored the beers from 0–5 based on appearance, aroma and overall impression. Up to 10 points could be awarded for flavor, for a maximum total score of 25 points.

The competition was collegial rather than cutthroat with an emphasis on participation, education and enjoyment. Newbies were as welcome to enter the competition as were the club’s founders.

The event featured three broad categories of judging. The first two were based on gravity. Category 1 included brews with an original gravity of less than 1.060. Category 2 concoctions were those with an OG of 1.060 or higher. But the third category was where we all felt the love. The centerpiece of the afternoon, the aphrodisiac category, allowed brewers to highlight their creativity and to channel their inner Cupid.

The term “aphrodisiac,” which is derived from Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, and which Webster’s defines as, “an agent that arouses . . . sexual desire,” was loosely interpreted by the brewers, and that was a good thing. The aphrodisiac ingredients ranged from the perennial Valentine favorite, chocolate, to beers brewed with honey, strawberry extract and, to really spice things up, ancho chile peppers.

THE RESULTS ARE IN
Dave Rawlins was inspired to create his Jolly Roger Double Mocha Porter after falling hard for Rogue Brewery’s Double Mocha. A homebrewer since 1997 who loves French roast coffee, he explained, “I was “trying to get a mocha edge.” He got his edge and stole the hearts of the judges as his beer took top honors. This smooth robust porter was dark brown, almost black, with surprisingly subtle chocolate notes. Coffee dominated — a pound of kiln coffee malt, from Belgian maltsters Franco-Belges, will do that — but never overpowered this fine brew. (See all the recipes on page 36.)

Though nosed out at the finish line, the dynamic brewing duo of Dawn Caluccio and Kate Saik were thrilled to finish second with their own chocolaty entry. Their Gato Negro – named for Kate’s thirsty feline who got a little too close to the kettle and almost met the proverbial fate of all curious cats – was a black beauty of a beer with a thick, café au lait head and a rounded milk chocolate flavor. To get that flavor this brewing tandem did their homework.

“We thought about using actual chocolate but after . . . asking many questions of our more seasoned brew buddies [in the club] we decided on using the classic Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder.” Theirs was a double whammy, too, with vanilla bean adding richness and depth of flavor.

Chocolate was clearly a hit with the judges but honey, too, was well received. Russ Acevedo’s Belgian Honey received an honorable mention.

THE BEST OF THE REST
Brewer Mike Moreken was covering all the bases. “I figured strawberries are kind of a romantic thing, you know, strawberries dipped in chocolate.” So he whipped up a strawberry-infused chocolate beer. His recipe produced a relatively light-bodied brew. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the judges were split on this one. Some said it was pleasingly sweet, while others found the berry blast too strong. Strawberry was immediately obvious in the nose but mellowed on the palate.

Mike allowed, “The brew left no doubt it was a strawberry beer. The beer had a huge strawberry aroma at about 3 weeks.” But after another month in the bottle Mike reported, “Wow, what a difference! The power of the strawberry fell nicely into the background.”

PALEALES President, Kevin Trayner considered several aphrodisiac ingredients, including saffron and oysters, before deciding to play to his own preference for hot, spicy foods. Ancho chile powder was the aphrodisiac in his Hot Chocolate Porter.

A prior attempt to brew a jalapeño lager had taught Kevin a hard lesson. “I put three peppers in the fermenter for a week and guess what, three is too many.” This time out he was more conservative but wishes he’d used more of the hot stuff. “I would add a little more pepper next time, or consider “dry hopping” with dried or roasted whole peppers.” The emphasis here was on the chocolate malt sweetness, with a minimal pepper presence.

Spared a pepper blast, our palates were able to focus on all the tasty brews in the competition.

As for the aphrodisiacs, they worked their magic. The PALEALES members were romanced by these beers. Dawn Coluccio put it best, “What’s not to love about Valentine’s Day? A good homebrew to share with family and friends . . . brings people together and that feels good.”

So for your next homebrew recipe or competition, add a dash of romance with an aphrodisiac ingredient because at this time of year, love is in air . . . and also in the beer.

Recipes
Original homebrew recipes are presented as given, with statistics calculated by BYO. One recipe was scaled from 10 gallons to 5 gallons. Conversions to all-grain or extract version by BYO.

Jolly Roger Double Mocha Porter
by Dave Rawlins
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.062 FG = 1.016
IBU = 45 ABV = 6.0%

Ingredients
11 lbs. (5.0 kg) Maris Otter pale malt
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (150 °L)
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) Weyermann Carafa® Type II malt
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) 2-row black malt
0.5 lbs. (0.23 kg) kiln coffee malt
0.5 lbs. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt
8.5 AAU Summit hops (45 mins)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 17% alpha acids)
5 AAU Willamette hops (20 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 5% alpha acids)
5 AAU Willamette hops (5 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 5% alpha acids)
75% Wyeast 1764 (Rogue Pacman)
and 25% White Labs WLP028
(Edinburg Ale) yeast

Step by Step
Mash in at 152 °F (67 °C). Hold at 152 °F (67 °C) for 60 minutes. If possible heat mash to 168 °F (76 °C) and hold for 10 minutes for mash out. Sparge with 168 °F (76 °C) water and collect 7.5 gallons (28 L) of wort or collect runoff until Plato drops to 2.0 (1.008 SG) and add water to the 7.5-gallon (28-L) mark. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops as indicated. Cool to 65–68 °F (18–20 °C) and pitch yeast. Ferment at 65–68 °F (18–20 °C) for 1 week. Transfer to secondary fermenter for 2 weeks. Crash cool at 36 °F (2.2 °C) for 1 to 2 weeks then keg or bottle. Carbonate to 2.3 to 2.5 volumes.

Jolly Roger Double Mocha Porter
(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.062 FG = 1.016
IBU = 45 ABV = 6.0%

Ingredients
8.0 lbs. (3.6 kg) Muntons Light liquid malt extract
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (150 °L)
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) Weyermann Carafa® Type II malt
0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) 2-row black malt
0.5 lbs. (0.23 kg) kiln coffee malt
0.5 lbs. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt
8.5 AAU Summit hops (45 mins)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 17% alpha acids)
5 AAU Willamette hops (20 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 5% alpha acids)
5 AAU Willamette hops (5 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 5% alpha acids)
75% Wyeast 1764 (Rogue
Pacman) and 25% White Labs
WLP028 (Edinburg Ale) yeast

Step by Step
Steep grains at 152 °F (67 °C). Stir in half of the malt extract and boil wort for 60 minutes, adding hops as indicated. Stir in remaining malt extract in final 15 minutes of the boil. Ferment at 65–68 °F (18–20 °C).

Gato Negro
by Dawn Coluccio
and Kate Saik
(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.054 FG = 1.013
IBU = 21 ABV = 5.2%

Ingredients
6.0 lbs. (2.7 kg) dark malt extract
1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) domestic special pale malt
1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) medium crystal malt
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) roasted barley
0.25 lb. (0.11 kg) chocolate malt
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) oatmeal
1.75 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 whole vanilla beans
5 AAU UK Kent Golding hops (45 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 5% alpha acids)
8.5 AAU UK Northdown hops (5 mins)
(1 oz./28 g of 8.5% alpha acids)
White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) yeast

Step by Step
Heat 1.0 gallon (3.8 L) of water to 170 °F (77 °C). Add grain bag and steep for 30 minutes. Sparge grains at 168 °F (76 °C) bringing volume up to 2.0 gallons (7.6 L). Return to boil. Turn off heat and add malt extract. Boil for 60 minutes adding hops as indicated. Turn off heat. Split and scrape vanilla beans and add. Add cocoa powder. Stir thoroughly. Bring the total volume up to 5 gallons (19 L). Cool to 70 °F (21 °C) and pitch yeast. Ferment at 60–75 °F (16–24 °C). Rack to secondary when gravity is 1.016 or lower. Ferment until action has ceased and beer has clarified. Prime, bottle and age at room temperature for at least two weeks before chilling.

Strawberry Choco
by Mike Moreken
(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.051 FG = 1.013
IBU = 23 ABV = 5.3%

Ingredients
1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) crystal malt (60 °L) 
0.20 lb. (91 g) CaraPils® malt
1.0 lb. (0.45 kg) pale malt
3.2 lb. (1.5 kg) golden liquid malt extract (45 min)
3.0 lb. (1.4 kg) amber liquid malt extract (45 min)
6.1 AAU Nugget hops (60 mins)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 12.2% alpha acids)
1 whirlfloc tablet (15 mins)
Nottingham dried yeast
3.0 lb. (1.4 kg) Sweet Cherry Puree Vintner’s Harvest (secondary)
0.33 cup baker’s chocolate (secondary)
2.0 oz. (57 g) strawberry extract (bottling)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) lactose (bottling)
3⁄4 cup brown sugar (for priming)

Step by Step
Bring about 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) to roughly 155 °F (68 °C). Soak grain for 30 minutes. Remove grain. Bring to a boil. Remove pot from heat and stir in extract. Return to boil for 60 minutes. Add hops and whirlfloc as indicated. Add cool sterilized water to make 5 gallons (19 L). Aerate and pitch yeast at 72 °F (22 °C).

Ferment for one week then rack to secondary. Add cherry puree and chocolate to secondary. Move to cooler area for two weeks at 70 °F (21 °C), if possible. At bottling, add strawberry flavor and lactose, stir gently. Prime, bottle and condition at room temperature for four weeks minimum.

(OG and FG are given as before lactose and fruit added. Estimated ABV includes sugar from strawberry puree. Lactose will boost beer’s FG by about 4 “gravity points.”)

Strawberry Choco
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.051 FG = 1.013
IBU = 23 ABV = 5.3%

Ingredients
8.5 lb. (3.9 kg) pale malt
1 lb. 6 oz. (0.63 kg) crystal (60 °L)
0.20 lb. (91 g) CaraPils® malt
6.1 AAU Nugget hops (60 mins)
(0.5 oz./14 g of 12% alpha acids)
1 whirlfloc tablet (15 mins)
Nottingham dried ale yeast
3.0 lb. (1.4 kg) Sweet Cherry Puree Vintner’s Harvest (secondary)
0.33 cup baker’s chocolate (secondary)
2.0 oz. (57 g) strawberry extract (bottling)
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) lactose (bottling)
3⁄4 cup brown sugar (for priming)

Step by Step
Mash at 152 °F (67 °C). Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops with 60 minutes remaining. Ferment at 72 °F (22 °C), then rack to secondary, adding fruit puree and chocolate. Add lactose and fruit extract at bottling, along with priming sugar.

Hot Chocolate Porter
by Kevin Trayner
(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.050 FG = 1.012
IBU = 53 ABV = 4.8%

Ingredients
6.6 lbs. (3.0 kg) amber liquid malt extract
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) black patent
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) CaraMunich® malt
2.5 oz. (71 g) Ancho chile powder
5.0 oz. (142 g) cocoa powder
8.0 oz. (227 g) milk chocolate bar
4.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (60 mins)
(0.50 oz./14 g of 9% alpha acids)
9.0 AAU Northern Brewer hops (45 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 9% alpha acids)
4.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (10 mins)
(0.50 oz./14 g of 9% alpha acids)
Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread Ale) yeast

Step by Step
Bring two gallons water to 160 °F (71 °C). Turn off heat and add specialty grains. Steep for 30 minutes. Stir in extract. Return to heat and bring to boil. Add cocoa powder, chile pepper, and chocolate bar. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops as indicated. Remove from boil. Top up to 5.0 gallons (19 L). Cool, aerate and pitch yeast at 72 °F (22 °C). Ferment at 65–68 °F (18–20 °C) for two weeks then rack to secondary. Prime, bottle and condition at room temperature for one week.

You can use different peppers for different flavors. I like the smokiness of Ancho. Alternate pepper flavor method: Sear 1–3 whole peppers on a grill. Add to secondary.

Hot Chocolate Porter
(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.050 FG = 1.012
IBU = 53 ABV = 4.8%

Ingredients
8.5 lbs. (3.9 kg) pale malt
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt
0.50 lb. (0.23 kg) black patent
1.25 lb. (0.57 kg) CaraMunich® malt
2.5 oz. (71 g) Ancho chile powder
5.0 oz. (142 g) cocoa powder
8.0 oz. (227 g) milk chocolate bar
4.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (60 mins)
(0.50 oz./14 g of 9% alpha acids)
9.0 AAU Northern Brewer hops (45 mins)
(1.0 oz./28 g of 9% alpha acids)
4.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (10 mins)
(0.50 oz./14 g of 9% alpha acids)
Wyeast 1099 (Whitbread Ale) yeast

Step by Step
Mash at 152 °F (67 °C). Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops as indicated. Ferment at 65–68 °F (18–20 °C) for two weeks then rack to secondary. Prime, bottle and condition at room temperature for one week.

Richard Bolster wrote about pretzels in the September 2011 issue of BYO.

GuinnessLESS Meeting

You never know when things are going to go completely pare shaped on you. However, I think we managed to pull off an informative and fun evening despite a “no show” from our scheduled sales rep from Guinness.Luckily, the rep wasn’t bringing the beer! Instead, our host Ed Goracy of Hub City pulled some cases of Guinness products out of the warehouse and had them waiting for us — a the perfect temperature. Club Member Dave Rawlins took up the challenge and walked us through each beer. We started off the evening with Harp then onto Smithwicks. Next up was the newest addition to the lineup: Guinness Black Lager. Then onto the Extra Stout and the relatively new Export Stout. It seemed to me that the Extra Stout was by far the club favorite. Feel free to post your own impressions of these beers as a comment to this post!

A special thanks to Ed Goracy and Hub City for once again being a generous host to PALE ALES! I also owe a thank you to Dave Rawlins, Clay Spence and Joe Bair for their help in making the best of the circumstances. And of course, a big thanks to Dawn for great pics.

 

AHA Dark Lager Competition

Just in case someone is sitting on a couple of bottles of dark lager…

 

American Homebrewers Association
Hail to Hefeweizen Club-Only Competition Results are In

Who says that Hefeweizen has to be a summer beer style? This third Club-Only Competition saw 60 entries from 29 states competing in BJCP category 15. Thanks to competition organizer Brian Steuerwald and the Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) club of Indianapolis, IN for hosting the competition.

1st: Mark Beatty, Lincoln, NE, Lincoln Lagers, “Smarter But Not Weizer,” Weizenbock, category 15C

2nd: Aaron Fournier, Montgomeryville, PA, Keystone Hops,”I Don’t Always Drink Weizen, But When I Do, It’s This Dunkel,” Dunkelweizen, category 15B

3rd: Josh Jensen, Los Angeles, CA, Yeastside Brewers, “Hubris Hefeweizen,” Hefeweizen, category 15A


Next Up: Dark Lagers

Short, dark winter days call for delicious dark lagers! Entries for the fourth competition of the 2011-2012 Club-Only Competition year are due February 10, 2012, and judging will be held February 18, 2012. Entry fee is $7 (checks payable to American Homebrewers Association).

Entry Shipping:
AHA COC
c/o Doug Newberry
1215 Burnham Ln.
Batavia, IL 60510

Hosted by the Urban Knaves of Grain (UKG) club of Batavia, IL, this competition covers BJCP category 4.

For more information, contact Doug Newberry.

SAVE THE DATE!

Time to start brewing for the National Homebrew Competition!

Mid-February 2012: Online Registration

March 19-28: Entry Shipping

March 30-April 22: First Round

May 4: First Round Results


Coopers
Club-Only Competition Sponsor


Raise money for your club by selling AHA memberships through your club website! Contact Steve Parr for details.

American Homebrewers Association
CLUB RESOURCES •       FIND A CLUB •       HOMEBREWOPEDIA
American Homebrewers Association
AHA

The Monster Mash was a Brewyard Smash!

And by “brewyard” I mean the parking lot at Princeton Homebrew where 7 of us did a single mash to produce some 42 gallons of wort.

If you have been by Princeton Homebrew lately, you’ve probably laid eyes on the Monster Mash Tun. Its a 60-gallon, stainless steel homebrewers dream. The only problem is that we needed to create a false bottom to filter the grain from our beer. An effective false bottom is like a fine balancing act. If the filter is too course, grain husk will get through into your beer. If its too fine, all the grain will compact on the false bottom and prevent any water from making its way through the grain bed, resulting in worst of all brewing blunders, a STUCK MASH. So, you’d probably be thinking that we would pick a recipe to test our false bottom design that almost ensured success. Something like the brew we did last year at the Group Brew — a light saison with 9 lbs of grain per 5-gallons. Nahh, over several glasses of Hobo Juice at Princeton Homebrew, we decided the best idea was to Go Big or Go Home! We attempted to mash what will easily turn out to be the most difficult grain bill that this mash tun will ever see.

There were 17.5 lbs of grain for every 5 gallons of beer we were creating. And worse, 15 of them were brown malt — which basically pulverizes into a fine dust when milled. Setting the stage for a stuck mash.

Our false bottom combined high-end metal fabrication and items from the dollar store. Trenton Sheet Metal plasma cut a piece of 1/16 stainless steel and mounted hinges and stainless screen along with some 2-inch feet to keep it up off the bottom of the mash tun. And over drain we put a sink strainer over the top of an egg beater — no lie. Turns out our this last line of defense actually kept a decent amount of grain our of our wort!

A special thanks to Sir Al Buck and his magical box of stainless steel sanitary fittings, tri clamps and gaskets! And of course, this day couldn’t have been possible without the vision, cheerleading and Hobo Juice provided by Joe Bair of Princeton Homebrew.

Ithaca Raises the Bar at the Firkin

Wow, what a meeting! Brewery Rep Extraordinaire, Eric VanZile took us through a series of beers that ticked all the boxes — a session wheat beer, some gigantically hoppy brews and even a 2-year old Belgian quad. Eric’s been at Ithaca for seven years and seems to have had his hands in every aspect of the company. Its evident in just a couple of minutes of talking to him that his enthusiasm for the brand and his passion for craft beer is not something that was memorized off the company brochure. Eric is the real deal.

I’m not sure about you, but a certain brewery’s apricot beer kinda spoiled my pallet for fruit beers. I’ll admit, I drank my share of a “numbered” beer back in the day. I even stumbled on a six-pack holder in my basement just recently. But the beer never really stood up to the test of time for me. You know that album that you have such fond memories of, but then you go back and listen to it a few years later and you can’t imagine what you were thinking? Well, those VT fruit beers were my Stone Temple Pilots. I mention this, because I had never actually tried Ithaca’s Apricot Wheat until the other night. But, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed it was going to be some knock-off trick beer that was super sweet and with an over the top fruit flavor. It was very well balanced and had a surprisingly crisp, dry finish! Given its mass appeal, its not hard to believe that it outsells all the other labels at Ithaca.

Next up, we all dove into a huge pile of fresh cascade, chinook and crystal hops and rolled around for a half hour. Well, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. But the CascaZilla definitely left your pallet with the feeling of doing a cannonball into a pool of hops.

When we started planning this meeting over the Summer, I mentioned to Bryan Liegel, the owner of the Firkin, that it would be really cool if he could arrange to have a special Ithaca brew on tap the night of the meeting. I had no idea that we’d be pulling pints off one of only 2 kegs of Ithaca’s Outdoor Harvest Ale in South Jersey. There were only six delivered to the entire state. It’s a fantastic example of a hoppy American pale ale made entirely with hops grown in NY State. Do yourself a favor and get over there to try some of this before its all gone. [Edit: its gone!]

Next up was the Flower Power IPA. Don’t let the name fool you. This ain’t no delicate session beer. Its a big pale ale with an extremely hoppy profile. Forget about the trip to India, five additions give this enough hops to preserve it to Mars and back. Let’s call it a Interplanetary Pale Ale.

Another seasonal was up next — Cold Front is a Belgian Style amber. Belgian farmhouse yeast and some subtle noble hops really give this one an authentic flavor.

The last beer of the night was a really special one. The Excelsior TWELVE was a beer brewed for their 12th anniversary — TWO YEARS AGO! Yes, that’s right, we had a beautifully-aged 10% trappist ale to cap off the night. Speaking of aging, ALL of the beers we tasted were beautifully conditioned. None of those “green beers” that immediately had you thinking about how you should squirrel the rest of the six pack away in the basement for a few months.

Ithaca is making flawless beers with quality ingredients and bold flavors. They’re pushing the limit on popular styles and seem to be one batch ahead of everyone else. To sum up, Ithaca has their tongue firmly planted on craft brewing’s 9-volt battery and they can’t bring themselves to pull it off. Kudos!

Thanks, Eric! Thanks, Ithaca! And thanks Bryan for being such a great host to PALE ALES!