Category Archives: Meetings

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!

 

2012 Annual Holiday Party

Our annual potluck feast was carried off with great success on the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Many thanks to all those who brought food and beer, and special thanks to Chuck and Amelia for hosting it once again this year in the special not-really-square room, complete with wood-fired pizza oven, which was working well (no leftover pizza at all!). The lighting was no good for non-flash photography, but I did my best under the circumstances. [Tony]

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.

 

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!

Visit to Harvest Moon Brewery ON the Harvest Moon

Yes, that’s right — the PALE ALES were at the Harvest Moon Brewery on the actual Harvest Moon of 2011.

And what a night it was. For those of you that may have skipped this meeting because you hadn’t been impressed with HM’s selections of the past — its time to give them another try. We sampled 7 fantastic beers on Monday! HM’s new Head Brewer, Kyle McDonald, walked us through each beer. Overall, Kyle is taking HM’s taps away from the English styles of their previous brewer and toward the German styles, but with some American influence.

MoonLight Kolschbier. There are no big malt flavors or huge hop additions to hide an off-flavor in a Kolsch. I knew it was going to be a good night as soon as I tasted this light, crisp straw colored brew. Kyle said he experimented with a batch of this at traditional kolsch fermentation temps (cooler), but the tiny flavor difference it added was not worth hogging up a tank for. Cooler fermentation = slower fermentation. So, this one gets brewed at traditional ale temps.

Simcoe Double IPA. HM filters all of their beers. But there was no filtering out the hop haze on this one! Big, bold and well-balanced!

MonkeyShine Weizenbock. Melanoidins galore in this wheat beer. But a fine example of the style nonetheless.

Lemon Sorachi Saison. I am pretty sure that we tasted a young version sample of this same batch of beer back in July at our Saison style meeting. The 3 months have done it a world of good! Its a whopping 9% and it tastes like a 5-6% brew. A couple of people noticed a coconut flavor that was probably the result of four pounds of lemon rind! Sorachi and saison were meant to be together.

Jimmy D’s Firehouse Red. This beer commemorates a heroic firefighter from New Brunswick that lost his life saving others. A portion of every pint goes to support a camp for kids with severe burn injuries. So, drink several!

Full Moon Pale Ale. Not only were we fortunate enough to drink this beer ON a full moon, but this particular batch was just shipped off to the Great American Beer festival for judging. I think we were all in agreement that this is a guaranteed medal winner. Good luck, Kyle! Our very own Dave Rawlins is headed out the the GABF to help HM pour brews next week.

Schwarzbier. Personally, I think it might have been a little too toasty for the style. But it was really chewy and rich. In a word, FANTASTIC!

This was a great night, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kyle for hosting us and keeping us well lubricated! Thanks, Tony (color) and Dawn (B&W) for the great pics in a very challenging light!

October 2011 Group Brew – Traditional Porter

The PALE ALES are planning to hold a group brew event in October 2011 where all members would brew a traditional English porter. Several members have invested a lot of time and energy into this, and we are hoping that you will find this as exciting as we do! If you have a minute, please read over the information below and respond to this post to let us know if you are interested. Also, if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please post those as well. Unfortunately, you’ll have to register an account on this site first, it’s the only way we can effectively keep out spammers. Thanks!

A traditional porter varies in several ways from the modern porter described in the BJCP guidelines. As Clay Spence discussed at the Saison meeting, the main difference is that “brown malts” were used as the base malt. These malts were kilned more than pale malts. Because of the extra kilning, they do not yield as much fermentable sugar. So, Clay’s test batch (85% brown malt, 15% six-row) which some of us tasted at the Saison meeting had an original gravity of ~1.070, and a final gravity of ~1.040. The taste was very full bodied – even a bit like a milkshake. But, obviously it was not very high in alcohol. Al from East Coast Yeast did a batch also, and his came out a bit higher ABV. Ryan Hansen is experimenting with using brettanomyces bacteria to help the yeast convert more of the sugars.

To participate in the October 2011 group brew, members will choose from one of two options. The first option which we encourage everyone to try out is to malting the grains yourself! Several members, including Joe Bair, Marc Leckington, and Ryan have been experimenting with this and will provide instructions for how to malt-your-own! There are 5 steps: steeping, germinating, drying, kilning, and mellowing. The entire process takes approximately 24 days, so it is not for the weak and lazy among us. For those people (like myself), the second option is to order a mix of modern malts that approximates the traditional recipe. To find out more information about the malting process, check out the Princeton Homebrew Facebook page.

Another difference between this group brew and the recent Big Brew is that it won’t be a single event where everyone meets up together. Instead, there would be “satellite” brews where several members in a given area meet up at someone’s house and brew together. This is a great chance to expand your brewing skills and try something new!

POLL (respond by commenting on this post)

1. I am interested in the malt-your-own traditional porter recipe.
2. I am interested in the modern malt recipe.
3. I am not interested in or able to participate this time.

Saison Style Meeting Recap

Many thanks to Paul Corkery and his wife Robin for hosting us at their home. The grill was cranking out some great food and the corn was easily the best I have had so far this year. Good thing we had some beer to wash it all down!

We had about 30 folks in attendance when we called the meeting to order at 7:30 (including 3 new members).  Before diving in the style discussion, we talked a bit about some ideas we have been working on for an October Big Brew. Clay Spence gave us a little history about the beer we are trying to replicate — a historical porter from the 18th Century. The basic concept is to use a ton of brown malt and create a beer with a very high finishing gravity, but a very low ABV. This creates a beer with a velvety mouth feel that is 2nd to none. Our original plan was to malt all of the grain ourselves using solar power. But after germinating a test batch of 9 lbs of barley, we quickly realized that this is a huge undertaking with wide variety of points of failure. The slightest mistake in the germination phase might result in a 5 gallon batch of vinegar. But, it was the horrid smell of the germinating grain was the final nail in the coffin on that idea. Instead, we may malt some of the specialty grains used in the batch. More details on the Big Brew will come out as we get closer. Meanwhile, you can follow the malting experiment at the Princeton Homebrew Facebook Page. For now, hold October 22 on your calendar.

Ryan Hansen, PALE ALES VP, kicked off the style portion of the meeting with some history of the saison style as we tried some craft brewed varieties, including a skunked Saison Dupont Avril (3.5%), the Saison Dupont (regular), and Fantome. There were at least a dozen homebrewed saisons being passed around too. Al Buck, Chief Yeast Propagator at East Coast Yeast, was on hand to sample beers and provide feedback.

Be sure to check out the Club Calendar for the latest details on upcoming meetings. Thanks for the great photos, Dawn!

June Meeting Recap: We All Had a Golden Ticket

Ed “Willie Wonka” Goracy of Hub City was an amazing host last night. Not only did we get to tour one of the largest beer warehouses in the State (Great Wall of Coors by Kate), but we got to try some really special beers. I was incorrect in my email yesterday about which “deconstruction” beer we were tasting. Turns out Sam Adams released an entire series called Deconstructed. Its is basically the Latitude 48 IPA recipe brewed with different hops resulting in six entirely different tasting beers — one hop in each beer. It was a great way to isolate the different hop varieties! When a guy that runs a warehouse with 18 tractor trailer deliveries a day tells you that you got the last case, you know you got something very special. Thanks, Ed! And the Longshot series was really good too. Well, the lavender beer got a few grimaces from the rooom, but the belgian style IPA and blackened hop beers were both crowd pleasers. Definitely worth trying to find a sixpack if you didn’t join us last night. In total, I think we had about 35 folks in attendance with at least 5 first-timers.

Thanks, Dawn for all that great pics!

Big Brew 2011 Recap & Picture Gallery

One of our biggest and best Big Brews so far! We brewed over 125 gallons of beer with a mix of over 20 brewers. Saw quite a few visitors, lots of great beer and food, and a few new members; not to mention the backdraft flare from a propane burner (mine actually), and a few 6-foot electrical arcs from the overhead powerline.

We had a toast later on from the club’s first Big Brew, Strong Ale of 14-15 years in age, provided by Prof. Steve Rowley. Pretty darn tasty! I look forward to sampling this Big Brew, made exclusively with East Coast yeast – mostly ECY08 Saison Brasserie blend.

Speaking of yeast, Al and Nina Buck proprietors of EC Yeast showed up personally to deliver the yeast. Note – the optimum temp range for the yeast is 75-85 deg. Personally, I would have to say this was one of the most active yeasts I have ever seen at a Big Brew. Bubbling like crazy in an hour or so – most remarkable as it was in my basement at 70 deg. (I have moved it upstairs since – didn’t realize how chill it was). Al and Nina whatever you are feeding them, keep it up.

If anyone wants to pass along data about their batch to East Coast Yeast, Joe (joe@solarhomebrew) would be happy to collect them. For the info to be useful, Joe needs mash temp, OG, FG and fermentation temp.

— Kevin Trayner