Saturday, May 21, 2011

A new look!

As you can see from the top of the blog, we've now got ourselves a snazzy ole logo. Many, many thanks to our friend Jesse Barnes for his hard work in designing it along with the labels that he designed to go on the beers themselves!! We're lovin' the new look.

Brewing has been going good this year, though of course we're still not brewing as frequently as we would like to. Hopefully we'll be brewing again soon, maybe next weekend, likely brewing our Rainy Day Pale Ale.
We did have a minor SNAFU the last time we brewed the Rainy Day Pale Ale, where 1/2 of it ended up not being good for drinking. The good thing is that instances like that make it good for other things. So, we're trying our hand at making malt vinegar. It's been aging for about a month now and, while it hasn't developed a mother on top, it is smelling nice and vinegar-y. We're going to keep letting it age and see how it goes, but we promise to keep you informed.

Also, Big Brew was May 7th this year and we hope you all celebrated in style. Carrie, of course, took photos of SCBG's Big Brew event. Here is a link to those:
Since she is also now doing more freelance writing she wrote an article about the event as well and it appeared in the local Cave Spring Connection. As soon as that article gets put up online we'll share the link with y'all!!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Proud Moment

Blacksburg Brew Do ( was a local craft beer festival held on October 30th. They also had a Homebrew Competition with four categories that you could enter beer into: Light, Amber, Dark, & Specialty. The four 1st place winners would then be judged and a Best of Show would be declared. We entered our Russian Imperial Stout, 'Izvinite Babushka' (Russian for 'excuse me Grandma') into the Dark category. It won 1st place. It then won Best of Show as well. We had good competition for Best of Show, 2 of the other 1st place winners in the remaining three categories were fellow Star City Brewers Guild members.
Part of the prize for Best of Show was getting the chance to brew your winning beer at Bull & Bones in Blacksburg. We went up there the morning after Christmas. We had to be there at 7am, giving us a roughly 45 minute drive. And it was snowing. And the windshield wipers decided that they didn't really need to work. And then we nearly ran out of gas. But we made it there, which was the hardest part of it all.

At 7am we were greeted by Bull & Bones' head brewer, Jim Strickland. Jim only had to roll out of bed and make the couple minute drive there from his house. We were a little jealous of this given our ordeal getting up there.

The brew session went well from what we could tell and other than the one boil over there were no problems that we were aware of. In the between times where we would normally sit around and, pardon the pun, shoot the bull we enjoyed some of Jim's beers off of the tap and played pool. Not a bad way to start your morning, or brew in general.

Their system maxes out at 900 lbs of grain so to accommodate that we had to brew a slightly smaller batch to get the target OG (OG = Original Gravity, which along with the Final Gravity will tell you how alcoholic the beer is). I think he said 8 barrels instead of 10. We ended up coming out a little low on the gravity anyway but still hit 23 plato (1.096), which coincidentally I think is what we actually ended up with when we brewed this at home. So assuming this ferments out to about 6 or 7 plato (1.024 – 1.028) we should end up with about a 9 – 9.5% beer.

As far as the actual process of brewing went I thought it seemed easier than what we do at home. All temperatures, pumps, etc. were controlled electronically and all liquid flow was plumbed in stainless steel and controlled with valves…so no tubes to take on and off or switch around. We did have to hook up the CIP (clean in place) pump and a separate tube to pump sanitizer through heat exchanger though. Cleanup was easier too (except for emptying 900 lbs of grain!!) because everything else was just hosed down and flushed out of the system and down the drains in the floor. ~ This was especially nice given the fact that we've had to have our pipes cleaned out as a result of emptying out a minute amount of grain into the kitchen drain here at the house. It stunk. Badly. We learned a lesson.

The spent grain from the brew session was picked up by a local farmer that Jim knows. He feeds it to his cows. We used a modified hoe to scrape out the mash tun, letting the grain fall into trash cans below that we then hauled outside. It was nice to know that the grain was getting re-used and not just going into the landfill.

Naturally Carrie took a lot of photos while we were there. Here is a small selection of them.

~Stirring the mash~

~This is a neat shot because you can see Jim loading the grain into the mill (in the room in the background of the photo), which then travels to the mash tun where I am stirring it~

~A look down inside the boil kettle as it fills with liquid gold ... aka wort~

~The wort boiling. It boiled over almost immediately after this photo was taken.~

~Jim, hosing down things after the boil over. This ability to clean up like this was one of the true perks of getting to brew on a setup like this.~

~Jim beginning to empty the spent grain out of the mash tun~

~The perk of being the head brewer and having someone else up there brewing with you ... letting them empty all the grain!!~

We want to thank Jim for being such a great host and letting us brew along with him. It was a truly wonderful experience. Thank you Jim! Thanks also to the folks at Blacksburg Brew Do for a fun festival and to those who judged for choosing our beer!

Also, our win garnered us a mention in the Salem Times Register. Here is the link to that article:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Perfect Place to Have a Beer?

Rick Lyke over at recently blogged about an article he'd written in the new issue of All About Beer magazine titled "150 Perfect Places to Have a Beer". Check it out here: - it's a very good list.
However, in our opinion, some of the best places are missing. Here is our brief list of some of those places.

*In your local pub
*In a pub or brewery you're visiting for the 1st time
*On the deck, with dinner
*On the front porch with friends as it pours down around you
*Beside a bonfire while camping
*Overlooking the water
*With fellow homebrewers
*With other beer snobs
*At a homebrewer's gathering, such as with your local beer guild!
*At the judges' table during a brewing competition
*At someone's homemade bar
*On someone else's tab
*When you're accepting the gigantic lottery check

.. Ok, now we're getting silly. But you get the picture. Some of the best places aren't named, don't have websites, and are just moments in time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yazoo Brewing Co. - Nashville, TN

This past Saturday, May 29th, we passed through Nashville and decided to stop and check out the local brews. Our first stop was at Yazoo Brewing Co. Click here to check out their website:

They opened at 2pm. When we got there there was already a guy standing outside the door. We weren't sure if he was an early bird like us or an employee. Turns out, this is apparently the place to be on a Saturday! We weren't there more than 90 mins and the place was PACKED!! It was really insane!
One of the first things we noticed about the place was the style. Very cool. Paintings hung everywhere, great colors and layout.

~Carrie did misread this painting from across the room as 'Yazoobre Wing Company'. We could make lots of fun at her expense, but she had been driving all day & had a migraine, so we'll cut her some slack~

~Left to Right: Sly Rye Porter & Onward Stout. Extra points for British-style pint glasses!~

As soon as we got there we ordered a pint of their Sly Rye Porter & a pint of their Onward Stout. Here is their description of the Sly Rye:
A rich, chocolaty English Porter with a clean finish. We use the finest floor-malted Maris Otter malts from England, the same malts used for the best single-malt scotch. A portion of malted rye gives a spicy, slightly dry finish.
Our thoughts on it? GOOD!! We were definitely more impressed with the Sly Rye than the Onward Stout. It was very nice, quite surprisingly so.
Onward Stout was good too, but we preferred our Ruby's Deep Winter Stout over it. It just didn't blow up our skirts. Here is their description of the Onward Stout:
The tan lace clings to the glass as you raise the pint to your lips. Close your eyes and smile as the rich espresso notes fade to a dry, roasted finish. Exceptionally smooth and satisfying. Made with English Pale malt, roasted barley, black patent malt, and flaked barley. Hopped with East Kent Goldings and Target hops, and fermented with our English ale yeast.
Not a bad beer, but like I said, didn't blow up our skirts.

We also signed up for the first tour @ 2:30. Nashville has sustained some pretty nasty flooding recently. Luckily, the main floor of the brewery wasn't affected. Unluckily, the AC unit was stored in the basement, where they got 3' of water. And it was HOT on Saturday.
Some serious sweating aside, the tour was a good one. The gal who gave the tour (a nice change, usually tours are given by guys) was really enthusiastic and fun. It definitely wasn't your typical boring tour.
During the tour we sampled three more of their beers. Dos Perros was the first one. They claim it is one of their best sellers, but we weren't terribly impressed with it. Their Pale Ale was the second one. We had just smelled some Cascade hops and you could definitely taste the hops when you tried the beer. Not a bad Pale Ale at all. Finally, we tried their Hefeweizen. The tour guide pointed out the banana aroma with a hint of cloves, but honestly, we found it lacking in aroma. Again, not a bad beer, just lacking in aroma.

Apparently, at one point in time, the back of the brewery used to be a boxing gym. You can still see things that were written on the wall. Pretty cool, though we all know not to let Carrie get too many boxing thoughts in her head.
The brewery also used to hold a police training area in the back at one point and, presumably at another point in time, had a Swinger's Lounge upstairs. Pretty interesting past.

Overall thoughts?
If you're in Nashville, definitely take some time to swing by here and check the place out. The beer wasn't bad at all. Their growlers were clear which was a bummer. The souvenir pint glass that you got with the tour was definitely cool.
They apparently are working on renovating the upstairs because people keep wanting to come there and have birthday parties, wedding receptions, and other types of gatherings. This was a little foreign to us, since we haven't really been to just a brewery where people were packing the place, but it was cool.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Truly Green Beer

First off, Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!! Cheers! And, on a personal note, Happy Anniversary to us! Here's to many more years together.

St. Patrick's Day is a well-known time for green beer. Beer dyed green is all well and good, but there is another type of green beer, a type that is truly Green Beer, and we wanted to dedicate some space to it. This company is an inspiration to us.

New Belgium Brewing ~

New Belgium Brewing is located in Fort Collins, Colorado. According to their website, see above link, here are the ways they are Alternatively Empowered.

Our Alternatively Empowered efforts:

While there are many ways to be stewards of the earth, each company must determine which strengths they have to leverage. Here are some of ours:
1. Increased efficiencies in the brewing process
Our brew kettle, Steinecker's Merlin, was the second of its kind installed in the U.S. and is considered more efficient than standard brew kettles because it heats thin sheets of wort rather than the whole kettle at once.
During wort boil, the steam exits the kettle through a stack and into a heat exchanger which continually extracts heat from the steam vapor and holds it in our energy storage tank. During the next batch, the stored heat helps the wort to boil very quickly, allowing us to use very little primary energy.
2. Utilized green design throughout our building.
Lighting. We take full advantage of the more than 360 days of sunshine in Fort Collins by using UV blocking windows, sun-tubes, and light shelves.
HVAC. Using evaporative coolers, we can condition our 55,000 square foot packaging hall with no compressors, using much less energy.
Materials. In our new packaging hall, the interior wood is beetle kill pine. Summit County, CO, anticipates that mountain pine beetles will kill 98% of their lodgepole pines. So, we’re giving these fallen trees another life.
3. Implemented a process for treating our wastewater: The Clean Water Act of 1973 requires business to clean their water to domestic treatment standards before discharging, but we go above and beyond to reduce the load on our municipal plant. And we get two valuable by-products from this treatment—methane and nutrient-rich sludge.
4. On-site energy production. The methane produced by process water treatment is used to fuel a combined heat and power engine—or co-gen—which creates electricity and heat for the brewery. The co-gen allows us to offset those critical—and expensive—peak loads by creating electricity on-site from a renewable source—our process wastewater. When the co-gen is running full-time, it can supply 15% of our electrical needs.
5. Wind-powered electricity since 1999. In 1999, New Belgium became the largest private consumer of wind-power electricity at that time and the first wind-powered brewery. In 1998, when we were researching ways to lower our environmental impact, Fort Collins was launching the first city-sponsored wind program in Colorado. We made a 10-year commitment to buy all of our electricity through the program, which allowed them to install an additional turbine, in Medicine Bow, WY. Since the wind premium increased our total cost per kilowatt-hour by 57%, it impacted employee’s profit sharing pool. So, we asked employees: wind-power or not? They unanimously voted for clean energy, and the decision is a fabled moment in New Belgium history.
6. Employ a High Involvement Culture. An environment in which the full power of everyone’s hearts and minds are brought to bear on creating positive change. HIC is a 3-legged stool which stands on opening the books, employee ownership, and participative decision-making.
7. Sustainable Eventing. We try to minimize the environmental impact of our events at every turn. Our philanthropic bike festival, Tour de Fat, celebrates bicycling as a viable form of alternative transport. A solar-powered stage provides sound for the day, beer is served in compostable cups and our overall waste stream diversion rate is better than 85%.
8. Actionable Advocacy. We’re members of
1% For the Planet, which means that, through donations and fund-raisers, 1% of our revenue goes to environmental non-profits.
Team Wonderbike, our bicycle commuter advocacy program, has more than 10,000 members who have pledged to offset more than eight million car miles by riding their bikes more over the next twelve months.
Public speaking/education: Because we make and sell beer, people are interested in our story. We’ve been very successful while being values-driven, and we strive to be a business role model.
To encourage sustainable transportation, every employee gets a custom cruiser bike after one-year of employment.
9. Constant benchmarking. Without data, how can you measure progress? Every company needs to figure out how to track non-financial results, to be sure that they’re not just giving lip-service to environmental goals. Our Life-cycle Accessment
10. Partnering to support innovative technology. The company Oberon has installed a small treatment plant next to our own that will use our process wastewater to harvest sludge to create a high protein fish food for aqua-farms. If successful, we can learn how to turn our waste stream (that currently becomes an amendment to compost) into an income stream and a source of global nutrition.

~ Seriously, WOW!! That is some truly green beer for you!

Monday, March 1, 2010


Carrie: Why are you shaking it like that?
Me: So it all comes outta here

Carrie: Do you have to keep shaking it like that?
Me: This is a different one! What's wrong with you?

You perverts .. I'm just making a yeast starter!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Decadence takes 1st Place

~Our 1st place trophy from the Star City Brewers Guild's December 2009 "Imperial Anything" Competition. A very proud moment.~

We're members of Roanoke's local homebrewers' guild, Star City Brewers Guild - aka, SCBG, We're proud to be part of such a great group and are grateful for the chance to get to learn from, and drink with, other homebrewers. Unfortunately, the Roanoke Valley is not yet known for it's appreciation of good beer.
Every year the SCBG holds 4 different competitions, spaced out over the course of the year. We don't normally enter them, as we're working towards opening our own brewery and choose to focus on perfecting our own recipes. The general rule has been that if we had a beer that fit the competition, then we could enter it. To date, we've entered 3 competitions with SCBG: Dec. 2008's Porter Competition (we entered an Imperial Vanilla Bourbon Porter ... not exactly to style!), March 2009's Brown Ale Competition (we entered our Back Porch Brown Ale), and then Dec. 2009's "Imperial Anything" Competition. We had yet to be sent up to the final round, much less place.
One thing about competitions, especially ones where you don't have BJCP certified judges, is that they're REALLY subjective. The judges are seeking out flaws, many of which are hard to detect and often flavors that the brewer intended to put in the beer. It's tricky. So, competitions aren't something we put too terribly much stock in.
This past SCBG meeting (which, ironically enough was held Jan. 2, 2010 because of a big snow that hit the weekend it was to be held in December) we weren't holding our breathes. Decadence is a big beer. The name embodies it. We titled it as an "Imperial Bourbon Chocolate Stout." Since this was an "Imperial Anything" competition there were Imperial Pale Ales, Belgian Ales, Pilsners, Stouts, Porters and so on. Titles were required so the judges would know what to base their judging on - and each beer was judged by it's style, not against other beers. At least not till the final round, where the judges pick what they feel is the best beer.
But, like I said, we weren't holding our breathes. We were shocked to find that Decadence had been sent up to the final round, which was a large round due to many entries. When the winners were announced we were blown away to find out that we got 1st place. Our first time placing at all in a competition. A very proud moment. We were especially proud because Decadence is the first beer we really crafted together as a team. And, that particular batch was brewed on a good day, with friends over, good food, and, most importantly, the kids helping out. It was a great day. It is something that confirms to us that we each have our own part to contribute, that this is a family brewery ... even if right now it is a homebrewery.

But there is something that matters much more to us than a trophy, and always has. It is hearing people try our beers and tell us what they think. It is that "oh yea" expression on someone's face. We brew beers that WE like, that we hope YOU like. Competitions, contests, awards, trophies ... all those things are secondary. Nice if you win, a little bit of a bummer when you don't, but nonetheless, secondary.
Driving home that night we were both a little overwhelmed by the win. More overwhelmed by the praises of Decadence's quality and the "THAT'S a good beer!"

Thank you. Thank you all, even those of you who weren't at the meeting. Thank you for drinking our beer. Thank you for liking it. Thank you for asking for refills, and for the praise and smiles.

... and thanks for the trophy. ;)