Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year Review

This was what Justin found looking back at him when he looked into his stocking Christmas morning. Quite a sight to be sure! ha ha ha. Quick review is that it was a very well liked beer around here. We also got Delirium Noel (yummy!), Sam Adam's Chocolate Bock (also yummy, but not worth the cost we thought), Bell's Special Double Cream Stout (good, but we expected more from it), as well as some other beers that I am currently blanking on. You can see some photos that we took of the beers here though: ~ This is Carrie's online photography portfolio, and that link will take you directly to beers. Always a good place to start in our opinion.
New Year's Eve finds us here at Soul One looking both back at the past year and forward at the years ahead (as we're sure it finds many people). Early in the year we began all-grain brewing and have had both success and flops with that. Lessons have been learned, and notes made for next time. We've entered our first competitions, both in our local homebrewer's guild ( and in a national organic one through Seven Bridges Cooperative.
We've seen one site we had hoped to place a brewery get "crossed-off" because the new Intermodal is supposed to go on the lot that it literally next to it. An small, eco-friendly, artisan craft brewery and a pollution spewing Intermodal facility hardly go hand in hand. We found another tentative site, wondered if it would ever become vacant, and then watched it ironically burn to the ground (we both have alibis! ha ha). We'll see what happens next year.
We finally designed a logo (that I've yet to figure out how to upload to here .. a goal for next year?), and Justin now has our first "official" Soul One Brewery t-shirt, a gift for Christmas.
We've learned a lot this year, taken a lot of notes and talked to a lot of people, readily listening to all advice. We've got a lot planned still for the future. We plan to begin finally kegging early next year. This should be quite a triumph as well as an ongoing source of interest. Our almost 5 year old is already figuring out how to open bottles, and I myself new how to pour beer from a keg at his age ... so LOTS to consider when switching to kegging!! :)
As we mentioned in our last post, we also joined the Beer of the Month Club at Wine Gourmet. Our first month was quite a shock. We had been expecting Bell's beers and, due to an sudden spike of new Beer of the Month members, they had to switch to Ballast Point. We got their IPA and their Pale Ale. Their Pale Ale was a very easy drinking beer, I liked that. The folks at Wine Gourmet told us they hope to have Bell's ready for next month, so we're still looking forward to that as we've had very good experiences with their beers.
We wish you all a very Happy New Year. Much luck in both brewing and drinking. We hope your cup never runneth dry and that the Ales are always plenty! Cheers!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas, Santa, & a Lump of Coal review

Tis the season and we've realized something. There is just no way that Santa would not leave beer in a brewer's stocking! However, unless he's bringing a time-tested favorite as a treat, he surely would leave a brew that has a nice Holiday theme to it. Ah, the joys of a new tradition being started.
So, yesterday found us at Wine Gourmet here in Roanoke. It is one of the best places to buy beer in the Valley, and their staff couldn't be friendlier or more eager to help! While we were there, as a gift to Justin, we joined their Beer of the Month club, so be looking for reviews and more to come about that.
One of the beers we got was Lump of Coal. It sounded deliciously tempting, slightly naughty, and so we drank it last night.
Here is the review of the beer from Shelton Brothers, Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.
The handiwork of vastly talented (but altogether too cheery) master brewer Peter Scholey, Lump of Coal is the perfect stocking stuffer for the beer lover or manic depressive in your family.
Though we had high hopes for Lump of Coal we were disappointed. Though somehow it seems like an oxymoron to have high hopes for a lump of coal. Our thoughts? First, it was seriously lacking needed aroma. The only scent we picked up from it was alcohol, which if it was classified as an American Stout (under BJCP style guidelines), wouldn't be too terribly bad. There definitely wasn't any roasted malt aroma or any chocolate aroma either. As far as the look of it though, it looked just fine & had a fine head on it, so that part was good. Flavor: it was definitely a sweet stout (intentional or not), with a slight taste of chocolate, but completely lacked any roasted flavor. Mouthfeel: It was an easy drinking stout, with an appropriate body. -- Ok, this is where we disagree: Justin found it medium to heavy bodied, and I (Carrie) like my stouts full-bodied enough to chew on, so I found it just medium. But still it was fine by definition.
Our over-all impression? It could've used some more time aging, and it definitely needed some more roasted characteristics. Grade - somewhere between a B- and a C+.
Santa's Butt will be in a stocking, so ... well, I don't think anything more needs to be said there. And this month's Beer of the Month are Bell's Two Hearted Ale & Bell's Porter - we've always liked their beers so we're eager to try them.. Tis the Season to have Santa's Butt in your stocking and Bell's beer in the fridge!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Porter Competition

For December's Star City Brewer's Guild meeting we had a 'Porter Competition.' This was the first one we have entered with the Guild, so we were excited. However, our Porter wasn't just a standard Porter, nor was it even a standard Robust Porter. Ours was an Imperial Bourbon Vanilla Porter! So, even though we were eager to enter it, we held no hopes of winning, since it wasn't "to standard."
While I disagree with some of the ratings our beer got, we have to keep in mind that there were 3 different tables of judges, each table with three judges at it. So, you have nine different judges who are coming to conclusions based on whatever personal nuances and opinions they have. Nor did each table get to try every beer, so if you had a table scoring harsher or kinder than the others, then .. well, there you go. This isn't meant as holding any sort of ill-will or anything like that, it is just a statement of facts that can not be taken personally but ought to be noted. Our beer did ok with scoring, though we think it ought to have done better.
One thing though that struck us was the personal reactions we DID get from the judges after the competition was over. Those who had tasted and judged our beer came up to us raving about how wonderful the beer was! This was better, to us anyway, than actually winning the competition.
While we look forward to entering more competitions in the future (and hopefully doing better in them) these past two competitions have given us a lot to ponder. What do WE want out of our beers? What are WE trying to achieve? What is important to US?
We want to use fresh ingredients, brew them well, brew in as great of an eco-friendly manner as possible, and brew beers that people WANT to drink and remember!! Having people coming up to us after the competition expressing regrets that they couldn't/didn't give it higher scores because it wasn't to standard, but saying what a GOOD beer it was, is what we want. We want people to say "wow, now THAT is good!"
So, along those lines, we thought it only appropriate to share a Porter that leaves us with that reaction. From Kona Brewing Company, "Pipeline Porter" --- the description from their website: Pipeline Porter is smooth and dark with a distinctive roasty aroma and earthy complexity from its diverse blends of premium malted barley. This celebration of malt unites with freshly roasted 100% Kona coffee grown at Cornwell Estate on Hawaii’s Big Island, lending a unique roasted aroma and flavor. A delicate blend of hops rounds out this palate-pleasing brew.
We couldn't say it better & highly recommend going out, getting a six-pack, and trying it for yourself. Our grade for this beer: Outstanding ... we'd say it'd score easily 45 or higher. Congrats to Kona for such a fantastic Porter!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Character & Beer

"There can not be good living where there is not good drinking" - Benjamin Franklin
We were told by Seven Bridges that they would call the winners of their contests that night. We never received a call. We weren't really expecting to win - this was certainly a "learning beer" for us, it was our first organic beer and there were new varieties of things to acquire an understanding of. We will try again. Failure builds character.
Just because we didn't win though doesn't mean the days are dismal around here! "Decadence" has been bottled and is almost ready to drink. It needs some more time to mellow, not a bad thing. Our Imperial Porter was bottled this past Friday evening. It is truly a magnificent brew as well. And finally, our first batch of Pumpkin Ale was bottled last evening. Justin used fresh sugar pie pumpkins for flavoring, along with the various spices to really fill it out. And there are still many bottles of our organic "Rainy Day Pale Ale" around for consumption. They're a constant reminder to keep trying, to keep striving.
We may not have won, but we certainly have not lost. This holiday season there will truly be good drinking here at The Blue Nymph. Mr. Franklin, I believe, would be satisfied.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hard Waiting

The seasons are changing and the days are growing shorter, but they sure seem to be stretching themselves out around here. Waiting is a hard thing to do!
We've entered our first competition (judging on 10/19), Carrie submitted an entry into Seven Bridge's Quarterly Contest, under the "Why Brew Organic" (judging on 10/15), we've bottled our Imperial Stout "Decadence", have the Imperial Porter in the secondary fermenter soaking up the goodness of vanilla beans & oak chips, and this weekend we brewed our first batch of Pumpkin Ale.
We're foaming at the mouth trying to hold ourselves back from getting into Decadence and drinking it down. Ok, Carrie is at least, Justin is much better at being calm! We're also both salivating over the Imperial Porter ~ even the kids are quite nosy about it!
Speaking of the kids, they were quite pleased that they got to help brew the Pumpkin Ale this weekend. Of course, in reality they mostly play on the deck (in the sandbox) while brewing occurs. They are allowed to help dumping in grains, stirring mash, and in the process of cleaning up. Most importantly though they get to learn step-by-step what is going on and what we're doing. They love feeling like and knowing that they are being included, that they are learning what is going on and why each step is important. The pride that radiates from within them is even better than the beer itself.
But, we're still in the LONG days of waiting. Made especially difficult during football season!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Green Packaging for Organic Competition Beer

Tomorrow we will mail off our first beer that we're entering into a competition. Proudly, it is also our first all-organic homebrew. We blogged about it before, it is our Organic Rainy Day Pale Ale, and we're entering it into the National Organic Homebrew Challenge, located in Santa Cruz, CA. (Yikes ... carbon footprint it takes to get the beer there ... need to do something to offset that!)
But, we CAN proudly say that our packaging of the beer was fairly green. The entry form and labels were printed on 100% recycled paper, the rubberbands were (I think) leftovers from tie-dye projects, and then there was what we used for cushioning.

Per a suggestion from Bryan S., our current SCBG president, we decided to use a poster-tube and stack the beers for sending. First, we needed to cushion the bottom. We decided to take advantage of some of the kids stained clothes (that we were going to use for rags). A pair of shorts was stuffed in the bottom first. Then, we had to wrap the beers. We cut the shirts in 1/2 and, as you can see in the photo above, wrapped the beers.

And then we stuffed it down into the tube! We also stuffed a shirt in between bottles for extra cushioning. Needless to say, this entire process had us laughing our asses off!! Once we got all three bottles in, we capped it all off with another 1/2 of an old kid t-shirt for padding. We wondered if we should've included a note "Beer is INSIDE clothing" --- should that be included in the tube or written under where we wrote "FRAGILE" on the outside of the tube?
Though we hope the recipients of our tube find humor in the packaging, we do take delight in the fact that not only is the beer green (obviously though not literally in color!), but so is the packaging: recycled, soft, cut up clothing!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Check out our poll!

As those of you who know us already know, Carrie is prone to getting some wild-ideas and crazy ass theories, and once she gets them in her head they tend to stay for a while!
We thought we would run with her latest one & put a poll up here to see just how close she is to being correct. Without giving away her theory here is her thinking: men and women have very distinctively different tastes in beer. This is an IN GENERAL and AS A WHOLE type of thing!
So, take a minute and scroll down to the very bottom of this page. There you will see two polls: one for guys & one for gals. Please only vote for the gender that you are! If you don't see the type of beer you prefer or aren't sure, read some of the examples listed and see which one suits you the best or closest.
Thanks for voting!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Harvesting Hops & Rainy Day Pale Ale

In part because of the hop shortage and in part because of our desire to be organic & self-sufficient, we grew hops this year. Or, rather, we tried. Dogs and puppies, when paired with an inexperience in growing hops, managed to leave us with only one vine that produced. We originally plants 2 fuggles, 1 kent golding, 1 magnum, & 1 cascade. The one we got anything from was the cascade, but it did manage to grow the full height of the trellis (with attempts to grow higher), so we were happy. After all, you learn best by trial and error.
On Wednesday the 20th we harvested our first round of cascade buds. We were able to get 1/2 an ounce (dried weight). Not too shabby, since this was from one rhizome and it's 1st year planted. We dried them in the dehydrator and froze them once they were nice and dry. They look good and we are eager to use them in a brew!
We also have decided to enter our 1st competition. This is something we're very excited about, as it is an organic beer competition. The 2008 National Organic Homebrew Challange is being put on by Seven Bridges Cooperative and is being hosted by Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant ( in San Jose, CA.
We had originally wanted to enter a couple different styles, but we all know how the economy is and so with limited finances and a heavy sigh, we settle on one. We decided upon a Pale Ale as our beer to enter. It has been given the name "Rainy Day Pale Ale" because, as you can see in the photo, as soon as we began brewing it began raining! One of the things you have to love about SW VA, late summer "mood swings": if they call for rain, we won't get any; if they call for sunshine, it will rain; if you put off brewing till Friday because there is a 90% chance of rain on Wednesday (& 0% on Friday), you will be hit with a quick-moving, clothes-soaking downpour!! Thankfully, as you can see as well, we have our super handy (albeit weather beaten) porch umbrella! TADA!
We haven't bottled the beer yet, and it finished with a lower O.G. than we had planned on, but it should still come out well. We'll let you know as soon as we do!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"God D*mn Brewery!"

Ok, before any complaints roll in ... it's a quote from Beerfest, get over it. ;)

The reason for this title is because of an incident that occured on 8/13/08 at our house. We had visited Vintage Cellar up in Blacksburg, Va that day (well worth the visit, as always!!) and picked up a selection of beers for tasting. Brought them home, put them in the fridge, and eagerly awaited till after bed-time for the kids so we could begin our tasting.
We were standing in the kitchen with Justin in front of the fridge, holding a beer, when suddenly the beer exploded. He wasn't trying to open it or anything like that - the damn thing just exploded. Luckily he wasn't badly injured, but it did put a nice little cut in his leg.

Here is a, somewhat, close-up photo of the exploded beer. There were shards of glass across the width of our kitchen, with beer splattered and spilled over 10' in one direction and a good 6' out from the fridge. The beer that blew was a Vanilla Java Porter from Atwater Block Brewing Co. out of Detroit, Michigan.
We immediately called the brewery, though it took a couple days (and several more phone calls) before Mark Reith, the owner, bothered to call us back. He acted barely sympathetic and tried to blame the distributor, Hop & Wine out of Sterling, Va, as well as the store for not having the beers refridgerated (even though they were in a building with AC, and then went into our fridge), and for not rotating product (even though how accurately you could do that since there are no dates of production on the bottles is a good question). I told him I wanted his insurance info so that we could give him the bill from the resulting doctor's visit. He actually tried to tell me that he doubted they (Atwater) would be responsible for the bill, but that IF I wanted to send him a copy he would "make sure it gets forwarded to the proper people."
We have since found out that our incident is far from being an isolated incident (despite Mr. Reith's claims) and that two people were severly injured on Aug. 2, 2008 up in Michigan. This has become a hot-topic on ~ here is the direct link:
While we support small breweries & the entire art of craft-brewed beers, it is the fact that Mr. Reith accepts no responsibilty, even though there is obviously a problem with their brewing & bottling methods, and shows little-to-no concern or care for his customers health and well-being. In doing so he also shows that lack of concern for the trade of craft-brewed beers in general.
To craft brew beer is an act of love. You must love beer, you must love what makes good beer good, you must be willing to show that love and dedicated not only to your beer but to the entire craft/micro-brewed trade. Mr. Reith, where is your love???

Friday, July 18, 2008

International Brewers Day

Today is International Brewers Day. To honor that it has been suggested that bloggers post a profile of a brewer. Well, we thought we would start with us.
Justin & Carrie Cox, home-brewing since March 2007, members of Star City Brewer's Guild in Roanoke, Va., Justin is 27 (4-28-81) & Carrie is 30 (11-19-77), we've been married for 3 years, & we like beer so much we got married on St. Patrick's Day!!
We decided to begin homebrewing as an anniversary gift to ourselves. We have been beersnobs for years, drinking good beer is actually what helped us become so close in our relationship (we were best friends before dating, kids, and marriage came along), so brewing was the natural next-step. Justin is a true hop-head, though he enjoys all good beers; Carrie is a stout-lover, liking her beers dark, thick, and with flavor to really chew on, but she will drink most brews as long as they aren't too hoppy. Add these two tastes together and you get some nice debates on what type of beer ought to be brewed next, but it does help balance us out in the end.
While Carrie is a good taster and good idea-chick, Justin is the true brewer. He's the one with the patience to do it right (Carrie barely follows a recipe when cooking in the kitchen!). It is definitely a passion for him and something he was born to do.
Justin and Carrie (aka: we) also grow hops in the back yard of their home. The reasons for this are plentiful: the hop shortage, the strive to be self-sufficient, the ability to produce a superior product that is grown organically, and the joy of knowing exactly what is going into their beers.
So, take a moment to enjoy a good brew today. If you aren't able to hug a brewer, at least toast one (or more!) while you're sipping your beer.
For more info on International Brewer's Day go to:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"AllRight Then"

Got to get our brew for June done yesterday just before the storms let loose. Quite lucky timing, looking back on it now. This brew is a continuation of our pale ale. The last batch came out too dark, and the flavor wasn't quite what we were looking for. This one has come out with a much better color and we tweaked the hops to enhance the flavor. We're tentatively calling it AllRight Then Pale Ale. It is in the carboys now fermenting, I'll repost when we bottle.
As soon as we finished up brewing yesterday we took a road-trip. We had to drive down to Winston-Salem to take Carrie's mother to pick up her new car. While we were there we visited Foothills Brewpub. Justin had been there before, but it was a first for everyone else.
It was a nice brewpub: open and exposed brick walls, wooden floors, restaraunt up front, bar & brewery in back. Since we had the kids, we were up front. They have several different beers, more to Justin's liking (hop-head) than Carrie's. Though we both did agree that their Total Eclipse Stout was pretty good, and we brought home a growler of that. Their Torch Pilsner was drinkable, but had a strong aftertaste that reminds one of "commercial crap" beer. Can't quite put our fingers on which one, but we all agreed that it was there. Their Pilot Mountain Pale Ale reminded us of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale. I'd like to see them both in a side-by-side tasting to see just how closely the taste really is. Justin also had a glass of their Seeing Double IPA and really liked that one. It is one of their seasonal beers, which Carrie was sad to not see their Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout currently available, and was just as sad to find that they didn't even had any of the t-shirts for that beer in stock since the logo was pretty snazzy.
Back home today we went out and took inventory of our hops that we have growing. The Cascade and Magnum hops are doing really well, with the Kent Golding finally seeming to be getting a foothold in growing. We were really late in planting our Fuggles hops, but they've broken the ground already, so now we're just waiting for them to take off. We will try to take some photos of the hops to post. The dogs have really given us a challenge with growing the hops, as they keep getting stuck in the twine. Talk about hair of the dog beer!!
And, finally, we've had to invest in a college-style mini-fridge. Our last batch of Pale Ale (or not-so-pale-ale) was exploding when you opened it because, due to summer heat, it was getting over carbonated sitting back where we keep beer. We're hoping that a day or two of chilling will stop the exploding problem. Luckily, it only "exploded" when you opened it, so no bottles have been lost and no real damage done. Also, it was our not-so-pale-ale, one we weren't too impressed by, so it could've been worse .... though the loss of any beer is always a sad and solemn occaission. Hopefully this will work though and solve the problem. Of course, living in our nice, 100+ year old house brings about the usual "delight" - needing to find a converter plug. The plug for the fridge is 3 prong, the available outlet is only two. A trip to Walmart this morning only yielded an empty box, not yet re-stocked, and so alas, no remedies - yet!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A New Brewery

The notice of a new brewery opening up nearby is like a cross between being told Christmas is coming when you weren't expecting it, and a Pavlovian bell being rung. It gets us giddy as children and has our mouths watering with thirsts that suddenly need quenching. And, of course, for us words such as: organic, artisanal, traditional, and authentic, leave us quivering with desire.
If you haven't guessed where we're referring to yet, it is none-other than Shooting Creek Brewery ( The much-anticipated "mini-microbrewery" is slated to open Saturday, June 14th, 2008. It is a moment highlighted on our calendars.

Why should this one be any more exciting that any other brewery? Well, it is located in Floyd, VA so it is only a stone's throw from here. It is, according to Shooting Creek's blog, the first producer of "legal" grain alcohol ever in Floyd; the building structure and brewery were handbuilt by family and friends; they are a "mom & pop" outfit - no outsourcing, they did it all themselves; and, most importantly they "will be first farm brewery to open in Southwest Virginia – they would hope to encourage more microbreweries around the region to open –it’s about brewer’s brotherhood." Now if that doesn't make you giddy with excitement, well, you just need to get giddy!

The owners of Shooting Creek Brewery already own a wonderful organic farm, 5 Penny Farm, ( where the brewery will also be located & whose produce we delight in finding at the Salem Farmer's Market. Now, if only they could sell the beer there!!

Don't be shy, let us know what you think of Shooting Creek Brewery. Let's all toast to them and hope that they have much success! CHEERS!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Big Brew Day

'Today was Big Brew, the anniversary of Jimmy Carter once again making homebrew legal. We weren't able to make it to the Guild's meeting today, but we did manage to brew some of our own - and of course, we toasted at noon in honor of the celebration.
Today we brewed our first Brown Ale, affectionately title "Back Porch Brown #1." To add to our normal all-grain set-up, we added for the first time today a second burner - so we could use one for heating the hot water and one for mash temperature control. All went well if you don't count the following: the wort chiller hose still has a leak, and when we were funneling into one of the carboys Tristan, our 21 month old son, stuck his hand into the brew. What can we say, we train them young and they're curious!! ha ha ha.
This is our first try at a good Brown Ale. We figure that a good brown ale is essential because in our society Americans have a pallete that has been bred to appreciate the taste of a good brown ale. Often, when training novice brewers how to brew ale, the first ale taught is a basic Brown Ale. With this being the case, brewing a Brown Ale is essential. We've chosen to name our's "Back Porch Brown."
Today we also added our second burner for the process, which could've eliminated the need for an insulation jacket, though we still used the jacket in order to save propane and constantly running the gas. Eco-thoughts: tis better to insulate than to waste gas! (Ok, even my immature mind snickered at that one ..... if you didn't, grow up and get a little immature .. laugh more! It is funny!!)
Either way, is a photo:

Ten gallons of sweet "Back Porch Brown #1" fermenting. I've been trying to upload a good photo of it all brewing, but for some reason it just won't upload. Don't you love the age of computers, blogs, and all that technological shit???
Hope you toasted to the day that once again we were all allowed to homebrew legally once again. And we hope you toasted to those who said "Fuck this shit" and brewed anyway all along - because, in all honesty, where would we really be without them??
No matter which way you view it, brew on!