Saturday, May 30, 2009

Decadence on Memorial Day

~Quick apology for the lack of photos here, but keep a weather eye our on that horizon for a slideshow of photos soon to come!~

On Memorial Day, after a long weekend (two nights + little kids = long weekend) of camping, we got to brew! Most people were busy grilling out and celebrating pools opening ~ we were busy brewing up our intense "Decadence" and noshing on some homemade pizzas!
Decadence is our Winter Holiday beer. Last year, we brewed it with the intention of drinking it over Christmas, but it ended up being our known as our "winter holiday preparation" beer as only a couple bottles made it to Christmas. It's an Imperial Stout with chocolate, vanilla, and Wild Turkey. It earns it's name! This year, we needed to use up the grain we had gotten via a bulk order from Big Daddy's Brewing ( The grain arrived crushed instead of whole, meaning it would spoil quicker. Decadence to the rescue!
Brewing went really well. We did realize that 36lbs of grain is about all we can handle, with our current set up, during one brew session. We could possibly do 40lbs, but we're not sure how we would get the sparge arm on over it. We hit the OG dead on at 1.100. We also got a chance to really test out the new tent.
If you aren't in the area, or if you are in your own world, you may have missed the fact that the greater Roanoke Valley has been going through a very wet "rainy season" lately. Great for the ground, for building streams and rivers back up, for crops and newly planted trees; but bad for a lot of other stuff. We've set the tent up once before on a brew-day, but didn't have all the hot liquor tank underneath. This time we did. We had water on hand in case of fire, but we needn't fear. One: it did fine. Two: it DID rain!! It poured down for a while actually. The tent worked, everything remained safe and not-watered down, and when the sun returned, we had a nice, dry, shady area to hang out. The only ones not happy about the rain were the dogs. We've begun putting up a baby gate to block them from the deck (Whiskey, our chocolate lab keeps burning herself on the burners .. you'd think she'd learn!), and instead of finding other shelter in the rain, they stood at the baby gate, leaning their heads over it & pouting. Yes, they were pouting. Especially Jomo.
For the most part though the rain ended as our guests arrived. We were joined for this brew-day by our friends Kevin & Bailie. Kevin is a brewer as well and both he and Bailie are also members of the Star City Brewer's Guild.
As usual, Shannon helped add the hops. This time he also got to add the cocoa, which was a nice treat for him. He has now begun telling his friends he can't play with them "because I'm brewing!" This is pretty funny to here a 5 year old say. Tristan was asleep for most of the time, but he did show a lot of interest when Justin was filtering the beer into the fermenter. Carrie was able to get some cute photos of all of this.
All in all, the brew-day went really well. Carrie made two homemade pizzas which were quickly devoured by everyone. She is now on a quest to find some good pepperoni made from pasture raised pork.
The beer has gone through quite a vigorous fermentation process though. If we had hooked up a blow-off tube it probably would've been fine and resulted in less mess to clean up, but hey. To help try and keep it as we want to be, we've put the beer into coolers filled with water and ice packs. The goal is to keep try and keep the beer at a constant 70-72 degrees. This is one of those times where we realize the downside of not having AC, and we're looking for remedies for the future.
The vanilla will be added during the secondary fermentation which might occur next weekend - we'll just have to see how it's all going. The Wild Turkey will be added when it is time to bottle &/or keg the beer. In the future we will plan on using a cask for this time, and let the beer age to absorb the flavors. We're hoping to let the beer age in bottles and still drink it during the winter holidays, but this is like getting boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and expecting them to last for 6 months. You can hope, but don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shooting Creek Brews!

While wandering up to Floyd to pick up a few things, we stopped by Harvest Moon (always a must!) and were delighted to find Shooting Creek Brewery's beer! YAY!!

We tried three of their brews: Farmhouse Stout, Red Tractor Ale, and Buffalo Brown Ale.
Right now, of all the beer being brewed locally, Shooting Creek's is the only one you can actually buy in bottles at a store. I hope the other local breweries follow suit and start making their beer available in bottles too.
The beer is really good. The brewery, the brewers, and everyone involved with Shooting Creek are even better. Quoting their website ( Both a Farm and a Brewery, we produce much of the hops, honey and grains used in our beers. Brewed in small batches, our unique beers will please, refresh and inspire.
Portions of each brew are packaged in returnable containers to help reduce the Brewery's carbon footprint.

This is something that really speaks to us. We grow some of our hops now, and hope to expand that, as well as grow more things for the beers, in the future. Trying to maintain a small carbon footprint and walk lightly on the Earth is very important to us as well.
If you haven't checked out Shooting Creek yet, do so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May Tasting

For May, in honor of Spring, we decided to sample some fruit beers. Fruit beers are really popular right now, with more varieties seeming to appear stocked on the shelves by the day. It's been fun to watch, and surprising to taste. For reference sake, we bought all of these beers at the Kroger on Brambleton Ave. in Roanoke. This Kroger is locally known as both "the old Harris Teeter" and "the good Kroger."

To start the tasting we tried Orange Blossom Cream Ale. It says it is brewed by Buffalo Brewing Company, but on the side it also says it comes from Pyramid. Here are our thoughts:
~Justin - orange aroma up front. Good but not worth $8.50 or $9 a six-pack
~Carrie - first scent, it smells like cheap beer, orange aroma comes out as it warms up. Very smooth taste, decent. Agree on price.

Up next was Wild Blueberry, a blueberry lager, from Blue Dawg Brewing. (Into alliteration are they?). Here are our thoughts on this one:
~Justin - lots of blueberry aroma. taste is too overpowering, like drinking alcoholic blueberry juice, too much juice used - wouldn't call it beer, but I'll drink it because it is 8% alcohol
~Carrie - aroma reminds me of blueberry muffins. Very sweet, very "dessert-y". No "beer" taste - would be good with dessert, but definitely can't drink more than one in a row ("lacks drinkability")
~ Now, I must note something here. This beer reminded us both of alcohol without the alcohol taste. Like Zima or something. We let Carrie's mother and step-father try it. Both like it, particularly Carrie's mom. She also used to drink Zima. If you're into that, you'd probably really like this. All of us shared the comment about it tasting more like blueberry juice than beer.

Our last beer was Aprihop from Dogfish Head. Here were our thoughts on it:
~Justin - good, a little tart
~Carrie - nice floral aroma, nice flavor
Anyone who knows us, or who has been reading this blog for any amount of time, knows our love for Dogfish. We weren't sure if we didn't have a lot to say because of the following reasons: a slight buzz from the Wild Blueberry, watching a movie (HellBoy 2 for those curious), eating some extremely yummy Roasted Garlic and Parmesan chips, or just not being terribly blown away by this brew. We do agree it warrants a second-round of tasting when all other factors are not into play. We will always give Dogfish that courtesy!
HOWEVER .. this one can NOT go without being noted.

UGH!!! Playboy may have been smooth in the 60's & 70's, but no more! This made me want to smack the carton, or at least smack whoever thought of it upside the head. Playboy today is "Sleeze" NOT "Smooth"!!! While I realize the beer isn't calling Playboy smooth here it is instead Playboy calling the beer "smooth" - well, it is still just wrong. Dogfish is leagues above Playboy. Couldn't they have quoted Frank Sinatra instead?? (yes, I know he is dead .. it's a joke) bah.

SOOO --- What type of beers are you wanting to drink when Spring rolls around?? Do you like the fruit beers? Whaddya think .. we wanna know!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Belgian Blonde Ale

We took full advantage of the break in rain to brew yesterday. They were still calling for a 60% chance of scattered thunderstorms, so we set up the tent that Justin got for Christmas, just in case. Of course, if you plan ahead and set up a tent, it won't rain - and it didn't. But it WAS nice to have a shady deck for once, as ours is always very sunny & in the summertime that means VERY hot!! In the photo you can see Justin taking a few minutes to check out his first issue of "Brew Your Own" (the how-to homebrew beer magazine) that we just got that day. So far, we must admit, this is looking to be one snazzy beer magazine.

We chose to try a Belgian Blonde Ale, our first non-kit Belgian, since 1)we really love a good Belgian Ale, 2)we've noticed that Belgians are pretty popular around here, 3)we've been really inspired by the complexity of Caracole's beers and just "HAD TO" try our own take, and finally 4)though the dark strong Belgian ales are more popular, we were more motivated to do a blonde. Sometimes the beer speaks to you .. or something like that. ha ha ha

We got off to a slightly later-than-usual start due to the rain and some other craziness here at the house, but were able to be mashing by about 10:30. Although we had planned on using Belgian Pilsner malt, but we had gotten some "bulk grain" (American 2 Row) from Awful Arthur's and their brewer had forgotten to not have ours crushed. Since it came crushed, we needed to use it up sooner rather than later, so this time we went with the American 2 row.

Brewing went well. Nothing terribly special or note-worthy, just one boil over when the first hop (Kent Goldings) was added. We finished up with ten gallons and a final gravity of 1.076. The carboys (well, one is a glass carboy, one is a bucket) are now in the dining room. We have been concerned that the dining room will be too warm for a good fermentation, so we'll have to see how that goes over the course of the summer. Old houses without A/C are proving to be tricky. We just checked on them though and they've really taken off. Overall we're thinking it should come out very nicely, on target with what we planned and wanted.