Friday, June 7, 2013

The Session #76: Compulsion

This month's Session was hosted by Glenn Humphries at Beer Is Your Friend

Here's the topic I want you to write me a blog post on the subject of compulsion as it relates to beer. The idea for this Session topic partially arose from the Beer Audit session Adam at Pints and Pubs hosted a few months ago. In my effort and those of a few other bloggers, idea of buying more beer than we need was touched on. Writing about buying heaps of beer got me thinking about just what it is that compels me to keep buying beer.

This topic has come at a great time for me. After blowing way too much of my monthly budget on beer during a trip to Chicago, I assured myself I'd stop buying beer for the rest of the month. I should have known there was no chance I'd pull that off; I was 5 days short when I saw 4 bottles of a beer that's released in March and usually gone by the end of April on the shelf, and felt that I had no choice but to grab a bottle.

On a positive note, I successfully managed to hold off on buying a bottle of New Glarus Anniversary Strong Ale, though that's partially because the display at a local grocery store has it tucked away in the back with a price tag for a bomber of Serendipity under the still fully stocked shelf of beer.

Anyway, compulsion plays a huge role in my beer buying habits. I constantly talk about adding beers I really enjoy to my "rotation", only to end up buying a new limited release every time I stop at the liquor store.

My experiences with compulsion are generally related to rarity. If I think I'll like a beer but I don't know how long it will be around, I'll jump at the opportunity to snatch up a couple bottles. I'm not one of the people who will grab an entire case of beer or stand in line for hours because of hype (though I'll admit I will probably eventually make it to Darkness or Dark Lord Days), but I generally have some idea what breweries I respect enough to try something a little off the wall.

As I write this post, I'm finishing off a bottle of Shorts Huma Lupa Licious that I bought the weekend of the Great Taste of the Midwest--in August of 2012--as a part of an effort to get rid of the absurd collection of bottles and cans around my mini-fridge. I had Needless to say, 9 months was a little bit too long to sit on this one, but it was my last bottle!

To this point, I haven't had much of an issue with hoarding my homebrew. I loved the idea of sharing something that I made with family and friends. Within a week of discovering that the liquid that had been sitting in the corner of the room for a month was actually drinkable, I had consumed or given away about half of my first batch. While I've been a little bit more careful since making that realization, it should be about spent by the time my second batch is ready to be popped open.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brewing a local favorite

Sunday afternoon, I achieved my goal of being equally excited about my third batch of beer as I was about my first 2.

All my girlfriend and I really did was brew according to the instructions in the kit, which was (supposed to be) less complicated than the spontaneous cocoa powder addition from Batch #2, but the excitement for this third batch had less to do with what we were doing while brewing and more to do with what we were brewing. Namely, a kit from my LHBS (Wine & Hop Shop) for
Vintage Brewing Company's Scaredy Cat Stout.

Pardon the clip art, graphic design is a work in progress for me
Vintage is a local bar that decided to jump into the world of brewing after taking over a location on the West Side where there used to be a brewpub called J.T. Whitney's. Scaredy Cat is their hoppy Oatmeal (though I'd call it American) Stout.

I work in the printing department that prints all of Vintage's beer menus and posters, so I've gotten the chance to meet many of the company's employees, including brewmaster Scott Manning. In my many visits to Vintage, Scaredy Cat has become a pretty edit: very regular purchase of mine. When I saw the kit in Wine & Hop I knew that I needed to brew it.

The description on the box says that it's a great beer to "keep you warm during cold winter nights", so it's probably not a lot of people's first choice to brew in early June, but my (wonderful) girlfriend got it for me as a birthday present and I'm always down to drink some Scaredy Cat.

Adding to the excitement of brewing one of my favorite brews was the realization that with my first batch of homebrew that didn't come from Midwest Supplies came an entirely different set of supplies and instructions...and a little bit of frustration.

While Wine & Hop has been a great source for information and has really helped me along the way in my brewing, their kit for Scaredy Cat seems to need a little more proofreading. While their process seems to have made a few tweaks to the one used by Midwest in the interest of making better beer (pouring water over the muslin bag after steeping to avoid tannins from squeezing out the bag), this particular kit told us to boil for 45 or 60 minutes, depending on the which paragraph you were reading, and to use various quantities of water that are inconsistent except that they all add up to a near certain boilover.

But in the end, Brew Day #3 went reasonably well. I'm a bit worried that we kept the boil too low in our efforts to prevent a boilover, but I guess we'll find out in a couple weeks. Also, while lifting the pot off of the burner every time the bubbles started shooting too high gave me a nice workout, I think I'm going to stick to buying Wine & Hop's products but using Midwest's process for my brews for the time being.

Have you had the opportunity to brew your local favorite? Let's hear about it in the comments!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Brewday Beer Review

Yeah, about that...I'll upload ASAP
Well, so much for brewing yesterday. Life (and bottling my chocolate oatmeal stout that I'm told "tastes like a cookie") got in the way and I had to hold off until tonight

While I brew, I'm altering a common homebrewer mantra slightly in order to give my girlfriend a chance to try a brew that I got from a friend out east.

I'm relaxing, I'm not worrying, and I'm having a [commercial] brew. Tonight, I'm starting off with a Lancaster Milk Stout.

The pour yielded a thin, light brown head that dissipated pretty quickly, but left decent lacing on the glass. The color was dark, dark brown with just a thin layer of read along the bottom edge of the glass. The flavor comes through quite a bit more to me than the aroma, with a noticeable coffee flavor and a less distinct chocolate flavor that combine to create what I initially thought tasted like black licorice. I didn't notice any offputting flavors.

One problem that I had with this beer was that for a Milk Stout, it was a bit light on the lactose. Coffee was definitely the prevailing flavor. While I'm not one of the people who downgrades a beer as if I'm grading in a competition, I prefer Milk Stouts to Coffee Stouts, so I was a bit disappointed by that.

While my girlfriend thinks this brew tops Left Hand's non-Nitro Milk Stout, I think she's crazy. I do think it's a solid offering--I give it a B.

Ratebeer's take on Lancaster Milk Stout
Lancaster Milk Stout on Untappd
The beer according to its brewers

Have you had Lancaster Milk Stout? Do you agree with my take? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

In Anticipation of Brewday Number Three

Today is shaping up to be an awesome day. I'm going to be moving my second batch of homebrew into bottles, brewing my third batch, and all the while I'll be drinking what's left of my first batch.

I never realized how true it was that homebrew tends to disappear in a way that the commercial stuff doesn't. Before I even had a chance to get my second batch into the fermenter, almost half of my first batch had either been consumed or given to friends. That's a big part of the reason that I'm going to be rushing into my third batch.

Brewing my first batch, my mind was in a million places at once. I was anxiously pacing while trying to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything vital to the process. In the end, despite some minor hiccups (I remembered to take the little plastic rings off of the water jugs I boiled, but forgot to do the same for the liquid malt extract jug and spent a good 10 minutes trying to fish it out of the boiling hot dark brown liquid).

My second batch turned into another exciting brew session. As I was getting ready to brew my Chocolate Stout from Midwest Supplies, I discovered that Midwest Supplies doesn't have a Chocolate Stout kit, but that I had instead purchased a kit for Oatmeal Stout. My girlfriend was crushed, as she has tended to like Chocolate Stout a lot more than Oatmeal.

I consulted the internet about adding chocolate to beer, and decided that Cocoa Powder would be an adequate solution to the problem. With no description of how much beer they had been brewing, we had no idea if we were doubling the recommended amount of Cocoa Powder with 8 ounces, but it smelled more like beer than chocolate pudding, so I think we made the right call. Regardless, the spontaneous decision to throw the powder in made batch #2 another incredibly exciting one.

Batch 3 is going to be a special brew for me for a completely unrelated reason. but I'll explain that one after I get a good night's rest.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's December, you know what that means: time for Christmas music, Ugly Sweaters and rich, dark Porters and Stouts West Coast Amber Ales?

I might be alone on this one, but while most in the craft beer community are shifting from Pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests into darker beers, colder temperatures have had me craving Hops far more than normal.  It probably has something to do with a great brew out of California a couple weeks ago after randomly picking it up at my local Craft Beer go-to, but that story is for another night.

Tonight I'm going to talk about a beer that comes from a little closer to home: Ambergeddon, brewed by Ale Asylum right here in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.

I first had an Ambergeddon back in October of last year when I was just getting into craft beer, and it might've been a little more intense than I was ready for at the moment.  The second time I had it was over the summer at Vintage Spirits & Grill.  Vintage has the absolute best deal on beer in Madison: 1 dollar Wisconsin brews after 10 on Monday nights.  In addition to a constant supply of Ambergeddon, they typically had at least one offering from Furthermore, another brewery in the Madison Area that has put out a lot of interesting brews.

Anyway, Ale Asylum is a brewery that's really taking off in the Madison area.  It's a mainstay at a number of downtown locations in the city, though it hasn't really managed to expand too far beyond city limits.

This beer has  really hit the spot for me lately.  It's got the right amount of hops and alcohol that doesn't overwhelm.  Right now, I'm definitely giving it a solid A.

Beer Advocate's take on Ambergeddon (it got a B in their new rating system? huh...SHOCKER)
RateBeer's take on Ambergeddon

Have you had Ambergeddon? Do you agree with my take? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there.

My mom and I headed over to the liquor store earlier today to pick up some beers for quality father-son bonding.

My dad is a self-described "locovore", so I decided to go with some beers that have more of a local flavor to them.  Unfortunately, none of the great breweries in Madison sell beers that he doesn't get regularly, so I had to stretch it a little bit.  I'd say that New Glarus is close enough to Madison to count that as local, so we got him a 4-pack of their Imperial Weizen, as well as a bottle of their Belgian Red.  We finished it off with a beer that was local to me while I was living in Milwaukee, Lakefront's Bridge Burner--seriously, I lived a few blocks from the brewery.  That was awesome!

Dad and I split the Bridge Burner and each had an Imperial Weizen.  He definitively told me that he preferred the Bridge Burner.  Frankly, that surprised me a bit.  He generally prefers beers that are more like the Weizen, though he isn't huge on higher alcohol stuff so I guess it makes some sense.

I'm not really sure which one of them I thought was better.  I love weizens and I definitely have no issues with higher alcohol, but the Bridge Burner was a very good beer.  To be honest, I'm not actually a huge fan of a lot of the stuff at Lakefront (it's not bad beer, it's just generally not my style) but this was a very nice one. The Belgian Red is an entirely different experience, as it's a low alcohol cherry beer.  I actually got it for him on his recommendation, and we split it.  I'd agree with his initial take: it's absolutely phenomenal.

Did you give/receive any Father's Day brews this year? If so, what?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Better late than never

Well, thanks to some computer issues, I wasn't able to post for The Session #52.  This really sucked for me, as it was a topic that is very relevant to this blog.
As host of Session #52, I’ve decided not to focus on the substance of beer, but the material that plays a supporting role. Bottles, coasters, cans, labels, ads, tap handles, church keys, hats, t-shirts, tip trays, glassware and signs have been collected by fanatics ever since beer has been sold.
 I can probably come up with about 50 posts for this topic, and since I'm way too late for the session this month and all I'm doing for the time being is working on job applications, cover letters, resumes, and a plot in a community garden I think I'll give it a shot.

I guess that the natural place to start this topic for a blog about a beer bottle collection would probably be with the bottles.

Back in the fall of 2010, my longtime friend Phin moved into an apartment owned and operated by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  The apartment that he moved into wasn't cleaned out particularly well, as there were a number of alcohol bottles left on display.

The bottle that stood out to us was called Sigmund Snopek's, a beer that was apparently brewed by Lakefront Brewery, just a few blocks from our apartment.  It gave us the idea to put more bottles on display.  Since then, we've moved into a new apartment (where we at one point had 99 bottles of beer on the wall), and then moved out of it after graduating college.  According to the Facebook Photo Album I made, we have at least 160 bottles in the collection (I think it's probably over 200, but I haven't uploaded a lot of the pictures yet.) 

We made a set of rules about putting bottles onto "The Wall", and have since come up with a number of unwritten rules.  Unfortunately, now that we're no longer living in that apartment, The Wall is currently a set of bags tucked back in a corner in my parents' storage room.

I have a tendency to rate beers a little differently than most, in that I break it down into rating the bottle and rating the beer itself.  For instance, a review that I'm planning on doing sometime in the near future is for a beer called Polygamy Porter.  It wasn't my favorite, but it wound up being put on display (translation: it was one of 34 beers to be on the front row of one of the two shelves) just because of the funny name and bottle art.

Anyway, moving out of the apartment was pretty rough on the collection, as not only are the bottles no longer on display, but a handful had to be thrown out since there was no room for them.  Fortunately though, most of those were watery macro lagers that we didn't really want anyway.  Not to mention, the political drama unfolding in the state left a number of the bottles on the boycott list.

Well, I'm rambling, so I think I'll end this post.  I'll be back tomorrow (or later tonight) with another long-winded post about some of the other beer-related goods I'm collecting.