Monthly Archives: August 2011

My First Beer Workshop

“Aaah!  AAAHHHHH”

That was mostly the sounds coming out of me when I got in to my house just 20 minutes before I was supposed to start my first ever Thirsty Wench Beer Workshop on Google+ (concept mentioned here) at 9pm with some folks from scattered parts of the globe in attendance. The hours leading up to that involved grocery shopping, picking up the Two-Fisted Stout provided by the wonderful Amsterdam Brewery and going to C’est What for a Spearhead Brewery sampling of their Hawaiian Style Pale Ale which was a good idea in theory.  Of course I got in to a nice conversation with the sales reps and of course I ended up leaving later than I planned and by the time I got home I felt, even though I had gone through what I was going to talk about countless times, that I was pretty unprepared.  By the time my friend Cheryl came by to share the webcam with me, I had Gilbert & Sullivan playing at high volume, the beers were in the freezer and I was washing glasses with all the composure of a speed addict.  But one of the things Cheryl has always managed to do is stop me in my tracks and order me to calm down. So I did.  Kinda.

And then it started.  A little after 9pm people started trickling in and within the hour we had about six people all there to drink and talk about beer! The topic on this night was Stouts so I asked people attending to bring two different types of stouts, one Guinness (which anyone can get to act as a sort of base) and one local or “different” stout.

Aside from a few hiccups the meet went really good and the progression from one beer to the next ended up being pretty natural.  I did my best to talk about some of the more common tasting notes associated with stout and how brewers can deviate from all they want with some incredible results.  Then we tucked in to the Guinness.  What made it interesting was that we had a group of people who had occasionally had Guinness, never drank Guinness or it was there go-to drink at pubs, so to get the sometimes different taste impressions from a group of people drinking the same things was interesting along with the group coming to a general consensus on how the drink made them “feel”, which was that it represented a kind of comfortable hominess to them.

Then the second part of the workshop came to order and we all got our local/favorite stouts out.  One person brought a Yeti Imperial Stout from Great Divide Brewing Company, another bought Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout and I brought along the Two-Fisted Stout from Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery.  And hearing about the tasting notes as well as the aroma, getting a good look at the appearance of the beer int he glass (hooray for webcams!) and hearing about the personal likes and dislikes spoken not like we were all pushed in a line and forced to, but spoken as a fluid conversation with friends.

So all in all the workshop was a success!  I was relieved that so many people showed up and that I didn’t, as many first-time teachers worry about, have to spend the whole two hours talking with no interaction.  Alan, David, Max, Ian and Cheryl, you were a solid group of people!

So next up I’ll be taking down some of the notes I made from the suggestions given on how to improve the workshop as well as the dynamic.  I’m confident that the next one (I’m thinking Pale Ales) will be a lot of fun.

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Beer Person of Note: Sam Calagione

I really have to give the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery credit for inspiring me lately.

It’s not even his beer.  To be honest, due to living in Canada, I haven’t tried any of Dogfish Head’s selection aside from Midas Touch, a beer based on a 2700 year-old recipe, when I visited NYC.  The Raison DEtre?  The Namaste? The 60 or 120 Minute IPA?  Nope, nope, nope and nope.  I want to try them in the worst possible way, but geography and lack of a car and money for travel is preventing that.

So what is it about Sam Calagione that is inspiring me?  His passion.  Say what you want about him, but he is a man who is EXCITED about beer and wants to share that excitement with the world.  He’s also one of the first people I’ve come across that actively endorses going as wild as possible with ingredients and promotes experimentation.  Sure a lot of the books I’ve read say that you can do it and it’s fun, but Sam Calagione is the first person I’ve read about who shows that it can be done and be rather tasty to boot.  And if it’s not tasty then so what?  Just keep getting out there.

But this endorsement of experimentation of beer styles isn’t just a call to other brewers.  It’s also a call to beer drinkers to try something new.  And while that’s been said many times by many people, I have to give credit to Calagione for being one of the louder voices.

As some of my readers know, the tail end of 2010 was when I started getting more interested in beer and was kind of looking at home brewing.  So it was luck, I guess, that introduced me to the existence of Calagione through the (sadly) short-lived Discovery Channel show he starred in called Brew Masters, which came out in November.  And in the few episodes it ran (still waiting on that final sixth one, Discovery Channel) I found that I got excited to try new things in both brewing and tasting beer.

Doesn’t that show look great?  It was.

While I’m currently reading and getting a lot out of his book Brewing Up A Business, the one I REALLY can’t wait to get my hands on is Extreme Brewing.  Here’s part of the book’s description:

 “While recipes are included for classic ales and lagers, Extreme Brewing emphasizes the hybrid styles that have helped put Dogfish Head’s beers on the map. Using fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, readers can create their own unique flavor combinations for truly world-class beers.”

It sounds like an amazing template book to get one started.  He makes the recipes as simple as possible so you can focus on making something unique and original.  I like that.

And that’s why I admire the man.  He loves going wild and weird with ingredients and is incredibly vocal in encouraging others to do the same.

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ADVENTURE! (In Homebrewing) 2: Rise of Audacity

So remember nearly a month ago when I alluded to some Adventure happening in the hiz-ouse?  Well, after steeping, boiling, mixing, having a problem with some of my equipment, nearly having a few heart attacks and fermenting for four weeks in my ninja fermenter (seen above), it is finally BOTTLING DAY! This involved moving the beer to another bucket to avoid all the dead yeasts and gunk from the primary fermenter and then moving it to bottles and capping!  Now it will wait in a dark, sealed off area for ten days and then…ONLY THEN…will it be ready to consume.

So as I said, it was a recipe for a clone of Arrogant Bastard, but due to changes in most of the ingredients, I’ve named it AUDACIOUS BITCH in acknowledgement of its roots.

There were one or two bottles that wouldn’t fit a lid so I chilled one of them and gave it a taste. Other than being flat (which will get fixed as the priming sugars and remaining yeasts do their thang in bottle), this beer certainly lives up to it’s name of AUDACIOUS BITCH. This is a beer that really does have some attitude behind it. It’s definitely a Very Bitter Beer to the point where it may be a split group of people who will dig it and who won’t. I can’t picture having more than 2 or 3, but I guess that’s part of it. Should also be noted that after the few samples I had, I’m already feeling a bit dizzy. So…THERE’S THAT.

But I’ve written down some changes that I’ll be making for the next batch of this kind as well as outlined some of my errors. It’s far from perfect, but I can see the good parts in this that I want to keep.

And of course, I’ll be right back at brewing. I’m going to take the advice of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione and brew using a kit and in the boil process throw in some wild ingredients. This saves a lot of money (ingredients for AB cost me about $80) and gets you thinking outside the box by just going crazy with those ingredients.

Regardless, I’m having a ball with this stuff.

NOTE: I’m going to go further in to some of the basics of homebrewing with you folks later.  This is just recording a personal moment for me. 🙂

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