Franco-American Strong Ale

Some of you, quite rightly, are scratching you head and wondering, “did the BJCP codify a new style I’m unaware of?”  No, but I did.  As my second on-premises homebrew recipe, I am collaborating with my bother-in-law.  He’s French by birth, but I won’t hold that against him.  Our idea is something that is both French and American, something that reflects our heritages, and our common love for bold, complex, Belgian-y beer.  With a last name like Shoemaker, you may quickly deduce that I’m from German stock, and you’d be right.  Look below and you’ll find an ingredient that’s German- Avangard Pilsner malt.  American Magnum hops, used for bitterness, are German in origin.  The spices used are quite common in French cooking, and to tie it all together, a Belgian style yeast to handle the anticipated higher gravity and to dry out the beer.

This trans-Atlantic brew does not have a name yet, but something will come to us.  Have an idea for the name?  Leave it as a comment.   An added bonus, Benjamin (my b.i.l.) is an accomplished artist.  I’ve charged him with the responsibility of doing the label art.  Our brew date is this Saturday, 3/25/17 at 4 p.m.

Upon completion you can bet I’ll be reviewing the beer.  Will it come out like I’ve imagined it, or will it result in something entirely different?  We’ll see.

Recipe: RED SUPER SAISON F-A.S.A.
Brewer: JOHN SHOEMAKER
Asst Brewer:  BENJAMIN PERRAMANT 
Style: Saison
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 6.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.00 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 21.6 Plato
Estimated Color: 15.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt            Name                                     Type    #     %/IBU         
13.00 lb       Pilsner Malt (Avangard) (1.7 SRM)        Grain   1     83.9 %        
1.00 lb        Crystal Malt - 60L (Thomas Fawcett)      Grain   2     6.5 %         
0.75 lb        Rye, Flaked (Briess) (4.6 SRM)           Grain   3     4.8 %         
0.50 lb        Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)   Grain   4     3.2 %         
0.25 lb        Wheat - Soft Red, Flaked (Briess)        Grain   5     1.6 %         
0.75 oz        Magnum [13.30 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop     6     30.8 IBUs     
1.00 oz        Pepper Corns (Boil 7.0 mins)             Spice   7     -             
0.75 oz        Nutmeg (Boil 7.0 mins)                   Spice   8     -             
1.0 pkg        Belle Saison (Lallemand/Danstar #-)      Yeast   9     -             


Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 15.50 lb
----------------------------
Name              Description                             Step Temp.  Step Time     
Mash In           Add 19.64 qt of water at 169.9 F        154.0 F       75 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun , 3.20gal) of 168.0 F water

Black Lagers Matter: 100th Blog Post!

To my devoted fans, my new fans, and future fans, welcome to my 100th blog post.  You didn’t think I’d make it here, did you?  Well, I’m happy to say, the time has arrived.  In honor of such a momentous occasion (in my head at least), I felt it only right and proper to do a beer review.  This one is partially in honor of my heritage, my fondness for dark beer, and of course, because my freakin’ awesome wife bought not just the beer, but the container in which this marvelous libation dwells (though soon, it will have a new home, in my stomach).  As her Valentine’s gift to me, she bought me a ceramic, 64 ounce growler from Barley Creek Brewing Co. and filled it with one of their year-round favorites of mine:  Angler Black Lager.  Below is the review:

barley_creek_angler_black_lager

Angler Black Lager

On the docket:  Barley Creek Brewing Co.’s Angler Black Lager

Growler filled:  2/13/17

Poured into:  Lone Eagle Brewing Co. craft glass

Sight:  From a long way off, you’d swear the glass held the darkest stout in the world.  But come closer.  A more attentive inspection screams walnut hardwood or if you want to get esoteric, bistre (sooty brown) with reddish-orange highlights.  The head, though short lived is a quick-forming beige cap.  Lacing is braille-like and delicate.  The cap recedes into a swirl of suds and a small conclave of bubbles on one side of the glass.  The body is dark enough to prohibit the detection of bubbles rising to the surface.

Aroma:  Malt is definitely the star here, as this beer yields an aroma of darkish baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder.  There’s a slight suggestion of roasted coffee, and an earthiness that reminds me of either tobacco or leather.  Either is fine.

Taste:  Closely mirroring the aroma, is a malt-driven brew.  Chocolate, sweetish malt and a hint of brown or pumpernickel bread.  The slightest trace of caramel.  There’s a roundness here that’s appealing.  Only on the end do the hops make an appearance in the bitter balance to all the smooth, dark malt flavors.

Mouthfeel:  The commonly held misconception is that dark beers are heavy.  Well, some are.  But this?  This is light, elegant, and dances on the tongue, a medium- on the body.  Fine carbonation.  Crisp, smooth finish– just like a lager should have.

Overall:  Is it an imperial, barrel aged stout with vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs, and blessed by a priest?  NO.  This is a fine example of a beer style that receives way too little attention in the beer world:  Schwarzbier.  For those that love lagers, for those that love German beer, for those that love dark beer, for those that love session-able beer (5.2% abv), this beer is for all of you.

Suggested food pairing(s):  banana chocolate-chip pancakes (beer with breakfast anyone?!), coffee-encrusted flank steak, smoked wurst, sharp English or Irish cheddar, chocolate-pecan terrine

 

 

Beer: The Most Romantic Drink of All

That high-stress relationship holiday is around the corner, and I’m sure florists, Hallmark, restaurants, and M&M Mars are poised to make a killing.  Yes, I’m referring to Valentine’s Day.  Inspired by Ms. Puckette’s article over here on her site, I feel wine is pretty well covered.  My focus will be on my first love, beer, and its ability to pair well with chocolate.

Right out of the gate, beer already has an edge over (most) wine when pairing with food- its carbonation.  Capable of cutting through rich, thick flavors and dense fat, those bubbles in beer act as a palette-cleanser.

Couple this cleansing ability with similar flavors found in chocolate, and beer is effective, versatile, and quite the complimentary beverage to chocolate.  Dark, roasty stouts and porters may contain black patent and/or chocolate specialty malts, providing flavor.  Some brewers even add chocolate itself into the recipe, as is the case with Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout made with organic cocoa.  Another option for pairing is a milk stout, such as Left Hand’s Nitro.  It’s brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which does not ferment out, leaving the beer a touch sweet.  Try milk stouts with chocolate high in cacao, to counter and soften the bitterness.

beer_and_chocolate

For those fans of spirits, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout or porter will provide a layer of depth and complexity to your chocolate pairing.  Bourbon barrels impart a dose of vanilla and caramel, plus a dryness due to the oak compounds.  Pair these brews with quality milk chocolate and experience something akin to a Milky Way Bar.

Something commonly paired with chocolate is fruit.  Combined with either white or traditional chocolate, fruit beers make excellent “chocolate-covered strawberry/cherry/raspberry” experiences.  A beer such as Founders Rübæus, or its big brother, Blushing Monk, are made with raspberry puree.  Raspberries also provide a hint of tartness, adding a balance to the rich, creaminess of chocolate.  Or, you could skip the fruit AND the chocolate, and blend a chocolate and fruit beer together, a la Samuel Smith’s strawberry and chocolate.

For the truly adventurous, perhaps something esoteric is in order.  The few of us who enjoy those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, try Sierra Nevada’s Side Car (or any pale ale with hops that impart an orange flavor to the beer) with some creamy milk chocolate.

I know me and my wife will find some sort of awesome combination to celebrate this year’s romantic holiday.

Six More Weeks?! Six More Beers.

groundhog-day

With the Super Bowl done and over, we can get back to our regularly scheduled beer drinking.  I mentioned at the start of the year I’d post about deep-winter beers.  Thanks to that miserable rodent, Phil, I guess we have more time to drink them.  Below are my favorite brews for those NW-NJ days with temperature highs in the teens.

Winter Warmers:  More a concept than a style, this one has English origins and typically sports a prominent malt profile coupled with balanced bitterness, and on more than one occasion, spices.  Samuel Smith Winter Welcome is a classic example, but there are plenty of U.S. breweries with their own take, such as Bolero Snort’s Frozen Pasture.

Belgian Strong Darks/Quads/Dubbels:  A good way to sleep the winter away, these brews are usually malty, dark, and strong in the alcohol department.  Beers produced by those magnanimous monks at Chimay are excellent in quality and easy to acquire.

Russian Imperial Stouts:  A favorite dark, high-gravity style of mine.  Roasty, malty, but intensely bitter, a great way to balance out a serving of cheesecake.

Doppelbocks:  The German way to celebrate those chilly nights.  Enjoy in a leather armchair in front of a fire, bearskin rug optional.

Though this makes #7, I feel remiss without mentioning Barleywine.  If you like them sweet and balanced, go for English.  Want something hoppy, and a bit more bitter?  Go American.  J. W. Lee’s Harvest, and a one-year old Sierra Nevada Bigfoot are great choices, respectively.

Come back in a few days when I opine about pairing adult beverages with chocolate, providing ideas for that most romantic holiday, 2/14!

 

The Wonderful World of Beer Podcasts

For every passion and hobby, there is a podcast (or so I imagine).  Beer is no exception.  Ranging from casual to more academic and technical in nature, there’s a beer podcast out there for everyone.  I personally, enjoy the following:

Home Brewing Radio:  Hosted by Brad Smith, the creator of BeerSmith Home Brewing Software.  Informative discussions of all aspects of the beer world with a wide range of guests.  The knowledge in the minds of both Mr. Smith and each guest is enough to make my brain hurt.

The Perfect Pour Craft Beer Podcast:  Two lively guys in California discussing beer, being silly, and drinking good beer.  Feels more like a morning-zoo show, but definitely entertaining.

The Coolship Podcast:  Co-hosted by Warren Wilson (owner of Homebrew University in Hackettstown, NJ) and Siebel Institute-educated owner and head-brewer of Czig Meister Brewing, Matt Czigler.  Matt Czigler, you know- the creator of Kane’s Head High IPA.  Dedicated to all things beer for amateurs, professionals, and beer lover alike, these two provide excellent “edutainment.”  They occasionally go off the rails, so I’d caution that this show might be rated R for language and content.  Regardless, it’s a fun ride.

Have other favorites?  Leave a comment with a link to the show for others to enjoy.

 

Put This in Your Pipe and Pipe It: My Day at Czig Meister Brewing

Pipe_Cutting_at_Czig_Meister_Brewing

Last Tuesday, the 29th, I volunteered my time (and a talent unbeknownst to me) to helping a new friend do work on his soon-to-be-open brewery.  Matt Czigler, a young, successful professional brewer, has made his dream a reality.  In the 9,000 sq. ft. space which used to be an old auto-repair bay in the center of Hackettstown NJ, his brewery comes together, piece by piece.  My piece in all this involved helping him cut hundreds of feet of pipe to be used in shelving to be installed behind the tasting bar.  Now, the few of you who know me in real life, know I’m not the most industrially-skilled individual.  But, within minutes, Matt instructed me on the procedure, and away we went.  An hour in, I was running the machine like a pro.  For those unfamiliar with the process, this machine holds the pipe and spins it as you use a clamp-like device to cut to desired length, then a second piece (which I’m seen holding) lathes the end to produce the threads in which to screw in an elbow or tee-joint.  The bucket below is filled with oil and the filings, the gun applies the oil to the lathed end to keep it from smoking from all the heat and friction.

It was a relatively straightforward affair, except for the times I had to remind Matt what stage we were on as attention was diverted by phone calls from officials, contractors, friends, and family.  More than once people stopped in to say hello and take in the progress, all of them excited to see Matt’s vision transform into reality.

He now has his fermentation tanks in, and if all goes well, will start brewing on April 9th and open by the end of the month.  I had the privilege of sampling his beer he plans on brewing on the large scale.  Tasty stuff, I might add.

I had so much fun working with my hands and volunteering my time, no doubt I’ll have pictures up of your favorite beer blogger next Wednesday.

A SMaSH hit!: A brief look at SMaSH beer

It was a hot summer day in Pearl River, NY.  We walked into Defiant Brewing and I spied on the menu an odd looking beer title:  SMaSH.  It was early in my craft beer journey, so you know I had to try it.  It was my first encounter with those cherished four ingredients, composed plainly and beautifully.  Years later, finally, I’m starting to see them more often.

With all the craziness and pushing of the beer-envelope, I knew it was only a matter of time before the pendulum started swinging back the opposite way.  Enter SMaSH beer.  Home-brewers have been at this for decades, finding beauty in simplicity.  With the release of Southern Tier’s 2XSMaSH and Long Trail’s SMaSH project, and other breweries jumping on the wagon, I felt it was time to post on it.

So, what is a SMaSH beer?  Single malt and single hop beers are exactly what they sound like:  water, yeast, hops, malt.  It’s getting back to the basics, and learning to appreciate one hop varietal and one malt type.  I found an easy-to-understand article on a blog after a quick search for SMaSH beer.  An added benefit of SMaSH beer is their wallet-friendly production cost on home-brewers and breweries alike.

There are challenges in creating a finely-tuned SMaSH beer, though.  While you to want the ingredients to shine, they should compliment each other.  Not all styles are suited for a SMaSH treatment.  Though most recipes are American Pale Ales and IPAs, there is room for experimentation.  Whole online communities and forums exist for the love of and brewing of SMaSH beer.  To put my money and beer where my mouth is (the later being the more enjoyable of the two), I will try to acquire a few examples and review them in the coming weeks.

Come along with me on my SMaSH hunt and tell me what you find, if the style works, and which is your favorite.