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I had been wanting to brew a Hefeweizen, and the latest issue of Brew Your Own had a Hefeweizen recipe, so after a trip to the home brew supply shop to pick up some ingredients early this week, I finally got around to brewing it today.  I strayed a bit from the recipe, changing the malt extract amounts to make it easier to purchase what I needed.  The recipe called for 4.4 pounds of liquid wheat extract and 2.2 pounds of amber.  Since the liquid malt extracts come in 3.3 pound cans, I just did 3.3 of each.  If I hadn’t done that, I would have had to buy 6.6 pounds of the wheat extract and end up having to store left-overs from both extracts.  That would have made the recipe needlessly expensive, and I hate trying to store liquid extract.

Also, the store didn’t have hallertau hops in stock, so I made a substitution there.  Also, the recipe only called for a single hop addition (the bittering hops), but since I didn’t need the entire ounce of hops I purchased for bittering, I used the remainder as a flavoring addition.

Anyway, the biggest news for this batch is that it’s the first batch that I used an aeration kit to properly aerate the wort.  I’ve gotten decent results without aeration, but I don’t think I’ve hit the target final gravity on any of the beers that I’ve done.  The last batch, which was an Imperial Brown, so it had a high starting gravity, was not even close.  (The beer still tastes good, but it’s definitely not “Imperial”.)

So, we’ll see how much of a difference this makes.  I have high hopes.  I’ll finally be able to do a Barely Wine, and other higher gravity brews, now that I have the aeration kit.  There’s no way I could have attempted any thing like that in the past.

Rock Art Prevails Against Hansen

Good news, everyone!

The small, independent brewery, Rock Art (I love that name, btw) prevailed against Hansen (makers of Monster Energy Drink) in their (Hansen’s) stupid lawsuit over Rock Art’s “Vermonster”.

Congratulations, Rock Art.


Hansen Natural Sues Small Brewer

Hansen Natural, maker of Monster Energy Drink, is suing a small Vermont brewer for calling one of his wines beers* “Vermonster”.  You can read about this over at The Consumerist.

I think we should make every effort to turn this into a PR nightmare for Monster.  Blog about, Tweet about it, whatever.  Just make sure people know about it!

*Original reports I read said that Vermonster is a wine, now everything I’m reading says it’s a beer.


Batch #40 – Recycale

Today I brewed my 40th batch of beer.  The recipe was something I just threw together based on some left-over specialty malts I had from previous batches.  I call it “Recycale”.  Get it?  Recycle + Ale = Recycale.  Since I used recycled ingredients.  Get it?

Ah, never mind.

I’m not sure exactly where it fits as far as beer style.  It’s basically a dark, British-style ale.  Anyway, here’s the recipe:


9 oz UK Crystal

7 oz Munich

2 oz Roast Barley

3.3 lbs Munton’s Light LME (late edition)

2 lbs Munton’s Plain Light DME

1 oz 9.7% Brewer’s Gold @ 60 min.

.5 oz 4.5% Fuggles (plug) @ 10 min.

.5 oz 4.5% Fuggles (plug) @ Flame-out

1 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 min.

.25 tsp Yeast nuitrients @ 15 min.

By chitowngeorge Posted in Beer

Hop Cat – Grand Rapids

Hop CatOn Sunday (two weeks ago, now – that’s how long it’s taking me to get caught up) we drove to Grand Rapids.  We had planned on hitting a bunch of different brew pubs, but our first stop was Hop Cat.  While they do have a few beers that they brew there, the real draw is the amazing selection of other craft and import brews.  We chatted with the bartender, Kim, while drinking our beers.  The staff section on their website says that “Kim is everybody’s favorite person. I mean EVERYONE!” I believe it.  She was very friendly and fun to talk to.

I can sum up Hop Cat like this: Great beer selection, good food, friendly service, and great music playing in the background (which was loud enough to hear, but not loud enough where you had to shout over it to have a conversation).

After a couple of beers, we headed out to Founders, taking a side trip down Division street to some of the shops (what was open on Sunday).  We stopped into a “vintage” clothing store (just off of division), which had mostly non-vintage, trendy stuff mixed with some hippy-ish clothes and some antiques.  There was also a back area with beads.  Lots and lots of beads.

We also stopped by a local record store.  I don’t remember the name of the place.  I picked up a copy of My Morning Jacket’s Celebracion de la Ciudad Natal (on vinyl), and I almost got a copy of Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, but when I took it out of the sleeve to check it out, side two was badly damaged.

We headed on to Founders, which was a bit of a walk (had we gone straight there from Hop Cat, without the side trip, it wouldn’t have been bad).  I hate to say it, but we were highly disappointed.  The beer was good (we each only had one), but the service was slow and inattentive.  And food service is non-existent; you have to go up to a little window connected to the kitchen to order.  Really?  Is it too much trouble to have the wait staff bring out menus and let people order from their table?  And, when Carrie paid with a $20 bill, she was given change for a $10.  Luckily, the waitress didn’t make a big deal of this when we brought it to her attention.

Anyway, we only stayed for one beer, then headed back to Hop Cat.  (We had fully intended on having lunch at Founders, but decided to wait until we got back to Hop Cat to eat.) We spent the rest of the afternoon there, tasting different beers and having friendly conversation with Kim.

The take-away from all of this?  If you’re visiting Grand Rapids, skip Founder’s and go directly to Hop Cat.


Holland, Michigan, New Holland Brewery, and Weird Coincidences

The second day of our trip to Michigan was probably our most eventful.  We drove to Holland, Michigan, which is a place that Carrie and I had both been several times when we were children.  (I suppose that’s one of those weird little coincidences life throws at you.) The main focus of our visit this time, however, was not Dutch Village* (which is someplace you should definitely visit if you have kids of your own).  No, this time our focus was New Holland Brewing Co. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

We walked around the downtown area right around where New Holland is.  It was nice, but again it is one of those touristy small towns with a bunch of stores that are all the same (see the previous post about Lake Geneva).  But, (like Lake Geneva) there are other things to do there.  I mentioned Dutch Village and New Holland, there’s also Windmill Island, home of De Zwaan.

De Zwaan is billed as “America’s Only Authentic, Working Dutch Windmill”.  It’s located on an island (which is only technically an island by being cut off from the rest of the geography by a couple of small steams) not far from the downtown area.  We went on a lark, but it was fun.  There are lovely gardens and a miniature Dutch countryside village dubbed “Little Netherlands”, and presentations about windmills and Dutch culture (we missed the klompen dance only by minutes).  And, of course, De Zwaan.  It’s actually pretty impressive to see up close (pictures on Flickr).  If you visit Holland, MI, I’d definitely recommend making it a part of your trip.

Before all of this, we stopped for lunch at New Holland.  We enjoyed it very much – the food was good, as was the beer.  Carrie got their version of a Vienna lager, and I got their the barrel-aged version of their Mad Hatter (they had several specialty versions of the Hatter available when we went).  The Vienna was very much what you would expect from a Vienna-style lager, malty and smooth.  It was very good.  The barrel-aged was excellent, with some nice vanilla undertones to it.

I didn’t get the Poet Oatmeal Stout, even though it is one of my favorite oatmeal stouts, since a) oatmeal stout isn’t a really good “summer” beer, and b) I can easily get it in Chicago.  It would have been nice to have it from the tap, but I liked the barrel-aged so much I just stuck with that (since it was a special offering, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find it elsewhere).

Before we left New Holland, I saw a poster advertising their live music schedule.  I decided to check it out to see if anybody interesting was playing that weekend.  Much to my surprise, that night’s act was a blues guitarist that we had gone to see several times in the early ‘90s in and around Chicago.  Keith Scott**.  We had become acquaintances with him at the time, and he even invited me on stage with him and his band a couple of times.  It had probably been about fifteen years since we last saw him.

Another one of those weird little coincidences.

We decided to go back that evening to hear him play.  We had a good time – good music and good beer.  We spoke a bit to Keith between sets, getting caught up.  It was really a pleasant, unplanned part of our vacation.

*Next time I’m out by my parents’ house I’ll see if I can dig up some of the photos that were taken when we went there as kids.

**Unfortunately, Keith hasn’t updated his website for a couple of months, so none of his upcoming gigs are currently listed.


I Am a Craft Brewer


I Am A Craft Brewer from I Am A Craft Brewer on Vimeo.

“I Am A Craft Brewer” is a collaborative video representing the camaraderie, character and integrity of the American Craft Brewing movement. Created by Greg Koch, CEO of the Stone Brewing Co. and Chris & Jared of Redtail Media…and more than 35 amazing craft brewers from all over the country.  The video was shown to a packed audience of 1700 craft brewers and industry members at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference as an introduction to Greg’s Keynote Speech entitled “Be Remarkable: Collaboration Ethics Camaraderie Passion.” As is tradition for the CBC Keynote, a toast to the audience was offered. This time, the beers offered for the toast were all collaboratively brewed craft beers including Isabella Proximus, Collaboration Not Litigation, AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone Belgian Style Triple, Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale, and 2009 Symposium Ale “Audacity of Hops.”

By chitowngeorge Posted in Beer

Dead Goat Porter

I got off a little early from work today, so I decided to swing by Goose Island to kill some time until Carrie gets off work. They currently have the Dead Goat Porter as their “Cask Conditioned” ale.

Wow. This is a really amazing porter. Smooth and well balanced, with a nice creamy head. I’m so glad I stopped by, since the Cask Conditioned ales don’t last long.

It’s too bad they don’t fill growlers from the cask ales (only the draft beers are available in growlers).

Hopefully, I’ll get off work a little early tomorrow, so I can stop by and have this again before it runs out.

If you happen to live in Chicago, try to get to Goose Island (Clybourn location) before this runs out.

By chitowngeorge Posted in Beer

What I’ve Been Drinking Lately

It’s been nearly a month since the last beer-related post, so I thought I’d just quickly share some of the beers I’ve been enjoying lately.

First, I’ve got some Goose Island Mild Winter in the fridge.  Since this is (apparently) a seasonal offering, I want to get my fill while it’s around.  I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, if Goose Island is available in your area and you see the Mild Winter, pick it up.

Also, we’ve gone to Goose Island (Clybourn) a couple times in the past few weeks.  Right now, they have both the Naughty Goose and the Extremely Naughty Goose on tap.  The Naughty Goose is a rich brown ale that’s a little hoppier (but not too much) than you might expect from a brown.  The Extremely Naughty is what you might consider an “Imperial” version of the Naughty Goose.  They’re both excellent beers (but stick with the regular Naughty if you’re driving!).

They also have the Rye Stout currently on tap.  As the name suggests, it’s a hearty stout brewed with Rye malt.  If you’re a stout lover, like me, this is definitely one to try.

Over the weekend I stopped by Sam’s Wine and picked up a couple of four packs of the new Sam Adams Imperial series.  I got the Imperial Stout (naturally) and the Double Bock.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the Double Bock at first, but it’s growing on me.  After I tried the first bottle I thought I probably wouldn’t buy this one again, but after having it again last night I’ve changed my mind.  I’m not sure how to explain it, but it seems to take a few tastings to start appreciating the subtleness and complexity of the flavors.

The Imperial Stout, on the other hand, only takes one taste to rope you in.  This is a rich, sweet beer with complex chocolate and coffee flavors.  I’m definitely going to have to pick up some more of this one!

I also have a bottle of the Sam Adams Chocolate Bock waiting for me.

Apart from that, I’ve been drinking my own Home Brew.  I hate to toot my own horn, but the Oatmeal Stout is truly one of the best oatmeal stouts I’ve had.  I’m really happy with it, and impressed with myself that I brewed a beer that’s that good.  (The Chocolate Oatmeal Stout still needs a little time in the bottle to mellow a bit.)

By chitowngeorge Posted in Beer