Monday, January 30, 2012

Beer Culture

One of the things I love most about beer is beer culture, that is, the stories of the people and places behind the beverage you’re consuming. Beer is about the coming together of communities. Throughout Europe, local beer culture is vibrant. In the US, Prohibition doused that flame, but thanks to a humble peanut farmer (Jimmy Carter) and the craft beer revolution that he sparked, local beer culture is making a comeback in the US. In some cities and regions of the country, it is more vibrant than others, but it is clearly making a resurgence wherever you go. The number of options available to the craft beer drinker in pubs and retail outlets is exploding. Some of my favorites come from breweries such as Surly, Bells, Flying Dog, Dogfish Head and New Belgium. And I can’t wait to taste the new beer from DC Brau. But here in Western New York, the local brewing revolution is still in its early stages. Sure, there are a plethora of brew pubs and tap rooms and no shortage of places to fill your growler. But most of that beer (unless it’s Flying Bison or Pearl Street) comes from somewhere else, even if it is nearby (Southern Tier). We have yet to reach the tipping point of beer culture where we have multiple new breweries opening, such as in Minneapolis or Washington, DC. And so, a small group of us gathered last Friday night at the Thirsty Buffalo to talk beer and what we can do to help promote beer culture in Buffalo, a city with a once proud brewing tradition. I’m not sure if we actually decided on anything or really accomplished anything, but one thing is clear – beer once again brought together a (small) community. And I imagine that we’ll be doing it again soon if just for the sake of good times and good beer. Cheers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Training Begins

Happy Monday! Today begins my training program for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom. Last week was the last week of base building and I'm pretty happy with we're I'm at. I logged 14.1 miles last week, capped by an outside run around Delaware Park of 4.6 miles completed at ~9:20/mile pace. In the five weeks leading up to training day, I averaged 12.7 miles per week with frequency and intensity building up through last week where the average pace per mile was ~9:40/mile. The most miles I ran in one week was 16.2 miles completed 2 weeks ago.

Today's run was an aerobic building run of 4 miles completed in 4o minutes on the treadmill. Tomorrow, I'm hoping the weather holds out for the 536 Run Club.

I double checked my time from last year and I completed the race in 1:28:25. I guess I'm faster in my own mind! Therefore, I am setting a more modest goal this year at 1:25:00, an average pace of 8:30/mile.

I also signed up for and am running the Penguin Run supporting Cradle Beach (, a camp in Western New York for children with disabilities. Join me in supporting this worthy cause!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make it a Great Day Pale Ale - Tasting Notes

Last night, was the grand unveiling of the Make it a Great Day Pale Ale. Co-conspirator, neighbor, entrepreneur and Buffalo luminary, Tim Godzich, joined me in sampling the Make it a Great Day Pale Ale. Polly also helped critique our brew. We tasted the beer side by side with it's muse, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Overall it was a lot of fun to taste the beer and perceive the flavors of the ingredients used. Below are the scores and tasting notes for our brew (did not score Sierra Nevada) as well as a few hypotheses on how to improve the brew next time. Next time, I will also remember to take pictures so you can enjoy this brew too!

Appearance (0-3 pts): Deep reddish-copper color, darker and less clear than it's muse. A good, sudsy head and strong head retention. Did not use Irish moss in the boil and hypothesize that the slight cloudiness is a result of chill haze. Beer is much clearer in the bottle at room temperature. Darker color is a result of using malt extract rather than all-grain. Average score: 2.

Aroma (0-4 pts): Bursting with hop aroma, this is one of the strong points of this brew. Lots of grapefruit and floral aroma from the Cascade and Perle hops. Malt characteristics not as perceptible. This is a theme for this beer as hops tend to slightly over power the malt. Theory is that because we did not reach the recommended gravity (1.052) we did not extract enough sugars from the Caramel malt and that impacted the overall beer. However, the hop aroma and flavors were well liked by the judges and therefore did not cost much in terms of ratings. Average score: 3.67.

Taste (0-10 pts): Malt flavor in the front finishing with a strong pine hop flavor from the Chinook hops with a slightly sharp, bitter bite at the end. Overall, the Chinook hops slightly over powered the malt sweetness and we had a harder time perceiving the flavor characteristics of the caramel malt. If anything, this beer was also slightly over-carbonated. This helped with the thick, creamy head but also made it difficult to pour. Overall, the flavor was good and enjoyed by the judges, so did not cost the beer much in ratings. I expect that some of the hop character will mellow with age and that the beer will come more into balance. Average score: 7.67.

Overall Impressions (1-3 pts): Great aroma, lots of hops, good sudsy head. Exploding with grapefruit and pine. Recommended for fans of American pale ale, particularly Sierra Nevada. Average score: 2.67.

Total average score (1-20 pts): 16.

Thoughts for improvement next time:
1. rinse the caramel malt to ensure we are getting all the sugars from the grain
2. add Irish moss to the boil
3. more carefully strain the hops from the wort
4. use slightly less priming sugar

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homebrew Updates

Here are a few updates on my homebrews as the "fruits" of my Holiday brewing are coming to fruition.

Clementine Hefeweizen - today, I will be racking this beer from primary to secondary. Overall fermentation has gone well, but had trouble early on stabilizing temperature within the recommended range. On the first day, temps hit 70 degrees, higher than the recommended range for WL029. I then moved it to a cooler spot in my basement and after a cold night, temps dropped to the high fifties/low sixties. I then moved it to my bedroom closet, which seems to be a great spot for fermenting beer. Temps stabilized at 68 degrees. I am a big fan of this yeast and am planning to use it in future recipes.

Innkeeper - my version of the Innkeeper recipe has perplexed me, so much so that I may have to buy the kit and brew it as it's creator intended. I used slightly more malt than the recipe called for and yet my original gravity was 1.032, well below the 1.043 target gravity the recipe indicated. Fermentation has been going at a temperature of 64 degrees. I will be bottling this brew on Saturday. My guess is that it will be an extremely light version of an English Bitter, which will make for a good thirst quencher on Super Bowl Sunday.

Sierra Madre Pale Ale - this brew took a little time, but finally reached full carbonation. It is a great beer, one of my favorites. I always like to keep a bit of pale ale or IPA in the rotation as it is the style that appeals most to my palate. I will definitely be brewing this one again. I will be sampling this beverage with some friends tonight and will post tasting notes later this week.

Finally, if you've always wanted to do a lager but haven't had the means to do so, check out the latest edition of Brewing TV. The Brewing TV gang experiments with a couple of different fermentation approaches to achieve a lager-like beer at ale temperatures. I have always had success with the "steam beer" approach, using Wyeast 2112 California Lager, and fermenting in a cool part of the basement (sometimes placing the carboy in a bucket of water and wrapping with a wet towel). White Labs 029, the yeast used in my Clementine Hefeweizen, also yields great results for a smooth flavor profile.

Now go enjoy a homebrew.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mary's Ale

When I was working on my brew sheet for the Kiss of Clementine II, my daughter Mary sat looking over my shoulder fascinated with what I was working on. She asked me if the recipe was for beer. I said yes. She asked me how I named my beers. I told her that I named them after people or places or things that were inspirational to the beer I was making. The inspiration to brew this recipe came from my wife, Polly, who is a big fan of clementines. When I first met her, clementines were a seasonal fruit available only in the winter months shortly after Thanksgiving. In fact, clementines and Beaujolais Nouveau were signs of the Holidays to me. Clementine also became a term of endearment for her. So the name "Kiss of Clementine" actually refers to the sweet kisses of a loved one in the cold winter months.

Once I explained this to Mary she asked me the next logical question as only a 6 year old can, "daddy, can you name a beer after me?" I said yes, Mary. So this year's rendition of the clementine hefeweizen is affectionately referred to as Mary's Ale. Here is the recipe and brewing instructions. Enjoy.

Kiss of Clementine II (Mary's Ale)
Brewed: January 5, 2012
O.G. 1.042
68 degrees F

6.0 lbs. Wheat liquid malt extract
1.0 oz Crystal hops (2.8 alpha) (60 minutes)
1.0 oz. Sweet Orange peel (10 minutes)
12 Clementines, peeled
White Labs 029 German Ale/Kolsch yeast
2/3 cup priming sugar

The night before brewing, prepare a yeast starter using 1300 mL of water and 1 cup of DME.

Bring 2.5 gallons of water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in wheat malt extract. Return to a boil and add bittering hops. Boil for 60 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of the boil, add the Sweet Orange peel. After 60 minutes of boiling, remove from heat and place in an ice bath in the kitchen sink.

In a separate pot, add the fruit meat to a half gallon of water. Raise temperature to 160 degrees and hold for duration of the kettle boil. When boil is complete, place in ice bath to cool then proceed.

Fill a 6.5 gallon carboy with one gallon cold, filtered water. Sparge the fruit mixture into the fermenter using a strainer to remove fruit meat. You may also use a potato masher or other sanitized device to mash the fruit juice into the fermenter. Add the cooled wort. Top off with cold water to make 5 gallons. Take gravity reading. Aerate the wort for 45 minutes using an aeration system. Pitch the yeast. Store in a dark place to ferment.

In two weeks, rack to a secondary fermenter. Continue to store in a dark place.

In two more weeks, bottle with priming sugar solution.

Beer will be ready to drink after two weeks of bottle conditioning. Makes approximately two cases.

Western New York Venture Association

Today I attended the meeting of the Western New York Venture Association. Two very interesting companies presented their business plans and request for funding. The first was COMET, an assessment program for schools. The second was Novera Protein, a company focused on protein supplements for the dairy and beef feed industries. Both companies benefit from increased Government regulation in their respective industries.

As politicians, school districts and their administrators seek greater accountability for their investments and strive to increase student success rates, the market for measurable and actionable assessments increases. COMET offers just such an assessment and has the backers to offer a robust solution to school districts. I expect that there will be room for this product in an already crowded field of companies selling to educational institutions.

Novera's product is a little more interesting in that it not only increases the value to the farmers by improving animal nutrition, it also reduces nitrogen runoff, making it a highly desirable product by farmers in areas such as Delaware and Maryland where states are limiting the amount of runoff to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Seems like this should be a run away product right off the bat.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cherry Blossom Training

So I owe everybody a couple of posts this week on both my running and brewing exploits. We'll start with my training for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile.

After about a month of training, I finally feel like I have my base. My legs feel great and cardiovascularly, I feel good. This week, I ran 5 days for 16.2 miles, all on the treadmill. Average pace was approximately 10 minutes per mile, although I did shorter stretches at a faster pace (~9:30/mile).

In addition to running, I added a day of cross-training, spending 30 minutes on the exercise bike once during the week to break up the running. For now, I'm going to stick with the bike although I may start swimming as well. Our new gym has a pool that would be great for swimming a few laps.

Finally, I added weight training to my regimen this week. I spent 30 minutes with a personal trainer working on lower body exercises to strengthen my legs. While training for previous races, I have suffered tendinitis in my knee as well as pain related to my IT band. I plan to push it hard during this training and hope that these exercises will contribute added strength and prevent recurring IT band issues. I plan to do these exercises twice per week.

Now it's time to get out and run!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cherry Blossom Training

An interesting look at my run totals so far for the Cherry Blossom. Monday is not a strong running day for me and 54% of my miles have some on the treadmill so far. Need to course correct for more mileage run outside than inside.

My fastest times seem to come in the morning with the 536 Run Club.

Week of Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Totals

3.00 33.28 I 3.00 32.78 I

4.10 45.90 I

- 10.10 10.10

3.52 32.77 O

3.46 32.23 O 3.00 30.33 I

3.04 27.27 O 10.02 3.00 13.02

3.26 30.02 O

3.26 - 3.26

3.10 31.00 I 3.46 33.60 O

3.50 35.00 I

3.46 6.60 10.06

16.74 19.70 36.44
D = distance in miles as measured by the treadmill or my Garmin
T= time, in minutes
L = location, inside or outside

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sweet, Tasty Beer

Now that the Holidays are over, it is time to get back to brewing and January 2012 is shaping up to be a good brew month. Last night, I bottled my Sierra Madre Pale Ale from Northern Brewer, and I think it is going to be a winner. In fact, I brewed it with a friend from 536 Run Club whose motto is, “Make it a Great Day”, so this one has nowhere to go but up. Vital statistics are:

Brewed 11/30/11

Racked 12/15/11

Bottled 1/4/12

O.G. 1.048 @ 74 degrees (target 1.052)

F.G. 1.008 @ 68 degrees

The beer has a nice amber color and is incredibly clear (possibly due to the extra week in the secondary). It had great hop aroma, but was not as strong as when I racked it from primary to secondary. At that point, it smelled exactly like its muse. The “sample” obtained from the short pour was fantastic! Looking forward to drinking a carbonated one.

Additionally, I created a yeast starter for my next beer, the Clementine Hefeweizen. I have blogged about this beer before and am looking forward to equally fantastic results. I have not made any adjustments to the recipe given its enormous popularity (don’t mess with a good thing). I do intend to pay closer attention to fermentation temps and try to maintain temps within an optimal range for Kolsch, which is the yeast I’m using. I will post an update on this one shortly, including my recipe.

Finally, I purchased the ingredients for my Super Bowl beer, which I will also brew this weekend. It is based on the Northern Brewer recipe for The Innkeeper, but I had to make a few adjustments based on the ingredients that were available at my local homebrew supply shop (thanks for the gift card, Cricket and Peter!). So, the adjustments are as follows:

3.3 lbs light Pilsen liquid malt extract (closest equivalent size to NB 3.15 lb offering)

1 oz whole leaf UK Kent Goldings hops (sold out of pellet variety from Christmas season)

Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale (does not carry Wyeast 1945)

Rest of the recipe remains the same. Looking forward to a good brew, which should be pretty spot on based on what I’ve read. Enjoy yourself a homebrew.