Monday, December 16, 2013

A beery good weekend

I suck at puns.

I picked up a whole whack of beers on Friday. Unfortunately for this blog, I spent more time enjoying them than taking notes for review. So, in keeping with the blog theme of "half-assed" reviews... here we go!

Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout - Nickel Brook

I really enjoy this one. It was very dark brown with a creamy head. Aromas of coffee, smoke and a hint of rye were present. Not surprising since this was aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The taste followed pretty much the same, dark chocolate, coffee, light smokey taste, and a hint of rye. My wife wasn't too keen on the rye flavour, despite enjoying a sip of a rye sample at the LCBO earlier that evening. As with many that I picked up, this one was 10% ABV.

Black Magic Woman - Hornbeer

Another stout for the evening, and another 10% ABV.

This one poured a dark brown with a brown creamy head. Aromas of smoke and coffee were one again present. The taste was a smooth, dark chocolate with a light smokey finish.

A couple of others that I picked up, but didn't keep notes on were...

China Wall Vienna Dark Lager - Lake of Bays Brewing Company

It was very good. Crisp, clean, lager. I should really pick this up again and review it.

Trappistes Rochefort 10 - Brasserie de Rochefort

One of a few non-stouts in the Friday haul, and I loved it.

I still have four other bottles of assorted beer beverages sitting in my fridge for this Friday. I'll try not to enjoy them as much so I can keep notes. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dominion City Brewing Co. finds a home

New craft breweries opening in my city is always an exciting time.

When they're going to be located within walking distance of where I live, it makes me ecstatic. :)

Dominion City Brewing Co. has found a home at 5510 Canotek Road and they get the keys on January 1st, 2014. If you haven't heard about them before, you can read a recent article about them at Ottawa Beer Events.

Welcome to the neighbourhood!

Beyond the Pale grows beyond expectations

Check out the interview with Shane Clark and Robert McIsaac from Beyond the Pale at here.

Beyond The Pale

It looks like they're planning to expand again, and the LCBO may also be in their sights.

I would love to see find their tasty beverages at the LCBO.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2014 Gatineau Winter BeerFest

Thanks to a friend at work, he let me know that the 2014 Gatineau Winter BeerFest (aka Festibiere d'Hiver) will be January 31st and February 1st.

This year it will be held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and is also listed as an official Winterlude event.

Tickets for the 2-day event are $10 and more information can be found on their web site at

Wort Blending

If you've read my posts before, you know that I currently use Festa Brew's pasteurized wort for my home brew.

This afternoon I discovered that there are other styles of Festa Brew wort that aren't even listed on Magnotta's web site.

To date, the list that I know about is as follows:

  • Pale Ale
  • Bock
  • Wheat
  • West Coast IPA
  • Double Oatmeal Stout
  • Red Ale
  • Brown Ale
  • Blonde Lager
  • Continental Pilsner
  • Cream Ale
  • Mexican Lager
  • Dry
  • Czech Pilsner

If you know of any others, let me know.

During my search for a more complete list, I came across a Festa Brew wort blending matrix to create other styles:

I'm anxious to try a few of them, but it'll also mean making a double-batch of whatever I choose, unless I measure half of each 23L bag. If you've ever poured one of those bags into a pail, you know that won't be an easy (or clean!) job.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I've been published... and other beer stuff

A little while ago, I was contacted by someone from TAPS Magazine for permission to use one of my beer photos in the Nov/Dec issue of TAPS. The photo in question was one of my many Instagram #beerporn photos. I gave permission in exchange for credit and a courtesy copy of the issue that they offered.

Yesterday I was contacted by the same person, apologizing for the fact that my name somehow got dropped from the photo credit during the printing process. I work in the graphics industry with software that prints. I know that things like this do in fact happen. They apologized and said they would publish a correction in the Jan/Feb issue, as well as list me as a Contributing Photographer in the issue credits. They sent me snaps of the correction and credit. Pretty sweet deal. :) I'd post them, but since the issue isn't out yet I'll hold off.

The issue that my photo was published in finally arrived today.

That's my Pink Fuzz. :)

In other news, my son and I racked the Double Oatmeal Stout yesterday. We had a bit of trouble with the hose to transfer the beer, but aside from that it went OK. The hose we used seemed like it may not have been cleaned properly from the last time we used it. We cleaned and sanitized it the best we could last night, so my fingers are crossed that we didn't compromise the brew.

My very low-tech home brewery, for now.

This evening, I drove out to the Orleans DeFalco's and picked up one of their two remaining Red Ale Festa Brew malt bags, and we started that brew this evening. This is the first time we've got two going at the same time. The Red Ale should be ready by Boxing Day if we stick to the the "normal" schedule.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

West Coast IPA bottled.. and another learning experience

My son and I bottled the Festa Brew West Coast IPA last Saturday. Everything went very well. We didn't quite get as much as other brews.

For example, the wheat gave us ~22L of bottled goodness. The IPA only gave us ~20L. The original bag of pasteurized wort was 23L. I know we lost about half a litre when we racked it, but I'm not quite sure where the extra disappeared to (aside from the usual evaporation and fermentation process)

I'm very anxious to try this one. The aroma makes my mouth water.

During the bottling process, we also learned something new.

We didn't use enough corn sugar for the carbonation of the Wheat.

Don't get me wrong; the wheat tastes pretty good, but it seems to be lacking a little something that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

While I was calculation the quantity of corn sugar to prime the IPA, I discovered that I used the wrong calculation for the wheat. The quantity we used was at least 50g short. Oops. I won't make the mistake the next time.

Aside from the carbonation, would that have made a difference to the flavour? I don't know, but I'll find out the next time I make it.

With 4 weeks to go until Christmas, I'd like to get at least one, maybe two, more batches of something ready for the Christmas season. I was hoping to make Festa Brew's Double Oatmeal Stout and Red Ale. I stopped by DeFalco's on Gladstone yesterday and picked up the stout. Sadly, they didn't have the Red Ale in stock. All they had was the West Coast IPA (lots of it!), the stout, Pale Ale, Wheat, and Blonde Lager. I might have to drive out to the Orleans location and see what they have.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brew Donkey goes live on Nov 28

I blogged about these guys last week.

They go live on November 28th at 1pm.

You can get more details on their web site by clicking -> here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Got craft?

No? Then these guys could hook you up: Brew Donkey.

Brew Donkey is a new, Ottawa Craft Beer delivery service for the Ottawa area.  For $12, they will deliver up to 9 growlers to your home (according to what I read on their Facebook page)

Not a bad deal, especially if you want multiple beers from multiple local craft breweries. (Or if you have no means of transportation, aside from public transportation.)

Their current list of supported vendors are:

  • Ashton Brewing
  • Beyond the Pale
  • Big Rig Brewing
  • Broadhead Brewing
  • Cassel Brewery
  • Clocktower Brewpub
  • Covered Bridge Brewing
  • Kichesippi Beer
  • Mill St Brewery
  • LCBO
For $12 (plus cost of the beer) you could organize a pretty decent beer tasting event and not even have to leave your home!

If you want more info, check out the following links:

(P.S. They also organize beer tasting tours!)

Home Brew Labels

I've been toying with label designs lately. And name changes for my home "brand". Here's an early sample of one of the designs.

The skull isn't a definite, but I like it because it's somewhat subtle and goes well with the old look and feel of the label. My wife didn't even pick up on the fact that it was a skull until I pointed it out. That's sort of what I was going for. The old look and feel will most likely stay. It goes well with a swing top bottle.

I can easily change the style of beer on the label and keep them all consistent. I wanted to incorporate some kind of colour that visually identifies the style, but so far I can't find anything that works well with the rest of the label.

The name "beergasm" was an afterthought moments before I uploaded it, since it's the name of my blog. As much as I liked "Billy Rigg", it doesn't feel enough like me. Another option is going with my last name: Paterson.

Bottled wheat and forthcoming IPA

My son and I bottled the Festa Brew wheat on Saturday.

We had a little bit of a hiccup when we started actually transferring it to the bottles. I decided we should try using a hose from my old kit. The hose is a little wider than the one that came with the new kit, so it fits onto the transfer and bottling rods with less effort. As the first bottle filled, the beer in the hose began to foam. A lot. And the foam transferred to the beer. I blamed the hose, so we swapped it to the narrower hose thinking it would fix the problem. It didn't.

As it turns out, the hose wasn't the problem. It just had too much air in it to begin with, and once it was gone it was fine. We didn't have that problem with the pale ale or bock.  Strange.

Again, we had difficulty getting an accurate gravity reading, so the alcohol content is a big estimate and should be around 4%.

I wasn't planning on starting another batch of anything until my beer "stock" drops, but yesterday I noticed an old post on DeFalco's Facebook page saying that they got a shipment of Festa Brews in, including the "limited" West Coast Pale Ale that I've been looking for. I was posted days after my last visit there.

I stopped off yesterday after work to see if they had any left and I was surprised to see that they had a lot of them. At first it looked like that's all they had on the skid. Because it's a "brewmaster's reserve" it did cost more than any others I've tried to date, at $40.99. The bock was $31.99 and the pale ale was less than that.

I might get it started this weekend. I'm low on empty bottles right now, but with a small change to my brewing process that won't be a problem. I read a suggestion somewhere that said to leave the brew in the primary container for a week, as opposed to the recommended 4-5 days, before racking. If I do that, and then leave it for at least two to three weeks in the secondary, I'm sure more than a few bottles will empty themselves out in that time. :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

WinterBrewed 2014

National Capital Craft Beer Week has announced that the WinterBrewed 2014 dates are February 14-16. This year's location will be at Ottawa City Hall, where the National Capital Craft Beer Festival was held this past summer.

Further details have yet to be announced.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Festa Brew Pale Ale

I just realized that I never did any "official" review of my own home brewed, Festa Brew Pale Ale. So here goes.

First, a rundown of what we did.

  • 2-stage brewing process
  • primary fermentation was in a 23L plastic pail
  • poured contents of bag into pail
  • mixed the included yeast with 1 cup of pre-boiled water, cooled to just under 30c, and allowed to hydrate for 5-10 minutes before pouring into the wort
  • placed the lid on the pail firmly (not snapped shut to allow Co2 to escape
  • on day 5 we racked it into a glass carboy and put an airlock on it
  • on day 16 we mixed 1.25 cups of corn sugar with 2 cups of boiling water and and transferred the brew from the carboy back into the pail to prime it and then bottled it
I think it tasted best after 3-4 weeks of aging in the bottles.

The colour was a slightly cloudy copper with an off-white head that lingered. The aroma was a little spicy with some nuttiness. Perhaps a hint of citrus orange.. or some kind of fruit. The taste was.. vegetal? I can't describe it any different. I'm not sure if I've ever taste a beer like it yet.

The ABV was around 5.2%, if I calculated correctly. That makes it a pretty decent session beer in my books. Something else I noticed (and maybe I imagined it) but it tasted better from the 750ml swing-top bottles, than it did from the 500ml PET bottles.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and I'll definitely be making it again in the future. I'd like to experiment a little with it and let it sit longer for the secondary fermentation to see how it affects (improves?) the flavour.

Red on Red

I picked this up on Friday at my local LCBO along with a few other new and tasty beverages. I think this was one of my favourites if the weekend.

Red on Red is a limited edition Imperial Double Red collaboration ale between Flying Monkeys and Central City Brewers.

Its colour is a dark ruby red, with a light brown lingering head. The aroma is grapefruity, that reminds me a lot of other Flying Monkeys beers.

The taste is, again, grapefruit with a light lingering bitterness that remind me of.. eating grapefruit at breakfast.

I read the notes after finishing off the bottle and the Central City's web site says:
This Limited Edition Double Red Ale has been single-hopped using the first release of the brand new “Mosaic” hops bringing out floral notes of Papaya and Guava, creating a unique flavour and aroma when married with the Pale, Munich and Three Crystal malts.
If I could remember what papaya and guava tasted like, perhaps I would have picked up on that. :) I think I need to pick some up and train my taste buds a little.

Overall, I loved it, and I'd definitely buy it again. It's not too bitter like some IPAs, which makes it very easy drinking for me. But at 9.5% ABV, I'd have to limit myself to a bottle.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Maybe it's the beer talking...

One last post.

I opened a Cafepress store a while ago for a few beer-related T-shirt designs. I ordered one of my favourite ones about a week ago and it arrived last week.

I love it. :)

If you'd like one, you can get it here:

Basement Bock... and Wheat!

Last Saturday, my son and I bottled the bock.

We got 28 500ml PET, 12 500ml swing-top, 3 750ml swing-top, and one 1L swing-top filled up. I'm going to crack one open tomorrow and see how it's doing.

At the same time, we started a wheat beer, which we racked this evening. We've already got plenty of bottles for it even if none of the bock get drank. Ya... that's likely. :) I was a little surprised to find a few fruit flies buzzing around the primary fermentation pail last night, and a little worried that it might get contaminated. It should have been sealed enough. When we were racking it this evening, my son found one dead fruit fly stuck to the inside of the pail. :( I think it'll be fine. I hope so anyway.

One thing that I noticed about the wheat brew was that the initial fermentation foam was pretty much all gone by day 3. The pale ale and the bock still had foam on day 3.

Speaking of bottles. When I bought the two dozen swing-top bottles from Defalco's, they cost $3.04 each, after tax. Yesterday, my wife stopped at the LCBO to see if she could find the Iron Maiden Trooper Ale for me. (they didn't have it) While she was there, she picked up a 500ml bottle of Hacker Pschorr Weiss for me because it was in a swing-top bottle. I've had it before — it's a great beer. But what's even better is the fact that a bottle of this beer costs $3.15. A full bottle of beer, in a reusable 500ml swing top bottle, for a little more than the cost of a new, empty swing-top bottle. Needless to say, I know where I'll be buying my next two dozen swing-top bottles. :)

The pale ale is now almost all gone. I'll definitely be making it again in the future. I have a 1L bottle left, that I've reserved for a friend who is moving into the neighbourhood, and two 500ml PET bottles that I plan to age 6 and 12 months respectively to see how the flavour changes.

I'm also due for a review or two. I've got notes from a few recent tastings that I just haven't gotten around to posting. Soon. :)


A great video on the history of lager, and more.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A (mostly) Beerless Weekend

Due to a nasty health issue that occurred last week, and is still somewhat ongoing, there were no new beers for me to discover this weekend. :(

I did, however, decide to crack open one of the pale ale home brews to see what it's like on the third week since bottling.

I'm not sure if it's better than week two, but it is still a very tasty beer and one that I will definitely brew again in the future.

Something I noticed about bottles is that it seems the 750ml glass swing-top bottles I used have more carbonation in them than the plastic 500ml bottles. The same goes for the 1L bottles. However, I also noticed that one plastic bottle may have a little less or more carbonation than another. Maybe some weren't closed as tight? There just doesn't seem to be as much foamy head as from the glass bottles.

I picked up two dozen 500ml swing-top bottles the other week so when I started using them for the Bock, I'll be able to do a side-by-side comparison with the 500ml plastic bottles.

Speaking of the Bock. Bottling day was supposed to be Friday, but I decided to let it sit for an extra week before bottling. That's probably a good thing anyway since the health issue would have gotten in the way a little. Apparently this should help to bring out more flavour. Who knows... I don't really have anything to compare it to since this is the first Bock for me.

Yesterday I built two new beer crates, specifically for the the swing-top bottles. As an added bonus, the size will also suit wine bottles. They cost around $20 each to build. I need to find a cheaper source of wood for any future crates.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Basement" Bock Update

A quick update about the Festa Brew "Basement" Bock.

My son and I did in fact begin brewing it on Saturday, September 28th and we racked it on Wednesday, October 2nd. I tasted the sample that we drew for the gravity reading and it was pretty tasteless. Or my palette was really messed up. :) The reading was 1.028-1.030. It was difficult to read.

Based on the usual schedule this is one is probably due for bottling on Friday or Saturday, but I might let it sit for an extra week before bottling.

I built two wooden crates on the weekend. I designed them a little taller than the PET bottles because I'm hoping that they'll also be good for the glass swing-top bottles that I will eventually buy.

Iron Maiden Trooper Ale - It's coming!

Back in March, I asked the LCBO on Facebook if they had plans to get the Iron Maiden Trooper Ale.

I received a response the same day saying they were in talks with some agents, but nothing was firm, and once something was confirmed they would let me know.

I received a message this morning telling me that it's in and will be rolled out for wider distribution later this week.

That's all kinds of awesome; awesome that they've now got it, and awesome that they didn't forget to follow up.

I hope it was worth waiting for. :)

Billy Rigg's Basement Brew - Part 5 (mmm... carbonation)

Success. Patience does indeed carbonate beer.

I tried one mid-week last week and it had fairly decent carbonation and good flavour. I tried another (or three) on Friday and they were even better. It's hard not to want to have more, but I'm trying to leave time in between tastings so if there's any difference it'll stand out more.

I'm hoping that I can save two bottles and let them age for at least 6 months, maybe even a year, and see how they improve.

Mid-week sample @ 11 days after bottling

Friday Sample @ 14 days after bottling


I attended my first ever Oktoberfest on Saturday. Beau's Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill. (the tickets I won from the Ottawa Beer Fest in the summer)

If there's one thing you have to do if you go there, it's make sure you buy the tickets that include bus fair. It's well worth the extra cost because there were so many different beers there to try and you don't want to be driving. Or, find someone who doesn't like beer to be your designated driver. Or, camp there. I didn't realize they had space for camping.

Beer tokens were $5 each. They had 4 large beer tents where they had 3 or 4 different flavours and/or styles of Beau's own creations where 1 token got you an 8oz cup, and one craft tent where they had 50-60 beers from Beau's and many other craft breweries. At this tent, you could get two 4oz samples for a single token. A little pricey I think, compared to LCBO prices.

Among the tasty beverages we tried, were...

  • Beau's Night Marzen
  • Black Oak Brewing's Hop Bomb
  • Beau's Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout)
  • Beau's Oktobock
  • Beau's Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale
  • Amsterdam Brewing Co's Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
  • Barley Day's Brewery's Scrimshaw Oyster Stout
  • Grand River Brewing's Pugnacious Pale Ale
  • Granite Brewery's Hopping Mad
  • Beau's Dampf Punk (Dampfbier)
I'm sure there were others that I forgot about. I think our favourite was the Tom Green Beer, which was also my first milk stout.

The food was pretty good. The only disappointment was The Works burger. Not very flavourful and the patty seemed rather small. Maybe I should have paid extra for the bacon. I've eaten at The Works many times in the past and they're always been awesome. My wife bought perogie poutine with sausage (from the Barley Mow?). We'll have to try making those at home some time. Later in the afternoon we bought a reuben from Olivea. It was delicious.

I'll put up some photos here soon.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Billy Rigg's Basement Brew - Part 4 (aka patience wanted)

Before leaving for work on Friday, I put a bottle of the home brew in the fridge for when I got home. I realize that it was still early to be cracking them open, but I was curious how it tasted and how the carbonation was going.

The taste was good. The carbonation was disappointing.

Again, I know it's still early, but I was expecting a little more carbonation than it had. It was basically what most people would consider to be a flat beer.

After doing a little research, I'm now extremely confident that it'll improve. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about this. :)

Some are saying that it could take at least 3 weeks for decent carbonation to develop. In some cases, even longer.

The rule of thumb seems to be: if it's not carbonated enough, let it sit for another week or two. Patience and time will fix low carbonation.

There's a good forum message here, along with a time-lapse video of how a beer changes as it ages:

As some suggest, check it every week, take notes, and compare how it improves over time. That's what I'll be doing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Basement Bock

I haven't even had a full bottle of my pale ale home brew yet and I'm already planning the next batch.

The pale ale still has a week to go in the bottles, based on the manufacturer's instructions, but I'll be opening one tomorrow night to see what it's like so far. I've been fighting the urge to sample it for a few days now. :)

Yesterday I decided it would make sense to start a new batch while this one was aging. By the time it's ready for bottling, I'm fairly certain that I'll have more empties for it.

My son wanted me to pick up a wheat beer, but they didn't have any at DeFalco's. They had a blonde, west coast IPA, pale ale, oatmeal stout and a bock. The bock is on my to-do list, so I picked it up. I also bought another 24 PET bottles, some caps, and a tub of sanitizer.

I think we'll get it started this weekend.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Billy Rigg's Basement Brew - Part 3

My home brew has a name: Billy Rigg's Basement Brew

It's a bit of a joke with a friend at work who had a dyslexic moment and said "beely rig", instead of "really big". I said it sounded like some kind of beer brand... "Billy Rigg"... and then I added "basement brew". It stuck and that's my brand for my home brew. :)

I checked on its progress this past Thursday and the air lock seemed to be doing nothing.

I checked on it again today and it had moved, but really there wasn't much going on.

I decided to draw a sample today and check the gravity and taste. I enlisted my co-brewmaster son to help.

This is where things got a little confusing. From what we could tell, it seemed the gravity was higher than it had been when we racked the beer. It was reading somewhere around 1.018 to 1.020. But there seemed to be a bit more carbonation happening in the beer that was making the hydrometer float higher than it should be. We're figuring that it's 1.018.

I was really happy and surprised with the clarity. It still tasted a little light, but it was good. I'm sure it'll be even better carbonated. :)

After taking the reading, we decided to get it bottled.

Priming the beer was simple enough. Sterilizing and rinsing all the bottles was very time consuming. I learned that the next time we do it, I'll probably use my old brew kit pail rather than a camping cooler. It'll be a whole lot easier, I think, with the deeper container.

Bottling was a breeze. I happened to have a bottle filling rod from my last kit that we used. I'm not sure why my new kit didn't come with something like this. It has a spring-loaded tip to allow quick stop'n'go bottle filling. Much easier and less messy than a hose clamp.

We first filled the 8 flip-top bottles that I acquired from a friend at work. We then started filling the 500ml PET bottles that I bought at DeFalco's. This was so much easier than 27 years ago when I used a bottle capper.

When all was done, we ended up with almost thirty-five 500ml PET bottles, five 750ml flip-top and two 1 litre flip-top.

Now we wait for 2 weeks before refrigeration.  We have one partially full PET bottle that I'll probably try in a week's time to see how it's going.

I'm already looking forward to our next batch. I can't decide if it'll be a red or a bock. I'm leaning toward bock.

P.S. A label is coming... and it'll be very cool. :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Muskoka Harvest Ale

I happened to be downtown on Saturday, not far from the LCBO at Rideau and King Edward, so I decided to drop in and pick up the new Beau's Oktoberfest Mix pack.

They didn't have it, or maybe it wasn't out on the shelves yet. Not one to waste a visit, I picked up a few other beers that my LCBO didn't have.

One of these was Muskoka's Harvest Ale. Judging from the orange label, I just assumed it would be a pumpkin ale, to accompany the other two pumpkin ales I picked up.

I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't.

This is one delicious beer.

It poured a dark amber and had a thick, foamy, off-white head that stuck around for a long time. The aroma was grapefruity with a mix of spice and caramel in there somewhere.

What your nose gets is pretty much what your mouth gets. Grapefruity, spicy, caramel. It's a fairly well balanced beer, smooth drinking, with a slight bitter finish.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and will probably grab another bottle before the season is over. Enjoy in moderation, as it's 7% ABV. :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Unnamed Home Brew Part 2

Yesterday was day 4 of the home brew. I took a peek in the pail on Monday and saw that most of the surface foam had broken down, so I figure it was ready for racking. But since I had a beer certification class to attend, I had to wait until last night.

I didn't think it would take my son and I that long to do, maybe half an hour, but I was wrong as usual. With clean up, it took just under an hour.

One thing that concerned me a little is that the gravity reading looks to be 1.011. That's already in bottling range. Is that good? Or bad? Like I said, it's only day 4.

I tasted the sample we took and there's not as much flavour as I had hoped. It's not bad, but I expected something a little bit stronger tasting. I'm not sure if that's normal either. Time will tell.

Anyway, we sterilized everything and transferred all the content (minus the yeast sludge) to a glass carboy and capped it off with an air lock. The air lock shows that there's still some fermentation going on, so that's good.

Based on the original gravity reading and the one we took last night, it looks like the ABV will probably be 5.9% or higher.

I'll take another reading in 6-7 days and see where it's at.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Unnamed Home Brew Part 1

We began our first home brew project last night.


I had originally planned to do a video diary kind of thing but I decided to not bother, and instead shoot some pics with my phone.

I dragged out a couple of camping coolers the night before to use as sterilization and rinsing containers. My son began the task of sterilizing the equipment as I re-familiarized myself with the instructions. :)

We had some trouble removing the cap from the Fest Brew bag. I had to get a pipe wrench to pry it off. I expected this after watching a video on YouTube a couple of weeks ago from someone also using a Fest Brew kit. Once the cap was off, we poured the contents into the primary fermentation pail. My son said it smelled like molasses.

Next, we boiled a cup of water to activate the yeast. The lesson learned from this is to start that first because you have to cool down the water to 25-30c before adding the yeast, and then wait another 10-15 minutes for the yeast to saturate before adding it to the wort. We put the measuring cup in the freezer for a while to cool it down. The instructions that came with the home brew kit said we could just sprinkle the yeast onto the wort. The instructions we were using came with the Fest Brew mix. I'm not sure if one works better than the other.

Before adding the yeast slurry, I took a hydrometer reading: 1.056

One thing I found a little annoying is that there's very little information included with a kit (this one or the one I got years ago) that gives you detailed info about reading a hydrometer. I watched a few videos on YouTube before I understood it, and now realize one of the benefits of taking before and after readings is to know what the ABV of the beer will be. :) The kits typically tell you what a reading should be before you bottle it. That's it, that's all.

After stirring in the yeast slurry, we sat the lid on the pail and cleaned up.

This kit is a little different than the one I used years ago. It's a 2-stage. There's no air-lock for the primary fermentation pail. The secondary is a glass carboy and there's an airlock for it. The first time I tried a home brew years ago was with a single stage kit, and the pail I have has a hole in the lid for an air-lock. I still have most of that kit, and I'll eventually put it to use after this first batch is done.

So there we go. Day 1 is done. I had a peek in the pail this morning to see how it's doing. I know you're not supposed to, but I was curious to see how the fermentation is going. I'll leave it alone for the next day or two and then check it again in preparation for moving it to the carboy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homebrew coming soon

I think I neglected to mention that a couple of weeks ago, I picked this up:

  • One beer making kit with all equipment required (2 stage)
  • One 23L bag of Pale Ale pasteurized brewer's wort

It was a spur of the moment thing where I decided if I'm going to do this, I had to go that day. Besides, my teenage son had been bugging me for weeks about it since I told him it would be a father/son project. (he doesn't drink, but he likes the science behind it)

I drove to Defalco's in Orleans about a half hour before closing. The lone clerk was super helpful. After choosing the kit, I asked for a fairly simple mix to get me started and he recommended the Festa Brew mixes. "Pour it in the bucket, pitch the yeast, and Bob's your uncle."

I was surprised (and very pleased) to find that I wouldn't have to stink up the house boiling the wort. I think that was actually the main deterrent in my mind that made me procrastinate. The first time I made beer in my early 20s, it was a messy and smelly job.

I may eventually give that process another try at some point, but for now I'll take the somewhat easier route. I could have gone even easier with a 1 stage Cooper's Brewing Kit.

The kit now sits in my basement, awaiting me and has been for a couple of weeks. :) I had to wait until our basement was tidy enough that I wasn't stepping (or tripping) over things. That cleanup happened this past weekend.

The only thing standing between us and starting the brew is timing. I'd like to try and make sure that the bottling will occur on a weekend, rather than mid-week, which means getting started mid-week or thereabouts. Perhaps tomorrow.

I'm thinking of video-recording our attempt for posterity. And maybe YouTube. :)

The Darkness

I finally got around to returning the two 32oz growlers to Beyond the Pale this afternoon. Naturally, I needed refills. :)

I picked up The Darkness, which I had tried at the Brewery Market back in July. It's 5.6% ABV, 30 IBU. Pretty easy drinking.

It's not a very heady beer on the pour, unless you intentionally pour fast, but it dissipates fairly quickly.

The aroma is coffee. The taste is coffee with a bitter finish. This might be a good cupcake beer. ;) The carbonation is pretty light. I'd almost think it was rather flat.

I enjoyed it, but the others I've tasted like it that I prefer more.

Imperial Super Guy

The second growler I picked up at Beyond the Pale was Imperial Super Guy.  They call this the granddaddy of their Rye Guy IPA.

This feeds an IPA craving very well.

It's a whopping 9.1% ABV, 90 IBU IPA. Despite its potency, I didn't feel the same kicked that I get from other high ABV beers. Maybe that's a good thing? :)

It's a fairly heady beer on the pour. A dark amber/red colour. The aroma is the usual grapefruit and so is the taste with some malty goodness thrown in. It's a well balanced beer. I definitely enjoyed this and as I said, it fed my IPA craving well.

I need to do a side-by-side comparison of Rye Guy and ISG some time. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hop Circle IPA

I new find and a new brewery, for me anyway. Phillips Hop Circle IPA:

I had an IPA craving this weekend, and found this at the LCBO.

It poured light golden, with a touch of amber. The head, as you can see in the photo, was pretty thick and it never completely goes away. With the right glass (which I did not use for this first one) you'll get some lacing.

The aroma was grapefruity, as expected, with a touch of malty sweetness. I liked it, and the 6-pack did not last long, but based on other reviews I've read this may not be for everyone.

The ABV is 6.5%. I'm not sure what the IBU is.

Beau's Oktoberfest 2013

These arrived this week:

I won them in a draw that Beau's had at the beer fest. I did have to pay $30 for the bus rides though. I didn't mind at all.

This will be my first Oktoberfest. :)

Speaking of Beau's, the have a new mixtape of music available to download from here:

City and Colour Maple Wheat

I first tried this beer at the National Capital Beer Fest. City and Colour Maple Wheat from Flying Monkeys.

It was a 4 token 4oz sample because of the high alcohol content. I happened to find it at the LCBO this past Friday, packaged in an attractive box that only Flying Monkeys could design. :) Naturally, I had to picked it up, despite its rather expensive price for a 750ml bottle.

First of all, don't drink it when it's very cold. I made that mistake. The cold tends to hide much of the maple goodness. I read somewhere that you should let craft beers sit for 15-20 minutes outside of the fridge before drinking. Do that with this one.

The colour is a reddish brown. The head is a light brown and dissipates fairly quickly leaving a thing trace as you consume this fine beverage.

The aroma is maple. No doubt. I often let my 18 and 15 year-old kids smell my beers to tell me what they smell. More often than not, I get "smells like beer". But this time my 18 year-old son said "coffee" and my 15 year-old daughter said "chocolate". It wasn't until after I told them it was maple that they agreed that they could smell maple.

The carbonation is fairly light. And the taste is maple, of course. There's a hint of chocolate and coffee there too, I'm sure. There's a slight bitter finish to it.

The ABV is 11.5%. Watch out. Thankfully, despite its deliciousness, it doesn't come across as a session beer. A 750ml bottle was just enough for me to enjoy. I can't imagine having more than one of these. Unless you're a maple junkie.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

National Capital Craft Beer Fest

All good things must come to an end, and beer festivals are no exception.

My wife and I hit the National Capital Craft Beer Fest on Friday afternoon, and Saturday evening. After spending a couple of hours there on Friday, I wondered if it was really worth it to get the 2-day pass. If trying as many beer samples is your goal, then the answer is yes. Not just from a standpoint of not wanting to get drunk, but we discovered that some beers aren't available both days. Aside from running out, new ones may appear the next day. More on that in a bit.

We got out ago of majority and 2-day pass bracelets and then proceeded to the ticket booth to buy our "tokens". Tokens are actually tickets, and they cost $1 each. We bought a sheet of 20 tickets. Side note: kudos for using glass sample glasses and not plastic cups like at Winterbrewed. These will look nice on my glassware shelf! :)

Now, a little gripe. The web site says "Prices for products will vary from exhibitor to exhibitor, but generally beer is priced at a minimum one token per 4 oz serving and 2 tokens per 8 ounce serving." That's a pretty good deal. I mean, you're trying to get people to try your beers so keep the prices reasonable and expand your customer base.

Sadly, this was not the case. There were a few that only charged 1 per 4 oz, but on average it was 2 for a 4 oz, 4 for an 8 oz. That's a pretty pricey beer for something you may not like.  However, some had deals where you could get 8 oz for 3 tokens so it took a little of the sting away.

Anyway, onto the beer tasting. My wife and I tried 20 beers. A few we had tried before, but we wanted a drink to go along with our lunch that we bought there. Although all were great, any with an * were some of our favs.

Muskoka Brewery -
  • Pit Crew Wit brew

Turtle Island Brewing Co -
  • Smash Cherry *
  • Dark honey brown

Beyond the Pale Brewing Company -
  • Party Animal *
  • Smoked Pol
  • Tamed Angry Orchid

Beau's All Natural Brewing Company -
  • Night Märzen
  • Wag the Wolf
  • Two Weeks Notice

Ashton Brewing Company -
  • Blueberry Wheat *
  • IPA Session Ale

Mill Street Brewery -
  • Frambozen
  • Palomar Chipotle + Lime
  • Distillery Ale

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery -
  • Orangemungus * 
  • City and Colour Imperial Maple Wheat *
  • Wild Patty's Crazy Berry

Lake of Bays Brewing Company -
  • Spark House 

Broadhead Brewing Company -
  • Long Shot White *

Steam Whistle -
  • Unfiltered *

The most memorable beers were:
  • Orangemungus
    This had a very strong orange flavour to it. Strongest orange flavoured beer I've ever tried. I like it.
  • City and Colour Imperial Maple Wheat
    This was not only the most expensive sample (4 tickets for 4 oz, "due to the high alcohol content"), it was also likely the strongest maple flavoured beer I've ever tried. Strong, but not overpowering. We tried this one on Friday afternoon and it was not available when we went on Saturday night. I guess they ran out at some point, so this is a good example of why a 2-day pass is handy. It was replaced on their board by Wild Patty's Crazy Berry.
  • Palomar Chipotle + Lime
    Feel the burrrrrrrrn going down. Spicey. Never tried anything like this one in my life. I liked it, but you won't be chugging back a lot of this one. :)
  • Smoked Pol
    Smokey. Not the smokiest beer I've ever tasted, but definitely memorable. My wife didn't like it at all. She said it was like drinking a smoked sausage.
  • Tamed Angry Orchid
    A sour beer! Not the most sour I've tasted, but there was no denying it was sour.
Food! We grabbed a sausage and a poutine with beer gravy from Spuds on Friday afternoon. The gravy was amazing. The sausage was delicious. I think it was one of the cheaper food vendors there too.

We were there for the two guest speakers on Friday, but to be honest we didn't pay much attention to everything they had to say because we were too distracted walking around tasting beers. :) They were Mirella Amato (beer specialist and Canada's female Certified Cicerone) and Ian Coutts (author of Brew North) I'm like a kid in a candy story. Perhaps next year I'll take more time to sit and listen.

We did catch some of the entertainment on Saturday night by the New Country Rehab. They're a country, rock, bluegrass, jazz band from Toronto. Definitely worth a listen.

I picked up a couple of souvenirs from the event: a T-shirt from Flying Monkeys, and a glass from Beau's and Ashton Brewing for my collection.

If you've never been to a beer fest, and you're not into lineups and crowds, go during the day. When we went Friday afternoon you could literally walk up to any of the brewery stands and and get what you wanted within seconds. On Saturday night, most of the stands had lineups anywhere from 10-20 people long. Granted, they moved fast so you didn't have to wait very long, but it's something to keep in mind.

Overall, a fun time, but a little expensive (spent $60 on tickets alone).