Sunday, October 26, 2014

FastFerment

I ordered a FastFerment back in June during their pre-order special and it finally arrived this past week!

They were kind enough to include an extra collection ball with the initial kit. I think it was to make up for some delays they had with the design. A couple of months after my order, they offered an accessories kit that included a stand, carrying strap, temperature gauge, and another collection ball, which I added to my order.

I set it up one evening, and filled it with cleaning solution and let it sit for a couple of days to test it for any leaks. They provided plumbers tape to use for all connections to ensure that all connections would be leak-free. Everything seemed fine. Or so I thought.

For my first brew using the system, I chose a simple one that I've done twice in the past: Festa Brew's Pale Ale, which I will be dry hopping with some of my homegrown Cascade.

After we poured the pasteurized wort into the conical, and pitched the yeast, we noticed a couple of very slow leaks at two of the connections. I tightened them a little more and it seems fine now. I suspect I didn't use enough plumber's tape. I'll redo all connections before the next brew.


This photo might be a little misleading, as it sits beside the carboy. That carboy is only an 11.5 litre carboy, not 23 litres. But the FastFerment is still pretty big and will hold 30 litres (7.9 U.S. gallons)

This system is designed to save time for racking since the only thing you need to do is shut off the valve, remove the ball, replace it with a clean one and turn the valve back on. No more sanitizing a carboy, hoses, racking rod, and then having to clean and sanitize the primary pail. The only thing I'll need to clean is the collection ball, unless I want to save the yeast it collected. I'm not at that point with my home brewing.

The bine that refused to die

Today is bitter sweet.

I harvested the last of the hops cones, and then cut the bine down.

Back in June when the plants got ill, from an apparent "Hops Mosaic Virus", I never imagined that I would be harvesting cones this month. When August came and went, with virtually no signs of flowers, despite the fact that the bines continued to thrive high above, I had pretty much given up hope.

Final photo before last harvest.

Today's final harvest was the largest yet.


Future compost

All harvests
I'll wait until the weather gets cooler and then bring the two pots that I planted them in inside. Next spring I plan to transplant them directly into the front flower bed, to the right of where they were this year. There's a tall wall that I'm going to try and build a trellis against.

What to do with the harvest? My first brew will be dry hopping a Festa Brew Pale Ale. The Pale Ale was started yesterday.

Which brings me to my next post... FastFerment!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Got hops?

Sooo slacking on the blog here.

Anyway, on Saturday morning my wife and I were leaving early to take a trip out to Prince Edward County for a night's stay and a half-day wine tour of the area. As I was leaving the house, I turned around and looked up at the big mess of what is supposed to be my hops plants.

As I mentioned, I haven't updated in a while but the plants recovered from their illness late in the summer, and produced tiny flower buds. I didn't expect that the weather would stay nice enough for them to turn into actual hops cones.

This photo is from September 6th.


You can see the tiny flowers.

So, as I was leaving this past Saturday, I looked up at it and couldn't believe my eyes.



Actual hops cones!

On Monday, I opened the bedroom window and checked them out. They were pretty close to being ready for picking (papery feel), so I picked a couple of handfuls to dry and freeze.


After reading up on harvesting hops, I realized that I may have picked them a little early. If and when I use them in home brew, it might end up giving the beer a bit of a grassy taste. We'll see. There are still plenty left to harvest, so if they can survive any frost that we get in the coming weeks, I'll have more to harvest.

Monday, July 28, 2014

International Beer Day

Could there be a better day than Friday to celebrate International Beer Day?

I think not.

Be sure to enjoy a few pints this Friday. Responsibly, of course. :)

Cheers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Homebrewing weekend

On the weekend we bottled the Belgian IPA and racked the Witbier. The gravity for the IPA was bang on to what it was supposed to be for bottling, which means the ABV will probably be around 6% after conditioning.

We drank the sample I took and it tasted pretty good. More bitter than the West Coast IPA I've made in the past, which it should be. Can't wait to try it with carbonation!

Every time I'm doing something with home brewing, it makes me look forward to getting FastFerment. The biggest problem I have when homebrewing is getting the flow started between the primary and secondary for racking, and then transferring between the secondary and the priming pail for bottling. This should save so much time and hassle.

They're still taking orders for their first 1000 units. $90 U.S. ($120 Cdn) is a pretty good price in comparison to what the original V-Vessel sold for. It's worth checking out:


Once I get it in my hands I'll post pics and maybe a video.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Two new brews

Two weeks of vacation time goes by pretty quick.

However, in those two weeks I did manage to brew up a couple of batches of beer.

I finally got around to making the two Brewer's Best kits that I picked up a while ago; the Belgian IPA and the Witbier.

As I was planning for the Belgian IPA, I discovered that the pot my wife bought for me months ago wouldn't be big enough. I first thought about buying a 20qt pot that was priced at around $50. Or, I could get a 30qt pot with a propane burner for around $80. Even though I knew there'd be added expense picking up a propane tank, I went for the propane burner package and decided I'd make the first batch on our kitchen stove.

That probably wasn't the best idea. The size of the pot meant a lot of heat was deflected back against the stop top and kinda ruined the paint a little around the element. Not a huge deal considering it's a pretty old stove. It also took forever to get anything to boil.

Anyway, my friend helped with that batch and it seemed to go fairly well. The only other problem we had was cooling the wort down in the sink. We ran out of ice fast. We noted that the next time we should pick up a few bags of ice.

The Belgian IPA has since been racked and is sitting for another week or so before bottling.

On Friday, I decided we should make the Witbier, this time using the propane burner out back on the new deck I built. I picked up a full tank of propane the day before, and on the morning of brew day we walked up to the gas station and picked up 6 bags of ice.

The biggest problem we ran into this time was keeping the propane burner lit at a low heat. We had to steep grains for 45 minutes at around 150F. The burner didn't want to stay lit at such a low temp. My friend monitored the temperature and when it climbed to 155, she'd life the pot off and let it sit on the deck (with lid on) until it dropped to around 150 and then put it back on the burner. That seemed to work well. We hope anyway. I guess we won't know for sure until we can taste the beer. :)

The other problem we ran into, but didn't discover until much later, was burning the LME (liquid malt extract) when we added it to the boiling wort. The lesson we learned there was to remove the pot from the burner first, add the LME, stir well, and then put it back on the burner. We were stirring when it was being added, but I guess it pooled at the bottom of the pot too quick. I'm pretty sure that's going to affect the beer, but again we won't know how or how much until we can taste it.

The Witbier is now in the primary, fermenting away happily.

These Brewer's Best kits are definitely more fun to make than the Festa Brew kits, but they are a lot more work for less beer. (Fest Brew = ~23L, Brewer's Best = ~19L) It took us around 4-5 hrs to get to the point that 30 mins would take for a Festa Brew kit. The margin for error is obviously greater with the Brewer's Best kits due to all the variables you can encounter with boiling and mixing ingredients.

However, there's definitely more to look forward to with the Brewer's Best kit. More satisfaction... assuming that we end up with something good at the end of it all. :) I'll still buy the Fest Brew kits for ease of use, especially for winter brewing when I'm less likely to try and boil outside. Although I'm sure cooling down the wort will be a lot easier. ;)

I'm hoping the Belgian IPA will be ready to try by the beginning of August. The Witbier will be around mid-August.

Until then, fingers crossed.

One important note to end this with: the Brewer's Best kits were unclear on whether the units of measurement were U.S. or Imperial. I was fairly certain they used U.S. measurements, but the Brewer's Best Canada web site says on their FAQ "Brewer’s Best® is produced in the U.S. and therefore uses imperial measurements" and then provides a conversion chart showing that 5 Imperial gallons is 19L.

That doesn't make any sense; 5 Imperial gallons is just under 23L, not 19L. I poked around their Facebook page and found an answer to another question stating that their kits are designed to make 19L of beer. If that's the case then they do in fact use U.S. measurements and not Imperial, as I originally thought.

I also asked the same question on their Facebook page, but I never got an answer. Hopefully someone took note and will fix the error on their Canadian web site. You wouldn't want to spend all that time cooking up a batch of beer only to have it end up watered down crap.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hops - Day 42

These photos were taken on Saturday, day 42.


Must be 10-12ft tall now.

The slower growing of the two, Hops 1, has developed an odd spotting on the leaves. When I first noticed it I thought it was pollen... which pretty much covered everything around for weeks. I emailed Ashleigh at Beyond the Pale, who is running the Community Grow Hop project, and she forwarded my question to Bristol Hops, who supplied the hops rhizomes.

They responded quickly with more questions about the hops, and the pictures I sent. Apparently my hops may have the Hops Mosaic Virus. From what I could find on the internet, it's spread by aphids? I haven't found any insects on my plants, although Hops 2 does have a few leaves that appear to be snacked upon. There doesn't seem to be any cure, that I could find. However, in looking at other photos of this virus, mine don't exactly match them. Maybe it will eventually?

Some closeup shots:




I'm not sure what will happen at this point. I noticed Hops 2 now has a little bit of the same spotting at the lowest leaves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Home brewing update

I started my third batch of Festa Brew West Coast IPA a week and a half ago. It used to sell as a season at Defalco's but has since become regular stock, apparently. I like that. No, I love that. :)

Last month (or was it two months ago?) I made, and consumed, a Festa Brew Mexican Cerveza. It was pretty good, and very easy drinking. It sure made my basement stink in the early stages of fermentation.

I still haven't begun my first "boiled" brew. The Brewer's Best Belgian IPA and Witbier are sitting in their boxes waiting for me. I've got two weeks of vacation time coming up at the beginning of July so I'll do it then.

I recently discovered this: FastFerment - http://www.thefastrack.ca/main/fastferment It used to be called V-Vessel. I suspect they made some kind of licencing deal with FastFerment.




I ordered one, and was hoping I'd be able to use it for the first boil, but they're not shipping until August. I'm not sure where I'll put it, since it's designed to be installed on a wall, into wall studs. EIther I'll rig up some posts on the unfinished side of my basement, or build it a stand. Apparently they are working on producing a stand for it. There are testimonies and photos of how some of the customers of the earlier model have rigged theirs up here http://vvessel.com/testimonials/

Hops - Day 36

Taken on the weekend.



"Hops 1" is doing ok. The second stalk is climbing up its own twine (difficult to see).

For "hops 2" I added additional twine upward on the left, which you can't see in the photo. A couple of the lower leaves look like they may have been munched on by insects. I inspected them and couldn't see any. I'm not sure if it's normal, but where the plant roots into the soil, the stem/stalk has become brown. I hope that doesn't mean it's dying. It also has an additional sprout coming out of the soil.

The peonies growing near the hops are showing some signs of powdery mildew. That seems to happen every year, but I'm pretty sure it's because they're so dense and there's not a lot of airflow within their foliage. They have bloomed and the flowers have died, so if it gets out of hand I'll cut them down completely so they don't infect the hops. They're not showing any signs of it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hops - Day 29

The hops are now at a size where I can't really fit photos of each into one split photo. So, here they are the individual photos from Day 29 a few days ago.

It's almost at the end of the twine.

Added a second line for the second sprout (center)
It's fun to look back to less than a month ago, on day 4, and see how far they've come. :)


This next photo concerns me a little. Some of the leaf edges appear to be dead, or dying. I inspected the leaves, particularly the underside, for any pests and couldn't see anything. (The specs on the leaves near the top of the photo is actually tree pollen that is everywhere right now.)


I'm keeping an eye on it to make sure it's not getting worse.

I don't know if I posted this next photo yet. It's actually about a week old.


I think these are the hops cones growing. They appear between each pair of leaves all the way up the bine. Some look bigger than this, but I didn't take an updated photo last night.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Growing Hops - Day 22

The hops are growing very well. Day 22 was on Sunday.

The one I nearly killed (on the right) has three sprouts now, although I don't think it shows in this photo that I took a few days ago. I have added a second training twine since.


Diagonal lines don't work as well as I had hoped. The hops naturally want to climb vertically, and need to be wound manually around the diagonal lines every so often. Unfortunately, I don't have the vertical space to run them straight up where I placed them. To their right, I do have a wall that could be ideal for it, but I'd need to build a trellis and find a way to support it without attaching it to the wall. I live in a townhouse and damaging walls (it's made of stone) is frowned upon.

My son has also been helping to make sure that they're training up the twine. Who knew he had a green thumb?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Growing Hops - Day 16

My two hops plants that I'm growing for the Beyond the Pale Community Grow Hop seem to be doing well. The one that I almost killed has fully recovered and is slowly catching up to its sister. :)

I decided to run twine, zig-zagging, up the front of my house and train the hops onto it. I used small screw in hooks, but I may change them to long nails since the hooks bring the twine too close to the house, and may not allow the hops to wind around it properly.

Here are two pics. It's crazy how fast they're growing. The one on the left of each photo is the one I nearly killed, if that's not obvious. :)



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Growing hops

As I mentioned in the last post, I went to the Beyond the Pale Community Grow Hop on Saturday.

Hops rhizomes
I arrived a little late because of some unexpected heavy traffic on the highway, so I missed the introduction chat. I bought two rhizomes and got an information sheet explaining how to plant and care for the hops and was on my way in no time.

I decided I would plant them at the front of my house. It gets the most sun, and I can run twine up the side of the house to allow the hops to grow. Apparently these grow 10-12ft in the first year, and 20+ after. :)

My mistake
I was a little worried that they might die before I had a chance to plant them, so I planted one of them in the flower bed and decided to wait until I got better soil before planting the second. It was a big mistake. The first looked in bad shape the next day, while the second (even though it was still in the ziploc baggie) looked pretty healthy.

I picked up a bag of soil and manure and decided to plant the second in a large pot. I then dug up the first and replanted it in its own pot as well.

After one day, the second still looked very healthy. I could kick myself for being impatient with the first. However, after three days in the good soil and manure, I think the first is recovering. The leaves still look a little sick, but the plant is looking perkier overall.

Fingers crossed.

The one on the left seems to be recovering.



Taking the next step

After stopping by Beyond the Pale's Community Grown Hop on Saturday, I dropped by DeFalco's to see if they had the Festa Brew Wheat in stock. If they didn't, I was going to pick up the West Coast IPA.

Sadly, they had neither in stock. Lots of Blond Lager, Brown Ale, and Cerveza were available, but I just recently made the brown ale, and the cerveza is awaiting bottling.

Right beside the Festa Brew skid, boxes of Brewer's Best caught my eye. And, they were on sale.

It's been my plan to try something new this spring — something that requires a little more work than pouring wort into a primary fermenter and pitching yeast. I picked up a Belgian IPA and a Witbier kit. As a bonus, I also used my accumulated DeFalco's Customer Points to knock an extra $40 off the price.

These kits are very complete, including bottle caps. All you need is the equipment.

The question now is when? :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Community Grow Hop

I once thought about trying to grown my own hops.

I found an online supplier of rhizomes, but on top of missing the deadline to order them, I found out that they grow really freakin' tall. I don't have a very big garden. So, on the backburner it went.

Then this came up, for Saturday May 10.

Beyond the Pale's Community Grow Hop!

Here's the details:
Everyone who attends will be able to purchase rhizomes to take home and grow for the season. At harvest time, you can bring your hops to us at Beyond the Pale at which time we will use them to create a kick ass beer made with the hops grown in our neighbourhood. Rhizomes will be $5 (cash only) We will have our very own Hop Farms available on site to give you all the help/info you will need to be successful.
And a link to the official Facebook event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1392217977667402/

I'll give it a try and see how it goes. If they grow well, I'll probably keep a little for my own home brewing adventures. ;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A skunk-free poll

A legit poll from St. John's Wort blog filtering out the stink being between The Beer Store and the Ontario Convenience Store Association on whether or not convenience stores should be allowed to sell beer.

Fun With Numbers: Legitimate Polling Edition

You can also read a summary and catch a 5 minute interview with Jordan St. John over here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014 Ontario Brewing Awards

Mom'n Hops has a complete list of winners at the 2014 Ontario Brewing Awards. Congrats to the following local brewers on their wins:

Big Rig: Hefe (Gold), Saison (Silver), Belgian Blonde (Bronze), Gold (Bronze), Black IPA (Gold), Stout (Bronze), Pumpkin (Bronze), Triple Chocolate Cherry Stout (Bronze), Imperial Stout (Silver)

Beyond The Pale: Imperial Super Guy (Bronze), Pink Fuzz (Bronze)

Turtle Island: SMaSH Cherry Pale Ale (Bronze)

Hogsback: Vintage Lager (Gold)

The Clocktower: Raspberry Wheat (Silver), K├Âlsch (Silver), Red (Silver)

For a complete list, check it out at Mom'n Hops: http://www.momandhops.ca/winners-announced-2014-ontario-brewing-awards/

Congrats to all winners!

A new brew

After a short break from brewing, I started a new beer on Saturday, one that I haven't yet made: Festa Brew Brown Ale.

I was hoping to make another bock, but it turns out that the bock mix is a fall seasonal. I then switched my sights on another batch of the west coast IPA, but they didn't have any in stock when I went. So, I opted for something new.

Festa Brew describes it as...
A traditional, medium-bodied English style Brown Ale. Pleasantly roasted, mid-bodied malt profile with low hop flavour and aroma and moderate hop bitterness. Slight yeast-derived fruitiness.
I hope the wheat comes in stock soon. I'd really like to try that one again as well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A New Name

When I started making my own beer, I wanted a "brand" name for it just for fun. It was only recently when I was toying with label ideas that I came up with Bay 5 Brewing.

The neighbourhood that I live in is divided into "bays", and the one I live in happens to be Bay 5. Voila.

For no particular reason today, I decided to check if the domain name was available. It was. I picked it up and decided to use it for my blog.

I still own beergasm.ca and I'm not sure if I'll let it go. I also just recently renewed it, so I have it for another year at least and I redirected it to here.

There you have it. Who knows, maybe one day I'll own my own brewery and now I've already got a name for it. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brewery Market - Dates for this year

Ottawa Beer Events has posted the scoop on this year's Brewery Market dates and there's a new location. This year's location is at Hintonburg Park, and the dates are:

  • Saturday, April 26 (12pm - 6pm)
  • Saturday, May 24 (12pm - 8pm)
  • Saturday, July 5 (12pm - 8pm)
  • Saturday, October 25 (12pm - 6pm)


Monday, March 10, 2014

Beau's - Barrels of fun!

Beau's All Natural Brewing Company released four limited, barrel-aged beers last week that were only available at select LCBOs spread across the Ottawa region.

Fortunately for me, one of them was not far from my workplace so I picked up all four on Friday. The first thing you notice is the wrapping. I've seen it compared to opening Christmas presents.



Gilgamesh (Old Ale)

Aged in rum barrels.
This one was on of my favourites. It poured a cloudy, dark ruby red brown, with a cream head that lingered.

The aroma was hobby and fruity. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what fruit until I let my daughter smell it for her opinion. Immediately, she said "prunes" and I think she was right. I also picked up an alcohol aroma that reminded me of rubbing alcohol.

The taste was a light rum with a slight alcohol burn, perhaps because it was a healthy 8.9% ABV.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I've tasted other beers aged in rum barrels and this was by far the smoothest one for me.



Aged in red ice wine barrels.
It poured a cloudy golden colour, with very foamy off white head. You can see in the photo that there was a lot of it, and how it dissipated.

The aroma was pepper, and orange which reminded me a lot of wheat beers that I enjoy so much.

The flavour was similar. Pepper, orange, wheaty, and smooth.

Overall, another one that I enjoyed very much. At 10.2% ABV, it's probably not a good idea to enjoy too many of them at once.



Aged in rum barrels
To say this was my least favourite would be a disservice. I'm not a big fan of ginger beers to begin with, but this one was pretty good.

The colour was a cloudy copper, and like the Siduri, it had a very foamy head, and lacing.

The aroma was ginger, with a hint of chocolate.

The taste was a little hoppy, and the ginger was pretty light — lighter than other ginger beers I've tried. Despite being aged in rum barrels, I didn't pick up an rum flavour. Perhaps it was hiding behind the ginger?

This had the lowest ABV of all four, at 6%.

Overall, I did enjoy it. For me, this was more like a beer, whereas other ginger beers I've tried were closer to being a pop drink.



Aged in Chardonnay barrels
This was my second favourite. If you're a wine lover, you might enjoy this one.

The color was a light golden orange. There was very little carbonation, which made me think of wine.

The taste was smooth, with a light orange peel flavour. The taste also reminded me of wine. It's no wonder it's called a "wheat wine".

The ABV was the second highest at 9.8%.

Overall, really nice. I think this could make a great dinner wine substitute for beer lovers, or perhaps allow a wine lover to explore the craft beer world.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Want to help build a brewery?


Earlier this week, Dominion City Brewing Co. posted a tweet about their upcoming Kickstarter campaign, along with a sketch of what would appear to be the inside of their store, once it's completed this year.

Their campaign went live this morning. There are 25 pledge levels from $1, where they will sing your name into a pot of boiling wort, all the way up to $8000 where they will help you to develop, brew, and sell your very own recipe.

The money will be used to "Make our brewery’s bottle shop and tasting bar as unique as our beer."

I'm anxious to see them open since they're located in my neighbourhood. That's closer than my local beer store. That's a good thing.

You can find more information about the campaign and all pledge levels on the Dominion City Brewing Co. Kickstarter page.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FastRack

I discovered this product today: FastRack.

I currently use a bottle tree, and while it works pretty good, I'm always paranoid about contaminants getting inside the bottle from the tree.

The price ranges anywhere from $22.99 up to $33.99.  The best price I could find online was at OntarioBeerKegs.com, at $22.99 so that's where I ordered it from. Their shipping was a few bucks more than another site, but the overall price was still less.

My only concern about the product is how well it works with swing-top bottles, which I have many of. I'll post my findings once it arrives.

Missed Birthday

I don't know how it happened, but I completely missed the blog's birthday on February 28th. The name didn't come until later.

We have over 13,500 page views since. Thanks for following!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sham Bock

I saw this one appear on my Twitter feed a few times in the last week. The reviews were good, and that's no "sham." :)

It didn't take long before I managed to get my hands on a bottle from one of the nearby LCBOs. I should have picked up a few.

Sham Bock from Railway City Brewing Company.


The color was a very dark ruby red, with a creamy light brown head. I didn't detect any lacing as it was enjoying it.

I had difficulty detecting the aroma at first. Chocolate? Perhaps it was too cold or I lost my sense of smell. My wife said it reminded her of a stout. Chocolate. As it warmed up in my glass it did give off hints of other aromas. A little butterscotch, caramel, toffee, and something fruity.

There were light molasses, chocolate, and coffee flavours. It was slightly bitter with a light carbonation so it was smooth drinking, ending with a light bitter finish.

Overall, I have to say this was a tough beer to review. I think I need to raise the temperature of my fridge a little, or let my beverages sit for 5-10 minutes before opening.

I think I could easily enjoy many of these. I found it to be very easy drinking. Maybe a little dangerous at 6.8% though. ;)



I need to find a couple more bottles for St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Rhea and Cronus would be proud

I somehow accidentally saved this review as a draft instead of publishing it. Oops.


Beard of Zeus is from Great Lakes Brewery and is one of their limited Tank Ten Series. I've always enjoyed the tank ten series and this one is no exception. If you're not familiar with the Tank Ten series, here's what GLB has to say.
Stemming from our Project X line, Tank Ten is a tickle trunk of tasty treats. This series is payback to our hard working brewers. We’ve reserved fermenting tank number ten for them and have given them the green light to brew whatever the heck they want.
Beard of Zeus is the first beer I've seen that has a "best after date": December 2014. GLB says this beer is meant to be aged and will taste better in a year. Because of this, of course I had to pick up two bottles so I could try one now, and one next December.

It's a barrel-aged barley wine that clocks in at a whopping 13% ABV.

Its colour is a dark reddish brown with a thin head that tends to linger and leaves a little lacing.

Its aroma made me think of smoked bacon, vanilla and caramel.

The taste has that alcohol burn, not big, but it's there. Oakiness, vanilla, and what I assume is bourbon. I've never tried bourbon.

For a beer that is supposed to be aged a year before drinking, it was pretty good as is. I'm really looking forward to the second bottle next year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trooper reviewed

I first heard about Trooper ale (the "Iron Maiden" beer by Robinson's Brewery) last March and was looking forward to trying it. In October, it arrived at the LCBO. But the shipments were pretty thin, and virtually non-existent around Ottawa, and soon dried up.

A few weeks ago, it returned. First my brother in-law managed to get his hands on a half-dozen bottles that one of his friends picked up for him in Kingston. He was nice enough to give me two of them. In the days that followed, stock arrived at a few LCBOs in Ottawa. My brother in-law allerted me to one that allegedly had just over 100 in stock. When I arrived there, they had half that, and only 10 on the shelf. I bought them. :)

9 of the 10 soldiers :)
I am happy to say, it did not disappoint me.

It pours a clear amber colour, with a nice creamy head that lingers, and leaves a pretty decent lacing. The aroma is bready, grassy, a little fruity, and a little spicy.

The taste is slightly bitter, grapefruity, with a slight bitter finish. It's a very easy drinking beer at 4.7% that I could drink all night, if it wasn't ~$5 per bottle.


I still have three bottles left and stock around Ottawa is once again pretty non-existent. I hope it returns again.

Friday, January 24, 2014

National Beer Can Appreciation Day

"This day commemorates the first day beer was sold in cans back on January 24th, 1935. The Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company first distributed it’s Krueger’s Finest Beer to the general public on that date and folks have been sippin’ on suds ever since."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet weekend

I picked up a few new beers to try on Friday. What I wasn't ready for was the fact that they were all very similar, at least to my palette.


The first was Samichlaus Classic (2013) by Schloss Eggenberg. It poured a brownish red colour, with very little head that dissipated extremely quickly.

The aroma was sweet and somewhat familiar. I was sure I tried a similar beer recently and wasn't a very big fan of it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps chocolate. My wife mentioned molasses and I think she was right.

The taste was a hint of chocolate, and now that molasses was stuck in my brain, that's what I tasted. It was sweet. Not like a lambic sweet, but a dessert-like sweet. They say it should be served with chocolate or dessert. I didn't try either, but I would think it would then become an overload of sweetness.

The label says that it is brewed once per year, on December 6, and aged for 10 months before bottling.  Beeradvocate says "it's perhaps the rarest in the world".

If the richness of this beer isn't enough to make you take it slow, the ABV is a whopping 14%.

Overall, it was OK, but unfortunately it doesn't rank up there as one of my favourites.

Next up was Tribute (2012), by Renaissance Brewing.


Perhaps my taste buds were still stunned by the last beer, but this one tasted very similar, and this is a Barley Wine, not a Doppelbock. My wife thought the same.

It was a little lighter in taste with a little less carbonation. There were hints of fruitiness, raisin perhaps, maple, and it felt a little syrupy. The ABV on this bad boy was 10.8%.

Overall, I think I enjoyed it a bit more, but it's another that doesn't rank up there as a favourite for me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

WinterBrewed 2014 details

The details of this year's WinterBrewed have been released!

Here's the scoop:

WinterBrewed is indoors this year, at Fifth Avenue Court and Arrow & Loon Pub, and has been broken into seven 3-hour sessions, from Feb 14-16. For $12 (plus fees), you buy a single ticket for a single session for a specific 3-hour time slot, you get one beer sample, and an event glass. There's no word on what additional samples will cost.

If you're interested you can find these details and a link to purchase your ticket at www.winterbrewed.com.

That's quite a change in format, compared to last year, and I'm a little disappointed.

First, being located in a pub where age of majority proof is required no longer makes it a "family friendly" event. Our daughter and niece enjoyed tagging along last year for the snowy winter events, despite the cold weather.

More importantly, being split into 3-hour sessions limits flexibility to attend at any convenient time over the weekend and prevents you from attending on more than one day, unless you want to buy another ticket for another session. I have to assume the Friday and Saturday time slots will go quickly for fear that beer selection will be limited by the time Sunday rolls around. :-\

According to a comment on their Facebook page, they did say that they plan to return to an outdoor location for 2015 once they figure out a solution for freezing beer lines. Granted, that was a big problem last year, and I can understand the switch to indoors to solve that, but I don't think a pub location was the answer (not there's anything wrong with pubs!)

It'll be interesting to see how the new format works out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

International Gruit Day is coming

February 1st is International Gruit Day.

What' as gruit?  According to Wikipedia:
Gruit (alternately grut or gruyt) is an old-fashioned herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring beer, popular before the extensive use of hops. Gruit or grut ale may also refer to the beverage produced using gruit.
To the best of my knowledge, I've only ever tried on gruit: Beau's Bog Water. I'll have to look for others!

Local.

This makes my mouth water. :)

"Chris Wooding from Ironwood Organics talks organic farming and partnering with Dominion City Brewing Co."


Local. from Dominion City Brewing Co. on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winterbrewed 2014 details coming soon

I heard from a reliable source that more details about this year's Winterbrewed will be released on Monday.

If the event dates are still Feb 14-16, that's cutting it pretty close for ticket sales.

Stay tuned!

Working in a brewery

I was following a beer thread on Twitter yesterday when the idea of a "community/co-op brewery" popped up. Not much was discussed after the initial mention. but I thought it was a great idea.

One of my goals in life, whether it's a career change or the investment of a big lottery win ;), is to work in a local brewery.

Hell, I'd even work for free in exchange for learning more about the process. I know enough for home brewing, but I'd really like to be a part of a larger scale brewing project.

If any local breweries happen to come across this post and are willing to give me that opportunity, let me know. I'm serious. I'm available after my daytime job work hours and on weekends. I'll do any job necessary, as long as I can eventually take part in every process of brewing at some point. Help me expand my knowledge! I think it would also make a great blog posting. :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Home brewing update

Since my last home brewing post, I've made two other beers and I'm in the process of making another.

I made the Festa Brew Double Oatmeal Stout and Red Ale.

Double Oatmeal Stout
The Double Oatmeal Stout turned out pretty good, but it didn't really look or taste done until after 3 weeks of being bottled. I think it's still getting better as it ages too.

I did manage to find the Red Ale at the Orleans DeFalco's. Its 2-week age was last Thursday, but it still didn't taste quite ready. I suspect it will also be much improved after 3 weeks.

I also picked up the Festa Brew Blonde Lager just over a week ago. We racked it on Friday. As a lager, it needs cooler temperatures than an ale for the fermentation process — like 9-15c. For the first 6 days, while it was in the primary, the temperature hovered at around 19c. After we racked it, I decided to move the carboy to a cooler (unfinished) part of the basement. Unfortunately, it's not as accessible or convenient for full-time use. Right now it sits on the concrete floor, not far from the fresh air intake of the furnace, using some of the cold winter air to keep it cool. :) My thermometer says the air temp is around 10-13c. If it can stay fairly consistent, it might work out.

I got a few beer-related goodies for Christmas that I'm excited about.


First, I got a Jet Carboy and Bottle Washer. It screws onto the end of the basement washtub faucet, making bottle cleaning a whole lot easier. I can now use hot, high-pressured water rather than soaking and/or using a bottle brush. I did, however, have to do that to one stubborn bottle which still didn't get it entirely clean. But I found a way to clean it anyway, and I'll get into that a bit later.

I also got a Sulphiter. I'll use the description from DeFalco's web site: An acrylic bowl and spring washer mechanism. This device allows you to rinse and sterilize bottles in a seamless task saving time and energy. Can be mounted on top of bottle drainers. This was probably one of my most wanted items. We currently waste a lot of Diversol and water, soaking bottles in a chest cooler, before rinsing them for bottling. This should help cut the waste. I should note, however, that putting this thing together was a pain. It's a spring-loaded mechanism and trying to get the spring compressed, while staying where it should be so the mechanism works, was no easy task. Let's hope it stays that way while in use.

A 45 Bottle Drainer! Not only is it useful for keeping the bottles clean after sterilizing and rinsing, it holds the number I'd need for bottling a batch. I don't know why, but I have a hell of a time figuring out what I need every time. If I fill the tree, I know I have enough. :)

A pair of IPA glasses. Does the beer taste any better in them? I'm not sure, but they look kinda cool. I drank my last West Coast IPA from one of these glasses. It was delicious, but I suspect the aging had more to do with it. I can't wait to make another batch.

Two beer books: Radical Brewing and the third edition of The Joy of Home Brewing. I'm really bad for not finishing books, but I don't think I'll have a problem with these two.

Cleaning stubborn bottles

I mentioned that I had difficulty cleaning a bottle. There was some kind of residue along the bottom edge of a bottle. I know you're not supposed to use clear bottles, but I do have a few 750ml ones. The bottle brush bristles couldn't get low enough to scrub it off. I tried soaking it with Diversol. I tried scalding hot water and dish soap. Nothing seemed to work.

Using a small piece of a J-cloth, some hot water and dish soap, and two rare earth magnets, I was able to wipe the residue off the inside of the bottle.

I wrapped one of the rare earth magnets with the piece of J-cloth, and used a twist-tie to hold it inside. I pushed the cloth and magnet inside the top of the bottle, into the soapy water. Using the other magnet, I held it on the opposite side of the bottle and simply dragged the inside magnet over the residue for a few minutes until I was satisfied that it was clean. Once it was clean, I dragged the magnet to the opening of the bottle until it came out.

A couple of things that I learned while doing this:

  1. You definitely need to secure the magnet inside the cloth, otherwise it will slide out, leaving the cloth floating freely inside the bottle. Thankfully it was small enough that when I poured the water out, the cloth came out with the water.
  2. Used the smallest piece of cloth that you can. Remember, that bundle needs to come back out the same hole it went in, and when its wet it expands a little. The piece I used was a little too big I think, so dragging it out was a slow process. Patience paid off.
That's all for now... cheers!