July 8, 2014

Port and Vintage Beer

Just got back from a trip to Porto, Portugal. The wine region famous for making their fortified cellar-worthy wines. As a fan of positive oxidation flavors, days of tippling decades-old Tawnys and Colheita’s was a real treat. I highly recommend that any fans of aged barleywines definitely take a foray into Port. The main thing that separates it from normal wine is its higher alcohol content and the increased amount of time it spends in the barrel.

And just like vintage beers, Ports age well for a variety of reasons, but foremost a high ABV (typically 20%) and a high amount of residual sugars. For those not familiar (i.e. me just a few weeks ago) the typical types of Port you’ll come across are:

Ruby: Fortified wine that has spent 2-3 years in a foeder (in a concrete tank for the cheapo brands). These have lots of young, fruity wine flavors, and very little oxidation (caramel, dried fruits, etc) aspects.

Tawny: A ruby port that has been further aged in a barrel. Typically for seven years, but also for longer. The bottle label should indicate the amount of time. In my experience, the older the better (and unfortunately, the more expensive). Most of the young fruity flavors of the Ruby have faded and been replaced by a rich oxidation character. And just like vintage beer, time has greatly mellowed the alcohol presence, which can be quite boozy in a Ruby. They are absolutely fantastic, and anyone serious about cellaring beer should check them out if for no other reason than to sharpen their vintage flavor palate.

Colheita: This is essentially a Tawny, but comes from a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years. The label should read Colheita and the year. Only the best Tawny barrels and vintages become Colheitas, making these akin to Tanwy Reserves. Was able to try quite a few of these, and just blown away by the complexity. And as far as these things go, they are not outrageously expensive, being around $50-$75 for a bottle of 25 year aged.


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April 14, 2014

Vintage Beer Dinner at Le Pigeon w/ Hair of the Dog

It’s been a whirlwind month and I’ve been seriously lagging on keeping  the website up to date. My apologies.

I did want to post some photos from the Vintage Beer Dinner with Hair of the Dog Brewing at Le Pigeon in Portland, OR. This was the first beer dinner I’ve had the privilege to help host and it was an absolute blast. As you beer geeks know, Alan Sprints at Hair of the Dog is the master when it comes to crafting cellar-worthy beers.  Between decades of work and a special knack at picking up what is going to help the beer in the long haul, he’s garnered a well-earned reputation. And to be able to do this at an James Beard award-winning restaurant was beyond special.

Anyways, I let some photo do way more justice to these two craft geniuses than I ever could. Mmmmm, makes me hungry…

Aged Beer Food Pairings

The menu

Aged Beer Food Pairing

Pork belly paired with Michael, a Flander’s Red Ale

Beer and Food Pairing

Escargo and Carpaccio Salad paired with super fresh Blue Dot, an IPA

Cellared Beer

The Hair of the Dog Lineup

Le Pigeon Chef at Beer Dinner

Gabriel Rucker

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March 21, 2014

For Homebrew Geeks Only

Anybody that knows me, knows that I’m a geeky science guy at heart. I can’t give quick, easy answers. When I received the following e-mail with a question about the lambic recipe included in my latest Zymurgy article, I could help but give the background behind my response. I’m posting it here in case anyone else has the same question…and because it took a long time to write.
I’m hoping to make my first lambic this weekend and I thought the faux lambic recipe didn’t look too difficult – I’m not quite ready to tackle the full on turbid mash technique yet, and the faux lambic seems like an eaiser mash routine. However, I noticed the recipe didn’t include any actual mash temps – just infusion water temperatures. Could you tell me what the actual mash rest temperatures are? I appreciate it!
And my response:

So there are basically two times that you mash (the technique described in the recipe is essentially an American Double Mash). The first one where you’re just adding a little bit of malt to the wheat berries and then the second, full batch mash.

For the first mash, the intent is to borrow some of the malt’s inherent enzymes to break down the wheat berry’s sugars. This is necessary because the wheat berries have not be been malted (i.e. germinated) to activate any of these enzymes. In case you’re not familiar with amylase enzymes here is a quick rundown. Alpha and beta amylase enzymes are created in the barley during the malting process. The job of these enzymes is to strip fermentable sugar from the malt. However, these enzymes can only do their work at specific temperatures, which is why we mash; to hold a temperature and allow them to do their work. The two enzymes do their work differently; the alpha pulling it off in large, long-chained chunks and the beta, smaller, more bite-sized portions. This is important as you’ll see below.

In the first mash, without the malt, the wheat berries could sit at mash temp all day and do nothing. In the recipe I call out for a 166F mash temperature, which sounds way high I know. However, this is crucial because at this temperature you are essentially only activating the alpha amylase enzyme, and almost none of the beta amylase enzyme. If you’re a geeky graphical guy like me, I included a chart below that shows this wonderfully. This is important because you want the sugars pulled from the wheat to be the biggest, longest-chained sugars possible.

This is because of the veracity of brettanomyces, which will slowly eat everything in its path. By making large wheat sugars, brett will still leave some scraps behind. These scraps help the beer to sustain a satisfying full mouthfeel over the years and is the difference between thin watery lambic, and the authentic stuff.

In the second mash, the goal is essentially the same, you want to to be somewhere between 159F and 166F. It’s not terribly important, but just somwhere in that alpha-heavy zone. In retrospect, I should have just put the mash temp in there, but I just wrote it the way I brewed it I guess.

So that is the long, drawn out answer. The short answer is 166F for the first mash, and 158F-166F for the second mash. I apologize if you knew most of this, but I have a hard time giving an answer without explaining the reasoning!

On a side note, I might recommend a different yeast route than the Roselare blend. For the last batch that I brewed, I instead used a starter made from Crooked Stave’s Hop Savant, and then pitched packets of wyeast pedio and lacto. The esters that Crooked Stave is getting out of their brett strains are incredible; they have a distinctly tropical fruit vibe, and I’ve been blown away by the results. I don’t think Hop Savant is still out, but I believe they use the same strain in their Batch 60 which should still be available at the taproom. Even if you go the Roselare route, I’d still buy this beer (bonus, it’s delicious) and pour the dregs in the fermenter. I would not use Surrette or Vielle, as they are fairly phenol-forward and I worry that it may result in some plastic-y flavors down the road.


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical Tasting Notes

Overall the thing that blew me away by this vertical was the complete lack of oxidation. Even the first batch, 2006, was relatively free of oxidative effects. This is a good and bad thing. Personally, I like a little oxidation. It adds sherry/port, dried fruit, and a bevy of other effects. On the other hand, it was fantastic to taste a BA imperial stout without negative stale oxidation too.

Bottom Line: I love this beer with 4-5 years on it. The roast and booziness has mellowed, but there is still an impressive roast malt character and body along with some vintage flavors.

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Tasting notes below:

2013: Coffee grounds, caramel malts and a somewhat harsh booziness. Light vanilla oak presence that stayed constant throughout the entire vertical. Astringent roasted finish.

2012: The fullest bodied of the bunch. chewy black licorice, cheap rum and bittersweet chocolate.

2011:  Still a bit fusel-y, but starting to show some vintage flavors. Raisins, black chocolate and spiced rum.  The fullest bodied and sweetest of the bunch. Astringent roasted finish almost totally gone.

2010:  Sweet cuban coffee, brown sugar, and port. Less sweet and more integrated than the 2011.

2009: Most bottles of this vintage were infected and this was no different, however, it was substantially less than most we’ve experienced. Was much drier with a distinctive red wine quality. Still chocolatey, but not near as sweet. Was some folks favorite, but I found it too dry to allow it best qualities to shine through.

2008: Belgian chocolate, raspberries and oak-induced vanilla and coconut. Perfectly balance of sweetness. Amazing.

2007:  More roasted than the 08, presenting more of a coffee flavor. Caramel and vanilla, but overall a subdued bottle.

2006: Very coffee forward and bitter. The same flavors as previous years, (chocolate, caramel, sherry, etc) are present, but muted. Comes across a bit flat.

barrel aged imperial stout vintage

Abyss 2013: This young’in has a ways to go


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Reserve Series Tasting

On Saturday I attending a tasting hosted by Jonah Edwards that covered the entire series of the Deschutes Reserve beers. This includes Abyss, Dissident, Black Butte, Jubel, and their handful of one-offs (Stoic, Green Monster, Class of 88, etc). It was an epic day and I did my scholarly best to take tasting notes. I’ll post them over the next few days.

Oh and did I mention the food? There were Abyss Cupcakes, Dissident Pate, and Chainbreaker Queso. Absolutely killer to say the least.

I’ll be publishing my tasting notes on the individual verticals in subsequent posts. Get excited!

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

So delicious, and so necessary…





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