Vol. 4, No. 9 September1997
By Lucy Zachman
Tom Baker of A.J. Gordon's brewery, 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, provided the entertainment for our August meeting. While relatively new on the brewer/speaker circuit (he's been brewing at A.J.'s for about a year), Tom knew enough to talk malt, hops and yeast with our group of beer geeks and that's what counts. And, of course, he didn't show up empty-handed. Tom poured out samples of his brewery's "Vollbier" to get things off on the right foot. Tom described this beer as being somewhat "vague," and he was pretty accurate. He also referred to it as his "yellow beer." While relatively light on flavor, the beer seemed to fall somewhere in between a golden and a Pilsner. Tom said he used Maris Otter, Belgian and Munich malts, as well as Pearly and Mt. Hood hops and American ale yeast (#1056). It was fermented it at between 58 and 60 degrees.
Tom said he mostly brews ales at A.J.'s, with occasional specialties. Some of their other recent offerings include a Blonde (Gold) made with Maris Otter and some wheat malt, an American pale ale with Cascade and Chinook hops and Munich malt, and an Amber made with caramel and chocolate malts.
Eric and I took a personal interest in A.J. Gordon's and had to conduct further on-site research into their brewing operations. So, since we had a Friday afternoon with nothing to do.....off we went.
Eric has a special fondness for bars that offers complimentary chicken wings and half price beers everyday from 4 to 7 who doesn't! A.J.'s has a nice long bar area as you walk in and an extra bar in the back. The front bar allows cigar smoking, however, which could make it unbearable if more than two or three folks are puffing at the same time. There's plenty of smoke-free space to sit and have a bite to eat in the separate dining room. (I must note that their menu looked quite enticing, though, due to the tasty wings, we didn't actually order.)
Anyway, we found the beers at the bar to be pretty pleasant and much more flavorful than the "yellow beer." The India Pale Ale had a nice, although relatively light hoppiness, it's foamy head enhanced by a shot of nitrogen. We also quaffed a sample (OK, a pint!) of the bitter, golden and amber ales. And before we headed out on our way Eric dropped his business card in the "win a free party" bowl. And guess what? He won! Since he gets to invite 150 of his closest friends, we'll let you know when the big event is. See ya next month!
P.S. Don't forget to bring your entries for the Weiss is Nice contest to be held at the next meeting.
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|On Wednesday, September 10, 7:30 PM, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society will have our next monthly meeting. Our guest is Phil Markowski, of the Southampton Publick House. In addition, many good homebrews should be available for the tasting. As usual, the meeting will be held at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. See you there!|
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by George De Piro
Ten years ago Art Larrance of Portland Brewing Company had a vision: a non-juried brewer's festival featuring only craft-brewed beers from independent breweries. With the help of two other Portland brewers, the Oregon Brewers Festival was born in 1988. Thirteen breweries participated in that first festival. This year, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary by playing host to 72 breweries from all over the country (although mostly from Oregon, Washington, and California).
As an Northeasterner, I was incredibly impressed by the sheer number of different breweries that exist in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon currently boasts 70 breweries! That's not a typo, folks. A state with fewer people than New York City has more breweries than exist in all of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey combined! I hope that someday we can brag about having a great brewery in every town.
The festival was at Waterfront Park, in downtown Portland. It was a beautiful setting: a large, grassy park on the western bank of the Willamette river. The weather was beautiful, too; azure skies and about 80 with low humidity. The stage was set for some serious beer-drinking fun! The festival ran for three days, starting on Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. and ending on Sunday evening. The grounds became very crowded early Friday evening, and on Saturday afternoon the lines to get beer grew uncomfortably long. We didn't go on Sunday, because of the long lines we experienced on Saturday. I later heard that most of the good beers were gone by Sunday, anyhow. If you ever plan to attend the Oregon Brewers Festival, get your drinking done early!
The first beer we tried was Deschutes' Paulina Pilsner (OG 1.048, 40 IBUs). This beer was brewed specifically for the festival, and was unavailable elsewhere, so I was excited to try it. Like all of Deschutes' beers, it was quite good. This golden beer had a nose rich with fresh hops, along with a touch of sulfury malt. Very inviting!
The palate lived up to my expectations: the hop flavor was fresh and smooth, and there was enough malt flavor to make the beer wonderfully complex. The finish was bitter, but in a smooth and elegant fashion. My only complaint was that the body was a touch thin. Overall, a great beer. Another fine beer was a Belgian ale made by the Sprecher Brewing Company of Glendale, Wisconsin (OG 1.078, FG 1.015). This deep amber strong ale had a wonderfully complex nose, with plenty of banana and spice. The palate was surprisingly light and nicely balanced, with just enough spicy bitterness to balance the malt. The alcohol was dangerously well hidden. A real treat! Tabernash Brewing Company, of Denver, Colorado had their pale Weiss available (OG 1.053, FG 1.012, 15 IBUs). Until very recently Tabernash was the place where Eric Warner utilized his degree from Weihenstephan. Herr Warner is the author of one of my favorite beer books (German Wheat Beer), so I expected a lot from this one.
The beer was not disappointing, but not as spectacular as I had hoped. The nose was dominated by banana, with a strong yeasty note. This rich, creamy beer had a nice malt character, with plenty of fruity tones. I thought it to be a bit one-dimensional in its fruitiness, but otherwise a fine Weizen. I'd dare say it was the best I've had in this country, outside of homebrew. Rogue Ales, of Newport, Oregon, brewed a special beer just for the festival: a Doppelbock (OG 1.083, FG 1.023, 32 IBUs, 43 SRM). A lager yeast was used, but the beer was still pretty fruity (probably because of the difficulties of achieving clean fermentations at 1.083!). The hops were quite noticeable, in both aroma and palate, which seemed to reduce the perception of malt in this beer. A very tasty beer, but not what I was hoping for.
Overall, the beers at the festival were pretty good. I must admit that the beers did get a bit monotonous after a while: the brewers of the Pacific Northwest really love hops (in a scary sort of way that seems unnatural). Many of the beers were hopped to ridiculously high levels (for example, Alameda Brew House's "Wasco Indian Summer Ale" boasted 77 IBU's with an original gravity of 1.055. It was NOT the hoppiest beer there!). To my palate, that's just silly. The beers that were hopped to this degree invariably lacked elegance and depth, and indeed felt like a rake on the tongue!
I understand that hops are grown in the region. They are also grown in Germany and England, where the brewers produce much more balanced and diverse beers. It would seem that the Northwest brewers tried to counter the bland boredom of American mass-market lager by taking hops to the extreme. In so doing, they have achieved a new monotony. I hope these brewers will start to produce a more diverse range of styles in time for my next trip! Overall, I had a great time. Aside from the Festival I toured some breweries, drank at some beer bars and brewpubs, and participated in some non-beer activities. I'll write more about my Pacific Northwest beer adventures in the next newsletter.
by Jim Simpson
Belgian wit beers or white beers are a throw-back to a period in brewing before the widespread use of hops. As we know, hops balance the sweetness of malt. Before their acceptance as an ingredient in beer, spices and herbs were commonly used to balance a beer's flavor. Spices and herbs, such as coriander, ginger, orange peel, juniper and others, were combined to make very interesting beers. Even today there are vestiges of this brewing practice. In Finland, a drink called sahti is still made by some small farm breweries. Sahti uses malted rye in a mash with juniper twigs and berries. My guess is that this beer would taste similar to a rye flavored gin. I'm sure everyone has tried the spiced ales that come out around the holiday season. These are all beers that were traditionally brewed year round before hops were discovered.
Wit beer was revived in the 1970's. Because of a declining customer base, wit beer was no longer brewed. It took a person with some knowledge in the style and dedication to bring it back. That man was Pierre Celis. He revived the Hoegaarden Brewery and began making the only commercially available wit beer. Lucky for us the style caught on and made a comeback in Belgium. Celis sold the brewery, but was not finished making wit beer. He came to the US looking for a suitable site to start a new brewery and wound up in Austin, Texas, where the water is similar to that at Hoegaarden. He now makes not only wit beer but a complex grand cru, a very drinkable dubbel, a Belgian pale ale known as pale bock because of some strange labeling law in Texas, and the raspberry wit which seems to have an extract tang to it.
Doing a side-by-side tasting of Hoegaarden and Celis wits, one can find two very different brews. The spicing of the Hoegaarden leans more to the coriander with hints of pepper, while the Celis is much more citrusy. Whether this is due to the fading of the citrus element in the Hoegaarden, or just a different approach to spicing by Celis, is debatable. One thing is very apparent:both are excellent summer quaffs.
This style is defined by low hop levels and a moderate amount of spicing with a balance of bitter orange peel coriander and possibly a third spice. The grist will contain between 40 and 75 percent malted barley with the rest being unmalted wheat. Traditionally oats were added in small amounts to add a silky mouthfeel. Be careful adding oats the high fat content will kill head retention.
With the large proportion of unmalted wheat (wheat flakes are the homebrewer's choice) you will want to incorporate a protein rest to degrade the large molecules to medium sized ones. This will aid head retention and make lautering easier. I use a protein rest close to 130 degrees for only 15 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of overdoing it. If you chose a lower temperature then go with an even shorter rest, otherwise you risk making to many amino acids and not enough medium sized proteins for good head retention. A higher rest temperature of around 135-140 and you risk activating the beta amylase and producing a highly fermentable wort with very little body.
For saccarification, I use a temperature around 152 degrees for one hour. This temperature gives enough dextrines and fermentable sugars for a balanced beer. My yeast choice has been the Belgian wit from Brewers Resource but I'm sure any wit strain will work fine. As usual, a large yeast culture and sufficient wort aeration are essential at the start of fermentation.
To make a wit at home, one must choose what kind of beer they like. I like to aim for a middle ground with a touch of lactic sourness. I achieve this by making a sour mash a few days before brew day. Taking 5 to 15 percent of the grist and mashing in a small cooler. I then cool it to about 122 degrees and add a handful of uncrushed pale malt. Letting this sit for 2 to 4 days covered with plastic wrap makes for a nice sour note in the finished beer. I add this sour mash to the main mash on brew day.
Here is my second attempt at this style which although did not win any competitions tasted great. I had started this brew by mashing in the night before and cooling it down to 122 degrees. I then added uncrushed pale malt and let it sour over night. Most people, except Bill Coleman, thought the sourness was too much. It did score in the low thirties at many competitions.
To convert this to a five gallon extract beer, use 3.5 lbs light dry malt extract plus 4. 5 lbs wheat malt extract and half the hops. If you partial mash the flaked grains don't forget to add some 6 row malt to convert the flakes.
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