Monday, October 21, 2013

RRBC Lincoln Bus Tour and Hats off to Homebrewers

NBC Hats off to Homebrewers Event
The last week has been insanely full of great Homebrewing events and beer related greatness.  Last Wednesday was the "Hats off to Homebrewers" event at Nebraska Brewing Company.  Hordes of homebrewers from the Omaha area crowded into NBC for the release of Deschutes Brewing Company beer for the first time in Omaha.  I love Deschutes beer and it's one of my favorites from Oregon.  When the wife and I went on our honeymoon a couple years ago the Deschutes Mirror Pond was one of my favorite beers to enjoy, and to this day is tied for my favorite pale ale with Nebraska Brewing Company's Cardinal Pale Ale.  The event kicked off with speeches from Deschutes and NBC brewers.  Then Chad talked about his food pairings.  He had to do a pairing with two different beers (one Deschutes and one NBC) for each food item.  There were three seperate stations to try new beers and consume really excellently prepared food by Chef Chad.  From the veal sliders to the prime rib, each entree included NBC beer in the recipe and complimented your beverage well.  I was very impressed by the food and loved the beer.  After the meal each brewer answered questions from homebrewers and Matt from the new Patriot Homebrew Supply store in Elkhorn gave away a $100 gift certificate.  Pretty cool of him to do.  I didn't win, but I still decided that I'd stop by as soon as possible because a new homebrew shop in Omaha sounds like a good thing.  Especially since it's closer to my house than the other homebrewing shops in town.  Highlights of the evening were the great showing we had from the Railroaders brew club, we had a great amount of people show up.  And the custom glassware they provided for the event.  It was really cool to have a nice beer glass provided that was one of a kind.
Custom Deschutes/NBC glasses!
The best beers of the evening went to the "Jubilale" winter beer by Deschutes.  The Deschutes/NBC collaboration ale which was very excellent.  And of course my favorite beer NBC makes.  Now called "The beer formally known as Hop God."  Hop God has always been my favorite.  It bums me out that some brewery who used to make a beer called Hop God at one point decided to steal the name back after NBC has been using it for so long on a great beer.  That's okay though.  Whatever mediocre beer this other brewery comes up with will not hold a candle to the one true Hop God beer.  I just wonder how they're going to get a new name for a beer that truly deserves the name Hop God!  Now don't go getting too crazy, lighting torches and grabbing pitchforks.  I admit I don't know much about the situation, and I don't want to go too overboard.  It could be a very civil dispute that will get figured out.  But I am a person who likes to take sides.  And I usually side with awesome.  Because awesome is awesome.  Hopefully this other brewery will come to their senses and let NBC have the name.  Because a world without Hop God is a world I don't want to live in.  (I know.... a little dramatic.)

Bus capacity, 37 midgets
Next on my list of topics for this week is the Railroaders Brew Club bus tour.  This tour had it's ups and downs.  But mostly ups.  In fact there weren't but a few moments that I wish could have gone better.  For the most part though the bus tour went incredibly well for a first time taking 37 people to a different city and to four breweries!  We loaded the bus at 11:30AM and everyone was early or on time, which is amazing.  I have just about never seen a group of people so eager to get on the road and drink some amazing beers!  The bus was a really nice party bus we rented in town.  It had two coolers built in where we were able to hook up 3 kegs of beer and keep them cool with ice.  The only problem was the seating capacity.  We were told it had room for 37 people.  The bus ended up being alright but they must have meant 37 midgets....because we got real friendly on the bus that day!
Blue Blood Brewing Company
The kegs tapped and beer flowing we started to Lincoln and headed out to Blue Blood Brewing Company for our first stop of the day.  Blue Blood is a brewery in Lincoln that was founded by Lincoln Police officers.  The beers there are all created in honor of a policeman or friend of the force.  So each beer has a great story behind it.  Pretty cool, hopefully one day I'll have a beer in my honor.  Ha!  The tour there went great.  We asked plenty of questions and the guys there took their time to answer them.
Blue Blood Barrels and RRs
Next we stopped at Zipline Brewing Company.  Zipline had some of the best beers I have had all day.  I have to say their NZ IPA is a big favorite of mine.  They also had a casked porter on tap that blew me away.  During the tour we found out that their capacity is surpassing Empyrean for the top spot in Lincoln and that all of their beers are based on Pilsner malt.  Pretty neat!  We enjoyed some great beers and chatted with Marcus and Tom.  Super cool guys who treated us well.  I only wish I had remembered to pick up a t-shirt because I really wanted one.  Oh well, next time!
RRBC at Zipline Brewing Company
One thing I will note, is after we left Zipline.  I started to realize that the intake of great craft beer was beginning to effect me in fantastic ways.  That's my nice way of saying I was starting to feel it pretty good.  Luckily I was able to take a roll call and get everyone back on the bus.  I have to say that Chad made the day extremely entertaining because I could tell my good buddy was having about as much fun as you can have. He was very helpful being loud enough to keep the club's attention and direct us when we needed to "roll out" but also you could definitely tell he was nearly three sheets to the wind.  Well, by the end of the day, we were all there.  That's why we had a bus driver.  He took care of us.  I have to say, our bus driver Dennis.  Was the man.  He was really kind and polite.  We tipped him and treated him well.  Good dude.
Jim Engelbart and the Empyrean System

After Zipline was Empyrean Brewing Company.  Empyrean makes my favorite ESB.  The Luna Sea ESB.  They greeted us with our own Empyrean pint glasses to keep, and poured us pints of IPA and Winter Seasonal.  We listened as Jim told us about their brewing system, and toured the brewhouse, fermenter rooms and even got to have some fresh beer straight off the fermenter.  Which was really cool!  The guys at Empyrean really treated us great.  They had plenty of beer throughout the tour and went above and beyond for us.  Really excellent of them!  After we had our tour we went up to the private event room at Lazlo's.  There we had dinner and drank more Empyrean beers.  What a great place to have a craft beer event!  Excellent food and craft beers with great people!

Tom and Nick listening intently
Russ, and beer.

The crew at Empyrean
Beer from the fermenter
After Empyrean and dinner.  The group was pretty well lubricated.  We boarded the bus to Modern Monks/ Misty's and headed to our final brewery destination.  I was glad we were able to go enjoy a tour there.  But I was not happy that we weren't able to be as attentive as we could have been for our final stop.  The beer there was pretty good.  But I don't think I was able to fully enjoy it as I should have.  Most of the club was in the same boat.  If we ever return I will make sure that Modern Monks is one of our first stops instead of our last.  That way we can fully invest ourselves in the tour and have a fresh understanding of the beers.

Everyone made it home from the trip and home safely.  It was a success for a first time taking a club on a "big bus trip" and everyone had positive things to say.  I know that everyone had smiles on their faces and I didn't hear a single person speak of a bad beer all day.  I'd call that a win!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Winning Beers, Empyrean Beerquest, Bus Trip Coming Up!

It's good to have wifi.  You can watch College football and brew!
Man a lot has been going on lately.  I have barely had time to sit down.  Between my band, my jobs, and brewing in general it has been hard to find time to sit down and blog.  But today I'm getting around to it.  So two weeks ago the Railroaders had our monthly meeting / competition at the "Blatt Beer and Table."  Which is an outdoor establishment near the new Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha.  The place was really cool and they had plenty of good beer on tap.  But most of what I drank that night (besides some Spaten Oktoberfest on tap) was club beer!  We had tons of entries from lots of new members and plenty of really great beers.  I wish I remembered to snap some pictures.  But I was really into the event and enjoying myself hanging with the guys in the club.  So I forgot.
At the end of the night Phil ended up winning the Style competition.  Which was Belgians, Sours, Saisons etc. (I didn't bring a beer for that competition.)  But I did take 2nd and 3rd place in the "Best Damn Beer" competition.  Which is kind of our "whatever you want to bring" category for every comp.  It makes things easier for those of us who want to make different kinds of beer without a specific style restriction.  I brought my Oktoberfest, and Janet's Brown Ale.  The JBA is not my recipe but it's cool to see how great that recipe does in competition.  Yep yep yep!

So last night I brewed for the Empyrean Beerquest Competition.  I made a Winter Spice Ale for the competition.  As of right now I'm going to keep the recipe on the DL.  But as soon as the comp is over I'll release the details of it.  Not really a big deal.  I just don't know if they'd be upset with me giving away everything in case I do well.  Pat from the club stopped by and we shared a few beers while I brewed.  The beer is mostly 2-Row, with some Sugar added into the wort to raise the gravity.  They had a specific gravity for this competition you needed to hit.  I was a point off so I did pretty well.  So far it's looking good, a bit darker than most of my beers.  But it has a nice "English" look to it.  I made a joke the other day on Facebook telling people that I would name this beer "Justin Beibeer" so that it would have "millions of fans" and win the competition.  While I think that would be hilarious, I don't think I will name the beer that.  Because I don't want people to be distracted by the name.  I'd like the beer to speak for itself.  I would however like to make a beer called that at one point.  Because it would be funny.  It will probably end up being a Light American Lager.  Which would be more fitting.
Pat stopped by and shared some great beer!

The upcoming Railroaders Bus Tour is on October 19th and I have been planning this event for a couple of months.  It's really great getting a big event like this together for the club.  This will be our biggest event we have ever taken part in as a club.  We are getting a 37 passenger party bus together.  Loading it up with kegs of beer (they will not allow glass on the bus, bottles.  Bummer!)  and heading to Lincoln.  Which is just about 45 minutes from Omaha.  There we're going to visit four different breweries in Lincoln and get tours.  We will be visiting Empyrean, Blue Blood, Zipline and Modern Monks.  Should end up being a really great day with tons of excellent beer.  I'll have more details on that and pictures from the trip up on my blog once the event is over.

Until next week.  Have a good one!

Friday, September 20, 2013

GNBF Video 2013 Featuring Dr. Bill Sysak,

It's here.  The 2013 Brew Like A Boss GNBF Video!
I have been super busy, so much has been going on I don't even know where to start.
I promise to have another update soon with lots of more information.  But for now, enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

GNBF Awesomeness, Nebraska State Fair, Beer Trading, Brewing, Reading Books, Football!

The Stone 06 Vertical Epic!
So last weekend was Great Nebraska Beerfest.  It was an excellent event, and everyone in the brew club had a great time.  I brought my Scottish Export 80 and plenty of people were drinking it.  The other guys brought a ton of different styles from IPAs, IIPAs, Wheat Beers, Brown Ales, some Sours and even a Berlinerweisse-Radler that Tom made.  Turned out pretty tasty.  The day was full of great new beers to enjoy.  I had some really incredible beers from Goldenrod (Saison IPA was awesome), Infusion (Brown Ale was incredible), Plowshare, Stone, Empyrean, Schlafly (best pumpkin beer I have ever had), Deschutes, Nebraska Brewing Company (love having Melange on tap!), Heretic (Evil Cousin and Grammarye!), Grimm Brothers, Cigar City (Oktoberfest was great!), Upstream, Lucky Bucket (yes they actually had a really nice beer there I liked called Sahti), Zipline, Blue Blood (their Imperial Amber was good) and many others.  One highlight of the day was getting to meet Dr. Bill Syzak and do a video interview with him.  I haven't had much time to edit video on my own but I'm hoping Sunday I can do that and get something up here next week.  I also took some video of the event and the people enjoying the event.  So get ready for another GNBF video.  This year was rough for sound though.  The generators and bands were very loud.  I found myself having to yell to people next to me just to hear sometimes.  So getting interviews was harder than last year because of the volume.  But I still managed to get a couple.
One of the coolest beers I was able to enjoy at GNBF was the 06 Stone Vertical Epic.  Man that beer was so incredible.  It made me want to hi-five the world.  Just the perfection of the roasty notes, the mild bitterness and the age smoothing everything out.  Man that was good.
Heretic Evil Cousin down the hatch
This week we all found out the results for the Nebraska State Fair Homebrewing Competition.  I sent in six beers (Amber, Cream Ale, Saison, American Brown, Dusseldorf Alt, and Scottish 80.)  All of the links above are to my recipes for the beers I entered.  The only recipe that was not my own was the Brown Ale I entered which was Mike McDole's "Janet's Brown Ale" recipe.  Which can be found here.  Turns out that the Railroaders faired extremely well in the competition.  Overall we had 27 awards in different categories.  Tom Malowski won Best of Show for mixed styles and Jeff Conrad won Best of Show for Lagers.  I even came away with a first place ribbon for the American Brown I entered and a second place for my Cream Ale.  Not bad at all.  Now it's time to gear up for River City Roundup which should be registering entries soon.  For a full list of results click here.
Last week I started doing some serious beer trading online.  I'm looking forward to trying a lot of different beers I have not had before from around the United States and even outside of the U.S.  I'm buying stuff I can get around here and making some trades with a few out of towners on the west coast and east coast.  I plan on sending out some of my homebrew with each trade too.  So far the people I have talked to and sent beer to have been fairly stoked to have my homebrew as an added extra in with their beers.  I figure homebrew should be shared freely.  So why not make people happy with extra surprises.
I love NBC beers. them.
A few weeks ago I brewed an ESB and some New Zealand IPA.  Both of those beers are in kegs now and they are very, very tasty.  I am really excited for the ESB as it is the first time I have had an ESB turn out the way I wanted it to.  Love the style, and this beer is just about the best example I have created that meets my expectations.  Super stoked to enjoy this beer on tap and send it out for a few comps.  The Marris Otter malt I used as a base really comes through and the hop bitterness and English style is there with all the flavors you would expect.  The New Zealand IPA smells incredible and drinks way too easy.  The Motueka and Nelson Sauvin dry hop I did adds so much flavor and aroma.  I'm in love with this beer and now that I have ten gallons of it in my basement I am sure I will need to give some away to friends before it ages too much.  I think it's just about at the perfect age to start drinking it and enjoying it.
I acquired the Mitch Steele IPA book recently.  And man am I enjoying it.  IPA is probably my most favorite style of beer.  I love hops, love growing hops, love learning about hop varieties, breeds, bitterness, aroma, Lupulin glands, bines, cones, madness!  Heheh.  Just a little bit of a hophead.  But this book so far has a lot of great information in it.  If you don't already own it I would highly recommend picking it up.
Lastly I wanted to leave you this week with an amazingly happy thought.  Tonight is the first night of College Football.  I'll be putting beers on tap and having friends over to enjoy my beer on the kegerator while we watch South Carolina play North Carolina.  What an amazing hobby we have.  Something that lets you create something you can enjoy and share with friends.  Isn't that the best part of life?  Creating and sharing.  I think so.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nebraska Brewing Company New Brewery Tour, Goldenrod Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Invades Nebraska, GNBF!

Having a great time at NBC's Brewery Tour
This week is an exciting one.  Everything about Great Nebraska Beerfest week this year has got to be the most exhilarating it has ever been for everyone involved.  Nebraska is breaking through new boundaries in craft beer.  There are more breweries being built now in Nebraska than ever before.  And more and more expansion is taking place.  I was able to go to the Ale Nation Members Only tour of Nebraska Brewing Company's new brewing facility last Sunday.  It was a big celebration for all of the fans of NBC, and the new space is incredible.  I was able to get some pictures and video of the event and I have an exclusive tour for everyone who didn't get to go.  Just check out the video below.
Nebraska Brewing Company is clearly one of my favorite breweries in Nebraska.  They have the best beer, the best people, and the best fans.  I think that this is the beginning of something great for Nebraska and will only help other breweries to thrive and expand as well.  Among the new breweries in Nebraska I'm also very excited about Infusion Brewing Company in Benson and the new Goldenrod Brewing Company which will be downtown on Farnam street.  Check out Infusion "here" and Goldenrod on Facebook "here."
Goldenrod Brewing Company
Here is what Goldenrod's Facebook has to say about their brewery which has me very stoked.  "Goldenrod Brewing Company is a brewpub in planning with an estimated opening date of early 2014 to be located in Midtown Omaha at 3568 Farnam St. We will specialize in producing artisanal farmhouse ales and barrel aged beers and will offer a diverse food menu made with locally-sourced ingredients and beer-infused creations. The tap room will be set up to serve as a community gathering spot and we will actively support the community by hosting frequent events."
Their brewers are members of the "South Omaha Brewers" or "S.O.B.'s."  They are really good people and always have great beers at local events.  I have always had great conversations with Phil Doerr who is a brewer for Goldenrod.  He has made some very impressive beers over the years and I'm excited to see what he will come up with next!  I'm especially excited to see what they do with their barrel aged beers.
NBC's dock at the new brewery
Tonight is the first night in Nebraska where we'll be able to enjoy beers from STONE!  After work I'm headed over to the Crescent Moon to take part in their tap takeover and enjoy some great Stone beers.  After that tomorrow I will be working at The Lauter Tun pouring Stone Beers for their own Tap Takeover event!  Check out both events "here" for the Crescent Moon and "here" for the Lauter Tun.
So GREAT NEBRASKA BEERFEST is this weekend.  In case you didn't know.  And man oh man am I excited for this.  The culmination of the week and so many excellent beers from breweries around the United States.  Is everyone ready?  I know I am!

Here's the video I threw together for the Nebraska Brewing Company Tour.  I tried to keep things short and sweet but the footage still came out to about 13 minutes.  If you are interested in having Brew Like A Boss out to an event in the future let me know.  I am glad to be a part of brewery openings, tours, and getting the word out there about your beer related event!  Have a great week and weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Guesting on "Brewing With Style", Domain Registration, T-Shirt Ideas, Railroaders Patio Brew Day

Pic of the BN I picked up on Google
Image not taken by me
Tuesday night I was called up by the Brewing Network to discuss my "American Amber Ale" on the Jamil Show.  It was really cool getting to talk to Jamil and Tasty and the guys about my beer.  To hear their thoughts on one of my favorite beers I make was pretty cool.  I'm definitely going to keep brewing it and maybe making a few slight adjustments based on their input will make it that much better.  Once the American Amber episode airs I'll put a link up here so everyone can check it out.  I'm not going to give too many spoilers other than the fact that I was really nervous and probably sounded like a complete dork.  I am a dork anyway so I guess it doesn't matter or phase me that much.  Hopefully one day they'll come to Omaha or I can get out to their neck of the woods because it'd be really cool to meet those guys in person.  Also John Palmer.  Because he's a genius.  They said they were going to send me some swag and signed stuff.  I'll post up pictures once they arrive in the mail.
The Oktoberfest I brewed last week fermented like a champ and is just about ready for a rest at room temps I'm going to unplug it tonight and let it slowly rise in temperature for a day.  Then give it another day at room temps before I crash it down to 32 degrees for clarification.  Then it's lagering time!
Oktoberfest is doing great
Today I decided to get serious and I registered "" to forward to this blog site.  I figured if I was going to keep my name for the website and make sure nobody snatches it up I should register it sooner rather than later.  Especially if I'm planning on making t-shirts.  Which brings me to my next subject....
I'm planning on printing t-shirts.  Not just because the name of my blog is awesome and should be on a t-shirt, but because I want to get the word out about my blog, and I think with a cool enough shirt design there are plenty of excellent individuals out there willing to be walking billboards for my website.  (Lets not beat around the bush)  I'm thinking that I may host a t-shirt design competition.  Winner gets a free t-shirt and their name as "official artist and designer of the official Brew Like A Boss t-shirt."  I don't know if that title is braggable, but it could be yours!  All I need is a few individuals eager for competition and the thrill of graphic design victory.  Submissions for this contest start now.  If you have any cool ideas contact me on facebook, Google+ or email.  Plenty of easy ways to get a proof to me.  I'll post up the top three on here.  The best one wins and the other two out of the top 3 will get some other swag I'm getting printed.
Lastly in my short "end of the week" post I would like to point your attention to the Railroaders Brew Club website found here.  We are having a Patio Brew Day at Nebraska Brewing Company on September 29th for new members and non-members to learn how to brew extract and all-grain homebrew.  We'll be bringing out all of the equipment, all you need to do is show up and give us as many questions as you can muster.  We'll do our best to answer them and even let you participate in the brewing process.  Pretty cool right?  Hope to see you there!
Sunday Sunday Sunday!  BE THERE!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cream Ale, Brewing Oktoberfest, FATHEAD, Lauter Tun and Extra Special Bill

My Cream Ale, Looking Good!
First things first.  Check out how cool my Cream Ale looks.  It's clear and tastes awesome!  I think when I enter this baby in some competitions soon it will be a really great example of the style and should do well.  I had my friend/coworker Chad Rozniecki taste it last week and he gave it high marks.  He even filled out a BJCP sheet for it and rated it for me.  Now does one opinion mean it's the be all end all of cream ales?  No.  But it makes me amped about brewing because I am really happy with this beer and others are noticing it's good too.

This last week/weekend was great.  A lot happened and I brewed two beers.  After taking the Noble Pils off of the yeast and kegging it, I brewed up an Oktoberfest and pitched it right on top of the yeast cake from the Pilsner.  It is now taking off at an alarming rate.  I have no doubts it will be a successful fermentation.  The yeast is really going to town.  The recipe I used was straight from Brewing Classic Styles and can be seen here.  It's fairly simple, but will work out just great for a very easy drinking Oktoberfest lager.  As you can see in the pictures it was a very nice clear amber coming out of the mash tun.  Oktoberfest is pretty much the beer style that made me want to brew in the first place.  And I have yet to even make one that wasn't a "mocktoberfest" ale.  Now that I have temperature control and the ability to work with plenty of lager yeast I'm able to make a true Oktoberfest.  I'm really looking forward to the results.  One of my favorite beers to enjoy in the fall is Sam Adam's Octoberfest.  Which I originally started drinking during my college years and it is probably the beer that broke me through from plain old domestic beer and into the craft beer foray.  So once this beer is ready it will be really special to me.  I can't wait to have it on tap in my basement for a Husker game.  After finishing the Oktoberfest I realized I had the whole day off Saturday and my wife wouldn't be home until later that night.  So I decided to brew a second beer.  I made a beer called "Extra Special Bill."  It can be seen here.  I used plenty of Maris and EKGs to give it English flavor and I'm hoping that the late hopping additions will give it a nice hop aroma.  I'm a huge fan of Empyrean's "Luna Sea" ESB and it says that they use a little bit of biscuit malt in their ESB.  So I decided to add some to mine and see how it turned out.
US Open Gold Winner
Lets back up a little bit and talk about last Thursday.  My friend Vinie and I went to Nebraska Brewing Company to enjoy the release of the new Saison from the Wort Transformation Competition.  (Which was mighty tasty I might add)  After having a couple of beers and dinner, I decided to pick up a bottle of Fathead to save for a bottle share in the near future.  I wanted to get a bottle from this batch because they won the 2013 US Open Beer Championship in the "Barleywine" category with it.  So it must be pretty awesome!  I can't wait to enjoy it.  (Check out the US Open Website here to see what I'm talking
about)  Thanks to Master Chef Chad Waters for his suggestion.   I have had almost every different barrel aged beer that NBC makes.  But have not yet had the opportunity to drink Fathead.  I have a feeling sharing this is the best way to go because of the high ABV.  Although I love barrel aged Hop God and that's 10% so maybe I could take care of this beer on my own.  I'd probably rather share it though so I don't end up taking a nap right afterwards.
Warp back to Friday (I'm taking you guys on a time travel adventure this week) and this may have been one of the best beer weekends I have had in a while.  Not only are my beers maturing in the kegerator to the point where I'm really excited to enter them in the next few competitions.  But for whatever reason, this weekend involved all sorts of beer goodness that began with my shift on Friday at Lauter Tun.  Now I just started working at Lauter Tun as a Barback/Bartender in Training.  I have plenty of knowledge in the beer area, and I'm actually very happy and proud of the bar because they have an excellent tap selection which can all be enjoyed from the proper beer glassware!  But I'm not the most knowledgeable person as of yet on all of the mixed drinks.  I'm learning them and I can make a killer Old Fashioned or Moscow Mule.  Start throwing some crazy named drinks at me though and I'll be asking for backup!  Check out the Lauter Tun website here.  If you're in Omaha and want to check out a great craft beer bar.  This is my usual watering hole.
Heady Topper
Kevin who works with me there brought in a bottle of Pliny The Elder the other day, which was something I haven't enjoyed since I was in Oregon two years ago.  So that was a treat.  Then a regular brings in some Heady Topper that night too.  I could tell it was going to be a good weekend.
Zombie Dust
During the brew day the next day my friend Kyle hooked me up with some Zombie Dust and some G'Night from Oskar Blues.  I was officially marking my calendar so this day would be remembered throughout history.  Well maybe that's a bit overboard.  But it was definitely shaping up to be a good weekend.
Last night I watched Breaking Bad with the wife and enjoyed a couple brews.  I picked up some Paulaner Oktoberfest/Marzen to get myself psyched for my Oktoberfest that was fermenting right next door in my office.  I also drank some of my Dusseldorf Altbier and enjoyed how much the beer had progressed during lagering.  It has really cleared up and has a great malty taste now.  I can't wait to enter it in the Nebraska State Fair this week.  I'll let everyone know how that goes and any results.  As of last weekend I received a call about the Sioux Falls Empire Fair and that my Oatmeal Stout was in the top 16 entries.  I haven't heard anything other than that.  Once I see a full list I'll post it up and see how everything else the fair.  Yeah.  Alright have a great week everyone.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brewing a Noble Hopped Pilsner, Sending my beer to the Jamil Show, IPA Day, UNTAPPD.

Goes down too easy
If you know me then it's no secret that Sam Adams Noble Pils is my most favorite of all of their beers.  (I love their Oktoberfest as well.  But Noble Pils takes the crown)  I have been gearing up to do a Pilsner for a while now.  And I wanted to make sure it was about as simple as you can get.  So I went all out and made up a recipe using all Pilsner, a touch of Carapils and tons of Noble Saaz, Tettnang and Hallertau.  The result is the "Noble Donkey Pils." (check it out here)  I kept thinking about the movie Shrek when I heard the word "noble" since donkey always wanted to be a "noble steed" in the movie even though he was just a donkey.  So that's what I'm trying for.  A good homebrewed beer that wants to be as great as the commercial counterpart.
Out with the DMS!
The brew day went great.  I mash hopped again because I wanted to try it on one of my own recipes.  Probably did very little to nothing to the beer.  I think it added 2 IBUs or something ridiculous like that.  But I love Saaz and that hop does magic to beer so why not.  Ended up doing a solid 90 minute boil to get rid of DMS and chilled the wort overnight to get it down to 50 degrees before pitching a healthy amount of yeast.  It has been bubbling away since last Wednesday.  I'm going to give this beer a solid two weeks in the primary to make sure it does the job.  Then give it a rest at room temp for a day, keg it and start lagering.  I am going to ultimately wait one month before this beer makes it to the glass.  I want it to be clear, and ready.  It's best to forget about it for a while once it hits the keg.
Last week I sent my beer to the Brewing Network to have my American Garage Amber Ale (recipe here) reviewed and tasted by Jamil and Tasty.  I'm a little worried about the beer since it's going all the way to California and it's my first time shipping.  I read up on what to do and even listened to a Brew Strong episode on competition brewing to make sure I packed the box to the exact specifications needed.  I even added a printed recipe and BJCP labels to my bottles as if they were going out for a competition.  Just to make extra sure I was treating it with seriousness and providing the best information I could about my beer.  It's a simple beer but it has some great flavor and just the right amount of hop flavor (in my opinion.)  I have brewed it twice now and I'm most likely going to keep making it until the world is depleted of grain and hops!  We shall see if my beer actually makes it on the show.  If it does I'll probably do a dance like this.
Celebrating IPA Day at the Library
August 1st was International IPA Day.  My buddy Vinie and I went down to the local pub called "The Library" which has 40 taps of craft beer on the ready.  It used to be kind of a dive with awful bathrooms but they just renovated the place and added the bay next door.  So now it's twice as big and they have new clean bathrooms.  Plus, how cool is it to tell your wife you went to "The Library" when you were actually out having a few beers?  Pretty cool if you ask me.  In honor of IPA day (and in honor of having a DD) I went with the IPA flight.  I had quite a few great beers that night.  Honorable mentions being the Weyerbacher Last Chance IPA, Green Flash's Citra Session, and the Goose Island "The Illinios."  All were tasty and went down too easy.  One of the beers, Left Coast's Hop Juice must have been a bad keg or was just not a good batch.  Because it tasted like stale butterscotch and had little to no actual hop flavor.  (A bit of aroma, but still, very surprising it was not present in the beer taste itself.)  I will definitely have to give it another try sometime because I was very underwhelmed by that keg of it anyway.  I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt for sure though.
My last little note for today is that I registered my home "brewery" on UNTAPPD.  If you don't know what this app is you must be living under a rock.  Probably the best phone app for beer since man discovered fire.  (If that makes any sense whatsoever...check their website here!)   I have added a link to my brewery "Browar Harvat" on the right hand side of my blog.  So at any time you can log a beer there (if you are lucky enough to try my beer...or unfortunate enough depending on how you feel about my beer) or just see how others are enjoying/hating it.  Thanks for reading.  I'll be back again with more soon.  This week at some point I'll be brewing an ESB using New Zealand Motueka.  It's going to be weird, and awesome.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Great Nebraska Beerfest tickets, Brewing Janet's Brown Ale, Rakau Pale Ale, and BJCP Competition Season!

Whew it's hard to keep up with everything that's going on right now.  Gearing up for GNBF (Great Nebraska Beer Fest) and getting all of my "summer beers" ready for entry in the upcoming competitions for judging.  Not to mention I still have to brew my Marzen for the year and I'm sitting on tons of yeast I need to use.  Man there's not enough time in a day!  Luckily for me I have a few days coming up without weddings and other distractions.  If I can just keep myself away from the computer at home and stop playing video games.  I'll be all set.
GNBF 2013
So Great Nebraska Beerfest tickets just went on sale today.  And by the looks of it this year's event is going to be even bigger and awesomer than last years.  Get your tickets HERE.
I'll be making yet another GNBF video cataloging the events of the festival.  And interviewing several of the brewers out there.  So look forward to that video once it's online.
Mash hopping Janet's Brown Ale

In other news.  I have still been busy brewing.  Marking off the styles as I brew them in my Brewing Classic Styles Book.  All of my recipes may not be exact replicas from the book.  But I do my best to stay within the style guidelines and brew something that I find interesting, while keeping to the style guidelines outlined by the BJCP.  A little over a week ago I made an exception and brewed an exact recipe to style.  I made Janet's Brown Ale straight from the book.  Using all the exact techniques from the book.  This is the first time in a while that I have done this.  And it was refreshing to do so.  Here I am, brewing this gold medal winning recipe invented by master homebrewer Mike "Tasty" McDole.  The whole time I'm thinking to myself "Man I hope I don't mess this up, because if I really nail it this will be a really good beer!"  Now I'm in the dry hopping process and waiting for this to be ready to carb up.  Then it's being entered in a couple of comps soon.  I found the process of "mash hopping" to be interesting.  I have never done a mash hop before.  But this recipe called for it.  And I thought, hey, this could be neat!  Not really sure how much it will effect the final product.  But if this beer turns out as good as everyone says it is.  I'm pretty sure I will try this technique in a few other beers.
Don't forget the whirlfloc!
The Dusseldorf Altbier, Nelson Saison, Cream Ale and Amber Ale are all carbing up nicely in the kegerator right now.  I just brewed an American Pale Ale using all Rakau hops from New Zealand last week as well. (Recipe Here) Earlier this year I purchased a 55 lb. bag of Munich Light and I have plenty of it.  So I thought it would be fun to use plenty of Munich in a Pale Ale and see how it would taste as a base malt along with the 2-Row.  Along with the Northwestern Ale 1332 yeast this pale should have some nice malt backbone to compliment the hops.  Then again it could be a bad idea.  Experimentation on my part but sounded fun so I brewed it!  It's almost ready for a dry hop and has had plenty of activity lately.  I'm excited to get that beer ready for drinking as I'm a huge fan of Rakau hops.  My friend David brews a Rakau pale ale and I'm hoping mine turns out half as good as his.  Because it's excellent.
We will, we will Rakau!
So I'm sitting on quite a few beers lately.  Gearing up for my first real lager in quite a while.  And all of a sudden competition season is hitting.  There are quite a few state fairs this time of year, and the homebrewing competitions are plentiful.  I entered several of my beers in the Sioux Empire Fair, and I'm gearing up to enter more in the Nebraska State Fair and the River City Rodeo.  I'm hoping that some of my beers will come back with good comments on how I did overall on the brews.  And what I can do to improve them.  If I end up with an award or two I'll definitely be stoked too.  We shall see.  I have only ever entered one true BJCP competition before and that was a Nebraska Shootout a couple of years ago.  This year I plan on brewing and entering in whatever I can.  I figure it's good for my education about the styles.  And it will let me know if my recipes are landing where they need to be within the styles as I brew them.  Not to mention the best critic of your own work is going to be an outside party with no bias.  I have friends tell me my beer is great all of the time.  "I would BUY THIS!" is the common theme.  But any friend who tells me that is immediately on my radar as a person I will probably not take too seriously when asking their opinion.  I have found that usually the people who find faults in my beer are the ones who I strive to brew for.  I want to make good beer.  And I want people to enjoy it.  Anyone with a palette that can describe style, aroma, taste, and give me a good insight on their perceptions of beer.  Those are the people that get me stoked about brewing.  Don't get me wrong.  I still love to share my beer with all of my friends.  But the ones with good, useful information to reciprocate.  Yeah.  That's where it's at.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brewing Lots of Beer, Union Labs & Testing and Infusion Brewing Company!

Scottish Export 80 Single Infusion
Happy Tuesday people!  Last night I kegged up three different beers.  Lets just say I have been extremely busy with brewing lately and I probably need to wait for a while until I brew more.  But then again I love brewing and see no problem with having 50+ gallons of beer in my basement at any given time.  My wife on the other hand....well we negotiated that 3 beers a week is too much, so I'm going to try and keep it to one.  Which will probably turn into one every other week being that I am running low on grain.  Can't wait for the next group buy.  Let me tell you.
Cream Ale and Saison at David's
I think I may have became a bit overzealous in my quest to brew every style in the Brewing Classic Styles book.  So much so that I spent just about every day a few weeks ago brewing.  Bear with me because I'm about to go through a few beers I made over the course of a week and a half last month.  First I brewed my Amber Ale.  (Recipe Here)  Which is nearing the borderline of the style at 38 IBUs.  But I love a good hop flavor to mix in with the malt.  This turned out beautifully.  And really clear and clean.  I was extremely surprised at how great the beer looked too.  I think the low amount of hops and the clean fermenting 1056 yeast helped out quite a bit.  Next I brewed a Cream Ale in a collaboration with my friend David.  We split a 10 gallon batch and I pitched some yeast I received for free as a sample from Cornhusker Beverage. (Recipe Here)  After this brew I learned some things about "hot side aeration" that now prevent me from sparging the way I did in the picture on the left.  But other than cringing while going back and looking at the distance from the mash tun to the kettle.  The brew day was great.  And the beers still turned out really nice.  (Now I use some laytex tubing from the cooler to the kettle to prevent hot side aeration.)
Union Labs & Testing Yeast
So Union Labs & Testing is a new yeast production facility up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  They make one strain of yeast as of yet, which is an "American Ale II" yeast.  I was given a pitch of this yeast as a sample from Jim at Cornhusker Beverage.  He said they will start carrying it and selling it at their homebrew shop.  I have since been back there and they do have it in stock for sale.  It is a little bit less money than Wyeast or White Labs.  If you feel like giving it a shot I'd say go for it.  The yeast attenuated and flocculated with no issues.  I tasted my Cream Ale last night and it tasted very clean and like a well fermented beer.  With a FG of 1.009 it did a little bit too good of a job, but that's okay I still stayed within style and ended up with a 5.51% Cream Ale.  I would rate the yeast as a good alternative if you want to try something different and save a buck.  I'm hoping to drop by there in September when my band plays at Lifelight Festival.  Maybe I can find out who to contact and get a tour.  That would be cool.
"Saison De Lawn"
The next beer I made was a Saison.  I wanted to stay in style but I really wanted to try out my new Nelson Sauvin hops I had received in the mail from Nikobrew.  So I figured it wouldn't be too crazy to use those instead and make a NZ Saison.  I named it "Saison De Lawn" (Recipe Here) and used 3711 French Saison yeast in it.  The beer fermented at 68 degrees during the entire fermentation and ended at 1.008 FG.  I kegged it up last night and tasted it.  I have to say, I cannot wait for this beer to carb up because it tastes phenomenal!  I am very excited about Nelson Sauvin hops and believe they are going to go in more of my beers in the future.  It has a nice white wine and grape taste that makes the saison very smooth to drink.
Finally I spent another brew day last Monday making a Scottish Export 80 (Recipe Here) which was my very first single infusion mash on a beer.  I also mashed in at 158 degrees which was maybe a bit high...but I listened to Jamil describe his methods in his podcast and he said he would mash fairly high on these beers to bring out the malty taste.  I stuck with a single hop on this one and went with three additions of EKGs.  After the boil I placed the beer in my fermentation chamber at 58 degrees.  It has fermented completely but I'm leaving it in there to make sure I don't get any esters from the Scottish Ale yeast.  I have read plenty of people having success with the yeast as long as it is fermented cool.  I have also heard horror stories of people fermenting with it at 70 degrees and ending up with nasty feet beer.  I don't like to drink nasty feet beer.  Just saying.
Tanks at Infusion Brewing Company
Lights made out of kegs.  Awesome!
Whoever their carpenter is, he needs a raise
The brewing system at Infusion
The other thing I wanted to talk about was my visit to Infusion Brewing Company in downtown Benson, Nebraska.  This is a new brewery set to open up in late August.  I was fortunate enough to get a tour with brewer Max Stewart.  He showed me around the place and let me get a sneak peek at what they're building over there. There's a lot of history behind the place, as it once was a butcher shop and will have a sort of built in meat market for people to enjoy sausages and deli style items with their beers once open.  They also recycled their brewing system and most of their tanks from a defunct brewery in the Old Market.  If you want to learn more about that there's a great article here where you can read on in more detail.  The place looked really cool and was larger on the inside than it looked from the outside.  They have two levels to work with (main floor and a basement with a sizeable cooler) and plenty of room to make lots of beer.  I can't wait until they open because Aaron and Max have been making great pilot batch beers already and bringing them out to festivals as a preview.  Everything they're doing is really exciting and I had to pick up my own Infusion t-shirt at Sunfest to wear and get the word out about this great new brewery.  I'll leave you until next week with some great pictures of the interior of the brewery.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brewing Again....Finally

The Setup at Browar Harvat

Seems like things always get so busy that I can never keep up with what I love to do.  But this summer has been good to me.  And I figured it was well past time I actually get back on here to do an update.  I have been neglecting this blog for quite some time.  So now I'm putting reminders in my phone to do a weekly update so I can get this baby rolling again.

Where to begin?  Well. The last time I even updated this blog was last September.  So a lot has happened.  During the winter a storm came through and destroyed the gazebo in my back yard.  The amount of snow piling up on it was just too much for it to handle unfortunately.  So the hops had to be transplanted into buckets and I have given them to my friend Luke who is going to plant them in his back yard for this season.  I'll get rhizomes from the plants next spring to start again once I can get a new gazebo built.
The wife and I in front of the castle

This spring there were competitions and events but I was busy getting work done for conference in Orlando for my job.  The wife and I spent time enjoying Universal, Disney World and Epcot.  Then it was time to work.  Which was...well...a lot of work.  But after that was said and done it was back home to Homaha.  Where I could finally start brewing again.  The first batch I made was ten gallons of IPA.  After that though I had a desire to make more styles than large quantities of beer.  So I busted out the 5 gallon setup and have been brewing smaller batches.  Not only because it's more fun because you get to brew more, but because I get to create more styles and try to make them the way they're supposed to be.  I have been going through the Brewing Classic Styles book and picking out styles, creating recipes similar to those in the book...and brewing.
Germany at Epcot (I had the Oktoberfest)
Once I started up again I couldn't stop.  I currently have been brewing more, and better beer than I have ever made.  I acquired 4 new corny kegs too.  Which brings my grand total up to eight.  That's a lot more storage capacity for beer.  And now I need another freezer.  We'll see how long I can make it without one.  Probably not long.  Although I'll have to figure out a way to justify buying one to my wife.  Which may be more difficult than one would think.

Making some Dusseldorf Altbier!
So here is my grand plan.  Go through and make at least one beer from each of the styles outlined from the fantastic book Mr. Palmer and Mr. Zaynachev put together.  And I can start this quest by blogging each one and sharing my recipes.  I already have a great head start on this.  But it should give me something to blog about for quite some time.  As long as people keep reading it and caring.  I'll keep making blog posts.  We'll see how far it can go.  This week lets talk about one I'm brewing tomorrow (Friday) and one I previously brewed that is already lagering.  

First lets look at my Dusseldorf Altbier that I brewed about a month ago over at my buddy Vinie's house.  He has a HERMS system and I brought my little 5 gallon setup over (since it's really portable) and got to work on a style I have never tried before.  This beer needs temperature control for the yeast once you get the wort ready.  The recipe for this beer can be found here.  Dusseldorf Altbier Recipe

I chose this recipe because under the BJCP guidelines under category 7C it states that this beer has an assertive hop bitterness from noble hops.  I really like the idea of a top fermenting beer that I can lager and get a great smooth, malty "not quite a lager" ale that still packs a little hop kick.  I did a mash at 152 with a batch sparge after 60 minutes.  During the boil I added three additions of Tettnang Noble hops.  I have always been a fan of the Samuel Adams beer "Noble Pils."  While I realized this beer would not be like it in the malt character, I was hoping to hit something similar with the hop character.  If you are unacquainted with which hops are noble hops there's a good description and explanation of them on Wikipedia here.
The new fermentation chamber
I have used Saaz a whole heck of a lot.  (Being that it's one of my most favorite noble hops) and Hallertau is in just about anything with the word "lager" on the bottle.  So Tettnang seemed like a good hop to try out on a beer like this.  I didn't go overly crazy with the hops.  But you can definitely tell they're there after 2 weeks of lagering.  After my boil I cooled with my wort chiller and set up my carboy in my fermentation chamber.  I fermented at 60 degrees the entire time and ended up with a 1.052 beer (Almost spot on!) that fermented to 1.012 by the end.  The yeast did a great job.  And after two weeks (like I said) I have tasted it during lagering at 37 degrees.  It is very smooth, drinkable, malty and has a great hop flavor from the Tettnang.  I'm very pleased with it thus far and cannot wait for weeks four and six of lagering.

One of the beers I have grown to love over the years is Sierra Nevada Southern Harvest.  This beer has a great hop freshness and it's very appealing to me because all of the hops are imported from New Zealand right at harvest when they make the beer.  I think the idea of trying out new varieties of hops that other homebrewers around town haven't necessarily made beer with yet is pretty neat.  So I went ahead and acquired some Rakau from my friend Dave in a trade.  I am also getting some Motueka in the mail and plan on making a New Zealand style IPA.  We'll see how that goes and if I get the Motueka in the mail by tomorrow.  If not I can always wait on this beer and make a "Janet's Brown Ale" as I have the supplies.  More on these beers in the next blog.  Until then I hope this gives you something to look forward to!  Thanks for reading.