Monday, February 28, 2011

Biggest news yet!

Earlier this year I wrote about the AHA sanctioned competition Amber Waves of Grain. The competition took place this past weekend. well unfortunately I was unable to attend due to the 1600 miles between the competiton venue and myself but Aaron did on saturday.

Aaron entered several beers that brewed on his own since I moved, along with the Bavarian Dunkelweizen and Fruit Cake Ale that we brewed last autumn. I knew that he was going to enter the Dunkelweizen but I just found out today that he also enter our Fruit Cake Ale when he called to tell me that it took first place in the Holiday Beers catagory! Click here to view the competition results page. If you scroll about half way down you'll find the Holiday Beers catagory. All of the beers were entered together under Aarons name (less mine) so that is the way it appears in the results.

This is a compete suprise. I was unaware that it was even entered and I haven't even had the opportunity to taste it yet (it was not finished fermenting at the time I left NY). My In-laws (Aarons parents) are coming to visit my wife and I in a few weeks and they are going to bring a few bottles down. I'm really honored to have done so well in an AHA sanctioned competition. This makes me miss brewing with Aaron even more.

 - Jay

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout

On a side step from my reviews of the New Belgium: Lips of Faith series and Spoetzl: Shiner Family Reunion I indulged myself with a pint of  Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. This is one that I've been aware of for as long as I can remember yet for some reason I had never rescued it from the cooler until now. Brewed with both chocolate and chocolate malt to earn its double chocolate moniker. This is a real treat that I'm glad to share.

Style: Sweet Stout

ABV: 5.2%

IBU: Unknown

Vessel: Pint glass (poured from a 14.9oz bottle)

Appearance: Creamy suede colored head that starts at 1/4" and slowly deflates into the black as night liquid below. Wonderful lacing. (4.5/5)

Aroma: Reminds me of stepping into a fine chocolatier and the scent of quality chocolate poruing over my senses. Layers of roasted barley, oats and sweet tobbacco rest beneath the chocolate. Very faint hop note with a mild sweetness in the background. (5/5)

Flavor: Everything is in balance here. Rich chocolate flavor but not too sweet. Complex roasted barley malt with notes of coffee, bitter coccoa, and sweet tobbaco (like a fine dessert cigar). Minimal bitterness complimnets the malt perfectly. Slight burnt toffee and coccoa lingers on the palate for a moment but fades by the next sip. (4.5/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium / full bodied and velvety smooth. Perfect carbonation level for a stout. Not warming or astringent. (4.5/5)

Overall: This is about as good as it gets. I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to try it. Normally I would be rather critical of using such a strong word as Luxury in the name of a beer, but in this case the term is justly deserved. Easy to drink yet bold and left me wanting more. Big bang for the buck here too. Great quality and very reasonably priced. This has ascended to the upper echelon of drinking porfolio. My lust for it is insatiable. (18.5/20) 93%
 - Jay

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Truffle Truffle

I stumbled upon a company named Truffle Squared this morning and I'm glad I did. They produce some creative gourmet candies that I'm itching to get my hands on. "What does this have to do with beer?" you might ask. Well Truffle Squared has a line of chocolates entitled super bowl collection, which combines three of my favorite edibles on earth chocolate, pretzels, and beer.

The candies are produced in four different forms; beer & preztel marshmallows, beer & pretzel brittle, beer & pretzel truffles, and beer and pretzel caramels.

I'm going to order some of the beer & pretzel truffles and pair them up with an imperial stout. I'll review them when I get my hands on them. You can do so here.

 - Jay

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Belgium Brewery Lips of Faith Series: #1 Vrienden

This past weekend I discovered Spec's. After my wife and I went out for dinner we wandered across the parking lot and into a Spec's store to check it out. They have a great selection of wine, spirits, gourmet food, and beer. I ogled over the coolers until a New Belgium bottle that I had never seen before caught my eye. I decided to pick it up along with a few others and see just what it was all about.

I am a huge fan of New Belgium brewery. They produce some really high quality and interesting brews. That is why I have chosen to highlight their Lips of Faith series.

When I was living in New York their products where all but impossible to come by. In fact they have scarce if not non existent distribution in the north eastern United States. In Austin, TX New Belgium beer is readily available just about everywhere. Which I am very pleased about because New Belgium Abbey and Ranger IPA are two of my favorite beers right now.

The Lips of Faith series focuses on creative small batch brewing with exotic adjuncts and spices. There are also some "collabeeration" brews. Which brings me to my first pick in the series.

Vrienden (Collaboratively brewed by New Belgium and Allagash)

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 8.5%

IBU: 12.2

Vessel: Mug (poured from a 220z bottle)

Appearance: Beautiful deep copper color that is mildly hazy and appears to be around 17 SRM.Creamy honey colored 3/4 inch high long lasting head with great lacing. (4.5/5)

Aroma: Sour and floral with fruity notes through out. A bit more citrus than strawberry but both are detectable. (3.5/5)

Flavor: Tart and a bit on the sweet side. I found very little malt flavor, although I did detect a bit of Carmel and grain. Alcohol flavor was very present. I didn't detect any hibiscus flavor but I swear that I could taste the endive. Bitterness and alcohol linger a bit. (3.5/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium-light bodied and slightly warming. Mildly astringent. Carbonation level seems a tad high.(3/5)

Overall: Vrienden is Flemish for "friends" and that is how I think this should be enjoyed. Crack open a 22oz bottle and split it between three or four friends while snacking on crackers and warm Brie. This one was difficult to compare to a particular style because I found it to be closer to a Gueze than an American Wild Ale. That is the beauty of it though. Is it its own new style or an abomination? That is for each individual to decide and that is why I love craft beer. Traditon and Innovation battling back and forth across that palate.

I feel that this could stand to be a bit less sweet and a have a bit more body. Where this brew really stands out is in aroma and appearance. It looks beautiful in the glass and has a wonderful aroma. The label boasts that it is brewed with brettanomyces and lactobacillus which is all well and good but I doubt that most people even know what either is. Let alone have any idea what they do for the brew and if it is better because of them. I for one do not and I did not detect any flavor or aroma that was completely new to me. So it seems like a bit of a silly marketing gimmick. I'm looking forward to trying others from the series. (14.5/20) 72.5%

 - Jay

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spoetzl Brewery: Shiner Kosmos Reserve

For the second in a series of six Spoetzl beers I've chosen Shiner Kosmos Reserve. As disappointed as I was in Shiner Old-time Alt I am equally as pleased with Shiner Kosmos Reserve. The brew is a dry hopped American pale lager named after the brewery's founder Kosmos Spoetzl. It can only be purchased as part of the family reunion mix pack. Kosmos Reserve was originally offered in 1999 and from what I've read it was a very different brew with a much higher alcohol content (although I cannot find ABV% or IBU specs on either edition).

I do find it odd that they have chosen to market to very different beers under the same name. Maybe the assumption is that the original was offered in the last millennium and people have forgotten about it. Still I haven't had the first edition produced under the name Shiner Kosmos Reserve so I'm approaching it with an open mind and I think I was able to judge it objectively.

A little history on Mr. Kosmos Spoetzl and the Shiner brand. Kosmos Spoetzl was born in Bavaria and immigrated to Shiner Texas. He purchased the Shiner brewery in 1915. His marketing philosophy was simple: A good beer will sell itself. So he set out to brew the very best beer he could.

Style: Dry Hopped American Pale Lager

Vessel: Pilsner Glass (poured from a 12oz bottle)

Appearance: Straw colored with a hint of copper appears to be about 7 or 8 SRM. Average head that holds for a decent amount of time. The lacing is quite nice. (3.5/5)

Aroma: Citrus hop notes that are high for a lager (yet not that hoppy compared to other styles). Subtle biscuit note but overall very little malt aroma. (2.5/5)

Flavor: I find the combination of clean yet complex maltiness and unusually high hop flavor (for a lager) a pleasant combination. The malt complexity reveals itself more with each sip. It is slightly sweet for a lager with hints of bread flavor. Mild hoppy after taste that lingers for a few seconds after each sip. Very slight hint of alcohol that is barely detectable. (3.5/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium bodied with average carbonation. Crisp and light on the palate. (3/5)

Over all: This is a brew I could consume on a hot day or an afternoon at the lake. It is easy to drink and offers more than your average American lager without straying to far from the style. I've read a few reviews that were not so kind to Kosmos Reserve but I found it pleasant, crisp and easy to drink. To each his own because every palate is different. If it was available on its own I would buy a six pack for a hot weekend in the summer, but overall it does not stand out enough in the vast universe of craft beer to pursue again. A hoppy American lager is a nice surprise to a style that I consistently find bland. (12.5/20) 63%

 - Jay

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spoetzl Brewery: Shiner Old-Time Alt

During my various trips to Texas I've enjoyed Shiner Bock and 101 many times. Now that I live in the biggest red state on the map I've found that Shiner has quickly become my go to session beer. I've always been one for buying local and Spoetzl is about a heck of a lot closer than a lot of other breweries so I'm considering it local. Their beers are always of consistent quality and very reasonably priced. Last evening I picked up a mixed case of Shiner entitled the Shiner Family Reunion. The case includes six different styles: Blonde, Bock, Hefeweizen, Kosmos (Dry hopped Lager), Black Lager, and Old-Time alt (Dusseldorf Altbier).

It's been quite some time since I've written any reviews. This seems like a good place to start. I'm going to review each of the six beers included in the Family reunion starting with Shiner Old-Time Alt.

Instead of rambling on about my thoughts as I have done in the past I'm implementing a standard by which I will review beers. I've decided to use four categories. Appearance, Aroma, Flavor, and Mouth feel. Each category will be scored on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 - Terrible, 2 - Poor, 3 - Average, 4 - Good, 5 - Excellent) for a total of 20.The score will be totaled and averaged against the total of 20. Anything that scores below 60% is something that I would not consume again. Each beer will be compared to the standard of its respective style. This should make it much easier for the reader to follow. So, onto the first one.

Shiner Old-Time Alt.

Style: Amber Hybrid beer - Dusseldorf Alt

Vessel: Nonic (poured from 12oz bottle)

Appearance: Crystal clear copper color that appears to be about 17 SRM. Does not hold a head like a Dusseldorf Alt should. In fact the head was almost nonexistent, it collapsed entirely in a matter of seconds. (2/5)

Aroma: Clean with a rich aroma of malt. Low peppery hop aroma. (2/5)

Flavor: Bitter hop flavor balanced by a moderate crisp malt character. Bitter dry finish. No alcohol flavor present. (3/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium bodied. Not warming or astringent. (4/5)

Overall: This particular brew reminded me more of an overly malty Special Bitter than a Dusseldorf Alt. I did enjoy it but it doesn't quite hold up to the standards of its style. I was especially disappointed in the weak head because Dusseldorf Alts are known for a rich creamy long lasting head. I would not seek this out for a second session. (11/20) 55%

 - Jay

Amber Waves of Grain.

Back in mid October Aaron and I brewed a Bavarian Dunkelweizen from extract. I neglected to post about it then because of my school work load. We bottled it and were able to serve it at my Graduation / Going away party right before X-mas. It went over well and was the favorite of all the home brews that we served (which included the Oak aged Barley Wine, Kitchen sink Pale Ale, and All-Grain Pumpkin Ale).

I found that it had a strong banana bread flavor and notes of vanilla typical for the variety of yeast we used (Wyeast – 3068 Weihenstephan). Full bodied and malty just like it should be. I found it just slightly bitter for the style. Looking back we should have either used less hops or boiled them for about 15 minutes less. It was the first time that we brewed a Dunkelweizen so lesson leaned. We didn’t quite reach the attenuation we were aiming for but I estimate the apparent attenuation was around 67%.

Here is the recipe:

Bavarian Dunkelweizen

15-B Dunkelweizen

Author: Jay

Date: 10/14/2010
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 5.0 gal

Attenuation: 66.7%
Original Gravity: 1.060 (1.044 - 1.056)
Terminal Gravity: 1.020 (1.010 - 1.014)
Color: 20.93 (14.0 - 23.0)
Alcohol: 5.26% (4.3% - 5.6%)

Bitterness: 18.7 (10.0 - 18.0)


6.0 lb CBW® Bavarian Wheat Powder (Dry Malt Extract)
0.5 lb Caramunich® TYPE I
0.25 lb Carafa Special® TYPE II
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt
1.0 oz Vanguard (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen


Ambient Air: 55.0 °F
Source Water:  Poland Spring Bottled water 60.0 °F
Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.12

Aaron has just informed me that he has just entered it in an AHA sanctioned competition, Amber Waves of Grain XV. The competition takes place on February 25th and 26th. I'm excited to be a part of this, unfortunately I won't be able to attend because the competition is back in Buffalo.

I'm not sure how well our brew will fair. The original and final gravity readings were both slightly high for the style. Regardless it will be cool to have some professional feed back. I'll post the results when I get them.

 - Jay

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Beer Saved The World


When you grow up on the ass end of lake Erie you deal with snow from November through April. Not just snow, tons of snow, bitter cold, and wind. That's just how it is in Western New York. When you grow up in Central Texas you deal with brutal dry heat from June through October. If either place gets the opposite weather pattern rest assured that all hell will break loose. That is exactly what I woke up to this morning. 

A local news headline read "Two deadly crashes on I-35 overnight: Hundreds of crashes reported during storm" because of half of an inch of snow! I don't think that half of an inch counts as snow back home. This type of weather happens once every ten years in Texas so I understand when people do not no how to handle it. Yet why on earth so many of those who cannot safely control a vehicle in snow decided to take to the roads and play bumper cars this morning is beyond me.

Snow is no big deal to me, but I still don't like it. In fact it's a major part of why I moved south. The cold, wet, white misery is just no fun. Snow has a way of making everything less enjoyable to me. That said I'm not afraid of the stuff and have driven through some terrible snow related conditions. Back home three feet is the norm. Here in Austin half an inch is Snowmageddon! My wife even got the day off of work today. Everything here is shut down.

My Boston Terrier Bugatti in our back yard at 8:30 this morning.
Here is a link to a local Austin, TX news station with some stories about the "storm" just to give you an idea of what a big deal an accumulation of now is here. To contrast that here is another link to a local Buffalo, NY news station.

Here are some videos that I think capture the mood to keep you entertained while snowed in.

My advice no matter where you live is stay inside and enjoy a nice porter or abbey ale until it melts. If you enjoy snow then strap on your skis or snowboard and call me in April.

 - Jay

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Still hunting

Like many recent grads I'm looking for work. I spent the afternoon driving around the greater Austin area handing in resumes and filling out job applications. I really want to start working again. I've got 2 1/2 years worth of drive stored up waiting to fuel a business.

I had two specific destinations on my employment hunt;  Austin Homebrew Supply and St. Patricks of Texas . St. Patricks of Texas sells commercial fermenting and brewing equipment mainly to wineries. Austin Homebrew Supply is exactly that. A homebrew supply store. They have a very large and impressive facility that I was not expecting. The place was huge. Really cool store. I was in full beer geek mode while I looked around. I couldn't leave a place like this empty handed but I didn't have much to spend so I picked up the latest copy of Zymurgy and a new book that caught my eye. Beer Captured by Tess and Mark Szamatulski. I'm particularly excited because there is a section entitled The marriage of food and beer. This section has several recipes but there is one I can't wait to try called Yeasted beer pizza crust. I've been loving my new pizza oven and this makes it even better. I'll bake one up and post how it went next week.

It is my goal to find a job that I enjoy rather than just collect a paycheck. I know the statement sounds idealistic and naive (especially in the current economy) but I assure you that it is neither. I am passionate about beer and I know that I will be an asset to whomever hires me. I'm aware that jobs are hard to come by now a days. I also know that I didn't walk away from an established and secure position to spend the next three years in college only to come out and head right back into something that I do not enjoy. This is my chance to start fresh and I'm going to capture it.

 - Jay

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Rusty Z is one today. Knock one back for me.

I'm celebrating with my dogs, a bottle of Shiner Blonde, and the new Crowbar album. The page has been upgraded and updated for the second year. I've got some big plans. Stay tuned and stay thirsty.

 - Jay

House Bill 660

There is a lot of talk going on in the Texas brewing community about a proposed bill that would improve things for both consumers and producers of beer. The laws involving beer are different in Texas and New York. I'm still learning about what can and cannot be done. For example when I hosted a tasting back in NY I was only allowed to pour 2oz at a time up to four times for a total of 8oz. When I attended the Jester King grand opening patrons were allowed three full pints! That would never fly back in NY. I've got some researching to do because I'm very curious about this subject as it could (hopefully) become an issue that I will have to deal with professionally.

Here is a link to the bill

 - Jay