Join with us on our adventure as we build East Alstead's first brewery and what is quite possibly the only off-grid commercial brewery in the United States. We feel that what we brew and how we brew it are equally important. If you would like to help out with this project, contact me at: tim@belgianmare.com.




The Belgian Mare Says Hello!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Blue Bird Of Happiness

As many of you know, I have been keeping chickens and selling eggs for a few years now.  If the latest "food safety" legislation does not put me out of business, I will continue to do so for as long as I can.  Chickens are interesting creatures and tending them and watching them as they go about their daily semi-flightless avian business supplies a good bit of the entertainment and joy I get from living in rural New Hampshire.

Since this is the season of giving, I thought I would share an unexpected gift we received this spring.  This year, we added a second coop and tripled the size of our flock.  At the store where I work, which is also where I get my chicks, we had some left overs after all the orders had been filled. One bird was an odd looking creature that did not appear to be any of the standard breeds which we sell.  That was probably the reason why it was left behind; no one knew what it was so it was never used to fill an order.

I am a sucker for the outsider and unwanted, so I paid my $2.25 and took the little bird home. As it continued to grow, we ralized that this was something we had not seen before.  Clearly a heavy breed, it was colored differently from anything we had ever seen.  I began poring over my poultry references and realized we had something special. This little lady was one of the rarest of the rare: A blue Wyandotte! 

Blue Wyandotte chickens are quite rare and breeders charge a large premium for them.  To think that we got one because no one knew what it was and thus didn't want it.  Perhaps there is a bigger lesson here.

She has grown into a fine hen and has been a joy to have in our flock.  I guess that makes he our "blue bird" of happiness.  I hope you all find your own.

Our Blue Bird of Happiness

Monday, December 20, 2010

Building and Brewing


All apologies for the tardy nature of this post. I was busy last night watching the Packers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  The first time in 41 years I want them to win and they blow it at the last second!  So I woke up this morning to talk radio discussing Bill B. being "clearly the greatest coach of the modern era." Ack! Ack!

Enough! On to brewing...

I accomplished a bit of work on the brewery.  I managed to install about half the collar braces on the rafters before cold overtook me.  About the time the level stuck to my hand I figured it was time to pack it in for the day.  It was just as well as being up on a ladder, that was standing on a temporary deck made of ice coated plywood, was starting to work on my nerves.


Hemlock Beer

In the good news department:  I tried some of the hemlock I bottled a week ago.  It is excellent.  With a few more weeks to carbonate, I am sure it will only get better.  I was a bit worried that adding a pound of malto-dextrin might make it too thick, but the body is just about right.  I used a bit less hemlock this time and it seems I may have found the right balance.  Dear Reader, I will keep you posted as the taste evolution proceeds.


Czech This Out

As I write these lines, I have a Czech lager in the fermenter.  This particular brew represents the first time in a few years that I have used a White Labs liquid yeast culture.  I was a big fan of these during my time in Alaska, but could not find a supplier when I moved to New Hampshire.  Now I have found one.

I am a bit concerned as the yeast took over 24 hours to show any sign of life.  I am fearful of an infection.  However, the yeast is going strong now and no odd odors have been detected coming from the fermentation lock.  In fact, the brew smells pretty good.  I will keep you posted.


The Past Crosses The Future

Today I cooked up an English bitter.  This was a very simple recipe, of my own design, utilizing only Pearl malt as a base and some 90L crystal malt for a bit of flavor.  I threw in one ounce of dark wheat malt to give a bit of spice. For hops, I tossed in two ounces of my own.

The big departure, for me, was the use of white sugar.  Nearly twenty years ago when I started brewing, I made recipes that called for the addition of large amounts of white sugar.  All too often the result was a beer with a cidery taste.  I read that eliminating the sugar would eliminate the cidery taste.  That seemed to work and ever since I have not let white sugar anywhere near my brews.

On this day I know not what muse of fermentation took hold of me as I perused my books of beer formulae, but upon seeing the prescriptions for English bitter that included varying amounts of white sugar, I was seized with the desire; no, compulsion, to brew with white sugar. Why, after a two decade hiatus, I should be so afflicted, I cannot answer. Still under the influence of the brewing muse I took three of the best recipes from my text and combined them to arrive at my final creation.

What shall come of this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weather Delay

Saturday being the day of the Orchard School Craft Fair, I had my volunteers lined up for Sunday to put the roof on the brewery.  Alas, for once the weather forecasters were right.  Rain and ice were predicted and such we received.  By eight in the morning the concrete deck of the brewery had quarter-inch thick layer of ice on it.  Eventually the rain would melt away the ice but it was small consolation.

Tracy and I busied ourselves putting away anything that we felt might be damaged by the rain.  That completed, all that remained was to speculate upon the likelihood of getting the roof on before spring or consider other courses of action we could pursue until such time as we were able to put the roof on the brewery.  Many things remain to be done so I am sure we will find plenty to occupy us over the winter.

One bit of serendipity occurred at the craft fair on Saturday. A distant neighbor of mine who happens to be a welder, and has a large hop plant growing in his front yard, stopped by my table. We began discussing my ideas for converting the sap tanks I purchased to a boiler and fermenters. On the spot he came up with improvements to my ideas that will make it easier for us to run-off the beer without drawing off any of the sludge but would also facilitate the removal of the sludge and cleaning of the tanks.  This almost makes up for the dismal sales we had on Saturday!

Throughout the day, we had many people stopping by my table at the craft fair to discuss the brewery. Word is getting out.  We also handed out numerous brochures about the brewery.  People are still excited about the brewery even though we are behind schedule.  It is nice to see that our support is still strong and hear words of encouragement from our supporters.

Latest Brews

The New England Cream Lager turned out excellent. Remember that this time I put in an extra ounce of my own hops, for a total of three ounces.  After more than two months in the bottle the hop aroma and flavor are both strong and citrusy with no hint of the usual lager/IPA bitterness without flavor.  The addition of lactose made for a very smooth-bodied beer.  So far, no one has had anything negative to say about this beer.

The rye lager came out as a very mild, earthy beer with a copper color.  I was expecting a sharper rye flavor given the dark rye malt that was used in the recipe. It was still a good beer however, many drinkers found the flavor too mild for their tastes.

Today I bottled the latest batch of hemlock beer. This time I used less hemlock than in the past. I tasted some of  the brew prior to bottling.  At this point it is very mild in spite of the heavy addition of dark roasted barley. Given this recipe's history of dramatic taste evolution, I have no doubt it will taste quite different after a month in the cellar.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rafters


Another day's work.


Yet another brewery work day was a big success.  This time we had 11 workers show up! They were in random order: John, Glenn, Greg, Sue, Tom, Vin, Tina, Krister, Dave, Devin, and Tom.  Needless to say, putting up 50 rafters with 11 workers went pretty fast.

Last Sunday Vin had made a template for the rafters and they were cut to length.  During the week I finished the cuts and shortened the rafters to fit the ridgepole.  So today, all that remained was to get the ridgepole up and the rafters in place.

With all the hands available, getting the ridgepole up and the first rafters in place was none too difficult.  Once we got the system down, the rest went pretty fast.  Even setting up the temporary decking went smoothly.

It is my fault that we did not get more done. I had waffled on what type of roofing to use.  I had finally decided on going with metal on stringers and had purchased the stringers.  However, once we started putting up the rafters, it became apparent that we may need more stability.  Now I really dislike plywood and OSB, but the fact remains that they will provide a more rigid roof. So after consulting with my volunteers the decision was made to go with the OSB. It won't be pretty, but it will be solid. If I had made this decision earlier, we could have had the material in place and would have finished today. Mea culpa.

Today was a good day, we got a bunch done.  The place is really starting to look like a brewery.  A big thanks to all our volunteers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday Framing Party


The Comcast internet outage prevented me from posting last night. So let me tell you now, Sunday framing party was a big success.  We had five people show up to help out: Ira Cass, Greg and Sue Taylor, and Vin and Tina Cass. 

The day was clear, but that also means cold this time of year.  When we started, the nail guns were too cold to function properly.  So we took them inside to warm up while we nailed by hand for a while. The first item of business was to get to work on the wall extension.  The wall extension is critical to our design as it will allow enough vertical space to raise the mashtun high enough to allow our system to be principally a gravity fed system. This will also create more storage space in the loft area. Krister had already cut the studs, so we were able to start construction right away. The wall extension went up surprisingly smoothly and needed little squaring. 

We worked straight through to near-completion on the wall extension. then broke for a late lunch. Tracy had made her from scratch homemade piazza.  This hit the spot as we were all getting a bit cold and tired by then.

Then we went out to put the last touches on the wall extension and start on the rafters.  Vin showed me how to step off rafters and cut the first two.  He must have known what he was doing: those first two fit perfectly. With the wall extension completed and the first two rafters cut, the sun was fading fast.  So we decided to cut the rest of the rafters to length and call it a day.

The only framing left to do is the rafters and ridge pole.  With luck, we can get a crew out this coming Sunday and get that done.  Thanks to all who helped out!


Putting up the first section of the wall extension.



The studs in place for the next section of wall.


Vin and Sue working on the wall in the loft area.


A days work: The wall extension framed.
We are trying to get another crew together for next Sunday. If you are interested in helping out, shoot me an email: tim@belgianmare.com. Thanks!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Current State of Framing

Given my recent incapacitation due to traumatic injury (ruptured tendon) I have been unable to accomplish much on the brewery. However, I felt it necessary to bring all of you up to date as to the current state of the framing process by posting a few photographs. Shortly (a matter of hours) before my injury, Krister and I had managed to place all of the floor joists for the loft (the last being placed as darkness settled across the land) and get to the point where we were ready to put up the wall extension. The following day, working alone, Krister cut the studs for the wall extension. So that is where we stand. Tomorrow I will purchase the lumber for framing up the roof. For this comingSunday, Tracy has organized a framing party. Hopefully this will give us a push forward, or at least we can have some fun!



The most recent photographs of the framing process are below:



Image 1 - First floor framing is complete.Floor joists for the loft are in place.


Image 2 - South side of the brewery showing two doors and four windows.


Image 3 - Interior view showing floor joists for the loft.
 With luck, after next Sunday we will have even more interesting photo to show!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Progress and a Setback


Last Sunday we made good progress on the brewery.  The first floor framing was completed and we also got all the floor joists in place for the loft.  Let me tell you, trying to climb a ladder while holding the end of a 16 foot rough cut 2x10 should be an Olympic event.

Given Sunday's success we were looking forward to even more progress on Monday.  It was not to be.  While talking to Tracy out in the pasture, my foot came down wrong in the mud.  Tracy heard the pop and down I went. I had to crawl out of the pasture.  Needless to say I did not do much on Monday.

Krister came out and worked by himself.  He managed to get all the studs cut for the second level.  Hopefully we can get some more help for next week

For my part, I found out that I habe a ruptured tendon in my ankle.  About 50 % of the tendon is left, so surgery has been ruled out for now. However, I will be in an air cast for at least three weeks and a full recovery is about 16 weeks. This may set the brewery back a bit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Shirts Are In!

As you already know from the new header the t-shirts are in.  The reader may judge for themselves, but I think they look pretty nice.  The art work was done by Tracy, then I added the letters and we sent it to the printer.  They guys at the print shop were pretty excited about the idea of a brewery being built just a few miles up the road.

So all we need to do now is to sell enough of these to pay for the brewery.  So get out and spread the word.  The more shirts we sell, the sooner we get this brewery going!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Bit More Framing & T-Shirts


Although felled by a raging fever, some work was accomplished on the brewery this weekend.  On Sunday, our friends Tom and Kristen came out to check on our horse Aggie. Aggie was having trouble walking and with Tracy out of town I was not sure what to do. Kristen agreed to come over and check things out.  Fortunately it turned out to be just a bit of muscle soreness.  She even cleaned and redressed our visiting horse's cut for us.  So she pretty much took care of the horses for us.  Thanks, Kristen!

While they were here they decided to help a bit with the brewery.  So we framed up the rough opening of one of the big windows. As we progressed with the framing, it became clear that I was fading fast. What had begun that morning as the subtle suggestions of an oncoming cold were developing into a full-blown nasal knockout.  So once we finished the window framing we packed it up. By 6:00 PM I was comatose with fever.  Happy Halloween!

The next day I was feeling better and Krister came out.  We worked on finishing the last of the first floor framing and squaring the walls. We also started putting on the last of the top-plates. However, I had a dental appointment so we had to stop early.

Today I voted, as all of you should have done, and picked up another load of lumber from out friends at Woodell and Daughters.  Most importantly, I also stopped at RJ's Sports and got estimates on printing up shirts for the brewery. Hopefully I will be able to place the order tomorrow and soon the world shall be wearing Belgian Mare apparel. With luck we can sell enough of these shirts to pay for the brewery!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First Floor Done (Almost)


No pictures today as we worked until it was too dark to take a picture so my words shall have to suffice.

Krister showed up for the third day in a row.  I am beginning to suspect that he may be more dedicated to this project than I am!  However, Krister's nephew Wylie is one of our horses' biggest fans.  When he heard that we had a fourth horse, he informed Krister that he "needed" a picture of said horse. So that was the first order of business.  Given what camera hogs Aggie and Max are, you can guess how difficult getting a picture of Web can be. Once that task was completed it was on to the brewery.

 As you might have guessed, we went right to it and finished up the last wall section we had put up as the sun set last night.  Then we began framing up the last wall section of the first floor.

It quickly became apparent that we did not have enough time or lumber to finish framing this section.  With the light fading fast, we decided to do what we could.  In the end we were able to get most of the last section framed up and set it on the foundation.We used a temporary brace to keep it square until we could finish it. By the time we finished securing this last section to the foundation and bracing it we were out of time and lumber.

So we are very close to having the whole first floor framed up.  Only a few doodads remain.  Then we can start on putting in the loft.  Then the roof.  Exciting times. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Frame To Mind

Two days of framing work.
This Sunday and Monday finally saw us begin the process of framing up the brewery.  On Sunday Toma and Krister came out and we got started.  Then on Monday Krister came out again and we continued the process.  We have only one more section to go and we will be done with the first floor. 

Conditions at the worksite were cold and wet the entire time, but we carried on.  Krister and Tom are both much more experienced carpenters than I am.  Over these last two day I have learned alot from them.  Another thing that I have learned is that I cannot estimate lumber usage.  I had thought that we had enough to fram up the first floor and loft.  It now looks like we will end up just short of being able to finish up the first floor.  Hopefully my financial estimates will prove more accurate!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Starting Construction

Over the past few weeks we have had a good bit of rain.  Still, between downpours we have managed to get two loads of lumber to the brewery site.  With luck the rain will hold off and we can start construction on Sunday.  I have been making phone calls and trying to rally the troops. 

I really hope that at least one person who shows up on Sunday has some construction experience, as I have little.  The description in my barn building book make it look like a fairly simple task; more a matter of determination than skill.  It is such books containing such descriptions that often lead innocent persons down the path of self-destruction.  At least I shall have a few friends with me as I tread that all too familiar road.

I hope to have some cool photos to post on Sunday night.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Finish to the Filling


Today Lonn finished backfilling the brewery foundation and did a better job than I ever could have with my little tractor.  He even used the boulder piles to make stone retaining walls for the cellar entrance.  Things look pretty nice right now.

I also made a trip to the sawmill today. I picked up the first load of lumber.  I had hoped to make a second trip but that did not work out.  However, I did get enough to frame up nearly all the first floor.

In the sad news department, one of the breweries I visited while I was forming the plan for our brewery has gone out of business.  They lasted about two years after getting licensed.  I remember that during my visit I noticed a few problems, though, at the time, they did not seem lethal to the brewery's success.

At the time of my visit, they had only been open about a month, but the owner told me that he needed to go back to his investors for another infusion of capital.  They had invested heavily in a temperature control system that had not been properly installed and thus had to lay out even more capital to get the system fixed. Most notably, that had only two fermenters and little room for adding any others.  That may have been their key weakness.

When interviewing brewers and brewery owners one principle emerged that nearly every interviewee touched upon.  This was the importance of fermenter capacity.  Big boilers are nice, but fermenter capacity was the bottleneck that determined a brewery's true capacity.  As one brewmaster noted, "Your boiler is tied up for 90 minutes or so, but your fermenters are tied up for anywhere from two weeks to six months. You don't want to be stuck waiting for a fermenter to open up."  The moral of the story: Have enough fermenters to enable production to keep going.  That is why we decided to spend the extra money to have a full cellar built.  I still sometimes wonder if we should not have built even bigger.

Learning from mistakes is best done vicariously so let us hope that I may avoid the pitfalls that some of my fellow brewers unfortunately stumbled into.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Admitting Defeat

I tried.  I tried very hard.  I even dedicated my last couple of days off to getting the task done.  It was just too much.  The task I am referring to is finishing filling in the foundation of the brewery.  I had thought that after all the work done by my friends, I could finish putting down the sand and then it would be a quick job to put in the last of the regular fill.

I made a real effort of it, trying to put in an hour after work each night, and then worked until it was too dark to see on my day off. This got me pretty close to finished with the sand, but drove home the point that trying to get the other fill in would be an enormous task.  Unlike the sand, which was placed next to the foundation, the fill pile is positioned farther away, but still in  such a manner that an excavator can easily scoop and place the fill.  Using my small bucket loader would require driving down to the lower pasture and then back up to the foundation to deliver each bucket.  Then I would have to shovel the fill into place.  I began to have horrifying visions of being the latest unfinished foundation in rural New England.

Knowing that I very much need to get going on the superstructure of the building convinced me that it was time to take drastic measures.  I called my neighbor Lonn.  He came out, took a look around, and opined that he could probably finish the filling in in about a day.  Decision made.

While I feel a bit defeated and deflated by not being able to finish the back-filling of the foundation on my own, I am happy to be getting on with things.  Winter is coming and we need to get the superstructure started.  I know most of my volunteers had expected we would have started on that a long time ago and so did I.

I do not know if we will be able to have things done by the end of October, but at least we will be moving on to the next phase of construction. Now where did I leave my hammer?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Greenhouse & Lager

Greenhouse

Well, we did not quite get done but the greenhouse is nearly complete.  We had to overcome missing and damaged parts and instructions so vague as to suggest that their relationship to the task at hand was mere coincidence.  Yet we still managed to get the cover on and one of the roll-ups working.  Hopefully, next year we will be able to get a jump on spring and finally get some good peppers.


Lager

On the brewing front I have been in a bit of a lager mood lately.  I know this is a bit of a departure for me, but these new dry lager yeasts work so well that I decided to pursue this avenue.  The first batch was the New England Cream Lager which was such a success when last brewed.  This time I decided to experiment a bit and add an extra ounce of hops with 15 minutes left in the boil.  I bottled this batch last night and was amazed at how much more hop character it has than the last batch.  I expect this will be a good beer in a month or two.

The second lager I brewed was more experimental than the first.  I use a new yeast and a new malt.  The yeast used was the Saflager w-34/70. I bough this on a whim since I had never seen or heard of it before. The new malt was a dark roasted rye malt the homebrew shop had just got in.  I decided to combine the two and see what would happen.


As you can see, the yeast went right to work. Even Socrates P. Qat was impressed. I also bottled this lager last night.  The taste is very strong and malty, almost stout like, but with the characteristic lager tart ness.  I also expect this to be a good brew after a month or so in the cellar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LLC

Yesterday was a good day for us. We received word from the State of New Hampshire that the Belgian Mare Brewery is now legally recognized as a limited liability company (LLC).  So I am now the owner of record for an unlicensed brewery that has yet to be built. There is a bit more to things than that.

In practical terms, this means that, unlike my wife, the Belgian Mare Brewery LLC  is a legally separate entity from me.  The most important aspects of this separation involve taxes and liability.  However, we can now start using the name for other things such as making mugs or shirts to sell to raise money for finishing the brewery.

So, perhaps, this is not the most earth shaking event, but it does feel like we have passed a milestone and are a bit more real than we were a few days ago.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Making Things Official


Things got a bit more official today.  We sent in the papers to set up the brewery as an LLC (Limited Liability Company) in the state of New Hampshire.  Included in this was a request for an official name.  We should hear back in 30 days or less.

I was able of get some work done today, in spite of the rain.  I put in quite a bit more sand fill and hoped that that would be the last before the regular fill.  However, it now appears that I will need one more load of sand.  Bummer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Accountant & Solar & Aggie

Due to a brief illness and and spending some time working with the horses, I have not got much done on the brewery since the last post. However, we did meet last night with an accountant. This was a very edifying meeting. We discussed the structure of the business, financing, taxes and many other things. I was greatly heartened to hear that my ideas for the structure of the business met with the accountant's approval. I had put a lot of work into the business structure, but I am no professional, so it was nice to have someone in the know give it the stamp of approval. So it looks the brewery will be an LLC that rents space from the farm.

The second part of today's entry, has to do with power supply. From the start we have wanted to be as off-grid as possible. Finding the necessary tools to accomplish that has proved problematic. Today, at work, I met a customer who has been living off-grid for the last fifteen years, or thereabouts. He showed me how a relatively small and simple solar-electric system can provide enough power to do all the pumping and lighting we will need at the brewery.

The only problem would be heating the sales area in winter. We came up with some ideas of using the boiler to do this. The drawback, would be that anything that could not be allowed to freeze would need to be put in the cellar each night. However, since we are not sure yet if the brewery would be open to the public in winter, this might not be a problem.

So, any way you slice it, I have got a lot of new ideas to consider for the brewery.

Here is a bonus:

Last Sunday we hitched Aggie to a two-wheeled forecart for the first time. She had been doing so well with the ground work that we felt it was time to try a wheeled vehicle. Well...

Hooking her up went well. Then when Roy asked her to go, she started bucking and ran through a ditch. Somehow Roy held on and got her stopped. Then he walked her out to his back pasture and drove her around for a while. She definitely does not like downhills, which lends weight to the theory that she got he scars in a cart accident. She really began to relax as time went on and, overall, the training went very well. We still have a way to go, but it was a successful day.


First Day In Harness

Monday, August 9, 2010

Slinging Sand

Greetings, Dear Reader,

I apologize for the lack of activity this blog has experienced and the lack of photos in this posting. I assure you that much has happened since the last post. Mostly, this has been in small steps, hence my lack of posting, yesterday, however, experienced a big step.

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly putting in the foundation drain and drainage stone. This being a rather simple, if somewhat arduous task, I did it alone and did not request assistance. However, once the gravel was in place and it was time for fill, I was forced to admit the need for help. So I put out the call.

Great was my joy when upon Sunday morning no less than six volunteers arrived to help. They quickly divided into two teams of three, based upon family ties. So it was that the Bishop and Hogan Clans chose opposite sides of the cellar upon which to labor.

For my part, I drove the tractor, dumping sand on either side of the cellar as needed. Such was the pace work of the two teams that I was kept in a state of constant motion and was never afforded a rest. Many were the times when I heard the patriarch of the Bishop Clan call for more sand closely followed by the Hogans' protests that I was neglecting their needs.

When we finally called it a day, more had been accomplished than I ever dared hope. These guys had dropped the hammer like I never expected. Instead of a couple of hours of work and half the sand placed, I received more than five hours of work and all the sand was placed. It is truly gratifying and humbling to have one's neighbors give so much without compensation.

Well, not entirely without compensation, Tracy and I did provide our neighborly volunteers with a noon repast of pizza from the Alstead Village Pizza (excellent, as always). This was consumed with relish before returning to work.

When all was said and done, Sunday was a good day. My neighbors had showed up in force to assist me with building the brewery. We shared a mid-day meal. We got all the sand put into place.

When we finished, one young member of the Bishop Clan asked me how long I expected to run the brewery. I told him that I hoped it would last as long as I could last, hopefully another 60-plus years. He said that was good, because he had another 8 years until he reached 21 and wanted to buy a beer at the brewery he helped build.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Concrete Stands Alone

In spite of blistering heat that turned me into a mass of sticky goo, I managed to remove the wood deck upon which the concrete floor was poured. All things considered, the operation did not take particularly long nor was it notably difficult. The key was to get the 2x8's out in such a way that a sheet of plywood did not land on one's head.

So far the concrete deck seems to be holding. So now I need to finish the foundation drain and fill in around the cellar. Then we can start on the building!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Final Pour

Greetings Dear Readers, I am happy to announce that we have poured the last of the concrete. I now have the biggest concrete box in the town of Alstead in my own back yard.

Regular readers will remember that the last time I left you, the cellar floor had been finished. The next step was for me to build a wooden deck on which to pour the concrete that would be the floor of the production area of the brewery. With some 2x8's from Woodell & Daughters, and bit of plywood from Home Depot, I managed to accomplish that assigned task. It was not easy to jockey those hemlock 12-footers into place, but I did it!


The wooden deck, almost.

With the wooden deck in place the next step was to put down some plastic to keep the concrete from sticking to the plywood. On top of that, steel reinforcements would be placed. "Rebar", as people call it, was placed in a cross-hatch pattern over the entire floor area. At each point where two pieces of rebar crossed one had to place a wire twisty to hold things in place when the concrete was poured.

At some point in time, some forgotten genius had invented and amazing tool for putting the little wire twistys in place. This tool resembled a bent screwdriver with a loose shaft. The genius of this particular tool lay in the fact that it was of simple design, simple to use, and greatly reduced labor. To illustrate the perfection of this device, I, who had never used one before, was able to effectively employ it in making a substantial contribution to the completion of this phase of the brewery project within minutes of being handed the tool in question. I hope that tool's inventor is enjoying a comfortable and well deserved retirement.


Plastic and 'Bar.

Once the rebar and plastic and forms for the various orifices within the floor were in place, it was time to pour some MUD! This time, the concrete truck arrived at nearly the exact moment we were ready for it. Given the height of the floor, the truck could pretty much pour where we needed it. I was amazed at how precise the driver could get. So for the next few minutes we engaged in the usual spread-and-wiggle routine common to both those who pour concrete and employees of adult entertainment establishments.

When all was said and done we had poured nine cubic yards of concrete, weighing 18,000 pounds on a wooden deck build by lil' old me. There are times when one feels a little bit satisfied with oneself.

The final pour.

The concrete is now done. A big thanks goes to Larry and his crew for all their excellent work. If you ever need some concrete work done, just call Valley Concrete of MA.

The next step is to get some lumber and start with the structure itself. It is amazing how far we have come, but we still have along way to go.


Last time we will see one of these for a while.


Cutworm Update

I am happy to report that the cutworm problem in our hopyard appears to be under control. I sprayed the hop bines with Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew. This is a broadly effective insecticide that is created from a natural bacteria and is approved for organic gardening. After spraying, we have suffered no further damage. Let us hope...


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Of Concrete and Cut Worms


CONCRETE


I apologize for the lack of photos in today's posting. I promise more soon. To recap recent events, the floor of the cellar was poured. I had not realized what went into pouring a floor. I had assumed that being something of a liquid, concrete would seek its own level and then set. In this way a perfectly level floor could be had with a minimum of effort.

I was wrong. Floor concrete is amazingly heavy and likes to form lumps. So one must race about attempting to smooth the potential floor as best they can while the concrete truck driver continues to pour the heavy, sticky mass at a pace just slightly above manageable, all the while cackling evilly.

Once the last of the concrete is poured, the work begins. Making a floor of concrete involves one hour of pouring and six of smoothing. Fortunately Larry, our concrete guy, had sent one of his workers. In the end, he did an excellent job.

I am now working on building the wood deck that the brewery floor will be poured on. I will blog on that later.


CUT WORMS

Today brought to light a most depressing realization. I had had a few of my hop plants break off. I guessed that I had simply accidentally cut them while weeding. Today it was confirmed that we have cut worms in the hop yard. This could spell disaster. For those of you unfamiliar with cut worms, they eat around the base of a plant and eventually cut it off completely. So far we have lost three plants and a fourth is badly cut. I have sprayed with Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew, hopefully that will help.

I will keep you posted.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gravel

Last Sunday's post was preempted by my brother-in-law's wedding.

Since my last post I have put in most of the foundation drain and finished putting down gravel for the cellar floor and compacting it. If you have never used a compactor before, it is a memorable experience. The model I rented bore something of a resemblance to a lawnmower. It was supposed to be bi-directional, but in reality it wanted to go in only one direction. That made heading into corners a bit of a trick. If one failed to execute a sufficiently sharp turn to avoid getting stuck in a corner, the machine would begin digging down into the gravel while knocking chunks out of the concrete footer. Nice!

I spent about three hours with the compactor. When I was done, the gravel was so compacted that it did not move as the compactor passed over it. However, I was also numb from the elbows down and my eyes could no longer focus.

So one can imagine my pain when I went out to check on things after today's thunderstorms, only to find that one part of the compacted gravel had sunk! How could this be? Alas, it was. An area that only a short while ago had been solid was now three inches lower and mushy. What to do? I guess add more gravel and compact it by hand.

After all, I need to be ready by Tuesday when we pour the floor!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sealed Concrete

Cellar work continues. A day or so after the forms were taken off a crane arrived took the forms away and placed the beams. Later that day, Barnaby returned and sealed the foundation. The next step is to put down some more gravel and pour the cellar floor.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pouring Our Own

The die was cast. Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, cellar walls would be poured. Heads were scratched. Nails were bitten. What would this day bring?

First to arrive was Barnaby, an employee of my brother-in-law's soon-to-be father-in-law, Larry, who was the mastermind behind the concrete. Who was mastermind? Read that sentence again.

Barnaby would prove to be invaluable. His skill in his trade is beyond question. More importantly, and rarely, he possessed the ability to educate and involve the inexperienced. He can also get a lot done quickly when a giant cement mixer is breathing down all of our respective necks.

Dave Hogan was next to arrive. Dave is a paramedic, which is twice as good as a uni-medic. He, like myself, knew as much about pouring concrete as brain surgery on catostomids. Bewilderment loves company.

Fortunately, Barnaby knew what he was doing. He gave Dave and me tasks to get the ball rolling. Soon Larry would arrive.

Before I could go any further, I had a task to perform. Something inside me felt a need to make an offering; it seemed the right thing to do. I considered a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon as an offering, but I had none left and it occurred to me that that might not be looked upon as much of an offering. So I decided on a homebrew and went down into my cellar. I had only two bottles remaining of my dry stout, one of my best beers. I knew, the moment I looked into the dusty case, that the dry stout must be my offering.

With a heavy heart. I grasped the bottle and headed for the frost wall. What good is a sacrifice if it is easy? Is it a sacrifice at all? Such were my thoughts as I placed the bottle of beloved homebrew at the base of the frost wall. I covered it by hand to ensure that it would not be broken when I started back-filling with the loader. May it bring good luck and may some fortunate soul find it ages hence.

Who shall drink of this?

Next to arrive, while I was sacrificing the bottle of dry stout, was Larry. Larry is the mastermind (for those of you still trying to figure out the earlier reference) of this cellar-and-deck design. Without him this would not happen. His idea, his equipment, 'nuff said. Except that he did not bring the trough extension. Someday we will forgive him.

Larry, Barnaby, Dave and myself started upon our tasks. Larry and Barnaby are no nonsense workers. The process went well, with Dave and me learning many new things. I back-filled the frost wall and built a ramp for the cement truck while the others set up forms and squared the whole mess. Progress seemed rapid, though events would prove otherwise.

Looks pretty good, eh?

Progress appeared good and we were confident of being ready for the cement trucks. Dave had to leave, but would return. The rest of us continued working. I saw the first truck. Then I saw the second truck. Gigantic Oshkosh cement mixers, in my driveway. I do not believe I have ever been so aware of this project as I was at that moment.

The driver of the first truck leaned out and asked how things were going. "Apparently a bit behind," was the only response I could manage. The driver said that was alright as he would need 15 minutes to get ready. He then asked what level I wanted the concrete mixed to. I could only respond that I was the owner and not the concrete person, but that I would ask Larry, who was the concrete person. I ran over and yelled the appropriate question to Larry. Hand signals completed the three-way conversation.

About this time Tom Coty showed up. Tom is a State Trooper. He owns a miniature donkey. In the ensuing whirlwind of activity I cut the last few form pieces and Tom and I jumped up on the catwalk to get ready for the pour. While Barnaby nailed the last few forms in place, the pour began.

I do not doubt but that the actual time elapsed during the pouring of concrete was relatively short. However, given the fact that the trucks arrived before we were truly ready, and that we did not have the trough extension, what followed made eternity seem a concept of brevity.

To this moment the details whirl in my mind. I hear Larry calling for concrete at various locations. Barnaby giving quick, explanatory orders to keep the process moving. All of us paddling and agitating concrete until our arms were limp. At some point, Dave had returned, but exactly when, I cannot say.

Eventually the forms were filled and we could relax a bit. Rebar and bolts were in place and concrete smoothed. Mission accomplished.

Happiness is a filled form.

Today, Barnaby returned with another worker to remove the forms. I got home from work and was amazed at what we had built. Dream is becoming reality.


Through this door shall pass the finest of ales.


The view from above.


The interior of the cellar.

This was a great experience. Larry and Barnaby managed to keep the process going while teaching amateurs the basics. Dave and Tom gave more than I had the right to ask of their time and effort. Even the cement truck drivers were consummate professionals.

We still have a long way to go. But I think we have the crew that can make it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breaking Ground

I must first apologize for being a bit lax in updating this blog. These are busy times and I let things slide when I should not have. Hopefully I can make up for that by having something really worth writing about.

We have broken ground on the brewery! A bit over a week ago, Lonn Livengood brought out his excavator and his worker, Bob Diehl, started digging. I had visions of having a big ground breaking ceremony, maybe with a gold painted shovel. In the end, Bob jumped in the excavator and I took some pictures. Not much ceremony at all.

Two interesting artifacts were unearthed during the digging. The first to show up is a quart whiskey bottle for Petts whiskey out of Boston. It has a small chip but is otherwise intact. A bit of internet searching indicated this bottle may be over 100 years old. I wonder if there is greater meaning to this find? Is this a sign?

The second item is a bronze cow bell! The knocker is missing, otherwise it is in very good shape. I checked a reference book and it had a picture of a nearly identical bell and described it as a 19th century Norwegian cow bell.

Maybe we should name this the Bottle and Bell Brewery?

It only took a few days for Lonn and Bob to finish the cellar hole and put in an access road. This morning the concrete guys showed up. They put in the footings and the frost wall. This upcoming Tuesday we will be getting together to pour the walls. So now I am out beating the bushes for volunteers.

This is all moving so fast! Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes gutwrenchingly frightening.

Dear Reader, as we progress I will keep you posted.

Below are photos of the work so far:

Before work...

New access road...
Ready for concrete...
The footings....




Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Last of the New England Cream Lager


New England Cream Lager at Six Months

All good things must end. So it is with fine beer. Regular readers may remember last year when I put my hand to creating a new beer style. The result was my New England Cream Lager. This libation was the result of adding lactose, molasses, and my own homegrown hops to a deceptively simple grain bill. The result was anything but simple: A full bodied lager with exceptional smoothness and multi-layered flavor.

After this propitious start, only one question remained. To wit: How would the beer hold up over time? Would it age like fine wine, gaining smoothness and complexity? Perhaps, I should only be left with something akin to Murphy's oil soap?

Today was the final tasting to answer the foregoing questions. I had one of the 1 liter cobalt blue bottles New England Cream Lager remaining. Remember, this beer was bottled on November 1, 2009; it had now had the benefit of nearly six months in my cellar.

Upon the initial pour, things looked good: Carbonation was still at an appropriate level and the beer was crystal clear (it had been a bit cloudy in the past). The aroma was still the fruity-with-a-hint-of-sulfur and hops that I remembered from my last tasting. So far, so good. Now it was time for a taste!

The moment the beer crossed my lips I was taken by a sense of delectation. The body remained robust and the previously incredible smoothness was even more in evidence. The flavor remained a complex interplay of spice, bitter and sweet with a little fruitiness. The major difference from previous tastings was the hop presence.

Previously, this beer was notable for its whole hop flavor. The taste was like smelling hops freshly picked at the perfect moment. This time the hop flavor was more subdued. The overall bitterness was still there, but the actual hop flavor, as such, had melted into a soft interplay with the other flavors. However, it must be noted that this beer still retained more hop flavor than any commercial beer, or homebrew made with commercial hops, that I have ever experienced. Must be the horse poop I use to fertilize the hopyard.

The final verdict? After six months in the cellar, the New England Cream Lager remains a beer of the first order. Like any proper bottle conditioned beer its flavor had evolved without degrading. A true pleasure from the first to the last.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Hops Are Up

I realize this photograph is quite poor. The autofocus focused on the dead stem from last year instead of the new shoot. The new shoots are the blurred reddish things. However, right now this is the only photo I have. All apologies.

I was quite surprised when I saw the hop shoots this afternoon. I had checked the yard a few days previous and found no shoots. Even scratching back the soil a bit showed no sign of growth. I was worried, so imagine my relief, and surprise, when I found shoots about four inches long this afternoon!

This is a joyous event. After last year's losses and this winter's wet-and-freeze, I was a bit worried about the prospects for the hopyard this growing season. It looks like we have a good start on this year's crop. In fact, I believe this is the earliest start we have ever had. It is a good thing that hops are frost resistent, as I have a feeling we will have at least one more frost before the real growing season.

This year I am doing things a bit differently. I have applied some organic fertilizer and some lime. I had noticed last year that the soil was getting a bit acidic as evidenced by the spread of wild strawberries. With all the wet last year I believe nutrient leeching was also a problem, but I did not want to blast things with fertilizer so I went the organic route. With the application of a bit of horse compost we should be fine.

So it looks like we have a good start on this year's hop crop. Let us hope for good growing weather!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Site Work

Right now it does not look much like a brewery...


In spite of the rain, I have been able to get a bit of work done on the brewery site the last two days. I have cleaned up a good bit of the brush. There are still a few bigger logs that will require some chainsaw work. Our woodpile from this tree is huge and I would guess that I still have about half as much to bring in as I have already brought in.

It was a real shame to have to cut down the big maple. At least we are getting a good supply of prime firewood. Some of the big pieces are rock hard. I hit one big chunk right in the heartwood with a freshly sharpened axe. The axe bounced out! It occurs tome that I may not be able to split these with the maul.

Larry and I have been discussing the concrete work. While I would still like to do the concrete span, it appears that cost will make that impractical. But we shall see. Either way we will still have the full cellar, which is key to giving this brewery a large enough capacity to be viable.

What remains to be done now is to get together some volunteers that are willing to do some concrete work!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Building Permit

This will be a very short entry, but I just wanted to let all of you know that we have received a building permit from the town of Alstead. It also looks like we may need to redesign the foundation of the brewery, but we will have more on that later. A little closer...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Building Design & Reform School

OK, so I missed a post...but it was my birthday. The important point is that I received a very nice gift for my birthday. That gift is a book on building barns and other such structures. Contained within that book is a set of plans for a building nearly identical to what I envisioned the brewery to be. This is significant because I was at a bit of an impasse as to how to build the structure I had in mind. I knew what I wanted to do, but getting there was a bit of a mystery to me.

This particular tome, which Tracy saw fit to bestow upon me as a birthday gift, broke that impasse. It shows how to do everything I need to complete the brewery. Framing walls, stepping off rafters, it is all in there. Most importantly, it has plans to frame up a barn that has 12-foot exterior walls. Given the height of the mash tun/boiler complex, we need the interior height provided by 12-foot walls.

So now we have a much more solid design for the building that will house our brewery. This is good because I submitted the application for the building permit today.

Still a long way to go, but things are coming together.


Aggie goes to school

In other news, our big girl, Aggie, namesake of our farm, etc. will be going to reform school this summer. As many of your know she is a real powerhouse when on her game, but there are some problems with, for lack of a better term."panic". Regular readers will recall that our friend Roy is the only person who has been able to bring her down from one of her panics. Roy is one of the best trainers I have ever seen, and remember that I started working with Dave Patton.

So the plan is to send Aggie to stay with Roy for a while. He will train her and integrate her into his farm. He will also train me. I need training as much as Aggie. The final goal is that Aggie and I will both be able to assist with the final cut of haying this season. Perhaps a bit ambitious, but I believe that Roy can make it happen.

Dear Reader, I shall keep you posted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nail Gun, Anyone?

As groundbreaking time for the brewery draws near, I am looking into what tools I will need and acquiring as much material as I can. I have stockpiled what seems to be an obscene amount of wood. In fact, I am now stacking it outside as we have filled the shop. Still, I know that this is not nearly enough to complete the project. We are getting there though.

One of my neighbors suggested we have a local builder supply wall panels, thus speeding the construction of the building. Great idea! However, when I spoke to the builder he made it clear that he considered both me and the project idiotic. Naturally, I drove home fuming.

Then I got to thinking: What do I need to make wall panels that I do not have? A nail gun! I do not have one, but my neighbor Tom has one and he wants to help out on the brewery. I think my problem was solved before it began.

In retrospect, I am glad the builder was not interested in my project. He just saved me a lot of money.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Looking Back

Wow. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since my initial dealings/tussles with the state and feds. Those, of course, lead to my go round with the town. Sometimes those meetings seem like a million years ago, sometimes they seem like yesterday.

The real question is what did I expect? I knew that, given our philosophy, this brewery idea would not move quickly. One cannot be as debt averse as we are and expect to move quickly - unless you happen to have large bags of money lying about the house. Deep inside I knew that we needed to be in this for the long haul. Perhaps that is part of the attraction of this project. Throughout the course of my life I have never been more than six years in one place, and that when I we quite young. Due to that, I have developed a tendency to feel a sense of urgency in all that I do. I try to do things alone, get them done quickly, and plan for mobility. Now I find myself part of a project that can only be long term in its establishment and, by nature, defies mobility.

Did I mention that this is a project I cannot do alone? That became apparent pretty early on. The beautiful part is that I never was really alone. OK, let me back up a bit.

My most significant action with regard to this brewery project was buying a book. True story. That is all I did. I bought a book and left it on the couch. Tracy found the book and read a bit of it. The book was about farmhouse breweries of Europe. She decided we could build one. It was all her idea.

Then things got interesting. At first, I feared telling anyone about this idea. Past experience had made me hesitant to express my ideas and face the, seemingly inevitable, ridicule of the homoboobian masses. But I did mention it a bit, here and there. That was when we experienced a great non-happening. Nobody laughed. Nobody thought it was a stupid idea. In fact, many people, some of whom I would have never guessed, thought it was a great idea.

I did not realize it, but the word was spreading to unknown quarters. That point was brought home when a total stranger knocked on my door and told me he wanted to be a brewer and that he had heard I was building a brewery. That was how I met Owen.

Owen would prove to be one of our most passionate supporters. Owen is a smart guy who wants to brew beer. I want to brew beer, so by extension, I too am a smart guy. External validation is nice.

The high point was when the town had the public hearing on our idea. So many of our fellow Alsteadders showed up to support us that one town official had to stand for the first part of the meeting. Noteworthy is that none of the threatened opposition materialized. All who spoke, spoke in our favor. It turns out that a lot of people, not just me, like the idea of starting a brewery.

So where are we now? Nearly a year later, we do not even have a hole in the ground. Are we losing momentum? I fear so, but hope not. The decision not to start construction last fall was a difficult one to make. I believe it was the right one but recognize the risks it entailed. In the end our strongest supporters did not abandoned us.

So now we move forward with our core support intact. Soon we will have a hole in the ground and the rest will follow. I promise.

Thanks to all who are along for the ride. The seats are hard and the road bumpy. In the end, no matter what happens, we will all have a story to tell.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pannepot Grand Reserva

During his recent visit, as a gift, our friend Owen left behind a bottle of Pannepot Grand Reserva, vintage 2006, "Old Fisherman's Ale". This is a 10% alcohol powerhouse that is aged for 14 months on French oak and then 8 months on Calvados wood. That gives me a few ideas.

Normally, I am not a big drinker of higher alcohol beers. The alcohol character is often a bit overpowering, to my taste. Then again, the only high alcohol beers I have had previously were all North American. This beer is the real deal from the land of high alcohol and long aging.

The Grand Reserva pours thick and dark with a brown head. The aroma is woody chocolate and vanilla with a hint of alcohol. The mouth-feel was very thick, almost oily.

The flavor was the biggest surprise for me as the alcohol did not dominate it. Instead the flavor was a robust oak and roast malt and a bit chocolaty. The alcohol supported and enhanced the overall flavor instead of crushing it. Excellent. Perhaps I should experiment more with the higher alcohol beers.

Thanks Owen for bringing this gem back to Alstead!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Hop People

Yesterday we received a visit from the rare and elusive hop people of western Massachusetts. Prior to this visit, we had only heard rumors of their existence. We were not sure what to expect. As the appointed time of their visit drew near, speculation as to their number of appendages and method of communication was rampant. What sort of creatures grew hops in western Massachusetts?

In the end, we need not have worried. With the exception of being horse owners, Tom and Lynn, as their names proved to be, were nearly normal.

As the story goes, about a year ago Tom got the idea of growing hops. So he did. In a big way. While most people start with a few rhizomes, Tom started with a few thousand. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, they got a harvest the first year. For their second year,they have telephone poles and cable ready to set up a more durable trellis. They even bought a pelletizer.

So it looks like Tom and Lynn are well on their way to an honest to whichever-deity-you-choose hop farm. This is great news for us. Having a source of hops so close by will be a big plus for the brewery.

Tom and Lynn are a real nice couple and we thoroughly enjoyed their visit and look forward to working with them in the future. We spent the afternoon exchanging ideas about hop growing and our nascent brewery. Tom and I even managed to sample a few homebrews, while Tracy and Lynn talked about horses, horses, and horses.

So let us all send out a good vibe for Tom and Lynn in the second year of their hop farm. I can't wait to visit their farm when the hops are in full bloom. I expect the aroma will be incredible.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Visit From A Friend

Friend Owen is back in the United States for a time and stopped by for a visit. Any of you who have been following his blog are familiar with his brewing adventures. His escapades are enough to make any beer knurd jealous.

His time here was short, but I enjoyed what he was able to share. We discussed a bit about about brewing techniques and some ideas for the brewery and just shot the bull.

While visiting, he sampled the New England Cream Lager and Hemlock Ale. He declared both of them excellent, which shows that he posses either excellent taste or excellent diplomatic skills. I prefer to believe the former.

As a gift, Owen left behind a bottle of Pannepot Grand Reserva, vintage 2006. This is a 10% alcohol powerhouse that is aged for 14 months on French oak and then 8 months on Calvados wood. It gives me a few ideas for my own brew. I will file a report when I drink rare gem. In return, I sent him off with a bottle of the German Pale.

It was great to see Owen again. He has been a great supporter of our brewery idea since the beginning. We look forward to reading of his further adventures on his blog.

This upcoming Sunday, we will be meeting with some people who are starting a hop farm. The farm is in Massachusetts and sounds like great idea. I will keep you posted on what we find out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Ethics of Tree Cutting

Today I cut down a tree. I did not quite cut it all down, it was a multi-trunk specimen and I only cut three of the four stems. I will soon cut the remaining stem and be done with it. Why did I do this? I pursued this course of action because I was told that the tree had to be removed before excavation of the brewery foundation could proceed. The tree is not actually on the site of the foundation, but is close enough that the excavator is concerned that enough of its roots will be destroyed to cause it to fall.

Whether one considers it strange or not, I admit to some ambivalent feelings while cutting down this tree. I did not want to do it but also recognized the necessity of doing so if the brewery was to proceed. Therein lay the conundrum.

The upshot is this: What right do I have to cut down a tree that has been growing for so many years in one spot, just because I want to use that spot for something else. What are the ethical considerations here?

We have a living tree, a beautiful specimen, that will take 40 to 50 years to replace, and I cut it down. I cut it down for my own convenience. Is this right?

I feel unable to answer these questions. The best that I can offer is that each time I cut down a tree I will make the best use I can of its wood. I will not waste what I have taken. That may be enough. I am not sure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

German Pale Ale

My experimental German Pale Ale has now had time to condition in the bottle. I have tasted a few samples and have had others taste samples too. The verdict is a consensus: it is good!



German Pale Ale


To refresh my readers’ memories, I will give a rundown of the origins of the “German Pale Ale”. It arose from my continuing desire to do something different. In this case I came up with the idea of using proven dark beer yeast to brew a proven pale beer grain bill. So this experiment was a bit of a criss-cross of past successes. I always advocate such mix-ups of ingredients as a way to grow and explore. I am continually frustrated by brewers who live in a world of hard categories. To them, the world is made up of ale yeasts, lager yeasts, IPA’s Double IPA’s, blah, blah, and blah. Is it not the height of ignorance and irony for some alleged expert to declare, “A good beer, but not to style”? May God, or whoever may be in charge, never allow that I should live in such a pathologically defined world. Good beer is good beer; style is in the eye of the beholder.


So it is I found myself brewing “German Pale Ale”. I made a starter of Wyeast German Ale yeast. For grain, I used 6 lb Pale Pearl malt, 4 oz 40L crystal malt, and 4 oz Cara Munich malt. For hops, I used 1 oz of my own hops, which will be the subject of an upcoming blog. For a mash, I did a single temperature infusion. All in all, this was a fairly simple recipe.


The only difficulty encountered during the creation of this beer was that the yeast, like so many Wyeast products, was a slow starter. Even mixing up a starter in advance was not enough, this yeast was a dog. After 48 hours, it had shown little, if any, activity. In an effort to get things going, I racked the whole mess into another fermenter. That did the trick and within a few hours a vigorous fermentation was progressing.


When it came time to bottle, I added 1 ½ cups of dark dry malt extract. I have always preferred using dry malt extract to using sugar for priming. It seems to me that sugar does not give as thick and smooth a head to the beer as does dry malt extract. Further, when I sugar primed my beers it seemed that I often got a cidery taste.


So now three weeks have passed since bottling the “German Pale Ale”. As the photograph shows, it is a nice golden colored brew (Note the reflection of the alien in the mug. Word of this beer spread fast). The flavor is a smooth malty sweetness overlain by a surprisingly strong hop flavor. This is not the harsh hop bitterness of modern India pale ales or other hop bombs. Rather it is true hop flavor.


I do not know quite how to describe the hop flavor of this beer. I know of no commercial beer with a similar hop flavor, though it is probably closest to a traditional Kolsch. The best I can do is to describe the taste as reminiscent of the aroma of a bucket of freshly picked hops. Indeed, I suspect that those who have never picked hops for themselves may well not recognize the flavor for what it is. For me, as the grower and harvester of the hops used in this beer, it is a real treat to have them make such a significant contribution to the overall flavor of such a fine beer.


So there you have it, the “German Pale Ale” is a success. Perhaps a new style? I will let the drinker decide.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Does this only happen to me?


I have never had this happen before...

Somehow I ended up with wort in the blowoff tube above the neck of the carboy!

Am I the only person this has happened to?