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:

The Belgian Mare Says Hello!

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?