Crunch Time

Friday, March 31, 2006

So, this is it. I take the National Beer Judge Certification Exam on Sunday. I have been studying hard for this. Yes, tasting is part of it, but only 30%; you only get 4 beers to taste over the span of the 3 hour test.

To give you a flavor of some of the questions:

--Identify, describe and differentiate three top-fermenting beer styles with original gravities greater than 1.070. Give commercial examples of each style.

--Describe and differentiate the German Pilsner and Bohemian Pilsner beer styles.

--Explain how the brewer gets the following characteristics in his/her beer:
a) good head retention
b) appropriate body for style
c) appropriate clarity for style

--Describe the hopping schedule for a British Mild and a Bohemian Pilsner explaining why you have selected specific amounts and varieties of hops and how your schedule fits the style.

--Describe and explain two different major enzymatic reactions in brewing.

--Provide a complete five-gallon all-grain recipe for an Oktoberfest, listing ingredients and procedure. Give original and final gravities. Explain why the recipe fits the style.

That's just a sample. The test is 3 hours. There are 10 of the kinds of questions asked above, and 4 beers to taste. This blog has been helpful in selecting different styles of beer, tasting and understanding them, and tracking and listing my brewing procedures and recipes. I hope it all pays off.

When all is said and done, I'll be an "Apprentice." As I attend, judge and volunteer to work at competitions, I will accrue experience points; sort of a way cooler D & D! Instead of getting experience points for slaying dragons, though, I get them for understanding beer. If only I knew about this in high school, maybe I'd have been laid more.

Anyway, as I accrue points, I can continue to re-take the test, scoring higher and higher. You move up the judging ranks, and are soon recognized to judge nationally and even internationally.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me in what is essentially a vice and a hobby all at once! Of course, I will keep the site going.

Wish me luck!


Keep Your Grape Juice; I Want Beer with My Dinner

Friday, March 24, 2006

Gluttony is such an overrated Cardinal Sin. If God din't want me to enjoy my food and drink, he wouldn't have given me a mouth.

With that, this week's Random Ten Beers Paired with Food!

1) Founders Devil Dancer with black pepper-crusted New York strip steak. The huge, spicey hops in this beer serves as a perfect match for the hard pepper crust. The sweetness in the residual flavor of the malts serves as a great counterpoint to the char on the steak from the grill.

2) Brooklyn Brewing Co. Brown Ale with Memphis-style BBQ ribs. True Southern BBQ, dry-rubbed, smokey and fall-off-the-bone tender, matches with tear-jerking perfection with this beer. The hops help cleanse the palate between bites, and the malt sweetness is perfectly marries to the smokey dry rub on the ribs.

3) Duvel. This Belgian Strong Ale is amazing as your appetizer beer. Poured into snifters, the thick, rocky head and fruity sweetness blend well with your cheese-and-crackers, your salmon bits, or just ALONE.

4) Victory Brewing Company Golden Monkey. This is a Belgian-style Tripel, which again is amazing as your apertif. Drink this with Bleu Cheese, sharp cheddar, or gorgonzola cheese. Amazing point-counterpoint.

5) Got a pig roast? Shred a bunch of that pork onto your plate and wash it down with Fuller's ESB. The pronounced, toasted malt blends so well with the natural sweetness of smoked/roasted pig that it seems this is why the beer was brewed.

6) Young's Double Chocolate Stout with a thick slice of death-by-chocolate pie. Like drinking chocolate milk with chocolate pie.

7) It's summer time. You're out on your deck or patio. Before you lies a giant boiled lobster, begging to be eaten. Ice tea is no good here. But Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier provides that cold, sweet tang you're looking for; dry, tart and spicey. It blends so well with the natural sweetness of lobster that it seems those shellfish are native in Germany.

8) The best way I can think of to honor the deer that laid it's life down for me last November is to enjoy it with Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. Full-bodied, chocolatey and just a tad of floral hops picks up on the gaminess of the venison steak and send my tastebuds into bliss.

9) Big, huge greasy wurst, a massive side of sourkraut and a huge stein of Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest is gluttony through and through. The huge, robust malt in the beer is big enough to fight the spice and grease of the sausages. In fact, this beer with any "German" cuisine is a match made in....Germany.

10) Fragrant basmati rice beside a huge platter of pungent, spicey lamb curry is just waiting to go hand-in-hand with Bell's Two Hearted Ale. This tough American-style IPA has enough hops in it to cut right through all of the clove spice and curry to cleanse the palate so that each bite of food stands alone as the best you've ever had. The residual sweetness of the beer, as the dinner continues and the beer warms a little, is just what lamb asks for. The hops list the greasiness of the lamb off the palate as well to help uncover more flavors from the curry sauce itself normally hidden under that layer of grease (but such good grease) on the tongue. This is where it's at. You can die after this, a fulfilled person.


99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chief Assistant Brew Demon Joel and I are seen here shoving unsuspecting beer into dark brown bottles for the final stages of fermentation and conditioning.

Joel is serving appropriate bitch duty by cleaning out the bottles; a task which he dives into with the normal amount of Joel-related gusto. The bottles were really really really clean.

And then the bottling begins. After adding some corn sugar to the beer to re-awaken the yeast for bottle conditioning and final alcohol content, we started the relatively tedious process of bottling and capping. As you can see, Joel is amazingly proud of his first bottle of beer. I'm proud for him. Joel is certainly my best (and only) Chief Assistant Beer Demon. We took a measurement; the alcohol content is already a little over 5%. When all is said and done, this shold hopefully be in the ballpark of 8%.

The harshness of the flavors, especially the choice of barley we used, will require a longer-than-normal conditioning period. Most ales are ready for drinking in 2 or 3 weeks. This bad bear? June.

I am struggling to come up with a name for this beer, but my buddy Hoss in Denver CO came up with this name for my Russian Imperial Stout:

Anastasia's Assassination Russian Imperial Style Stout. Perfect.


The Holiest Day of All

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dear Lord, it's Saint Patrick's Day!!!

What better way to celebrate what amounts to Christmas, New Years Eve and my Birthday all rolled into one than with a special Irish Edition of Around the Keg? There is no better way.

1) Guinness Extra Stout. This is the Most Holy Beer that started it all for me. This beer was my savior from the shallow, insipid life of Bud Light and Miller I was leading. So much barley died for my previous beer-related sins in this beer. Hold it. Revere it. Drink it. Forget red wine during mass; Guinness is truly the Blood.

2) Beamish Irish Stout. As creamy as Guinness Extra Stout, but slightly less coffee-ish. Pours right down the throat. You've had 6 before you realize it.

3) O'Hara's Celtic Stout. In America, Celts (pronounced Seltics) play basketball. In Ireland, the Celts (pronounced Kelts) painted their faces blue, killed the English for fun (till that BASTARD Cromwell) and now...brew amazing beer. This has a thick, creamy head, and plenty of that lovely roasted barley/coffee smell. Dark, dry, slightly bitter with sharp carbonation. Much closer to what Irish stouts actually are.

4) Murphy's Irish Stout. Another legendary Irish beer. You get that slightly watery, very creamy feel from the little nitro widget in the can to replicate the smooth draught pull you get in Ireland. Not as bitter as Guinness, with more of a toffee undertone to it. Another beer where you've suddenly just had 8 without knowing it.

5) Smithwick's Ale. Pronounced "smitticks" around the Emerald Isle, this is dark brown, with amber highlights and a thin head. Malt sweetness dominates, with more than a bit of caramel. While not an Irish favorite, it keeps the English alestyle drinkers happy. I think they plan to invade England by keeping people satiated with this beer. Can't invade with an army? Keep 'em drunk.

6) Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale. Nice deep coppery red that settles in a glass like Guinness with that dramatic cascading-bubble effect. Toffee, pears and caramel. Creamy smooth and worth the slam. A common theme among Irish beers: they are sneaky. All of them seem to intice you to quaff 6 or more before you realize you've done it.

7) O'Hara's Irish Red. Dark ruby amber with a slightly tan head. Malty smell with a faint fruit tartness. Big malt up front tempered decently with a lingering bitterness and a little hint of smoked peat in the background, like that lovely smell from Irish fireplaces.

8) Harp Lager. This is brewed by Guinness. The folks in Ireland are not big fans of Harp, which is essentially an American-style macro lager. They did it to corner even more of the market share in the world than they already have, which is close to being a rival to Bud. Drink it because it's Irish.

9) Belhaven Scottish Ale. Okay, so St. Patrick wasn't Scottish, but the Irish and Scots share a strong Celtic heritage, many traditions and a mutual distrust of their closest neighbors. Dark brown, nearly red, with sweet malt and smoked peat smells. Same taste, but finishes nice and dry with just a hint of that smoked peat flavor you find in good scotches. Yummy.

10) Skullsplitter. What an awesome name. Named after a Scotsman who whipped some serious ass. Has a picture on the bottle of a guy in a winged helmet with a big sword. This beer tastes like that. Drink two of these, and Mr. Skullsplitter will come a-visiting. Huge robust dark-roasted malt flavor with tons of smoked peat. Not for the weak.

So there you have it. A collection of the finest offering from the Celts. Enjoy St. Patrick's Day as irresponsibly as possible. How a man who brought Christianity to Ireland came to mean a day of drunken bacchanal I will never understand, but whatever.


Veggie Burger

Monday, March 13, 2006

This is just too easy. Have at it.


The Brilliance of Our Fore....Brothers

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I see posts like this one here about the health effects of beer over juice AND milk (see, mom??? It's just healthy behavior!!!), and I think to myself:



You know, monks used to forego all three meals a day...for 40 days...and drank beer instead. What we have now are quite-often (though not in all cases) tea-totaling religious fanatics who rail against the evils of beer. We have entire organzations formed to combat perceived "evils" of drinking beer. Their gatherings are full of juice, kool-aid and milk.

But I see this study, and I ask myself: who really, truly lived a happier life, closer to God? Is it those who refuse alcohol as an intrument that pulls us away from God?

No. It was the monks who drank beer. Drink beer and live longer...closer to a monk.


Hop-cademy Awards

Monday, March 06, 2006

First-off, congrats to John Stewart last night for what I personally thought to be a slew of wonderful, subtle jokes. He kept to his Daily Show brand of humor, and dammit all if most of the Hollywood mouth-breathers didn't get it. The Neanderthals at CNN's "Morning Coffee" this morning had nothing good to say about Stewart's success, but that's because they either didn't get the jokes, or don't think they're funny. I'm guessing a little of both.

Also, hat's off to Mr. for his 7th annual Anatomy Awards. This guy has way too much time on his hands, but it's a worthy cause.

So, like every other moron with a blog and a keyboard everywhere, Around the Keg will do its own version of the Academy Awards. Seeing as how I can't afford a theater, commercials, a host or even an accounting company to count and verify the ballots, we'll just have to live for now on free electrons provided by Blogger. So....thanks to my sponsor, Blogger! Maybe someday...

Best Stout
Ah, the glories of big, thick beers; black as night and complex in flavor. This is not one of the broad BJCP categories, but stouts are my favorite, so they get their own category. My competition, my rules. And the nominees are: Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Bell's Expedition Stout and Great Lakes Brewing Co Blackout Stout. And the winner is....Founder's Breakfast Stout!!!

Best American Ale
The nominees are: DogFish Head 120 Minute IPA, Founders Devil Dancer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bell's Amber Ale. And the winner is....DogFish Head 120 Minute IPA!!!

Best Belgian/French (yeah...I said it...FRENCH...) Ale
The nominees are: Orval Trappist Ale, Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Westmalle Trappist Dubbel and Brewery Ommegang Hennepin. And the winner is.....Brewery Ommegang Hennepin!!!

Best English Ale
The nominees are: Fuller's Extra Special Bitter, Thomas Paine Brown Ale, Samuel Smith's India Ale and Young's Double Chocolate Stout. And the winner is...Thomas Paine Brown Ale!!!

Best German Ale
The nominees are: Dragonmead Dragonslayer Altbier, Weihenstaphaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Sierra Nevada Wheat Beer and Hacker-Pschorr Weissbier. And the winner is....Weihenstaphaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel!!!

Best Scottish Ale
The nominees are: Dragonmead Under the Kilt Wee Heavy, Founders Dirty Bastard, Belhaven Scottish Ale and Skullsplitter. And the winner is.....Dragonmead Under the Kilt Wee Heavy!!!

Best American Lager
The nominees are: Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn Lager, Yuengling Traditional Lager, Anchor Steam Beer and Budweiser. And the winner is....Anchor Steam Beer!!!

Best Czech/German Lager
The nominees are: Pilsner Urquell, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Sam Adams Boston Lager and Paulaner Oktoberfestbier. And the winner is....Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock!!!

Best American Brewery
The nominees are: Stone Brewing Company, California; Founders Brewing Company, Michigan; DogFish Head Craft Brewery, Delaware; and Boston Beer Company, Massachusetts. And the winner is....DogFish Head Craft Brewery!!!

Best Beer Overall
The nominees are: Dragonmead Final Absolution Trippel, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Saison Dupont, Stone Brewing Company Russian Imperial Stout. And the winner is........

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout!!!

There was stiff competition this year in all of the categories, and the nominees were selected from all of the beers I love, using a nonscientific method. Congrats to the winners, who will never hear that they won!


Cold Beer

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I did not bring my camera to the Winter Beer Fest held in "Old Town" Lansing, because when I drink that volume, I lose my peripheries and accoutrements. Watches, cameras, pamphlets, shoes, etc. So in a crowd this big (see picture) I would certainly have placed my camera on a brewer's table, and away it would have walked.

What a riot the Fest was. My wife and I arrived about 12:30 (to me, a half hour late), hit the Founders table, and it was all down hill from there.

21 of the 75+ breweries in Michigan were there. Each brought their more popular beers as well as some sort of special edition beer. The highlight, as I have pointed out in my previous blog below about whether or not Jesus actually appeared in my beer, was the Founders Kentucky Breakfastr Stout. Tears. But an amazing time was had by all, as is indicated in this picture (see picture).

Only 1 hospitalization in the crowd from too much booze and 1 incident of pissing in public...not bad for 1,500 people and essentially free beer. When true officianados converge for the sole purpose of drinking tons of really snobby beer, the Michigan Winter Beer Fest is where it's at.



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