Thursday, July 30, 2015

Brew Schedule Update

This week's post will be short and sweet. We recently bottled our Russian Imperial Stout 9*8*7 to continue conditioning for a few weeks prior to the Deep Ellum Labor of Love Homebrew Competition. Just so happens that the only crowns (bottle caps) that our homebrew store had were 'Murican flags! Boom. Freedom.

9*8*7 RIS
We also transferred our wheat beer onto some fresh peaches and apricots. We read that you get better peach flavor and character using apricots instead of peaches, but we didn't really want a cloying-each-sickly-sweet flavor in the beer. We pasteurized and smasherized 1 yellow peach, 1 white peach, and 3 apricots in our 3 gallon batch of wheat beer. We still aren't sure how it will turn out, but everything was tasting right when we were mixing it all together. If it turns out well, I'll post the recipe. If it sucks, we'll just pretend it never happened.

Millions of peaches. Peaches for me.
Into the secondary

I ran out of time and didn't get to brew the Tamarindo Gose early enough so that it would be ready for Labor of Love. Major bummer. I've emailed the event coordinator to see if I can substitute something else, but if not, the RIS will be flying solo into the judges glasses. Fear not, I will try to get it brewed this weekend in time for another competition we have our eyes on, Operation Bravo at the Shannon Brewery in Keller. The competition is Saturday, November 7, and it honors our veterans with great homebrewed beer. More on that at a later date.

Our Pale Ale, which I just realized we haven't named yet...

In the meantime, the Pale Ale we brewed for a friend's bachelor party went over very well! Many of the guys that drink the big 3 said they really enjoyed it, and we floated the 5 gallon keg in just a few hours. I really did enjoy that beer both times that I've brewed it, so I may keep that in rotation for spring and hop the hell out of it at harvest time in the fall. Sadly, my 3 healthy hop vines have been scorched by the ruthless and rainless July, so now we're down to just one little plant. Stay strong little hops! I'm still hoping against hope that I get to use some homegrown hops in one of my beers.

Last but not least, we brewed up 5 gallons of last year's fan favorite (from New Main, at least) Palo Alto Wit. Last year we brewed it with orange and lemon zest, rosemary from a friend's garden, and a small bundle of sage. This time around we tweaked the recipe with the intent of guiding the crazy recipe back towards the actual beer category of Witbier. We subbed the zest for a few hops that will exhibit similar citrus characteristics. We also scaled the rosemary back a little and added coriander. So no, this isn't a thanksgiving dinner beer anymore, not that it ever was, but the weird stuff has been exchanged for better stuff. We'll see how it fares at Labor of Love.

Until next time, keep drinking homebrew and I'll keep brewing it! Also, if there's anything you'd like to read about, leave us a suggestion in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Today's Main Break: Craft Beer continues to grow in production here in America. Do you think we are headed for a bubble, or are we building the foundation for an expanded market?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Beer Tasting with Division Brewing

Do you ever just have one of those days? You know the one: you wake up with bed head, you realize the dog puked on your arm in the middle of the night, you decide to go ride bikes when it's 100 degrees at 10am, someone nearly runs your wife over while riding the bikes. Yeah just your average meh day.

Well this was the shape of our weekend until we got an invitation to a tasting party from Wade Wadlington, owner and brewer of the soon-to-open Division Brewing in Arlington. The clouds opened up, the planets aligned, baby Jesus set down his Les Paul and told Johnny Cash the jam session would have to wait a second while he turned to look down upon us with favor. Wadlington recently returned from California with the holy grail of craft beer enthusiasts: Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this double IPA, it has ranked at or near the top of many reviewers' best beers in America lists for at least 6 years. Quite simply, it is widely considered to be the best beer available.

Pliny was highest on my wishlist, and now it
sits atop my all-time favorites list

The genius behind this beer isn't borderline irresponsible overuse of hops or even skull-splitting high ABV you've come to expect when someone slaps the word "Imperial" in front of their IPA. This beer was meticulously crafted to provide excellent hop character with a relatively dry finish for a balance that defies physics. You don't get your mouth coated in resin after each sip; instead, you perceive almost a crisp beginning and ending of each taste. By the brewer's own admission, its drinkability is both a blessing and a curse, given the 8% ABV. Russian River plasters the label with no less than 12 warnings for the consumer to drink Pliny fresh since hop character tends to degrade quickly with time. The date on our bottle was July 2, 2015, so yeah. Pretty dang fresh.

It is examples like Pliny that inspired Division Brewing's impressive complement of tasty IPAs. We had the distinct honor and olfactory pleasure of sampling several of the beers Division will soon be pouring in the heart of downtown Arlington: Clifton Clowers Blonde Ale, Carl Kolschak Kolsch, Hula Hopper IPA, FrankenFroth IIPA, Tres Craneo Triple IPA,  X-Mas Morning Porter, and Ben Stout.
The full line-up of offerings Division is planning!

We started the tasting off light with Clifton Clowers Blonde Ale and Carl Kolschak Kolsch. Both were very clean and clear, with the Kolsch yeast displaying the tell-tale slightly fruity character where the blonde ale allowed the simple malt to shine through. Both are excellent examples of their respective styles and perfect for a warm summer day. Okay, hot summer day. Okay, sweltering.

As with Pliny, balance is the name of Division's IPA game. Hula Hopper is a great refreshing hoppy beer. It does not feel too heavy for 7% ABV and showcases an excellent hop profile that you taste rather than feel. A step up to FrankenFroth adds 2% ABV to the Hula Hopper and tons more hop flavor while maintaining a solid malt backbone. Whirlpooling hops after flame out helps to wring every bit of flavor out of the nuggets of green gold in this outstanding IIPA. As you would imagine, Tres Craneo, the Triple IPA goes even further into the heart of dankness. Boasting 200 IBU's (according to their website) and double digit ABV, this beer is large but approachable. That many IBU's demand a big malt bill to keep the beer from tipping too far one way or the other-bitter or sweet. The hoppy side of the equation is loaded with pine, citrus, and some good tropical fruit flavor. On the malt side of the fulcrum is the taste of rock candy, slight biscuit/bread flavor, and a mouthfeel that tells you, "This right here is the good stuff!"

The X-Mas Morning Porter was a representation of a Wadlington family tradition of waffles, coffee, and chocolate syrup (not necessarily in that order. Or maybe so, I'm not a damn doctor). With a touch of toasted coconut, this delicious porter leaves one satisfied but not stuffed like a Christmas turkey. The Ben Stout, named after Wadlington's brother, boasts oats (say that five times fast) for mouthfeel, roasted malts for flavor and color, and plenty of hops to deliver a dry and earthy finish. Division bills this as "the stout for IPA lovers," and rightfully so. Some brewers' take on this relatively new sub-style is to create a roasty-tasting IPA and call it either a Black IPA or a Cascadian Dark, but I believe Division has captured what the style ought to be, the other way around: a boldly hopped well-made stout.

Aside from these great hop forward beers, Division will be pursuing an extensive sour beer and barrel program. Sean Cooley, Division's other brewer has long been developing great recipes and experiments for various sour styles. Cooley's years of experience with sour ales and his own impressive bank of various yeasts, blends, and bugs portend a bright and delicious future for the Texas sour market. Division's wide variety will allow them to focus on providing many different offerings as fresh as possible to the patrons of their tasting room and select few local bars and pubs. Though we didn't get to try any of their sours at the tasting, Cooley described several recipes as well as some advanced techniques he is working on perfecting for the pucker-lovers on opening day.

The tasting was complete with delicious beer, stimulating conversation, and a cheerful group of beer lovers all brimming with excitement for Division's launch, expected this Fall. Wadlington and Cooley have miles to go before they sleep, but with an ever expanding contingent of beer nerds and thirsty Arlingtonians, their journey will surely be rewarding for everyone involved. We here at New Main wish Wade, Sean, and all the fine folks at Division the very best luck and congratulate them for taking their outstanding passion for brewing great beer to the promised land of professional brewing. Cheers!

Today's Main Break: There are over 30 breweries and brewpubs in the DFW Metroplex and Denton! Many of these fantastic brewers started out homebrewing for friends and family, so drink local and support your favorite hometown heroes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Keeping Busy

We have been very busy lately here at New Main. We brewed the final batch of our Pale Ale for a friend's bachelor party and it is almost ready to keg condition. We also knocked out a 2.5 gallon batch of wheat beer that will be finished with fresh apricots in secondary. We are rapidly running out of room in our fermentation chamber!

Our fermentation chamber is damnear full
of Pale Ale, Russian Imperial Stout, and the
recent small batch wheat beer
(not pictured here)
Not to worry, though. The Russian Imperial Stout has been conditioning for several months now, and we will bottle the base recipe in the 3 gallon carboy soon. We will keep the two smaller 1 gallon carboys going for a few more weeks and try treatments of chipotle pepper, Mexican vanilla extract, and cacao nibs. Yum!

Coming up on our busy brew schedule is the next incarnation of our Gose recipe that we brewed just before Christmas 2014. We will be changing the recipe slightly and pitching an actual lactobacillus starter this time instead of "cheating" with lactic acid. Hopefully, the beer will be sour, salty, and citrusy just like the many Goses we tried in Portland and Seattle last month. We are also going to split this batch down and try a variant finished with tamarindo (a small bean-like pod with sweet, tangy pulp commonly consumed in Mexico in candy or beverage form). We think it will give the beer an interesting twang and make it a great summer thirst quencher.
Tamarind fruit. It's tastier than it looks, trust me.

The RIS and the Gose are going to be entered into this year's 4th annual Labor of Love Homebrew Competition hosted by Deep Ellum Brewing in Dallas, Texas. Unlike last year, this year's competition will be a BJCP sanctioned event, meaning beer entries are judged against a set list of almost 30 main style categories, each with about 5 sub categories. Bet you didn't know there were that many kinds of beer out there! For your viewing pleasure...

As with last year, the overall winner of the competition will get to brew their beer alongside Deep Ellum's pros on their 30 barrel system, and the resulting beer will be distributed across the metroplex to thirsty patrons on draft only (I think). The winner will also be entered into the 2016 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition to go up against the nations best professional and amateur brewers.

Aside from the competition, entrants are encouraged to come pour up to 5 of their fine homebrews in a beer festival setting on Sunday, September 6 at the Deep Ellum brewery. We will be bringing the remainder of the Gose and RIS, as well as last year's crowd pleasing Palo Alto Wit. I would also like to brew up one last batch of the pale ale and dry hop with some of our homegrown Willamette hops if they are ready for harvest by then. If not, maybe one of the hops that seem to be popular right now like Mosaic or Galaxy. The last offering will be reserved for either of the special edition RIS batches, depending on how they turn out. Stay tuned for more information and a dedicated recap of the evening shortly after it all goes down!

One of our 3 Willamette hops growing right
in our front yard!
The next big event on our radar is the American Homebrewers Association Rally being held at Community Beer Company in Dallas, TX on Saturday, August 1st. AHA rallies are great because AHA members get to take home great swag, speak one-on-one with our favorite professional brewers, try special and limited release beer, and sometimes we even get to take home some professionally brewed wort for our own fermentation experiments! Not to mention, we get to hang out with our fellow homebrewers and learn about the many homebrewing clubs in the area. We will definitely dedicate a post to this event as well.

 If you are a homebrewer and you aren't a member of the AHA, what the hell are you waiting for?! You get all kinds of discounts to various pubs and restaurants, free entry to AHA Rallies across the nation, and of course free subscription to Zymurgy magazine, a great publication with how-to's, interviews, and brewing news. While you're at it, go ahead and sign up for the Deep Ellum Labor of Love Homebrew Competition as well. It's free, it's fun, and it guarantees honest feedback on your homebrew that will help you become a better brewer.

Today's Main Break: Aside from joining clubs and organizations, free podcasts are a great way to learn more in-depth techniques and general knowledge about brewing. You can listen in the car on the way to and from work like I do! Check out the Brewing Network and (locally in DFW) Stubby's Texas Brewing Inc. for more!