Monday, January 25, 2016

Last week in Beer

As those of you who have "liked" us on Facebook may have noticed, last week was crazy busy for us! We brewed our inaugural batch of homebrew up at Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab on the new all grain system we designed. We recorded a Local Buzz podcast with Tyree Radio detailing some now overlooked craft beer brands like Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Samuel Adams and others. We also scored tickets to a Peticolas event called Making a Hammerer that we sadly could not attend. We brewed a beer alongside Grant Wood of Revolver at Dr. Jeckyll's. And we capped it all off with another Local Buzz podcast on location at the Division Brewery in downtown Arlington.

Details coming soon

We've been teasing the Dr. Jeckyll's brew stand build for a few weeks now, and I'm sorry to say since last week was so busy, I haven't had the time to devote to a post that would do justice to the effort involved. I know many of you homebrewers would like a good bit of detail on the setup so that you could potentially build your stand with all the bells and whistles too. Please be patient! I'll sit down and hash it all out hopefully this week and post everything from pictures to the step-by-step brewing instructions to possibly even a video of the system in action.

I will say that the system worked beautifully, if not perfectly. Through the seemingly complicated tangle of hoses, we managed to brew 5 gallons of a nice big stout for Pete, a patron of Dr. Jeckyll's and an avid homebrewer. The setup operated very well and easily moved gallons and gallons of sweet wort through each stage of the system with only a few "learning experiences." Beer was made and it was a great day. I want to give Pete a special shout out and a hearty thanks for being the first brewer on the new system and letting me tag along on his brew day (to make sure nothing went awry and burned our faces off).

Next came the first of last week's Local Buzz shows. We decided to tackle a common pitfall of craft beer lovers: inadvertently avoiding the breweries that first introduced you to your craft beer obsession. I am certainly guilty of this because the main driving force in my craft beer hobby is trying as many new beers as possible. Smartphone apps such as Untappd helps craft beer lovers find and track each new brew they find, and so it almost becomes a beer-themed arms race with your friends to constantly try more than each other. Not that that's a bad thing!

 Variety is what it's all about for me and many others. However, the very first craft beers you ever tried probably came from some of the American craft beer pioneers like Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, Shiner, and others. Just because there are now over 4,000 craft breweries in America doesn't mean this Senior class of brewers aren't still churning out unique and interesting brews. On the contrary, their size and length of time on the beer scene affords them more opportunities than most smaller breweries to experiment and get new flavors out there. You can listen to our podcast HERE and see for yourself why you should take a trip down memory lane to some of these great breweries and beers.

Now, as I mentioned above, we didn't get to attend the Making a Hammerer event that Peticolas Brewing Company threw last week. That doesn't mean we weren't really excited about it! This was a great opportunity to try both vertical and horizontal versions of the same great beer, Velvet Hammer. Many folks in the DFW area are familiar with the Velvet Hammer, and Imperial Red Ale that sits at about 9% ABV with a full mouthfeel and satisfying malt to hops balance. This event allowed attendees to try fresh Velvet Hammer as well as VH aged for a few years (vertical tasting). They then served up some variants of this recipe: Sledge Hammer and Pick Hammer (horizontal, kinda).

As its name suggests, the Sledge Hammer is VH's big sister. ABV in the double digits, huge malt-forward body smashing against a heaping helping of hops, and a beautiful color to boot. We enjoyed this beer for the first time last year at North Texas Firkin Fest here in Arlington and thoroughly enjoyed it. Several times. This beer combines the first wort runnings from two batches of Velvet Hammer to make a huge single batch of Sledge Hammer. The other variant was called Pick Hammer and is everything that Sledge Hammer is not. It is the later runnings of the Velvet Hammer batch, meaning it's not quite as heavy in ABV and body. Many consider this an Amber Ale, though it is still a relative of the parent Red Ale style. We have yet to try this, but it is making its way to taps across DFW so make sure to try it if you find it!

Grant Wood and David doughing in on the Cascadian
Dark at Dr. Jeckyll's

Next came another influential moment in my brewing career thus far on Thursday. I had the great fortune to play host to Revolver Brewing at Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab for a pint night and brew session with Brewmaster Grant Wood. Grant is an astoundingly accomplished brewer, having brewed at Pearl, Lonestar, Sam Adams, and of course now at Revolver Brewing in Granbury. Aside from the amazing Revolver beers on tap (including rare offerings like Cinnamon Girl and Fracker Barrel One and everyone's favorite Blood & Honey), Grant and I brewed a Cascadian Dark Ale, more commonly referred to as a Black IPA. A simple malt bill combined just enough roasted barley to give this beer a deep black hue with plenty of fermentables to get this beer into the 6-7% range.

Aside from a deceptively simple malt bill, we used some not-so-common hops called Mandarina Bavaria, Apollo, Mosaic, and Saphir. Each lend their own unique flavors, but together they coalesce into a juicy blend of citrusy west coast IPA flavor and aroma. We brewed 11 gallons of this interesting beer so that the batch could be split into two separate fermenters for a couple of lucky brewers to take home. The wort was auctioned off to the highest bidder and the proceeds went to Irving Cares, a charity close to Irving-native Grant Wood's heart. A great big thanks to both Revolver Brewing and Dr. Jeckyll's for letting me take part in this awesome evening.

Jason Tyree & Wade Wadlington getting us all set up for podcastin'
at the Division Brewery in Downtown Arlington

 Finally, we put a crown on the amazing beer week by spending an evening with our good friends at Division Brewing, Arlington's first locally owned craft brewery right in the heart of downtown. Wade Wadlington and Sean Cooley invited us into their incredible brewhouse for an episode of Local Buzz of Tyree Radio. (If you haven't already, go like them on Facebook and sign up for their FREE podcast on iTunes, Android, and It's great for road trips, helps a commute whiz right by, or just great brew day listening!)

We discussed Division's tremendously popular Grand Opening on New Year's Eve and some of the delicious beer they have been working on like the supremely juicy east coast style Sticky 'stache IPA, Distant Cousin English Mild, their ever-popular X-mas Morning Porter with fresh toasted coconut, and a special version of their Ben Stout that uses dark chocolate and orange zest to recreate the Terry's Orange Chocolate ball flavor in liquid form. Wade & Sean being ever the perfectionists, one-offs like this one will continue to be tweaked from batch to batch until the right balance is reached, so feel free to give them your honest feedback when you see them at the brewery.

Division will be hosing another grand opening this Saturday, January 30th starting at 11am with an all-new IPA featuring elusive Galaxy hops. Make sure to get there early because a pretty substantial line formed last time in anticipation of their unveiling. Same as last time, $15 gets you in the door with 4 pours to try something you may have missed last time. Please make sure to designate a driver or use a ride-sharing app if you intend to enjoy all 4 pours! Also keep in mind that Division's location in downtown Arlington means you are a stone's throw from great places to eat like Fuzzy's Taco Shop, Twisted Root Burger Co., Mijo's Fresh Mexican Food, JR Bentley's English Pub, and many others.

We will be taking a well deserved week off to bask in the glory of last week's beer-infused memories. We will however be picking up right where we left off with our Pro-Am brewing session with Shannon Brewing in Keller this weekend! We will be brewing our Porter that won Operation Bravo's homebrew competition in November at the Shannon Brewery, so stay tuned for a blog post detailing all that.

What an exciting time here at New Main! We want to thank each and every one of our readers and fans for helping us get to this point. Your support and interest has kept us going this whole time, and very truly, y'all have given us these opportunities to meet so many great people in the craft beer and homebrewing world. We will return the favor by continuing to bring you great interviews with the movers and shakers of craft beer, interesting beer discussion, and some killer homebrew recipes for you to try out for yourselves. Please continue to recommend us to your friends or other craft beer lovers at the bar.

'Til next time, Cheers!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Get that batch a keg. Batches love kegs.

We have a few exciting (to us, anyway) developments to talk about today. Chief-most among them is our fridge is now working like normal again! That means we can pull out of our holding pattern and switch back to homebrew production mode. It also means I can start giving the few batches I've managed to brew in the mean time some much needed TLC.

Starting to get crowded up in here...

We were lucky enough to come home with the batch of beer brewed at Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab with Rabbit Hole head brewer, Matt Morriss last Halloween. This was a "toned-down" version of their stellar American IPA, Rude Jester, dry hopped with tons of great American west coast hops. Since we anticipated this IPA to be a little more tame than its parent namesake, we dubbed this batch "Sassy Jester."

Due to a little bit of distraction and some poorly timed kitchen appliance failures, the dry hop went on a little longer than it should have. Oddly, the resulting beer came out exceedingly bitter, almost astringent, though no other detectable flaws were present in the beer. Normally, dry-hopping does not affect the bitterness level of a beer - only the flavor and/or aroma. The malt character was great and once the bitterness blanched your tongue, you could tell the hop character was a nice blend of citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

I kegged this beer and set it in the fermentation chamber at about 65F to condition while we attempted to get the fridge situation taken care of, hoping some time would mellow the off-flavor. I brought a sample up to Dr. Jeckyll's to share with some other homebrewers and to brainstorm some ideas to fix the heavy bitterness. The best solution was to blend this beer with some sweeter brew in an effort to balance the malt-to-bitterness equation. Another homebrewer named Shane mentioned he had a honey-based recipe that finished a little sweet that he had sitting around, so he graciously traded me some of his homebrew for the finished product, should it prove drinkable.

When it comes to blending beer, it is important to get the dosage correct. You have to take care to compare different combinations next to each other so that you get a good idea of each sample's characteristics and differences as compared to its neighbors. It also helps to have a second palate on hand to taste the samples in case you are taste-blind to certain flavors. Amanda and I measured out even portions of the Sassy Jester in 3 pint glasses. We sampled Sassy Jester and Shane's beer alone before blending to develop a control in our minds. I then dosed in 1, 2, & 3 shots into the respective pint glasses for comparison.

From left to right, 1-shot, 2-shots, & 3-shots dosed into a half
pint of Sassy Jester

As expected, the 1-shot sample retained the most bitterness and the 3-shot sample was much more mellow, even masking some of the hop character. We landed somewhere between 1 and 2 shots per half pint, or roughly 1 part Shane's beer to 3 parts Sassy Jester. This allows the drinker to taste the overall West Coast IPA character, still be able to discern a nice hoppy aroma, and have a well-balanced flavor that doesn't shred your taste buds.

Aside from that experiment, I also kegged my half of my collaboration brew with Kyle Nelson of Steel Rain Beer. We called the batch Steel Main Mild to reflect both of our homebrewery names. The final gravity of my half clocked in at 1.015, leaving this beer just a touch under 3% ABV. Definitely light and sessionable, but it doesn't taste thin as one might expect. It has a nice malt presence, little to no hop character and finishes satisfyingly dry so as to invite a following sip. This particular style of beer requires very little carbonation, so I'll check it after a day and see where she sits. If all goes well, we will be entering this beer as a team to the Bluebonnet Brew-off homebrew competition.

The small batch mild that I brewed around Christmas time that ended up more of an English Brown is also ready and carbonated. I kegged that beer a few weeks ago and let it cold condition after tasting what is described as "green beer." This doesn't imply infection, St. Patrick's day food coloring hijinks, or a bad batch necessarily, just that the beer needs a little more time to mature and even out. After sitting a serving temperature for a week, this beer pours beautifully with a nice off-white head and a deep brown satisfying body. I will submit this as a solo entry into Bluebonnet and see what the judges think.

Now that we have beer flowing through our taps instead of sitting in homebrew limbo, we can plan some future batches and get an idea for what we want to submit for competitions down the road. We are definitely planning on re-brewing the 9*8*7 Russian Imperial Stout soon to allow appropriate aging time. I would also like to flesh out a red ale to enjoy by St. Patrick's Day.

Dr. Jeckyll's new homebrew demonstration kitchen!

Our next post will be pretty informative and hopefully exciting as well. As I mentioned last week, we were asked by Dr. Jeckyll's to help them design and build a 3-vessel, 2-tier brewing system that will be used for brewing demonstrations right in the homebrew store! We had a run-through brew session this weekend and learned a lot about our brand new system, and I will detail all of that next time.

Til then, cheers!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

So we didn't win the Powerball...

Like many millions of Americans, we seized the chance to take part in the largest lottery drawing in history. Alas, we didn't even get the dang powerball right, so we walked away empty handed. But take heart fellow craft beer lovers! This in no way shape or form has diminished our love of brewing and our ability to bring it to you! Although, a couple hundred million bucks would surely have helped us start up a commercial operation. 

Anyways, back in the real world, we've hit a slight snag in the pipeline that should be remedied in the near future. Our kitchen fridge that came with the house decided to die, was "repaired", died again, then waited for months while "a part came in." I put quotes because, months?! Seriously?! I'm sure Amazon is selling like 18 of the part we needed on a regular basis. I'm not here to slam the repair business because that would be tacky. I told you all that to say our beer fridge has been pulling double duty as our kitchen fridge as well. This means the space normally taken up by several kegs of glorious homebrew was stacked high with lettuce, assorted veggies, at least 4 kinds of mustard, twice as many kinds of salsa, and well, you get the picture. Not beer.

I have every confidence that our last repair visit has solved the problem, so the pipeline should be restored fairly soon. (If the fridge breaks again, the repairman actually asked to buy it from us so they could study from it and learn its secrets. wtf.) With that problem solved, we now have only to brew more beer! And on that front we have been making some serious strides.

As we mentioned on Facebook, we collaborated with our friend Kyle Nelson of Steel Rain Beer on a British Dark Mild last weekend. The idea was to brew a tasty beer that would require a very short fermentation and conditioning phase so that we could submit it for judging in the Bluebonnet Brew-off - the largest single-site homebrew competition in the United States. This is a relatively overlooked style when compared against the overwhelmingly popular American IPA or Pilsner categories. We thought we'd brew a double batch so that each of us would have 5.5 gallons or so to enjoy.

We also decided we would ferment our own half with a different yeast from the other to see which one lent the right character we were looking for. Kyle dosed his half with WLP007 (White Labs Dry English Ale Yeast) from a starter he made a few days before brew day. I wanted to use a unique strain that I heard was an interesting variant of the usual British yeast suspects, but unfortunately both of my local homebrew stores were out of stock (Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire, for the record). Instead, I opted for Mangrove Jack M07, a yeast rumored to be malt-forward and highly flocculent (meaning the yeast would drop out of suspension pretty readily, leaving behind very clear beer).

Upon further inspection, these two yeast from two different suppliers are essentially the same strain. Oh well, there may be subtle differences in our fermentation temperature profile, so this is still a valuable learning experience. Kyle and I will meet up next week and use a blind taste test to figure out which one we want to submit as a team. We want to give a warm thanks to Kyle and Erin for inviting us into their home to brew with them. Make sure to check out SteelRainBeer for more great homebrew recipes and some great spent-grain dog treats for your pooches!

On other fronts, we have been busy working with Dr. Jeckyll's Beer Lab in Pantego setting up their in-house brew kitchen. Those of you who have read the last 10 or so blog posts know I make it no secret how much I love hanging out at Dr. Jeckyll's. It's a fully stocked homebrew supply store as well as a 40 tap growler bar with live music on the weekends and 4 dart boards. What makes the excitement level go to 11 is that it now includes its very own 3-vessel all grain brew kitchen! Three massive restaurant grade natural gas burners sit under three re-purposed half barrel keggles to offer enough capacity to brew up to 10 gallons of beer at a time. Anybody can sign up for a brew session with the head brewmeister, Scott Cooper. Once the beer kitchen is up and running, for a small fee and the cost of your homebrew batch you can brew and take home as much wort as you can carry! (Due to TABC regulations, you can't pitch yeast at the store. The second yeast touches the wort, you have 0.0000001% ABV beer, which must be produced at a licensed brewery, which Dr. Jeckyll's is not.)

Our next post will detail how the setup works and all of the parts & prices in case you are thinking of putting your tax return to good use this year. Keep in mind, building everything yourself instead of buying everything ready-made off the shelf will save you a good chunk of change, but the overall build will not be cheap. Take some time to learn the basics of a brew stand build while squirreling away as much cash as you can. By the time you're ready to build, you should have a good idea of the value of each element and the cash to pull the trigger. For some inspiration and light reading, visit and check out their user library of homebrew setups.

Til then, Cheers!