Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Post-Apocalyptic Christmas


Well it appears we have survived yet another apocalypse unscathed and just in time to celebrate Christmas!  All the supplies, aka beer, I had hoarded for the impending apocalypse were just begging to be consumed in celebration.  What better beers than Christmas/winter seasonal brews?  I did my best to get some new stuff in the line up this year but you all know I had to snatch a Sam Adams Winter Seasonal sampler.  What is that I see Sam Adams?  A new Christmas beer in there?  Take that you neighsaying Mayans.

Ghost of Christmas Past and Present -  I enjoyed some Boulevard Nutcracker Ale while eating dinner at Jazz the other night.  It hit the spot nicely.  I didn’t snap any pictures of it nor take any notes so the Boulevard Nutcracker Ale will be our Christmas ghost on this list.  If you’re being a scrooge,  Nutcracker will find you and make you see what it means to celebrate the holidays here in Kansas City.  Bahhh Humbuggers Be Gone! 


Christmas Stocking – Hung from the mantle with care every year is Sam Adams Winter Lager.  I’ve mentioned it before, my idea of a perfect Christmas brew is something with some good maltiness accompanied by a balanced cinnamon character.  Nothing fits the bill year after year like Sam Adams Winter Lager.  The nose emits graininess with a hint of some spiced cinnamon.  Your palate is rewarded with a subtle malt sweetness initially, followed by a nice cinnamon spice.  There is a bit of orange peel hiding in there but it’s appearance is fairly brief.  This is a brew I can’t count on year in and year out to signal Christmas is here, just like my good ole stocking.
 

 
 
Christmas Breakfast with Grandpa – A newcomer this year is Mother’s Brewing Company’s Winter Grind.  This brew starts with a nose of straight up cup-o-jo.  Did I mistakenly purchase some coffee from the liquor store?  Sure smelled like it.  The taste falls in line with the nose being very very coffee forward.  The mouthfeel seemed somewhat thin lending even more credibility that you are in fact ingesting coffee instead of a brew.  There’s not much sweetness up front with the flavor profile jumping pretty much straight into a cup of coffee.  There is nice and smooth coffee roast character in this brew that is present throughout the palate.  Some malt sweetness and grain poke through about mid palate but make a quick exit.  The finish is dry with coffee roast lingering for a while.  I really liked this brew because the coffee roast quality is super smooth.  There aren’t many beer traits to blend with it but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  You want a brew to remind you of the mornings of drinking coffee with Grandpa?  This one will do it.  Hold the cream and sugar please.
 

Fruitcake – The most anti-climatic gift of all time.  Even socks/underpants are at least functional, but the fruitcake will most likely see the bottom of a trash can.  Free State Winter Fest IPA unfortunately is the fruitcake of this list.  I’m not sure if it was old or not carefully stored but it wasn’t good.  The nose was spectacular with citrus and fruit jumping into your senses.  A bit of malt sweetness up front followed by a wheat or maybe a corn character that seemed out of place.  Could the hop character in the finish help this awkward brew out?  Nope it was non-existent.  A hint of dark grapefruit was the only hop character available, but it was really slight.
 

The Super Awesome Gift but Without the Batteries - Another new to me brew is Deschutes Jubelale.  With the bottle adorned by beautiful art work and a badge of 6.7% ABV, I was intrigued.  Nothing else on the bottle gave any hint of what to expect from this “festive winter ale”.  The first thing I noticed was the beautiful red complexion in the glass.  Man was it pretty.  The nose sports a bit of grain with hop aroma on the tail end.  Was this another fresh hop ipa-esque brew?  Tell me more!  The brew starts with good malt complexity initially, a touch of graininess followed by some simple sweetness.  Some caramel character is noticeable and then in the sake of wonderful complexity a bit of fruitiness comes out as well.  The brew finishes with a subtle bitterness and a dull mint hop character.  Wow!  This is a very well put together brew.  This brew hits the Christmas/winter seasonal on the head without the use of cinnamon or spice (at least from what I could tell).  This beer was superb but didn’t take my holiday brew top spot, so it’s like that awesome RC car you got when you were a kid that your grandparents forget to get the batteries.
 

The Broken Record of Christmas Music – It skips and repeats, skips and repeats, and repeats.  At least it’s Christmas Music and it is Christmas Day so it’s only mildly annoying.  I’ve noticed that almost all of the Sam Adams Seasonals are supplemented with cinnamon and orange peel.  So when you’re moving through the sampler you are getting similar tastes of cinnamon and subtle orange peel but the base beer styles are different enough to keep it interesting.  The Sam Adams Holiday Porter is a staple for me in the sampler.  The nose has faint sweetness with hints of bread.  The palate has nice maltiness which isn’t really sweet but more a munich type grainy bread character.  The brew is finished nicely with a hint of roast character.  This very drinkable porter is a FatCat staple just like Christmas music while decorating the Christmas tree.
 

Lump of Coal -  Yes, even worse than fruit cake is the lump of coal in your stocking.  Not only is it worthless, it is a symbol that you were an a-hole this year.  As much as I applaud Sam Adams, they occasionally lay an egg.  The brew I was most excited to try in the sampler was the new White Christmas.  This brew claims to be a crisp white ale with spices.  White ale would mean to me that there should be some substantial yeast character with the possibility of tartness in the finish.  Well they got the crisp part right and that’s about where the story ends.  This brew is actually kind of bland with the only prominent character being cinnamon.  Cinnamon alcohol water, yummy.  It’s not really a bad tasting beer it just doesn’t have any character.  Sorry Sammy but swing and a miss on this one.
 

The Christmas Tree – Nothing smells better than a real Christmas tree in your house.  That scent is amazing and offers up the smell of the outdoors without all the squirrels and snow.  I was taken by surprise last year by the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.  Its big bad hop aroma and hop character smack your senses around like they owe them money.  The aroma is big and piney lending hint to the devastating bitterness that lay in the depths of this brew.  You’re greeted with a bit of caramel sweetness and immediately swept away by never-ending bitterness.  This is one of the few brews I bought an entire six pack of this year.  Now along with my cinnamon laced expectations of winter brews, I now have the hunger for big hop character in the Celebration Ale too.  Like chewing on a Christmas tree but more enjoyable, Celebration Ale.  
  

The Angel – She may be getting out-dated because you’ve had her so long but she represents your family’s Christmas.  There are more exciting and modern offerings out there but there is something about her classic look that you just can’t replace.  Sam Adams Old Fezziwig is my classic angel.  I look forward to this brew every year.  There are several beers I’ve tried this year that are “better” than my Fezziwig but they won’t replace it.  The nose is a bit of graininess with a hint of spice.  A nice mouthfeel sets this one apart from the other cinnamon laced Sam Adams Seasonals.  A nice dull sweetness greets you mid palate and then finishes with a subtle roastiness.  A nice cinnamon character ties it all together.
 
    

The Super Nintendo – As a child I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted more in my life than a Nintendo.  This was my Red Ryder 200 shot BB gun.  It was the best gift I ever received once I finally did get my Super Nintendo as a child.  Years and years of lobbying had finally paid off and that magic box was finally mine.  What Christmas/winter brew could possibly be comparable to a Nintendo?  How about an Empyrean Winter Axis Festival Ale?  It is 6% ABV and 41 IBUs of pure deliciousness.  The nose starts of with a wonderful funky Belgian yeast spice erupting from the glass.  A Belgian for Christmas, huh?  Interesting.  It begins with a really nice sweetness up front.  The sweetness is not overdone and has hints of brown sugar to keep it interesting.  This is basically the roller coaster at the top of the hill because the yeast comes in mid palate and whoosh!  The yeast has a nicely balanced spiced character with an enjoyable sharpness to perfectly accompany the malt sweetness.  The finish is mostly dry with yeast character being the star but a bit of the malt sweetness perseveres to the end.  I could be a little over zealous comparing this brew to a Nintendo but it really shined in this line up.  I guess it could be its uniqueness that sets it above the other winter warmers and fresh hop ales.  Either way this is on my must buy list for next year, most likely along with the Jubelale and Celebration.  I’m going to have to start saving for Christmas a lot earlier next year.

 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a beer filled night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

FatCat's Guide to the Apocalypse

It’s the moment of truth, the last few days left on earth. That’s what the Mayans said, so it must be true. It’s not like they sacrificed their own people or threw corpses into their own drinking water to make the gods happy. Crap! According to the Discovery Channel last night they did do that. Well if we’re taking advice from those guys, I guess we’ll believe anything so here is FatCat’s Guide to the Apocalypse. Did I mention there are Mayan carvings that show they planned a celebration for their former deified king in the year 4000 and something. That’s way past December 21, 2012 but we’ll go ahead and ride this “end of the Mayan calendar” apocalypse thing out anyhow.



What sort of apocalypse could this be? I’m voting for zombies. Some other possibilities that I feel would be complete devastation are super volcanos and solar flares. Of course there could be tidal waves, earthquakes, and super storms but that wouldn’t mean the end of life as we know it. So let’s concentrate on surviving zombies, volcanos, and solar flares. I’ve done extensive research (not) and have put together this list of survival tips…well let’s call them enjoyment tips for the apocalypse.

First off we’ll be discussing surviving a solar flare. A solar flare will theoretically destroy all electronic devices sending us 30 years into the past. Imagine the devastation when your Ipod will not function! How can we possibly survive!?!?!?! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! OK, I guess the real problem is all of our utilities have been computerized which means no water treatment, no running water, no electricity (which the grids would probably be inoperable anyhow), and no Netflix. The fun thing about a solar flare is it would probably take people a week to a week and a half to start freaking out. We would probably be lied to at first saying that it’s no big deal it will be fixed in a couple of days. It would take roughly a week for people to run out of supplies and start to panic. You most likely wouldn’t have a job to go to while there is no power so you could actually tail gate the end of the world with this apocalypse. My suggestion is to stock up on something a little lighter so you can make it through the entire week before people try to bludgeon you for supplies. Perhaps start off with a couple cases of Ska True Blonde or some other canned craft brew. The cans are easier to transport and keep cold so you can wheel a cooler around and enjoy the scenery while being in a cheery semi-drunk end of the world daze. You would want to transition to something a little heavier, like Old Rasputin or Oak Aged Yeti as the week progresses. You might want to speak with the reverend, Elijah Craig, to offer you some comfort in these trying times. By the end of the week you want to be completely wasted so you won’t have to pay attention when society crumples. You would want to make sure your beverage is in a glass bottle at this point so you can break it and use it as a weapon.

Next, we’ll be surviving a zombie apocalypse. I know what you’re thinking, “FatCat really? A zombie apocalypse? That’s only in movies dummy.” Well there have been several reports of zombie-like activity around the world recently. People eating other people for no apparent reason. The guy in Miami with no previous mental health issues, clean criminal record, and no history of hard drug use who chewed off a homeless guys face while police fired repeated rounds into him. Red flag. Of course there would be a cover-up if this virus actually existed and the public would be completely in the dark until it was too late. Hell it would probably be weaponized before the scientists could take off their rubber gloves. So what do we do? Well to survive in a zombie world you have to think and act like a zombie. This means you would start hard and fast to inhibit motor skills and reasoning. I personally would break into my Zombie Apocalypse imperial stout stash and start there. For those who don’t have a Zombie Apocalypse imperial stout stash of their own, pick up some Avery The Czar because how fun would it be to be a Russian zombie? From here you would want to hit the hard stuff as well, perhaps some Wild Turkey 101 or some Booker’s. If you are squeamish with hard liquor, pick up some Southern Comfort 100 proof, a certifiable candy infused middle finger in a bottle. Throw some steaks on the grill because what zombie doesn’t enjoy some medium rare meat? You wouldn’t really want to let your flesh rot to smell like a zombie so we’ll throw down some cover scent with a good cigar. Grab one of my favorite cigars of all time, the Oliva Serie V torpedo and fire it up. Even if the cigar cover scent thing doesn’t work, you’ll die smoking an awesome cigar! If you survive the first day, repeat.



Finally, we have to worry about a super volcano erupting. According to Discovery Channel last night (yes Discovery Channel is taking full advantage of this crap and even had Samuel L Jackson narrating one of the apocalypse shows, that’s right motherf*cker) we would have to worry about Yosemite spewing a Los Angeles sized magma ball into the atmosphere. This would effectively blanket the entire United States in toxic ash. In addition to the entire U.S. being extinct, the jet stream would carry this ash worldwide making us a close relative of the dinosaur. You might as well grab a bottle of your finest and kiss your ass good bye if this happens. I would recommend some Pappy Van Winkle (yeah I can’t find it either) or some George T Stagg. I know what you’re thinking, “What if we live in underground bunkers?” Well my theory is by the time it would be safe to re-surface there would be aliens already living on Earth. These aliens would then re-invent the classic arcade favorite, Whac-A-Mole.


If you follow the steps outlined above, I guarantee you will Survive enjoy the end of the world as we know it. If the world doesn’t end and you wake up with a hangover, relax it’s Friday, it’s not like you were going to work that hard anyway.


Cheers!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Founder's Breakfast Stout Clone!




Cloning without stem cell research or mad scientists, that’s what FatCat has been up to.  Water, grain, hops, yeast, coffee, chocolate…Bwahahahah (evil mad scientist laugh with lightning and thunder in the background).  There are forums, magazine articles, and entire books dedicated to homebrewing clone recipes.  I have always wondered to myself why would you want to homebrew a clone?  You have the ultimate in creative control when homebrewing, so why would you attempt to make a beer that has already been made and is commercially available?  That has been my question for years.  The answer to my question is it is next to impossible to get some world famous beers without a high price point and/or the necessity to beg local stores to put you on “the list”.  I know what you’re thinking, “FatCat it took you 5 years of homebrewing to figure out the virtues of cloning?”.  Well, I’ve never claimed to be quick on the uptake. 

The Founder’s Breakfast Stout is not the first attempt at cloning.  The beer that initially inspired me to look into cloning commercial brews was New Glarus Spotted Cow cream ale.  I have family who occasionally travel to the Milwaukee area where the great Spotted Cow lives.  They bring me back a couple of sixers of this delicious brew which is quickly dispatched into my awaiting gullet.  After the Spotted Cow is consumed I have nothing but memories to comfort me on cold nights.  So it came to me one day in my mad scientist homebrew lair, why not try to clone it.  I found a forum on the internet with a 50+ page thread dedicated to homebrewers attempting to clone the infamous Spotted Cow with some self proclaimed accuracy.  We fired up the propane and came out with FatCat Polka Dotted Bovine.  Our mash efficiency was a little higher than expected making our clone higher in ABV.  When compared to my last aged Spotted Cow in the fridge our clone was quite a bit sweeter but was definitely along the same lines as the authentic version.  It was a crowd pleaser, especially for those who only drink light lagers or are otherwise not extensive craft beer drinkers.  We have had several requests to re-brew this clone, so if you need to homebrew something for a big get together this would be a great choice.  We have also brewed a Stone Arrogant Bastard clone which I don’t think was very close to the original but delicious nonetheless.  We are planning to attempt a clone of Great Divide Yeti by the close of the year.  Next year we are going legendary and attempting to clone Pliny the Elder and Kate the Great.  We will have no way to compare our clones to the originals but it’s the thought that counts.   

I got the crew together this week and we compared our Fat Kid’s Breakfast Stout to Founder’s Breakfast Stout.  Could our clone stand up to one of the most popular beers ever made?  For simplicity sake I will use FBS to stand for Founder’s Break Fast Stout and FKS for Fat Kid Breakfast Stout from here on out. 
 



The comparison:

I carbonated the FKS a little higher than I would have preferred but it didn’t really affect the taste or mouthfeel compared to FBS.  They were both similar in this aspect.

Nose:
The FKS starts with delicate coffee aroma with some noticeable chocolate character in a supporting role.  The FBS had stronger coffee aromas which were more “brewed” than our clone.  The coffee aroma is more burnt so to speak and masks any chocolate aroma from what I could detect. 

FKS taste:
Coffee character immediately greets your palate.  Similar to the nose, the flavor is a delicate non-burnt/brewed character.  Big chocolate character comes in mid palate and has residual sweetness to round it out.  The finish is fairly sweet with smooth coffee-ness closing the show.

FBS taste:
You are immediately hit with coffee.  This coffee character is more of the “brewed” variety which is somewhat astringent or acrid.  Some good chocolate character comes in mid-palate with very little sweetness with it.  The finish has a muted grainy character followed by a long coffee dryness. 

Conclusion:

The clone (FKS) has more residual sweetness available throughout the palate compared to the drier character of the original (FBS).  The sweetness helps round out the chocolate in the clone brew adding a bit of complexity in this respect.  The clone also had a more reserved coffee character which can be attributed to how we administered it in the brewing process.  The original recipe called for the first coffee addition to be added to the boil.  After researching our options we decided to cool our wort to 140 degrees before putting the coffee in to “brew”.  We were hoping to avoid the burnt/astringent coffee character which had been described when putting coffee in the boil.  This seems to be the difference between our coffee character, delicate, and that of the FBS, astringent/acrid (not that I claim to know how Founder’s actually makes there beer).  For the second addition of coffee we first cold brewed it in a large pitcher for about 24hrs and then added it to the fermenter. 

Overall, I would say this clone is very very close to the original.  Without drinking these two side by side I thought the clone was spot on.  I’ve had a FBS within the last week, so my taste memory was fairly up to date at the point I tried the FKS by itself.  When trying them side by side, the subtle differences became apparent.  We also broke out a year old FBS which had a more subtle coffee character compared to the fresh FBS.  The year old FBS’s coffee character was very similar to our clone.  I will call this clone a big success.  I think the recipe is about as close as you can get to the original without actually stealing it from Founder’s. 

Are you ready for the KBS version?  Go bourbon soaked oak chips, Go!

Here's the recipe if you care to experiment in your own mad scientist lair:

Fat Kid's Breakfast Stout

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who Makes Your Beer?

Is it important to you who makes your beer?


Do you support local by buying local as much as possible?

Do you support local but will buy imports or nation/regionally distributed craft brands? Do you usually avoid buying brands made by large brewing corporations?

Does it not matter too much, you will buy and drink beer from breweries of any size?

That is the question, and those are the three possible answers in a poll being administered by homebrew guru Charlie Papazian. The voting is open until midnight on 12/12/12. This is a repeat of the same poll completed in 2008 and 2010 with an increasing trend toward people caring about who makes the beer they consume. It brings up an interesting point that I feel needs more acknowledgement in our current economic downturn. That point is the necessity to buy local/U.S. made. As our jobs are being stripped from our country and sent to foreign countries, companies like AB Inbev and Wal-Mart are absolutely thriving. That should be a wake up call to consumers. What’s the real cost of convenience? Your neighbors job? Your friend’s job? Your job?

Some people don’t see the importance of not drinking Bud Light or any other myriad of AB Inbev offerings. “If I like the taste of the beer what’s the big deal? Why is there such hatred for the big 3?” If you haven’t seen the documentary Beer Wars, you should. More recently I came across an article on businessweek.com, “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer”. What’s so bad about Bud Light? One answer is after Inbev acquired one of the most red blooded American brands ever developed, Anheuser-Busch, they laid off 1,400 people and sold off $9.4 billion in assets. It was not to reinvest in the company and make it stronger, it was to give themselves GIANT bonuses. “I go to Wal-Mart because they have everything I need there and cheap, what’s the big deal.” I had the same mindset before I watched the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices. Putting local business owners out of business while getting tax breaks to do so. Full time employees being paid below poverty level. Not offering a realistic medical insurance option while at the same time advising their employees to file for state assistance instead. A 400 billion dollar company indirectly using tax dollars to pay for their employees’ health insurance should outrage any tax payer. This documentary is rather dated being released in 2005, so I don’t know how accurately the practices outlined in this film represent what’s going on today. The fact is, these practices were in place at Wal-Mart at some point and have undoubtedly hurt this country.  (On a side note when you go to imdb.com and do a search for "Wal-mart" the second result is Playboy: Women of Wal-Mart 2004.  I bet that is a humdinger)

I’m not trying to make a political statement one way or another. I’m not a lefty or righty or whatever other description politicians try to categorize themselves and their followers. I simply think consumers in this day and age should make a conscious effort to support our fellow citizens by buying local/USA made. I’m not going to lie to you and claim I buy exclusively American made goods. However, I have been making a more conscious effort to buy American made goods when possible.

I found a handy website to get you on the fast track to buying American made:

Americans Working.com

Cheers!

Monday, December 3, 2012

KBS is that you?

It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s the birth of KBS. Well sort of. It’s the birth of FatCat’s own version of KBS.  Oak chips and bourbon, now that's pretty.


As I mentioned in my LOST post, I have been sucked into the bulk homebrew vortex of insanity. Not only is the price of homebrew (when done in bulk) ridiculously cheap, you also have the opportunity to try and replicate your favorite brews. For years the untouchables have tempted my wallet and my better judgment. Dark Lord, KBS, The Abyss, Kate the Great, the list could go on forever. You could spend exorbitant amounts of cash trying to buy these off Ebay or trying to convince someone to trade you through the mail. Or you could just read the forums, salivate over other peoples descriptions, and allow your jealousy to build to the point where you secretly hope for them to contract VD while simultaneously being struck by a flaming bus. I digress. As a way to ease my jealousy, I began to search for homebrewing clone recipes. I found a clone recipe for regular Founder’s Breakfast Stout out of Brew Your Own magazine. Jackpot!

After extensive ingredient hunting and gathering we brewed FatCat’s Fat Kid’s Breakfast Stout. We hit our original gravity on the nose and have been waiting patiently for the yeast to do its magic. Three weeks passed and it was time to move out of the primary fermenter. While transferring the stout I grabbed a quick sample and this brew should be awesome. It seemed a little sweet compared to what I remember the original Founder’s Breakfast Stout being but the coffee character was superb. Hurry up and carbonate you dark sultry strumpet.

The Breakfast Stout clone is alliiiivvvveee!!!! Why not put some of it on bourbon soaked oak chips and go for the gusto of creating KBS? I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in the authentic KBS as of yet but I conjecture if the original Breakfast Stout clone is fairly close in character why wouldn’t our KBS be close as well? With no KBS to compare it to we will have to use our imaginations. So if anyone has a spare bottle of KBS laying around go ahead and send it to me. It will be a month or so before my KBS’esque Breakfast Stout is ready so you have plenty of time to get it to me.

I’m getting the crew together this week and we will be comparing some Founder’s Breakfast Stout to FatCat’s Fat Kid’s Breakfast Stout. How close did we get? Stay tuned and you will find out.

Cheers!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Opposite of Wings...



In the absence of critical thinking and writing composition I give you the simple gift of humor.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LOST


I have ventured to the outer reaches of the earth (not really) and now I’m back to tell the tale. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog and I’m sure all of you are very concerned about the wellbeing of FatCat and whether the action will continue on the blog. Rest assured FatCat is alive and well. Some minor shifts in interest have taken place in the past few months which have limited my blog posts and my involvement in Kansas City’s great craft brew culture. I’ve recently been on a “craft beer hiatus” and on a “bulk hombrew infatuation”.


There has been a nasty epidemic going around and I was unable to avoid it. I’ve caught the let’s-buy-homebrew-ingredients-in-bulk-bug. As hard as I try to fight it I have not been able to shake it. Hundreds of pounds of grain? Yes please. Pounds of hops? Thank you sir may I have another. $1.70 six packs of homebrew? Um yeah! How about having enough kegs on tap in your garage to rival some bars? SOLD! I think I’m am too far gone to be saved, you should save yourselves.

A few stars aligned and fate has steered me into this wonderful delirium. It all began last year when I was “hunting” down all the special release brews that I could get my hands on. I had a solid plan, spend enough money at a single liquor store to pay their rent. Surely, I will be on “the list” then? Well it turned out like a solid plan and I was able to get most of the limited brews released in the KC area last year. I gathered friends to share in the brewing gold contained within these limited edition bottles and we came to a disappointing conclusion. Most of the brews didn’t really live up to their hype. They were good, but on several occasions we agreed that we preferred some non-limited releases to the limited ones. This started the shift into thinking, “Hey this may not be worth it”. A little more time passed and the dreaded Boulevard Chocolate Ale fiasco hit the area. The new wave of Chocolate Ale related insanity left a sour taste in some of the local stores managers/employees mouths regarding special releases. Facebook comments about people being overly obnoxious and/or rude while searching for Chocolate Ale were numerous. A conversation with my beer guy revealed he had to deal with numerous criticisms from customers about how special releases were being handled. That seemed to signal the downfall of my plan to support a single store with my beer/bourbon purchases in exchange for being on “the list”. Ever since then when I inquire about limited releases over the phone, I basically get hung up on. At one point I was told to call back tomorrow after 2pm and see if someone is available and they will decide if I am “eligible” to buy it. This solidified the point that special releases are clearly not worth the hassle for me. As such there is no need for me to patronize a single store anymore.

As all of this “special release” clarity was becoming apparent I was lucky enough to acquire some brewing partners. With a few of us involved we were able to make large batches of homebrew in about the same amount of time. A few equipment upgrades, some yeast farming, and a few bulk homebrew ingredient orders later we are producing some $2.00-$3.00 six-packs of homebrew. No real need to visit the stores anymore right? Well I’ve held out as long as I can but it’s that time of year when Oktoberfests start making their appearance and are usually followed by imperial stouts. I have a built in weakness for these styles so I’m afraid resistance to commercial brew/prices will be futile. I was looking the other day and saw one of my favorite Oktoberfests from Free State at $7.99. I thought to myself immediately, “Man that is expensive!” When I came back to reality, I realized how ridiculously good of a price that was for commercial brew. I told you I'm delirious.

I did manage to get to the liquor store a few times this summer so I have a couple reviews on deck. I also found the perfect brew to drink out of the Spiegelau glasses. Hopefully I can get the crew together for a second annual Oktoberfest Shootout! Big things are coming don’t miss it!

Cheers!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Spiegelau Tulip vs Sam Adams Perfect Pint


Craft beer popularity is exploding and is gaining attention from companies normally reserved to wine drinkers.  Riedel is a name usually associated with quality wine glasses but now the Spiegelau division of Riedel has their sights set on hardcore beer nuts with super premium glassware made specifically for enjoying quality craft brew.  I’ve heard about Spiegelau glassware in the past but either didn’t pay attention or just assumed it would cost more than I was willing to pay.  The other day I was perusing The Beer and Whiskey Brothers post about the virtues of Spiegelau beer glasses when I was pleasantly surprised.  It was interesting to read all the scientific reasons provided by the manufacturer why the Spiegelau glass is supposed to be tip top.  The real exciting part of that post was the fact that Spiegelau now had a 4 glass variety set available for $39.99 on Amazon. SOLD!

I did tons of research as to whether these Spiegelau beer glasses were really worth it and whether they really offered a better beer drinking experience.  Everyone seemed to provide glowing reviews about how awesome these glasses are.  Ok t-minus 5 days until delivery from Amazon.  The package arrived but the postal worker gave me devastating news, “It sounds like it is broken”.  You could hear the broken glass sliding from one side of the box to the other, nice packaging Amazon.  Son of a motherless f…I digress.  Amazon was more than willing to refund my purchase price but I wanted my damn glasses.  I went with Wine Enthusiast for my reorder but they didn’t have the variety pack so I just got two tulip glasses or stemmed pilsner glass as Spiegelau calls them for $24.99 + shipping.  The glasses arrived still intact and it was time to test the Holy Grail of beer glasses! 

My favorite beer glass of all-time is the Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass.  I’ve used it so much that the graphics are starting to wear off.  The kicker is that the Sam Adams Perfect Pint was also made by Riedel.  Hmmmm!  Could the Perfect Pint stand up to the Spiegelau crystal goblet sent from the beer gods themselves?  This could get interesting.


Ska True Blonde Ale

The first beer to try out was the lightest beer I had on hand, Ska True Blonde Ale.  I tried this brew previously and thought it was decent for what it was.  If you want an American Light Lager substitute for the lake or whatever other all day drinking event, the True Blonde is great.  The Perfect Pint produced a much better head and held the head for longer than the Spiegelau which was the case in all of my tests

.NOSE:  The Perfect Pint gave off a grainy/bready malt aroma with a very subtle grass hop character.  The Spiegelau nose is more delicate but easier to sense.  The grainy malt character and delicate hop grassy character blend much more eloquently. 
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  The Perfect Pint taste was very “thin” with very little taste up front.  The grainy malt character shows up about mid palate and then leads to a bit of grassy hop character on the finish.  The overall character is very dry and seems a bit rough around the edges.  The Spiegelau blends the grain/hop character better and makes the roughness go away.  The mellower grainy malt character starts faster on the palette and leads to a fuller taste.  The grassy hop character is not as harsh and the taste actually brightens up slightly on the finish.
WINNER: Spiegelau


Omalley’s IPA

I got a six pack of this the other day on a whim.  If you follow me, you know I really want to like this local brewery but they seem to ride mediocrity with most of their offerings I’ve tried.  The one thing I can applaud Weston for is that they are coming out with new stuff all the time.  When I tried this the other day I was impressed with the uniqueness of this IPA.  It’s not super hoppy but the earthy/floral hop character is a nice change of pace from the typical citrusy IPAs. 

NOSE:   The nose from the Perfect Pint was dominated by caramel notes without much in the way of hop character.  The nose from the Spiegelau was a more robust caramel character and was much easier to pick up.
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  From the Perfect Pint, the IPA had good sweetness up front with a bit of caramel coming in mid palette.  The finish has an interesting earthy/floral hop character with a slight fruity/tart character at the end.  From the Speigelau the malt caramel character was more robust and the overall character seemed to have more bitterness.  The taste was smoother and better rounded but was not as “detailed” as the Perfect Pint.
WINNER:  Perfect Pint


Great Divide Wolfgang

This brew is completely new to me so I had no expectations of what it was going to taste like.  8.0% ABV.  Up to this point the differences in taste between the Perfect Pint and the Spiegelau have been very slight so for a curveball I decided to throw in a New Belgium tulip glass.

NOSE:  From the Perfect Pint there is a bit of malt sweetness with a grainy straw-like aroma.  From the Spiegelau there was a less harsh grainy character but very similar to the aroma from the Perfect Pint.
WINNER: Spiegelau

TASTE:  From the Perfect Pint there was a soft sweetness initially that was not overly “simple”.  The sweetness was more of a dark flavor that was reminiscent of a light molasses or maybe even a mild prune character.  From the Spiegelau the taste was very similar except there was a bit more bitterness on the finish and the overall character was more crisp.  From the New Belgium tulip there was a distinct fruity character not present in either of the other two glasses.  I went back through and tasted the three samples one right after another and it was pretty amazing the nuance in each glass.  The Perfect Pint had a better darker malt character, the Spiegelau had more bitterness with more crispness, and the New Belgium had a fruity character.
WINNER: Perfect Pint


CONCLUSION:

As I said before the taste differences between the Perfect Pint and the Spiegelau were very slight.  It was not what I was expecting as far the definition of taste in each glass.  It seemed like the Perfect Pint had higher definition in individual flavors and the Spiegelau seemed to blend the flavors better for a smoother experience.  I thought the Spiegelau would have the higher definition flavors vs the Perfect Pint.  The Spiegelau had hands down the better nose definition so that is a plus for it.  Building head and keeping head was better in all cases with the Perfect Pint. 

What turned out to be the deciding factor for me doesn’t have anything to do with the nose or the taste.  The reason I would say I prefer the Spiegelau glass is the glass itself.  When I first started this test I preferred how the Perfect Pint’s flared rim fit in my mouth.  The flared rim excels in pulling out malt character when compared with the Spiegelau.  The Spiegelau’s rim is super thin and offers the least interference in your mouth when enjoying a brew.  It doesn’t take up as much real estate on your lips while drinking. 


There was another thing related to the glass itself that took me a while to put my finger on.  The beer in the Spiegelau always seemed to be colder than the beer in the Perfect Pint.  I got out a thermometer and tested it out.  There wasn’t much difference in how fast beer in either glass warmed up.  It was always pretty much the same temperature in both glasses throughout the drinking process.  What could this perceived coolness come from?  I finally figured out that the thicker glass in the Perfect Pint picked up more heat from your hands.  This didn’t heat the beer any faster but when you put the rim of the Perfect Pint to your lip it was clearly much much warmer than the rim of the Spiegelau.  So it tricked your palate into thinking the incoming beer from the Perfect Pint was warmer than incoming beer from the Spiegelau.  Now that I’m aware of how warm the Perfect Pint rim is on my lips, it drives me crazy. 

There you have it, my beer geekdom in full force.  I have dissected all the reasons and minute details regarding how my beloved Perfect Pint compares to the Spiegelau stemmed pilsner glass.  The deciding factor turned out to be the thinness of the Spiegelau glass and how it is the least intrusive beer consumption method I have.  It would be awesome if Spiegelau flared the rims on their glass to pick up that extra malt character.  A beer geek can only wish.  Is it worth the price?  It probably depends on your drinking habits and/or environment.  If you are kind of wild and tend to break a lot of glassware then the Spiegelau is probably not worth it.  If you take the time to relax and taste your beer without the ever present threat of shattering your beloved glassware then the Spiegelau would be a good idea.  Not to mention when you flick the Spiegelau it makes a cool noise.  Now that’s worth the price of admission.

OVERALL WINNER:  SPIEGELAU


Cheers!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Holy 4th of July Batman!


Hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July. This year I experimented with constructing a mortar rack for my finale. There is nothing more exciting than building a contraption that launches 24 artillery shells in less the 30 seconds while in the close confines of a suburban environment.  What could go wrong?  Luckily everything went off smoothly and no one or thing was blown up.  As much as I worried about something going wrong with the mortars, a fountain proved to be the scariest firework we had.  The Tailgate Party fountain started out unassuming enough and then about 5 minutes in it got angry.  People were running, the neighbor’s truck was endangered, traffic was halted, it was awesome!    


If you decide you want to endanger yourselves, your property, and your neighbors property by building a mortar rack be sure to get the right tubes.  DO NOT USE PVC PIPE.  I got my tubes from Pyrodirect.com.

And for everyone that said, "It's dry, don't catch anything on fire..." suck it.  Nothing even came close to catching on fire, well except the neighbors trash can but that wasn't my fault.  Here is my mortar rack in action.  The video is terribly composed because I went from horizontal to vertical with my phone midway through the shot so it looks like the mortars are shooting sideways.  I assure you the mortars were shooting UP into the air.  I also forgot I was shooting video and only got about half of the breaks in the sky.  Oops!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

So You Want to Go All Grain?


I have been brewing for about 5 years now and my process/equipment haven’t changed much from the beginning.  I’m going to give you an overview of my mash tun set up and how I accomplish my sparge.  There are other methods out their but these are the ones that seemed the simplest to me when I started and the ones I continue to use today.  If you are new to homebrewing and /or all grain some of this might seem overly complicated but don’t be discouraged.  If you can make tea, you have all the mechanics down to make beer. 

One of the first decisions you have to make when making the jump to all grain is what kind of mash tun you are going to use.  My Mash Tun of choice is a rectangular Coleman Cooler.  This is what I had in the garage when I decided to make the jump to all grain and have loved it ever since.  Wait WTF is a mash tun?  A mash tun is basically where you are going to mix your cracked grains and your heated water.  Inside the tun the heated water will cause the starches in the grains to “convert” and change into sugar.  There are different variables to change the outcome of the beer profile but the typical values are 1.5 quarts of mash water to 1lb of grain at a temperature of around 152 F.  Once the grain is mixed with the water, you have to let it rest.  This will typically take about 1 hour and then you are ready to start rinsing the sugar out of the grain.  To do this you will be completing a process called sparging. 

Sparging involves taking 170F water and “sprinkling” it over the grain bed to rinse the sugars from the grain.  The methods of sparging generally comes in two flavors, batch sparging and fly sparging.  Briefly peruse the interwebs and you can see the homebrew community is locked into a heated battle over which method is best.  I think only a few people have lost their lives in this debate but be careful, homebrewers are crazy.  I’m sure both methods have their positive attributes but I’ve  personally only used the fly sparging method.  Fly sparging involves dripping your sparge water onto your grain bed from above in a steady amount while at the same time draining your wort (sugar water) from the bottom of the tun at approximately the same ratio.  Both methods accomplish the same goal (rinsing sugars out of the grain) but when I started brewing, the fly sparging method seemed less complicated.   I hold my sparge water in a 10 gallon round cooler (called a hot liquor tank) on top of my refrigerator.  I used a 5 gallon round cooler for years when I was brewing 5 gallon batches.  I just recently bought the 10 gallon cooler to accommodate 10+gallon batches.  When I’m ready to sparge (sparge water already in my hot liquor tank) I run a hose from the hot liquor tank down to the mash tun and let gravity do its work.  As with everything in homebrewing you can make this as elaborate or complicated as you want.  You can add fancy ball valves and plumbing if you like but it is not necessary.  Some vinyl tubing and a cheap plastic valve is all you need.

While sparging you must separate the wort(sugar water) from the grain and drain it into our brew kettle without excess grain/husk material.  To do this you will need to use a “manifold” device to strain the wort out of the grain.  Many people use a stainless steel braid manifold but I chose to go with good old copper.  It was cheap to buy, easy to make, and is easy to clean.  I started off with a 2 leg copper manifold in my previous mash tun and stepped up to a 4 leg copper manifold in my newer mash tun.  The 2 leg was super easy to make and netted me about 70% mash efficiency which isn’t outstanding but gets the job done.  The 4 leg manifold in my larger mash tun gets me about 80% mash efficiency but was a little more complicated to build.  If you are just getting started, I recommend the 2 leg copper manifold for the construction simplicity.  The slits in the copper tubing were cut using a hacksaw blade and some elbow grease.  The copper manifold is not soldered together so it will come apart easily for cleaning.  The only real design consideration is that you don’t want the legs/drains of your manifold too close to the wall of the cooler.  If it is too close the water will run down the cooler walls instead of running through the grain.  According to John Palmer you want the distance of the outside leg/drain to be ½ the distance of the spacing of the legs.  So if you have a manifold with two legs spaced 6 inches apart the closest you want it to the cooler walls is 3 inches.  A lot of photos you see where people are using coolers for mash tuns they have replaced the stock drain hole with a ball valve.  I found that vinyl tubing fits perfectly in the stock drain hole and I can use a plastic valve on the end of the tubing to control flow.  That saves your from having to buy a ball valve and bulkhead assembly.


The next area a lot of people get glossy eyed when I start rambling is about water chemistry.  It seems a ton more difficult than it really is.  John Palmer does an outstanding job explaining how water chemistry effects theoutcome of a mash.  I use his spreadsheet to calculate all my water additions prior to brewing which is simply a matter of typing in the numbers of my local water report and choosing the amount to dilute with distilled water.  The only issue I have found with our local water is it is really high in sulfate which has the potential to make hop bitterness very astringent.  To combat this I typically add some calcium chloride to my water which will even out the effects of having too much sulfate.   Water chemistry is a big hang up for a lot of would-be all grainers but it is not near as complicated as it seems.  Once you get a couple brews under your belt figuring the water will be second nature.

If you’ve made it this far you are on the home stretch.  The other major equipment upgrades you will need for all grain is a turkey fyrer/burner and a wort chiller.  With all grain you will be doing full batch boiling and you will need to heat up a full 7.5 gallons (or whatever batch size) worth of wort and on the flipside cool all that hot wort down.  Cooling could take hours if you are trying to submerge your pot in an ice bath.  The cooling solution is an immersion chiller.  You can make one of these for the cost of copper tubing and the labor of wrapping it around a cylindrical object.  I used 50 feet of 3/8 inch copper tubing to make mine.  One important concept to help cut your cooling time down is to stir the wort with a sanitized spoon as it is cooling.  If you ever go full force into brewing and buy a pump, check out Jamil’s Whirlpool Chiller.


What will I need to go all grain:

Mash Tun – Cooler  $40.00

Hot Liquor Tank – 5 or 10gal round cooler $25.00-$50.00

Copper Manifold - $25.00 for simple 2 leg design



Boil kettle capable of boiling 7.5 gallons of wort - $80.00

Turkey Fryer - $50.00

Immersion chiller – 50’ of 3/8in copper tubing $60.00


Total approximate cost to go all grain - $286.00

Cost of taking grain and making beer out of it – priceless


References:










Thursday, May 31, 2012

In the Ring with Yakima Wheat


There was an invisible force drawing me towards Schlafly’s Yakima Wheat.  Why?  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  This curiosity was overwhelming and I was getting telepathic visions of this brews greatness (you know mind bullets).  I didn’t know what the future had in store for me but subconsciously I knew I was destined to meet this brew in a glass encased ring of taste bud battle.  Would the Yakima Wheat conquer my palate with delicious liquid warfare or would my palate destroy a dull opponent?  Only one way to find out and that is to go at it mano a mano.

The Yakima Wheat pours with a beautiful fluffy white head protruding out of the top of the glass.  The body is a pale straw color with a nice cloudy character.  The nose fights through the towering head to serve up a citrusy lemon character coupled with a subtle wheat spice.  The mouthfeel seemed a bit thick from what I was expecting out of a spring/summer wheat beer.  A wheat spice character was the first in the line of assault followed by a fairly substantial malty sweetness coming on mid palate.  Once again another surprise with the sweetness which I was not expecting from a spring/summer wheat beer.  Even with the uncexpected character the initial balance between the wheat spice and the sweetness is very well done.  The only question left, could this wheat beer deliver on the YAKIMA?  As a brother in arms, a citrusy/earthy hop character comes in and joins the malty sweetness about mid palate.  They remain together through the finish where a nice mellow bitterness rounds out the brew.  Nothing is really overpowering but overall the adjective that comes to mind is, “smooth”.

The Yakima Wheat came at me with several tricks up its sleeve and ultimately defeated my palate with awesomeness.  Being a wheat beer I was expecting a heavy wheat spice with a thin dry body, of which this brew was neither.  I would also assume the Yakima portion of this brew would mean big hop presence and a substantial bitterness on the finish.  This was also not the case and a surprise.  When my expectations are different that what a brew delivers I am usually disappointed.  It turns out that's not the case in this instance and I thoroughly enjoyed this new Schlafly offering.  Everything was in balance and the overall character is just so smooth.  The fight is over, thank you sir may I have another?!?! 






Cheers! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

IT'S ALIIIIVEE!!!

We finally got around to brewing the hop bomb of mass destruction, the Chael’s Ale. This brew was put together in the spirit of Super Dave’s infatuation of overly hoppy beers. Moderation? We think not. Huge hop additions abound in this recipe. We threw down the gauntlet of tasty hops including Citra, Sorachi Ace, Chinook, and Centennial in hopes of creating some variation of a beautiful hop elixir that so many professional breweries are putting out these days. What was the method to the madness of pairing these hops together? You can do endless research about which hops pair well, cohumulone levels, late vs early additions, and about every other variable brewers obsess over to get an educated guess of what may work. FatCat chose a more rudimentary approach. Think of my favorite hoppy beers I’ve enjoyed in recent memory (check), find out what hops were in those (check), and throw them all in one goliath of a brew (check). The wait is on and we will find out whether this plan was ingenious or whether it's a hopped up nightmare. One thing is for sure, this is the most hops I’ve ever put in a recipe. The smells while brewing were amazing and I can’t wait to try it out. Taking sips from left over wort gives hint to the powerful bitterness this brew should be capable of.

We may have to come out with another FatCat public service announcement:
“Friends don’t let friends abuse hops”.

I did want to show some resemblance of restraint on the bitterness level and used the approximate bitterness ratio of the Green Flash West Coast IPA as a guide. The West Coast IPA is about the upper level of bitterness I want to see in any brew so that was our ceiling. One way to tell how much bitterness will be “perceived” is by looking at the BU:GU (Bitterness Units : Gravity Units). Simply looking at the IBUs doesn’t let you know how bitter a brew is actually going to taste. Imperial stouts for example have high IBUs but generally don’t taste exceedingly bitter because they have so much malt character to counteract it. The BU:GU ratio gives you a peak as to how hoppy the brew should actually taste while considering the effects of the malt character. Based on some quick research anything over 1.0 is going to be approaching the super bitter category. The BU:GU of the West Coast IPA is 95 IBUs and a roughly 1.37 ratio (95 IBUS/69 from a 1.069 OG) which gives hint to its extreme bitterness. Following in the overboard category we followed suit with 92 IBUs and a BU:GU ratio of 1.27 for the Chael’s Ale.

For the detailed recipe click here.



Malts and Fermentables

% LB OZ Malt or Fermentable ppg °L
51% 15 0 American Two-row Pale info 37 1 ~
17% 5 0 Biscuit Malt info 36 23 ~
14% 4 0 Pilsner (2 Row) Ger info 37 2 ~
10% 3 0 Munich Malt - 15L info 35 15 ~
7% 2 0 Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L info 35 20 ~
2% 0 8 Honey Malt info 37 25 ~
     29 8 Total

Batch size: 12.0 gallons Original Gravity
1.073 / 17.7° Plato
12° SRM / 23° EBC
(Copper to Red/Lt. Brown)

HOPS and More HOPS
use time oz variety form aa
boil 60 mins 1.0 Centennial info leaf 10.8
boil 60 mins 1.5 Citra info leaf 13.7
boil 20 mins 2.0 Chinook info leaf 13.9
boil 15 mins 0.5 Centennial info leaf 10.8
boil 15 mins 1.0 Citra info leaf 13.7
boil 15 mins 0.5 Sorachi Ace info pellet 15.7
boil 10 mins 0.5 Centennial info leaf 10.8
boil 10 mins 0.5 Citra info leaf 13.7
boil 10 mins 0.5 Sorachi Ace info pellet 15.7
boil 5 mins 0.5 Centennial info leaf 10.8
boil 5 mins 1.0 Citra info leaf 13.7

92.4 IBU / 31 HBU

BU:GU
1.27

Cheers!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy American Craft Beer Week!

I was trying to figure out something to proclaim in honor of Craft Beer Week but KCBeerblog pretty much wrapped up all of the event announcements for the area. What is a FatCat to do? I did some soul searching and came up with the most profound Craft Beer Week proclamations I could muster. First off, I'll just say whether you celebrate(d) Craft Beer Week out in one of the wonderful establishments in our city or you choose to do it in the quite confines of your abode, be sure to try something different. This week is about celebrating craft beer which to me means to celebrate the fact we now have tons of quality beer to choose from. We are no longer limited to the fizzy yellow stuff and can spread our beer wings and fly. Secondly, if you're like me you don't fancy the bars all that much and you find yourself celebrating Craft Beer Week at home. What to do for entertainment?


Since I don’t have anything new and interesting to announce about the bar scene this week, I’ll let you in on FatCat’s secret to home relaxation while enjoying craft brew. How does trailer parks, jail, booze, drugs, kitties, Samsquinches, and irresponsible handling of firearms sound for the ultimate in soothing in-home therapy? Yeah sounds awesome to me too! If you enjoy partaking in home-based sudsy refreshment while longing for entertainment that provides hilarity without the need to pay close attention, then Trailer Park Boys is the show for you my friend. It’s my favorite “drinking” show on Netflix and is my way of relaxing with a cold one (well actually cellar temp if it’s a stout, barleywine…oh never mind). If laughter is the best medicine, Trailer Park Boys is the morphine of TV shows. Now you too can roll like the FatCat!

Still don’t believe me? Here is a preview try not to pee in your panteloons:

Ricky: Bubbles, are you sure we gotta play space here? This is kind of stupid.
Bubbles: Come on Ricky look at this! This is awesome! Mission control this is Commander Bubbles. I’m getting an NPS warning light on the link monitor controls subsystem. I’m requesting reallocation to main OMS firing to CDS at level six, please advise.
Julian: Copy there, Commander. Reallocating there, Commander Bubbles.
Bubbles: Try some Ricky!
Ricky: (sighs) Breaker breaker, come in Earth. This is rocket ship 27. Aliens fucked over the carbinator in engine number 4, I’m gonna try to refuckulate it and land on Juniper. Uh, hopefully they got some space weed, over…How’s that buddy? I don’t fuckin’ know!
Bubbles: Ricky, that’s not very good. Use space words, real ones, not talkin’ about space weed!

Mr. Lahey: You feel that Randy?
Randy: What, Mr. Lahey?
Mr. Lahey: The way the shit clings to the air.
Randy: What Mr. Lahey?
Mr. Lahey: Randy m’boy, it’s already started.
Randy: What started, Mr. Lahey?
Mr. Lahey: The Shit Blizzard.

Cheers!