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.


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.

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. 


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


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.