Monday, March 30, 2009

"It's Toasted!"

On the AMC series Mad Men, Don Draper is an advertising genius in the early 1960s, who, in the pilot episode, realizes that the Surgeon General's decree that cigarettes can't be marketed as healthy is actually an advertising boon. You have several companies with essentially identical products, so you can say anything you want to sell your product. Hence, the creation myth for Lucky Strike's "It's toasted!" slogan. The fact that ALL cigarette tobacco is toasted is meaningless.

And now, almost a decade into the 21st century, we are seeing a similar phenomenon with Beer.

Miller Lite has abandoned "Tastes Great/Less Filling" catfights and celeb-soaked "Man-Law" roundtables for a more craft-oriented advertising approach: telling you to drink their beer because it is "triple-hops" brewed.

The fact is that all beer everywhere, from my 2.5 gallon homebrew batches, to dozen-year-old barleywines made by monks, to the huge behemoths of Miller and A-B, are all triple-hops brewed.

Un-hopped beer would be cloyingy sweet and not pleasant to drink. Much of the sweetness is taken out at the "bittering" stage, where hops are added at the beginning of an hour-long boil. "Flavor" and "Aroma" hops are added at times closer to the end of the boil, depending on the style.

Bottom line, don't mistake process for craft.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A question of taste

Well folks, we're very nearly out of our Mr. Beer ingredients and I'm looking at taking the next step to partial mashing.

Most kinds of beer can be brewed with base malt extract and steeping a small amount of "specialty grains," which are various toasted, roasted, or caramelized grains that will add greater taste, complexity and freshness to the beer.

I'm considering trying a California Common ("Steam") beer for my first partial mash.

I love the taste of this beer on draft. Out of the bottle is very good, too, but the hop bitterness is more apparent.

So what do you say, tasting community? A steam beer, or something else?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Frickin S'Wheat

This weekend we opened the first couple bottles of our Spiced Wheat.

As you can see, it has a nice, deep amber color. The low head retention was my fault: I poured a little too gently down the side of the glass.

Taste-wise, it's silky smooth with none of the tartness you find in a lot of wheat beer. The sweetness of the malt balances pretty well with the minimal Liberty hop bitterness, and spice from the orange zest, cloves and coriander.

We took a six-pack to a party and people seemed to really like it. I predict this batch won't last very long.

Also bottled my Weizenbock on Sunday. I am officially done adding sugar to bottles. It's a pain in the ass and not worth the potential to introduce bad nasties to the beer. Going to order a bunch of PrimeTabs, which are compressed, sanitized corn sugar cubes. That is, unless my wife will let me start kegging. What do you think, honey?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Setup...

Due to popular demand, I'm going to show you good people our homebrew setup.

The one that started it all...

My Weizenbock is fermenting happily on our kitchen shelf next to some salvaged, pry-off bottles that it will go into this weekend. The two-handled thing is the bottle capper.

And the fermentor that we made ourselves.

A good fermentor only has two requirements: it can hold liquid, and have some method of allowing gases to escape, while not letting any bad nasties in. We used a rubber stopper and airlock setup. The liquid in the airlock is vodka. You want something that won't harbor bacteria.

In order to avoid buying (and having to store) any siphon equipment, I recommend installing a bottling spigot on the fermentor as well. If the bottom of the spigot inlet is about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the bucket, you should be safe from getting any trub (gunk from the bottom) in your bottles. Also, avoid the spring-loaded spigots, as the spring will lose tension over time and you will lose your airtight seal.

I got the bucket and lid from and the stopper, airlock, and spigot from All together with shipping, it was about $20. Also, you will need a 1 inch spade drill bit and an electric drill to make the holes in your bucket.

The Day After.

St. Patty's was yesterday, hope you had a good one.

The wife and I went out to a happy hour, nothing too crazy. Apparently, some people take off all day March 17 and 18 as a matter of principle. Now, I like to drink, but I don't know if I could manage it from breakfast to bar close. These people have a real problem and are also great American heroes.

Also, new beer discovery: Allagash Black.

I'm a big fan of the Allagash White, though it's usually at least $6 a glass wherever you go and $10 a four-pack if you want to take it home. The Black was $7 for a quarter liter at The Big Hunt in Dupont, but the slightly higher gravity almost makes up for it.

Taste-wise, it's very sweet and thick as a brick. Very roasty without the burnt taste that can sometimes crop up in very dark beers. Almost no hop character at all. If you know someone who doesn't like beer, blindfold them and have them try this.

Speaking of people who say they don't like beer: With all the varieties available, I think it just comes from a fundamental lack of effort. It's the third-most popular drink in the world, with 80 recognized styles, and untold variations between. Surely there's something in there you can stomach.

Saying you don't like beer is like saying you don't like bread. Or vegetables. I have problems with those people, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beer update

A list of what's going on, beer-wise:

My Spiced Wheat Beer will be ready to drink this weekend. Cloves, coriander, orange zest and Liberty Hop pellets went into the boil, and tastes out of the fermentor have been very promising. Anticipating something similar to a Leinie's Sunset Wheat or maybe a Hoegaarden.

Also this weekend, my Weizenbock (Dark Wheat) should be ready to bottle. This will be my hoppiest beer to date, as the extract I used was pre-hopped and I added the balance of my Liberty Hops as well.

The Sweet Chile O' Mine (green chili ale) will need another week in the main fermentor. Our airlock hasn't been bubbling like I expected, but I held up a flashlight to the outside of the fermentor and there is definitely a decent kreusen on top, so we shall see.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Double the fermentors, double the fun.

This weekend, my wife and I constructed a second fermentor. We are going to continue using the Mr. Beer "keg" fermentor, and we made a more traditional bucket/airlock/spigot for the second one.

Lots of jags on homebrew forums like to make fun of Mr. Beer, but if space is at a premium, you can't beat a fermentor that can fit on a bookshelf.

Our second fermentor is also very manageable. We decided to use a bucket that will accomodate the same 2.5 gallon size batch as the Mr. Beer. This way, we can have different batches going, split up a full 5 gallon recipe, or use one as a primary and one as a secondary (common with making lagers).

DC. Shit.

Welcome to "My Condo. My Brewery." A Missouri-to-DC transplant's blog dedicated mostly to beer, but I'll also throw in some stuff about TV, horror movies, weightlifting, videogames and anything else I feel like. Basically the whole Gen-Y Male Experience.

Recently, I have begun brewing my own beer at home. I began with a Mr. Beer kit, purchased from a Bed, Bath and Beyond on a whim. A couple mediocre or awful batches later, I decided to get serious. I would recommend that anyone just starting in brewing read John Palmer's How to Brew. The first edition is free online here.

One of my main hopes for this blog is that it serves as a resource to anyone else who enjoys beer but doesn't think they have the skill or space to start homebrewing. If I can do it in my 600 sq. ft. condo, you can pretty much do it anywhere.

So pour a pint and join me, won't you?