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Hop Lovers Unite

Fall brings a lot of new things but one of my favorites is wet hop craft beer. Many breweries nowadays are doing this and the more the merrier. When hops are ready to harvest in the Pacific-Northwest breweries will place orders for fresh hops which are then flown overnight to be brewed with as soon as possible. For the past four years Terrapin has released a fresh wet hop beer called So Fresh & So Green, Green; which obviously pays homage to the band Outkast and we’re okay with that. Along with the release of SF&SGG is their annual Hop Harvest Festival which takes place at the brewery.

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This year’s version; which is brewed with a different hop each year is brewed with Simcoe. A favorite for many of us home brewers. Simcoe is typically characterized as citrus and piney and is typically high in alpha acids, like 11% – 14%. Each year is a different hop and naturally with Spike the first version in 2010 was Amarillo, followed by Challenger, Citra and last year Centennial. If I had to rank them all in order of liking them it would go: Citra – Simcoe – Amarillo – Centennial – Challenger. Yesterday they had SF&SGG running through a Randall of extra Simcoe hops; which really showcased the aromatics of the hop.

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Another neat thing for Hop Harvest is the cask tent. Each cask is Georgia Only! Golden Ale with a different hop in each one; most new or experimental hops. I only made it to the tent once and tried a new hop called Lemondrop; which gave hints of lemon and other citrus notes. There is always a barrel aged booth too pouring some unique and rare treats. As always a personal go to favorite is bourbon barrel aged Wake-n-Bake (Imperial Coffee Stout for the TTB). There was also BBA Hopzilla and a whiskey barrel aged Mosaic. The real treat came from knowing someone that knows someone that knowed someone and we got a few pulls of the soon to be release next Reserve Series, Moo-HooChiato. This is like a personal dream come true, Moo Hoo chocolate stout and Jittery Joe’s Wake-n-Bake coffee. This Reserve Series seems to keep getting better and better.

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Look for bottles soon of SF&SGG at your local glass house (bottle shop). This is certainly one you want to enjoy fresh so pop ’em when you get ’em. Cheers to the Terrapin crew on another great event in Athens.

[drink local]
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Welcome to Athens Creature Beer

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Everyone please welcome Athens’ newest craft brewery, Creature Comforts Brewing Company. Thursday we were fortunate enough to visit Creature Beer before their official public opening during Athens Twilight weekend. The space they are in, which is the old Snow Tire building has gone through a beautiful rebirth. I actually remember sitting in the lobby while getting tires put on my old Chevy truck while gazing out the large windows looking on to Hancock Street. Now I gaze out the windows with a beer in my hand.

I met Blake during Classic City Brew Fest and he gave us our first tour of the brewery. We started in what will become the barrel room and then moved on to the 30bbl brewhouse. We then walked over to the tanks, with sizes of 30bbl and 60bbl. Naturally with them only starting their only doing draft now and by now I mean it’s already around town; just look for them. The best news of the day was when Blake announced during the tour that they would go into cans. Yes, aluminum cans, what helps pay the bills around our house.

We didn’t venture outside, but only because inside is so dang nice. They have two bars inside, each of which has plenty of taps. We also were treated to Misty Valley Rye, which is Reclaimed Rye Amber aged or brewed with local 1000 Faces Coffee. It was spectacular and I hope a prelude into what brewery only beers will be like.

If you are planning on attending Twilight then do yourself the favor you know you have to do, get there early. But go even a little earlier and check out Creature Beer before watching the bikes go around and around. Make sure you enjoy the Athena Berliner Weisse because it’s all about downtown Athens in the summer.

Cheers to Blake and the other guys for having us down for the soft opening.

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More suds

Every beer blog I read has already posted a two thousand and fourteen page talking about beer this year, etc.  So here goes mine, but there’s really something to be excited about other than saying I’m going to write more (many of you would prefer me to write less or even none).  You see what’s about to happen in Athens, Georgia is the local breweries are actually going to double.  How many people can say that?

Currently Athens is home to, the now ever vastly expanding, regional brewery Terrapin Beer Company.  It’s also home to Copper Creek Brewing Company, also known as the home of wing night.  They have great wings on sale Thursday night and if I’m lucky Sarah lets me go twice a month, but normally only once a month because she loves me.  In 2014 Athens will see doors open and beers pouring from two new breweries, Creature Comforts and The Southern Brewing Co.

photo credit CCBC

Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts

is housed in the old Snow Tire Co. building on W. Hancock St. downtown.  With Creature Beer being downtown, it’s a prime location which will certainly be at capacity during game weekends.  They recently received their tanks and posted plenty of pictures over on their blog.

credit CCBC

CCBC tanks arriving

photo credit CCBC

Line up!

From reading their site they will brew on a 30 barrel brew house and as you can see above, has a lot of fermentation capacity from the rip.  They posted on Facebook that their Berliner will be in cans, so let’s hope all of their beers wind up in our favorite aluminum container.

The Southern Brewing Company

The Southern Brewing Company

has acquired land along Collins Industrial Boulevard, which runs alongside highway 29, and is across from McLane Trucking.  They are working on plans for clearing land and building right now.  Brian Roth, a 10 year brewing veteran, is working diligently to make his dreams come true.

Concept 2 - phase 1 includes a 10k sq. ft. brewery with huge bier garden

Concept 2 – phase 1 includes a 10k sq. ft. brewery with huge bier garden

He has the help of long time friend and co-founder Rick Goddard (you’ll soon realize he’s not American once you go to his bio page) and brewer Mark Mooney, so he’s surrounded by good help.  I’ve never seen anyone as proficient as Rick clean not one, but two giant 15 gallon pumpkins in a single brew day.  If you ever need a trust worthy bottle filler then call on Mark.  I’ve never seen Mark pull a bottling bucket off the table while bottling and I can’t say that about Brian.

What’s great about SBC is their love for brewing, the community and the camaraderie that comes with it.   We started out as a cleaner at Gratis Brewing, the home brew pilot system for SBC, and have moved up to collaborator.  Remember the great things we said about Rick?

Rick fisting a gourd

It’s a very rough timeline because there are still a lot of hurdles to jump or knock down, but they are tentatively planning to brew on their system in July.  I didn’t think I’d ever say this but summer can come soon enough.

Catch 22 Gastropub ready to open

Catch 22 Gastropub

Catch 22 Gastropub

This Saturday marks the welcoming of football to Athens this fall.  It also welcomes the opening of the much-anticipated (at least locally) Catch 22 Gastropub.  Nestled right outside the Athens-Clarke County line in Oconee County on Epps Bridge Rd means you no longer have to hear friends say, “It’s too far to drive all the way into Watkinsville.”  Executive Chef Richard Miley has been hard at work for the past month completely redesigning the former site of Choo-Choo’s west side location.  Along with the remodel comes great artwork featuring the brewing process from front to back.  An open kitchen to the community styled dining area only separated by a large window, makes for a full view of the chefs working away.

brewing process decor

brewing process decor

We were lucky enough to be invited in a few days early to trial the awesome menu and prepare the staff for what opening during football season may be all about.  Chef Miley has put as much work into the menu as he has the ambience of his new endeavor.  The portion sizes are as big as his friendly ego and almost as ambitious.  If you’ve never heard of a gastropub, it’s defined as a restaurant with a high upscale food menu and a serious beer menu to match.  Featuring all canned craft beer along with a huge draft list it has something for everyone, including PBR tallboys served in a paper bag.

Haute Dog, Filthy Fries & Finch's Secret Stache stout

Haute Dog, Filthy Fries & Finch’s Secret Stache stout

If it’s fresh that you are into then you’ll be happily surprised to find that Catch 22 doesn’t have a freezer or a microwave on site.  All the dough is made fresh daily and it shows as we started with a salted pretzel with wasabi honey mustard.  This was a nice spicy start to pair with an Avery India Pale Ale that I chose to wet my whistle with while admiring the aforementioned artwork, all of which the images were supplied by local brewer Brian Roth, co-founder of The Southern Brewing Company opening in Athens in 2014.  SBC has their first signage ever hanging in the pub.  If you want comfort food then you absolutely must order the filthy fries, they are to die for, and good enough to devour as an entrée all alone.

House burger w/ bacon jam

House burger w/ bacon jam

Our entrees for the evening consisted of a Haute Dog, a Kobe beef wiener wrapped in bacon and hidden by large slices of avocado.  As large as it was it was half the size of Sarah’s House Burger.  A double patty burger with bacon jam, grilled onions, aged cheddar and srirachi-up (yes, Srirachi ketchup).

One of the greatest things of Miley’s new place are the two large community tables that line the middle of the spot, from front to back.  Intended as first-come-first-serve and for people to pull up a high chair and meet their neighbors, all while enjoying Miley’s amazing food menu and love for good, good beer.  Be prepared to stop in Saturday before or after the Bulldogs home opener, order a pretzel an amazing beer on draught and discuss Clowney for the next few hours.  I mean it is all about the friendship.

We’re really looking forward to being at Catch 22 Gastropub again this week to try the rest of the menu.  Miley intends to change it monthly along with keeping a long list of local Georgia beers on tap.  Hope to see you at the community tables this weekend!

Executive Chef Richard Miley (I've never seen him actually cook)

Executive Chef Richard Miley (I’ve never seen him actually cook)

Cheers to all your hard work Chef Miley!

Coil fail

Not everything here is chipper and successful.  In fact much of life hasn’t been great lately either.  I hardly see my wife anymore thanks to my new schedule at work.  This has caused her stress level to rise which her doctor isn’t happy about.  It’s caused my stress to rise, now my doctor isn’t happy with my blood pressure.  We had a scare the other day at the dentist when they couldn’t get my blood pressure below 165/115.  But before all that happened I could have bitten a stainless steel coil in half.

coils and coilsAlmost a year ago at work they trashed two boxes of 50′ stainless steel tubing that couldn’t be used.  One coil they ruined, the other I salvaged out of the trash.  I have a copper immersion chiller already, so why would I need a less superior stainless steel one?  Lately I’ve rolled my water hose into a coil and put it in a bucket of ice to act as a pre-chiller for my immersion chiller.  This works great too.  I can get a boiled kettle to 65F in about 25 – 30 minutes.  But what if I replaced the chilled water hose with a stainless steel coil in a bucket of ice?  The stainless would chill the water passing through better than a plastic and rubber hose would.  This could make the copper immersion chiller that much cooler and get the wort to pitching temperature in almost 15 minutes; possibly.

So I finally have another day of down time before dental surgery on Wednesday morning.  I have to take sedation medicine, so I can’t go into work.  Maybe I should have taken the sedation medicine before working on this coil?  The biggest concern with doing this (without a tubing bender) is to not put a crease in the tubing, as you can’t get it out without cutting it out.  I naturally don’t have a tig welder at home to piece it back together either.  So I use a fermenter bucket and start rolling the coil around it trying to reduce its size to fit into my large ice bucket.unpackaged steel coil

I make it through the entire length of coil and check its size in the ice bucket but it’s still too large.  So I use the bucket again the entire length of coil and get it to a size that will fit in the ice bucket nice.  It’s almost the size of the inside diameter so it should chill nicely if full of ice.  Now all I need to do is bend one end up towards the other end (to match the shape of the copper one) so that I can connect two water hose ends to it.  What I should have done is left it alone since I’m going to use plastic hoses to connect it to the water hose anyways.  After trying for about two minutes to slowing roll the coil tight enough to turn it inside of the coil I put a huge crease in it.  I then pounce it into crimped pieces and throw it in the recycling bin to carry to the curb side.  No money lost, only time spent working on it.  Now that my blood pressure is already up I go for a nice job down the street and look forward the oral surgery the next day.

first size reduction almost doneMy next project is to put a valve in a new kettle then I’m finally ready to brew!  It can’t come soon enough.  I should find time between the four doctor appointments within the next three weeks.

Cheers!

Single hop ale – Cascade

First runnings

First runnings

Probably the last beer I’ll brew until Fall unless things work out for the better.  It’s the first week of May and unlike last year, we have yet to turn on the air conditioner.  So we could have brewed a batch but again, time is short now a days.  After Denver brewed an IPA using Dry English Ale yeast as Stone Brewing does, Brian and I had to get on the bandwagon.  As I’ve done with all the beers I brewed this year, we’ve stuck with lower ABV targets, all under 5%.  But brewing on Gratis Brewing’s system gave us a better efficiency.  Even with a yeast mistake this single hop Cascade pale ale still attenuated to 5.5% ABV.

oxygen insertion

oxygen insertion

By no means can I say I’m knowledgeable of  all hops, but I might know someone who is.  I do know which ones I have brewed with and of those that I really like.  Cascade would be the major one that I really enjoy.  There are many commercial examples of beers that solely use Cascade hops.  It is also one that falls in the bittering and aroma category.  Thankfully Mark over at 5 Points Growlers and Home Brew Supply opened a fresh bag of Cascade leaf hops for me.  Posting a full Ziploc bag holding six ounces of Cascade hops had quite the remarks on BookFace.  Using Gratis’ setup warranted some recipe changes since I’m not fully familiar with brewing what I would consider double batches.  I have yet to brew a really good beer on his system too.  But I have no problem wearing a rookie shirt and brewing in the minor leagues still.  One day though, right?  I think I ended up adding 5.25 oz of Cascade hops.  I should have asked Brian to dry hop the two carboys, which would have been tough with those .75 oz of Cascade hops in my fridge at home.

Cascade carboys

Cascade carboys

The yeast mistake garners the minor league pay too.  Using a very fresh vial from 5 Pts. I propagated it to 1 liter.  Then I split it, using not quite half of it for the White Pale Mutt along with the German Hefeweizen yeast.  That beer did turn out really well.  Still too much banana and bubble gum from that WLP-300 yeast strand, but the WLP-007 dried it out nicely.  So I took the harvest Dry English Ale yeast from the fridge and propagated that to 1L, then I stepped it to 2L and would use that to pitch with.  My FG was only 1.o20 which isn’t bad, but I was hoping for more like 1.013 FG.  With the super efficiency of the soon to be known Southern Brewing Co. pilot system, it still shot over our 4.8% ABV and ended up with 5.5% ABV.  The beer is drinking nice with a mild bitterness and some subtle sweetness with the higher final gravity.  My hop schedule was 60 minutes, 30, 15, 10 and finally 5 minutes.  Without the yeast mess up and some dry hopping, this would be a great beer.  It’s going to be just fine as a good beer to get us through the Summer months.

cheers to rainy days

cheers to rainy days

Now if we want to talk about great beers brewed the same day using the same yeast strain then I have to mention the SBC Racing Mud Puddle IPA.  Last night served kind of like the release party for SBC Racing.  Brewed with a first wort hopping of NZ Hallertau, then bittered constantly throughout the boil with Motueka and finally dry hopped with Citra.  It runs the color of a murky Georgia red clay mud puddle and drinks like a peach NEHI.   Such a great beer and check out SBC Racing on BookFace.

Later we’re going to talk about our first attempt at brewing parti-gyle style.  An ancient brewing style that uses the same grain to produce different batches of beer, all being lower in ABV from the original.

Cheers race fans!

SBCR mud puddle IPA

SBCR mud puddle IPA

SBC Racing Mud Puddle

SBC Racing Mud Puddle

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