Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bottling Day

After my previous gravity check, I waited 12 days to check again. I really only meant to wait a week, but things have been crazy busy. When I checked it yesterday, it measured in at 1.012 exactly, hooray! So that was super exciting. The taste was much less sweet as well. That meant that bottling would have to be done this weekend.

Let me first say: My Kingdom for a Kegerator! Sadly, that is not really an option at this point, so bottling it shall be.

First step: check to see if all supplies are in the house (priming sugar, bottles, bottle tops both regular or flip, sanitizer, siphon thing, bottling wand, tubing.

Second step: go to Brewstock to get the random flip top cages and assembly as well as a couple new liter swingtops. (subset of the second step, burble to Aaron about your beer and your future homebrewing plans and get the scoop on the First Annual Louisiana Homebrew Competition).

Third step: Sanitize the living crap out of everything, starting with the bottle tree, the bottles, the spigot, the tubing, the auto-siphon, bottle caps, and bucket.

NOTE: Ensure the spigot on your bottling bucket is CLOSED.

Fourth step: boil 4oz of corn priming sugar in 2 cups water, let cool, then pour into your sanitized bucket. Lower the end of the tubing so that it's submerged in the sugar liquid as much as possible, put the other side of the auto-siphon which is inserted in the fermenter, crank the siphon up, and watch, mesmerized, as your beer flows out from the nasty-ass fermenter into the clean bottling bucket. This takes a little while. Rest up while you can, 'cause filling the bottles is quick and somewhat stressful work! I actually had a few minutes to remember that I should take pictures for this blog post.

That's me! brewing beer!

You are feeling very sleepy.... hypnotic filling of bottling bucket

Close up of the auto-siphon and the beer's former and now very gross home, the fermenter. 

The yeast left behind
Bottle tree! Where sanitized bottles are left to drain upside down until it's time to fill 'em up
Fifth step: Once all the beer has flowed into the bottling bucket, attach the tubing to the spigot of the bottling bucket on one side, and the magic bottling wand on the other side. The wand will automatically stop dispersing liquid when it's picked up off the bottom of the bottle, so you just wait till you get overflow, and pull the wand out, and put it in the next bottle. Since you spilled beer all over your bottle, rinse it off and set aside. Continue until all beer is out of the bucket and into the bottles!


I did need to cap a few beers with regular caps, which was easy enough- sterilized the caps in vodka, and the bottle capper is pretty intuitive at levering that cap right on there.

Last and most annoying step: Cleanup. Rinse out the tubing, the autosiphon, the bottling wand, the bottling bucket. Wipe out and rinse off all the yeast in the fermenter, then put a cleaning solution in there (and then put the bucket away, cleaning solution and all, till the next brew day). Put your beer away. Wash your floor. It's a pretty messy process.

Now I just need to wait a couple weeks for the remaining yeast to eat up the priming sugar so that it is naturally carbonated, and I can give it a try!

Many thanks to Tom, who was an awesome assistant. Honestly, I don't know how people do this with only one person, there's so much stuff happening, it's so much more manageable with two people! Well, now I can help him on his brew days as well. Even with an experienced homebrewer as my assistant, I do feel like I did my own brewing. And next time I'll know more and won't need as much advice, but will probably still need that extra pair of hands and eyes.

Exciting, but exhausting. I'm tired and sore and wish I could figure out a way to just keg my batches. I feel like a real homebrewer now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Southern Tier coming to Louisiana!

So, while I was talking to Vanessa Gomes (Head of Craft Beer Management for Louisiana Craft Beer - Northshore) and Mr. Joel Champagne (President of Champagne Beverage Co.) I discovered that Southern Tier will be coming to Louisiana in the next month or so!

I don't know many more details than that, but I was told it was confirmed and OK to share, so HOORAY! If you are not familiar with Southern Tier, they make many awesome beers including Unearthly, Iniquity (one of my favorites), Phin & Matt's, Pumking, Krampus, AND SO MUCH MORE!

New Belgium rollout!

Today I hopped over the lake on the causeway to celebrate the Northshore distribution debut of New Belgium. From what I hear, getting New Belgium here in Louisiana was a long time in the making, so everyone at Champagne Beverage Co. (who hosted the event and will be distributing the brand) was very happy and very relieved that all went well. And it did go well! It was a super event. Had a canoe full of crawfish, shrimp, potatoes, and corn; tables of BBQ and fried seafood, and of course, stands serving 5 of New Belgium's beers - Fat Tire, of course, Ranger IPA, Shift (a pale lager hopped with Nelson Sauvin), Sunshine Wheat, and Trippel Belgian style ale.

sample display of the Sunshine bombers

Shift, a canned pale lager which may have been my favorite of the night

Man, New Belgium's marketing is so awesome

They didn't have this at the event but it is RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS
Thanks go to the always wonderful Vanessa Gomes, the new head of Craft Beer Management for the Northshore location of Louisiana Craft Beer distribution group. The Louisiana Craft Beer portfolio is distributed by Champagne Beverage Co. on the Northshore, and Crescent Crown on the south shore (New Orleans). She invited me to the event and introduced me to the bigwigs at Champagne Beverages and the New Belgium regional sales folks, all of whom were super friendly. Geoff came out from Dallas and Zach came out from Austin, and I know they are looking for a New Orleans area representative (called a "Ranger.") They both seemed really excited about expanding their regional territory into Louisiana, and I hope to hear more from them in the future!

Both New Belgium and Champagne are incredibly fired up and the party they threw to promote it reflected that enthusiasm. I'm really excited that there's such a great energy around this from the distributors to the brewery to the retailers to the consumers. So when Monday comes around, go support craft beer by welcoming New Belgium to Louisiana!

Also, I have a New Belgium T-shirt, size XL to give away. Let me know in the comments if you're interested and I will choose at random! And I'll bring it to the Avenue Pub on Monday because I'll be attending their rollout which will include several of the Lips of Faith series.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Surprise nice tap list!

This past week has been much less beer-centric than usual. I had many awesome food experiences which I'll be writing about on my other blog, this week.

However, in the course of having lunch at Byblos on Magazine Street this week (I was checking out their overhauled menu) I caught a glimpse of their new tap list, which is much improved from their previous incarnation down the street.

Got local beer represented, like Canebrake and Abita, regional with the Saint Arnold's Santo, larger national microbrews like Magic Hat #9 and Brookyn's Sorachi Ace, and yes, the Redd's is a Miller-Coors apple ale that sounds terrible (though to be fair, I have not tried it) it's more interesting than sticking a tap of Miller Lite or Blue Moon up there.

I like seeing these random tap lists at places you wouldn't think would have stuff like this. I think it speaks to a shift to more local restaurants taking chances on craft beer that would previously not had this sort of diversity with beer.  It's a good start.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Brewing update

So, I finally was able to get a sample from my beer to see how things are going. Conclusion: Okaaaay, I guess. The gravity readings are a good 5 points (when factoring temperature in) over the high part of the range for the style. I wonder if maybe my dry yeast needed a bit more help. So, we'll see it still needs some more fermentation time and if the gravity comes down in the next week. If it's still under-attenuated, I'll probably pitch some live liquid yeast and hopefully I'll get it to where it needs to be.

Some pictures of today's adventures:

beer, dead yeast, other stuff. In a bucket.

Sample... looks nice, but that doesn't mean it's ready.

Ready to sample and test.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Zwanze sneak peek! (also other upcoming Avenue Pub events)

Apparently, the 2014/15 Zwanze might be a spontaneously fermented stout? Relevant to my interests!

Speaking of Cantillon, Avenue Pub is hosting a Cantillon Lambic and Gueuze tasting on March 20. And in further sour events, there will be the opportunity to try a very rare Italian sour (also at the Avenue Pub) on March 27 at the Xyauyu open bottle night.

You all probably know that New Belgium will be released upon the area on April 1. As the first wave of New Belgium beer will only be in bombers, the Avenue Pub will likely have several Lips of Faith on hand to sell by the bottle (and probably an event with bottle pours for sale) as well as New Belgium's collaboration with Dieu de Ciel, Hemelse God and their other regular releases. Polly's great about keeping their Facebook event page updated as stuff is finalized, so keep an eye out for that.

ALSO, Stone Enjoy By is coming to Louisiana! It'll be Enjoy By May 17. This is exciting news. I'll post where it can be found in bombers (Stein's and Whole Foods are good places to start, but that's just my conjecture), but it will be available between April 17-May 17. The Avenue is getting two kegs, and they'll tap one on the first day, and one on the last day.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp will be sending over one of the very few kegs of their new creation, Celebrator Anniversary Edition. It'll be tapped at 6pm at the Avenue Pub on the 20th (downstairs, while the Cantillon event is going on upstairs), and it's "an imperial pale ale with galaxy, citra and Sierras newest experimental Hops #366." Check out the details here.

And we still have American Craft Beer Week in May to look forward to.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Orleans International Beer Festival wrap-up

Yesterday was the 2nd Annual New Orleans International Beer Festival at Champion Square. As a member of the press, I was able to attend for free with a media pass, and also had VIP tent access. Being able to come in an hour early is one of the biggest perks of the VIP pass. Because by the time 3:30 rolled around, it was so crowded that getting around was difficult, and figuring out who was in line for what you wanted as opposed to just hanging out was near impossible. I think they sold too many tickets for the event. However, it was pretty cool to behold, and made me think, "who ARE all of these people?" Were they craft beer fans, or fans of being able to drink as much as they could?

So, I arrived at 1pm and got my media pass, and made the rounds. Got to see Josh and Jamie from Chafunkta, Buck, Ben, and Wild Bill from NOLA Brewing, Bryan from Covington, Karlos from Bayou Teche, Andrew from Parish as well as other beer enthusiasts I consider friends.

There were several beers I tried that were new to me and that I enjoyed: my first beer was Parish's new bottle conditioned IPA, L'autre Femme. Quite well done- there's a delicacy to the beer that is somewhat rare in an IPA. I also had a try of his new year round beer, the Envie. It has Parish's trademark crispness and clean finish, much like Canebreak, but obviously quite a different flavor profile, as Envie is a pale ale and Canebreak is a wheat beer.

At Chafunkta, I enjoyed sampling their Old 504 Porter and Voo Ka Ray IPA. At Lazy Magnolia's table, I was able to talk to head brewer Gar Hatcher about their new beer, Lazy Saison (it was available as a bottle pour and on cask with chardonnay-soaked oak chips.) He says that the recipe includes some actual spices to complement the spicy yeast qualities already present. He says that Lazy Magnolia is on track to release 5 new beers. Including Timber Beast, the double IPA released last year, there's the Lazy Saison, a Belgian Strong (or Blonde?) ale, and the Southern Belle, which is the Southern Pecan aged in pinot noir barrels. I can't remember the 5th, sorry! It's exciting to see what Lazy Magnolia can do now that their wings aren't clipped by the strict ABV limits finally raised just last year.

The cask "garden" did not have signs, but did have 6 cask ales from Abita, NOLA Brewing, St. Arnold, Bayou Teche, and Lazy Magnolia. NOLA's cask was unadulterated Mechahopzilla, which was a nice format for the super hoppy imperial IPA. Same for Endeavor, a double/imperial IPA from St. Arnold. Baoyou Teche's Saison d'Ecravasses was casked with kumquats, and as mentioned above, the Lazy Saison was casked with chardonnay oak chips.

The VIP tent was OK, I didn't spend a whole lot of time there. (everyone I knew was out in the general area). It's a nice place, especially when things are crowded, to escape to, get some shade, some food, a place to sit. The food was provided by Zea's and the food table was pretty crowded for much of the day!

They had some special beers that were almost all super high ABV. so I didn't drink much of them, because it was too long a day to start things off with a 12.5% imperial stout. I spoke to a couple from just outside the city who were obviously not craft beer geeks, but loved beer. They talked about their efforts to turn around the opinions of their friends, which they've employed with great success. The lady in the couple talked about how she's gone to WYES's beer festival for at least 12 years, and prides herself on never missing it. I told them about L'autre Femme, but dashed their hopes by telling them it was almost certainly gone by then. They were also excited to try Tin Roof's Juke Joint IPA, another recommendation of mine.

Before leaving the VIP tent, I caught up on my note taking and checking in my beers online, then strolled out to see that the attendance had increased enormously. I found Zac and Cari from Gnarly Barley, as well as Vanessa Gomes, fresh from a career transition from managing the Barley Oak up in Mandeville to heading the northshore accounts for the distributor LA Craft Beer. Big move upward, and it couldn't happen to someone more knowledgeable,  hard-working, or deserving. I also discovered that the rollout date for New Belgium here will be April 1. (Hopefully this is not a joke.)

I actually tried a few beers I hadn't even heard of before, let alone tried. There was the Wit Goud ("White Gold") by Brouwerij Hof Ten Dormaal, a belgian brewed with chicory (nice tie in to New Orleans coffee culture!). Also The Perfect Crime American Blonde and The Perfect Crime European Blonde, I was able to taste these initially side by side which was great fun. They were brewed by Scheldebrouwerij in Meer, Belgium. (Update: apparently The Perfect Crime series is a collaboration between 2 gypsy brewers: Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø from Evil Twin and Brian Strumke of Stillwater. The beer was actually brewed by these brewers in Scheldebrouwerij. Shout out to Polly Watts for clarifying that for me!) I also tried Stillwater's new (to me) session ale called Premium Post-Prohibition Style Ale. In the VIP tend I sampled Anchorage Brewing's Bitter Monk and a dopplebock called Maximator and brewed by
Augustiner-Bräu Wagner (note: I wish the export beer garden in the general area had interesting beers like this included rather than Stella Artois and El Presidente.)

I was feeling increasingly claustrophobic, so I decided that it was time to leave the party while I was still having fun. As I was leaving, I was amazed by the lines at the bathrooms and the two food tables. All in all, I had some really great beers, got to talk to brewers, distributors, beer lovers, and friends. And since I didn't need to pee or eat, it was a successful day, and a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Many thanks to Alex Colee and Jay Wilson of Red Mountain Entertainment, who graciously allowed me to attend the festival for free on a media pass as well as explore the VIP area.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Local British Pub Just Got British-er

Fyi, one of my favorite British pubs not in Great Britain, the Sovereign Pub in New Orleans, now has Thornbridge Jaipur, Thornbridge Kipling, and Fuller's London Pride.

Go get you some!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Orleans International Beer Fest follow up

OK, so the New Orleans International Beer Festival is this Saturday, March 9, from 2-6pm. Here's a few updates from Louisiana breweries as to what they'll be providing (folks that I didn't include in my last post.)

Covington: Will be bringing a cask for the cask garden!

Abita is bringing all their standards, including Abbey Ale, Spring IPA, Oyster Stout, and Strawberry Harvest Lager. They are contributing 2 casks to the cask garden: a cask conditioned version of Vanilla Double Dog and ZSB – Zach's Special Bitter.

Bayou Teche (got this from the New Orleans International Beer Festival website): LA31 Biere Noire, LA31 Biere Pale, LA31 Boucanee, LA31 Passionee, ACADIE, and their new seasonal, Saison D'Escrevisses.

For more info on what beers will be available at the Festival, visit the Breweries page on the Festival's website. You can still buy tickets here. I'm pretty sure that Gambit and the Beer Buddha are giving tickets away, too. (NOTE, deadlines for the giveaways may have already passed, I don't know.)

As I noted in the comment section in my previous post, I am gaining free access to the Festival in exchange for promoting it. I want to be transparent. However, if I didn't think that it was a worthy event to attend, I wouldn't have participated in the arrangement. I think it's an important part of expanding beer culture in Louisiana and New Orleans, and I hope to see many craft beer enthusiasts there!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Article in the Gambit!

On the Gambit's website, the cover picture is accompanied by:
"Nora McGunnigle says 2013 is the year New Orleans beer fans have been waiting for"
Here are links & stuff:

Here's the digital/"flipbook" version of the article. Basically a digital copy of the entire magazine with all layout intact. (with the ads and the photos, etc.)

Here's the permalink to the article, and a link to the sidebars.

Love, your NOLA Brew Maven (according to the Gambit.)

PS, this is why I've had a hard time updating as much as I'd like! Only so many beer writing hours in the day.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brewing and writing and boiling oh my!

Today has been bananas. Planned to get up & at 'em early-ish (9am) to start prepping for brew day. Today is the first time I've ever homebrewed, exciting! Woke up to find out that there was no water in most of the city. So, that's a problem. Then after a little while, it came back, but we were under a boil advisory, so while that didn't cause too much of an issue, it did cause us to waste like a case of bottled water when we added it to the wort after it cooled.

I discovered that brewing involves mostly two things; 1) sanitizing and 2) waiting.

I decided to do an easy recipe so I could focus on the process - I love a nicely hopped pale ale, and I purchased a monthly kit from Brewstock - their March kit is called "Pontchartrain Pale Ale."
Designed with spring in mind – this hoppy pale ale (not as hoppy as an IPA), will go with a walk along the lake, a picnic in the park or a concert in the square. Single hopped with Centennial, we balanced the bold floral and citrus notes against a warm caramel and hint of wheat flavor. Well-rounded, and not overly aggressive, the beer is not bitter, and well balanced in aroma. This kit includes- malt extract, milled grain, hops, yeast, steeping bag and instructions. It does not include priming sugar or bottle caps. Only $25.00!

Sounded like a go to me. Upon purchase and examination of the recipe, Tom's (who's homebrewed for years) concern was that the 2-row and wheat malt wasn't suited for just steeping, like the crystal malt. But since I had to hold the grains at 150 degrees for a half an hour, it was sort of like a mini-mash, and the fermentable sugars should have been able to be extracted from the grain during that process. (we'll see!)

After taking the grain out and rinsing it, it was time to bring the water (now with grain jus) to a boil, and then add the liquid  malt extract and bittering hops. Wait a half hour. Add the flavoring hops. Wait 15 minutes.

Add the aroma hops and the big coil of the wort chiller. Since the wort chiller will be in the wort once it's not boiling, I needed to make sure it was sterile. Boiling it for 15 minutes would take care of that.

So, OK, once all the boiling and adding of stuff was over, it was time to use Tom's wort chiller contraption. Basically, it's copper tubing that goes into the hot wort, you run cold water from your sink through it, it races around the cold wort and sucks the heat out through the amazing conductivity properties of copper. The water comes out the other side hot. Wait some more.

When I got to this point, I poured the wort out of the kettle through a strainer (to catch the hops and coagulated proteins) into the fermentor. This is where the no boil thing came into play. Instead of filling up the fermentor with regular filtered water from our sink, I had to empty like 15 bottles of water to get to five gallons. All right! Grabbed a sanitized ladle to take a sample that I could measure the original gravity (OG) with the hydrometer (I hit my numbers, yay) and then sprinkled the yeast on top. Covered it, stuck the bubbly thing in there, and I am still waiting for it to start bubbling, meaning the yeast is doing its thing, chowing down on fermentable sugars to make delicious alcohol.

A word on sanitizing: You do a lot of it. Gotta sanitize the fermenting bucket, the lid, and anything and everything that touches the wort once it stops boiling. Spoon, thermometer, ladle, strainer, etc.

My plan, as of now, is to brew different versions of a pale ale - different recipes, different techniques, etc., so I can see what works and what doesn't. Like a homebrew PROJECT. We'll see.

Also, my cover article for the Gambit is out! Allegedly, because I couldn't find them in the hour I allotted to look for them. I will now stop at the bagel place or doughnut shop in the morning. Tough life.

See my name? SEE IT!?!?!
So, big day!

Presented without comment (but much glee)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Did you know...

... that on the corner of Aline and Prytania, there's a German style beer garden with an amazing variety of German beer styles from different regions? It's called the Aline Street Beer Garden, it opened about 6 weeks ago, and I highly recommend checking it out. I had a weizen/wheat beer from Köln which was great (had a hoppy bitterness that played off the spicy, fruity yeast flavors) and very different than the standard Bavarian hefeweizen.

Look at that gorgeous yeast settling! Sexx-ay!

I'll be going into much more detail about this place in an upcoming blog post, probably next week.

... that next to the Beer Garden is a tiny British style pub (owned by the same guy who owns the Beer Garden) called the Sovereign Pub? While I find the strength of the beer selection true to the regional style is better over in the German-themed Beer Garden, the Pub quite accurately captures the vibe of a British Pub.  It has a great single malt selection as well, little conversation nooks, and periodicals like the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Hello! magazine.

The only thing missing is a cask ale option, but the owner seems to be open to revisiting the issue, so stay tuned! He gave it a try a couple years ago when the Sovereign first opened, with NOLA firkins, but people didn't drink it. I think there's a very different attitude toward cask ale in the city now, though.  So... we'll see what transpires in the future. I enjoyed a Fullers ESB (maybe some London's Pride can join it in the cooler someday?) and a Young's Chocolate Stout.

... that around the corner from the Beer Garden in the other direction, the Milk Bar serves amazing beer-soaking-up sandwiches on INCREDIBLE ciabatta bread? Also, milkshakes? The roasted lamb sandwich was a sight to behold, and the "Psycho Chicken" ordered by Tom had great flavors from the pesto, olives, and roasted red peppers. And they were awesomely, meltingly cheesy and delicious!


... that I've found some new places to haunt?

I've got a lot more info about these places that I'll be writing about next week. So, until then, drink awesome beer and have a great weekend!