Having recently kicked a gallon and a half mini-keg of a deliciously unfiltered NE type IPA (kegged with an ounce of whole cone Simcoe because I’m not a monster) with the visual clarity of a pureed peach, I got to thinking. What is it about beer haze, specifically in IPAs, that has turned it from the sign of a beer gone wrong to the look of some of the most desired IPAs the world over (or at least in these occasionally unified states and as long as your last name isn’t Alstrom)? To best answer this, we need to look at the good, the bad, and the why of hazy beer.
Of course, as soon as I post about getting back to beer blogging, I get a ton of work dumped on me. Ugh…an article on various forms of beer haze will have to wait, but homebrewing can’t. No fermentation makes me a sad panda, so I knocked out a ménage à trois of Saisons this weekend.
The first fermenter is a yeast/brett blend that’s getting kegged on copious amounts of dry hops for what should be a funky/hop fruity kick when it’s done.
The small one in the middle is a half gallon of an experimental beta White Labs saison/brett blend, which only doles out 15 billion cells (i.e. barely enough for a half gallon of low gravity wort). It’s not a good idea to yeast start brett blends, so I’ll have to live with the 5-6 bottles I get. The aroma out of the bubbler is already tantalizing.
The last is also yeast/brett fermented, but going to get a cheaty sour treatment. It’s cheaty due to the half ounce of 88% lactic acid I’m going to add during the back end of fermentation. The base beer is 80 IBU, far higher than a souring bacteria can handle, so traditional methods are out. This will at least give me an idea if I can adapt this recipe or blend in a separate soured wort with any kind of positive results.
These should be ready to taste test in a couple months along with some bottles of brett saison I did a year ago, one of which was on apricots. If you’re interested in trying these, I’ll let you know when and where in the near future.
Soooo, it’s been awhile. Like, a looooong while. That while unintentionally spanned half a year of rearing my grabby-handed little time vampire, a diabetic cat brought back from the brink, and a bouncy Kindergartener bopping her way through her first semester with rainbow colors. Even with limited time for drinking, writing, or the things the make life worth living, I was able to sneak in a few stellar brews (2013 BCBS, Two Claw, Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, and BA Ten Fidy come to mind), a few disappointments (a 2013 Coffee BCBS that aged a year too long and High Water’s BA Campfire Stout) and a blossoming appreciation of bourbon/whiskey as indicated by my shelf of half full (aren’t I the optimist) bottles of William Larue Weller and Westland Garryana (seriously, check it out).
While this hiatus saw me betray my first love (you’ll always be number 1 on my tongue beer!) with wood-barreled libations, I also took time to reflect on my new reality. As a father of two, I only have so much endurance for the never-ending parade of ridiculously titled releases from the hundreds of reclaimed barn wood, charcuterie, and aioli infused brewpubs that opened while writing this sentence. I realize that the industry is a ceaseless cult of the new, the carrot on the string with another dangling a little further down the line. Keeping tiny humans alive is exhausting enough without constantly monitoring the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feeds of every bottle shop within 60 miles for those oh-so-convenient mid-workday limited releases.
I’m not going to give up on the chase entirely, but over time I’ve found it less and less satisfying. That’s why I shifted my efforts to better serve my love of beer and status as a parental shut in. For much of 2016, I’ve powered through batch after batch of brewing beer in my very home (homebrew if you will), learning all I can about the science of good beer. I’ve graduated from halfhearted tinkering with 1 gallon extract beers that explode during storage and pasta strainer all-grain batches to yeast starters, counter flow chillers, re-circulation pumps, water profiles and temperature controllers.
After a few years of brewing what the least discerning pruno enthusiast would consider undrinkable, I’ve developed a stable of solid beer recipes, including a Brett Saison on apricots, a RIS, a raspberry coffee porter, and a few foggy, hop-forward NE IPAs. I’ve yet to contract the extreme experimentation bug that leads to black lime, curry and avocado stouts, instead trying to perfect beer styles and split them up into adjunct heavy variants. In the new year, my plan is to expand into sours, mess around with some experimental yeasts, barrel age something and possibly step out of the shadows with a few competitive entries. We’ll see.
What does this mean going forward? Well, I’ll still cover the occasional beer review for some of the bigger beers I score. I already have a few articles, reviews and other stuff half ready for posting. I may throw in some bourbon/whiskey tasting notes as I work my way through the whiskey tree and acclimate my tongue to its many boozy branches (I’m Drew Hikes on Distilld). I’ll also cover my brewing experimentation and research into any and every topic a brewer and beer drinker needs to know. Maybe even a few more podcasts/blind tastings if I can lure some people into the baby’s den to record.
Cheers to 2017!
P.S. – If you happen to see me at my favorite haunts (Railroad House Inn in Marietta and Bulls Head Pub in Lititz if you’re wondering), I’ll probably be packing some homebrew and looking for people opinions. It’s win-win, so come drink my beer!
All You Need to Know
Quick Take: Nimble Giant, it’s not you, it’s me. I like you just fine, but it’ll never be love. You got everything that brings the beer nerds to the yard, but to me, you’re a grapefruity, pineapple and sweet-tinged session beer that drinks far too big for its britches. An unusually heavy mouth feel that features every bit of the ABV means that you’ll never be more than my once a year DIPA booty call.
In a shocking turn of events, the whole crew plus two get together over the Memorial Day weekend to talk about one of our own’s recent trip to Virginia. To punctuate the babble, we try several Adroit Theory brews and weigh in on the more metal than metal brewing company. There’s talk of Stable Craft, Backroom, and a few other brewers that make the Mid-Atlantic beer scene great.
We follow this up with a brief cross-examination of Ken’s trip to Chicago with the family that yields little-to-no relevant information. It’s a magically conversation that no beer lover should miss.
Warning: This here podcast contains the salty language, so delicate ears need not apply.
All You Need to Know
Quick Take: Puff bridges a gap for those that like their IPAs West coast caramel, resin, pine and grapefruit, adding in a danker element that dances around the upper New York area and not quite going full New England. It doesn’t have the deepest hop profile or palate challenging flavors, but damn if it isn’t tasty and one of the best I’ve had from Sixpoint in quite some time. An absolute winner.
It may surprise you to discover that Trillium, known to you and on the street as a perennial plant genus distinguished by its tri-bract design (I know my kids won’t shut up about it), also happens to be an excellent up-and-coming brewer wetting the britches of beer nerds across the country. Mentioned in the same breath as other New England brew houses like Tree House, Bissell Brothers, and Night Shift, Trillium has made a name for it’s anti-clarity beers that thrive in the trade groups with anyone passing through their Boston Bay locations (Fort Point and the recently opened Canton facility) to post covetous pictures of their beer-bottled haul.
I can now count myself in this group, having traded for a stash of bottles in mid-2015 only to have another windfall thanks to my dad’s in-person stop on a vacation up the East Coast. I took up the herculean task of drinking a mass of Trillium’s finest, writing up detailed tasting notes on each for one great big info dump. While there are some notable absences, including several top Trillium street IPAs, I got to try a variety of Trillium’s offerings, some multiple times.
As most people will probably need to trade for these, I commented on the the trade-worthiness of each. This is biased to my palate obviously, so if silky wheat and fruity, citrus hop-bodied IPAs aren’t your thing, you can pass on my recommendation to give away that do-nothing toddler for a case of Melcher Street. You can always make more kids, but few can make good beer. (Note: DBR does not recommend you do this.)
Sooo, rather than prattle on like I already have, here are some quick shots on the six beers I’ve had in the order that I preferred them. Low beer first, working up to the beer worth cashing in the kiddos.