Several months ago, I brewed an American Pale Ale that I named Salt of the Earth. I thought that was a clever name. I also wrote about it here.
That was a delicious beer. The keg only lasted me about 2 weeks, because I was so excited to share it that I took growlers just about everywhere I went. I loved it, it was everything I wanted it to be.
Fast forward six months or so and spring is coming around. I’ve brewed a lot of different styles in those few months and I’m anxious to have another APA on tap. I decided to rebrew Salt of the Earth, but I’ve had several beers in the past few months that have … realigned what I want out of it, slightly.
The WNY Sugar Shack that our Sap and Syrup came from
The Northeast gets knocked quite a bit for the colder parts of the year. While I don’t love winter, something unique to the colder climates, is the presence of sugar-producing maple trees. While Vermont and Canada are known for their Maple Syrup economies, WNY does have some maple producers.
After reading about some Maple Beers produced in the Northeast (and getting my hands on some), I got pretty curious about how I might make one. There’s several ways to get maple into a beer, but the one that interested me the most was using sap as your brewing liquor (instead of water). After talking with my friend Tom, who luckily has some excellent connections, we put together a plan to make our own maple beer.
Part of the inspiration for this is a bottle of Lawson’s Finest’s Fayston Maple Imperial Stout, which I’m excited to compare to our brew.
If you’ve been reading this for more than a month or two (or have gone back through the history), you might have seen my pretty lengthy post on Vermont.
A quick recap: Katie and I (and the dog) took a long weekend mini-vacation to northern Vermont in September. We went to Hill Farmstead Brewery and the Alchemist, we were also able to sample a few beers from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Prohibition Pig in Waterbury remains one of the best beer-centric establishments I’ve set foot in (although Buffalo’s Blue Monk is way the hell up there).
Since returning from that trip, I’ve been pondering the outstanding beers there, specifically the Double IPA’s. I was fortunate to sample (Lawson’s) Double Sunshine, (Alchemist) Heady Topper, (Hill Farmstead) Society & Solitude #5, Abner and Ephraim. All of these were absolutely amazing beers. I knew I wanted to try to recreate some of that magic, but I needed time for the ideas to come into focus.
After several months of recipe tweaking, I was finally ready to make a go of it. While I’m not “cloning” any of these beers, I am trying to create my own take on a VT DIPA.
About a month ago, I took a trip to visit friends in Tampa. The first thing we did, when my buddy Mike picked me up at the airport, was stop by Cigar City Brewing. Well.. after breakfast.
Like any good beer nerd, I was aware of CCB’s reputation and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Every beer I had was well thought out and well executed. ’Itsa Pale Ale’ was delicious and reminded me of some of the awesome Pale’s I had at Hill Farmstead in September.
Unfortunately, the most buzzed-about CCB beer, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, is only available in March. It’s one of those release day beers that you pretty much have to be in attendance to pick up. I’ve never had Hunahpu and realistically, I probably never will. That said, I love the idea of the beer - a rich, chocolately imperial stout with a kick of pepper. Since I can’t get Hunahpu, and I’m pretty confident in my brewing ability, why not make my own beer of the same inspiration.
This sure turned out to be a good looking beer
I love what’s happening with hops right now. Your average (craft) beer drinker is probably noticing an expansion in the flavors they’re picking up in their beer, but likely don’t understand why that is.
As craft beer explodes, hop growers are seeking to expand their offerings and stay ahead of the curve by cross-breeding hops. The result has been hops with more intense flavor expressions, a lot of which come across as crisp, tropical fruit notes.
Two of the more buzzed about hops these days are Simcoe and Citra. I dig both of these (particularly Simcoe), but also really enjoy some of the Southern Hemisphere hops, like Galaxy, Riwaka, Motueka and Rakau.
Having said all that, I’m feeling as if some of the novelty of the tropical fruit notes is starting to fade for me. I want something with more character, that’s a little more honest (if that makes any sense). Something with some of the earthy notes that I draw from hops like Columbus, Nugget and Simcoe.
I enjoy dark beers, certainly some more than others. One style that is oft overlooked is the Porter. For the uninitiated, there are two types - Brown and Robust, and I personally feel like there aren’t many well made commercial examples. The difference between the two is essentially that a Brown Porter should be smooth and chocolatey - only slightly bigger than a brown ale. A Robust Porter, on the other hand, should have a healthy note of roasted malt - almost like black coffee. Go too big, and you’ve got yourself a Stout.
This winter, instead of getting fancy with a winter spiced ale (I don’t really care for) or strong belgian (I do like), I decided to make a straight-forward Robust Porter, which should last a bit longer on draft than my normal offerings, but will hit the spot on a cold Buffalo evening. In addition to a nice roast character, I designed this recipe to provide a light breadiness and background notes of chocolate and caramel.
This is actually my first Porter and the only real concern I have is with the recipe. I researched and wrestled with how much roasted malt (nice, coffee-ish roast character) and black patent (harsher, true roast flavor) to use. I also chose a new yeast, Wyeast 1187 Ringwood, which I kind of regret. I learned after the fact that it has the highest diacetyl (buttery flavor compound) production of all wyeast strains. A proper diacetyl rest (yeast breaks it down) should take care of things, but it makes me a bit nervous. In the end, I think I got what I wanted, but only time and tasting will tell.
More after the jump…
A little backed up on posts. I’ve actually done three brews in recent weeks that haven’t made it up here yet. Two for decent reasons, the third not.
Anyways, I also wanted to share some upgrades that I made to my kegerator. The chrome plated brass faucets that came with the tower I bought had started to corrode. They were starting to get unsightly, harder to clean and most importantly, I was beginning to get a metallic flavor in some beers.
I shopped around quite a bit and considered several styles. Perlick’s seem to be the gold standard, but the design didn’t really strike me. My kegerator happens to sit in a high-traffic area of my apartment, so I wanted something that was nice to look at, but also highly functional.
I settled on a pair of RotoTaps, which are a Belgian-style, rotary valve faucet. They’re manufactured by Manitowoc, and can be difficult to find in the states. I got a decent price on them through micromatic.com.
These are stainless steel, so they won’t rust or corrode. They also have minimal moving parts and are easy to clean. They’re quite heavy for their size and have a really nice pouring action.
All in all, I’m really happy with the purchase, and I trust these will serve me well for a very long time. The only real downside is that the plastic post that they are mounted on is a little flimsy, but I have a solution to that in mind, which I’ll put into action in the next week or two.
So long story short, if you have a kegerator and are looking to upgrade, I recommend these bad boys.
I’ve been on a roll brewing lately. Not just brewing lots of beers, but brewing lots of beers that I’m excited about drinking and sharing, and beers that have been turning out wonderfully.
Yesterday, I stopped by my local supplier, Niagara Tradition, and picked up some goodies - the bulk of which was a 55# bag of Canada Malting 2-row malt. I also picked up a variety of dark and roasted malts, some crystal malts and english yeasts. This brew is the first of a handful that will use a combination of the aforementioned - the next being a Russian Imperial Stout and possibly an Oatmeal Stout.
Recipe after the jump