A winning recipe for the Battle of the Brews, but which one?

Oh Well, What the Hell Pale Ale could be a winner

A few weeks back, I entered my “Oh Well, What the HellPale Ale and my House Pale Ale (a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone using Pilsner yeast to ferment due to the cold temperature in my basement) into the tasting competition of the 16th Annual Battle of the Brews .

I don’t know which House Pale Ale it is. It could be this one. But, who knows? Darn it. If you want to get feedback on your brewing you should at least remember which batch it is, so you can know which tweaks might have worked or not. Well, frankly, the House Pale Ale batches I had made tasted pretty similar, but nothing like Sierra Nevada‘s Pale Ale. SNPA has a slightly metallic taste, in my opinion. I like SNPA, but when I tasted the two back-to-back they were quite different. The difference could be the use of Pilsner yeast instead of California Ale yeast.

Well, Gabe Jackson of the Sonoma Beerocrats sent me an email last night letting me know that one of my entries had “placed in our Battle of the Brew/Craft Cup Homebrew Competition!” Cool. But which ones placed, we do not know yet.

Paul, the president of our Lake County Homebrew Club, entered our club’s Bourbon Barrel Stout that we made at the 2011 Big Beer Brew Day. He was told he also placed.

Still, I guess that’s pretty good feedback. I seem to be making decent beer.

The 16th Annual Battle of the Brews is happening on March 31, 2012 at Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma Fairgrounds. And, I’m going. the BOTB is held for charity. According to their website: “For 15 years, the Active 20-30 club of Santa Rosa has held the Battle of the Brews fundraiser. This event has raised nearly $1,000,000 dollars, the proceeds of which have been distributed by our Youth Benevolent Fund to help change the lives of needy children.”

CliffsNotes for the 16th ANNUAL BATTLE OF THE BREWS:

Local charity fundraiser. Beer tasting, food and music. Must be 21 to enter; valid California Driver’s License required at time of entry.

  • Date: Saturday – March 31, 2012
  • Hours: 2:00 – 8:00p.m.
  • Location:Grace Pavilion
  • Admission: Advance Tickets are $40/pp for Main Event & $95/pp for the Craft Tasting
  • Organization: Active 20-30 Club of Santa Rosa #50
  • Website: www.battleofthebrews.com

Sierra Nevada Brewing announces their expansion to the east coast

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Sierra Nevada in North Carolina. Image via Wikipedia

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the number-two best‐selling craft beer in the United States, behind Boston Beer Company‘s Samuel Adams Boston Lager, announced today they will be opening a second brewery in western North Carolina. The plant will be situated on 90 acres along the French Broad River, 12 miles south of Asheville, in the town of Mills River. Says Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada. “The beer culture, water quality and quality of life are excellent. We feel lucky to be a part of this community.”

Sierra Nevada Brewing’s east coast brewery is expected to employ approximately 90 workers, and will start with a capacity around 300,000 barrels. The added capacity will accommodate wider production and distribution of their seasonal and specialty beers as well as an expansion of the brewery’s well‐known flagship product: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Grossman anticipates the construction to take between 18 and 24 months. They hope to be operational by early 2014. Grossman’s son, Brian Grossman along with Stan Cooper will be leading operations of the North Carolina location; a few key Chico staff will also be relocating to the North Carolina.

I look forward to finding Sierra Nevada Torpedo, a good West Coast IPA, on the east coast. Hot darn!

Good news for backpackers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in cans

This is certainly great news for anyone who needs to avoid glass bottles, such as around the swimming pool. It’s great news for anyone who wants to take good beer with them without the hassle of heavy and fragile bottles. Sierra Nevada says they will be shipping these within two weeks. We should see Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on the shelves by the end of the month.  I know what I’m taking with me on my next backpack trip in the Sierra Nevada range.

Sierra Nevada has announced their pale ale will be available in cans.

From no brew to homebrew: Make your own beer in 3 simple steps

Malt Rainier ad

Malt Rainier ad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it take to get started brewing beer? First, “Relax don’t worry, have a homebrew” (or a craft beer if there’s no homebrew around). It’s very easy. People have been brewing their own beer for as long as they have been growing grains. Several people at the Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival asked me so here is what I think I know you’ll need: 1-ingredients, 2-equipment, and 3-cleaner, sanitizer, and a few other things.

1. Ingredients

Let’s keep this basic. What we think of as beer (or ale) is made from water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.

When just beginning it’s probably best to start with an easy-to-brew kit. There is a list of beginner’s kits at the bottom of this post. The kit will come with instructions and have most or all of the needed ingredients (some companies want you to pick the yeast):

  • Malt – When you’re just starting out my recommendation is to use a malt extract. Malt extract comes in liquid or powder form. Some extracts have already been flavored with hops and some have not. I prefer the non-flavored extracts so that I can add the hops but you’re free to choose. Just know that the extracts are not all alike.
  • Hops – hops add balance to the beer’s taste by bittering the sugary-sweet malt. Hops come in different flavor characteristics and intensities. As you get a few batches made with kits under your belt, you’ll begin to get a feel for what you prefer. One note about bitterness, the bitterness of the hops in the brew are expressed in International Bittering Units (IBUs). Generally, the higher the IBUs, the greater the bitterness (e.g. India Pale Ales like Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo will have more IBUs than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale). IBUs aren’t the end-all-be-all since a beer with lots of malts (e.g. a “High Gravity” beer) can overpower high IBUs and the resulting beer may still taste quite sweet.
  • Yeast – yeast makes a huge difference in the taste of the beer. Different style yeasts make different styles of beer. My suggestion is to stick with ale yeasts until you’ve brewed a goodly number of kits. Lager yeasts need cooler conditions than the more-or-less room temperature fermenting ale yeasts.
  • Water – generally tap water that tastes okay is just fine, especially when you’re getting started, if you have a filter to remove chlorine, so much the better. If your water tastes yucky, then you will need to get 7-10 gallons of good water.

2. Equipment

  • Kettle for boiling the wort.

You’ll need something in which to boil most or all of your wort (the malt extract, water, and hops). A 7-gallon or larger kettle is ideal for boiling the wort, but partial boils will work. And you’ll need something to ferment your beer in (once yeast is added to the room temperature wort it technically becomes beer). Boiling takes around 60 minutes.

  • Equipment for fermenting the beer

There is a list of links to different companies starter kits (in the $60-$120 range) at the bottom of this post. I’ve mostly included kits with plastic fermenters (either food grade buckets with lids or plastic carboys). Some homebrewers prefer only glass carboys because glass doesn’t scratch. Plastic will accumulate scratches over time that will harbor batch-destroying bacteria, so it’s a good idea to replace them after several uses. The recommended replacement period ranges from five uses to one year. Glass breaks and makes shards that cut and puncture. Replacing 20 plastic buckets is much less expensive than one trip to the emergency room.

3. A few other things such as Cleaners and Sanitizers

Cleaners and Sanitizers – clean equipment makes clean tasting beer. In the old days we used household bleach to sanitize stuff. Today a host of cleaners and sanitizers abound. I use PBW to clean and StarSan to sanitize. They don’t leave tastes behind when they’ve finished cleaning and sanitizing.

Bottles – You need to put the beer somewhere after it’s completed fermenting. You can buy bottles from a homebrew supplier or get used bottles. Make sure they are not twist-offs because twist-off bottles won’t take a bottle cap. Note: Kegging is more advanced than bottling but involves less stuff. There are some reasonably inexpensive (~$70) and simple plastic “kegging” options around, such as the “Party Pig” and the “Tap-A-Draft” System if you don’t want to even mess with bottles.

Beginner’s Equipment kits –

Beginning Ingredient Kits (note: this list is hardly exhaustive of the easy to do kits, just remember some kits do not include the brewing yeast so you need to make sure you have the yeast to put in your batch):

Please leave a comment, suggestion, or question. Happy brewing.