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Strange Brew…Reno…?

 

What makes a beer a “strange brew” is generally up for debate by beer connoisseurs, but what almost everyone will agree on is that a “strange brew” needs to be far away from tradition and normality. You might as well throw the Reinheitsgebot right out of the window now and check timid taste buds at the door because these beers are crafted with the intention of taking everything you know and hold dear about beer and then twisting an breaking those preconceived notions of flavor.

 

Reno Strange Brew Festival:

Location:  The Brewer’s Cabinet (back parking lot) – Reno, NV
Date & Time:  Saturday, May 14, 3-7pm

This is a celebration of uniquely crafted brews from local breweries. Expect the unexpected! Most of the offerings from our local breweries will only be available at this festival. We’re talking about uncommon beer, in many cases specially crafted for this event.  These brews will challenge your taste buds, your ideas of beers, and your sensibilities.  Strange Brew will be complimented with live music from local bands and a tasty BBQ too.  A truly different kind of brew festival for the beer geek in all of us!

via Strange Brew Festival @ Brewer’s Cabinet

How they are brewed

 

Just kidding! There is absolutely no way I could guess how most of these mad scientist creations are concocted, besides a lot of creativity, passion, and willingness to potentially make something that tastes worse than a 7-year-old McDonald’s burger.

 

Most of the brewers taking part are professionals and produce absolutely amazing creations to astonish the taste buds but you just never know with these experiments. Personally I could really go for a maple syrup and bacon stout right now like I’ve enjoyed at a Strange Brew Festival in years past.

Buy your all-you-can-drink tickets online now from the Brewer’s Cabinet in Reno and prepare your tongue for a wild ride. See you all there!

Follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more

 

Wheat Beers – A Summer Treat

 

You might think of the popularized mass produced Blue Moon here in the United States when you think of wheat beers. I think of craft Belgian Wit beers on the beach toward the end of a hot day in the sun. Wheat beer is crafted to have a pale often unfiltered golden color using a high amount of wheat relative to traditional brews. Wheat beers by definition are in violation of the traditional German Purity law Reinheitsgebot. As demand for varied quality craft beers increases, a higher portion of new craft brews fail to adhere to Reinheitsgebot than ever before.

 

There are many styles of wheat beer that you can make(Here are a choice few):

German Hefeweizens (from the German words Hefe = yeast and weizen = wheat) are typically brewed with special yeasts whose phenols produce clove flavors, along with esters that produce bubble gum, banana, or vanilla flavors especially at warmer fermentation temperatures. Pale malt or pilsner malt is typically used with the wheat malt. They are also lightly hopped and unfiltered and average 4.5% to 5% ABV. There are also two German dark wheat styles: Dunkelweizen and Weizenbock. Dunkelweizens are similar to the regular hefeweizens except they use Munich, Vienna, and Cara-Munich malts in place of some of the pale malts and have darker colors. Weizenbocks are similar to Dunkelweizens but have higher alcohol levels in the 7-9% range.

 

Belgian Witbiers (white beers) are similar to the German Hefeweizen style.  They use a special yeast that ferments crisp with a little tartness to it. They also add coriander and orange peel in the last 5-15 minutes of the boil as well as some flavor or aroma hops not used in the German Hefeweizens. All-grain brewers will usually use white wheat to give an even lighter color.

 

American wheat beers use a neutral yeast that doesn’t give the banana or clove flavors.  There are also many variations that include honey and/or fruit added to the end of the boil and then fermented, or fruit can flavoring added at bottling time. Honey is nearly 100% fermentable and will dry the overall malt taste of your beer. You can instead steep a pound of honey malt(a specialty grain) prior to adding your wheat malt extracts to provide more honey flavor to your wheat beer.
Over summer when I do my brewing series we will brew wheat IPA. Follow me on Twitter for updates @Tanner_Brews

Barrel Aging Brews

 

By now as a craft beverage enthusiast, you have almost certainly seen or heard of barrel-aged brews, you probably have even tried at least a couple of the ones currently on the market. Barrel-aging Lagers, Ales, and everything in-between can yield a very unique finished product. The goal of the barrel aging is to impart the flavors of the wood of choice upon the brew of choice. “Today’s craft brewers are using wood (mostly oak) to influence flavor and aromatics. Beer may be aged in wooden barrels (new or previously used to age wine or spirits), or chips, spirals and cubes may be added to the conditioning tanks that normally house beer. A variety of types of wood are used including oak, apple, alder, hickory and more. The interior of most barrels is charred or toasted to further enhance the flavor of the wood.” via CraftBeer.com

 

Which Brews?

One of the most commonly barrel-aged varieties of beer would be your traditional lambic sours. These purposefully contaminated beer is often fermented in used barrels for both the wood taste it will leave as well as the bacterial content of the barrel. Some stouts, especially Russian Imperial Stouts are often aged in old bourbon barrels to impart both the taste of the wood and the taste of the bourbon into the craft beer.

Barrels You Say?

For beers that aren’t supposed to be sour’s you often can only get one good use out of a barrel before the main flavor characteristics are gone. After using the barrel for a beer such as a wood flavored stout the barrel may be saved and allowed to sit with bacteria in order to become a barrel used for fermenting sour beers.

Sour Barrels

Once a barrel has been used for sour beers it’s near impossible to return the barrel to non-sour condition again. Some brewers who want a bunch of smaller batches of sour beer at a time will do a big barrel batch and then just pull our small 5-gallon batches at a time and do additions to the sours as they feel fit. In the process, new beer is added to the barrel to prevent oxidization and the sour bacteria will continue to live on and on replicating on the new beer regularly added.

Follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more

Summer Session IPA’s!

 

Once again we are at the start of my favorite season of the year! Time for the transition from a diet of hearty stouts and porters, back to lighter summer beers like session west coast IPA’s! Of course, there are other types of session beers such as a session pilsner but my preference is always the west coast IPA. Brewers are starting to come up with fresh hopped creations as early harvested hops come into season. If you ask me it couldn’t come any sooner!

 

What Makes a Beer a Session Beer?

A British expat and buddy of ours in California once suggested that a “session” referred to one of the two allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed on shell production workers during World War I. Typically the licensed sessions were 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm, and apparently continued up until the Liquor Licensing Act 1988 was introduced. Workers would find a beer that they could adequately quaff within these restrictive 4-hour “sessions” that were laid down by the government without getting legless and return to work or not get arrested for being drunk and disorderly. via Beeradvocate

Generally, today a session beer is interpreted as having a full flavor but lower than normal alcohol content. In particular, the alcohol content should never be over 5% for a “session” beer. A session beer is a beer that you would take fishing or camping and literally drink them all day long because the alcohol content is the right level for maintaining a buzz without getting smashed.

Here on the west coast USA we see more Session IPA’s than any other type of beer right around this time of year. People want a full flavor craft IPA that they can take to the beach with a big group and enjoy all day long without becoming an inebriated mess. I’m the type of person that refuses to sacrifice on flavor or to buy bad quality beer just to have a lower ABV. These session brews are a lifesaver in the summer!

Some Examples I Drink

Stone Brewing – Go-To IPA

New Belgium – Slow Ride IPA

Sierra Nevada – Nooner IPA

Follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more!

NFL beer SHOWDOWN!

 

 

Beer and football go together like hops and malt. They have plenty of positives on their own, but together they can really shine. Now the question has always presented itself as to which team has fans with the best taste in beer. Until now this question was the fuel behind many beer debates at personal parties and sporting events alike, and it seemed we would never have the answer. At last with the power of social networking, a study has been conducted on the preferences of NFL team fans. The results might surprise or even annoy you, but at least now you have the fuel you need to debate your friendly rival fans.

Does your NFL team have the fans with the best taste in beer? Well just hold on a second there because you might just have it all wrong! Check the list below to find out what the popular beer and liquors are for your team!

according to a study released (January) by Nielsen and social network Bartrendr, which analyzed more than 10 million online conversations among football fans. When it comes to liquor, they like Jack Daniels the most, followed by Hennessy. – Catey Hill

NFL team Beer Liquor
Arizona Cardinals Blue Moon Evan Williams
Atlanta Falcons Corona Jack Daniels
Baltimore Ravens Bud Light Svedka
Buffalo Bills Miller Lite Hennessy
Carolina Panthers Heineken Jack Daniels
Chicago Bears Coors and Guinness Evan Williams
Cincinnati Bengals Bud Light Hennessy
Cleveland Browns Bud Light Fireball
Dallas Cowboys Corona Jack Daniels
Denver Broncos Bud Light Bacardi
Detroit Lions Bud Light Jim Beam
Green Bay Packers Bud Light Captain Morgan
Houston Texans Coors Light Jim Beam
Indianapolis Colts Pabst Blue Ribbon Jameson
Jacksonville Jaguars Pabst Blue Ribbon Jameson
Kansas City Chiefs Budweiser Hennessy
Miami Dolphins Corona Grey Goose
Minnesota Vikings Budweiser Fireball
New England Patriots Budweiser Patron
New Orleans Saints Budweiser Crown Royal
New York Giants Blue Moon Ketel One
New York Jets Blue Moon Hennessy
Oakland Raiders Coors Jack Daniels
Pittsburgh Steelers Guinness Jameson
Philadelphia Eagles Yuengling Fireball
San Diego Chargers Bud Light Captain Morgan
San Francisco 49ers Blue Moon Jack Daniels
Seattle Seahawks Bud Light Patron
St. Louis Rams Bud Light Fireball
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Budweiser Hennessy
Tennessee Titans Bud Light Jack Daniels
Washington Redskins Budweiser Jim Beam

As an Oakland Raider fan it comes of no surprise to me that Coors is the beer of choice from witnessing the tailgate aftermath at The Coliseum each game. It should come of no surprise to you that this is not my own beer of choice. You can generally find me at the regularly placed Lagunitas beer tent for my beer needs in Raider Nation.

With the draft only a couple weeks away it’s time to start preparing once again for football season! Go sample a few beers now to make sure you’re ready when the time comes!

 

 

APA – An American Pale Ale Story

America home of the brave, and home of the American Pale Ale. The American craft beer iconic style APA surfaced in the 1970’s in San Francisco. APA brewing was about to get its start thanks to Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA. Little did they know that their Liberty Ale was about to change American craft brewing forever…

 

It was first brewed on April 18th, 1975 for the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s historic ride. It is believed by most in the industry that Anchor is the brewery that kicked off the Craft Beer revolution in America, and also that Liberty Ale is the quintessential American Pale Ale. via Craft Beer Academy

Most Common Variety in America Today: Sierra Nevada

Growing up and coming into adulthood in Sacramento, CA had one really great craft beer perk… I got to live less than two hours from what is still my favorite brewing company; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. I grew up in a family that liked American Lagers, and as such I just couldn’t understand why everyone drank beer so much because I wasn’t a big fan of anything in the fridge at family parties. One cool day at the river that all changed when I tried my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… Refreshing with a crisp finish, plenty of hops but not overwhelming….. I was sold.

Common Defining Charicteristics of an APA

The Hops

By far the biggest difference between the American Pale Ale and an English Pale Ale is the frequent use of American style hops in APA’s. Hop varieties known for their strong bittering and citrus flavors/smells such as the American Cascade hop variety are used to achieve the APA taste. The APA often can be very similar to the American India Pale Ale, the differences can be very small as many of the same ingredients are used in both.

 

“Fruit Beers” How They Came To Be

 

You’re sitting on the beach on an unusually hot spring day near the beach and all you want in the world right now us a nice ice cold beer. Your friend comes up to you with an ice cold bottle and right as you pop the top an unfamiliar smell greets your nose. A quick glance at the bottle reveals that some crazy soul put fruit in your beverage of choice!

 

To some folks and in the eyes of the 1516 Bavarian beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot), fruit in beer is never acceptable! Little do those folks know that fruit infused beers are coming into style fast. Historically people have wanted to know they are drinking a beer by its well-defined historical tastes. This is no longer the case with those attempting to buy fruit infused beers. These drinkers want the sweet and sour tastes given by fruit infusion and care little about the malt or hop profiles.

 

fruit

Rough Fruit Guide via Midwest Supplies

 

How Its Added

For those who haven’t added fruit to their brews before the process can vary greatly in difficulty. One easy way to add fruit to the brew is to buy pasteurized fruit puree from the store and open it right as you add it to the fermenter. Adding it fast will prevent contamination from the outside. Adding it after the wort is at least mostly cooled is important because fruit normally releases pectins at higher temps that will make your fermenter a mess and end with a cloudy beer.

If you decide that you want to go the hard but authentic way and use your own fruit then you have an extra step, pasteurization. Now this process isn’t intrinsically hard but you will need to make your own fruit puree then heat it on the stove or otherwise to hit the pasteurization temp and hold it there for the required timeframe. Once it is pasteurized and at temp it can be added to the wort.

1st Batch Ready? Should it be All-Grain or Extract brewed? Find out!

So you’ve read up enough online and consumed enough craft brews and friend’s homebrews and you think you are actually ready to take this passion to the next level….the big step…. the first batch! Now that you are ready to take the plunge its time to decide if you will start with all-grain or extract based brewing. The end product will be very similar to the average craft beer consumer, but the means of getting there and the fine details are very different.

 

Extract Brewing

 

In extract based brewing all or most of the needed grain sugars have already been extracted into a readily available syrup like substance at your local homebrew shop. Usually, these extracts come in a narrow range of choices but can be mixed and adapted with partial grain additions to create different malt profiles in the finished product.

 

The main benefit of extract brewing is the large cost reduction up front because less equipment is needed. Secondly, extract brewing is much simpler and there are far fewer areas for things to go wrong, and the process takes significantly less time.

All-Grain Brewing

The main difference between all-grain and Extract Brewing or Partial Mash brewing is that in an all-grain brew, the entire volume of unfermented beer (called wort) is created by mashing crushed Malt and running hot water through the grain bed in a process called lautering. via brewwiki

 

Arguably the biggest advantage of all-grain brewing is the complete and total control over the content of the final product. Any number of grains of all varieties can be mixed to attain a specific taste profile unlike extract brewing. Aside from control, all grain brewing is actually considerably cheaper than extract brewing. For example, when I first switched from extract brewing to all grain brewing my costs per beer dropped about 40%(but my labor and equipment expenses went up).

 

You can make great brews via either method of homebrewing, and more complexity can be added to either method through use of hops. Stay tuned for my in-depth all-grain and extract brewing writeups coming soon. Follow me on twitter @Tanner_Brews for more.

 

Getting Thrifty for Brew Equipment

 

At this point you likely feel like a craft beer expert with years of experience. You’re beyond ready to brew your first batch on your own and yu can’t wait to amaze all of your friends with incredible brew. Nothing is going to stop you from designing and brewing the best damn beer the friend group has ever had the pleasure to enjoy! Only thing standing in your way is the critical lack of equipment in your garage. Online and in the brew store equipment for brewing that first batch can cost thousands of dollars! What if there was a more reasonable solution at a much lower cost with a little effort?

 

The answer to your brew problems just might be that old empty keg shell from the side of your house or potentially on craigslist. That’s right, that old stainless steel keg might just be your next brew kettle or mash tun depending on what you need. Now as far as conversions go there are some affordable kits out with grates used as filters at the bottom, but if you are going for a simple boiler it will be quite a bit easier.

To make the boiler you will most likely want to cut out the whole top circle using a setup like the picture above. This will safely allow you to cut an even circle for the opening. After that simply instal your preferential drain valve with necessary attachments for draining at the bottom of the keg in the side. Double check all connections and add spacers to assist with sealing where necessary.

From this simple boiler or mash tun you can infinitely expand and improve the system as money allows for it. Pumps for easy beer transfer and other non-essentials can be added later to the system by either attaching to the drain or adding a sparge attachment.

Go outside and brew a fresh batch this weekend, and follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more.

 

 

 

PUCKER UP! The Return to Popularity of Sour Beers

 

Brief History:

 

Imagine a place where all beers available for purchase are at least a little bit sour. Now take a step back and think because that place was the entire world of beer until the last 100 years or so. This sourness was largely due to lack of understanding of bacterias as well as the absence of proper cleaning and sanitization practices. The critical gaps in understanding and practices would leave naturally occurring unpredictable yeasts in the batches of brew. Wild yeast then causes unintentional fermentation and flavoring, as well as a citric acid buildup causing the sour taste.

Modern Practice:

Brewers these days have access to cheap and plentiful means of sanitization and all wild yeasts and unpredictability are generally taken out of the process. With this resurgence we are seeing in the popularity of sour beers, brewers are taking their properly sanitized equipment and adding unusual or wild yeast or one or more varieties to create the sour effect. Often specific acid producing microbes are added to the batches such as the varieties discussed below.

Some modern brewers are using the classical method of simply leaving parts of the brewing process exposed to wild yeast. A gentle breeze or perhaps the wood of the building can be home to wild yeast and will provide the microbes needed for souring to occur. This approach is generally too unpredictable for the standard brewery but is being implemented by those going for a classic approach.

The Microbes:

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts—Lactobacillus, Acetobacter, Brettanomyces, and other critters—that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma: Lactobacillus has a yogurt tang, Acetobacter has the sourness of vinegar, and Brettanomyces has a barnyard, earthy, or farmhouse aroma. via Paste Magazine

One of the biggest sources of joy for a drinker of sour beer is the complexity endowed to each sour. The variety of wild yeast from batch to batch creates unique and distinct tastes based on the mix of yeasts and can be hard to replicate. Some breweries such as Brasserie Cantillon in Belgium believes it is so important to replicate the yeasts naturally occurring in the brewery that they are spraying down new locations with their beer to pass on the yeast! “The brewery allows the specific yeasts found in their building to ferment their beers in similar ways through the ages (Cantillon was founded in 1900), resulting in the consistent, aforementioned world-renowned product.” via Food and Wine

Now go try a “contaminated” beer!