Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brewery: Cool Box/Hot Box - Update

Temperatures the last two days have exceeded 90 degrees, and the temperatures in my garage, where my beer ferments, have exceeded 85. At night the temperature has been cooling down to the high 60's, but only for a couple hours.

Inside the cool box though, the temperature has only gotten to 73 degrees! The cool floor and the inch of insulation have been doing their part to keep the beer at optimum temperature. It is expected to be cooler tomorrow so this mini heat-wave has passed. During the month of August, when the hot days start to stack up 5-10 days in a row I doubt the temperature will be so cool, but by then I may have a freezer and a temp-controller to keep things cool since I want to start brewing lagers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bottling 4 Ales

I have been working the last 2 days to clean enough bottles for the large brew that I did a couple weeks ago, almost 8 gallons of beer. I first soak the bottles in a bleach solution for 1-2 hours, then scrape the labels off with a carpet scraper, then soak for a few more minutes and scub the glue off with a green cleaning pad. On some bottles, like the german beers I have had lately the labels slide right off. American brands are more stubborn, perhaps because Americans tend to put their beer bottles in ice-water to keep them cool and the breweries don't want the labels to come off.

After the bottles are clean, I then sanitize them in an iodophor solution for a couple minutes, set them to dry for a couple minutes, then cover them with foil. It took about 4 hours to clean and sanitize the 50 bottles required for the 7 gallons of beer to be bottles. Seeing the cool-box full of 72 servings of beer is pretty fulfilling. My friends will be sharing lots of Ale in a few weeks!

I was able to sample 2 of the 4 ales, and the Cascade recipe had benefited from the extra hops. The fuggles recipe with the London yeast was very fruity, it will be interesting to see how it tastes after conditioning.

I was able to save about 15 ounces of yeast from the Cascade batch and will re-use it next time I brew.

Brewery: Cool Box/Hot Box

Beer needs to stay at a specific temperature to ferment. Each variety of yeast has slightly different characteristics, but generally 70 deg. (F) is the ideal temperature for ales.

Last winter, I converted my bench/dog kennel into a warm box by putting a kenwood radiant heater in it and it worked quite well. We had a heat wave a couple weeks ago though, and the temperature inside the box began to climb and eventually reached 75 deg. (F), which is too warm, so I decided to insulate it further.

I went to Home Depot and purchased some R5 styrofoam sheets and cut and taped them into the inside of the box, and now the temperature is maintained throughout the day and it should stay cooler.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tasting: Disaster Porter

If you haven't been following the progress of this beer, read the articles where I brewed it, and then racked it first to see the history of this beer.

I bottled the disaster 2 weeks ago, and the taste at that time had improved yet again. I started to have a glimmer of hope and decided to bottle it rather than dump it.

Clearly, I have a lot to learn about hoppy beer (and most other types too for that matter). At each stage of production it tasted better, the bitter aftertaste subsided gradually and the flavors came slowly together. After bottle-conditioning for 3 weeks, it tasted great. Not what one would expect in a Porter, but good. At two different tastings with friends, it was a hit. I have never tasted a beer like it, and neither have my friends, although I am sure there is one out there. It doesn't fit into any category that existed 30 years ago, but it would be considered a robust porter now.

Tasting: Chilled to ~60 degrees (f) from a pint glass.

Appearance: 3/3 Very dark, opaque but dark, dark brown, not black.
Head: 3/3 Thick but light head that lasts for most of the glass.
Aroma: 3/3 Rich smell of burnt malt with the slightest hints of chocolate, under a rich aroma of hops.
Flavor: 2/3 nice light malty flavor with strong hop finish.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Velvety on the palette, smooth medium body with light carbonation and sharp aftertaste of hops with subtle malt.
Overall: 2/3 A good beer, complex flavors of malt dominated by Hops.
Buzz: 3/3 Solid buzz after 1 glass.

Politics: Proposed Beer Tax

California Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr. Democrat from San Jose, CA is serving his first term in the California State assembly. Mr Beall, who has spent his entire life in Politics since graduating with a degree in urban planning from San Jose State, has proposed an increase in the tax on beer from 2 cents per bottle or can to 30 cents.

The current price of beer where I shop is from 40 cents to $1.25 per can/bottle, so this would increase prices from 20% to 75%.

Each time I leave California I am surprised by the increase in the price of alcohol, so it doesn't surprise me that someone hit on this as a way to raise revenue. The contrast is especially visible between Oregon and California when purchasing wine and spirits. Baileys costs twice as much in Oregon as it does in CA, and 2-buck chuck wine costs 3 dollars at the Trader Joe's in Oregon.

I suppose that with California's revenue problems it is better to tax items like Alcohol, Tabacco and other non-essentials, but on the face of it this is a stupid proposal.

If a 12-pack of beer costs as much as cheap rum or tequila, which do you think people will purchase? They both have the same amount of Alcohol, but which will people drink faster?

Why wouldn't a tax on wine also be appropriate? Maybe Jim has friends that drink wine but not beer?

Mr. Beall estimates that the bill will raise 2 billion dollars. I assume that is based on the number of 6-packs per year currently sold in California, but how likely is it that consumption stays even if the price increases 25-75%?

By pricing this on a per-serving basis this becomes somewhat of a regressive tax. People who spend $9.00 per six-pack of beer that is 7% alcohol will pay half the taxes on their purchase of someone who purchase a 6 dollar 12-pack of 3.2% beer. Now I realize that rich people drink cheap beer and the working-class doesn't only drink mega-bland beer, but generally your income level will predict which beer you purchase.

This could actually be a mixed blessing for craft breweries, since their beer will be closer in price to the cheap domestics on a percentage basis. Some people may decide to purchase craft beer instead of Coors/Miller/Bud when faced with an increase in price of only 60% instead of 120%.

It really doesn't matter to me personally, because I make my own beer for 50 cents a serving and pay no alcohol taxes at all.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tasting: Hinano Tahiti

I generally prefer ales or heavier lagers like winterbier or dopplebocks, but those don't really go very well with Asian food, and we eat a lot of that. Our old standby with Asian food has always been Kirin, but I have been looking for something else. I really liked the Hite Max I tasted a few months ago, but when I spotted the Hinano Tahiti beer I had to try it.

Tasting: Chilled to ~35 degrees (f) from a pilsner glass.

Appearance: 3/3 Very light, crystal clear with tiny bubbles that continue to rise long after the pour.
Head: 3/3 Thick but light head with nice lacing down the glass.
Aroma: 2/3 Malt with subtle hops..
Flavor: 3/3 nice light malty flavor with subtle hop finish.
Mouth feel: 3/3 Very smooth medium body with light carbonation and pleasant aftertaste of malt.
Overall: 2/3 A good beer, light but not watery, well balanced and tasty, I think I will have a side-by-side tasting once I have a few more good lagers I have found.
Buzz: 1/3 Mild buzz after 1.5 glasses.