Sunday, March 29, 2009

Start a Beer Club!

For several months last year, about every other Friday, I'd bring in a bomber or 6-pack to share with coworkers. Fridays are pretty laid back at work, and several people bring in beer to drink while we socialize and wrap up our administrative weekly tasks. After a couple of months, people would stop by my desk to see what the beer was and to sample a bit. I couldn't keep to a regular schedule, though, and wanted to get more people involved.

A while back, I read about how to start a beer club and thought I might try to get one together, trading beer once a month. I mentioned my thoughts to John one morning; he suggested we pick one style from the BJCP style guide and use that as the basis for our monthly trades. The group uses both the BJCP site as well as the style list on

February was our first month. We picked American Pale Ale as our style, as it's easy to find and a good starting point. It turned out to be a great adventure, as several people found out post-purchase that they'd picked up an English pale ale made by an American brewery! I came home with a Schalfly, O'Dell 5 Barrel, Tommyknocker Pick Axe, and 2 Flying Dogs. I was surprised no one picked up Sierra Nevada.

This month was a lot of fun - the group wanted to do "something Irish" for the trade, so we split the group in half. Three people bought Irish Reds and three bought Irish Stouts. What a great time! I came home with Sam Adams Irish Red, Murphy's Red, Blvd Irish Ale, Guinness, Beamish, and Schlafly Stout (Irish Style!). We're trying to decide on our next pick. While I imagine most months we'll do seasonals, we're thinking of doing German-style hefeweizens or American IPAs (inclusive of double & imperial styles).

It's been a lot of fun trying to find something that others probably won't bring and talking about each of our finds when we do the trade. It's also been a learning experience for most of the group, requiring a little research and planning prior to making the trip to the liquor store.

Go start your own beer club! It's a great excuse to hang out with other people who love beer, and probably the most enjoyable way to come home with a "build your own six-pack".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Please, Sir... Maibock I Have Another?

John made a maibock this weekend and set aside some spent grain for me (without me even asking - I can't tell if it was sweet or a less-than-subtle hint. Either way, does it matter?). I set out to make Spent Grain Loaf #2.

The first loaf didn't turn out so well. I pulled it off some random homebrewers' site and only read the first couple pages of the 9-page thread. The recipe seemed decent and the initial comments were positive. I should have known something was amiss when I had to add about twice as much flour as the recipe called for. Thus, the amount of yeast was off and the bread was doomed from the start. Clearly, the author had omitted his process whereby he dried his spent grain before using it. Here's the final product:

Bread Fail. It tasted okay, but had much too great a proportion of spent grain to everything else.

John suggested we try a recipe on a site he'd seen before. The balance of ingredients seemed appropriate, so I tossed this one together to rise. Much better. After a couple of rises and 40 minutes in the oven, here's the result:

It's delicious & makes excellent toast.

I had quite a bit of grain left, and thought it might be fun to try something sweeter - a spice cake or cookies or bars of some sort. I Googled "spent grain cookies" thinking I'd come up with nothing but dog biscuits, but sure enough - recipes!

I ended up modifying a recipe from Omnomicon, which had modified a recipe from Seven Bridges Cooperative. I omitted the nuts (primarily because I think nuts ruin the soft, delicate texture of cookies) and doubled the chocolate chips (primarily because, well, it's chocolate!).

They turned out fabulously! They almost have the consistency of muffins, so I think the addition of oil in the first recipe was probably a good idea - a bit more fat would have reduced the cakiness of them, but they're delicious nonetheless.

I'd recommend trying the bread or the cookie recipes if you ever get your hands on some spent grain. These babies are so good, I'm almost not impatient for the Maibock to be ready. And they're high fiber, so they count as health food, right? RIGHT?!

Monday, March 16, 2009

More details on Boulevard's upcoming releases

Owen over at the Pitch recently discussed what's in the works at Boulevard (and his thoughts on two upcoming releases). Providing more concrete details, a news release at laid out the plans.

Boulevard is releasing four new Smokestack beers this year, two with limited availability and two of wide but seasonal availability. Boulevard's also aligning its seasonal beer releases with Smokestack releases this year. Apparently, the Imperial Stout and Irish Red were the first to be paired. Next up - Zōn and Two Jokers, a new double wit. Additionally, the base Saison for Saison-Brett (without the Brettanomyces fermentation) will be available on draft in April at various locations. I'd put money on its appearance at Barley's & Waldo Pizza but I'm sure it'll be available at several places locally.

More info about the releases, as well as a reference to Owen's brewmaster's night blog post, is available in the beernews article.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is it hot in here, or is it just my beer?

We went to 75th Street Brewing yesterday and noticed "Hot Chocolate" on their list of draft beers. I gave it a second look since it seemed odd to have that on the list , but figured they were simply highlighting this warm wintertime drink due to the sharp drop in temperature the past couple of days.

Much to my delight, I was wrong - the brewers at 75th Street have put a new spin on a prior release, the Chocolate Ascent. They've added cayenne to this delicious brew and named it - you guessed it - "Hot Chocolate". It's just as rich and chocolatey as the original Chocolate Ascent, with a warming kick at the end. Very drinkable and a really nice alternative to an already-great beer. It reminded me quite a bit of those dark chocolate truffles with chili powder. Rich, slightly bitter, roasted chocolate taste followed by warmness then a slightly sharp pepper flavor. Well done, 75th Street!

In other news, it looks like Sierra Nevada is releasing yet another year-round beer! It's due to arrive some time this summer and is borne of German-style Hefeweizen. They're using open, shallow fermentation tanks rather than those tall, cylindrical fermenters, leading to more complex flavor found in German hefe.
Kellerweis is a light and refreshing beer with deep complexity of flavor. The yeast provides hints of fruit flavors and spices, including ripe banana and clove. This hazy-golden beer glows with suspended yeast creating a velvety texture; perfect for a sunny California day.
Is it summer yet?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Local Updates - Waldo Pizza & news from Lawrence

New on tap at Waldo Pizza - Rogue Kells Irish Lager and Bell's Consecrator Dopplebock. Later this week, Southern Tier's Oak-Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA should be making its appearance as well.

The guys of Lawrence's Barnyard Brewing are moving into a new space to expand production and begin local distribution. Their beer will apparently become available at bars & restaurants in Lawrence this spring - maybe one day we'll see them in KC. They're having a tasting on 3/14 if you're interested.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

I got the St Louis Blues

... because I'd have liked to spend more time there! Last weekend, John and I trekked out to Hermann and St Louis for a mini-beercation. We hadn't been out of town overnight since October, so it was nice to get away.

We went to the Tin Mill in Hermann and sampled all of their beers. Their Pilsner and Maibock were our favorites, so we bought 12 bottles of each. All of their beer is good (though the doppelbock had much more of a roasted flavor than I'd expect for the style) and they're worth a detour if you're driving through the area. Hermann's only 15 miles south of I-70 and about 90 miles from downtown St Louis.

We spent Saturday in St Louis, but we hopped over the state line to Illinois before starting our day in the city. We went to Corral Liquors in Granite City to pick up some brews we can't get in KS or MO. We ended up with two cases of various bottles from Lagunitas, Dogfish Head, Rogue, Green Flash, Victory, Three Floyds, and a host of others. I highly recommend taking a detour any time you're in St Louis and picking up some beer not distributed to this side of Illinois. The staff was friendly and the store had a great selection.

After loading up the car with beer, we headed back into STL to the Schlafly Tap Room for some lunch. Their food selection is intriguing, and I couldn't pass up a tilapia reuben! Much to my surprise, the tilapia was battered and fried. I loved it, and if you can handle a giant grease bomb, I highly recommend it! We enjoyed a handful of pints, all of which were very good - but the APA on cask was my favorite. This goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway - the tap room is a must-visit for any beer lover in St Louis.

While we chatted over lunch and our beers, I perused one of the free weekly mags (River Front Times) and saw an ad for a beer bar named The Stable. Brewhouse, distillery, and pizzeria? I'm there!

The bar's great - well-stocked with a large variety of beer including stuff from Bells, Southern Tier, New Belgium (Lips of Faith Dunkelweiss), Rogue (Brutal Bitter), Charleville, Duchesse du Bourgogne, Sammiclaus (Helles), Ommegang.... They had about 30 beers on tap and great variety. They said they rotate taps quite frequently, and I believe it. The place was busy. They are not, however, brewing yet - but that didn't matter; their beer selection is fantastic.

We had a great time and I'm looking forward to returning to St Louis for a longer visit. Schlafly has a packed event calendar that I'm going to keep my eye on. You should too.