Review: Aprihop, Dogfish Head


  • Style:  IPA brewed with apricots
  • Bitterness:  50 IBU
  • ABV:  7.0%
  • Malts:  Pilsner, Crystal
  • Hops:  Not provided 
  • Dry Hops:  Amarillo
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle
  • Price:  $15.54 (six-pack equivalent) at grocery store

Description:  "Aprihop is our fruit beer for hopheads!  It is an American IPA brewed with Pilsner and Crystal malts massively hopped in in the continuous fashion. The flavor is complemented by the addition of Apricots. After fermentation the beer is dry hopped with irresponsible amounts of Amarillo hops. The beer is hoppy in the aroma with the apricots playing a supporting complimentary role.  The flavor is rich with late hop flavors and its bitterness is tempered by just the right amount of malt sweetness and fruity undertones from the apricots." — Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 

Random thoughts:   I tasted Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale last fall.  I liked it, but wanted a stronger pumpkin flavor.  I hope this delivers the apricots. Aprihop is a seasonal available through May.   This is part of my IPAs Gone Wild! series.   

The tasting:  Deep orange-amber in color, very hazy, with a white head that dissipated slowly.  It's a beautiful color.  Aroma of citrus, caramel, and faint apricot. Aprihop's flavor starts with a solid dose of caramel malt that reminds me of a Scottish Ale.  After that, I noticed sweet malt followed by citrus and piney hops.  It's medium bodied, nicely carbonated (medium), and the hops give it a slightly sticky mouth feel.  It finishes with sweet malt and citrus hop bitterness.  Overall, it's very well-balanced.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   Aprihop is a very nice IPA. I really liked its solid caramel malt flavor, which is unusual in an IPA.  However, if I didn't read the description, I would not have noticed the apricots in aroma or flavor. So I have the same issue with Aprihop that I had with Punkin' Ale—I prefer a stronger presence of the specialty ingredient.  That said, it's a keeper. 

Have you tried Aprihop or any other Dogfish Head beers?  

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Homebrew Batch #5: Rye IPA

I brewed my last beer, a cream stout, over three months ago.  My first four homebrews were extract with steeping grains.  I think I have a good grasp of the extract brewing process and decided to take the next step and do a mini-mash.

In a mini-mash (or partial mash), the starch conversion is performed on a small quantity of wort and augmented with extract. After the the initial mash, the brewing process is essentially the same as a basic extract brew. For more on mini-mash, check out this excellent summary.

I also wanted to experiment with various yeasts.  So I decided to split my wort into two batches and ferment them with different yeasts. 

Then the biggest question...what style to brew and which yeasts to use?  I decided to make a Rye IPA.  I love IPAs and have enjoyed the few rye beers I have tasted.  I think it'll be a great combination!

For my yeasts, I decided to go with Safale US-05, a dry California Ale yeast.  I've used this before and liked the result.  For the second yeast, I decided to be a bit more daring and used White Labs WLP400, a liquid Belgian Wit yeast.  This yeast should provide some tartness as well as spice.  I can't wait to taste the differences between the two!

I'm considering skipping secondary fermentation for these batches.  My sources tell me racking to another vessel for secondary is not necessary and that I can leave the beer in the original fermentation bucket / carboy for a longer period.  I'm still debating this...

I got the recipe from Northern Brewer.  You can see it in detail here.  Here's a high level summary of the key ingredients.
  • Style:  Rye IPA
  • Malt Base:  Briess Amber liquid malt extract
  • Partial Mash Grains:  2-Row pale malt, Rye malt, CaraRed
  • Hops:  Zeus 17.7% alpha acid (bittering) and Palisades 8.4% alpha acid (aroma)
  • Yeast: 
    • Safale US-05 (for three gallons of wort)
    • WLP400 (for two gallons of wort)

Brew Log:
4/17:  WLP 400 in carboy.  US-05 in bucket.
Apr 17:  Brew day.  The mini-mash process was fairly straight forward.  I did the mash on my stove and closely monitored the temperature with a probe thermometer.  Next time, I'll mash in a picnic cooler, which should make it easier.  OG 1.061.  I used my trusty home made wort chiller to cool the wort and pitched both yeasts at 68 degrees F.  I didn't make starters.  Note the expiration date on the WLP400 vial.  Think this will come back to haunt me?

Apr 18:  On cue, the US-05 was happily bubbling away.  Nothing happened with the WLP400.  It looked exactly the same as when I started.  Zero activity.  Wondered if I should re-pitch. 

Apr 19:  In the morning, nothing on the WLP400.  Big regrets about not making a starter.  I read some info on web saying WLP400 is a slow starter, and that it helps to shake the carboy.  I shook the carboy gently.

In the evening, still nothing.  I shook the carboy very vigorously.  Almost instantly, a layer of yeast separated from the sediment and rose to the top.  I immediately saw airlock activity!  Fingers crossed.

Apr 20:  Finally!  The WLP400 made airlock burps every 30 seconds. 

Apr 21:  WLP400 again slowed down.  I never got vigorous bubbling, so I knew it wasn't done.  I gave the carboy another strong shake. The US-05 has been going strong for the past few days and finally started to slow down.

Apr 23:  Now we're talking!  I finally got vigorous fermentation activity on the WLP400.  There was serious churning activity visible in the carboy.  I've always fermented in bucket, so I was never been able to view the fermentation activity.  It was quite calming—like watching a lava lamp.  It also kicked off a nice tart aroma!  US-05 still bubbled, but slowly. 

4/23: Vigorous fermentation.  Finally!

More updates coming soon....

Have you brewed a Rye IPA or used Belgian Wit yeast?  How did it work out?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Noble Pils, Samuel Adams

Noble Pils

  • Style:  Pilsner
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 4.9% ABV
  • Malts:  Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, and Copeland pale malts, and Czech pilsner malt
  • Hops:  Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Tettnang Tettnanger, Spalt Spalter, Saaz, and Hersbrucker Noble hops
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle
  • Calories:  169 per 12 oz.
  • Price:  $7.49 six-pack at grocery store

Description:  "Samuel Adams® Noble Pils is brewed with all 5 Noble hops for a distinct hop character and fresh taste.  Deep golden in color with a citrusy hop aroma, Samuel Adams Noble Pils is a traditional Bohemian Pilsner.  The honeyed malt character from traditional Bohemian malt is balanced by delicate yet pronounced citrus, floral, and piney notes from the Noble hops.  The winner of our 2009 Beer Lover’s Choice® election, this beer was chosen by over 67,000 drinkers for its crisp complexity and refreshing taste.”  — Samuel Adams

Random thoughts:   This is part of my series on Spring seasonals.  I've had a few good pilsners lately and I'm starting to warm up to the style.  Noble hops refer to hops that are grown in certain regions of central Europe. They tend to be low in bitterness and high in aroma.

The tasting:  Golden straw in color, very clear, with a white head that dissipated quickly, leaving lacing on the glass.  Aroma of bready malt and light earthy hops.  Flavor similar to aroma with the addition of spicy hops. Very little bitterness, but the spicy hops assert themselves in the finish.  Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it's clean and crisp.  Very drinkable.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   I can't believe I'm starting to like this style.  I recently tasted Redhook's Pilsner and Upright's Engleberg Pils, and enjoyed both.  I think I'll be drinking more pilsners as we head into summer!

Have you tried Noble Pils or any other Samuel Adams beers?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

2011 Spring Beer & Wine Fest

Matt Radtke explains Mamba

The 17th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest kicked off yesterday at the Oregon Convention Center.  Today is your last chance to attend! It starts at noon and ends at 11pm.

While beer is prominent, this fest also focuses on wine, spirits, and food. So there's something for everyone. My plan was to sample beer that isn't widely available.  I present a few for your consideration:

Henry Gorgas, Fire Mountain

Fire Mountain Brewery:   Owner and Brewmaster Henry Gorgas makes beer...and airplanes.  Talk about one stop shop!  Check out the smooth Steam Fired Stout.

Gilgamesh Brewing:  Not a fan of IPAs?  Can't stand bitter beer?  Then try Mamba.  It's a 0 IBU brew that made with Earl Grey Tea and rye. 

Ninkaski Brewing:  Check out the Vanilla Bean Oatis.  This is NOT being served at the Ninkasi booth.  Look for it at the MDA Charity Table.

Ninkasi's Jamie Floyd
Firestone Walker:  If you don't know FW, it's time to get acquainted. Pale 31 is fermented (not just aged) in oak barrels. They won Gold and Silver medals for their Pale Ales at the 2010 Great American Beer Fest.

Fort George Brewery:  Quick Wit is a Belgian-styled wheat beer full of pepper, citrus, and spice.

10 Barrel Brewing:  You've had IPAs, but an ISA?  India Summer Ale has the aroma of an IPA, but less bitterness.

In between your beer, grab a few bites of foodand vodka...

Brownies From Heaven:  Rich and chocolaty!  The raspberry and blue cheese (yes, in the brownie) varieties are amazing.  Pair them with a stout for a match made in heaven.

Cheese Galore:  You'll find plenty of booths serving amazing artisan cheese.  I tried several.

Dry Fly Distilling:  I'm not a big vodka drinker, but they make it smooooth!

So check out the Spring Beer & Wine Fest.  It ends tonight at 11pm.  Ride the MAX, it will take you to the doorsteps of the Convention Center! 

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Reunited and it feels so good:  Blogger Bill Night and Bottle Bill.

Review: Big A IPA, Smuttynose

Smuttynose Brewing Co. — Portsmouth, NH

  • Style:  Double IPA
  • Bitterness:  74 IBU
  • ABV: 9.74%
  • Malts:   2-Row, Pale
  • Hops:  Magnum, Bravo, CTZ, Cascade
  • Dry Hops:  CTZ, Nugget, Glacier
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Ever since Stash Wojciechowski, the “Killer Kielbasa,” created this Imperial IPA for our Big Beer Series, Big A IPA has gotten a lot of attention. Lauded by the New York Times and Men's Journal Magazine, it’s been one of the most talked-about beers around. Brewed in very small quantities, it has also been one of the hardest-to-find. Until now. Big A IPA has everything you’d want in an India Pale Ale, only more: more hops, more malt & more flavor. Now it’s available year-round, so you can enjoy this big, flavorful beer any time you want. Na zdrowie!" — Smuttynose Brewing Co. 

Random thoughts:   I just returned from a trip to the East Coast, and enjoyed the beers I tasted.  So I thought I'd taste another beer from the east.  Big A was originally part of Smuttynose's rotating Big Beer series. Last year, it was added to their year-round lineup.  This is part of my IPAs Gone Wild! series.   

The tasting:  Golden orange in color (hazy) with a white head that dissipated slowly.  Aroma of citrus and tropical fruit (pineapple and mango).  Big A's flavors starts with bitter grapefruit hops and caramel malt sweetness. Mid taste, the alcohol kicks in in a big way--there's nothing subtle about it. I didn't taste the tropical fruit that was present in the aroma.  It finishes with piney hops that linger for a VERY long time.  Big A is light to medium bodied and the combination of bitter hops and high alcohol leaves a very dry sensation in the mouth.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   This beer is hop madness that comes with a side of alcohol.  While this certainly wouldn't be my everyday go-to beer, there are are times when I want a hop bomb. The aptly named Big A IPA provides the detonation.  If you don't like big hoppy beers, be afraid.  Be very afraid...

Have you tried Big A IPA or any other Smuttynose beers?  

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Bailey's GermanFest: A Tale of Two Beer Fests

Living in the nation's best beer city can create problems. Take last Saturday, for example.  Two beer fests were held on the same day.  Firkin Fest at Green Dragon and GermanFest at Bailey's Taproom.  Since I'm only good for one beer fest a day, I had to make a decision.  But which fest to attend? Before I proceed with my tale of woe, let's acknowledge that this is a high quality problem.

The idea of Firkin Fest was compelling.  How often can you chose from 30 firkin beers in a single day? GermanFest had its own charms—14 Teutonic styles from 20 Oregon breweries.  Tough choice!

In the end, my decision was easy.  I didn't want to pay $30 to Firken.  Bailey's $15 fee was right up my alley. Turns out I made a good choice.  For more on Firkin Fest, check out the coverage from my colleagues at Beervana and The New School.

I sampled 8 different brews at Bailey's GermanFest.  Here they are in the order I tasted them.  I didn't take detailed notes, so comments in italics were those provided on the beer menu.

Block 15 Berlinerweiss
  • Block 15 Berlinerweiss (3% ABV):  I'd been looking forward to tasting this style and Block 15 did not dissapoint.  It had the most amazing pale color.  Tart, low in alcohol, and very refreshing!
  • Flat Tail Corvaller Weisse (3.5% ABV):  Another Berlinerweiss, but on steroids (in a good way).  It didn't have the same vibrant color as Block 15's, but had a higher level of tartness and funky flavors. I liked it a lot!  In Germany, this style is served with a choice of flavored syrups.  I tried a syrup, but preferred it plain.
  • Breakside Kellerbier (5.1% ABV):  Yeast flavor and aroma are low to medium.  Balance of malts and hops.  
  • Cascade '10 Autumn Gose (5% ABV).  Another tart beer from the local masters of sour.  Acidic/tart. Golden in color. Citrus flavors present. Salt added.  I tasted salt in the finish, but probably wouldn't have noticed it had I not read the description.
  • Alameda Rye Not? (4.9% ABV).  I love the spicy and sour flavor of rye in beer.  This Roggenbier started sweet and finished tart.  I actually brewed my own Rye beer on Sunday.  More on that later.
  • Bend Doppelbock (7.5% ABV).  Sweet malt, chocolate, and a creamy mouth feel. 
  • Vertigo Zen Dunkelweizen (5.5% ABV).  Sweet maltiness. Brown in color. Very low hop bitterness.         
  • Upright Engelberg Pils (5.5% ABV).  I didn't sample this at Baileys, but at Upright the next day. I'm learning that I actually might like pilsners!  I've come a long way... 

My favorite was Flat Tail's Corvaller Weisse—and I went back for a second pour.  This was the first Flat Tail beer I ever tasted and I want to learn more about this brewery.  

Anyway, excellent job by Bailey's in pulling off a great event!  The crowd was a nice size, wait times were low, the prices were great, and the beer selection was incredible.  I'll be back next year.

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

GermanFest Beer Menu

Berlinerweiss Flavor Syrups

Oakshire's Hellshire I to be Unleashed May 7

"Deep within the recesses of the alcoves & antechambers of Oakshire Brewing lies another realm. It's a place where carefully fermented beers are laid to rest in oaken sarcophagi. They slumber for aeons and emerge as wholly new & unique entities, fueling the malformed creatures that populate the blasted & eldritch wastes.  That place is....Hellshire I: Barleywine Aged in Bourbon Barrels" —  Oakshire Brewing.

I love the use of the word sarcophagi.  I'll try to work into more of my posts.

Barrel aging has become the rage in craft beer. Oakshire Brewing is getting into the game with their new Hellshire Series.  Matt Van Wyk, Oakshire Brewmaster, recently revealed the details about this mysterious beer:

  • Style:  Barleywine
  • ABV:  10%
  • Bitterness:  100 IBU  
  • Malts:  2-Row, Marris Otter, Wheat, Munich, Honey Malt, CaraMunich, Aromatic, Special Roast, Special B, C-120, C-60
  • Hops:  Chinook, Citra, Cascade
  • Yeast:  California Ale
  • Special:  100% aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels for 10 months.
  • Price:  $15 (22 oz. bottle)

Hellshire I will be released on May 7 at the brewery in Eugene.  Quantities will be very limited—only 120 cases will be sold (no draft).  Distribution will be limited to Oregon and Vancouver, WA.

Now to the best part—the tasting.   Hellshire I has a big aroma—full of stone fruit, oak, a hint of citrus, and the boozy alcohol you'd expect from the style.  Flavor of plum, dates, vanilla, and bourbon.  It's lightly carbonated and finishes with malty sweetness and warming alcohol.  I expect Hellshire I will age beautifully!

Matt Van Wyk, Oakshire Brewmaster
Although this is Oakshire's first foray into Barleywines, Matt Van Wyk is no stranger to the style. While working at Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, he conjured up Wooden Hell, which scored a phenomenal 100 points at RateBeer and an A+ at Beer Advocate. Matt knows Barleywine...

If you want a bottle of Hellshire I, your best bet is to go the May 7 release party, which starts at 8am.  Click here for details.

Oakshire plans to eventually release new Hellshire beers on a quarterly basis as part of their barrel aging program.  You can expect quite a bit of diversity from this series.  In addition to bourbon barrels, Oakshire will age beer in cabernet, pinot, whiskey, and gin barrels. Although not official, it sounds like Hellshire II will be a wild (sour) beer.  I'm already looking forward to it!

In the meantime, I'll entomb my bottle of Hellshire I into a cardboard sarcophagus and inter it into the netherworld of my crawlspace.  I'll exhume it in a year or two and see how it matures.  I'm sure it will be great...

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Blithering Idiot, Weyerbacher

Blithering Idiot
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. — Easton, PA

  • Style:  Barleywine
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 11.1%
  • Malts:   Not provided
  • Hops:  Not provided
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle
  • Price:  $10.99 (six-pack) at liquor store

Description:  "Our barleywine is made in the British tradition of balanced hearty ales. Blithering Idiot is a deep-copper ale with intense malty notes of dates and figs on the palate that follows a pleasurably malty aroma to your taste buds. The finish is warm and fruity, and begs for the next sip. Enjoy Blithering Idiot in a brandy snifter or wine glass with full-flavored meats and cheeses, or as an after-dinner drink.  Lay a few down. Aging only helps a barleywine develop more complexity. At 11.1% ABV this fine ale will keep for years. We feel comfortable setting our “Best By” date out to five years past the bottling date." — Weyerbacher Brewing Co. 

Random thoughts:   I've sampled four of the five beers in Weyerbacher's year-round beer lineup, which is comprised of an Imperial Stout, a Belgian Trippel, two IPAs, and this Barleywine.  Weyerbacher makes big beers (which I love) and I expect their target customer is a serious craft beer drinker.  I think it's a great niche.

The tasting:  Copper in color (hazy) with a white head that quickly dissipated into a small ring around the glass.  Big fruity aroma of plum, raisins, and dates, along with brown sugar and alcohol.  The strong fruits dominate the flavor and don't allow the malts to come through.  I've heard people use the words "bubble gum" as a flavor descriptor.  I've never experienced that flavor until now.  This beer has a slight bubble gum sweetness to it.  I didn't notice the hops in aroma or flavor.  The 11.1% ABV is prominent throughout, but not as strong as I expected it to be.  Medium to heavy in body, it's lightly carbonated and has a creamy mouth feel.  If finishes with flavors of dried fruit and alcohol. 

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   I liked Blithering Idiot, but found it to be one dimensional.  I didn't experience the layering of flavors that I've tasted in other Barleywines.  I'm curious to see how it would age, and if I had an extra bottle I'd cellar it and taste it again after a year or two.

Have you tried Blithering Idiot or any other Weyerbacher beers?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook