First Look: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.

On September 27, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes and Unabashed Arrogance will be unleashed on the world.  The book's publisher, Ten Speed Press, sent me an advance copy.  I just got it in the mail yesterday and anxiously skimmed through it. It looks promising and I wanted to share a quick preview.

The book, by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner with Randy Clemens, is written in three parts:

  • Part 1:  Provides a primer on beer, documents its journey through history, and tells Stone Brewing's backstory.
  • Part 2:  It's all about the beer!  Describes Stone's brews and the inspiration behind them.
  • Part 3:  Make your own! Recipes are provided for 19 favorites from Stone Brewing World Garden and Bistro (including the BBQ Duck Tacos I enjoyed when I visited Stone in June).  But wait, it gets better!  The secrets behind 18 of Stone's beers (including Anniversary Ales and Collaborations) are revealed in 5 gallon all-grain recipes.  Sorry extract brewers...  Maybe this will provide me with added inspiration to make the jump to all-grain.

I plan to read the book cover to cover during the next week, and will provide a more detailed review.  In the meantime, if you want to lean more, check it out at Amazon or your favorite bookseller.  Full Disclosure:  If you pre-order the book using this link, Amazon pays me a referral fee (at no added cost to you).  I have no clue how much, but hopefully it'll add up to enough to buy me a beer.  Preferably, Stone's new 15th Anniversary Ale...

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Review: Anchor Summer Beer, Anchor Brewing

Anchor Summer Beer
Anchor Brewing Co. — San Francisco, CA

  • Style:  Wheat Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 4.5% ABV
  • Malts:  Wheat, 2-Row Barley
  • Hops: Not specified
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "ANCHOR SUMMER is the first American wheat beer in modern times. Our first brew of this light and refreshing beer was in the summer of 1984. Anchor Summer is an all-malt beer, and over 50% of its malt comes from malted wheat. It is fermented with a traditional top-fermenting “ale” yeast because we prefer the clean flavors developed by this yeast. We believe that this style best celebrates the refreshingly light flavor of malted wheat. You may notice that the head on this beer is unusually abundant, with a consistency similar to whipped egg whites. This is due to protein contributed by the wheat. The brewers at Anchor are proud to have revived not only rich hearty dark beers, but also this light crisp style of a modern American wheat beer.”  — Anchor Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   Here's another wheat beer from my 2nd series on Summer seasonals.

The tasting:  Gold in color, slightly hazy, with a large white head that dissipated slowly, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.  Aroma of bready malt and lemon—very simple and straightforward.  Flavor of biscuit malt, grassy hops, spicy hops, and lemon citrus.  It's well balanced, with not a lot of malt sweetness or hop bitterness. Anchor Summer Beer is light to medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and finishes with a slight citrusy tartness. 

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   Anchor Summer is a decent beer.  However, it tastes similar to other summer brews I've sampled recently and wasn't memorable for me.  

Have you tried Anchor Summer Beer?  How did you like it?

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Review: Blackberry Pear Cider, Fox Barrel

Blackberry Pear Cider
Fox Barrel Cider — Colfax, CA

  • Style:  Blackberry Infused Hard Pear Cider
  • ABV: 5.0% 
  • Ingredients:  Hard Pear Cider, Filtered Water, Blackberry Juice Concentrate, Pear Juice Concentrate, Malic Acid. Contains Sulfites. Gluten Free
  • Calories:  120 per 12 oz.
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle (provided by Fox Barrel)

Description:  "Naturally fermented using 100% pear juice, not from pear juice concentrate,or flavored hard apple cider. Filtered cold for extra purity and infused with natural blackberry juice. With no added colorants, sugar, sorbate or benzoate preservatives. No added malt, spirit, grape or apple alcohols. Naturally elegant, refreshingly adult with an authentic blackberry dark-fruit taste and a sweet-sharp fresh tang. Mouthwatering juicy complexity. Luscious pear-berry bouquet." — Fox Barrel Cider 

Random thoughts:   This is part of my series on Hard Ciders.  Fox Barrel is owned by Crispin Ciders.  This is the second of Fox Barrel's three pear ciders I've tasted.  The first was Pacific Pear.

The tasting:  Deep purple in color, clear, with lots of effervescence floating to the top.  When I first smelled it, the aroma reminded me of concord grape juice.  After waiting for a few minutes, blackberry was at the forefront.  The pear was noticeable, but was much more subtle.  In flavor, the blackberry dominated. Again, the pear was not strong in flavor, but did provide a touch of sweetness.  Blackberry Pear is light to medium bodied with effervescent carbonation throughout the taste.  It's sweet, but not as sweet as I expected (Pacific Pear was sweeter).  It finishes with tart blackberry.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   I liked Blackberry Pear.  It has a nice clean berry flavor, has some sweetness, but isn't cloying.  I preferred it over Pacific Pear.

Have you tasted Fox Barrel's Blackberry Pear Cider? 

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Review: Summer, Alaskan Brewing

Alaskan Brewing Co. — Juneau, Alaska

  • Style:  Kölsch
  • Bitterness:  18 IBU
  • ABV: 5.3% ABV
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle

Description:  "Alaskan Summer Ale balances a softly malted palate with the clean freshness of hops. In the tradition of the style, neither overpowers the other. Both hops and malt come together to refresh and renew the palate. The straw-gold color and easy drinkability are an enjoyable way to celebrate summer.”  — Alaskan Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:    My baseball cap has the Alaskan Summer logo on it.  I bought it seven years ago when I first visited Alaska.  We returned last summer and I bought new Alaskan IPA and Stout caps.  However, my ratty old Summer cap remains my favorite. This is part of my 2nd series on Summer seasonals.

The tasting:  Amber in color, crystal clear, with a white head that dissipated quickly, leaving no lacing on the glass.  Aroma of bready malt, spicy hops, and yeast.  Flavor mirrors the aroma.  Very nicely balanced! Summer has the perfect marriage of malts and hops, with neither dominating.  Alcohol is not noticeable in aroma or flavor.  It's medium bodied and has an effervescent mouth feel.  It's crisp and refreshing and finishes with bready malt.  

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   I'm not that familiar with the Kölsh style, but Summer reminded me a pilsner lager.  It's a very easy drinking beer, and at 5.3% ABV, it makes a nice summer session beer.

Have you tried Summer or any other Alaskan beers?

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Review: Summer Ale, Samuel Adams

Summer Ale

  • Style:  Wheat Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not provided
  • ABV: 5.3% ABV
  • Malts:  Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, Copeland pale malts, and Malted Wheat
  • Hops:  Hallertau Mittelfrueh
  • Special Ingredients: Lemon peel and Grains of Paradise
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle
  • Calories:  162 per 12 oz.
  • Price:  $7.49 six-pack at grocery store

Description:  "Samuel Adams® Summer Ale is an American wheat ale. This summer seasonal uses malted wheat, lemon peel and Grains of Paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century, to create a crisp taste, spicy flavor and medium body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangos and peaches.  All of these flavors come together to create a thirst quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm summer days.”  — Samuel Adams

Random thoughts:    Wheat beers make for great summer drinking.  Summer Ale was inspired by Belgian Witbiers.  However, instead of using the typical orange peel and coriander, Samuel Adams used lemon peel and Grains of Paradise (a form of pepper).  This is part of my 2nd series on Summer seasonals.

The tasting:  Light gold in color, hazy, with a white head that dissipated quickly, leaving no lacing on the glass.  Aroma of lemon, bready malt, and honey.  Flavor of lemon and tangy wheat.  The lemon peel, as well as the pith, provided a pronounced and unusual bitterness different from hops.  I didn't notice the spice or tropical fruit (as mentioned in the description) in aroma or flavor.  Summer Ale is light bodied with medium-high carbonation.  It finishes crisp with a slight citrusy tartness. 

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.   Samuel Adams Summer Ale offers a unique twist on the Belgian Wit.  In the end, the it was a bit too lemony for me.  If you like citrus flavor in your beer, give it a try.

Have you tried Summer Ale or any other Samuel Adams beers?

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Beer Run: Summer's Last Call

Didn't summer finally start in Oregon?  Just as soon as it started, it seemed to slip away.  The days are quickly getting shorter, leaves are changing color, and Labor Day is around the corner.  In beer terms, the fall seasonals are appearing on grocery store shelves.

Before I start tasting autumnal brews, I have seven summer holdouts that I will soon enjoy:

In addition to these, I have already profiled seven other summer beers.  Are you ready for summer to end?  Which brews did you enjoy during this year's short summer season?

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Homebrew Batch #6: Raspberry Honey Wheat

I attended the Portland Fruit Beer Festival earlier this summer and was inspired.  So for my next homebrew, I wanted to take advantage of Oregon's amazing summer berries.  I decided to make a Raspberry Wheat ale, which is light, tart, and very refreshing—an ideal combination for summer!

I did a bit of research on how to integrate the fruit. Most sources recommended adding the fruit as part of secondary fermentation.  I'm a big fan of Vertigo Brewing's Razz Wheat, so I contacted Mike Haines (Vertigo Co-Founder and Brewer) for some tips. Vertigo uses a different method for integrating the raspberry and Mike was kind enough to share it with me.  I used Mike's method, which I highlight in my instructions below.  Please note, the recipe below IS NOT Vertigo's Razz Wheat recipe.  Here's what I put into my beer:

  • Style:  Fruit Beer
  • Volume:  5 gallons
  • Malt Base:  6 lbs. Briess Wheat liquid malt extract
  • Steeping Grains:  None
  • Hop Additions:
    • 1 oz. Willamette - 5.6% alpha acid (60 min.)
    • 1.25 oz. Cascade - 8.7% alpha acid (15 min.) 
  • Other:
    • 0.75 lbs. clover honey (5 min. - late boil addition)
    • 2.0 lbs. raspberries (added to fermentation bucket 4 days into primary fermentation)
  • Yeast:  Safale US-04

Brew Log:
Jul 5:  Brew day.  This was the easiest of all my brew days because I didn't use any steeping grains.   I used my trusty home made wort chiller to cool the wort and pitched the yeast at 75 degrees F.  OG 1.05.  6 hours later, I noticed some bubbling in the airlock.

Jul 6:  Active fermentation has begun.  The airlock is bubbling every second!

Jul 7:  Went to a local berry farm and picked 2 pounds of fresh raspberries (Coho variety). Brought them home, heated them up to 160 degrees F in a saucepan, cooled them down to 70 degrees F, and then dumped the berries (now in slurry form) into the fermentation bucket.

Jul 12:  Racked to secondary. Gravity = 1.012.  Took a quick taste.  It has a nice pinkish / orange color and raspberry aroma.  The flavor has a nice raspberry tartness, but isn't too sweet.  I'm very encouraged by this initial taste.

Color at time of bottling

Jul 25:   Bottled with 2/3 cup dextrose.  FG = 1.012.   Based on the calculations of Beer Calculus, the stats of my brew are:
  • ABV:  4.3%
  • Bitterness:  36 IBU
  • Calories:  145 per 12 oz.

Aug 4:  First carbonated taste.  Aroma of raspberry. Flavor of tart raspberry, with grassy hop bitterness in the middle.  By adding the raspberries into primary fermentation (instead of secondary), the sweetness was reduced, but I still got the great berry flavor I wanted.  I added the honey very late in the boil hoping to taste some of it, but I did not.  Next time, I'll double the amount of honey.  It needs a bit more time to carbonate fully, but I really like this!

More updates coming soon....

On a related note, my Homebrew #7—a Cherry ale spiked with lactobacillus is now in the fermenter! This should take about a year to complete.  I hope my patience will be rewarded!  More details coming soon...

What's your favorite homebrew Fruit Beer?

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Review: Finestkind IPA, Smuttynose

Finestkind IPA
Smuttynose Brewing Co. — Portsmouth, NH

  • Style: India Pale Ale
  • Bitterness:  73 IBU
  • ABV:  6.98%
  • Malts:  Two-row, Pale Ale, C-60
  • Hops:  Magnum, Simcoe, Santiam, Centennial
  • Dry Hops:  Amarillo
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle (Full Disclosure: sample provided by brewery)

Description:  "You could say, then, that Smuttynose IPA is a physical salute to the glory of the American hop grower.  The citrusy hop flower comes from a mixture of Simcoe and Santiam and is pleasantly balanced by a smooth bitterness from the Magnum hops.  The beer itself is light bodied and crisp with a golden color that will throw a slight haze, as we bottle it unfiltered.  At 73 IBUs, this is definitely not a training-wheels IPA, but is meant for hop lovers looking to satisfy their craving in a way that's not easy to find.  We think they'll be quite pleased." — Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  This is part of my Ode to IPA Day series.  Smuttynose beers are not available in the Northwest.  In addition to this IPA I'm now tasting, I recently sampled Smuttynose's Big A IPA, an Imperial.

The tasting:  Gold in color, hazy, with a white head that dissipated slowly.  I noticed some particles of sediment floating in suspension.  Aroma of caramel malt, grassy hops, light floral hops, and some honey sweetness.  In addition to being dry hopped, four hop varieties were used in this beer.  So I was surprised by the subtle hop aromas.  While light in aroma, the hops were not denied in flavor.  Grapefruit hop bitterness dominates, but there are also light notes of piney and grassy hops.  Underneath is a malt base of caramel and bread that provides a light sweetness.  Finestkind IPA is light to medium bodied and has moderate carbonation. It finishes dry with long lingering grapefruit hop bitterness.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!   Although weak in hop aroma, Finestkind has strong, but not overwhelming, hop flavors.  I've grown tired of hop bombs and I appreciated this beer's balance.   This is the third Smuttynose beer I've tasted, and I have enjoyed each.  If you live in Illinois, Ohio, or the East Coast, this is a beer you should consider.  

Have you tried Finestkind IPA or any other Smuttynose brews?

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Review: India Pale Ale, Avery Brewing

India Pale Ale
Avery Brewing Co. — Boulder, CO

  • Style: India Pale Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  6.5%
  • Malts:  Two-row Barley, Munich
  • Hops:  Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, Centennial
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle

Description:  "In the 1700s one crafty brewer discovered that a healthy dose of hops and an increased alcohol content preserved his ales during the long voyage to India (as depicted in our label) to quench the thirst of British troops. Today, we tip our hat to that historic innovation by brewing Colorado's hoppiest pale ale. Avery IPA demands to be poured into your favorite glass to truly appreciate the citrusy, floral bouquet and the rich, malty finish." — Avery Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  This is part of my Ode to IPA Day series.  India Pale Ale is one of Avery's five year-round brews.  I recently tasted and enjoyed Avery's White Rascal, a Belgian White Ale.    

The tasting:  Amber in color, hazy, with a large white head that dissipated slowly, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.  Aroma of floral and grassy hops along with caramel and bready malts.  Flavor of piney and grapefruit hops on top of a subtle biscuit malt base.  There's little malt sweetness and the flavor is dominated by hop bitterness that starts in the middle and kicks into high gear near the finish.  Avery IPA is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, and has a sticky, resinous mouth feel.  It finishes with a long lingering grapefruit hop bitterness.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I'd drink this again if someone gives it to me.   I like IPAs, but the high level of bitterness in Avery's IPA surprised me.  This is not a balanced IPA.  If you're into hop bombs, you'll like this one.

Have you tried Avery's India Pale Ale?

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