Archive for August, 2013
Last Thursday I went to my friendly neighborhood brewery/bar KnB Wine Cellars. I’ve written about them before and I continue to love this place more each time I go. This time I went for the third day of their 4 day long 5-year anniversary celebration. To commemorate this day they were tapping 3 of their own test batches, along with some new menu items. Since I love everything that I’ve tried on their regular menu (so far), I was pretty excited to try anything new they had to offer and they did not disappoint. Come along and let me take you on a little journey…
First up, I ordered a Figueroa Mountain Davy Brown (6% abv). This has a smooth, creamy head, with a medium-dark color. The taste is nutty and creamy, with light hints of caramel and a noticeable caramel aftertaste.
Next I wanted to try each of their KnB Test Batch beers, #3, #4 and #5. I didn’t get to try #1 or #2, which appear to have been IPAs (here is the only “review” of #2 I was able to find). I wanted to start low to high on the alcohol content and still be sober enough to enjoy them. I thought the best way to do this would be to order their beer flight sampler, which is pictured above.
I started the sampler with Test Batch #4, which was a saison (8.1% abv). This beer is a dark yellow, cloudy and very fizzy. The head loosely laces the glass and doesn’t stick around long. The characteristic sour smell of this beer may be off putting to some, but I found it kind of refreshing. Also, the sour taste of lemon and grapefruit, with a little peach mixed in was pretty good. The tart aftertaste stuck around a while and while it was not unpleasant, I felt like heartburn was likely. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen.
Then I went to Test Batch #3, an American strong ale (9.0% abv). A dark burnt orange and semi opaque, I was really looking forward to this beer. I waited too long to get to this one and the head had all but disappeared, but that didn’t seem to take away from the taste at all. It had a semi-sweet, very rich flavor. Its high alcohol content was really apparent cutting through after the initial sweetness. The aftertaste was about the same, though I was feeling the effects of the alcohol by then, so it may have just clouded my taste buds.
Next, I tried the Test Batch#5, an imperial stout (11.2% abv). This was super dark, with a semi-sweet, sugary smell. I again waited too long (20 mins) to get a good look at the full head, but what was left held lightly to glass. The taste was very rich and sweet, with brown sugar and mild spice (cinnamon?). The heavy, sweet aftertaste of caramel was appropriate for such a big beer, but in the end, the sweetness was just a bit overpowering for me.
I was going to stop there, but there was a Shipyard Smasher Pumpkin (9.0% abv) right there on the menu, taunting me. I couldn’t help myself. This beauty poured a surprisingly bright orange color, with an off-white, medium creamy head. It smelled sweet and spicy, with a noticeable pumpkin aroma. It had a very creamy feel to it and tasted a bit creamy as well. I could easily pick out brown sugar, pumpkin, cloves, a little cinnamon- pretty much pumpkin pie in a glass. The cinnamon aftertaste with some brown sugar and clove finished the beer nicely.
I should point out that while I don’t pretend to be a professional, or even experienced beer reviewer, I am able to pick out certain common elements. I may not always use the “correct” terms, but I hope it’s apparent that I do love and truly appreciate beer. Which beers are you most excited about?
Hey beer fans,
Today is the last step in actually “making” beer. We moved it from the secondary fermenter to bottles. Of course, as with the rest of this whole process, it was not as simple as that. First, we had to arrange everything on the counter around the kitchen, as that is the best place we have for such an operation, such that we had a place for the bottles, bucket, carboy and capper.
After rinsing, washing and sanitizing everything, we went to work. First, we had to get the brew from the secondary fermenter to a bucket for easier racking, or filling, of the bottles. To do this, we placed the carboy and a clean bucket with a spigot with a packet of priming sugar in the bottom next to each other on the floor and used the auto siphon to transfer the beer from the carboy to the bucket, making sure to avoid touching the bottom of the siphon to the bottom of the fermenter. You see, when those wonderful little yeast do their work, they create waste and even die in the process of fermentation. All this junk (yeast poop and carcases) sinks to the bottom of the vessel and you don’t want that in your beer. ‘Twould make it a bit…chewy, methinks. This took a good 10 minutes to fill the bucket.
That done, we moved the now filled bucket onto the counter above so that gravity could help us with the next step: actually filling the bottles. We removed the hose from the auto siphon (we’ll get more hose for future brewing). Making sure to sanitize both hose and spigot, we attached the hose. At this point, I remembered we never took a gravity reading before we started this process and I was curious. After fumbling around with the hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of the beer (reading the instructions for something I don’t yet understand that well was yet another lesson in humility), we placed it into a separate sample cup of brew. It didn’t float as it should. So, we decided that we would just take the reading from the brew in the bucket we had just transferred to. After sanitizing it, we carefully lowered it into the beer. We had to wait for it to stop moving around to see the reading. It read a 1.04. Not having the slightest idea what this meant, we consulted the chart the tool came with. I don’t want to say I was disappointed (I’ll actually be surprised if this stuff is even fit for human consumption), but the chart seemed to indicate that our beer was a paltry 1.4% alcohol. Of course, it was about 90 degrees outside today, so in the house it was probably…90 degrees and the chart’s warmest temperature range was 74 degrees. So much for that. We didn’t take a reading after the initial boil as we were supposed to anyway (read instructions carefully, kids!), so we would have had nothing to compare even an accurate reading to.
Next we set to prepping the bottles. Looking around the kitchen we could find no more suitable a place to keep them, as we have no bottling rack, than the dishwasher. So we lined them up and sprayed them down with sanitizer and let them air dry. This was probably the only part in this entire process where we actually let sanitizer dry out or evaporate off of something that would come into contact with our beer. Hey, our beer will at least sanitize your insides… Finally, it came time to fill our prepped bottles and cap them. This took a little getting used to, as we had to make sure there were no snags in the hose coming from the bucket spigot, but after a couple of sticky spills, we got a system down. All told, we filled 47 of the 48 bottles the kit came with. Not bad, considering our rough estimate was that we would fill those 48 and still have some brew left over. Turns out we were bad guessers, and we have almost two beautiful cases of what is hopefully a tasty beer. I’ll let you know in 10-14 days when we are ready to crack one. I just hope none of these bad boys explode in my closet!
Until then, happy brewin’!
I had mentioned this place in my post Day 3- Fermentation, so I thought it deserved a more . As mentioned in the earlier post, All About Brewing is a small fairly out-of-the-way brewing supply store in El Cajon, less than a 10 minute drive from our brewery… I mean, house. This is a far more convenient option than ordering from an online supplier like Midwest Supplies, since we can go and buy practically anything we need right there and not have to wait (or pay shipping charges.) They are just starting up out there, so to some their inventory may seem somewhat limited, but to a novice like myself, they have everything I could possibly want there. They have whole tubs full of any kind of grain you could want to add to your ingredient list. They have all kinds of bottling and kegging equipment, refrigerators full of yeasts of all kinds, fermenters, chiller rings and cleaning/sanitizer supplies. They even sell home-brew kits and, soon, copper stills for making distilled creations.
More importantly than the physical supplies they offer, they are also very generous with their advice on beer making. Jim, the proprietor of the establishment, is a brewer himself and a real nice guy to boot. He is more than happy to give you advice if your brew isn’t going particularly well, or he will just chat with you about beer, home brewing, or anything at all, really. He is a genuinely nice guy and seems to really care about people’s experience with drinking and brewing beer. Look this place up if you are in the area and want a great experience in your journey of beer making.
The other night we went back (yes, “back”- I had been before I started writing this blog) to BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. This is but one of the many local breweries here in sunny San Diego. This one is located in Santee, less than a half hour from downtown.
BNS is a great little start-up brewery, with big aspirations. Currently, they have only five beers on tap: a golden ale, two IPAs, a saison and an imperial stout. I imagine they will come out with more once they catch on a little more among the populace. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t- the place has everything for mass appeal, especially in East County (San Diego): beer, cowgirls behind the bar and…country music. I’m not a fan of that last one, but I’ll ignore it for good beer.
In the meantime, they also operate a distillery out of the same space. This is a pretty impressive feat apparently since, after talking with their head distiller Andy, it isn’t easy to get a license to brew beer and liquor at the same time. From this, they hope to have gin, rum and, of course, whiskey. Any given day you go in there, you are likely to find plenty of people at the tasting bar, in their gift shop, where they also sell home brewing kits that include recipes for both their golden ale and one of their IPAs, or out on their serene patio patio, and Andy toiling away at the distillery.
As if you needed another reason to go, they also have a calendar of events that promises food trucks multiple times throughout each week and hopefully, according to the folks behind the bar, live music eventually. We were there for their weekly Taco Tuesdays event, catered by Casanova Fish Tacos. This was fantastic, as BNS doesn’t have a kitchen and, according to Andy, don’t want to. Andy says food certification and health codes are too far away from what they want to do with beer and liquor. Can’t say I can argue with them there. Go in and check them out!
This blog isn’t just about my own efforts into brewing beer. I also want to pay my respects to purveyors of the stuff. First up is a little place just down the street from me called K ‘n B Wine Cellars. This is pretty much a giant liquor store with a restaurant plopped right down in the middle of it. As you can see from the picture, their selection is… let’s call it “extensive”. They have just about any brew, spirit or wine you could think of and even some you can’t. In fact, if they don’t have something, you can ask them to order it and they will try. The sheer variety of beer on their shelves and in their refrigerators is why we go. They have so many local and craft brews, it can be a bit intimidating at first. Fear not, though, for I am here to help. Here is what you do: sit down, look at the beer list and try everything. If you aren’t particularly familiar with a particular selection, the servers and managers there are more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
This place is great for more than just great booze, though. They also have fantastic food. Their sweet potato tots are really good and they have real good sandwiches, too. If you don’t want to eat and you find the selections they have in stock not to your taste, go to one of their occasional events they have throughout each month. I just went to a scotch tasting last month, where they had Dalmore and Jura for my (yes, and other people’s tasting pleasure. Coming up at the end of this month is their 5-year anniversary. Should be a party. Come by and check it out!
So, as we continue our journey toward concocting that magical elixir we know as beer, I realized that I must clarify one thing. The period between Day “1” and Day “2” was actually more like 8 weeks, but for simplicity, I’m going for just days of actual activity in this whole process. So, in that spirit, I bring you Day 3 (no quotation marks this time)- Fermentation.
In this step we siphoned the partially fermented beer into the secondary fermenter, the carboy. This, we learned, is actually the preferred vessel for all fermentation, since we couldn’t see what was going on inside the bucket provided by Midwest Brewing Supplies. We learned this by going to All About Brewing, a very nondescript purveyor of everything beer (and soon whiskey) in El Cajon, CA, and talking to Jim. I highly recommend the expert guidance he provides, as he is a professional, a hobbyist, and most importantly, loves talking about beer and brewing. While there, I picked up a kit for my next brewing attempt: a nut brown ale. I may also pick up a yeast culture kit they have there to start growing my own yeast, but more on that later.
As for the current chapter in our journey toward mastering home brewing, today we siphoned the contents of the primary fermenter into the secondary fermenter to let it sit for another week to ferment further.
We made sure, recalling advice from Jim at All About Brewing, to fill the air lock (the plastic tubing bit sticking out the top of the carboy) with a diluted solution of water and sanitizer, instead of just straight sanitizer, lest the liquid decide to drop into our brew and make it taste…sanitized. We can’t have that.
So, now we wait, which is probably the biggest pain of this whole process. The other big concern is sanitizing everything: equipment, dishes, hands, etc. We can’t have unwanted bacteria interrupting our wanted bacteria (the yeast) doing what it does best: making beer.
Beer to me is as good as the people with who I am drinking (and/or making) it. I believe beer is to be shared. So, too, is the knowledge and culture that surrounds it. Because of this, I decided to dedicate a page to the places I go to drink, talk about and just generally experience beer.