A Juicy Session: Announcing #126

Announcing The Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

Ready for the next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday?  On August 4th, 2017, the topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet.  New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them. 

So fire up your keyboard – let’s hear about your own encounters with these strange IPAs.

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Any approach is welcome. Choose an idea or find your own:  

  • The encounter:  Do you remember your first NEIPA – if so, what was that like?  Details, please.  And how has your perception of the style changed over time? 
  • Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend … why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does “IPA” still apply in a way that’s helpful to drinkers?
  • Or the crusade:  Testify!  Exactly why do you love or hate these beers?  How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you.  Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?
  • Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?   What makes an IPA simply an unfiltered dry-hopped American IPA without much clarity instead of part of this style?  What about the sweeter “milkshake” IPAs – part of this style definition or something else?   What flaws make for weak examples of the style? Or maybe, where should the numbers be for this style – abv, ibu, color and clarity, etc.? What tasting instructions would you give to judges of these beers?
  • Or take another angle, tell another tale!  Have you been writing about these beers for several years now and watched them evolve?  Know something cool about the making of these beers, the people behind them, their spread to the UK and Europe?

Choose any angle and make it yours – they’re just ideas to get us thinking, not a questionnaire.  And if you have zero interest in such a beer, just say why in the fullest detail. Have fun with it!    

A few resources

The Brewers Association and the related Homebrewers Association both started out skeptical. This discussion (including comments) shows a step towards recognition: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/news/new-england-ipa-haze-craze/  Check out the April Fools style announcement complete with gravy boat snark from 2016: https://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/ne-ipa-recognized-official-beer-style

How to Participate in August’s The Session

On August 4, after you post to your blog, come on back here to add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in your comment below on this page, or to get a little more buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert us directly @beerbybart on Twitter.  

I then follow up soon thereafter with a full round-up of all of the submissions with links back to your work and we all soak in the breadth of opinion and information of the beer blogging community.  Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

Enjoy!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Slow Learning: Sour beer experiments

Now and then the Beer By BART blog detours into the realm of home brewing, specifically the brewing of sour beers. Here’s Gail with some photos and notes from her conversation with James Spencer for his Basic Brewing Radio podcast for April 1, 2014.

The first part of the interview with Basic Brewing is about my side by side experiments brewing with 100% Brettanomyces yeast to preserve happiness in a little session IPA.  That’s a fun experiment to do with a split batch, comparing with a Saccharomyces ale yeast strain and the same hops.

But the second half is both weird and logical, and oh so simple!

Pasta? In beer?

The idea of using pasta to mimic the results of a raw wheat turbid mash process arose from a challenge posed by Steve Piatz in this BYO article on Lambic Style Brewing, where he said,

small-pasta-beer-prep
Pasta in a plastic fermenter. It will soften slowly in the water and alcohol, and does not have to be cooked

“The wheat extract is a poor man’s approximation of the unmalted wheat used in the commercial lambic breweries. I don’t know of an extract equivalent of unmalted wheat.”  

I have used his method to make sour beers for about six years now, and I like brewing on a kitchen stovetop for these beers, so dry extracts are appealing and effective.  I always wanted to figure out a source for high quality gelatinized raw wheat for these batches of American sour beer inspired by the classic Belgian Lambics.

small-pasta-beer-corny
Gail adding whole wheat artisan organic spaghetti to a vessel where fermentation will take place – in a different batch than the one tasted on the podcast
small-pasta-beer-fermenting
After beer has been racked off of this one-year-lambic batch, the spaghetti looks cooked – and the oak cubes look like meatballs!

A trip to Belgium (and a brew day at Cantillon) gave me the insight that Lambic wort is incredibly starchy.  It reminded me of a liquid glass of Cream of Wheat cereal with a lot of honey mixed in.

Why not try top quality whole wheat pasta?  I like to use a variety that is 100% wheat, with no eggs or other extra ingredients. I figure you want the proteins and the wheat fiber as well as starches, and if you made your own turbid mash, you’d be using whole raw wheatberries, and gelatinizing them with a long cereal mash process.  The whole wheat pasta has it all, and  it’s already been cooked, then dried for convenience.  Why not flour? Flour is not cooked — pre-gelatinized– for you.

You don’t need to cook pasta again, you can just give it to your yeast and bacteria as an additional component to the wort, softening and being consumed in the fermenter for a year or two, like starch suspended in a lambic wort!

small-ambiant-pasta-beer
An ambient dark sour batch, made with local wild microbiota plus some brett on cherry pits saved from an earlier batch.

I was pretty confident that would work, since once you have made Lambic-inspired beers you have probably seen ghosts of fruit, like a round gray ash of a blueberry for example, sitting at the bottom of your fermenters.  So why not let noodles sit down there to slowly feed the Brett?

I have used pasta in a bunch of mixed-culture sour beers now.  I think the effect is subtle, but I like the character.    So my experiment was to split a batch and see what the whole wheat pasta contributed.

Both beers were made with the same initial batch based on the Piatz experiment — 6#s of DME (5 gal recipe)  and two ounces of aged hops —  all the 2 year aged hops I had — in an old bag marked “6.5%Alpha”.  (Sigh. Record keeping issues again! Pretty sure they were sterlings.)   I wished I had some 3 year, and so I plan to buy some noble hops for aging this year.

Dividing into small batches lets you do special fruit flavors or making blending variations
Dividing into small batches lets you do special fruit flavors or making blending variations. Blueberries caught in the pellicle in a gallon jug.

For one half I added 2oz dry maltodextrine into the clean fermenter, for the other I added dry whole wheat spaghetti. If I wasn’t pitching a mixed culture I’d have thought that packaged noodles might need to be cooked to sanitize them, but I had confidence in the select mix of “bugs” (along with acidity and alcohol over time) overcoming any traces of bacteria that might be on a properly packaged food product.

I didn’t know how to calculate how much of the carbohydrate value of pasta is fermentable, so I put in a whole package, 16 ounces.  I am pretty sure that was too much, since the beers finished at different gravities.   Starting Gravity was 1.053 for both halves;  Final Gravity of the pasta batch was 1.013, the one with a minor maltodextrine boost was 1.1010. This says to me I could keep trying to match the fermentables, so I understand how much energy the Brett can find in the noodles, but the purpose was for taste.  I like the slight additional complexity I got in the side-by side when I tried the beers.

We also talked about fruit lambics and wild ambient fermentations I have done on my back porch– which I have used for blending, so far — and we had a lot of fun on the show.

Back porch coolship: For this batch I used the kettle itself as the coolship to let the wort cool slowly and attract wild yeasts. I used a mesh bag to let bacteria and wild yeast in but keep flies out, and the chair to thwart neighborhood raccoons. Overnight in the winter months gets cold enough.
Back porch coolship: For this batch I used the kettle itself as the coolship to let the wort cool slowly and attract wild yeasts. I used a mesh bag to let bacteria and wild yeast in but keep flies out, and the chair to thwart neighborhood raccoons. Overnight in the winter months gets cold enough.

Local don’t-miss events and destinations: You do know that this Saturday is the incredible annual IPA festival at The Bistro, not far from the Hayward BART station, right? Ok!

 

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

 

Learning to make sour beers at home

Last night we were thrilled to attend the SF Homebrewers Guild monthly meeting to talk about sour beers!

Beer By BART’s Gail Ann Williams joined Steve Smith of the exciting new local yeast lab, GigaYeast, to talk about making sour beers. Here is her slide deck, for anybody who wants to give Lambic (or the outside of Belgium pseudo-Lambic) brewing a try, or to see how others are doing it.

If you’re less patient, there are some lovely artisan sour beers made in our area, and quite a few are served at wonderful pubs within walking distance of BART, as a matter of fact.

It’s Never Too Soon To Go Sour: Sour Beer Homebrewing

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Sour Sunday, as #sfbeerweek continues!

San Francisco Beer Week continues all around the Bay Area today. The two of us (Steve and Gail) are going to Sour Sunday in Berkeley, at Triple Rock and Jupiter, both near the downtown Berkeley BART station. (Find them by station or alphabetically on the main Beer By BART directory on our home page)

My Funky Valentine fruit and wheat slurry
The making of My Funky Valentine: Brett meets organic stone fruits in a food-grade bucket

We’ll be pouring My Funky Valentine, the very small batch dark sour stonefruit collaboration beer Gail did with Bison Brewing at this event. Come on by the Bison table at 1:00 pm for the release. Think Baltic Porter base, and then organic dried sour cherries, organic dried red plums, organic dried nectarine… and whole wheat pasta. If you are at this crowded but always worthwhile event, drop by to ask Gail why the spaghetti made this sour beer sing.

Here’s more of the the story of this unique sour beer, and how “The Hostage” became “My Funky Valentine.”

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Sour beer collaboration with Bison Brewing – meet My Funky Valentine

(By Gail Ann Williams, the brewer in the Beer By BART family)

This coming week I hope you get to enjoy SF Beer Week, and that you get a chance to try My Funky Valentine.  In November, “Organic Dan,” Dan DelGrande of Bison Brewing, touched base with me to propose a collaboration.   He offered me four five-gallon corny kegs full of The Hostage, an organic Baltic Porter that had spontaneously soured in a bourbon barrel.

His offer was that I could add bugs, fruit or whatever to make something special out of this very lactic brown beer.

kegs in the kitchenI was delighted at the opportunity to “doctor” a clean lactic sour beer, and immediately started growing up several strains of Brettanomyces from little jars in my refrigerator, using organic apple juice and organic brown rice syrup for a starter because I had no organic malt in the house, and Bison is an organic brewery.  (I promise to post more geeky details later for those who want all the specs, but I selected the most vigorous strains of the yeast and put them in a bucket of chopped dried organic cherries and red plums. And organic whole wheat spaghetti. Brett loves wheat.)

After a week, I added the fermenting fruit slurry to kegs of the base beer.  Some weeks later, there was less fruit extraction than I wanted, so I added more fruit — some amazing organic nectarines that were the available organic fruit at my house that evening — to one of the kegs in order to blend in more fruit intensity.

The last tasting was much more fruit forward than I ever expected.   I can’t wait until I can have a whole glass instead of a small sample.

heart shaped charmI’m getting ready for the debut of this beer, most likely at the Opening Gala of SFBW Friday, and then at Sour Sunday in Berkeley.  There is only 20 gallons on the planet, so it may be poured at a set time at the Bison Brewing table.  Please stop by and have a taste if you like.   I even bought some little heart trinkets for decorating tap handles…

Go, Beer Week!   Go, My Funky Valentine.

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Brewers all: A delightful National Homebrewers Conference

The NHC is over, long live the NHC.

Last week was National Homebrewer Conference week, and it was more enjoyable than I ever could have expected, even after we volunteered to help out and made up specialized pubcrawl pages for the event, plus participated in producing a pre-conference tasting and judging event.

Some of the highlights included:

  • Judge reception and dinner (thanks Sean Paxton)
  • a Brewing Network pre-party at Linden Street brewery,
  • personally judging some wonderful beers, then getting permission from Kevin Pratt to take a few pix including brief video clip of final round championship best of show deliberations  (avoiding recording any commentary on specific beers from the judges of course)
  • a remarkable professional brewers guest night featuring all kinds of astonishing special beers such as the largest pouring ever of the Our Barrel Ale project from Anchor. Really one of the best festivals I’ve been at in a long time!
  • the wonderful “Club Night” featuring food, costumes, drawings and pourings by home brew clubs.  That event felt like a community mardi gras, a very special party and meeting of the tribes.

I have not gone through all my photos yet, but more will appear. Here are a handful of photos plus the YouTube Video of judging that I made yesterday but didn’t have a chance to cross post here til now.

Just finished swapping kegs to serve from the ale camino, BN party
Serving from the “Ale Camino”

Sean Paxton designed dessert at the BJCP Judge dinner
Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton made this dessert to pair with Russian River Damnation at the BJCP reception – he also cooked for the awards banquet.

Commercial brewers night at NHC
The home brewing and beer judging community got to try local professional’s brewers’ special offerings.

Final round judging – sorting out the Best of Show finalists and going for the grand prizes

Steve and I had a great time, learning things, asking questions, seeing people I like, and trying amazing creative beers.

If you use this site, you may have wondered why we have had NHC pages up here on the Beer By BART reference site for months, when we are not a site that has a homebrewer focus. I first heard of the National Homebrewers Conference just over a year ago after the Longshot Competition when I ran into Jamil Zainasheff, whose name and face was not familiar to me at that time.  We had a brief conversation, and told him how much Steve and I love being part of the beer appreciation community and the much smaller beer & transit geek community,  and how excited I was to have judged my first BJCP-sanctioned homebrew competition.  He asked if we’d be willing to work on transit logistics for the NHC a year later. I was impressed at how forward-looking he was as an organizer, and said yes immediately.

What a lucky break!  I am not sure that I would have otherwise understood how much this event had to offer me as a still-new beer judge, a craft beer enthusiast and a beginning brewer.  If you ever have a chance, go!  (Consider it a remarkable form of Festival.) If you want to learn more about it, check out the American Homebrewers Association.  Steve and I were members long before I ever brewed a batch, because we wanted to support the craft, and get the brewpub discount card.  (In San Francisco, Rogue and 21A currently give a break to cardholders.)

For more photos from homebrew Clubs Night, click on this photo mosaic:
mosaic

(Brewers costumed in the style of San Diego (ok, not actually a costume but a hardworking pourer), Old Arizona, Diablo, and in the “looking most like the club logo on his tee shirt” category, Mad Zymurgist attire.)
(Notes posted by Gail, this time)

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Beer Judging 101 returns in the run-up to NHC

June, 2009: Way back in the depths of winter, during Beer Week, we helped put on an evening of beer evaluation with one of California’s top-tier BJCP judges, David Teckam. It was incredibly popular and worth repeating. This is planned to become a regular annual SF BEER WEEK tradition — look for the listings or drop us a note!

We’re delighted to be doing the eminars again this Tuesday, June 16th 2009. This time the seminars were set up for the week leading into the National Homebrewing Convention, so that some of the excellent homebrewers who are coming to town can participate.

The BJCP is the non-profit association of beer judges that defines the criteria for most homebrew and many pro brewing competitions, and has an extensive training and exam heritage for serious beer tasters.  However, doing a one shot public seminar is pretty unusual, and worthwhile.  [This just in: our 101 class is SOLD out for June 16! This will be a lot of fun]

It’s fun to learn with someone who is highly experienced. We also enjoy meeting other people who like to learn about beer.  Most likely we (Gail and Steve) will be helping or leading other such presentations at some point after this one.  If you might be interested in one of these classes, or in other tasting events sometime in the future, email us any time. (beerbybart (at) yahoo (dot) com) We’ll get in touch with you when we do a beer education event.

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

National Homebrewers converge on Oakland’s 12th St station for NHC 2009

Imagine taking BART to the National Homebrewer’s Conference. This will be possible June 18-20 2009. It’s a great opportunity for brewers, lapsed brewers or those who simply love good beer to check out the state of elite homebrewing, and to learn more about the craft. You could sign up now, and you may want to, since the amazing sessions and events sold out last year!

the trappist
The Trappist, 2 blocks from the Convention Center, photo by Gail.

Once a year members of the American Homebrewing Association gather from near and far for the National Homebrewer’s Conference. This year local Bay Area beer aficionados will have the pleasure of hosting this event, and welcoming throngs of elite homebrewers into our favorite beer destinations by the Bay.

We’ve created a Pub Crawl Page to help visitors decide where to go, and to spread out so no one place is mobbed all the time.

We’re looking for feedback right now, before the beertown.org pub crawl link is changed to go to our new crawl page. Please ask questions, make suggestions and help us hone this resource so NHC attendees can savor our local beer scene smoothly, safely and without parking angst.

Thanks!

Explore Beer By BART – see our main list of Bay Area good beer places with detailed transit info, and get out there to enjoy without driving.

Simmer in the city

Beer By BART is about good beer and transit planning, optimization of beer appreciation jaunts in the greater SF Bay Area, and map and rail strategy, with these notes on the side. It is not a homebrewing blog. So this entry is a departure from our (infrequent) travel, festival and random commentary.

Preparing to brew with the Thirsty Hopster
Preparing to brew with the Thirsty Hopster

Gail typing: Steve and I took a great class last spring — weeks of intent and intensive beer tasting. Steve had gotten into a discussion while hanging out at City Beer and heard about a tasting course to be taught by a Grand Master beer judge, John Watson. We signed up, and plunged into a tour through BJCP styles without having known anything about that organization of trained volunteer judges. Since we only wanted to learn more about styles, tasting and flaws, we both dismissed the idea of becoming judges from the outset. Somewhere along the line, I got interesting in taking the exam. I read a lot about brewing science. So I passed the exam and started judging. My fellow judge students have encouraged me to brew, and I developed a nice little rant about how a wine judge would be startled to be asked if he or she made wine at home… Quite reasonable. I like that stance.

Then in July I went and made a batch of beer anyway. It was a great sensory experience, and I ended up with a flavorful but seriously undercarbonated porter. (I have to admit it’s just not a success, even considering the historic accuracy of lower carbonation for the style. My first attempt was still too flat. I plan to improvise some hearty beer soup recipes with the rest of it.)

Meanwhile I’d been talking with JJ of The Thirsty Hopster about brewing together. Two new homebrewers with improvisational dreams, we went against common sense and made a crazy plan. We chose a big, bold beer recipe, changed it around and confidently set out yesterday to do a creative, crazy yet solid collaboration beer. I believe it’s my second and her fourth brewing adventure.

As JJ describes in a funny and detailed post, the major milestone of getting a vigorous rolling boil never happened for us. After our satisfying partial mash and sparging, we struggled to get the brewing pot up to boiling to add the needed malt extract. Once we had all those extra sugars in there from the extract, needing a higher temperature to actually boil again, the leak in the gas line either increased, or the gravity of the simmering syrupy wort was just too much. We got a gentle boil after several hours of burning fuel on a back porch camp-burner flame that kept blowing out. We improved the wind-screening, and added the first hops, hoping to bring it back quickly to the rolling boil of our dreams. It merely simmered at about 205 to 215 degrees F.

Tough break. Or non-break, to be precise about it. About 20 minutes into the “boil” I attempted to drive home to add additional firepower to the sides of the kettle. Getting across town and back and circling for 17 minutes to finally park semi-legally in the lower Haight took a total of 40 minutes. JJ stayed on pace and did all the additions, and was cooling the pot when I finally returned. No rolling boil, no hot break. So we’ll see what happens.

The thing about reading so much about brewing science and not having genuine depth of experience is that I “know” the importance of the vigor of the boil and the perils of hotside aeration. However, I didn’t know until looking it up this evening that indeed we probably should have gently stirred our watched pot that would not boil, once we were into that reality. JJ suspected that might help, but she used the term “aerate” so I got all hung up on remembering that the time for aeration is at pitching time, when the yeast-friendly temperature is reached and the wort is racked into the fermenter. However, it seems that careful non-splashy stirring of near-boiling wort might help some in such a situation, it appears. Or maybe not. I hope nevert to have to deal with a low flame again, of course.

Anyway, hanging out with Jessica is always fun, and we finished with some tasty barrel aged special brews at Toronado. (A remarkably complex Marin Brewing and Green Flash freaky funky collaboration beer, and a luscious barrel-aged version of the inimitable black lager Death and Taxes from Moonlight called “At Arms Length” … if there’s any left, and you like experiments, get by there and grab some!)

We’re sure to learn something from this. And the good news is that it’s fermenting away happily. We’ll find out what’s up when the yeast is done. Yay for yeast. Go you little micro-organisms, go.

[UPDATE: Ever the skeptic, it was hard for me to believe that the beer was pretty good when we bottled it, and that now, after some time in the bottle, it is strong, complex and delicious! It made a good Belgianesque dessert beer for Thanksgiving, and has ranked respectably (but no prizes) in two competitions. JJ is not blogging these days due to her new job, but I know she likes it too. Big takeaway for us newbie brewers: Time is a very important ingredient in a big beer like this!]

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