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A Short Change of Topic

I’ve been in the office all day, part in meetings, and part at our new warehouse double checking some floor plans I’ve come up with to make sure everything fits in real life like it does on the computer. So since I have no idea what’s going on in the gun world today, I’ll talk about another topic near and dear to my heart: beer.

I’ve been thinking about getting back into brewing beer. I’ve tried the wine thing a few times now, and the time between effort and reward is too long. On the bright side, if you don’t have time for the wine, the wine has time. Unlike beer, if you properly sulfite your wine, it’ll get nothing but better with age. Beer will get better too, but only to a point, and then you better do something with it (drinking it is usually my solution).

As I’m sitting here in the Wegman’s┬áCafe waiting for rush hour to die down, I’m drinking a Samuel Smith’s India Pale Ale. The IPA, as a style, is one of my favorite ales to brew, and also is one of my favorite ales to drink. While I like a good American IPA, I really like English IPAs, so every time I have an English IPA, like Sammy Smith’s, I get the itch to brew my own.┬áMost of the IPAs you drink in the US are going to be in the American style. What’s the difference? American IPAs are usually run pretty heavy on Cascade hops. The total bouquet may contain a lot more than Cascade, but it’s usually the prominent hop in most American made IPAs. English IPAs are also more heavily hopped than other styles — that’s part of surviving the trip to India, after all — but they generally use more subdued hop varieties. As a result, English IPAs don’t tend to punch you in the face with hops quite as much, and still retain quite a lot of malty body. I like that.

My tap water is medium-hard, so it tends to make really good IPAs and other medium-to-high gravity ales. I’ve had a tougher time with mash efficiency trying to do light bodied pale ales. When I’ve made my IPAs, I’ve always tried to hop them the English way so the maltiness of the ale comes through for a better balance. What’s your favorite beer?

26 Responses to “A Short Change of Topic”

  1. Roger says:

    For the first time in a LONG time I wish I lived up north again & close to where you live. I would volunteer to be your quality assurance taster. Purely altruistic of course to be certain that you drink only the best IPA.
    I will follow your success with an IPA in hand (just like there is one now.)

  2. Jacqueline J says:

    “Punch you in the face”, Ha, that’s exactly how I describe IPA’s. I’m not a fan, but once in a while, I get a craving for that floral aroma and sharp and clean flavor.

    I have a weakness for stouts, Nitro Milk Stout by Left Hand is pretty amazing, and you can’t go wrong with Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout is also really good, I find it to be a little heavier and more complex than the above two.

    • ecurb says:

      Seconded on both counts. American IPAs (especially west coast ones) taste like pine needle tea to me. And you can’t beat the flavour of a good stout.

    • Andy says:

      If you dig the milk stouts, I’ll recommend Xingu. It’s sold as Brazillian Black Beer, but it’s an awesome milk stout. Is also perfect with some Thin Mints.

      I’m about to enjoy New Hollands Dragons Milk, a bourbon stout. After a fun run with Allagash’s Curieax(sp), I’ve been in the hunt for more of these bourbon finished, high gravity beers.

  3. willy says:

    If your tap water comes from the city treatment plant you might make a bit of improvement in your mash by getting water from someone who has a good well. If you know anyone from NE PA living near a gas well they will have had a tier 3 test of their water which will tell you EVERYTHING about what’s in it. Like all the old beer ads used to say “It’s the water!”

    • Sebastian says:

      People with wells are tough to come by around here. I live six miles outside of Philadelphia. Actually, my office, which is far from where I live, has well water, but it’s pretty hard well water. Most ground water around here is pretty hard. It’s tough to find good, sweet water.

  4. Stew says:

    I prefer heavy and strong beers: Imperial stouts, imperial IPAs, barleywines. I find the second round of malt in the imperial IPAs really takes the edge off the American style IPA.

  5. Voolfie says:

    I prefer plain pale ales to the India Pale Ales and my favorite beer is an English Bitter like Wells Bombardier or Fuller’s ESB.

    Theakston’s ‘Old Peculier’ while not strictly a bitter, is a phenomenal beverage.

    I drink ales exclusively and don’t care for lagers any more.

    I’m heartened by the increasing numbers of public houses and taverns that offer cask conditioned beers.

    • Sebastian says:

      I like bitters a good deal, but my water doesn’t do well. The last ESB I tried to make was so weak I could have chuggled half the keg and gotten nary a buzz. I exaggerate, but it came out to about 3.1% ABV when all was said and done. My target was in the low 4% range. Killed by bad mash efficiency.

  6. brewerbob says:

    Brewing for two years. Heavy gravity beers can last quite a long time. I have an English Barleywine that is over a year old and is getting better everyday. Just bottled (11days ago) a czech pilsner, my first lager. Will be working on my own ipa along with an american pilsner, a scottish wee heavy and a american midwestern barleywine.

  7. 1013 says:

    favorite beer = arogant bastard tall boys

  8. TS says:

    My favorite “everyday beer” is Lagunitas IPA. Just finished one 15min ago. For special occasions, I like the Pliny the Elder, though it’s too intense when you’re thirsty (and of course too expensive and hard to find). For dark beers I tend to prefer old world: Rochefort 10, Bolton Alt, Krusovice Charne. I was lucky enough to procure some Westvleteren 12 as part of their 12/12/12 release and will be hosting an All Trappist tasting shortly. I’ll probably come up with a new favorite old world after that.

  9. Brice says:

    Angry Hank’s Streetfighter Red. A good drinking beer with friends or enjoying a beer alone, or for breakfast……

  10. Shootin Buddy says:

    Drinking Sam Adams when Pennsylvania has Yeungling brewed there?

    I’m a big fan of BBK.

    When you come to Indianapolis next year, check out the Workingman’s Pilsner from Fountain Square Microbrewery (close to downtown):

    http://in.worldclassbeer.com/beerspy/product/fountain-square-workingmans-pilsner/11020/

  11. Andrew says:

    I just moved to Germany…land of beers…and I find that I’m missing all of the variety of home. Beer is literally cheaper than water here, and generally great, but all German. Good luck getting an IPA or a stout. It’s even tougher to get Belgian beers here than at home, despite only being a few hours away.

    As to favorite, especially this time of year? A local of yours: Yuengling.

    • TS says:

      Besides that, if you’re in a brew town, it’s hard to find anything but the local brew.

  12. Jim says:

    I brew English-style pale ales (bitter or extra special bitter some people call ‘em, but they are far less bitter than IPAs). I also brew an American brown ale, very similar in style to Pete’s WIcked. Good stuff, usually about 5.5 ABV, so can drink a few without getting too blasted. We’re very fortunate in southeastern PA to have numerous outstanding craft brewers – Victory, Sly Fox, Troeg’s (OK, Troegs is really central PA), Yards, all make great beers. But it’s very rewarding (and often frustrating) to brew your own — I find the challenges in brewing a great batch of beer to be somewhat comparable to the challenges of shooting as well as my guns will allow. It’s a mix of art and science – and usually the result is very satisfying.

  13. Alpheus says:

    I’m a Latter-day Saint, so I don’t drink beer, but I happen to have a favorite brand nonetheless that I’ve seen in the supermarkets in Utah. It’s called “Porter Rockwell”, and it has the slogan “Why be married to just one beer?”

    Porter Rockwell was an early Latter-day Saint who had a “rough-and-tumble” reputation, and was known to be a heavy drinker. (To be fair, though, while drinking was discouraged early on, didn’t become a requirement for members in good standing until much later.) The ironic thing about the slogan, though, is that while Porter lived at a time when polygamy was practiced, he himself didn’t practice it!

    I don’t know why, but I’m highly amused by this beer, inspired by a culture that abstains from it…

  14. Chas says:

    I am glad to see that I am not the only person thinking that American IPA’s have been getting more and more aggressively hoppy. I have pretty much stopped drinking them.

    Favorites? Isolation Ale (seasonal from Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.) and good ol’ Fat Tire (New Belgium, Fort Collins).

    • Sebastian says:

      Yeah, it used to be that Victory’s Hop Devil was a pretty hoppy IPA. Now there are breweries out there way outhopping Hop Devil. I pretty much stuck to either Hop Devil or Dogfish Head’s 60 minute IPA, which are more balanced of the American-made IPAs. I’ve never been a huge fan of the mega-hop styles that have recently become popular either.

  15. Neon says:

    My favorites Pilsner Urquell, Bohemia, Port Royal (Honduras) Czechvar (the Budweiser of the Czech Republic) for a few.

  16. Sean says:

    I brewed one of my favorites yesterday:

    http://www.brewtoad.com/recipes/greywolf-belgian-tripel

    Since I live up in hop country, I planted a few bines in Spring 2012. The are already 20 feet high, and I expected to harvest a few pounds of cascade and centennial – which are ideal for IPAs.

  17. Sean says:

    BTW: what kind of system do you have? All-grain? What kind of mash/sparge process?

    • Sebastian says:

      I use rubbermaid insulated coolers for mashing. I take out the built in spigot and replace it with a proper shutoff valve and fitting for silicon tubing. I also have a large Polarware stainless steel pot that I’ve outfitted with a thermometer and drain valve. I’ve also used that to mash when I’ve been in a hurry. The hard part of using the rubbermaid containers as mash tuns is that you have to calculate the thermal mass of it, so you can hit the target mash temperature when everything goes in. I’ve generally had pretty good luck hitting it when I’ve tried though. There are brew calculators out there that, given so many pounds of grain at a certain temperature, and given a mash tun at a certain temperature, with a certain thermal mass, you must heat the water to X degrees to hit your goal of mashing at Y degrees. The mashing temperature has a significant effect on the overall result, even if you’re 5 degrees off.

      I have the equipment needed for fly sparging, but I’ve never really tried it. I’ve always done batch sparging. I’ve generally gotten pretty decent efficiency from batch sparging when I’ve done higher gravity beers.

  18. Mark says:

    I tend to go for the piney/grapefruit smack in the face with a cascade/amarillo/simcoe kind of blend. Lately, my go to’s have been Double D from Dominion & Double IPA from Stoudts, if I can get them.

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