Flemish Style Sour Ale – 1 Door Ales

This is  kind of my return to blogging after a long hiatus. I don’t have a hobby at the moment and I drink a lot of beer. Since I spend so much time drinking it and spending money on the interesting stuff, I think I am ready for a return.

Since my last post I got a new job, and moved away from the other Barons to the SF Bay Area. Beer is king out here. I am in heaven.

I am really partial to sour ales. Ever since reading about Monk’s Cafe Sour Ale (still haven’t gone to the Philly) in some magazine on a flight, I have been kind of intrigued with the flavor. My girlfriend and I made a wheat beer in 2008 for as a graduation present to me at the Shenandoah Brewing Company http://www.shenandoahbrewing.com/. We recently opened it in 2010 (after another graduation) and it had a real complex sour flavor; whether it was safe to drink is another story.

To me sour ales satisfy a flavor craving, something similar to those red meat craving us meat eaters get every once in a while at 11 pm on a Monday night. I am no expert in beer origins, but Flemish means Belgium/French border. So you can imagine the market is dominated by imports, but these are usually expensive. This beer is brewed in the good ‘ol USA (and a steal), brewed in San Jose (awesome for me). You can look up the history of Sour Ales on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanders_red_ale.

This beer in particular has a great sour citrus taste. The sour flavor is not overwhelming and comes in a swell as an aftertaste. Recently, I have had an issue with IPAs, due to the obscene bite.  This beer has none. Smooth and a light caramel flavor, hints of roasted malt. There is a complex flavor that works…really well. I am drinking this with oreos, maybe not the best pairing, but I like it. The sweet chocolate counters the sour citrus taste.

If you can handle a tiny bit of bitter, then give this one a shot. I love it.

Where I bought this: Willow Glen BevMo

How Much: $3.00 with the sale ($3.99 regularly)

ABV: 7%


Did You Say Malt, or Kapsreiter Landbier?

Landbier – beer of the…. land.

This Austrian “session” beer (sort of like the beer equivalent of a house wine) is supposed to be low in hops, malty, low to moderately alcoholic and very drinkable.  Kapsreiter Landbier was a veritable malt monster.

Here’s what I thought:

– Aroma – very strong, smelled like barley tea, or grain being mashed

– Tasted like it should have been sweet like unfermented beer, but it was actually quite dry

– Slightly bitter, with little to no discernible hop character

– Pretty substantial amount of body.  Light in color, but heavy with malt character

This was a strange beer indeed, I’m not sure I would buy it again, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you want to know what malt tastes like!

Purchased at:

3301 New Mexico Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C., DC (202) 966-4444

‘Tis the Season (…For Holiday Beer)

I love this time of year. Cheesy though it may be, I can’t help my Pavlovian response to the holiday stimuli that are cropping up right about now. Cold weather, snow, seemingly ubiquitous (or likely just imagined) fireplace smell, holiday decorations, and new seasonal beers punctuating the normal selection on purveyor’s shelves – it all adds up to an intense desire for full bodied, slightly sweet, slightly spiced, and warmingly alcoholic holiday beer.

This is the second year that I am trying to satisfy my craving by making a holiday beer of my own – an adaptation from a recipe out of Charlie Papazian’s “Joy of Homebrewing”. I like to go with extract versions from time to time. To be honest, with life the way it is – a quick extract recipe is my friend (in fact, the first year I made it was so hectic that I didn’t even make my “Holiday” beer until January. There’s nothing quite like a having a holiday beer in mid-February…).

Recipe (ingredients purchased at myLHBS – http://www.mylhbs.com/):


8 lbs. of Liquid Malt Extract (I used Alexander’s Pale LME this year)

1/2 lb. of Honey Malt

2 oz. Black Patent Malt

1 lb. of Clover Honey


2 oz. Cascade (60 min.)

1 oz. Saaz (2 min.)


Zest of 4 Oranges

1 oz. of Fresh Ginger

2 sticks of Cinnamon

1 unit of “Secret Ingredient”


Wyeast American Ale


I went with a 5 gal. boil. I added the honey about 30 minutes in. Then, with about 10 minutes left, I dropped in my copper wort chiller, a whirlfloc tablet, some yeast nutrient, and the extras listed in the recipe (orange zest, ginger and cinnamon). Then, with 2 minutes to go, I added the Saaz hops, and the secret ingredient. The secret ingredient for this recipe is closely guarded and I certainly can’t reveal it in a public post where anyone can– Ok, just kidding, it’s nutmeg… The secret ingredient is always nutmeg. I only like a very small amount (a few grates of whole nutmeg is all I added this year). If anyone can pick it out, it’s probably too much.

After the boil, I employed my trusty wort chiller to bring the temperature down. I find a wort chiller works pretty well, and I have never had any problems using one. I do, however, find that it can be hard to chill down the wort to lower than 80 degrees (Fahrenheit). I read somewhere about someone who used a bucket of ice water and a sump-pump to make for an even faster and more effective cooling process. It seemed like a great idea, but I haven’t tried it yet. After cooling, into a 6 gal. glass carboy it went, along with the yeast. One of my favorite parts of the process is being able to watch fermentation happen. It truly allows for appreciation of the level of life that your fermenting wort will support.

This year, I had an unbelievably short lag time. The wort went into the carboy at around 3:30PM. At 6PM I noticed some slow bubbles pushing through the air lock. By 10PM it was bubbling away, and then continued for several days. In fact, it progressed so fervently, it bubbled all the way up to the air lock and clogged it. I had to do a mid-fermentation transition to a blow-off tube. Once it slowed back down, I replaced the tube with a regular air lock again.

I left it in the primary for three weeks, and then bottled it so that I could give some (key word: “some”) out as gifts.

Anchor Brewing – “Christmas Ale”

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

Anchor Brewing - Christmas Ale

This yearly treat from Anchor Brewing is on its 36th incarnation.  According to maker, the recipe changes every year, along with the tree on the label (this year’s tree is the Ginkgo Biloba).  Some might find the thought of a recipe that changes every year somewhat unsettling.  However, I think it shows respect for us, the consumer.  Anchor Brewing trusts the market enough to know that they will not expect a cookie cutter beer that is exactly the same every year.  They are encouraging people to drink it purposefully, and to be cognizant of the flavors they are experiencing.

For this year’s batch, here’s what I get:

– There is definitely an aroma of freshly grated nutmeg, and a flavor of it as well.

– Other spice aromas are present.  Perhaps orange zest, cinnamon and other holiday spices.

– It’s malty, and has a smooth roast flavor, without as much of the sharper roasted malt bitterness.  I get dark chocolate and coffee tones, and then some mellow bitterness at the end, but the hop flavor is not very pronounced.

Good stuff from Anchor – Cheers!

Barley, Hops, Yeast and… Rocks?

I’ll admit, at first it doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good time (or a refreshing drink), but this historical brewing method is making a comeback among small-scale craft brewers.

One of the ways to create flavor in beer, just like in food, is to achieve caramelization of the natural sugars that are present.  In beer, this can be done before fermentation, when the sugar-laden unfermented beer (technically called wort) is boiled.

Normally, unfermented beer (wort) is boiled for about an hour.  Following boiling, it is cooled, and then put into a tank to ferment.  Since boiling is usually accomplished by using some sort of stove-like device, the wort is heated slowly from the bottom, and relatively evenly.  This method does not allow the heat source to come directly in contact with the wort, and the heat gets distributed throughout the containing pot or kettle before reaching the sugary wort.   This method is great for preventing burning, but there is another way…

By heating up very hard rocks in a blazing fire, and then dropping them directly into their wort, brewers of yore could rapidly bring their brew to a steady boil.  Over the course of the boiling session, they would fish out the cold rocks and replace them with glowing fresh ones right out of the fire.  By doing this, the heat source (rocks) would come directly in contact with the wort sugars, thus increasing the amount of caramelization that occurred.  As a bonus, if the rocks were heated over a wood fire, they would impart a subtle smokey flavor to the final beer.

For more info on how some home brewers are using this method to impart a unique character to their brews, catch it in action on this video podcast from Basic Brewing: Basic Brewing Video – Stein Brewing in Oklahoma

Tuned Pale Ale – Make Music While Drinking

Ever wonder what note you’re hitting when you blow across the top of your half-empty beer bottle?  Well, now there’s a solution.  Check out Tuned Pale Ale.

Sierra Nevada: Stout

I’m a big fan of anything conjured up by Sierra Nevada.  Simply titled “Stout” is consistent with my expectations.  It’s not the best beer I’ve ever sipped, but not every one can be.  

It definitely has that faint likeness to their hallmark pale ale (as all of their beers seem to have), but its darker, less citrusy and has a malt bitterness.  It’s dark, but lighter in texture than a lot of stouts.  It has the roasted malt flavor – coffee and chocolate. Slightly sweet, hops come at the end.  Not much more to say – consistent and a success in my book. 

Purchased: Windows Cafe (corner of 1st and Rhode Island, NW)

ABV: 5.8%

Serving: 12 oz bottle

Notes: Drink warm, cold mutes the flavor