It’s Been a Long, Long Summer

posted on November 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer,Homebrewing



Sometimes life just wears you down.  Beer helps, but it doesn’t help you get any of that time back.  Here’s a quick summary of my beer-related life over the summer:

  • June 15-23 – Vacation to California, where we traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles.  It was the first time I have had any Russian River beers, and I see why they score so high.  I tried the gambit of the specials, like
    • Pliny the Elder
    • Damnation
    • Supplication
    • Consecration
    • Redemption
  • July 4th weekend – brewed several beers, including two sours: a Tart of Darkness clone, and an Oud Bruin, both of which turned out great (they were put in bottles a few weeks ago)
  • July 11 – Had a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Red at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia.  Need I say more?
  • September 4 – Enjoyed Sweet Baby Jesus from DuClaw Brewing for the first time in Washington D.C. – A peanut butter porter.  It was pretty tasty.
Dan Carey hard at work

Dan Carey hard at work

  • September 28 – Iowa City’s Northside Oktoberfest – the event was rainy, so there wasn’t a lot of room for everyone under the tent.  New rules put in place by the state made the event less fun.  The biggest issue with this year’s event was the 1 oz samples for several of the premium beers were 5 or 6 tickets (at 50 cents per ticket).  Does this mean that the entire 20 ounce bottle is worth $50?  No, it isn’t, so I would appreciate equalizing the ticket per sample price to be more reasonable based on the bottle price.
  • October 4 – Oktoberfest at Millstream Brewing – delicious beer at a cool place.
  • October 15 – Hit up a place in Santa Monica (West 4th and Jane) that earned me a Founder’s Badge on untappd.  Maybe not cool for you, but it was for me.
  • November 16 – Took the 3 hour trek with a couple friends to New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin.  We took the “tour”, and had the guide explain a bit more about the brewery.  The coolest part of the trip was we saw Dan Carey, the brewmaster, sipping on several different Thumbprint series beers in the QA Lab.  He waved at our group (since they were like fish in a fishbowl), and just a small part of me wanted him to step out for a photo op.  We creepily stalked him for a while before we packed up our beer and left.
  • And, pretty much the whole fall we tailgated with the crew, the Keg Totem at each home game.
  • Oh, and remember the Brew-B-Q?  We plan on having some of the barleywine we brewed at our upcoming holiday party.  It ended up being 12%, and has been aging since then.

How was your summer?  Any great stories to tell?  Let me know!


Brew-b-q 2013

posted on June 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm by Ken Valley in Homebrewing

Enjoying the Brew-b-q

Enjoying the Brew-b-q

This past Memorial Day weekend, our group of friends got together for our third annual brew-b-q celebration.  At the event, we had three groups of people, those of us brewing a “big” beer, those cooking and smoking various meats, and those enjoying the entire event.

There were four of us making the beer, with many helpers on hand.  Those of us making the beer each brought a couple specialty malts, hop varieties, and base malt.  This year, I had some base malt I wanted to use, so I provided the base malt, 22 pounds of a mixture of pale malt, organic pilsner malt, and organic pale malt. With each of us contributing 2 pounds of specialty grains, that brought the total grains for a five gallon batch of beer to 30 pounds. By comparison, your standard batch of beer has around 10 to 12 pounds of grain.

After the mash, during the boil, we added several varieties of hops, including Summit, El Dorado, Centennial, and Pacific Jade. With the hop additions, the theoretical IBU’s were 128! By comparison, many very bitter IPA’s tend to be in the 80-90 range. But this was necessary for our brew, since it was going to be very strong. If everything went correctly, it was supposed to be around 14% ABV, so the large amounts of hops were to balance out the beer.

Once we were done with the boil, we cooled the wort (unfermented beer), and put it into our fermentation container. Once measured, the original gravity wound up a bit lower than we expected, but it was still potentially a beer in about the 10-12% ABV range.

We aerated the jug well by shaking it, then added our yeast, which was just a standard American Ale yeast. After a day, we added a Super High Gravity yeast, to keep the fermentation going when the alcohol percentage was high.

Later this year, we are going to bottle it and enjoy it when the cold nights of winter are upon us.

Have you made any large beers lately? How did it turn out?

An Evening with the Basic Brewing Guys

posted on September 7, 2012 at 10:36 am by Ken Valley in Craft Beer,Homebrewing

Basic Brewing Guys

Hanging with the Basic Brewing Guys - (from left to right) Steve, me, Andy, James

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Northwest Arkansas.  While there, I had the privilege to meet up and hang out with the guys from Basic Brewing, my favorite brewing podcast and video podcast.  You may remember last year I had a chance to chat with the guys about the spontaneous homebrew I had made.

To begin the evening, we met up at Tanglewood Branch, where I had a chance to finally meet James, Steve, and Andy in-person.  While at the pub, I had a chance to try the porter made by the owner/brewmaster, J.T. Wampler.  After we finished our beers, we decided to head over to the Fayetteville square and enjoy some pizza from Tiny Tim’s Pizza and West Mountain Brewing Company.

West Mountain was a quaint restaurant that had been a pizza place for some time, but just began brewing at the end of 2011.  While there, as we were enjoying the pizza, I tried the Rye Pale Ale and the West Mountain Saison, with the saison being my favorite of the two.

After we had finished our meal, Steve decided to call it an evening, but James, Andy, and I went back to Andy’s home.  James had brought a few of the beers he had purchased while at the Great Taste of the Midwest the previous weekend in Wisconsin.  Additionally, I also wanted to see Andy’s automated brewing setup he had (along with the barrel he had just purchased; see the Basic Brewing Radio archives for more info).  While checking out the brewing setup, we split the Berliner Weiss James had just made (7/26/2012 episode of Basic Brewing Radio), along with a couple of New Glarus beers – the Thumbprint Saison and the R & D Sour Ale.  After a while, we realized it had gotten late, and we decided to call it a night.

Over the course of the evening, I had a chance to sample some great beers and enjoy great company.  I hope the next time I get a chance to visit Fayetteville the guys are available again, so we can have another great time.

Spontaneous Homebrew Takes First Place

posted on May 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm by Ken Valley in Homebrewing

This past weekend, I entered the spontaneous homebrew created in October, 2010 into a local homebrew contest, and it ended up taking first place in the Sour Beer category!

If you aren’t familiar, the specifics of the beer were discussed on the October 18, 2011 episode of Basic Brewing Radio.  Again, thanks to James and the guys for giving me a vote of confidence to enter the beer!

Totem Keg Featured on Local News

posted on November 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm by Ken Valley in Homebrewing

Totem Keg on TV

Totem Keg on TV

Over the weekend, my friends and I were interviewed by the local news about the Totem Keg. Check out the feature on the Fox affiliate or on the CBS affiliate.

I feel an Emmy isn’t out of the question…

Basic Brewing Interview About Spontaneous Homebrew

posted on October 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm by Ken Valley in Homebrewing

Last week we had the pleasure of joining James Spencer, the host of Basic Brewing Radio, on his weekly podcast (it’s the October 20, 2011 episode) about brewing.  He (and two of his regular guests) interviewed Austin and myself on the ‘spontaneous’ beer I made last October.  We had a lot of fun, and enjoyed the beer on the show.

Check out the episode now!

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