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Kettle Shopping
I’ve been shopping kettles recently – actually I’m in the process of a brewery upgrade. I already have a really great kettle for boiling – a 15 gallon stainless steel Megapot. The marketing spiel on the Northern Brewer site describes it like this –
Northern Brewer’s famous Megapots are a homebrewing standard. These are high quality Stainless Steel kettles with a thick three layer bottom – an aluminum layer is sandwiched between two stainless steel layers for superior heat dissipation. This protects against scorching and hot spots when heating a mash or boiling wort. The 15 Gallon pot is 15″ tall and 19″ in diameter. Wall thickness is 1.2 mm.
It’s great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s very wide which is perfect for boiling off volume and the width makes it very stable on the burner (which is an important feature with scalding hot liquids!) It doesn’t retain heat well thought. There is too much exposed surface area. I’m looking for other options for a mashtun/lautertun application.
I looked at the Blichmann BoilerMaker™. They have a great website – lots and lots of sizing and volume information. One of the notes is “the height to diameter ratio is the ideal 1.2 to minimize boil-off and also prevent boil-overs.” Which is an interesting point, but I’m not looking for a boil kettle.
For a mashtun, my Rubbermaid “Gott” coolers have served me well for years. I have come to appreciate the height-width ratio and their ability to retain heat. This started me looking for a kettle that was taller than wide for my mashtun. The main reason I didn’t buy the BoilerMaker™ is this comment from their website… “While the clad bottoms look impressive, they add cost, but no real benefit to the brewer.” I call B.S. on that one – I know for a fact if you are adding direct heat to a kettle without a clad bottom you get hot spots and localized scorching. The tri-clad bottom is important to me.
After kettle geometry, the next important factor is the metal the kettle is made from. I won’t go into a discussion on the suitability of aluminum kettles, just suffice it to say I won’t use one. Call it a personal preference. Stainless steel resists corrosion, is passive and can be cleaned with all the caustics or oxygenated cleaners you want.
Regarding tri-clad (tri-ply) bottoms, it turns out there are several types of wafers used in different kettles – from copper to aluminum to iron core. A quick reference of “thermal conductivity” ratings (measured in Watts per Kelvin Meter) for different metals shows one of the worst heat conductors is Stainless Steel, followed closely by Carbon Steel. Copper, not surprisingly, is the best by far.

Copper: 401 W/m*K
Aluminum: 237 W/m*K
Cast Iron: 80 W/m*K
Carbon steel: 51 W/m*K
Stainless steel: 16 W/m*K

There are some ratings for stainless steel that you will see if you go shopping online. You might see a rating of 304 SS. This refers to the alloys and additives used in the steel – 304 contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel. 316 contain’s 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum. The “moly” is added to help resist corrosion to chlorides. Similarly, if you see 18/8, the first number is the amount of chromium that is contained in the stainless – 18% chromium, 8% nickel. 18/10 is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. The higher the numbers, the more corrosion resistant the material.

You will also see mm, inch and gauge ratings. These all refer to the thickness. Thinner kettles heat quicker and are easier to move and clean. Thicker kettles maintain heat, distribute heat more evenly and are more durable. It’s a matter of preference and the intended application.

gauge inches mm
16 0.063 1.6002
18 0.050 1.27
20 0.038 0.9652

I’m still looking for the perfect kettle. I think the best I can do in the 50-60qt range with a tri-clad bottom is equal height/width. A word of warning – if you’re buying online, watch out for restocking fees. Vollrath wants a 25% restocking fee! And you have to pay for return shipping. It’s an unexpected hidden hazard of online shopping.

Update – the kettle(s) I settled on are as follows:

Vollrath 47725 Intrigue 53 qt. Stock Pot.

Thanks to its 18-8 stainless steel construction and 1/4″ thick stainless steel clad aluminum base, this Vollrath 47725 Intrigue 53 qt. stock pot heats evenly and can stand up to years of heavy use.

A stock pot’s tall, narrow profile also helps preserve liquids longer and forces them to bubble up through the ingredients in the pot, maximizing flavor transfer. The Vollrath Intrigue stainless steel induction 53 qt. stock pot is NSF Listed, and oven and dishwasher safe. See Companion Items for a compatible cover.

Dimensions:
Inside Diameter: 15 5/8″
Inside Depth: 15 5/8″
Gauge: 16

Vollrath 47778 Intrigue 15 23/32″ Stainless Steel Cover with Loop Handle

This Vollrath 47778 Intrigue 15 23/32″ stainless steel pot / pan cover features a satin finished outside, and a mirror polished interior. A durable welded loop handle is comfortable to grasp and enables easy hanging. NSF Listed. See Companion Items for Intrigue cookware that this cover fits.

Dimensions:
Nominal Diameter: 15 23/32″
Gauge: 16

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I’ve upgraded my brewing equipment significantly during the year. Attached are photos of my current setup, from the mundane to the sweet!

Cold Smoker for home smoked malts

Cold Smoker for home smoked malts

2L Yeast Starter on Stir Plate

2L Yeast Starter on Stir Plate

1 Bucket each of StarSan and PBW solution for every brew day

1 Bucket each of StarSan and PBW solution for every brew day

ProMash brewing software

ProMash brewing software

Scale, O2, StarSan spray, 5.2 Buffer, 1 gallon measure, etc...

Scale, O2, StarSan spray, 5.2 Buffer, 1 gallon measure, etc...

March 809 HS Pump, Sanitary tri-clamps, 3 pc Blichmann ball valve

March 809 HS Pump, Sanitary tri-clamps, 3 pc Blichmann ball valve

Sump pump for immersion wort chiller

Sump pump for immersion wort chiller

Motorized JSP Malt Mill

Motorized JSP Malt Mill

Lautertun, Hot Liquor Tank and Charcoal water filter

Lautertun, Hot Liquor Tank and Charcoal water filter

15G Megapot with thermometer and 3 pc ball valve

15G Megapot with thermometer and 3 pc ball valve

Kettle top view

Kettle top view

Natural Gas Burner

Natural Gas Burner

Natural Gas Quick disconnect piped to the garage.

Natural Gas Quick disconnect piped to the garage.

On May 14th, 2008 Avery Brewing Company hosted another Insider Tasting Series at the tasting room in Boulder.  Peter Archer and C.V. Howe were the hosts this evening.

The initial discussion centered around the German tradition of brewing, which is fairly rigorous and strict due to the Reinheitsgebot.  The Begian Brewers, on the other hand, did not have such limitations and due to a variety of factors were able to isolate new and different ways to innoculate beer.  They have beers with the typical Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) and Saccharomyces uvarum (lager yeast) – but thats where the Belgians differ.  They also use Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

We started with a tap beer during the meet and greet portion of the session. The beer recommended was the LiquorMart 40th anniversary ale which was styled as a belgian IPA with the Karma yeast and orange peel additions. Yummy stuff with a very narrow distribution.

Standard Belgian styles using Abbey Yeast…

    Flight 1:


* The Reverend Belgian Quad
* Salvation Belgian Golden Ale

The second flight featured beers with different yeasts and bacteria, most notably Brettanomyces.

    Flight 2:


* Fifteen Anniversary Ale
* Brabant
* Bad Sally
* Duchesse De Bourgogne

Tasting notes:

1. The Reverend Belgian Quad: Traditional beers dubbel and tripel. The quad is popularized by American brewers who love to do things in an over the top fashion. 10% ABV, Amber. Uses the house Abbey yeast, which is a Westmalle Trappist strain. Belgian Special B grains, dark belgian candi sugar and styrian goldings hops go into this big beer. Notes of dark cherries, currants and molasses blend with a sweet caramel taste.

2. Salvation Belgian Golden Ale: Dry golden strong ale boasting 9% ABV. Styrian Goldings hops, light belgian candi sugar and the house abbey yeast. Hints of apircot, peach, nutmeg and cinnamon (muted.)

3. Fifteen Anniversary Ale: This beer was selected by Adam Avery to commemorate 15 years. It is a rare 100% brettanomyces yeast beer. The brett is an uncategorized variety that is the house strain. It was fermented in steel tanks and carefully temperature controlled. According to the notes “There is very little acetic production… No lactobacillous was added to this beer, therefore there was no lactic acid production.” In traditional Lambics, bretts are used in combination with lacto and pedio and whatever else happens to blow or fall into the fermentor. This beer is a show case for pure brett characteristics. Clear, Amber color, low head. Classic belgian aromatics for sour beers. Very dry. Low acidic sourness.

4. Brabant: Named after the flemish word for “Big Horse”. The label has the art from a painting named the Peasant Dance from Pieter Bruegel. The notes state “Primary fermentation used a Westmalle Trapist strain (abbey yeast used on Reverend and Salvation). Once in the oak barrel, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis was added for a secondary fermentation, which … created the horsey/barnyard flavors. Some variation of brett brux is believed to be what Orval uses for their secondary fermention. Aged for over 9 months in the oak cask.” This was the maltiest beer of the bunch. It reminded me of a Biere de garde. Dark brown from debittered black malts. Aged in Chardonnay barrels. Mention of “dusty cobwebs” as a characteristic. Fruit character from white grapes. 1100 cases of this will be available next year. I may have to do another distribution to my podcast buddies if I can get a case! 😉 On a side note, the barrels are from “Norman Vineyards” who have a Mephistopholes wine!

5. Bad Sally: “BAD” salvation – as in bad ass. This was by far my favorite of the night. It was a WOW beer. This was originally going to be part of the “crucified trinity” – a take off of the devine trinity of beers Avery produces. “Primary fermentation used a Westmalle Trappist strain.” I’m sure the tasting notes from Salvation apply here. Then beer was put into barrels with the same strain of brett that was used in the Fifteen, then aged for 6 months in an oak barrel taking the beer from 1.011 down to a final gravity of 1.003!!! (almost no residual sugar). Fruit forward with some acidity. ABV 10.5%. Some tanic character leaves a chalky mouthfeel. Definite horse blanket/sweat taste. Barrels originally contained Cabernet Sauvignon. This my friends is an amazing beer! I hope they produce it soon!

6. Duchesse De Bourgogne – This was the only beer that was not an Avery beer. They brought it to demonstrate what spontaneous fermentation can result in. This beer is a modified gueze (8 + 18 month blend.) This beer has heavy acetic acid presence and moderate horsey and lactic flavors. 6% ABV, top fermented reddish brown ale from the west flanders region of belgium. Personal opionion – this beer is freaking nasty. I’ve tried it 3 times now and just can’t wrap myself around it. Sorry, the Duchesse is a skank – my opinion.

Other brettanomyces tidbits: In most beer styles (and wine) brett is considered a contaminant and the characteristics it imparts are considered unwelcome “off flavors.” However, in some styles, particularly certain belgian ales, it is appreciated and encouraged. Lambic and Gueze owe their unique flavor profiles to brett and it is also found in Oud Bruin and Flanders Red Ale.

Brett is usually categorized into 3 or 4 different strains, but it’s mainly out of convenience. With Saccharomyces, the industry has spent a lot of money to identify hundreds of different yeast strains. With bretts, the money hasn’t been put into it. There is a good chance that there are also hundreds of different brett strains.

Filtered v. Unfiltered beers.  Brewer Mike Memsic discussed the ways that filtering affects the flavor and style of craft beer. 

I’ve been attending these Beer Appreciation Classes pretty regularly.  Originally they were promoting that you’d get an MBA – Master of Beer Answers!  Pretty cool.  The classes are held on a Monday near the first of the month.  It’s a great chance to discuss brewing with commercial brewers – for example David Zuckerman discussed dry hopping and all things hoppy.  A class was taught on cask conditioned ales.  Steve Trese discussed yeast.  It’s a great reason to get out and have a drink – and learn something!

The class on filtered v. unfiltered was exceptional.  I’ve been thinking about getting a plate filter since my last dopplebock.  I didn’t pull the hot break from the boil kettle – what was I thinking? So I ended up with a persistent funky foam in EVERY glass of beer.  The main goal of filtering beer is to improve shelf life.  Reasons not to include yeast being a characteristic of the beer style (hefeweizen for example) or having bottle conditioned ales.  Mike discussed how you might want to control the amount of yeast in your product for consistency from batch to batch, so you would filter to certain level.

We also discussed finings including isinglass (the swim bladder of a sturgeon – watch out vegans) and gelatin.  I asked about Irish Moss, which I guess isn’t really a fining.  My dumb question of the night.  🙂

We toured the brewery and saw Peter setting up the 10M DE filter (DE = diatomaceous earth, or porous shells from diatoms).   It was cool seeing him make the beer slurry that would be used to coat the filter screens.  He looked like he’d been working with flour – his entire face was coated with powder.

They were getting ready to filter a very hoppy beer (Single Track?)… we got to see a pitcher of the unfiltered beer.  It was  illegal to taste it because of regulations from the revenuers (TTB – Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.)  It looked and smelled just like hop milk though. Yum.  Then we tried some of the filtered beer from the bar.  Even the most casual observer would have seen THAT difference!

We also got to hang out at the plate and frame filter and oh-and-ah over that.  It must be some serious work running a brewery.  These things have to be back flushed daily, repaired and replaced every week.  In the end, it’s worth it, because you get great beer!

Last night, March 5th 2008 was the second session of the Avery Insider Tasting Series.  It was moderated by C.V. Howe (marketing), Matt “Hand Truck” Thrall and Andy Parker (brewers).   The tasting was designed to educate us on the flavor profiles  of various hop varietals, inform us of the different methods that brewers use to extract those flavors from the hops, and showcase the effects of time on hop flavor.

Flight 1:

Avery IPA – Distributed to 30 states. Piney due to use of Columbus.  Aroma from CTZ (Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus).  3 Hop additions – bittering at 1 hour, flavoring at 30 minutes, aroma at flame out.

Avery IPA dry-hopped with Bullion hops – English hops used in Out of Bounds Stout, Jubilation, and Ellies Brown Ale.   My perception was very sharp bitterness.  It would pair well with chocolate.  Not a great variety for dry hopping.  Cloudy due to protein haze.

Avery IPA dry-hopped with Centennial hops.  Larger nose, citrusy, grapefruit.  Cloudy due to protein haze.  Dry hop cold  (35F) in keg.

Avery IPA dry-hopped with CTZ (Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus).  CTZ is considered one variety of hop under different names.  It’s the principle aroma hop for Avery IPA.  Very intense nose (pungent, grassy, dank).  Cloudy due to protein haze.

Flight 2:

Salvation Belgian Golden Ale – clear in color.  Classic belgian ale aroma, spicy white pepper character.  High esters with alcoholic nose and alcohol warming.  This is a FANTASTIC beer!  Mostly hopped with Styrian Goldings hop, perhaps for the last time.  One third of the crop was destroyed by hail.  Apparently the farms are being repurposed and the crop may not be grown in large enough quantities to export.  So drink up and enjoy Salvation now – it may be reformulated in the future, perhaps with Sterling hops.

Salvation Belgian Golden Ale dry-hopped with Centenial and Cascade hops – almost no noticeable nose.  Alcoholic phenols, fruity bubble gum, musty nose.  I think the addition of the hops degraded this beer from a great belgian beer to tasting like a standard american craft beer.  The dry-hopping caused cloudiness.

Flight 3:

2008 Maharaja Imperial IPA – This was kegged beer vs. bottled.  Higher SRM, huge hop nose, floral, biting alcoholic taste, residual bitterness.  Another fantastic beer.

2007 Maharaja Imperial IPA – bottled.  Large head, big bubbles, white foamy head.  Big nose.  Plant earthiness.  Caramel flavors.  More chill haze then 2008 – apparently the proteins have more time to coagulate.

2008 Cask Conditioned Maharaja Imperial IPA – Protein haze/coagulation, big nose.  This beer was very smooth.  Reduced carbonation/carbonic acid resulted in reduced bitterness.  Caramel character.  Cask was stainless steel.  This was a great beer.

Notes: Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to the primary fermenter, the maturation tank or to kegged beer to increase aroma and hop character of the finished beer.  It does not significantly effect the IBU’s of the beer.

Final Beer: The Big Boy! Quadruple dry hopped (2 pounds of dry hops in the keg) with Centennial, Simcoe and Crystal.  Not overly bitter.  Highly alcoholic.  Chill haze present.  Earthy.  Okay – by this point and time in the evening, it took a huge beer to make an impression. This beer did.  I can taste the hops now just thinking about it.

Next ITS – Vertical tasting featuring Samael’s Oak Aged Ale!  See you there.

We had a long scheduled work outting to Mountain Sun Brewery for “Stout Month” on Friday (2/22/2008).  I was actually able to enjoy the stouts this time – my pallette was destroyed after going to Avery’s Maharaja release party the first time I went there (I’m still recovering from that night out!)

So here’s the line up I tried:

A warm up pint of Cherry Dip Stout (Chocolate Stout with Sweet Cherry Puree).

A sampler including: Old School Irish Stout on Nitro, Thunder Head Stout, Usurper Imperial Stout, Java Jalapeño Stout, Dog Fish Head’s Chicory Stout

Finally a pint of the Java Jalapeño Stout 

Sold out: Trickster Stout, Stoked Oak Stout, The Czar

I was a little disappointed by the number of stouts they had on their board that were “out”.   They certainly had replacements, but I had my heart set on trying the Stoked Oak Stout.  I was looking through my emails and the did send an email telling us it was running out… so you snooze, you lose.

 I have been a huge fan of the “Old School” stout on Nitro for some time now.  It’s one of the best stouts I’ve had – dry with a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness.  I really enjoyed the Java Jalapeño Stout also.  All the stouts were very good, these two were great. 

My coworkers enjoyed some cheese fries and a heaping plate of nachos with black beans.  The food at Mtn Sun is pretty awesome.

 Update: This note just came from the brewery today.  “The amount of stout consumed the past three weeks is astounding. To date you have helped consume 102 kegs of Stout. That is roughly 12,000 pints of STOUT in three weeks! Simply amazing.”  They also announced “Mini-Stout- Month at Southern Sun” which is much easier for me to get to from my house.  Woo Hoo.  Looks like I have something to do in March now.

Update 2: I finally had stoked oak stout last night at the Southern Sun Brewery.  Damn good stuff.  Left Hand Brewing had also provided a firkin of cask condition Bourbon Stout that was absolutely fantastic.  Southern Sun is having a “mini-stout” month in March.  I’m sure it will be a challenge for them to keep stock in rotation there.

Avery has once again lured me out.  This time it was for a t-shirt.  Yes, I can be had for a t-shirt.  The event was the launching of “the society for the pursuit of hoppiness.”  They had 90 memberships available last night – and over 250 people there to join.   I’m glad I got there early.

They combined it with the Maharaja release party.   The lines were out the door, down the parking lot and into the access street.   The Avery guys were walking the line pouring from bottles just to give people something to drink while they waited… to get a drink!

The double dry-hopped Atyanta Raja (Ultra-King!) was just fantastic.  It was like sucking hop juice from the vine.  Everything coming out of my body today smells like hops!  The Maharaja is consistently great. 

I had a few too many and enjoyed some great company.  Several of the KROC people were there and I met a grad student from DU who is remarkably versed on beer.  I gave him a card for the podcast.  We ventured off to Mountain Sun for Stout month.

I also bought a case of “Collaboration” so my friends can look for packages to show up soon.  🙂 

It’s been a busy month for Avery Brewing Company Fans.  I’m truly fortunate to live in close proximaty to a nationally known and respected brewery.

Recently the guys at Avery (Peter Archer and C.V. Howe) decided to host an Insider Tasting Series.  For this inaugural event, they decided to break open their cellar and have a vertical tasting of 3 of their ales.  Apparently cellaring is a recent thing with the brewery, as they’ve been able to sell as much as they make.  It takes a concerted effort to put some away for the future.

Vertical 1 – New World Porter.  An old style english ale yeast.  Avery has it’s yeast maintained offsite and they buy it from local and national suppliers.  This beer is easily classified as a black IPA due to it’s aggressive over hopping for the style.

12/06/2005 – largest head of this flight.  Least amount of hop aroma character.  The driest beer of the flight.   Slight hints of vegetal and other characteristics of oxidation.

12/27/2007 – mild compared to the other beers in the flight.  I found this true for the entire evening – the middle beer was overwhelmed by the older and younger versions.

02/06/2008 – Dry hopped firkin transferred to keg on 12/25/2007.  Unfortunately there was an accident while tapping the firkin.  Most of the beer went to waste, but enough was salvaged for the tasting.  The carbonation was lost though.  There was a strong hop character to this beer due to the dry hopping with 1 pound of columbus hops.  C.V. provided a nice history on the term “firkin” which is derived from the middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means “fourth”.  So a firkin is a quarter barrel or 9 imperial gallons.

Vertical 2 – Hog Heaven Barleywine Style Ale.  Based on an English traditional barleywine, which is “beer at wine strength”.  Compared to Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Anchor Old Foghorn.  Hog Heaven is the first year round available barleywine, now in it’s tenth year.  Created before the style “Imperial IPA” became known, this beer is a direct fit for that style at 9.3% ABV.  2.5 Pounds of Columbus hops are used for dry hopping.

1/17/2002 – lowest hop aroma in the flight.  Bitter with caramel, raisins and pear characteristics.  This was my favorite for this flight of beer.

9/21/2006 – relatively small nose. 

1/24/2008 – Strong hop aroma, sharp bitterness, white creamy head.

Vertical 3 – Collaboration, not Litigation Ale.  This is a collaboration between Russian River Brewing Company and Avery Brewing Company.  Both companies have a Salvation ale and Collaboration is a blend of those two beers.  As a footnote, Adam describes himself as a “reformed Catholic” – otherwise known as “fallen away.”  Vinnie uses many spiritual names for his Belgium beers (Salvation, Damnation, Perdition, Redemption, Sanctification, Deification, Benediction, and Erudition).  Tomme Arthur from the Lost Abbey also describes himself as being raised Catholic… I’m starting to see a trend here!  Catholics like to brew beer!  Ah, back to the vertical tasting.

The way the story goes, Adam realized that both he Vinnie had a beer of the same name, so he called Vinnie and they decided that litigation was not the way to go.  They thought it’d be interesting to blend the beers – which they did at Vinnies place in CA after guzzling a few Pliney the Elders.  Then everyone got busy and the project fell through the cracks until BA magazine asked Adam about the collaboration, which he commited to.  This got published and forced the brewers to get together in Boulder to each brew a batch of their Salvation, which they then blended to create the one off collaboration.  It was such a hit, they decided to do it again!  Thanks guys.

1/11/2007 – Beautiful.  This is an awesome beer.  It’s dark and quiet.  The yeast tartness has dissipated leaving a wonderful belgian strong ale.

2/6/2008 – Bottled 4 hours before the tasting.  Lighter in color then the first Collaboration.  White creamy head the fell quickly.  Batch #2 specifics: OG 1.076, 8.72% ABV.  Yeast in suspension (RRBC is unfiltered).  Off cherry tart taste.  Fruit nose.

Proceeds from this beer pay to send the Brett Pack to Belgium every year!

Next vertical tasting is the 1st Wednesday of March.

Last night, for Valentines day, I took the wife to the 2nd annual Avery Beer Lovers Dinner at the West End Tavern on Pearl street.  The upstairs deck was maxed out with tables with white table cloths and a single flower.  Adam Avery and Peter Archer were the brewery representatives and made the food and beer pairings.  Chef Chris Blackwood prepared the food.

The meal was superb – Big tastes to equal to the big beers Adam brought.  He mentioned several times that in previous beer dinners, the beers were better then the food, but tonight he “got his ass handed to him.”  I think that’s overly dramatic – the beers were huge, over the top and down right tasty.

Adam was also at his fourth event in as many evenings.  Monday was a special vertical tasting of the ’06, ’07 and ’08 Czar Russian Imperial Stouts at the Mountain Sun Brewery which is celebrating it’s annual stout month in February (more on this later).  Tuesday was the release party of “Collaboration, not Litigation Ale” which is a blend of Russian Rivers Salvation ale with Avery’s Salvation ale.  Wednesday was a beer dinner in Fort Collins.  So he was doing the bachelor thing on Valentines day at his fourth evening out – let’s just say the enthusiasm to talk about beer wasn’t there, but he did unwind after getting a few pints in him.

Okay, on with the menu already!

First Course

Trio Of Sliders

rib eye (with wine glazed unions), blue crab and bbq pork

The Reverend (10%), Salvation (9%), Hog Heaven (9.2%)

Second Course

Biscuits and Gravy

Beer Battered Shrimp, Cheese Biscuits

Smoothered in Crawfish Etoufee

White Rascal Belgian Wheat Ale (5.5%), Avery India Pale Ale (6.4%)

Third Course

Scallops and Oysters Rockefeller

Maple bacon seared Scallops

Crispy Fried Oysters

Ellies Brown Ale (5.6%), Out of Bounds Stout (5.3%)

Fourth Course

Surf and Turf

Coffee smoked venison and lobster tamale

Roasted Sweet Corn Chowder

New World Porter (6.7%), Collaboration not Litigation Ale (8.72%)

Dessert

I Love Pie

Key Lime Pie, Satin Crunch Pie, Apple Pie

Maharaja Imperial IPA (10.54%),

The Beast Belgian Grand Cru (16.4%) and Samael’s Oak Aged Ale (14.9%)

The beer battered shrimp and biscuits smoothered in Crawfish Etoufee were wonderful. Peter shared his recipe for making beer batter for fish – beer, flour, salt and pepper.  Mix to a consistency where you can put your initials in the batter and it will sustain for several seconds.  These shrimp had a huge batter coating on them and they were fried to perfection.  The White Rascal was an excellent beer pairing.  Adam shared that he uses the Hoegaarden Yeast with orange peel and coriander – typical of a witbier.

The scallops and oysters Rockefeller were also outstanding.  The scallops were shamelessly cooked in maple bacon grease from a local pig.  They were covered with spinach and grated cheese.  Delicious.  The crispy fried oysters were flash fried cold so they didn’t get tough.

The surf and turf portion of the meal was the best.  The venison was seared on the outside and red on the inside.  The meat had been cold smoked with coffee beans!! I have never heard of smoking meat with coffee beans – it was fantastic.  There was  a sizeable chunk of lobster meat and a nice tamale.  The corn chowder was made by roasting ears of corn, stripping the kernels from the ear and boiling the stalks.  It was reduced to a creamy topping.  You could taste a bit of the charred corn – a great topping. 

The Collaboration ale is from Batch #2 which will be released this week sometime.  The story behind Vinnie (Russian River Brewing Co.) and Adam collaborating on this ale is fun.  They got together and spent an evening coming up with the best blend of the two Salvation ales.  Then the project stalled until Adam committed to producing the beer in a BA magazine interview many months later – funny how things work out.  They used available tank space in Boulder and created the first collaboration.  This beer has more yeast character the Averys Salvation ale.  It is a remarkable beer.

Finally we topped the evening with pie, pie and more pie.  Each couple got 3 slices of pie to share – my glucose goes up just thinking about it.  They combined the very sweet pies with two huge ales from the Demonic series, Samael and the Beast, as well as this years release of Maharaja from the Dictator series. 

This was the first public tasting of this batch of Maharaja and it’s going to blow you away.  The hops are as fresh and way over the top as they can be.  This is the only beer that was too much for my wife.  Anyhow, I will report more after going the Maharaja release party Wednesday 2/20/08.  Adam personally chose the Maharaja to pair with Key Lime Pie – “It’s very nice!” (say it with the Borat accent, it’s more fun that way.)

I fell in love with Samael all over again.  Adam described the brew day when they are making this beer.  They have a pallet full of fermentables – raisins, dates, molasses, honey, turbinado sugar and dark belgium candi sugar.   It has strong port character that is oh so good when combined with chocolate from from the Satin Crunch Pie.

So that was the evening. You didn’t walk out feeling bloated, but you were fully satisfied. I’m sure happy endings were had by all! 

I was fortunate enough to be involved with the International Commercial Mead Competition and the Home Mead Makers Competition this weekend, February 8th and 9th, 2008,  in Boulder, CO.  There was a call to the local homebrew clubs for volunteers and it sounded like fun so I signed up to help steward the competitions.  A Steward in a competition are glorified bus-boys – hey, somebody has to do it!

What an amazing experience!!

Let me qualify this entire post by saying I don’t know a damn thing about mead except it’s made with honey and falls into several different categories depending on what else you put in it – grapes, spices, malt, etc.  It’s also classified by it’s sweetness and whether it has carbonation (still, petillant, or sparkling). 

Despite being a mead noob, I knew I was at a very special event when I went in and saw table after table loaded with bottles of commercial mead.  Each entry had 4 bottles per entry at about 140 entries.  It was a long day with a lot of logistics considering it was a blind judging, there was a lot of numbering of glasses and renumbering of meads that went on to a second round or best of show round.  The beauty of it was the judges only need a few ounces leaving the remainder of the bottles for the stewards to sample.  When a mead was advanced a new bottle was opened.

I have gained a respect for judges in large competitions.  They were very thoughtful and the process was fairly democratic in that they would discuss their results and had to normalize their results.  They took their time on each entry, giving it the respect the person who entered deserved.  They provided detailed writeups so the mead maker can either adjust their recipe (or not) but at least they know what the judges were thinking.

I went to my room at 1:00am the first night after spending an entire day sampling meads. I got a signed book from Ken Schramm, “The Compleat Meadmaker” and got to hang out with a lot of very cool intelligent people.  I never felt drunk in the normal wine sense – I was very dehydrated that night and the entire next day.

The home brew competition was extremely well organized and they were able to judge 189 entries, making this the biggest mead competition ever.  Several gushers livened up the day.  I was wore out from the commercial competition so I didn’t sample much home brew, but we were able to take home a 6 pack of the anonymous left-overs for sampling later.

We were also able to take home 8 commercial meads the first day (2 of our own choosing) and a few more the next day.  The volunteers were very lucky this year – and I now have a few meads to cellar.

The awards ceremony were touching and a lot fun.  Some people were floored when their names were called – which is always exciting. The international entrants had amusing stories to tell regarding getting their meads to the competition and the hassle they had with the customs inspectors. 

Can’t wait till next year – I’ll be first in line to be a bus boy, opps, I mean Steward!