Moving Day!

There comes a time in ever parent’s life that they must let their children go in order for them to grow. That fateful day for me arrived today…

No, not my actual children they’re only 3 years old and 18 months old and I’m stuck with them for the rest of my god forsaken life. No, I’m talking about my other children Jerk David and Bernie. Much like a mother bird that pushes her chicks out of the nest to either fly or plummet to their tiny deaths today I packed up my tiny hops children and drove them to the literal greener pastures of my mom’s garden.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

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This is going to be their new home. We planted a plant on each side and then plan on putting the trellis in between them.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Jerk David in the ground and getting a well deserved drink.

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Bernie also in the ground and surrounded by my mom’s homemade mulch (it’s just lawn mowed leaves but she calls it mulch)

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Snug as a fertilized bug

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

My mom thinks we did a good job.

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Celebrated with some homemade donuts from the Farmer’s Market.

Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer

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I have been a 21st Amendment Brewery fan since I first tasted their Fireside Chat seasonal brew. So when I read about their Hell or High Watermelon seasonal release I was both excited and intrigued.  Excited because I get to sample a new 21st Amendment beer and intrigued because I believe this is my first watermelon flavored beer. My feelings towards watermelon could fall into the same category as my feelings toward grapefruit. I have nothing against the fruit but minus the occasional summer BBQ I don’t really eat much of it.  I do like the flavor though (especially in gum and sour patch kids) and I am encouraged by my enjoyment of my first grapefruit beer so I gathered the troops during our lunch hour and made a special trip to Total Wine.

Now a normal person probably would have picked up just a six pack. Especially since I’ve never had this beer before there is always the risk that I’m not going to enjoy it. Luckily for me I am both a bit of a gambler and inherently lazy. I’m pretty sure I’m going to like this beer (with a strong chance of love) based on my love of the brewery and the last thing I want to do is plow through my sixer on Friday and have nothing for the rest of the weekend. So I did what any normal beer lover who hates going to the store on the weekends would do. I bought four sixers.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Pretty much on the drive home I started to worry that my enthusiasm got the better of me. I mean, like I mentioned earlier, I “like” watermelon but by no mean would I call my feelings for that fruit “love”.

Being the brave little solider that I am I forged ahead. I grabbed one of my beer beer drinkin’ glasses and cracked open my first watermelon beer.

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My first test of course is the eye test:
“Holy crap it’s not pink” were actually the words I mumbled. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a pink beer so I don’t know why I assumed it would be. I read that 21st Amendment brews this beer by brewing their wheat beer and adding the watermelon flavoring during second fermentation. So, instead of a pink beer i was presented with a beautiful looking wheat beer.

The second test for me is the smell test:
I was surprised that there was not an overwhelming watermelon aroma when I gave it a nice long sniff. Surprised but once again very appreciative.

Finally the taste test:
What I really enjoy about this beer is that the watermelon flavoring is very subtle. You almost don’t taste it right away and right before you’re able to think ‘Hey, where’s the…’ BAM! Watermelon flavoring all over those taste buds. I think with any fruit style beer there is a fear that in order to get the proper flavoring the beer is going to end up being overly sweet. That is not the case with Hell or High Watermelon. It’s a fantastic wheat beer with the obvious taste of watermelon but retains a very crisp body. This beer bellows drink me during your summer BBQ’s, pool parties, or just sitting on your deck on a Friday evening after a long week of work.

Cheers
Yar

Anonymous local Fairfax man’s review of the billion beers he drank last night

“You know that feeling you get when you’re at the dentist and you’re just beginning to come out of a nitrous oxide haze? That’s about how I felt this morning. Well that plus what I can only imagine what it must feel like to swallow a bag of cotton balls.” – Anonymous local Fairfax man.

Upon hearing this one might ask themselves how does a normal, intelligent, dashingly handsome thirty something wake up feeling this way? Well, apparently he drinks a billion beers the night before that’s how.

“The night started off how most awesome nights start off” said local anonymous Fairfax man with his wife asking him to fire up the grill. Now, apparently it is a well know fact that everyone in Fairfax County knows this particular local anonymous Fairfax man cannot light a grill without a beer in his hand. Numerous sources have quoted him making such boasts as “It is a scientific fact like evolutionblack holes, and Ludicrous Speed“.

Aiding in the anonymous local Fairfax man’s plight is that he recently purchased a couple charcoal chimney starters making firing up the grill much less “hands on” allowing him to spend 30 seconds lighting the grill and the next 15-20 mins staring into the smoke while pounding beers.

The anonymous local Fairfax man started off his night with one of my newly brewed home brews but unfortunately they had only been in the fridge for a hour and were not that cold. Not surprisingly the anonymous local Fairfax man still drank the delicious home brew but was immediately forced to open another beer. For his second beer he decided to go with one of his favorite hefeweizens a Weihenstephaner. After a couple of Weihenwatch-a-call-its his neighbors arrived bringing gifts of Dogfish Raison d’Etre. Naturally not wanting to offend his generous neighbors he graciously enjoyed some Dogfish.

At some point the homebrew was cold enough or the anonymous local Fairfax man’s ability to gauge temperature was temporarily disabled. Either way he finished off the home brews and then downed a few Hoegaardens for good measures.

It was around this time frame that the anonymous local Fairfax man admits to things getting a little “fuzzy” and stated that he assumes there was some sort of dinner with children he thinks he remembers shouting? There definitely some Stella Artois and Dale’s Pale Ales “I think there was a baseball game?” the anonymous local Fairfax man mumbled while holding the bridge of his nose and forcefully closing his eyes like he was attempting to travel in time.

At approximately 6:30 am the following morning the anonymous local Fairfax man’s 3 year old son pried open the Fairfax man’s crusty bloodshot eye using his tiny little fingers and incredulously asked him if he could play with his iPad. The anonymous local Fairfax man approved by swiping his arm across the nightstand knocking his iPad, phone, lamp, change jar, etc onto the floor.

So in closing the anonymous local Fairfax man would like everyone reading this to know…drinking a billion beers is bad.

Yar
Chief correspondent for iHeartBeer

Big things have small beginnings…

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“Big things have small beginnings.” This line was spoken by that jerk android David from the movie “Prometheus”.

Today though I am using that same line to welcome my first hops vine as it pokes out of the dirt and says ‘hello’. I have planted three Cascade plants and I believe it is only appropriate to give them each a name.

So since this little fella is the first to greet us I shall call him “Jerk David”.

*** NOTE – This name is not to be confused with my friend David who is in no way a jerk nor as far as I can tell an android – END OF NOTE ***

Alex’s Truly Wit-tacular Home Brew

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Without a doubt the best thing about about getting into home brewing with your friends is the chance to sample their home brews.  Today that is exactly what I got to do when my buddy Alex handed me one of his newest brews, True Wit.

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Now, Alex is a developer and I believe that wires him to lean more toward functionality than style.  He is a guy that is not interested in labelsquirky names, or designer bottle caps.  No, he is a man that is chiefly concerned about what’s inside the bottle and I appreciate and thank him for that.

Essentially, I am saying he is not me who has a tendency to put the “cart before the horse” or in this case the “beer label before the beer”.

So, I am going to assume ‘True Wit’ is only the name of the type of beer and not the “name” of the beer… like say oh I don’t know Alex’s Truly Wit-tacular Home Brew or something to that effect.

That being said this is what I know/learned about True Wit beers.

  1. A true wit beer must be made of at least 25% wheat malt in combination with barley malt.
  2. Belgian wit beers are naturally cloudy since they are unfiltered.
  3. Has fruit/citrus flavors

So I got my handy dandy beer drinking glass, popped the bottle open, and gave it a nice slow pour.  Right away I noticed the cloudiness mentioned above.  Before the beer even touched my lips the first thing I smelled was the tartness of grapefruit.  This was a pleasant surprise as this is  my first beer with grapefruit.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

The next flavor to hit me was coriander.  Now, I knew it was coriander for two reason. The first being I knew that coriander has a citrus flavor to it and the second being Alex told me as much when he gave me the beer.  He created a nice pulp using grapefruit, orange peels, and crushed coriander seeds which in his own words was “so legit”. I also learned some interesting facts about coriander here and who doesn’t want to learn more about coriander seeds?

Many years ago I learned to never judge a book by its cover or in this case a beer by his hasty slapped on piece of masking tape and sharpie scribble.  Alex’s True Wit stayed “true” to it’s roots in both appearance and flavor.  Extra bonus points for exposing me to my first grapefruit flavored beer.

Also, while I was researching True Wit beers I stumbled upon a YouTube review for the Belgium beer Wittekerke.  I am going to buy a sixer of Witterkerke strictly because of this gentleman.  Now I don’t know where this guy is from but until proven otherwise I am going to assume all Belgians are like this guy.

Cheers.

Yar

Are those Rhizomes in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Today marked my first day into the wonderful world of hops growing.  After researching rhizome suppliers I went with a recommendation made by the only other person I know to have actually grown his own hops.  My buddy Alex suggested I check out Willamette Valley Hops from St. Paul, Oregon.

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Alex recommended them for not only their selection available but also because the pride they took in ensuring that their product arrived quickly and in excellent condition.

Their website offered a variety of rhizomes to choose from and I decided to go with the Cascade Rhizomes which they describe as:

“…a cross between Fuggles and a Russian hop Serebrianker with a 5.7% alpha acid. Developed in the USDA breeding program in Oregon and was released as a US aroma variety in 1972. Cascade became a well-established variety in the US industry and was the first commercially accepted American-bred aroma hop. It has a medium aroma that is very distinct, and is a very bittering hop used in ales and lagers.”

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I purchased three plants and they arrived less than a week later sealed within this nice secure plastic bag.

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All have been planted into some very large pots until I build the trellis then I will replant them.

iHeartHomebrewing Part 3 (Taste test)

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Not going to lie.  I have been very nervous about tasting my first home brew.  If it turns out my batch tastes like the sweat off a monkey’s balls I’m going to beyond disappointed.

I waited exactly two weeks to the day and threw a six pack from under my stairs into my fridge to chill.  Finally the moment of truth has arrived.

I got out my favorite beer glass.  I have a couple of these old beer glasses from my wife’s late grandfather.  They hold nearly a 12oz beer but I just love the shape of them.

Once I started pouring my beer one of my fears went away.  I was concerned about the carbonation but once I started pouring the beer into the glass a nice foamy head formed.

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Look at that.  It’s a thing of beauty.

But now the real test. …

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

And SUCCESS!  My first home brew is a smashing success.  WHEW! What a relief!

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Now I can’t wait to start my next batch but first I’m going to finish this and perhaps one more.

Cheers!

iHeartHomebrewing Part 2 (Bottling)

Well, last we left our 5 gallon hero he was sleeping peacefully beneath my stairs gently fermenting himself into a delicious German Hefeweizen. Finally after much anguish the time has come to awaken him, separate him into roughly 48 individual bottles and quickly return him back to his lair for an additional two week of slumber.  Yes folks, today is bottling day!

After reading a bit on the process of bottling your home brew two things stuck out immediately.

1. Sterilization is key (still).
2. This is a two person job.

The sterilization part was essentially the same process used in sterilizing the equipment used in Part 1.  Only this time we will be sterilizing 48-55 beer bottles.  The book suggested that you could use a tub to create your mixture and place your bottles in there. My wife, who has been a peach during this entire endeavor of mine, suggested not to fill the tub that our kids bathe in with two cases of empty beer bottles and iodine.  Sensing her hesitation and still needing her for my bottling I decided to use one of the fermenting buckets and sterilize them in bunches of 12-14.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

After soaking for about 2-3 mins I transferred them to my drying rack.  Now, I don’t have an official home brewing drying rack so I had to use my regular dish rack which worked fine.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

After sanitizing all the bottles now it was time to start siphoning the beer.  So I cracked open our hero.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Still looked like beer.  Definitely smelled like beer.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Siphoning….

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

This is a lot easier when you have a buddy.

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Don’t forget to sterilize your caps.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Capping was more nerve racking then I was expecting it to be.

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Image by iHeartBeer.com

Learned a couple of things while capping beers.

1. Stay away from Pilsner Urquell and Stella Artois bottles.  The generic bottle caps you buy at your local home brew store do not cap properly on these bottles.  They either don’t properly cap or in the case of one bottle they will explode when you try and force it.

2. Don’t try and force the cap on.  Bad bad exploding things happen when you do.

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Looking good!

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Beautiful….

Now, tuck these puppies back under the stairs for another couple of weeks…

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Coming next, Part 3 of iHEARThomebrewing: Drinking!