Hopsdate: Part Deux plus a Beer Run

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

I am currently enroute to visit my sister in Charlottesville. Which sounds fun but until we arrive I am being subjected to laughing at the same knock knock joke from my 3yo for the next two hours. The only thing keeping my head from exploding like one of those aliens from “Mars Attacks!” is remembering that soon I’ll be browsing the beer selection of one of my favorite places down there, Beer Run.

My sister introduced me to Beer Run a couple of years ago. What I initially assumed to be just a bar turned out to be a bar + restaurant + beer store. There are not many places where you can enjoy a fantastic brunch and pick up a six pack of your favorite Polish Pilsner.

I hope to have a full report of my Beer Run visit but until then please enjoy these new pictures of my hops I took this morning.

wpid-IMG_20130630_100737 wpid-IMG_20130630_100829 wpid-IMG_20130630_100923 wpid-IMG_20130630_101034 wpid-IMG_20130630_101137 wpid-IMG_20130630_101302 wpid-IMG_20130630_101403 wpid-IMG_20130630_101515

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HOLY HOPSDATE BATMAN!!

[Hops + Update = Hopsdate]

When I started researching about growing hops I read a lot of forums that said it is important to keep my expectations low for your first year harvest.  Most of them mentioned that in the first year the hops are more  interested in growing tall than creating cones.  Any cones created by harvesting time should be thought of as a bonus.  Well, my Director of  Hops Growing (my mom) sent me a picture today and while I will continue to keep my expectations in check I can’t help but get a little tickle looking at the image below.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

This is just a small section of the trellis and apparently there are many many cones developing.  I’ll be heading down to inspect my plants this weekend so I should have some additional images soon.

Cheers!

RayRay

Taiwan Beer…from Taiwan…(duh)

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a Laotian beer, Beerlao, that I discovered at my local H-Mart.  It was one of those beer moments where I had no intention of purchasing any beer but happened upon a six pack that caught my eye.  Beerlao’s bright yellow cardboard packaging and elegantly designed bottle cap piqued my interest but it was the flavor of this well crafted beer that made me return to H-Mart with the sole purpose of picking up a couple more six-packs.

Having scoured both the Wegmans and Whole Foods beer sections for Beerlao and coming up empty handed I was relieved when I discovered there was one six pack left.  I’m a ‘beer glass half full’ sort of guy so I happily thanked the beer gods and scooped the beer up.  As I was spinning my cart to leave I thought to myself, “Ray, you came here with the intention of purchasing multiple six packs of beer but since there was only one sixer of Beerlao maybe you should pick up something else?”.

You know those scenes you on TV or in movies where someone is trying to make a decision about something important and suddenly an angel and a devil appear on their shoulders trying to influence them one way or the other?  That was what was going on as I stood in the H-Mart beer section.  Only I had a drunken angel on one shoulder and an even drunker angel on the other.  The first drunken angel was saying things like “You only picked up one six pack?! Yoooou’ve been looking for this beer all over town.  Go ask the manager if they have more you sissy.”  While the even drunker angel was countering with “Hey HEY hey… you shud up other there…don’t listen to what that JERK is saying. You, you, YOU need to go back a couple aisles and pick up some more of these Pocky things.  They’re fantastic. I love them and I love you.”

So after taking all this in I decided instead to just pick up another random Asian beer that I’ve never seen or heard of and give it a taste.  That is the totally not made up story on how I ended up buying Taiwan Beer.

[SIDE NOTE: I was looking for the Pocky website to link above but instead found my way onto YouTube where I discovered these three short commercials for Pocky that I am in love with.
Commercial #1: I have been eating Pocky since I was 10 and I never saw anyone eat them this way.  Also, I love the voiceover guy at the end of the commercial.  He’s like a Japanese Michael Buffer.
Commercial #2: This is how my son and I spent our Sunday.
Commercial #3: The Japanese are a beautifully kooky people.
You never going to get that song out of your head. [END OF SIDE NOTE]

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Some Fun Facts about Taiwan Beer:

  • Brewed by the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL).
  • TTL was established as a government agency during Japanese colonial rule and continued with the arrival of the Chinese Nationalists after WWII.  It held a complete monopoly over alcohol until Taiwan’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002.  TTL is now a publicly traded company.
  • Taiwan Beer has remained the best selling beer in Taiwan even in the era of free trade.
  • Locally produced ponlai rice is added to the fermentation process which gives Taiwan Beer its local flavor.
  • Sponsors a Taiwanese basketball team, ironically enough named, Taiwan Beer. Their nickname is ‘The Brew Crew’.  The Taiwanese basketball, Super Basketball League, includes other sponsored teams such as the Bank of TaiwanPure-Youth Construction, and Taiwan Mobile Clouded Leopards.
Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

This first thing I notice when I gave Taiwan Beer a nice slow pour is the golden amber coloring. I was disappointed in seeing that this beer does not provide the frothy head I am always looking for.  Instead the head dissipates rather quickly and you notice that this appears to be an especially carbonate brew.  The carbonation and lack of foamy head reminded me more of my first attempt at home brewing than the most popular beer in Taiwan. There is a definitely a distinct rice flavor with Taiwan Beer that is noticeable with the first sip. Where Beerlao was smooth I would classify Taiwan Beer as more of a crisp beer.  I believe it’s that crispness that surprised me.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Perhaps my brain and taste buds were expecting another smooth malty beverage and were not prepared so I found myself not enjoying this beer as much as I had hoped.

Perhaps this might be a perfect example of what happens when a monopoly controls the beer production of a small island nation for nearly a century.

Perhaps this is why 80% of Taiwanese beers are produced for domestic consumption with the other 20% exported to Taiwanese living outside the country.

Perhaps I should stop randomly picking unknown beers from Asian grocery stores.

Perhaps I’m just being an ass and 23 million Taiwanese can’t be wrong.

Meh, perhaps.

Cheers!

-RayRay

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Tripel Karmeliet – Review

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

You know that saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eats for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”?

Of course you do.  We all do.

If you applied that jewel of wisdom to beer “Give a man a beer and he’ll drink for a day, teach him to brew and he’ll drink for a lifetime” that is still some Mr. Brady-like sound advice.

That is unless the beer you gave the man was a Tripel Karmeliet. Then the saying would be. “Give a man a Tripel Karmeliet and he’ll drink for a day, teach him to brew and he’ll drink for a lifetime…thinking about that Tripel Karmeliet you gave him the other day…you smug home brewing bastard”.

wpid-IMG_20130615_015859

Image by iHeartBeer.com

With the moderate success of my Belgian Tripel home brew I thought the only logical thing to do was to seekout and try one of the best reviewed Tripels on the internet, Tripel Karmeliet.

Some interesting fun facts about Tripel Karmeliet:
1. Brewed using the same recipe from a former Carmelite monastery from 1679.
2. Uses three kinds of grain: Wheat, oats, and barley.
3. The name refers to both its place of origin as well as its in-bottle refermentation.
4. Brewed at the Bosteels Brewery in Belgium.

If those fun facts don’t get you excited for this beer then perhaps a list of awards the Tripel Karmeliet has won over the years:

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

  • GOLD, World Beer Cup USA, 1998
  • GOLD, World Beer Championships (Chicago USA), 1998
  • UITZONDERLIJK, World Beer Championships (USA), 2000
  • SILVER, World Beer Cup USA, 2002
  • BRONZE, Brewing Industry International Awards (London), 2004
  • GOLDEN GLASS, Internationaal Streekbierenfestival, Voorzichtige Degustatiebieren, 2005.
  • GOLD, European Beer Star Germany, 2005
  • GOLD, World Beer Awards (London), World’s Best Ale, 2008.
  • GOLDEN GLASS, Internationaal Streekbierenfestival, Voorzichtige Degustatiebieren, 2010.
  • GOLDEN GLASS, Internationaal Streekbierenfestival, Voorzichtige Degustatiebieren, 2012
Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

If you Google ‘Tripel Karmeliet reviews’ you’ll find nearly everyone saying the same thing: A robust blond color with complex flavors, hints of vanilla and citrus aromas and a creamy head.

I’m not going to repeat what everyone else has already said. Instead, what impressed me the most about this wonderful beer was how such a crisp golden beer could be packed with so many flavors. Perhaps because my early beer drinking days revolved around light (or lite) American lagers that I am conditioned to assume that golden colored beers will bring with them water-downed metallic flavors and visions of ping pong balls spinning out of red solo cups.

Don’t get me wrong there will always be a special place in my heart for those American lagers.  They got me through some important times in my young life where funds were light (or lite) and quantity was the preferred quality when it came to my beer selections.

I have to agree with most other beer nerds though when it comes to Belgian Tripels the Tripel Karmeliet is in the upper tier of beers. Perfect to give as a gift, to share with a friend over dinner or just to kill a 750ml bottle by yourself one Friday night while you fold laundry and catch up on DVR’d episodes of ‘Castle’…as I’ve been told.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

 

Hoppy Father’s Day!

I might be the only father to receive a Father’s Day card from a plant. Well at least I hope I am.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

As you can see hops have really grown these past few months. They have already grown over 8 feet and are starting to form buds.

I’m trying to keep my expectations in check since this will be my first harvest but the plants are growing well that they are making me one proud poppa.

Belgian Tripel Home Brew (Tasting)

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

There are few nights I look forward to more than Tasting Night. In fact if I had to list my five favorite nights it would go something like this:

1. Fantasy Football Draft Night
2. Poker Night
3. Tasting Night
4. Breakfast for dinner night
5. Silent Night, Deadly Night

Tasting night should basically be called ‘Judgment Night’. It is when you see, smell and taste if all your hard work is rewarded with a delicious brew or a plastic bucket of rank swill.  Imagine if you went out and bought two cases of beer then waited a month before drinking any of it only to find out the beer was skunked. So now you have to go out again and purchase two more cases of beer but have to wait another month before trying it again.  That’s what is at stake here. Now, of course, the easy solution would be to have multiple batches of beer fermenting so if something turns out skunky you only have to wait a week or two to try a new batch.  Unfortunately I am not there yet as neither a brewer nor a Time Lord in order to have the resources, energy, or time to brew more than one batch a month.

Pushing my minor anxiety aside I grabbed a bottle, my favorite beer glass, and popped the cap. The first thing I noticed was the carbonation escaping the bottle. To anyone else that sound would be but a whisper but to me it could have been the home crowd of a World Cup match after they scored. This is one of those sounds that are usually only noticed when it’s not there. In my first batch I made the n00b mistake of forgetting to include my priming sugar in the brew before bottling.  It wasn’t until a couple of days later after reading more about the procedure that I realized my crucial mistake. I then had the important learning experience of uncapping over two cases of homebrew, dumping them into a bucket, adding the priming sugar mixture and then rebottling.  The batch still turned out pretty good but I was never satisfied with the head of the beer it dissipated rather quickly. This might have had something to do with the style of the beer I was brewing at the time but it certainly didn’t help forgetting that crucial ingredient.

So when that bottle cap popped off and I heard that unmistakable sound it was almost like my beer was saying to me. “psssst good job”.

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The next attribute I noticed was the color.  The brew changed my favorite beer glass from clear into a brownish dark red with a thick frothy head. As the beer settled I was happy to see the head decided to hang out.  The beer was slightly cloudy but there was no sign of gunk at the bottom of the glass.

The aroma was strong but I was expecting it to be. This was definitely a different smell than I was used to. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘pungent’ because that word sounds like I’m being critical of the smell but in truth that is the best word to describe the brew due to its sharp strong aroma. So, yes, the beer smelled pungent but in a good beer smelling way.

After my first sip I realized a couple of things:

1.  Yowza, this beer has a lot of alcohol in it.
2.  This is probably why they are sold in those big single 750ml bottles.
3.  CRAP, I forgot to take my final alcohol measurement before bottling these again.

If I had to guess I would say the alcohol percentage for these were somewhere north of 10%. Since I forgot to take a final measurement I can only go with my own personal ‘Asian Glow Early Warning System (AGEWS)’.  The system goes something like this:

Asian Glow Early Warning System

AGEWS DEFCON I – (1 to 3 beers) No immediate outward changes with the exception of an improved personality and overall tolerance towards the little things like strangers and other people’s children.

AGEWS DEFCON II – (3 to 5 beers) Cheeks become rosy and beads of sweat begin to form around my hairline concentrating on my forehead. Improved conversationalist and attitude but with increased volume and enthusiasm.

AGEWS DEFCON III – (5 to 8 beers) Face is in a nearly fully red. Body temperature has increased causing noticeable sweating. Loss of volume control is imminent. Most conversations are now me overly excited and laughing. Noticeably slurring words. Usually is parallel with ‘Wife’s Annoyed With Me (WAWM) DEFCON III’ (NOTE: There is no ‘WAWM DEFCON I or II’)

AGEWS DEFCON IV – (8 to 12 beers) Face basically on fire, dripping sweat on people and countertops, Slurring noticeable to everyone but me.  I’m only shouting now and I’ve probably dropped my phone twice already. Eyes are bloodshot but people can’t notice because they are cartoon-like slits. Wife has leapfrogged into ‘WAWM DEFCON VII’.

AGEWS DEFCON V– (12 to Infinity beers) I’ve turned into a fusion reactor that now only glows, sweats, and babbles in an incoherent mixture of laughter and drool or I have possibly developed a Jamaican accent. If I were on Star Trek: The Next Generation Jean-Luc Picard would be ordering Data to eject me into space before I destroyed the Enterprise. Most likely I can be found with complete strangers who are now my best friends or fast asleep fully dressed on top of the covers of my bed.

So following the system above after just one Tripel I found myself at a low level AGEWS DEFCON II with a slight tickle of warmth beginning to coax the sweat glands of my forehead to wake up.

As for the taste I found this Belgian Tripel true to its style with strong but smooth malty flavor.  I enjoyed this beer but would not make a night of drinking them.  To me Tripels are beers I would like to enjoy when I knew I was only planning on having one (*cough* one 750ml bottle *cough*).

I did purchase some of these 750ml bottles and plan on a taste test with them all. I might need some assistance though because if I do this solo it’s going to be work holiday party/AGEWS DEFCON V all over again and I’m only really allowed one of those a year.

Cheers!
Ray

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

iHOARDbeer?

I just did an inventory of the beer in my house and I might need to change my name to iHOARDbeer…

45 – Belgian Tripel (Home Brew)
8 – 21st Amendment Brewery, Hell of High Watermelon
5 – Ray’s Hefe Home Brew
4 – National Bohemian (16oz)
4 – Bell’s Amber Ale
4 – Third Shift Amber Lager
2 – Abita, Purple Haze
2 – Estrella INEDIT
2 – Sam Adams Cherry Wheat
2 – Sam Adams Belgian Session
2 – Sam Adams Boston Lager
2 – Beck’s Light
1 – Wittekerke
1 – OB Golden Lager (22oz)
1 – Tripel Karmeliet
1 – Alex Home Brew, Hop Drive
1 – Allagash Tripel Reserve
1 – Troegs Dreamweaver
1 – Clown Shoes, Muffin Top
1 – Yellow Devil Pilsner (Growler)

Cheers to me!
Ray