Monday was a bonus day. The day after Christmas and the husband and myself found ourselves with a rare Monday off together. That can mean but one thing: Beer Projects.
We cruised around town purchasing some sweet new items with cash received during Christmas (Thanks, Grandpa!). Assuming there would be some killer sales on turkey fryers, Brock and I headed to Cabela’s. There were not great deals, nor a powerful enough propane burner for what we were looking for. So I checked out Amazon.com and within moments our new Bayou Banjo Classic was on it’s way. This is going to make brewing so much faster!
We also went to a few brew shops and hardware stores checking out items to fabricate our own mash tun. Although, we didn’t build our own mash tun yet we priced a lot of items including already fabricated guys. That’s a lot to think about and outside our skill level (I think) at this point, but still fun to talk to some experienced home brewers and get some good tips.
Next came bottle cleaning.
We had a lot of stinky old bottles that needed some scrubbing and de-labeling before bottling day comes in a week. I took our big purple bucket, stuck it in the tub with all our bottles and combined three scoops of Oxy Clean with enough hot water to cover all the bottles.
I let these guys soak for about an hour and as I pulled them out the labels fell right off. Super easy way to get finicky glue and labels off your bottles and get them ready for bottle day.
While these guys soaked, I popped the lid on one of two porters that Brock and I were trying out FOR THE FIRST TIME! The first bottle popped was Klamath Basin Brewing’s Vanilla Porter. Now Klamath Basin just started bottling in May 2010, so they’re pretty new kids on the block. This porter was pretty good, too. I definitely could smell that vanilla with my first whiff and it had a decent vanilla taste up front. With 6.7% ABV, you could really taste the alcohol. So I really wished it was a smoother finish, but overall it was tasty and I’d drink it again.
Next we opened up the Ninkasi ReNEWale Porter, which I was REALLY excited about. Every year Ninkasi releases a new version of ReNEWale, so it’s something fun and worth looking forward to. I wasn’t expecting this guy until January 1st, so bonus! I wasn’t blown away by this porter, but I still found it interesting and tasty. There was some up front hoppiness that Ninkasi is known for. It was less alcoholic (5.9% ABV) and more balanced than the Klamath Basin Vanilla Porter, but not as bold in flavor. I thought it was an all around crowd pleaser, not as adventerous as some of Ninkasi’s brews, but still worth a sample (or two).
After all that beer, it was back to the bottles! Once the labels were removed, I ran all the bottles through the dishwasher with no detergent or drying agent. I wanted these suckers spotless and ready to be sanitized on rewing day. Cleaning is such a huge part of brewing that breaking it down on “off days” really cuts down on time when it matters.
While the dishwasher was running and after dinner was devoured, I still wanted some beer, so it was off to Ninkasi to have a quick beer by the fire. Brock and I both opted for Little One. In all fairness I had a pint of this a couple weeks ago, but it’s a really cool beer made in a really cool way, so I wanted to mention it. Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:
In the age old tradition of brewing Barley Wines, we brew two big mashes and take only the first runnings to make Critical Hit. We then sparge the grains to make a second beer (historically referred to as a Small Beer) to create the Little One. This beer is a drinkable 5.7% alcohol that has much of the rich malt flavor of its bigger relative but not the bite. Little One is mildly bittered with 100% German Haulertauer hops and is also dry hopped to maximize the lovely aroma.
This beer is exactly as described. It has a really full bodied malty flavor but it doesn’t slap you across the face with alcohol flavor. Unlike a lot of Ninkasi beers this guy is really light on the IBUs, but it is so good for winter that a self-described hop whore such as myself is totally ok with that.
Ninkasi closed without calling last call out to us rain faring folk (rude!) so I was forced to grab a final beer at the grocery store. I wanted something more adventerous and new. So I went with Elysian Brewing Avatar Jasmine IPA. I was really nervous that I was going to hate this. Although I wasn’t madly in love with this beer I was glad I went for adventure. The immediate jasmine aroma was enticing and the first sip made me think “am I really just drinking green tea?” The floral character was almost a little too much for me. I don’t know that this can truly be called an IPA. I was really missing a strong hop finish to cut the jasmine flavor that was overwhelming me. At 6.3% ABV I would say that Avatar didn’t have a strong alcohol punch, which woud’ve put me over the edge. I would probably try this again, but it was just a little too sweet and not enough IPA for this girl. I’ll make a note to give ‘er another go round in summer.
By this time the bottles were clean and dry and packed away, ready to get sanatisized and filled with beer next weekend. I cannot wait!