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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Did You Miss Me?

I'm finally back! Last time we hung out, I was getting ready to move from California to Texas with my Coastie husband. Well, let's just say our move turned out to be much more . . .eventful than we had planned. It started off with the discovery that our travel trailer (and home for the next few months) had been stolen from its storage space. Along with that came all the fun of changing plans, filing police reports, dealing with insurance, and deciding what the hell we were gonna do for a place to live when we got to our destination. 

With everything that was going on, I was worried that 9 Year Itch wouldn't be brewed on time to qualify as our anniversary beer, because who wants to brew beer in a hotel room? After going through plans B,C,D,E, and F, though, we finally got into an apartment and brewday was only postponed by 3 days, mostly due to the heat. I'll give more details on that in my next post.

So here we are, 6 months after my last post and 5 months after arriving in Galveston. In that time, we've managed to have some actual fun in between all the crap we had going on. We've brewed 2 batches of beer (3 if you count my little 1 gallon batch of ginger beer), attended a 3-day beer fest, several Oktoberfest celebrations, reestablished our status as regulars at our favorite bar, and visited a few breweries that popped up since we've been gone. Clearly, I have a lot to write about, so the posts should be a little more regular now. Thanks for being patient while I got my shit together!

 Wanna see pics of our adventures while waiting for the next post? Click here to go to my Instagram profile.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Can't We All Just Get Along?

A few days ago, I was driving to Reno to attend a wedding, and saw some Budweiser billboards that left a bad taste in my mouth. One said "Not A Fad," the other, "Not Overdone." It seems that the Super Bowl ads they put out for the last two years didn't satisfy their need to continually bash on the craft beer industry, so they've decided to continue the shit talking through billboards.

Normally, I wouldn't let things like this bother me, but they're talking about something I'm passionate about. Craft beer is anything but a fad, and it sure as hell is not overdone. The craft beer industry is a place for creativity and constantly pushing limits. It's not for sissies, as Budweiser insinuates in their ads. We know what it is to "brew the hard way." There are a lot of failed experiments and stories of things gone wrong, especially in homebrewing. Craft beer is also a very supportive industry, from what I've seen. Brewers collaborate with each other, promote each other, and celebrate each other. A fair share of them are buddies that started as homebrewers with a dream, and worked hard to get where they are today. Most homebrewers wouldn't think twice about sharing tips and tricks with others.

So to Budweiser, I ask- why the hate? Sure, you're a huge macrobrewery and proud of it, but you had to start somewhere, just like the rest of us. I know you get bashed on by beer snobs, too. That's no reason to target an entire industry. Not all of us judge (or even care about) the beer choices of others. Everyone is free to drink what they want. So why not take a note from your booming competition and show some class and support, rather than alienating yourselves from a great bunch of passionate people?

By the way, you readers may have noticed that I didn't include any pictures or video links to the ads in this post. That was on purpose, because I don't want to help spread their message any more than I already have. If you're really that curious, though, a quick Google search will show you all you need to see.

To end on a positive note, I had the opportunity to taste yet another one of those so-called "overdone" craft beers at the wedding I went to. Props to Great Basin Brewing Company for their Wild Horse Ale (altbier)! I only wish the keg would've lasted long enough for me to have more than one serving.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Moving Sucks

 My husband and I have moved around a few times during the 8.5 years we've been married (one of his occupational hazards), and it always sucks. The packing, the cleaning, the hours of driving, searching for a new place- it can get old quick. This time, there's an added (but welcome) complication, and it's name is homebrewing. Why does it make things complicated? I'm glad you asked . . .

Complication #1: It makes me feel like a hoarder.
One of the things I'm usually pretty good about is not accumulating too much stuff, because I know it'll all have to be packed up eventually. I also try to purge the house of unneeded items at least once per year. Those things kinda went out the window when I started brewing, though. It used to be that all my equipment fit nicely in the little cardboard box the kit came in. Then came the upgrade: a huge 6.5 gallon glass carboy, bottling bucket, several cases of empty glass bottles, various tubes, siphons, funnels, bottling tools, you get the point. I ended up commandeering one of my husband's shelving units in the garage, then eventually traded that one out for something bigger when the cases of finished product and our growing stash of cellared beer didn't fit on the small shelves anymore. When it came time to start purging, I knew my brewing space was no exception. Remember those cases of empty bottles? The logical part of my brain said, "Why are you going to lug all those empty bottles across the country? It's stupid, just get rid of them." The brewing side of my brain said, "It took you weeks of saving and hand washing bottles to build up this collection! Don't throw them, you'll just have to start over again. You'll use them eventually, anyway." After the silent panic attack, the logical side won, and into the recycle bin they all went. I'm not gonna lie, it hurt a little to let them go. And while I'm pretty sure I'm not an alcoholic, I sure as hell looked like one after throwing out about 48 bottles at once. That eliminated some of the load, but I still have about 2 cases of home brew (if you want to take some off my hands, let me know) and a case of beer from assorted breweries that do not distribute where we're going (you can't have any of those, sorry) in addition to all of my equipment. I wasn't willing to purge anything else. It takes baby steps, people.

Complication #2: Moving awakens my OCD tendencies
I've heard enough horror stories about moves gone wrong that it makes me picky about the things that I let the moving crews touch. You never know what condition your stuff will be in when it gets to the other side, or if it will even make it there at all, so anything that I can't bear to lose gets packed neatly into plastic bins and comes with us instead. It should come as no surprise that when we got word of our upcoming move, my first thought was, "There's no way I'm letting the movers touch my brewing equipment!" Not only is all that shit expensive to replace if it gets broken or lost, I was a little skeeved out by the thought of my clean and sanitized stuff being touched by multiple hands and collecting who knows what kind of microbes in that dirty moving truck. Nope, I was going to take control. If I packed all the stuff very carefully in a clean bin and brought it with us, the only person I could blame if something went wrong was myself. I bought the biggest bin I could find at the store, but thanks to the bulky shapes of the carboys and bucket, it didn't all fit. So I ended up with a big bin, a smaller bin, and a few cardboard boxes. Add this to the 2 or 3 bins of other stuff from the house that I don't trust anyone else to touch,  and it's pretty safe to say our vehicles are going to be packed tight! So much for not accumulating too much stuff.

 Complication #3: I CAN'T BREW!!!
This might be the worst one of all. It's like an itch I can't scratch. I have a growing list of styles and recipes that I want to brew and can't, because everything is packed away. Sure, I could unpack everything if I really wanted to, but the logical side of my brain is in control right now, and it says no. On top of that, operations will probably still be on hold for a few months after we get to our destination, since we will be living out of an RV until we find a house. I'm trying really hard to stay strong. Hopefully, I'll be back up and running by our wedding anniversary, so I can work on  9 Year Itch! For now, I'm living vicariously through others via Instagram. Leave me your username or follow @drunkenborrachobrewing if you want to support my efforts  ;-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

That Time I Tried To Make A Sour

Tried is the key word in that title. What I actually made was  . . . something weird. Settle in, because this story is gonna take a little while.
Let me start by saying that I LOVE sour beers! I've been a fan since I had my first one at Ale Industries’ place, The Pig & The Pickle (which is now closed, unfortunately). I wish I could remember what it was called, but this was 3 years ago, when I was still a young grasshopper in the world of craft beer. For those of you who are not familiar with the style, a sour beer  is created by using wild yeast strains during fermentation or by introducing bacteria to the brew liquid. It sounds bad, but the results can be very tasty if it goes right. The majority of them are very tart, which is why they appeal to me. I grew up in the age of Warhead candies, and ate those suckers til I had cuts in my tongue. That being said, it was definitely a style I wanted to take a stab at, but I felt very intimidated by the whole thing. Brewing in itself can be a gamble, but sours are in high stakes territory. They can take months, or even years, to develop the correct flavors and you really have to be on top of your sanitation game to prevent infections in future non-sour batches.  I did what I do best and started my research to decide how to approach the project. Luckily, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine had just released an issue dedicated to sours. One of the articles mentioned a method called kettle souring, which can produce results in weeks rather months. It involved using plain yogurt to sour the beer, since it contains lactobacillus, a common bacteria used in sours (link here if you're curious). It sounded simple enough, so I got more details from this post on the Not So Profesional Beer Blog. I knew I wanted to do a small batch, just in case I ended up having to dump it. My regular homebrew store had some 1 gallon kits on super clearance, so I picked out a brown ale, got some extra supplies to replace the ones I was about to infect (plastic really likes bacteria), and picked out a yeast blend that contained even more lactobacillus.
One of the first steps in this yogurt method was to grow a culture. As per the instructions, I mixed a little dry malt extract with water and poured in the clear liquid from the top of the yogurt container. I had to find a way to keep this mixture warm and cozy for several hours so the culture could grow. After ruling out a few different methods, I settled on using my wax warmer as a hot plate (they're not just for keeping your house smelling good anymore, folks!). This mixture went into the wort, which had to sit for a few days at around 100 degrees. I have a gas stove, and didn't feel comfortable leaving it on the burner or in the oven, so in the slow cooker it went. After about 3 days, it started smelling a little sour (in a good way, not the "how old is this milk?" way). The taste wasn't quite there, but I figured that would come with time. I finished off the brewing process, set it in the garage and tried to forget about it. After an agonizing 3 months of waiting and peeking and taking gravity readings, I bottled it and let it condition for about another month.
Finally, tasting day had arrived. It was pretty bad, guys! The carbonation level was like pouring a beer over an Alka-Seltzer tablet, and the taste was odd, to say the least. In my husband's words, it tasted like "a sour Miller Lite." To me, it tasted like a cheap beer with a ton of salt in it. I'm not exactly sure where I went wrong, though I can think of a few things that could've contributed.
  • Not being patient enough
  • Using ingredients from a kit on clearance, probably not the best quality.
  • Not being patient enough
  • I had to move the carboy at one point and may have disturbed the pellicle (a layer that forms over the top, protects the wort from oxygen)
  • Not being patient enough
  • I dropped a straw in the carboy while trying to get a sample for measurements and couldn't get it back out (don't ask)
  • Not being patient enough
  • Could've used more yogurt or let the culture grow a little longer

This was a huge learning experience for me, and when the sting of making my first crappy beer wears off, I will definitely attempt a sour again. For now, I have a few bottles left of this . . .thing in the garage. I crack one open every once in a while to see if it improves or changes over time. So far, it doesn't look very promising.
If there are any other brewers reading this, I'd love to hear your suggestions, tips, dos and don'ts, stories regarding sours. Until next time, friends.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alcoholics Go To Meetings

It happens to everyone- you find something you're passionate about, and it seeps into all areas of your life. It's like being in new relationship. If you're not doing it (giggety-gigetty), you're thinking about it or talking about it. The behavior is normal and everyone expects it, unless that passion is beer. When you love beer, sometimes people think you need help. To a complete stranger, I can see how it may look that way.

-My phone, Facebook, and Instagram accounts are filled with pictures of beer glasses, bottles, and breweries (oh my!).
-Beer bottles with cool labels and German steins are part of our home decor.
-We have tons of merchandise collected from the various breweries we've visited.
-I have an entire shelf (and growing) of beer/homebrew related books & magazines, plus an entire shelving unit in the garage dedicated to my brewing equipment, cases of homebrew, and "special" bottles of beer that I'm not ready to open yet. (I would include a picture, but at the moment, it's all packed up. More on that later).
-During a recent staff meeting, employees were asked to bring a book that inspired them. I brought a book about, you guessed it, beer!

Yes, I drink a lot, but I rarely get drunk. It's part of my research. How can I know what I want to brew or how a style is supposed to taste & look unless I try it myself? Still, I can't tell you how many times I've uttered the phrase "I swear I'm not an alcoholic" because someone is looking at me funny while I'm describing our latest brewery visit.
What's my point in all this? You can all stop worrying! A person can love beer and not need to attend a meeting. Besides, AA is for quitters, and I don't intend on giving up on brewing any time soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Gift That Keeps on Giving or The Complications of Brewing Alone

If you can't already tell by the nature of this blog, I'm not the typical wife. I'm a pretty low maintenance person in general, so I don't need big celebrations for birthdays and anniversaries. My idea of a good time is stuffing my face with sushi, watching a movie, and hitting up our favorite brewery. Flowers are optional, and the hubby knows better than to buy me any jewelry. Despite all of this, he still manages to spoil me rotten every occasion. Last year, I finally had a chance to do the spoiling . . .
Hubs had to go on a business trip for several months, one of which contained our anniversary. So what's a girl to do when her other half isn't around to celebrate a special occasion? Make beer, of course! I consulted The Brewmaster's Bible and found a recipe for a Belgian Tripel, one of his favorite beer styles. While checking out at the homebrew supply, the conversation with the guy behind the counter went something like this:
Guy: "So what are you making?"
Me: "A Belgian Tripel"
Guy: "That's a pretty big beer!"
Me: "Well, it's for a special occasion. I'm brewing it to surprise my husband for our anniversary."
Guy: "Oh, that's so cool!"
The look on his face when he realized that I was the one doing the brewing, and wasn't just there to pick up supplies for my husband: priceless! He wasn't lying though, this beer was a tall order. The higher alcohol content of the beer meant it was going to need longer to ferment and the style calls for higher carbonation levels, making it prone to bottle bombs during conditioning. Add in the fact that this was the very first beer that I would be brewing completely on my own and wasn't using a pre-assembled kit, and it's safe to say I was freaking out about it just a little. To calm my anxiety, I did what I do best and researched my little heart out. 
Anniversary/brew day came, and everything went pretty well. I had to make a couple adjustments to account for the fact that I didn't have my muscle around to do the lifting (5 gallons of beer is really heavy!), but I'm happy to report that I didn't drop or break anything, including my toes. Four weeks later, and it was time to bottle. This did not go as smoothly. Three quarters of the way into siphoning out the beer from the carboy, my auto-siphon stopped auto-siphoning. They're great time savers and I highly recommend them, but the plastic piece that makes it "auto" is extremely fickle. Apparently, I had knocked it loose at some point during the process. I still had over a gallon of beer left in the carboy, and I wasn't about to waste it (can you say alcohol abuse?). So after a few choice words, I started pumping the siphon by hand. That didn't work very well either. Tired of feeling like I was in an episode of Little House On the Prairie, I said screw it and stopped pumping. I picked up the carboy and *very carefully* poured the rest of the beer into the bucket. Anybody who brews knows this is a HUGE no-no, but it was over a gallon of beer! I had already poured enough priming sugar solution into the bottom of the bucket for 5 gallons, so leaving out that much beer was guaranteed to produce a crapload of bottle bombs. I figured a little bit of extra sediment at the bottom of the bottles was a good trade-off. After finally getting it all bottled, I waited and waited. Since I decided that I wasn't going to open a bottle until our late anniversary celebration, all I could do was hope that I didn't screw everything up. 
Many weeks later, the big day had arrived! We said a little prayer to the homebrew gods, and cracked open a bottle of 8 Year Itch (can you guess which anniversary we were celebrating?). Guys, it was awesome! The color was great, carbonation was perfect, and it went down dangerously smooth for an 8% ABV beer. It was officially the best anniversary present that my husband had ever received, according to him, and made me "the cool wife" to all his buddies. I still get compliments on it from friends that have tried it. The success of this beer means I definitely have to make it again, so a new tradition has been born. This fall, look out for a report on 9 Year Itch.
Ok, I promise I'm done typing now. Cheers, guys, thanks for hanging out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Barnes & Noble Started My Homebrewing Obsession

Yeah, you read the title right. I know, B&N isn't exactly known for their expertise in homebrewing. In fact, I find their section on beer to be extremely lacking. They do, however, sell really good quality homebrewing kits from Craft A Brew. Also, since I currently work at B&N, I was able to buy it at a really good price using my employee discount (This is probably a good time to mention that I am NOT being paid by either of these companies to plug the product, I was just that happy with it).
My husband had been toying with the idea of homebrewing for a while, so 2 Christmases ago, I surprised him with the Hefeweizen kit. We brewed the first batch together, mostly because the hubby doesn't like to read directions, and waited. I was pretty skeptical about the outcome because of a few horror stories I heard from friends. To my surprise, the hef was very tasty (similar to a Widmer). Being the science nerd that I am, I wanted to brew another batch from a recipe rather than a kit, just to make sure it was the process that made good beer, and not just the kit. We went to a local homebrew shop, where they gave us a recipe for a Smoked Porter. We brewed it together, and waited. Another success! By the time that batch was gone, we had official caught the brewing bug, and the one gallon kit just wasn't cutting it for us anymore. We made trip #2 to the homebrew shop, and walked out with a complete 5 gallon brewing kit and a recipe kit for a Stout (we like our dark beers). This is when the fun really began . . .
Let's just say that the margin of error grows with the batch size. This beer wasn't as successful this time around. Again, my inner nerd kicked in, and I went into research mode to figure out what went wrong. I bought a few books, scoured the internet, and a monster was born! The more I read, the more I fell in love. The science behind it intrigues me, and the freedom it lends satisfies the creative itch that I couldn't scratch with anything else. I can do anything I want in homebrewing, and no one can say it's wrong. Don't even get me started on how I feel when people taste my beer and like it! That's a post for another day.
Well, I think that's enough for one night. Thanks for reading . . .