Gowanus Brewery

Santa’s Private Reserve Ale – Reviewed by Jeremy
December 27, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, red ale, review

Santa’s Private Reserve Ale, one of Rogue’s holiday ales, is not only distributed in an awesome bottle splattered with glow-in-the-dark paint but it also tastes delicious. I really enjoyed this beer, a double-hopped red ale, although it was unlike the few other holiday beers I’ve tried.

I sampled Santa’s beer in a pint glass at fridge temperature. It poured crystal-clear and red- or brownish, copper. Up until the first gulp, it held a tan, one-finger headstand that quickly receded to the corners and left thin sheets on top. The aroma was hearty, smelling of dark malt and citrusy, American hops. Despite being a seasonal beer, it was only moderately malty and toasty. The finish showed the hops again, with some bitterness. There was good carbonation and a medium-bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this brew is a great ale and drinkable to no end, but it didn’t feel like a holiday beer, which I would expect to be richer, thicker, or spicier.

In the description of Santa’s Private Reserve at rogue.com, I gained some insight into what makes this beer seasonal:

Rogue’s annual holiday offering, Santa’s Private Reserve, is a variation of the classic Saint Rogue Red, but with double the hops–including Chinook, and Centennial, and a mystery hop called Rudolph by head brewer John “more hops” Maier!

That’s right, Rudolph hops! That’s Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, and obviously fitting for this red ale.

Rogue’s tasting notes for this beer are available online and there are hundreds of reviews at BeerAdvocate.

Eight Days O’ Wheat – Reviewed by Jeremy
December 24, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, local, review

Sadly, what you see here is what I found in the Sixpoint growler I picked up during the week at the Whole Foods Market.  It’s flat as a pancake.  The friendly woman who poured this for me had to tap a second keg to top off my growler, so, I’m guessing, the last of the first keg was in pretty poor shape. What a bummer.

The Eight Days O’ Wheat beer was introduced in November and is the result of a collaboration between Sixpoint Point Craft Ales, a local brewery, and Whole Foods to produce a house beer for Whole Foods Market’s beer rooms, which are sprouting up around NYC.  Reviews should start accumulating at Beer Advocate soon, but for now there’s only one, which describes this brew as “decent.”

My initial impression of the pint of Eight Days O’ Wheat, based in part on total disappointment over the quality of the pour, was less than decent.  Far less.  The aroma and taste were dominated by an unpleasant, intense combination of wheat and hops.  The mouthfeel was thin.  And the finish was bitter.  Anyway, the experience, I have no doubt, would be totally different on a second try, so I’m just not going to review this beer until I can get my hands on some fresh stock.  It’s officially a do-over on this one.

Whole Foods Market Beer Store by Jeremy
December 22, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, distributor, local

Wednesday night I finally got down to the Whole Foods Union Square South beer room. The Beer Room, if you haven’t heard, has two things. The first you’ll find all over town: a decent beer selection. There was everything from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Guido Belgium Ale. I have only one minor complaint and that is I couldn’t find a certain type of wheat beer I was supposed to pick up for my girlfriend. In all fairness, you would be hard pressed to find a good selection of fruity wheat ales in most beer shops. What really set’s this little oasis apart, though, is the second thing: the Growler filling stations, manned by a friendly and knowledgeable staff.

The Beer Store carries all the local beers on draft and dispenses them by the growler, which are themselves reasonably priced at a few bucks. You of course can bring your own, too. I picked up a Growler of one of the Six Point Craft Ales (their website is currently under construction), but they also had Kelso and Brooklyn Brewery beers available. I was sad to hear while checking out that the beers on tap were available only on tap. Worse than that, there is absolutely no sampling your freshly-filled growler on the premises. In fact, I still haven’t had any of that beer yet.

While I was there, I also picked up a six-pack of Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, a Rogue Christmas ale, and a few other random brews. I predict that this will be the first of many beer runs to the Beer Store. I commute to and from work on the F line, which stops right outside this place at the Second Avenue stop. Literally, right outside this place. I may try to get some better pictures of the growler filling station, but Whole Foods seems to have a strict policy against in-store picture taking, with no exception for beer-loving beer bloggers, like myself.

Guido, a Belgium with Character by Jeremy
December 21, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review

This is a “Regenboog Ale brewed with honey and raisins.”  It’s a Belgium beer, 8% ABV, and  Served in a small tumbler.  I picked this up in the Manhattan Whole Foods beer store.

I’m nearly at the end of the beer and I still can’t pick up on the honey, but the raisin is there.  Unfortunately, I don’t particularly care for raisins and, truth be told, I picked this beer up for my (lovely) girlfriend. I’ll review it anyway.

Between the raisin and sourness, which I think is the diacetyl, I can’t say I love this Guido, but it does have an interesting, original flavor.  It is raisiny and slightly sweet, and finishes with sour apples.  By the way, it smells just like it tastes, sour and raisiny.

There is a pretty substantial, big-bubbled headstand, but it disappears pretty quickly, leaving patterns on the glass, foam in the corners, and some thin whispy stuff on top.

Interestingly, I think this beer has the color of raisins.  Not the dark store-bought stuff, but the homemade or specialty kind that still have some color.  It’s golden-brown and yellow and only slightly translucent.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this beer out of personal preference, but I have to give it extra points for an awesome label.  It’s reminiscent of the Red Meat webcomic, which is also unusual.

Click through for Beer Advocate reviews on Guido.

Extra Pale Ale – Update by Jeremy
December 18, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale

On Sunday, I moved the Extra Pale Ale to secondary. I was surprised that it was not as light in color as I expected from an American Pale Ale, let alone a beer called Extra Pale. “Extra Pale Ale,” although referring to the type of malt that goes into it, may always impart on my mind a picture of a bright, amber-colored beer. Also, I was disappointed to see a thorough haze. Much of this will settle out, but it will be far from crystal clear. It tasted excellent, though.

There are two issues that are taking shape as I begin preparing myself to commit to fourth and fifth batches. The first revolves around understanding the root causes of haziness, which, obviously, is part and parcel to controlling it. I read a great blog post on this topic recently that will probably be my starting point on that. The second issue is bitterness. The three batches of beer I brewed up to this point, including the Extra Pale Ale, have taken an ounce and a half or more hops, so I understand they should be bitter. The Chinook IPA and the Extra Pale Ale, though, seem too bitter. I need a better understanding of how the hop schedule correlates to final bitterness. I’m not sure where to begin with that, but it may be with the bitterness calculations that I’ve seen reproduced here and there.

Slick Labels, Tasty Brew by Jeremy
December 17, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: double ipa, extra pale ale, ipa, label

I’ve been using 2″ x 4″ mailing labels from Staples for my beer bottles. There is a template available online to make printing a snap. I’ve spent hours scrubbing labels off bottles, so, as far as I’m concerned, the smaller the label the better. Plus, this size label looks great on a range of bottle sizes, from the taller, 24 ouncers to the shorter, grenade-style bottles.

The Olde Nash is the California Imperial Pale Ale I brewed back in October.

The Chinook Me is the Chinook IPA. I can’t take full credit for naming this one. That goes to my (lovely) girlfriend.

The Cleaners Pale Ale is the Extra Pale Ale, which I actually moved to secondary just this morning. The named seemed fitting for a beer that’s supposed to be crisp and refreshing.

I use GIMP to draw these labels, pulling free fonts from Dafont.com and images from Google’s image search. I used OpenOffice to view and fill the template. I found out (the hard way) that OpenOffice and Microsoft Word handle tables and images slightly differently, which is a problem since I have to print from a Word-only workstation. So, from OpenOffice, I’ve started exporting the completed template as a PDF, rather than a Word document, to sidestep the Microsoft software altogether.

Arrogant Bastard v. Olde Nash!! by Jeremy
December 14, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, double ipa, review

The two beers are, not surprisingly, similar–bold, rich barley flavors, explosive hops, dry finish. The primary difference for me comes from the varying hop intensities. As I complained before, my California Imperial Pale Ale, or Olde Nash, seems unbalanced, the hops overshadowing the barley and grains. Oddly, the Arrogant Bastard Ale, which I thought was excellent before, seems unbalanced now. It doesn’t have enough hops! Not enough to warrant its name, anyway. The ABA is overall more drinkable if only because the lack of hops means it’s slightly less bitter. On the other hand, ON’s flavor is much more interesting. It’s full on all fronts.

In the aroma, the ABA has a fruitiness that must be the grapfruitiness that I read about at BeerAdvocate. Both beers have a sweetness in the nose, but they are completely distinct. ON’s aroma is, in fact, dominated by the Chinook hops that went into it. Having plenty of opportunity’s to become familiar those hops, it’s unmistakable to me.

The ABA has a reddish-copper color that’s lighter, though otherwise similar, to ON.

For mouthfeel, the ABA is slightly lighter than ON. The ABA is more viscous than, for example, a pale ale, whereas ON is more like a regular medium-to-full bodied brew.

Both beers have a similar, tan-colored head stand, but the ABA’s disappears almost instantly once in the glass. It leaves thin wisps of foam in the center of the glass and a fine ring of bubbles around the edge.

I can’t believe how different these two beers are. I’m floored. On the bright side, head to head, my beer’s better. Yeah that’s right. Of course, now I’m the arrogant bastard.

Extra Pale Ale – Naming and Style Review by Jeremy
December 14, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, extra pale ale, naming

Bubbling in the Extra Pale Ale fermenter has tapered off and this weekend I’m moving it to the glass carboy. It seems to be moving along fine and the recipe is so simple I don’t expect to run into any hiccups. Tonight or sometime I’m going to mock up a label for it: “Cleaner’s Ale – We’re All Going”.

My first beer was a Double IPA, the second an IPA, so this, my third batch, will be my first Extra Pale Ale. I know it will be lighter in all respects and won’t be as hoppy as the first two, but I don’t know much more than that. Here’s what Northern Brewer had to say:

Crisp, hoppy, and quenching, our Extra Pale Ale is highlighted with the sharp, citrus aroma of Cascade hops in the new tradition of West Coast ales.

The information posted at BeerAdvocate is right in line and gives some perspective on the use of hops here:

Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent. American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.

The contours of this style aren’t clear just yet, but we know that it is an American-style Pale Ale that, through the use of Cascade hops, represents “the new tradition of West Coast ales.” I should note that it seems this beer is known alternatively as Extra Pale Ale and American Pale Ale. It will be a clean and hoppy beer that may also taste fruity.

The Wikipedia entry on American Pale Ale presents a fuller picture what characteristics to expect:

[American Pale Ales] are pale to amber in color and generally their flavor and aroma is centered around the citrusy and pine character of American hops with caramel-like malt flavors and fruity esters from the ale yeast playing a supporting role.

As usual, for the fullest picture, I turn to the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidlines on American Pale Ale. These guidelines are action-packed and I highly recommend you visit the BJCP site for yourself, if only to gloss over the wealth of information available there. The guidelines describe American Pale Ale the same as do the references above, with one exception. BeerAdvocate says diacetyl may be present, while the guidelines say it should not. I’ll have to explore diacetyl’s function in a future post. For now, I’ll try to wrap up this review. First, I’ll point to the ingredients section found towards the end of the guidelines:

Pale ale malt, typically American two-row. American hops, often but not always ones with a citrusy character. American ale yeast. Water can vary in sulfate content, but carbonate content should be relatively low. Specialty grains may add character and complexity, but generally make up a relatively small portion of the grist. Grains that add malt flavor and richness, light sweetness, and toasty or bready notes are often used (along with late hops) to differentiate brands.

Lastly, I’ll throw in the guidelines’ vital statistics section:

OG 1.045 – 1.060
FG 1.010 – 1.015
IBUs 30 – 45+
ABV 4.5 – 6%

After re-reading my notes on the American Pale Ale style of beer, I’m really looking forward to trying this beer. With the citrusy hops, it sounds crisp and cleansing. Plus, as I think I planned, it will complement the Imperial Pale Ale and Chinook IPA well.

Bare Knuckle Stout – Review by Jeremy
December 13, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review

I had a pint of Bare Knuckle Stout yesterday with my lunch. Unfortunately, the onions on my burger and the vinaigrette on my salad really grated against the mild smokiness of the beer. I had the beer in a pint glass and it was served cold.

The beer had a tall, cream-colored head stand that looked typical of nitrogen-carbonated brews. The foam was silky smooth, and the bubbles were fine. The head stand persisted all the way to the end, leaving lacing on the pint glass walls as I neared the bottom. Mouthfeel was full and the beer was black in the glass.

The aroma and taste were very mild overall. The aroma was actually difficult to pick up at the pub among the food and other smells already in the air, but it was definitely bready, if only slightly. The taste was faintly bitter, with smoky and roasted characteristics. The finish was, like the aroma, slightly bready and malty.

This beer, a product of Anheuser-Busch, is too bland to recommend and I don’t plan on a second tasting.

You can find peer reviews for Bare Knuckle Stout at BeerAdvocate and the product page here.

Dry Hopping and Trub by Jeremy
December 13, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, dry hopping, ipa

I mentioned that I dry-hopped this batch of Chinook IPA and that I bottled it over the weekend. I wondered, especially after the first day when the hops had fully dissolved, whether I had stepped in over my head. There was a thick, foamy layer of hops across the surface and a new, growing layer of trub at the bottom. In between, there was enough suspended hops to cloud the entire carboy. I thought I might have to put together some sort of filtration system, but the hops eventually settled, for the most part. In the picture to the left, the top yellow-green layer is settled hops and the bottom cream layer is settled yeast. As you can see, there is substantially more hops than yeast, but, unlike with the yeast, the layer is loose and fluffy.

That the hops had not compacted like the yeast was a factor in bottling. Despite working as carefully as possible, I still kicked up plumes of hops that ultimately made it into some or all of the bottles. I can’t imagine all that plant mass adds anything positive to the mix. For the next batch, I’ll try filtering my dry-hopped beer through a muslin or cheese cloth for a brighter, clearer result.