Gowanus Brewery

Dogfish Head Fort – Reviewed by Jeremy
February 29, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review, strong ale

Fully caught off guard by the Dogfish Head Fort. Fully.

This is not just a raspberry beer, which was my and my girlfriend’s thinking when we pulled it off the shelf. For that matter, it’s not just a beer. I would call it a cross between a strong ale and a fruit beer. It’s basically a barleywine-style ale, but with a ton of raspberries tossed in.

A ton, literally.

The brewers at Dogfish Head added over a ton of pureed raspberries from Oregon and Delaware in small batches during fermentation to allow for “more of the true berry flavors and aromas to be present in the finished beer.” I can’t say whether the amazing concentration of sour raspberry pucker is attributable to the brewery’s small-batch technique or the sheer quantity of raspberries, but Dogfish Head has definitely succeeded in packing an unusual amount of flavor into this beer.

Bottled in 2007 and served cool, the aroma and flavor of the beer I had were both dominated by the 18% ABV alcohol bomb this beer packs. Behind that, it’s tart and sour. It pours a cloudy brown and red and has a medium body, with essentially no head and little carbonation. Overall, the Dogfish Head Fort is strong and would be great for a celebration, but is too much to get into for no reason at all.

See community reviews at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.


Brauerei Pinkus Mueller Hefe-Weizen – Reviewed by Jeremy
February 26, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review

Yes, as Barry was quick to point out, it’s a mouthful. How about just Pinkus Hefe-Weizen?

This beer, certified organic by the USDA, would be an excellent mid-summer session brew. It pours hazy yellow, with a tall, bone-white head. The aroma is mild, with cloves, lemon, and a wheaty background. It tastes similar to how it smells and is, especially for a wheat beer, surprisingly refreshing. It’s crisp and clean and could be perfect with a big BBQ cookout. It has light body and no shortage of carbonation, though it’s slightly on the watery side.

Overall, the Pinkus Hefe-Weizen comes short of inspirational for somebody in the middle of brewing his own wheat beer, but there is definitely a place in my fridge for this beer. That it’s also an organic beer is a great bonus!

Come summertime, I would be a happy man with a six-pack of Pinkus Hefe’s with me poolside and the hot sun above.

American Wheat Beer – Started by Jeremy
February 25, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: all-grain, beer, brewing, recipe, wheat

I just finished brewing the American Wheat Beer that will be the model for my competition beer.

It comes from Northern Brewer which describes the beer as a “spritzy, refreshing warm-weather crowd-pleaser” with more hop character than its German counterpart and fermented with a milder-tasting yeast. To make it mine, I plan to do two or three things. I’ll adjust the grain bill and mash to produce a lighter, crisper beer. I’ll add a homegrown adjunct, probably heirloom raspberry. Also, I plan to grow hops this summer, but they won’t be ready for harvesting until the end of summer, which may be too late for competition.

The recipe is straight forward. It calls for four pounds each of Rahr White Wheat and Rahr 2-row Pale, and one ounce each of Willamette (60 minutes) and Cascade (15 minutes). The yeast used is Wyeast #1010 American Wheat Yeast. The recommended mash schedule is single-step at 153 degrees. The target original gravity is 1.040 and my actual was 1.038.

During the brew, I hit two major snags–one new, one old.

First, to bring the mash from the protease rest at around 125 degrees to the saccharization rest at 153 degrees, I added about four gallons of boiling water, which I should not have done. The temperature shot way up past 153 degrees to about 180. Visiting 180 degrees for enzymes is like staring at the sun for us. The water I added should have been at or below 200 degrees. Fortunately, I was able to bring temp down to the 150’s by adding an additional gallon of cold tap water. On the bright side, since my starting gravity turned out fine, I got to see first hand that grain enzymes are robust enough to handle an occasional screw up.

The second issue I ran into I dealt with in my last batch. I just couldn’t get the wort cooled fast enough towards the end of the brew. Instead of hauling the MegaPot up to the bathtub this time, I let it cool on the range down to about 180 and drained it to the primary fermenter, a plastic bucket. I sealed it, put an empty water lock in place with tin foil wrapped around it, and just let it sit overnight to cool slowly. When I got up this morning, the wort was near room temperature and I was able to pitch the yeast. This isn’t ideal, but, as long as we can avoid contamination, I think it may be our best bet for the time being.

Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale – Reviewed by Jeremy
February 24, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, review, strong ale

This Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is my first wheat wine and I have to say I liked it more than the more-popular barley wine-style beers I’ve tried. In the interest of full disclosure, this bottle actually had dust on its shoulders when I picked it up earlier, so any shortcomings are probably the result of sitting too long on the shelf. That being said, the beer smelled great with a sweet nose that was almost raisiny, and definitely malty. Oddly, there wasn’t any hint of hops up front. It tasted sweet and bitter, but much less so than, for example, Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, a barley wine-style beer that just about knocks your teeth out. Both the nose and flavor pack a mean alcoholic note that, unlike everything else, appears not to have mellowed over time. The Wheat Wine Ale was red and amber and slightly cloudy. It was viscous and slick, with little carbonation and less head. Overall, I think this would be really good after a huge spicy plate of pasta or a big steak as a sipper, but it’s too intense to drink without that sort of company.

This is one of Smuttynose’s Big Beer Series, so the recipe is subject to change from year to year. There are some notes, though, at the Smuttynose site regarding earlier versions of this brew. It’s interesting to note that this beer is probably, unless the recipe’s really changed since then, dry hopped and I noticed barely any hop characteristics. Plus, it has medium toast French oak chips, which I didn’t look out for but makes sense after the fact. The first batch, brewed in 2005, also had pilsner malt, golden promise, cara wheat, wheat malt, cara hell, and cane sugar. It called for warrior hops for bittering, liberty for flavoring and aroma, and horizon for dry hopping. And the alcohol by volume was 11%.

The BJCP doesn’t seem to have a category for wine ale specifically, but it would probably fall under Strong Ales. See other reviews at Beer Advocate and Rate Beer.

First All-grain Batch by Jeremy
February 15, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, brewing, equipment

Finally, I got around to brewing my first all-grain batch of homebrew.

I assumed, if I was going to screw anything up, it would be getting the temperature rests right. And I did, sort of. The water was too hot when I first added the grain, so it didn’t really get to sit at the dough-in temperature. Afterwards, though, controlling the temperature was simple, I just adjusted the burner up or down to add heat (at high heat, five degrees per minute) or take it away (with the range off, five degrees per ten minutes). The real obstacle it turned out was cooling the wort during the end game.

This MegaPot, which really is mega, is much harder to cool down with an ice-bath than the smaller four-gallon enamel pot we used before. The first reason is that the only basin big enough to put it in is the bathroom tub, which is, considering the full pot weighs in around 60 pounds, very inconvenient. We tried our sink first, but it’s such a tight fit it actually displaces nearly all of the water. The second reason is that there is just a lot more volume and not much more surface area with the MegaPot. I’m not sure what we’ll do the next time around, but we are definitely going to take a second look at plate chillers and other cooling options–equipment I had written off as too luxurious for the Gowanus.

But, what do I know?

Kegerator Pours, and Getting the Pressure Right by Jeremy
February 9, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: kegerator

The kegerator ran flawlessly at our Superbowl party last Sunday, despite stumbling our way through the carbon dioxide regulation. Initially, as I said before, Barry turned the pressure up past 25psi and shook the keg up a little bit. That got us started off right with just a taste of carbo, so Barry let it sit at 25 psi for a couple days. Turns out, that’s way more pressure than we needed and the beer poured all foam at first. He played around with it and we served the Nut Brown Ale up at about 12 psi for the party.

The keg’s tapped now, but tomorrow I’m blowing out my first all-wheat batch and we’ll restock. All I have to say is ’bout time.

Now Serving Draught Beer by Jeremy
February 1, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: equipment, kegerator

Is it draught or draft? Who knows.

And who cares! All the finishing touches are in place and the Gowanus Brewery kegerator is finally done and topped off with Barry’s Nut Brown Ale, just in time for Sunday’s big game.

From my perspective, installing the kegerator hardware and putting it all to use was easy. Barry and I did a minimal amount of work to the mini-fridge, punching only two last-minute holes for the tower and carbon dioxide tank earlier in the week. It took Barry some time to assemble the hose fittings and gauges, which you really need to look at and understand before using. When it came time to fill the keg, there was, I assume since I wasn’t there to see, nothing to it. Barry filled it up, hooked up the carbon dioxide, and shook the keg. He tried some right afterwards and there was actually already some carbo.

For our part, my girlfriend and I are putting together the hardware for all-wheat mashing. Yesterday, I finally order the bazooka tube to go with our big, stainless steel kettle, but that’s the last piece of hardware we need to put all that stuff to use. In the next month or so we’ll be back up to full production and back on track to meet our 2008 resolutions.