Friday, March 1, 2013

Beer recipes #231 & #232 - Compleat Breakfast Oatmeal Stout and Dooper Hopper Double IPA

Although the holiday season is the busiest here at Barbary Coast Brewing, with ~300 bottles to brew, ferment, age, bottle, and distribute, the fun never really stops--because, of course, the drinking never really stops (except briefly, after a bad weekend or ill-considered just-one-more pint of something a wee bit strong). The last bottle of Old Titan or Pink Nightmare usually gets capped around December 11th, and after that I take a couple of weeks off. But usually, round about new years, the supply of drinkin' beer (as opposed to giftin' beer) is running out. Not only that, by that point aikido camp is only 6 or 7 weeks away, barely enough time to get a good ale ready for the thirsty martial artists. As I like to say, I am a river to my people, and here's what flowed up to Sonoma this past President's Day weekend:

Compleat Breakfast Oatmeal Stout

The man who organizes our winter camp loves a good, strong, dark beer, and this year I thought to please him with a variation of a beer I've often brewed as my first beer of the new year. Rather than just oatmeal (which adds body and some residual sweetness), I also decided to include lactose, a la a milk stout, which adds a sugar indigestible by yeast, and so adding a subtle sweetness. And then, hitting on the "breakfast" theme of milk and oats, I added some orange extract and cinnamon to "compleat" it. (I considered adding coffee too, but since I haven't worked with that before and didn't want to risk it, that will have to wait for another time).

7 lbs British 2-row
1 lb 120L crystal malt
1.5 lb steel-cut, rolled oats
0.5 lb rice hulls
0.5 lb carafa malt
0.25 lb black patent malt
0.25 lb roast barley
0.5 lb lactose

1 oz Challenger @ 8.2% AA 60 min.
0.5 oz Willamette@ 7.5% AA 20 min.
0.5 oz " 5 min

Yeast: White Labs Irish Ale Yeast WLP 004

Extra: In 4 oz house vodka (180°), soak for 3 weeks 0.25 oz curaçao orange peel, 1 cinnamon stick cracked. Add prior to bottling

Dooper Hopper Double IPA

Although I'm a big hop-head, I've refrained from making a really hoppy beer, just because I wasn't sure anyone else would drink it and a) didn't want to get stuck drinking 2 cases of the same beer by myself, and b) didn't want production of that beer to mean I didn't have other beer for other people. Having gauged that there'd be sufficient drinkers at aikido camp, however, I decided to make a glorious double IPA, and to my pleasure, they drank almost every last bottle. The malt bill is a variant of my dooper cooper double-oak-aged pale ale, with a super-charged hops bill:

8 lbs domestic 2-row
4 lbs domestic Munich
0.5 lb 120L crystal malt
0.5 lb Belgian biscuit malt
0.5 lb wheat malt

2 oz Columbus @ 13.9% AA + 1 oz Chinook @ 14.2% AA in wort during spage
1 oz Centennial @ 9.5% AA 60 min
2 oz Amarillo @ 7.8 % AA 5 min
1 oz Centennial + 1 oz Columbus dry-hop in primary
2 oz Amarillo dry-hop in secondary

Yeast: White Labs California Ale Yeast WLP 001

Know your enemy: Shocktop, or, the rise of the fake microbrews

A few months back, as I was walking around the neighborhood, I passed by Coit Liquor, a venerable (1961) North Beach institution that has a pretty good selection of craft and foreign beers. In the window was a big, glossy display, with posters and banners, for a beer I'd never heard of, "Shock Top Belgian White." It had a mascot, an orange slice sporting a face, sunglasses, and a mohawk of grain stalks.

Behold, the banal face of evil.
Now, it's one thing to come across a beer you've never seen before. That happens all the time, even at your local supermarket, if you're lucky enough to have a good buyer or a liberal-minded distributor, at least in parts of the country where distributors have access to a range of craft beers.

But when you go by your local bottle shop, and there's not just a new beer, but a new beer with copious marketing materials featuring a cheezy mascot, well, there's something skunky in Denmark.

Similarly, a few years ago, I happened to be in Las Vegas for some work function, and I went down to the bar, looking for a beer. All they had was Big Yellow, in its various incarnations ("lite," "dry," whatever), and something called "Blue Moon Belgian White," which I didn't recognize, and sounded like the closest thing to a craft beer I was going to get. So I ordered it. They served it in a logo glass, with a slice of orange. It was pale. It was bland.

It was Coors.

Shock Top is Bud.

Welcome to the world of fake microbrews.

The fact is that, all the craft brew in America represents a mere drop in the bucket - 6% of the volume and 9% of the dollar value. America's largest craft brewer, Sam Adams, sells 2.5 million barrels and has a revenue of $512 million. (Yeungling is roughly the same size; the two are essentially tied for the title of largest American brewer.) By contrast, Anheuser-Busch (AKA Bud), the formerly American company that's now owned by multinational AB InBev, sells 121 million barrels, has an annual revenue of over $15 billion, and controls 48% of US market share. The second largest brewer in America, MillerCoors (owned by multinationals SABMiller and Molson Coors), controls 30% of the US market.

Imported beer--most of it produced by companies owned by InBev (which owns Bass, Beck's, Boddington's, Corona, Franziskaner, Goose Island, Hoegaarden, Labatt, Leffe, Lowenbrau, Modello, Oranjeboom, Pacifico, Schooner, Spaten, St. Pauli Girl, Stella Artois, Whitbread, and many others), SABMiller (which owns Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, and many others), Heineken (which owns Moretti, Affligem, Amstel, Beamish, Murphy's, Dos Equis, Tecate, Sol, Bohemia, and many others), and Carlsberg (which owns Kronenbourg and many others)--constitutes the remainder of the US market. In fact, those 4 produce over half the world's beer.

But, you say, what about all of the other big ol' US brands?

Michelob, Rolling Rock, Natural Light? Anheuser-Busch.

Hamm's, Milwaukee's Best, Icehouse, Killian's Irish Red, Keystone, Henry Weinhard? MillerCoors.

Pabst? (Yes, I'm looking at you, you hipsters swilling your "ironic" PBRs...) Pabst hasn't actually brewed its own beer since 1996, when it contracted all its brewing, first to Stroh (which Pabst bough 3 years later), and then in 2001 to Miller. Today it's little more than a marketing and real estate company, holding the Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, Stroh's, Colt 45, St. Ides, Lone Star, Olympia, Rainier, Schaefer, and other brands.

Consolidation in the American brewing industry can be traced back to the 1950s, when TV advertising allowed for the creation of national identities for breweries. By the early 80s, the number of breweries in the US had fallen from 407 to 83, controlled by 44 companies, the top 6 of which (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Heilman, Stroh, Coors, and Pabst) controlled 92% of US beer production. It didn't help, of course, that they were all producing more-or-less indistinguishable products on an industrial scale. Control over advertising and distribution channels was really the only determinant of success.

The influence of the Great Imperialist Brewing Satan warped the resurgence of regional microbreweries that began in the mid-80s. A prime example can be found in Portland's Widmer Brothers (founded in 1984), the brewery that introduced hefeweizen to America; and Seattle's Redhook (founded in 1981), with its signature ESB. To compete nationally, these two merged in 2007 to form the Craft Brew Alliance (which later bought Kona Brewing); but because of the GIBS's stranglehold on distribution, they had to sell a third stake to AB InBev to get access.

And now, perhaps most insidious of all, aside from the microbreweries owned or part-owned by Big Yellow, are the fake micros like Blue Moon and Shock Top. The beer case in your local grocery or liquor store is already a battleground, where legitimate microbrewers must fight for shelf space against Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, Coors, Coors Light, in bottles, cans, six-packs, twelve packs, and suitcases; not to mention the "black crown," "chelada," "chill," "draft," "dry," "high life," "ice," "lime," "private reserve," "premium," "red," "select," and "wheat" permutations they can think of to force sellers to put on the shelves and try to convince you it's not Yellow. But now they have to compete for the tiny sliver of "microbrew" shelf space against the fake microbrews (or "nostalgia" brands), because the market is essentially saturated with a commodity product, and the macrobrewing dinosaurs are reduced to trying to stamp out the craft brewer mammals underfoot to try to squeeze out the last pips of profit, in the process crushing all innovation, diversity, and regional character.

Grrrrrr... </rant>

Beer review - November! (slightly late...)

The latest rogue's gallery... plus one you've seen before...
Welcome back! Or rather, welcome me back, since you haven't gone anywhere, but I've been absent from the BCBB. I started working on this review just before the holidays hit, and never quite finished it, or several others. I'm going to try to knock them all down in short order. I apologize if this means that the reviews are somewhat abbreviated.

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Sierra Nevada, founded in 1979, was one of the first microbreweries, and they were pioneers in "West Coast" style beers (very hoppy, particularly in their use of Cascade hops). For a while, their line of bottled offerings was pretty small - their flagship pale ale, porter, stout, and Celebration holiday IPA. But in more recent years, they became leaders in things like growing their own ingredients and sustainable power, and they've expanded their lines of beers as well.

The Kellerweis is one of their more recent beers. It's a hefeweizen, meaning a wheat beer with the yeast residue left in. And it's open-fermented, meaning that rather than being fermented in a closed tank, its fermenter is open to the air - not in the funky way that, say, Belgian saisons are, allowing wild yeasts and whatever else is born on the wind to fall in and influence the fermentation - but it does make it more of a living, breathing thing than a closed-up science experiment.

I'm not a great fan of wheat beers, but of the ones I've had, this is a pretty good specimen - spicy and fruity, with a nice body. If you like a good wheat beer - or if you're looking for a gateway beer that's not too heavy and doesn't look to dark - I'd recommend it.

4.8% ABV, 15 IBU.

Brasserie Trois Dames Sauvageonne

Oops! Turns out I've already reviewed it! :-) Moving on...

Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA

Bear Republic's Racer V IPA is a classic California (they're in Healdsburg, just north of Santa Rosa in the Sonoma Valley, a place full of great beer, even though it's wine country) IPA - full bodied (7.0% ABV) and hoppy (75 IBUs, with the Big C's - Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and Columbus. Every October, though, they do a special release that's a real treat for the hop-heads, their Racer X Double IPA (available only in 20 oz "bombers").

"Double" is a bit of a misnomer, since you'd literally expect it to be 14% ABV and 150 IBUs. The former would make it damned near impossible to get through a glass and still be able to stand up off your barstool; the latter would overload the palate. "Double IPAs" are stronger (7-9% ABV, vs. 5-7%), and usually max out on the IBUs (100+), with a strong malt "backbone" to counter the bitterness of the hops. Whether they emphasize the bitter or floral characteristics of the hops varies.

Racer X (8.3% ABV, 100+ IBU) is pretty middle of the road on the bitterness v. aroma, with a slight emphasis on the bitter. If you're looking for that double IPA experience, and don't have anywhere to be for a couple of hours, and it's October, go get some.

Gordon Biersch Weizen Eisbock

I'm no great fan of Gordon Biersch or their beers. They're pretty venerable (1988), but for the longest time their line was pretty small and consisted mostly of lagers (with the exceptions of their hefeweizen and Sommerbrau Kölsch), and not particularly memorable ones, although I have to give them credit for their amber Marzen--a lager that's not yellow, wow!--which I like. But then, their brewpub chain became a fixture of upscale yuppie strip malls--35 locations, in AZ, CA (the one in SF recently closed), CO, DC, FL, GA, HI, IN, KS, LA, MD, MO, NV, NY (yes, Dr. P, Syracuse and Buffalo!), OH, SC, TX, VA, and WA--and that doesn't sit well with me, since I'm a fan of local food and local beer.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, however, I spotted something that intrigued me: two big swing-top bombers labelled "Braumeister Select," Weizen Eisbock and Zwickel Bock. I'm a sucker for "experimental" and "limited-release" beers, so I picked them up. I was particularly intrigued by the eisbock, since I'd never seen an eisbier before. These are beers that are fortified by bringing them down to a temperature where the water freezes, but the alcohol does not, and removing said water ice. So, what you have is basically a concentrated hefeweizen.

(This is actually, technically, a method of distilling, albeit not to a very strong ABV; I don't know of any other beers--or, perhaps, "beers"--that do this, which is reinforced by the fact that GB says it's "the first of its kind in the US." As a historical note, this is also how "apple jack," a brandy made from hard apple cider, was made in early America. Unfortunately, unlike distilling in a column still where the methanol comes out before the ethanol and the higher order alcohols come out later, can both be discarded, ice distilling concentrates methanol and higher alcohols in situ, and could lead to methanol poisoning, commonly called "apple palsy.") 

The results were... interesting. Gordon Biersch's hefeweizen isn't the funky cloudy banana/clove hefe that, say, the Kellerweis is. It's much cleaner (what's sometimes called an "American" hefeweizen), so concentrating it didn't make the esthers or phenols (what create the banana-y and clove-y flavors) overpowering. It was rich, a little sweet, slightly syrup, and 10% ABV packed quite a punch, like a doppelbock. At 30 IBUs it wasn't bitter at all; rather, I think any bitterness went into not making it too sweat, like banana bread made with too much sugar. I don't think I'd buy it again, but it was a novel experience. (FWIW, I still haven't drunk the Zwickel Bock.

Almanac Honey Saison

I've talked about both Almanac and saisons elsewhere. At the risk of giving them short shrift, this is an excellent example, with a rich honey sweetness that perfectly balances the slightly sour funk of the saison.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Ninkasi is a fairly new (2006) brewery in Eugene OR that's already made a pretty good name for themselves on the West Coast. Their first and flagship beer is their Total Domination IPA (6.7% ABV, 65 IBUs). It's an examplary West Coast IPA, balanced, but on the bitter side. Not quite as aggressive as, say, Racer 5, but a good IPA to add to your staple rotation.