Learn To Homebrew Day 2015

I have been homebrewing for about four years now. While I have had other hobbies longer, homebrewing is probably the most interesting one I have ever had. Think about it- do you like cooking? Do you like making things? Do you like to drink? I don’t know too many people that cannot say yes to at least one of these questions.

The more people I talk to about it, the more I realize that homebrewing is much easier than people think it is. Sure, it can get difficult as you start to experiment with bigger batches, different ingredients, and new technology. But when it boils down, (all the puns intended), you are basically just following a recipe.

Saturday, November 7 is Learn To Homebrew Day. It was established by the American Homebrewers Association in 1999 to give homebrewers a chance to show non-brewers the ropes, and maybe get some new people into the hobby. Last year, a total of 6518 gallons of beer was brewed, at least according to the AHA report.

Like any other hobby, homebrewing has clubs. Connecticut has several, and I recently started going to a few meetings and events from Brew Haven, which is the New Haven area’s local club. Brew Haven will be hosting a Learn To Homebrew event this Saturday at the Outer Space in Hamden. Both extract and all-grain batches will be brewed so you can learn about the differences between both methods. Local homebrewers will also be on hand to answer questions. I myself might even make an appearance. Oh, and there will be plenty of beer to drink. Stop by between 12 and 4 PM- you just might learn something.

 

Craft Beer Goes Green

In case this blog has not made it explicitly clear, I feel better as a human drinking craft beer. I feel even better when I am supporting breweries that source local ingredients. Some breweries are taking that positive attitude to the next level and not only growing their own ingredients, but also using their own power through solar energy.

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Bear Republic’s new solar system.

A small homebrew shop in New Jersey and a larger-scale brewery in California have both harnessed the power of the sun for making beer. Read more

LOCALBREW: Maltose Express Brewshop

The Maltose Express brewshop in Monroe, CT is where I first got my supplies to brew, so I was pleased when I was able to speak with Mark and Tess Szamatulski, the owners, last week. Aside from running a successful brewshop for over 20 years, they have plans to open a brewery on the same premises as well. We chatted about their future plans, recent travels, and of course, favorite beers.

For those unfamiliar to the area, Maltose started off filling a need for brewers. Mark and Tess originally started the business in their home, ordering supplies and having customers picking them up.

Although some of the most popular clone kits sold are Guinness, Fat Tire Amber Ale, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Mark and Tess both agree that the best-seller for them is the pumpkin ale kit that they make every year. They use a variety of pumpkin pie spices and vanilla. They recently created a “jacked up pumpkin” kit as well, which is a stronger version of their best-selling pumpkin ale. Mark brought me out a bag of the spices to take a whiff of, and it smells amazing. I definitely plan to make this one when it gets closer to the fall!

Mark and Tess recently traveled to England to do research on more beers for cloning. They mentioned that while many of the English beer styles are starting to branch out with other non-traditional hop and ingredient varieties as American breweries are doing, they remain different from the beers brewed here in that they are low ABV. Mark mentioned that many of the beers are 3.5% alcohol. Here in America, a 3.5% ABV beer usually means some sort of swill with little flavor. However, he said that the low ABV beers in England usually are very drinkable, with a lot of character to them.

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They luckily had a place to stay there that allowed them to clone while they were there, since it’s difficult to fly with liquid. Mark and Tess said that they cloned 12 or 13 beers while there. Cloning the beers requires a good deal of work. They first research some varieties of a style of beer by contacting the brewery, and then pouring the actual beer. They sort the beers by color and make note of the head to determine what grains would be involved. Next they look into the aroma to see what hops, malts, or spices that they can smell. Tasting is done next, to figure out what hops are in it, as well as if it’s been dry hopped or not. They then brew the beer and make more notes of how it turns out. Sometimes they need to brew more than once! Tess says that they once had a beer that had to be brewed 9 times to get it perfect. She also says that they are the only authors that brew the beers multiple times as well.

Mark and Tess have published two books; Clone Brews and Beer Captured. They are currently working on a third book, as well as revising Beer Captured. They said that their first book’s publisher wanted them to do beers from all over the world, which Mark said involved a lot of lagers originally. Now they have updated the book to be based more on style, rather than the beer’s location.

The books are a great way to try beers that are no longer made anymore, or ones that are brewed in a different location or differently.

One of the best things about Maltose is that you can sample homebrews while at the store. For those who haven’t brewed, it’s a great way to see the potential of what you can do. And for those who are brewing veterans, it’s a great way to get new ideas of what to make next. While I was at the shop last week, I sampled a scotch ale and a pale ale.

There will be even more tastings coming soon; Mark and Tess are planning to expand and Maltose will have its own brewery on premises. They plan on opening officially in November. They have already purchased the brewing equipment and are brewing test-batches to decide what will work best.

The shop also recently started selling hop rhizomes, so that brewers can easily grow their own hops. Tess sent me home with a Zeus hop plant, so hopefully I’ll be using some of my fresh hops in an upcoming batch!

Maltose Express is open 6 days a week, with different events and classes happening all the time. Their beer-making classes happen on the regular, and they aren’t just for new brewers, although Mark and Tess both say that they help get many new folks into brewing. They are a great way to get ideas on new recipes and meet fellow brewers. I am actually planning on going to the next one to learn how to set up a kegging system! They also have classes for mead, cheese, and even bee-keeping!

They also have open houses a few times a year which bring in tons of local brewers and make for a great day. Check their website and facebook for details about upcoming events as well as new brewkits and supplies to pick up in the store!

Dinosaur Jr. “I Bet On Sky”/Quenk Brewing Co. YYZ ESB

THE RECORD:

Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky- Jagjaguwar 2012

With 10 records now under their belt, Dinosaur Jr. continues to put out great stuff. Their newest album, I Bet On Sky, does not fail to impress. Starting off with “Don’t Pretend You Don’t Know”, it’s clear that Dinosaur Jr. is still proving that there is more to their music than noise and distortion. The first track experiments with different orchestration- bringing in an underlying synthesizer line and a little piano riff towards the end.

“Almost Fare” has a pretty upbeat, light melody that contrasts nicely with the heavily distorted guitar moving through the song. That is pretty much the sound of this record. In general, I Bet On Sky is surprisingly clean in comparison to their other releases, but the distorted guitar is still there moving through and carrying on consistently throughout all the tracks.

The faster-paced “Rude” brings Lou Barlow up to lead vocals. The change in voice adds something different to the character of the song and mixes things up a bit in a good way.

It gets a little darker on a few tracks, such as “Watch The Corners”, which has a chugging guitar riff underlying throughout the song that gives it an almost metal sound (of course I would make comparisons to metal in a Dinosaur Jr. record). I like that this record goes back and forth between upbeat stuff and more down, melancholy stuff in a very seamless way.

I Bet On Sky is just a really well-done record. It’s polished, but not overly so that it takes away from the rawness that has become synonymous with the sound of the band.

THE BREW:

YYZ ESB- Quenk Brewing Co.- New Haven, CT

This is my own beer! It was ready to drink as of this week and I’m very pleased with how it came out. We called it the “YYZ ESB” to cash in on more Rush nerdiness. Also it was ready to drink as of the Rush concert last week. It is a homebrew, and pours a thick, opaque, unfiltered wheat color. Maybe the head is a little thicker than I’d like, but it doesn’t linger that long and definitely isn’t unpleasant. The initial taste is crisp and citrusy, while it finishes with the hoppiness of an IPA. While it has a lot of flavor, the YYZ ESB isn’t heavy at all and has a really drinkable quality to it.

THE PAIRING:

I like to think that Dinosaur Jr. maintains a certain familiar vibe over the years. One of my favorite books, Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad, covers the band during the late 80s and early 90s. I think they still hold on everything that being an indie rock band should be- from the fact that they continue to release their records on independent record labels to the shows that they play. I saw them at Milford, CT’s Daniel Street Club a few years ago, and it was really great to have a fairly intimate show with a band that has been around for so long. So for this pairing, I didn’t want to just have a craft beer, I wanted to go as local as my own kitchen. Even though Dinosaur Jr. travels everywhere, they still give off that feeling of being a local band, at least to me.