Brewery Tour – Birmingham, AL

Avondale Brewing

IMG_3412The place was almost empty on the Sunday that I visited. Considering it was one of the only brewerys opened at that late, I was surprised that the crowed was so sparse. The people actually present were  mostly older, more sophisticated drinkers. In the background, they mostly were playing relaxing vocals. The beer was served behind a dimly lit wooden bar. There were  wooden insulated mash tuns in the background. In short, this is the type of place I like to drink.

IMG_3413The tap menu was relatively diverse, if not very long. I decided to grab a flight of their core beers to get a good ide of the location. I also had absolutely nothing to do that evening and an uber to drive me home so it just made sense. I was very pleased to find that the bar provided very generous pours… even though at the end of the night they proved to be rather expensive. My matronly barmaid set before me a plethora of beers to sample. A few of their beers stood out in my mind.
Their white was lightly spicy, with a good bit of yeast to give it some body. It had a good expressive character with coriander playing  major role. The Saison had a very resinous sweetness which lingered on the tongue. Their version of a trippel had a strong and powerful flavor, tasting similar to the saison with a bit more punch. It did a very good job of masking the 9% abv. Finally my personal favorite of their line up was a Scottish ale. At around 5% abv it was both sessionable and highly delicious. It had a lovely roasted tone with a good malty backbone that kept me coming back for more!

Rating:7/10

Web Page: http://avondalebrewing.com/

Address: 201 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222

Cahaba Brewing

IMG_3410

Cahaba has a very relaxed vibe, despite the fact that trying to pronounce its name will put you into a twist. The tap-room and brewery are located in a huge warehouse. The wide open space gives a sense of comfort and provided excellent acoustics to the live jazz band that was playing during my visit. The crowed is very vibrant, young people drinking on the front porch, and people with family’s enjoying the ambiance inside. The staff is very friendly and happy to recommend a beer to suit your mood or preference.

Although none of their beers stood out as exceptional, they were all well brewed and suited the relaxed mood of the brewery. The house blond was an easy drinking beer, with a light hint of lemon. Although it was a bit yeasty, it was a highly quenching brew. The dunkelweiss had a strong chocolate character, unusual but not unpleasant. There was not too much estery banana flavor although it had a stronger clove profile. My personal favorite in their line up was their double IPA. It was solidly dank, a  bit malty, but it does have an overall balanced palate. It’s a beautiful Amber color, almost a burnt pumpkin.

Rating: 8/10

Web Page: http://www.cahababrewing.com/

Address: C, 4500 5th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222

 

Good People Brewing

IMG_3419When I went to good people, it was during a baseball game at the local stadium. I had to trudge for about 10 minutes to get to the brewery from my parking spot a half mile away. On my arrival, I was ready for a beer! Thankfully Good People has a very large selection of beers to choose from. The tap-room is a wide open space, with lots of seating and very wide windows to allow a nice breeze to cool down the weary traveler. There is relaxed soft music in the background, hop cone lights, and comfortable beat up furniture in the corner. Although their line up is extensive, many of their beers are unremarkable, all be it pleasant. Only a few beers stood out of the mix.

IMG_3416One of their best sellers is Snake handler, a double IPA. I thought it was pleasant, with a big malty character, although the hops are very subtle. In my opinion, it is more like an American barley wine than a double IPA. All that said, it is overall pleasant with a solid bitterness and not too much alcohol burn. I believe it was well fermented but lacked substantial hop nose and flavor. On the other hand their beer el Gordo was a very good Russian Imperial Stout, with smooth roast and coffee flavor with chocolate on the finish. It was like mixing Kona coffee and Godiva Chocolate. It had a fantastic silky mouthfeel, and did a great job concealing it’s almost 14% abv.

Rating: 7.5/10

Web Page: http://www.goodpeoplebrewing.com/

Address114 14th St S, Birmingham, AL 35233

 

Brewery Tour – Atlanta, GA

Torched Hop

IMG_3398The atmosphere is a cool art-deco motif, sultry hop shaped metal chandeliers and brightly colored stained glass, leading to a vibe of sleek drinking rather than casual quaffing of beer. Beyond the dim lighting, there is ample brewing hardware in the background, letting the drinker know that they are still in a working brewery. The music reminded me of modern dance club, which matched the somewhat younger crowed at the bar. The staff was overall friendly but a bit standofish, giving advice but never seeming to interested in the drinker’s choices.

IMG_3399The beer is a mixed bag, however it is of generally good quality on the whole. Their IPA is certainly on point, with some citrus and evergreen notes. It is refreshingly bitter but not overpowering. Additionally, the smoked porter was very appealing, giving definitive  camp fire flavor that was also not overwhelming. Its malt base is rather mellow but it has a very smooth chocolate and coffee undertone. On  the other hand, several of their other beers failed to thrill me. for example The Belgian dark strong was highly undistinguished and lacked anything to make it stand apart. I would certainly visit again, however I will most likely ask for a small sample before I settle on a full pint of beer.

Overall: 7/10

Web Page: http://www.torchedhopbrewing.com/

Address: 249 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

 

Wrecking Bar

IMG_3402The Wrecking Bar is a great place if your are looking for beer, brunch, or even both.  During my visit, I enjoyed a beef cheek sandwich with caramelized onions and swiss, which proved to be both greasy and delightful. The fries were prepared well and nicely crisp. Music in the background spanning across the yester year album, featuring hits from from Jimmy Buffet, Nancy Sinatra, to Willy Nelson. The staff is increadibly frindly, making this an excelent location to sit back and sample a few beers.

IMG_3407I think that this brewery has an excelent and diverse line up of brews allowing the drinker to either enjoy their favorite style or take atrip across the globe. The Berliner weisse is tart and crisp, very refreshing due to a restrained sourness. One very cool beer was Spruce Juice, an American Pale ale, with highly expressive evergreen notes and a honey like sweetness. It is highly drinkable and seemed to take the best of a winter forest and distill it into a beverage with deep, rich flavor.  Finally, Mr. Brownstone Imperialized Pale Ale, was a great example of this ofshoot style. It balanced malt and hops, giving leading to a dank nose and strong papaya flavors. Overall the wrecking bar is an excellent destination, whether you’re looking for extraordinary beer or food.

9/10

 Web Page: http://www.wreckingbarbrewpub.com/

Address: 292 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Brewery Tour – Charlotte, NC

The Unknown Brewing Company

IMG_3376The Unknown Brewing Company has a fun atmosphere combining good music with a young crowed. As you sit down, through large glass windows you can see into the brewery. When I visited, there were people playing corn hole in the foreground with huge conicals in the background. The staff was friendly and helpful without being overbearing. Their Sweet Tea Beer was awesome, blending malt with the sweetness of honey and balancing it with the dark overtones of black tea. Having had many cups of sweet tea while in the south, I can say that this is a pretty good take on the original. Although their house IPA was pleasant, I think that ‘Scratch and sniff’, one of their session IPAs, was superior. I was sharp and refreshing with a mint and pine front and a dank nose. IMG_3378Finally, among their line up they had a few surprises such as ‘Kitten Snuggles’. Kitten Snuggles… the name says it all. It contained catnip, milk sugar, and apricots. Although its super weird, I genuinely enjoyed it. Hit had cherry pie type notes and a hint of sour, but was brewed without brettanomyces according to the staff. Overall it’s a fun place to hangout. The only improvement I could suggest would be the addition of some king of food.

Overall: 8/10

Web Page: http://www.unknownbrewing.com/

Address: 1327 S Mint St, Charlotte, NC 28203

Wooden Robot Brewery

IMG_3387On the night that I visited, the Wooden Robot was packed to the gills. However, much to their credit, there was still ample table room to put down your beer. The place has a very vibrant atmosphere, not taking itself too seriously but providing a great place to enjoy some refreshing beer in good company. The servers were incredibly friendly and eager to talk about beer and make suggestions. They all had an extensive knowledge about the line up and seemed genuinely interested in the patrons enjoyment of their beer. Their Mocha beer was awesome,  with a touch of Ovaltine and instant coffee. It brings to mind memories of chai latte and morning cups Joe. This beer brought a genuine  smile to my mouth while i was sipping it. IMG_3386I wish I could wake up to that beer in the morning. Also top-notch was their  ‘Renegade sour’. It was mouth puckering with great nose and solid flavor. It is a no frills beer with nothing to hide any fermentation flaws behind. It is tart with clean fruit character and a solid funk. The rest of the line up included good old reliable beers that while they did not stand out, were obviously brewed with care by knowledgable brewers. I wish that I lived closer to this brewery and could visit it more often. This is a must visit brewery to anyone in Charlotte!

Overall: 9/10

Web Page: http://woodenrobotbrewery.com

Address: 1440 S Tryon St #110, Charlotte, NC 28203

Sourdough Kvass

I’ve recently been experimenting with making sourdough breads. Now, while I haven’t perfected it to the point of blogging (hopefully that will come soon) I have made some tasty product. However, for every one success, there are probably three failures. Personally, I hate wasting food, especially failed cooking experiments. While I was pondering what to do with the bread besides trying to compost it, I remembered the relatively obscure Russian beer kvass.

FullSizeRender_1Classically, a kvass is a low alcohol beer brewed from old rye bread. The bread is mashed and the resulting slurry is fermented and consumed in a thick, often lumpy, smoothie. In more modern variations, the bread is separated from the sugary liquid and then the resulting wort is fermented. Being low in alcohol and before the time of “modern” brewing, it is likely that kvass developed a level of sourness after only a few days. It makes sense that a sour dough bread, having had lactobacillus already sour the mix, would be a perfect choice for a more modern take on the classic Kavas.

In order to extract as much sugar from the wheat as possible, I mashed with a bit of brewers malt just to make sure that the enzyme level was high enough. I had relatively poor control over the mash temperature so the temp ranged from the mid 150s to the low 140s. After an hour I did a quick sparge and then squeezed the brewing bag to extract a fair amount of liquid. I then boiled for an hour with a single bittering hop addition.

FullSizeRender.jpgI wanted to take this one step further. Since this beer is about as far from Reinheitsgebot as you can get, a bit of experimentation was in order. I chose to make this beer into an herbal beer, adding thyme and basil to complement the bready characteristics. I wanted the beer to remind the drinker of bread sticks and salad (sounds a bit weird, but its a combo that has worked for Olive Garden for years). Going above and beyond I wanted to see what this beer tasted like in both a “clean” and “soured” form. One gallon went to a clean German wheat fermentation, the other went onto some jolly pumpkin dregs I had kicking around the house.

Recipe: San-Fran Kvass

Weird… Yah, Tasty… depends on who you ask. The clan version is very pleasant, with a freshly baked bread flavor and a hint of herbs on the finish. It only has a mild level of sourness, just enough to give a slight twang on the tongue. Overall, it is dry and refreshing, perfect after a day under the sun! The sour beer will be ready in a few months and will hopefully be drinkable. This modern take on a Russian kvass brings together San Francisco sour dough flavors with a nice basil and thyme backbone. At such a low, ABV this is a good session beverage which has a sour tang without the need to mess with sour bugs…. unless you want to.

Recipe: 2 Gallons

OG: 1.036 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 4.73%

  • FullSizeRender2.5 Lb Sour Dough Bread
  • 0.5 Lb Brewer’s Malt
  • 10 g Tradition
  • 10 Basil Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme

1 Gallon with Wyeast 3056

1 Gallon with Jolly Pumpkin Dregs

Historic IPA

Recipe: Historic IPA

This beer is my attempt to recreate a historic IPA. It is based on an article from Craft Beer & Brewing. The excessive level of hops and long aging should help to define the character of this beer as well as give it an extra level of complexity. Brett should give interesting aromatics and change the perception of the hops slowly over time. It is a bit of a risk bottling this beer considering the highly unpredictable nature of brettanomyces but it will allow the beer to age and go through flavor and aroma changes that should be fun to observe.

OG: 1.066 —- FG: 1.0?? —- ABV: ?.?%

  Recipe (5 gallons):

  • 14 lb Marris Otter
  • 3 oz East Kent Goldings – 60 min
  • 1 oz East Kent Goldings – 10 Min
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Secondary for 14 Days
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Tertiary for 7 Days

Yeast: Wyeast 1203 (Burton IPA Blend) & WLP645 (Brettanomyces Claussenii)

Mashed at 150 for 75 minutes. Boiled for 65 minutes. Fermented at 68 F for 2 weeks. Brewed 1/29/16 with 68% efficiency. Racked to Secondary 2/13/16 and added a vial of WLP645. Dry hopped 3/6/16 with 2 oz EKG. Racked to Tertiary 3/20/16. Dry hopped 4/4/16 with 2 oz EKG and 2 oz American Oak soaked in Vodka. Bottled 4/14/16.

Brew Tour – Raleigh, NC

Trophy Brewing

This place is an excellent brewery combining the best of both food and beer leading to an excellent drinking experience. I came in on a Friday afternoon as my car was getting repaired. At a balmy 91 degrees, the day was shaping up to be a scorcher. The sun followed me into the brewery, its hot rays inspiring me move quickly into its cold embrace.

IMG_3367Shane Fisher, the General Manager, greeted me and welcomed me into the back. As I walked in, their head brewer was juicing fresh oranges and the air was redolent with the smell of citrus. It was a small room, no bigger than 30 by 30 feet, and filled to the gills with fermenters and brewing equipment.

IMG_3368“It’s amazingly cool in here” were some of the first words out of my mouth “how do you do you’re heating?”

“Were all electric” Replied Shane with a smile as he showed me the master control panel of the brewery, an impressive piece of technology which controls the brewing opperation.

IMG_3362It’s safe to say that while their operation may be small, they are making the most of the space that they have and producing excellent product. When it comes to the beer, their lineup is as diverse as it is excellent; with sours, to saisons, and even a few lagers gracing the taps. My tasting started with a Gose with both ginger and rosemary. To me, sour beers can be an indication of a brewer’s quality and potential. From the minute the gose hit my lips, I knew they were on to something special.

“Do you sour in the fermenter or the kettle?” I asked, taking another sip.

IMG_3363“We do most of our souring in the kettle, but we are starting to work on devoting a whole tank to brett.”

One trend that I have seen recently is the use of fruit, herbs, and spices in Gose and Berliner Weisse. When I asked about this trend he nodded, “ We have been using a lot of teas recently, and we find that they work well and give us the flavor we are looking for.”

IMG_3365Whatever it is that they are doing, it is working. The ‘Your my boy blue’, a wee heavy with blueberry and pomegranate tea was an extraordinary blend of the malty richness of wee heavy with the sweet richness of blueberries and pomegranate.

Trophy Brewing’s food is also something to wright home about. Their house specialty is pizza, a dish that often blends well with beer. During my visit, I enjoyed the “local Celebrity” which combined brussels sprouts, pork belly and a mélange of flavors that came together and complemented the beer.

Overall 9/10

Web Page: http://trophybrewing.com/

Address: 827 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh, NC 27603

Simple Sour

I love a full brew day, the challenge and complexity of all grain brewing; but sometimes I come home and I want to take a step back and brew an easy extract batch. Although sometimes complexity and depth of flavor can be lost in an extract brew day, the benefits of ease can more than compensate for a few points off of judging score sheet. There are also other times when I have a desire to brew an extract batch for more than just ease of use. This was the case for my latest sour brewing endeavor.

I found myself I possession of a small sample of Brett Brux starter wort generously donated by a friend. Over the last few months I have been kicking around this yeast, moving it from starter to starter and never quite knowing what to do with it. It had come that this yeast had gone though around 3 starters and I still had not found a use for it. Now, I am very careful when I’m making yeast starters, but even with care an infection can occur. For this beer, I was too dubious of the quality of the Brett to use it in something I would slave over for hours then age for several months to years. It is for situations like this that extract brews make the perfect caliper of beer.

The brew day itself only took around 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and I probably could have shaved off even more time. I chose to do a small partial mash to impart flavor. Since it was so small, I did  a brew in a bag mash which saved on both time, labor, and equipment clean up. While I may have payed a few bucks extra for the extract rather than grain, I think my time was worth the investment. I was incredibly happy with the final result of this beer, especially after it was dry hoped. The beer had a fantastic, yet restrained, level of funk which complemented the tropical tones of the hops quite nicely.

Have you ever made an extract sour beer? Tell us more about it below!


 

Recipe: Dumpy The Waste Sour

Who says a sour has to be a time intensive beer? This dry hoped brett beer is a relatively quick turn around wild beer. The hops lend definition to the funk of the beer, giving it a bit more structure. This easy brew will produce a decent sour in less than 3 months.

OG: 1.045 —- FG: 1.0## —- ABV: #.##%

FullSizeRenderRecipe: 5 Gallons

  • 3 Lb Pilsner DME
  • 1 Lb Golden Light DME
  • 1 Lb Dark Wheat
  • 1 Lb Avangard Vienna
  • 18 g Magnum at 60 min
  • 28 g Saaz at 10 min
  • 28 g each of Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin Dry Hop for 7 Days

Yeast: Brettanomyces bruxellensis (Starter) and Safale US-O5

Mini-Mashed the Wheat and Vienna in 2 gallons at 152 F. Beer was brewed on 1/10/16, Racked to 2ndary on 2/10/16, Dry hopped on 3/25/16, and Kegged on 4/3/16. The beer was force carbonated to a highly effervescent level. Overall the beer took approximately 3 months to complete. 

Rye Saison

Recipe: Rye Saison

This beer accentuates the funky and interesting flavors that Belgian beers are renowned for. It pours a very pale gold with a lovely white and lacy head. The rye adds a slightly spicy note while the flaked grains adds a bit of body to the otherwise dry beer.

Rye SaisonOG: 1.064 —- FG: 1.001 —- ABV: 8.25%

Recipe: 5 Gallons

  • 10 Lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
  • 2 Lb American Rye Malt
  • 1 Lb Flaked Rye
  • 4 oz Aromatic
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding at 90 min

Yeast: Belgian Saison at Day 1, Belle Saison at Day 7

Cold Steeping Grains

Cold steeping dark grains is a great way of adding smooth clean flavor a to your porters and stouts without the risk of leaching tannins or disturbing your mash pH. First off, I think we should go into what cold steeping actually is. Most simply, cold steeping is the process of extracting the flavor and color of specialty grains through steeping in cold water.

Why Cold Steep?

There are two major reasons for cold steeping, Mash pH and Astringency. Dark, highly modified grains go through a very hot killing process. The effect of this roasting is not just flavor and color changes, but also changes in the chemical structure of the grain. Dark grains tend to lend more acidity to the mash. Now this is not always a bad thing, especially when brewing with highly alkaline (High pH) water. Unfortunately most water is relatively balanced in its pH. This means that the dark grains will bring your mash below the sweet spot of 5.2. This low pH will give your beer a very sharp character and will inhibit the enzymes of your mash. Cold steeping negates this issue by mashing only the base grains and light specialty malt; this way the mash is unaffected by the low pH grains.

The other aspect which makes cold brewing a useful tool is its ability to bypass the astringent aspect of roast grains. When exposed to hot water, dark grains tend to leach out acrid and astringent flavors. When cold steeping, the dark grains are exposed to no more than ten minutes of heat, and may even be exposed to no heat under certain conditions.

Cold Steep Process

There are numerous ways to conduct a cold steep. Experiment and see what process works best for you and your brew house. I have outlined my basic cold steeping process below.

1) Select your Grains: For the choice of grains, you want to stick with highly killed malt that will not require any heat to extract or convert sugars. At this point you just want color and flavor extraction. Good choices are black, black patent, special b, and chocolate malts.

2) Grind the Grains: If you don’t have access to your own mill, don’t worry about this step and go with the local homebrew shop’s mill setting. If you have control, go with a more coarse grind. Since you don’t have hulls to work with, clumping can be more of an issue so a more course grind will help prevent this issue.

3) Conduct the Steep: add the grains to your steeping bag. When it comes to the bag, bigger is better to allow more room for circulation in the steep. Fill a good grade bucket with 2 quarts of good quality water per pound of grain. Add the grain bag to the water and let steep over night, mixing occasionally to allow better extraction.

Cold Steep

4) Remove the Grain Bag: Carefully remove the grain bag from the steeping liquid. It’s fine to squeeze the bag at this point, just try not to allow any husk material to enter the mix.

Remove bag

5) Add Cold Steep to Boil: With a minute left in the boil, add the steeping liquid. You should notice that the color changes dramatically when it is added. Stir gently till the mixture is well incorporated.

Before Picture        After

6) Finish the Brew Day as per normal.


Recipe: Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout

This beer is based on a classic oatmeal stout but with some twists. Firstly it uses the cold steep technique for the chocolate malt and black printz. Secondly 3 shots of espresso were added at kegging to add a caffeine buzz. While this makes a very smooth beer, it is possible that the roasted flavors of a stout are lost in this recipe.

  • 10 Lb Marris Otter
  • 1 Lb Flaked Oats
  • 0.75 Lb Chocolate Malt
  • 0.75 Lb Black Printz
  • 1.5 oz East Kent Golding – 60 Minutes
  • Wyeast 1469

Mashed at 155 for 60 Minutes. Fermented at ambient temperatures.


References