Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 SNAFU Las Vegas Memorial Competition Part Trois

I thought I'd have to wait until next Friday before I received the score sheets with the details of my entries.  The SNAFU club president, Matt, was nice enough to scan and email all the sheets to the entrants. I've given the scores first, then the comments.


  • Aroma:                         6/12             6/12
  • Appearance:                2/3                2/3
  • Flavor:                        11/20            9/20
  • Mouthfeel:                  3/5                3/5
  • Overall Impression:    6/10              5/10
  • Total:                         26/50            26/50
Baltic Porter -
  • Aroma                            4/12             7/12
  • Appearance:                   2/3                2/3
  • Flavor:                           5/20              4/20
  • Mouthfeel:                    2/5                 3/5
  • Overall Impression:      3/10              3/10
  • Total:                            14/50           19/50

    American Pale Ale -
  • Aroma:                           4/12                4/12          3/12
  • Appearance:                   3/3                  3/3            3/3
  • Flavor:                           10/20               5/20         5/20
  • Mouthfeel:                     2/5                   3/5            3/5
  • Overall Impression:       3/10                4/10          3/10
  • Total:                             22/50           19/50        17/50

    Munich Dunkel -
  • Aroma:                           7/12               9/12
  • Appearance:                   3/3                 2/3
  • Flavor:                           10/20           10/20
  • Mouthfeel:                     2/5                 3/5
  • Overall Impression:       5/10               8/10
  • Total:                           27/50             32/50

    Belgian Wit -
  • Aroma:                            6/12               6/12
  • Appearance:                   2/3                   2/3
  • Flavor:                            11/20            10/20
  • Mouthfeel:                     2/5                   2/5
  • Overall Impression:       6/10                5/10
  • Total:                           27/50              25/50

  • Overall I ended up with 46%; pretty average, not so bad for my first year at this.  Especially since I wasn't really targeting the styles with most of these and was brewing for my own taste.  I didn't even know about the competition till I before I started the Saison and Wit.  The judges' scoresheets were written in pencil and scanned, so there's a few cases where I'm not sure what they wrote, so I just put in ??? below.


    Saison - My comment: Added anise and I don't think people care much for anise or licorice flavors. Judges: #2 tight yeast pack on bottom of bottle, mild gushing
    • Aroma: #1 Spicy, tart, fruity esters, low sour. #2 Floral sweet nose up front with a hint of banana dn citrus. No DMS, no Diacetyl, no hop aroma detected. may sound odd, but kind of like new car.
    • Appearance: #1 Ivory lace, nice amber #2 purs light copper with moderat haze, big fluffy light tan head lingers leaving a thin layer of foam that holds indefinitely, no lacing.
    • Flavor: #1 Dry spicy very soft malt.#2 Rich malt character up front followed by a bit of sourness, citrus rind and peppery note.  Finishes a bit sweet and grainy for the style. No diacetyl, no DMS detected, Hop bitterness is light.
    • Mouthfeel: #1 Medium body, medium warmth, a little acidity  #2 light bodied, high in carbonation, finishes very dry as per style. Not much heat or creaminess, also to style.
    • Overall: #1 Tart little too much, warming, but a nice drinking beer overall.  #2 Nice light, dry easy drinker, could be a bit heavy on the phenolics, maybe start cool and ramp up w/fermentation. Showed early signs of oxidation, but not offputting. maybe try to minimize splashing and cap on foam.
    Baltic Porter - My comment: Added more licorice than prior batches and I'm sure that turned them off, but I'm one of the few black licorice afficiandoes. If I'd had one of the prior batches, I would have entered that instead as they had a better balance with the malts.
    #1 Bottle conditioned, foamed on opening. #2 Gusher with clumpy pour.
    • Aroma: #1 Yeasty smell up front with smooth roasty aromas underneath. #2 Yeasty, vinous, very slight roast, no hops.
    • Appearance: #1 Cloudy reddish-brown, low tan head that persists. #2 dark brown, good head retention.
    • Flavor: #1 Metallic, tinny, blood-like flavor overwhelms roast malt. (so much for putting my blood, sweat and tears into my brewing) #2 Dark fruit, no hop flavor, some alcohol, metallic, bloodlike.
    • Mouthfeel: #1 Light-medium bodied, medium carbonation  #2 Smooth, medium body, low carbonation, warming.
    • Overall: #1 From the chunky yeast slurry in the bottle to the metallic, blood-like flavor, this beer misses the mark. Only the color and head were appealling. Check your water mineral salts content or bronze fittings on your equipment. (I had put down the licorice as a special ingredient, but I'm sure that didn't make it to the judges.)  #2 Smooth drinking with a metallic aftertaste, alcohol warming, but not harsh.
    American Pale Ale - My comment: Not sure what would have turned them off with this; I added some coriander, but it wasn't that prominent. Dry hopped it with Cascade, but I thought it was pretty well done. Awful lot of competition in this category. However, if they allowed it to warm up too much, I'm sure it wouldn't be that good. With all the entries in this style, there is a fair chance it was sitting on the judging table for a while waiting its turn.
    • Aroma: #1 Not much hop aroma, very light grassy smell. Nice malt scent, dose have slight off aroma.  #2 First whiff - phenolic/medicine and then mellows. Expected some citrus but found none. #3 lots of yeasty phenols, no detectable hops. Light grainy character masked by off-flavors.
    • Appearance: #1 Nice amber color, off-white head, decent head retention. #2 Pale golden, clear, very good foam and bubble retention, good overall presentation. #3 Gold color, chill haze medium, foamy, white head.
    • Flavor: #1 Off tasting not very hop, but give a tart ???. #2 Tastes a bit cardboard - oxidized, not tasting citrus nor floral, very mild hops. #3 Missing the hop and malt character of a pale ale.
    • Mouthfeel: #1 Was smooth but left a wax feel in mouth. #2 good carbonation and smooth finish.  #3 CO2 level is ok, slight warmth.
    • Overall: #1 Not very good smell or taste. May need more hop at end of ???. The beer had off flavor may ?? grain or yeast.  #3 Needs improvements to process and temperature control.
    Munich Dunkel - My comment: Probably could have been a bit maltier, as I was on the low end of the ABV at 4%. Was just hoping there wouldn't be much competition, but turns out if you don't make at least a 40/50, you can't even place.
    • Aroma: #1 Malty sweetness and light roastiness. Light nuttiness and chocalately notes. No hop aroma.  #2 Nice malt aroma, slight chocolate, and rich winter dessert nose, in style. Slight roasty aroma.
    • Appearance: #1 Dark brown with ruby highlights, very clear, large tan head - good retention. #2 Rich ruby garnet, thick head, very creamy but overcarbonated.  (which it must have gotten just in the 3 weeks sitting at 80 degrees at the LHBS after I submitted it, because it sure wasn't before, but that only cost me a point).
    • Flavor: #1 Light Munich malt, no hop flavor noted, low bitterness, clean dry finish. But seems thin and lacking big malt flavor.  #2 Flavor leaves me wanting rore. lacks malt depth, but what is there is balanced. Choclate and caramel are appropriate but thin. No diacetyl. Flavor fades with head.
    • Mouthfeel: #1 Light body, hightly carbonated at first but later seems flat. #2 Medium to light mouthfeel, should be more. Astringency is appropriate and clean.
    • Overall: #1 Pretty beer, but lacks the big bready, malty aroma/flavor for this style. #2 Good beer, No great flaws, Easy drinking with balanced toasty caramel chocolate. Should be richer with stronger malt presence.
    Belgian Wit - My comment: Orange peels didn't add much flavor, maybe some off-bitterness. Probably shouldn't have used a navel orange. But I thought it came out pretty well in spite of it. Guess I need to raise my standards or use better ingredients. But will be interested in the comments on this one as well as the APA.
    •  Aroma: #1 Light sweetness with slight honey and grainy. moderate coriander with slight pepper in background. Nice low hop aroma. #2 Strong wheat aroma with hints of coriander. Belgian yeast characters. Lacks sufficient fruit, floral or sweet aromas to balance the wheat.
    • Appearance: #1 Great color, very dense mousey head, and very good head retention, ??? the ??for style. #2 Gold colar with great clarity. Huge head from pour that dissapated quickly.
    • Flavor: #1 The tartness is very forward and finish is very dry. Coriander is a little too forward. Spice flavor is more pronounced than fruitiness. #2 Spicy and tart with some typical Belgian yeast charactes. The flavor is missing a balance between the wheat and the other desired flavors. Slight hint of honey, but could use more honey flavor.
    • Mouthfeel: #1 Very light with very little creaminess, slightly ?? & thin. #2 High acidity, More body would be nice. CO2 is high (which is acceptable).
    • Overall: #1 A very refreshing beer that is slightly too tart/sour for style.  #2 Easy to drink beer that is a decent Belgian Ale but misses the style guides.
    So it looks like I have my work cut out for me, but mostly I knew going in what their flaws were.  Some just got more pronounced with sitting at the LHBS for three weeks.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    SNAFU Las Vegas Memorial Competition Part Deux

    Well the results are in!

    And I'm not on them.  I had entered a Saison, a Baltic Porter, an American Pale Ale, a Belgian Wit and a Munich Dunkel.  I won't see my score sheets for two weeks, but I have a fair idea where I went wrong:

    Saison - Added anise and I don't think people care much for anise or licorice flavors.

    Baltic Porter - added more licorice than prior batches and I'm sure that turned them off, but I'm one of the few black licorice afficiandoes.  If I'd had one of the prior batches, I would have entered that instead as they had a better balance with the malts.

    American Pale Ale - not sure what would have turned them off with this; I added some coriander, but it wasn't that prominent.  Dry hopped it with Cascade, but I thought it was pretty well done.  Awful lot of competition in this category. However, if they allowed it to warm up too much, I'm sure it wouldn't be that good. With all the entries in this style, there is a fair chance it was sitting on the judging table for a while waiting its turn.

    Munich Dunkel - probably could have been a bit maltier, as I was on the low end of the ABV at 4%.  Was just hoping there wouldn't be much competition, but turns out if you don't make at least a 40/50, you can't even place.

    Belgian Wit - orange peels didn't add much flavor, maybe some off-bitterness.  Probably shouldn't have used a navel orange.  But I thought it came out pretty well in spite of it.  Guess I need to raise my standards or use better ingredients.  But will be interested in the comments on this one as well as the APA.

    So I went in with low expectations and wasn't disappointed.  Mostly I wanted some good feedback, and it will be interesting to see if my assessment above aligns with the judges.  My assessments aligned pretty well with the certified judges in the styles I judged, so I am not expecting any surprises.  I'll post those comments when I get them.

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    SNAFU Memorial Competition Part 1

    Going to have to post a part II to this once I find out the results of the competition.  Very interesting experience.  Decided to ride my bike to the competition since they started an hour later than originally planned.  Since we had plenty of experienced judges, I was assigned to be a third judge on the categories of smoked ales and meads.  I've never tasted either, but had the BJCP guidelines app on my phone.  We were well set up in the brewhouse of Tenaya Creek Brewery with six tables set up for the judges and a small table with coffee, palate clearing snacks, etc.  Tenaya Creek turned over one of their offices for us to have laptops set up to enter results.

    Fortunately I was teamed up with a couple of guys who had judging experience and when we got to meads, we switched out our more experienced judge for one who is certified in mead.  We started off with a bourbon barrelled aged ale. Very dark, almost black, but with a good firm, long lasting dark tan head.  But the smell of bourbon was very prominent.  They didn't tell us what the gravity or ABV of the brews were, but we could tell there was a lot of bourbon in this.  The next one was loaded with bakers chocolate and bourbon and had no head at all.  Very tasty, but you really couldn't tell that it was ale.

    Then we had one that was brewed with Jamesons.  I could tell that a mile away.  Tasted like Jamesons and Kahlua - lots of coffee and Irish whiskey coming through.  We were started to get hammered by now, as much whiskey as these brews seemed to have in them.  But still flat with no carbonation.  Fortunately nothing yet with odd or off flavors, just overwhelming whiskey.  No hops or malt coming through.  We couldn't tell what brews they were starting off using as the whiskey just overwhelmed in all the entries we had.  There were two more that were on our list, but were never delivered, so if they show up, they will just be entered into the SNAFU raffle at the next meeting.

    This coming raffle will be a real crap shoot with all the left over brews being thrown in without labels.  The end of one table had all the bottles from the judging that had some left in them.  The theory was that if they had more than half left, that the judges didn't like them.  I'm not hopeful for my own entries, especially for my porter which had a strong licorice taste.  I don't know many people besides myself who like strong licorice.  Still looking forward to the criticism to see where I went wrong.

    We had to wait awhile for the certified mead judge to be able to join us.  The fellow he changed places with doesn't like wine or mead, so it's good that he switched out.  The other judge said he had brewed a number of bad meads, so at least he knew what they shouldn't taste like.  Turned out that three of the four meads we tried were all from the same brewer and he was just tweaking his recipes to see what was best.

    The first one we tried was made from green grapes and was very grapey.  Couldn't really sense the honey much, because the grapes were very strong.  The next three entries were made with 5 berries and honey.  We were guessing at least cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry.  As we went through the three entries, the berries got stronger in the second entry, but with the additon of oak chips in the last entry, were well balanced with the honey. There was no question that the addition of the oak chips helped to moderate the other flavors - sweet, dry, grapey, berry, honey.  The second entry was a bit thick like a muscatel or sherry.  The alcohol was pretty high in these entries too.  The stewards and  judges at the other end of our table were laughing at the aroma of alchohol in the oak aged brews and meads that we were judging.
    We stuck around and sampled some of the leftovers of the brews that had been judged.  There was a pretty broad spectrum in the other classifications in terms of blah versus yum.  I didn't taste any that were really off with astringent or skunky flavors.  I didn't stick around for the second round, as some of the tables/categories had a lot of entries and were still slogging through their initial reviews.  We will see how the results come out in a few weeks at the SNAFU meeting. 

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Brewing recipe platforms

    A friend of mine was just asking me about gluten-free beers that might be available for sale since he thinks he might have a problem with consuming wheat.  That got me looking for recipes that might fit his needs, as gluten-free beers off the shelf aren't easy to find and don't have a great variety.  However; the recipes I found were very varied, although all were partial extract.  Nothing wrong with that, just thought it odd.

    Anyway, that got me thinking about our local homebrew club's competition this weekend and recipes in general....pretty much a long stream of consciousness and none of this really has much to do with where I'm going with this.

    So I started thinking about the recipes I've build recently and the experimentation I've done with various spices, herbs, fruit and other ingredients.  I was wondering if I might be better served by going back to basics.  Build some base recipes with no additives, just sticking to the basic grains, yeast and hops, then just tweak those volumes and processes until I'm satisfied that they are the best representation of the style that I can create.  Like building a sturdy beer recipe platform that I can use to launch different variations.

    Next, recreate them with one new ingredient, perhaps several times with varying amounts to determine the impact and optimum amount.  Then leave that one ingredient out and try a different one, then maybe both together.  Then maybe start over with the base and some different spices altogether.

    Obviously, this is a lot of batches, a lot of time, and experimentation effort.  I'm just wondering to what degree other craft or home brewers go through a similar process, and whether it is worth doing. Alternatively, should I just try to work it from the design side, figuring out what flavor profile I am seeking and select the necessary ingredients and work out the calculations to get me there?

    I'm hoping some of my readers will comment.

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    S.N.A.F.U. meeting

    I had to go to the SNAFU (Southern Nevada Ale Fermenters Union) meeting tonight.  Our SNAFU Memorial Competition is next weekend and I wanted to hear if there was any late breaking news.  Turns out that since I registered my Belgian Wit the week before last, the number of entries has doubled.  My entry was #72 and now there are 145 entries.  There are so many that they are going to start judging on Friday night, instead of waiting until the main event at Tenaya Creek Brewery.

    This is my first competition, so I'm mostly in it for the feedback, without much illusion of coming in first in any of my categories - Baltic Porter, Saison, Belgian Wit, Munich Dunkel and American Pale Ale. 

    Tonight pretty much confirmed my suspicions.  Our meetings are a mini-festival of sharing brews with a few garbled announcements and a raffle thrown in for formality's sake.  The first one I tried was Dogfish Head's Noble Rot.  Rot it was.  After reading the description on DH's website,, it is a pretty complex combination of brewing and vinting.  It really tasted like the grapes went to vinegar. It is possible that this brew was too far past its prime.  I can't imagine they would have sent it out that way. 

    3 shiny bottlesDuring the raffle, my LBHS proprietor, Steve, won a bunch of bottles.  He popped open a Duck Rabbit schwartzbier which did not disappoint - very roast, smokey flavor.  Then our home brewers started popping open their brews.  One of our members is a former brewer at Joseph James Brewery and he poured a reddish-amber ale that was both hoppy and malty with a perfect color.  It must be a seasonal that they brew, because it's not on their website.

    Another fellow who used to work at the LBHS and has several refrigerators full of home brew, poured his dry stout that was fairly thick and with an absolutely amazing toffee flavor.

    Then came a raspberry mead that had been aged for 14 months.  Could not taste the honey at all, as I imagine it had all fermented from the champagne yeast that brewer used.

    Finally, one other fellow produced his cherry saison, and all I can say is thank goodness it didn't carbonate well.  I sure wouldn't want my saison going up against it in the competiton.  He flash boiled and froze 4 lbs of cherries, then put them in his 5 gallon carboy with the wort.  It could have passed for a lambic, it was that good. 

    Absolutely overall the best brews passed around at a meeting, notwithstanding the Noble Rot.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    There's no beer brewed in France, is there?

    Last we saw my ancestor, James Poniard, he'd already left Brittany, France and set up his homestead in Galway, Ireland.  But did he leave behind a place that we associate with wine and certainly not beer and ale?  Let's take a look at the brewing scene in Brittany.  It's not that far across the channel to England, and obviously there was contact with the British and Irish.  My ancestor was able to secure employment in Ireland, although whether he found employment before he went or after is a mystery.  But it does appear that the Lamberts requested him to come over.  Anyway, back to Brittany:

    When you search on Brewing in Brittany (Bretagne), the first thing that comes up is:

    Which has links to the Brasserie de Bretange and their individual brews.

    Among the primary brewers of Brittany are:

    Saint Erwann - The patron saint of Brittany and lawyers (maybe we shouldn't hold that against him) produce an abbey ale at 7.7% made with seven grains: barley, wheat, buckwheat, oats, rye, spelt, millet and floral hops.

    Celtika - One of their main brews is a Belgian Style Ale at 8.8% made with strong barley malt and a triple fermentation process which brings a touch of honey, green apple and violet to the taste and a lightly toasted after-taste. On BrewAdvocate a number of reviewers report very high carbonation. They also brew a 4.8% cranberry ale, a Belgian Wit and a blonde ale reported to be spicy and fruity with very good reviews.

    Dremmwel - They produce a very unique 6% ABV English type of red ale with tastes of caramel, peach and apple. Their golden abbey is a robust 7.7%, brewed with noble hops and a slight acidic taste and not quite the mouthfeel expected of an abbey.  Their blonde ale at 5%ABV is brewed with malted barley and wheat and has a spicy. fruity and malty flavor, but reported to have high carbonation.  They also have a Belgian dark stout which is at 4%ABV that is fairly mild tasting.

    Brasserie Britt de Bretagne has three different lines:

    Gwiniz Du - Their specialty of Brittany is an ale made with buckwheat, very mild, slightly roasted, but with no perceptible acidity or bitterness tastes.  This is in an American dark wheat ale style and on BeerAdvocate gets very good marks.

    Britt - Britt has three brews - a 6% blonde pilsner with a fairly hoppy aroma and dry finish, a 4.8% white belgian wit ale which for the one reviewer on BeerAdvocate was very pleasurable, and a 5.4% Belgian dark red ale brewed with peat smoked malt and the taste of whiskey barrels.  Britt doesn't pasteurize their beers, but does ferment them twice.

    AR-MEN - Ar-Men has a golden ale that is like a Belgian Wit - spiced with coriander, orange peel and other spices at a moderate 4.8%.  They also have a 6% red ale, an amber wheat, a Belgian abbey.

    It is very unexpected and exciting to see the variety and quality of the brews in Brittany.  I only hope my ancestor had access to such variety.

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Breweries in Galway - another of my ancestor's hometown

    Around 1820, my great great great grandfather, James Poniard, a Frenchman, left Brittany and went to Galway to work for the Lambert family collecting tithes from their tenants.  He married Sarah Monaghan and had a good sized family and left behind a stone sundial with the family name.  Many of his descendants still live there and hopefully enjoying the fine beer brewed locally in that city.

    One of those is the Galway Bay Brewery, who you can find here :
    They also have a tab on the website that provides minimal information, although the brewery appears to be relatively new and shipping only kegs to local restaurants.  They do note that there are 14 (now 20 according to microbreweries in all of Ireland; I would have expected one in every town and village.

    They have a Full Sail Pale Ale coming out on the heels of their Amber Ale Strangebrew that was just sold out.   They also brew Stormy Port Irish Porter and their red Bay Ale.  The Strangebrew is just a class of experiments that the brewmaster wants to try, so last month it was the Amber Ale, next month???  The brewery is in Lower Salthill in the southern part of Galway near the coast.  Fortunately we have some folks who tried and reviewed their brews on: and the scores are very good and mention a Bay Lager that they also brew.  The Bay Ale is described as having cream, toffee, caramel and barley flavors - all my favorites.  The lager is has a hint of fruitiness, light hopping and good malty taste.  The porter sounds delicious with chocolate, vanilla and roasted malts.  Seems that all the brews suffer from short lasting heads.

    The other older brewery (founded just in 2006) that's not in town but close (it's in Roscommon to the northwest) is the Galway Hooker Brewery:

    It appears they primarily brew Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale and only distribute in Galway, Dublin, Roscommon, Limmerick and Cork.  BTW, the hooker is the local type of fishing boat depicted on the label...not what you were thinking.  Ireland had it's first Irish Craft Brew Week this summer and Galway Hooker did well.  According to, Hooker also has a pilsner and per BeerAdvocate a Dark Wheat that're not on Hooker's website. The dart wheat received a very  good review as did the pale ale on BeerAdvocate.  The Dark Wheat has a complex flavor profile with some plum, wheat, spicy and chocolate flavors.  The Pale Ale is fairly hoppy, though not quite as much as America Pale Ales.

    Galway Bay Brewery will be offering tours in the near future, but Hooker offers personal tours by appointment.  The brewmaster's contact info is on their site.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Hosbach...some my ancestors' hometown

    Hoesbach, Germany - my great-great grandfather came over to the U.S. from there in the mid 1800s.  I've connected with a number of other people with the same surname (Heeg) as there are really very few of us in the grand scheme of things...maybe 200 tops in the U.S. (and some of those are from Friesland).  I have a drawing of a coat of arms with the date 1570 and our family name on it that another Heeg brought back from there.  It is a small village, about 35 miles east of Frankfurt.  There is dairy farming in the area and my ancestors brought that with them and raised cattle and ran dairies in Elmhurst, Queens.  My grandfather used to deliver the milk via horse and wagon.

    So thinking about where to focus my brewing attention next, obviously all of Germany or even Bavaria has way too much going on to cover in one little blog post.  So the thought of Hosbach came to mind and I decided to see what was going on there.  On
    they mention Brauerei-Gasthof Weyberbräu, a brewery restaurant just east of downtown Hoesbach. 

    They have only been open since 2006. They describe a number of blonde, weizen and red ales that they create regularly, plus a number of seasonals, such as wheat beer in summer. They will fill your 5L bottle or provide a bottle for 11.90 Euros, or a single liter for 2.50 liters. 

    Their copper colored red ale is called Weyberbräu Qupfer.  They describe it as moderately hopped, slightly resinous and acetic, some coffee aroma, with a creamy mouthfeel.  Their Weyberbräu Weizen isn't described on their website.  The next beer they highlight is their Rauchbier.  It is described with a beige head, with some smoky, earthy roasted malt, bready, orange flavors, dry and bitter from the hopping, good lacing, anda similar to those brewed in Bamberger's beer school.

    The food menu has typical German fare, plus a few American bar favorites thrown in - fries, spaghetti...  They have a sauerbraten made in a dunkel sauce.

    In the bigger city nearby, Aschaufenberg is the Schwind brewery ( which has been in existance since 1761, and brewing in the founding Staudt family goes back further. In their lineup they include a blonde ale, pilsner, red ale, dunkel, a strong reddish-brown ale at 7.2%ABV, a bock of similar fortitude, something like a shandy that's 2.5%ABV, light and dark weissbiers, and a beer brandy that's 42%ABV.

    In looking for other breweries in the surrounding area, I ran across the strange bit of trivia that Snow White was purported to have been born in Lohr, not very far from Hoesbach.  The Brauerei Stumpf  is also located there and has a sizeable capacity and great reviews for its wiezen and dunkel.  They also have several pilsners, an export and a bock.  The Keiler Dunkel Weisbier got very good reviews in BeerAdvocate, as did the Helles.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Tastes of the Caribbean Leeward Islands

    A lot of seasoned beer drinkers are familiar with Red Stripe from Jamaica as it is available even on ordinary grocery shelves here in the states.  Many of the other Caribbean islands; however, have much better brews that never make it to our shores, unless via someone's suitcase.  There's nothing wrong with Red Stripes, it's an okay session lager, but fairly bland with no hint of hops aroma or taste.

    I had the pleasure of spending a week on Dominica, the nature island, down by Martinique and Barbados...(no relationship to the Dominican Republic attached to Haiti).  Dominica has its own brewery; not bad for an island of only 60,000 people.  The brewery Dominica Brewery & Beverages Ltd., founded in 1995, brews Kubuli and it is a nice malty lager.  The island gets 365 inches of rain a year, so the ground water is nearly distilled, it's so fresh.  Kubuli is widely available on the other Leeward Islands.

    Right next door, since 1961 on Barbados, Banks Brewery has been making some fine pilsner lager also.  It's made from 2 row barley from Canada or Australia, and the UK with Styrian Goldings and Galena hops from the US Yakima Valley.  It is imported to the US. Some of the reviewers on RateBeer claim that it has a corn flavor to it.  Perhaps it is possible that they use corn sugar for carbonation?  It doesn't score much above average, but is a very drinkable lager and in the heat of the Caribbean you really don't want a brew that is too heavy, high in alcohol or with a thick mouthfeel.

    Another brew on the island is 10 Saints, a premium hand crafted beer uniquely aged for 90 days in Mount Gay ‘Special Reserve’ rum casks, from the world’s oldest distillery. This complex brewing process produces a smooth full flavoured yet refreshing lager beer with oak and rum notes.  Seems to be the favorite on Barbados.

    On Antiqua, you can find Wadadli brewed locally at the Antiqua Brewery, which also brews Guinness, Red Stripe and Carib under license.  Wadadli doesn't get any high marks on RateBeer.  The reviews on BeerAdvocate were much more complete and complimentary towards this lager.  Quite a number of reviewers do also report some corn taste in it, as was the case with Banks.

    Balashi beerBalashi Beer, a 5%ABV all-malt pilsner, is the national beer of Aruba. The brewery, Brouwerij Nacional Balashi was built in 1999. It is brewed with Scottish malts and German hops.  It doesn't get any high marks from reviewers and is generally described as a bland session beer.

    A lot of these brews claim to have won appelations from the  Monde Selection in Brussels.  The awards from Monde Selection seem to be more about quality rather than an evaluation against BJCP standards. Kinda of like an FDA stamp of approval, but I don't profess to know what's involved in their evaluation process.  Also, many of those citing a Monde Selection award don't say what level award they received - bronze or Grand Gold.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Wow..South Africa brewing...almost thought it was underwhelming, happy ending though.

    After digging into Bulgaria's brewing industry, some strange stream of consciousness took me to South Africa.  Maybe the thought of its settlement by  Dutch and English led me to believe it would be a very diverse brewing scene.  It seems that isn't the case.  Back in 1955, the government in its infinite wisdom imposed a crushing tax on beer that put most of the brewers out of business, except for the dominant Castle Brewing (later SAB).  Now SAB (now SABMiller after SAB bought Miller and owns the Miller part of the MillerCoors joint venture in the US) controls 98% of the South African market.  They even control their whole supply chain - brewing hop farms, barley farms, barley malting, distribution, metal crown cap manufacturing,  many retail establishments - pubs and casinos and for a while, grocery stores.  They also allegedly manipulated independent distribution, but that is in the courts.  Heineken is gradually breaking into the market also.
    There is a growing craft brew market with a lot of players coming in that are showing the same diversity of styles we are used to enjoying.  More on that in a few paragraphs.

    SABMiller also bought Koninklijke Grolsch N.V, so they brew Grolsch in South Africa.  Among the other brews they produce are Dreher Premium Lager, Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Castle Milk Stout, Hensa, Carling Black Label, Miller Genuine Draft, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Redd's, Brutal Fruit, and Sarita. 

    I've heard of milk stouts, but never really got around to looking into them.  They include lactose (milk sugar) which can't be converted by yeast, so it imparts the degree of sweetness to the brew in proportion to the amount used.  Castle Milk Stout gets really good reviews, except for several citings of a weak head.

    Castle Lager gets very consistent reviews and seems a good average lager with some evidence of there being corn used in the mash.

    Peroni Nastro Azzurro was originally founded in Italy and later acquired by SAB.  It is a pale lager, although from the SAB site, it would be hard to know that.

    Redd's is a line of fruit beers.  Not great ratings by the people who put ratings in RateBeer, not going to say beer snobs, but people who pay enough attention to what they are drinking and contribute to the experiential body of knowledge on the drinking experience. It may be an attempt by SAB to appeal to newbie drinkers, rather than make a robust fruit ale.  Sarita, on the other hand, gets much better reviews with its apple ale.

    Hansa is more than a single brew, it is starting to become a line of its own.  Right now it includes a Pilsner and a Marzan.  The Marzan Gold gets some very mixed, but overall moderate reviews.  The Pilsner scored some very high marks on RateBeer, but averaged also moderately with some great comments.

    Wow - the description of Dreher Premium Lager really makes it sound amazing - triple hopped, full malt and all.  The reviews on the other hand just don't back it up and most see it as pretty bland.

    Homebrewing seems to be fairly popular, although just recently, given there are a couple of South African online homebrew supply shops and quite a few local shops.  Mostly they distribute products from overseas, although SAB sells their grains through the stores too.  There are at least three homebrew clubs: South Yeasters Homebrewers Club (Capetown), Worthog Brewers (Pretoria), and East Coast Brewers (KwaZulu-Natal).

    Craft brewing is taking off and local competitions are providing good exposure to the startups.  Some of the top finishers include Bierwerk, Devil's Peak Brewing, Darling Brewery and Triggerfish Brewing.  Bierwerk's Aardwolf has been rated as the best craft brew in South Africa.  It's made from 5 grains, molasses, coffee beans and aged in French Oak barrels.  It is nonfiltered and has some sediment.  The ratings on RateBeer are the highest I've run across of any brew I've looked up.  It is a sweet stout, and I'm definitely adding it to my list of brews to hunt down.  IPAs are making an appearance, literally. says there are only a handful available, but that Devil's Peak's Blockhouse IPA, and Triggerfish's Hammerhead are off the hook.   This blog on the South African scene also describes Bierwerk's Renosterbos, a barleywine that they say is spectacular.  Bierwerk has a number of other brews - a weizen, another stout, a saison, and a mild ale.  Their African Stout also scores extremely high.

    Devil's Peak also has an imperial coffee stout, a blonde ale, a saison and an amber ale.  We need to get more folks in South Africa to drinks some and put their reviews in RateBeer as they only have one review each.   Triggerfish has an even bigger lineup with a dozen brews ranging from an oatmeal stout, Black Marlin (dark winter beer with 7 grains and 3 hops), many ales, blonde, pale, red, and brown, a barleywine and an imperial IPA that only has one very strong review.  The site mentions quite a number of other craft breweries and I'll be going back to that blog to check them out as well.