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August 26th, 2009


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05:10 pm - Let's just make this about beer and nothing but

So last night, Ellen, Lester, Hoppie, Lori and I went to make beer at Barleycorn's in Nashua.  We went on a Brewfest night.  The guest brewmaster of the evening was Dann Paquette of Pretty Things Beer. (on twitter, if you're into that sort of thing at PrettyBrew) He's done brewing events at Barleycorn's before, but not in awhile.  Getting there proved to be quicker than we expected, so we arrived about a half hour early which was time enough to meet and greet with Dan, the owner, (and that's not confusing at all!  Actually it wasn't.  We were able to easily distinguish between the Dans who were both very knowledgeable and patient.)

The profile of the space is small, but efficient.  in the front, to the right of the door, there's a table, chairs, cashier counter, brewing periodicals, and brewing supplies for sale.  The centre of the store, contains the work tables, milling machine, ingredient coolers for the hops and finished beer bottles for drinking, the bottling stations, bottle purifiers and trees, and sinks.  To the left of the door are the kettles along the window line, more sinks, the liquid extract storage, and the storage areas for fermenting, and more sinks.  (Seriously.  There are a lot of sinks.  Sinks are good.  Clean.)

Before we started, Dan brought out an tapped a keg of beer.  I want to say it was called Amarillo Armadillo.  He'd made that one.  Several types of beer came out and I can't remember all of them.  One of the guys who was brewing had brought in some of his stuff from home, and, although I didn't try it, Hoppie and Lori said it was quite good.  I think Ellen's favourite of the ones they brought out was the Bambino Summer Ale, which Dan said is extremely popular - apparently with good reason.  She liked it because it was slightly sweet.  I did not try any of the beers.

Before we started, Dann talked about his resent stay in England (Yorkshire) to further his brew knowledge and the beer recipes he'd created to brew with us.  So let me be clear, these are not the currently on the regular recipes of Barleycorn's.  It's possible that Dan will add them, as he does seem to add guest brewer recipes to the list of available recipes, but they aren't there yet.  However, the Amarillo Armadillo and Bambino Summer Ale are available selections, should anyone on my flist feel the need to get their brew on.


Saison Brune de Trimountain – "Why a brown saison?  Well because 'saison' is less of a style of beer than a style of brewing!  Make it good, salute the spirit of the tradition and enjoy.  This one should end up around 7% abv, hoppy and dry."

Noire de Dordogne (French Country Stout) – "Okay, this one is a bit 'impressionistic' but what better place for a grand experiment than at Dan Eng’s brewery?  I imagined a great little stout with a bit of French country influence, 100% Bramling Cross hops (the craziest on the planet), and the sort of dry spices that would be rubbed into a tasty rabbit.  Rosemary is one of the great anti-oxidants, with an unusual cascading effect – this beer should keep in shape for some time to come."

Petit Jack – "A little version of “Jack D’Or”, Pretty Thing’s flagship 'American saison'."

Yorkshire Special Bitter – "Based on a 'special' bitter I used to brew in a traditional brewery in the Yorkshire Dales."

English Golden Bitter – "This golden style of bitter, which relies heavily on late American hops has taken over the UK.  Here’s a very typical and delicious take on the style."

Cringle Moor Stingo – "'Stingo' is slang for 'strong' but it may also refer to a stinging acidity that develops over time.  This type of beer, brewed in the old ale tradition of northern England is more similar to Rodenbach than Old Peculier.  Optional aging with Wyeast 5225 (lactobacilis) and brettanomyces lambicus. Cringle Moor was a place Martha and I walked over on our bi-annual, 9 mile trek to The Lion at Blakey Ridge."

Because we were standing closest to the grains, and because Dan had talked to Ellen and Lester extensively while people were arriving and he knew we were new, we were assigned to the first kettle (score!) which was the English Golden Bitter.  Lester measured the grains and Ellen (and I a little) did the milling and I filled the bag with the grains.  Then we walked over to kettle 1.  There were a number of assistants helping us with the brewing, and while I'm not totally sure I remember their names (since we met them later in the evening, after we'd met a bunch of other people, I think they were Greg and Mark, with a K.  That I'm sure of because there was some discussion of Ellen's son Mark, also with a K.  Anyway, Greg helped tied our tea bag, um, grain bag to the handle of the kettle and wrote down our timings on a sheet of paper and directed our attention to the clock over the kettles and told us to stir the bag every five minutes until the first time on the paper at which point we'd turn up the heat on the kettle. 

Then we went over the liquid extracts and measured out 5.5 l of whatever sugar base we were using.  Hoppie did the measuring on that one.  While that was going on, Lester, Lori, and I got beers.  (When I say "I" I mean, I got a glass and put beer in it for Hoppie, since he was measuring.) Lori had already watered him a little before I got him one, sharing her beer.  Wasn't that sweet? 

We put our supplies on the cart next to the kettle to await the proper time for addition.  We switched off stirring up the grains to keep things moving.  Then we measured out the hops.  Ellen and Lester did hops measurements.  We used three different hops in two separate additions.  Dan explained that the first addition was for flavour and the second two were more for colour and aroma.  I saw yeast bags in the fridge when we got the hops out, but we didn't have to bloom our own, they'd already prepped yeast in bottles with water corks for us. 

When the grains were ready to come out, Hoppie pulled the bag out and pressed the water out of it.  And then Hoppie and Lori took turns stirring up the beer before and after the first hops addition.  Then (some time later) we added a tablet to clarify the beer, and then the final hops and then it was time to empty the kettle, run the beer through the cooling plates and add the yeast.  Greg extracted some beer to check the specific gravity.  It was 10.42, which Dann said wsa perfect, and Dan thought might be a little high, but Dann extracted a promise from Dan not to dilute it.  Dann told us it was unsaleable in Britain where the alcohol content is strictly regulated, but it was just fine, perfect for American audiences.  Ellen added the yeast.

And we left.  Dan told us he'd email us with the date confirmation for bottling and pick up.  He projects three weeks, possibly Tuesday or Wednesday depending on the participant availability.  In the meantime, Lester has tasked Ellen and I with producing custom labels.

Then we went to dinner. 


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