Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day Update

Wow, haven't posted since July! Lots of beer adventures the second half of the summer, here they are in short form.

The kegerator is serving me nicely. The big July bash I threw definitely broke it in. We killed all 4 kegs of beer that night, so apparently a badminton tournament makes people thirsty. We also ate about 20 pounds of pulled pork the same day. Way to go team! I just recently upgraded to a 10 pound CO2 tank, so I should be able to go much longer without refills, although I managed to force carb and push 8 or 9 kegs, which makes me think I must have had a slow leak in my old setup.

Went to the Great Taste of the Midwest for the first time back in August and had an awesome time. Foley graciously hosted me so I got to benefit from his connections to the 3 Floyds and Bells crew the whole weekend. On top of that I got to see some old friends from high school, hang out with cousin Brian, and made some new friends as well. We started the festivities Friday night at the Capitol Chophouse with a 3 Floyds Brewing tasting dinner. This was probably one of the best meals I've eaten. The food was awesome and the beer pairings were perfect. After dinner we went to Maduro and had beers on the Bells crew. Got to talk to Larry Bell for a bit which was pretty cool. The next day we hit the fest. Highlights: not having to wait for Dark Lord at the 3 Floyds tent, Bells Golden Funk, the Real Ale tent, the list goes on and on. I had so many good beers there from so many different breweries. I left with tons of ideas for upcoming brews.

Entered my first contest, the Minnesota State Fair. I entered an American Pale and an Apricot Blonde in the Fruit category. As expected, I did not place the APA, but I actually came in second with my Apricot. Needless to say, I am pretty surprised. The fact that there were only 12 entries in that category probably helped quite a bit. I'm almost embarrassed that I won with a fruit beer because I only brew one a year when my raspberries come in, and this year I just decided to do a 10 gallon batch with raspberries in one half and apricots in the other after coming back from the Boundary Waters with a growler of Fitger's Apricot Ale. I entered just to get some feedback on the beers I had on hand, but they haven't sent scoresheets back unfortunately. I'll update when I get them.

The last 2 weeks of August we went to Colorado and managed to squeeze in some brewery visits. Our first stop was Fort Collins, so we had lunch at the Coopersmith Brewpub (awesome beer and food, good vibe), and then went to New Belgium for a tour. This is a great tour in an amazing brewhouse, take it if you ever got the chance. I got to sample La Folie right from the tanks, enough said. I picked up all of their Lips of Faith beers for the cellar too. After camping in Rocky Mountain National Park we cruised through Boulder and hit up Boulder Beer Company. I was severely disappointed. The people here were total pricks and not friendly at all. It got worse when we left there to hit the Avery Brewery and found out that the tap room is closed on Mondays. I almost cried. I felt much better when I found a liquor store and stocked up on all kinds of beer that I can't get here. Later on we hit up Wynkoop Brewpub in Denver, had an awesome meal and beer, and then went to the Falling Rock Taproom. This bar was absolutely amazing. I had Russian River's Blind Pig, RR Publication, then Duchesse de Bourgnone. I could've stayed there forever.

I'm hoping that coolers go on sale this week because I am planning on going all grain for my next batch. The plan is to go straight to 10 gallon batches. For my first batch I'm hoping to brew a SMaSH beer (Single Malt, Single Hop) with Munich and Summit. After that I think I'm going to do the AG version of my smokey fall beer from last year, and then probably a Belgian Golden Strong and ferment half with Unibroue yeast, and then the other half with Flanders Golden ale from Wyeast. I am also seriously considering going to the dark side and starting to brew some sour beers, but I need to figure out where I would store them. Someday....

The hop yard is doing really well, but I was plagued with aphids while we were in Colorado, so when I came back the Centennial and Zeus plants were pretty much overrun. I did manage to salvage a small amount of Centennial and even smaller amount of Zeus, but those 2 plants are pretty much wasted. Next year I am going to start treating as soon as the bines are up. For some reason my Cascade plant seems immune to aphids, so I have already harvested 1 pound (dry) and will probably be able to pull another half pound or more in the next week or so. It's a drag seeing all of those hops go to waste (I had at least a dry pound of Centennial and maybe even closer to 2 on the Zeus monster), but at least I know that I can grow them well in the garden. There's always next year.

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