Friday, December 10, 2010

I Choose Beer

I lost a bunch of weight over the last few years (25kg). To lose that much weight, you have to give up something.

So, given cookies or beer, I choose beer.

Beer comes in packs of 6, 12, 24, and sometimes (rather very often) it can be purchased individually. You can buy an individual cookie, but then it's at least the size of three normal cookies.

If I open a 6 pack of beer, the rest of the pack won't go stale, if I decide not to have another in a few days.

Order a beer in most any country, and you'll get something drinkable, although probably just a pilsner. Order a cookie, and you never know what you will get. (There are exceptions, because there are "dry" countries, but I've never visited them.)
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Beer Tour starts in Heidelberg

You may be wondering, of all the cities in Germany why have I started in Heidelberg? The main reason is, I was there on a business trip. But, there are other reasons. First, there is a US military base there, so people speak English. There are also two brewpubs in town. There's a local beer called Heidelberger. It also seems like a good jumping off point, since the castle remains have a giant keg on display.

I started with the Heidelberger, which I got on tap at Bräustüberl, a restaurant at the NH Heidelberg hotel. It looked like a cozy restaurant, but looks are where it stopped. The service was awful, after waiting 15 minutes for our beer, they came back and asked for our beer order again because they couldn't remember what we ordered. I ordered the dunkelweisse but I was uncertain whether it was just a dunkel, or if it was, in fact, a dunkelweisse. The taste was uninteresting and slightly bitter, with no characteristic wheat taste. The food service was even worse, and then the credit card machine didn't work with any of our cards, so all in all a bad experience.

I also checked out the town's two brewpubs: Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg, and Brauhaus Vetter.

Kulturbraueri is big and even has room for private parties, but it is often quite busy. They also have a beer garden in the summer. They had 3 beers available:

Kräusen, a pilsner, which is unfiltered, and therefore naturally cloudy, the waiter described this as a pilsner, and I don't have much of a taste for pilsner, so I didn't try this one.

Hefeweizen, a wheat beer, which is a drinkable wheat, but nothing special that sets it apart from any other hefeweizen. This is a seasonal beer.

Oktoberfest, which they describe as a dark beer, was a bronze delight. Slightly sweet and malty, I think this is the same as their Märzen style Kellerbier. This was a very tasty beer, one I would return for.

The thing that Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg seemed to be missing was that brewpub creed: if you want to know about the beer, I'll tell you all about it.

Brauhaus Vetter had promises of being better than Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg, it was so popular that when we arrived the first time for dinner, there was no room available. We returned for lunch the next day to find out what it was all about.

Unfortunately the waitress wasn't willing to share any beer wisdom with us so we ordered blindly and didn't end up with any prizes.

I chose their Dunkel. This tasted almost like a carbon copy of the Heidelberger dunkel I had at Bräustüberl, not much taste, but slightly bitter. I left disappointed.

It turns out what makes Vetter so popular is their 33. It a doppelbock with a starting gravity of 33%, which means if all the sugars were fermentable, the beer would have 33% alcohol. This was once the beer with the record for highest starting gravity. The end result is a beer with 10.5% ABV. Could be interesting, could be sickly sweet. If I end up in Heidelberg again, I think I'll try the 33, and just pace myself.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Microbreweries, Oktoberfest, and Even More Microbreweries

After spending more than a year with little more than a single beer, it was finally time to tempt my tastebuds with some suds. And what a better way to do so, than to see some of Germany, have some fun at Oktoberfest, and try some lesser known, yet better quality, German beers. Join me and my family for a trip through the German countryside and see what I discover.... First stop Heidelberg. Prost!
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

My First Brewing Failure -- Although not a Total Loss

This years Midsummer brew was to be a plum porter. Again Kim, Krzysztof, Karla, Jakob and I got together for the brewing. I added a chiller to my equipment this time which didn't work quite as well as planned, due our makeshift setup, but it clearly worked well, and once we got things flowing, it took no time to get the beer to the approx. 24 C that we needed for pitching the yeast. Of course we also had problems with the thermometer saying the beer temperature was over 70 C after coming out of the chiller, but we quickly figured out that could not be right (the hose going from the chiller to the fermenter was cool to the touch, as well as the fermenter itself) and tossed the thermometer.

Other than that, brew day went smoothly. We were a bit concerned about our original gravity, but when I measured the final gravity before adding the plums, it turned out the beer had slightly more than the 5.5% alcohol that it was supposed to have (yes!). The beer smelled heavenly going into the secondary fermenter (ah, that chocolaty smell of porter drifting through the house), but the addition of the plums turned out to be too much of a challenge for me.

During the 10 days the beer was in the primary, I searched on the Internet for how to add fruit to beer, specifically plums. It seemed like the consensus was that you either added them sliced or crushed. A few people said they blanched them to remove the skin, but others said that was not necessary, some used canned plums, but that wasn't an option for me. I ended up taking 3kg of ripe plums and threw them in a blender with the skin on to chop them up a bit. Then I added them to the secondary and hoped all would go well.

Another couple of weeks of waiting, and then it was time to bottle. We quickly discovered that having crushed plums was a problem and the bottling took forever because the spout on the fermenter got clogged very quickly. This made bottling slower and messier than normal; the two things that I dislike about home brewing, it's slow and messy.

Finally after another week of waiting, it was time to try the beer. The first beer I opened was the last one I bottled, it turned out to be plum juice with a hint of porter, and completely flat. I knew the last couple we bottled would probably be the same, which meant fewer beers for me and Kim, and maybe the beer would all be totally flat and a complete loss. A couple days later I decided I'd have to see, so we tasted the next one. At least it wasn't flat, but was too sour to drink. Not wanting to waste any beer I at least came up with a way to make the beers drinkable, maple syrup. Just a little bit of maple syrup (about a teaspoon in each glass) and, viola, the beer was quite tasty, although it tasted more like a Belgian beer than a porter.

So no more fruit beers for me, at least until I perfect my craft a little better, but I am still looking forward to the next brew. Maybe I'll just go back to basics and try another IPA, I'm sure Kim would be happy about that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Extreme Beers

The race is on to make a beer that is 50% ABV:

Beer shots anyone?