How do you pronounce MacTarnahan's?

by greg

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Why, you pronounce it "MacTarnahan's", of course. That isn't really new. What is new, however is this: With flagship MacTarnahan's Amber Ale remaining in production, the actual brewery is returning to their original name of Portland Brewing.

Except for even that isn't exactly new. This company's been around since 1986 (Mac's Amber since 1992), and has survived an impressive gauntlet of name changes and ownership transfers. And, of course, the original name was the Portland Brewing Company.

But do you know the real Mac MacTarnahan? His history is pretty amazing. I mean, if you're into beer...

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Obama is an Extract Man

by greg

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The White House has just officially released two homebrew recipes favored by the Obama family, and guess what? Neither of them is an all-grain recipe.

What are "all-grain" and "extract", you ask?

In case you're not already aware, there are two ways to make homebrewed beer. Both methods involve boiling a sweet, watery barley liquid (known as "wort"; pronounced "wert") in the presence of hops, cooling the result, and adding yeast.


No, no... The Obamas don't do the actual brewing, themselves!

The method used by almost all profesional breweries involves making the wort "from scratch", by crushing malted barley and soaking it in water, resulting in a sweet barley mixture that is of the brewer's own creation. This is called brewing "all-grain". Cake bakers, this is the equivalent of not using cake mix.

The method used by most beginners, few professional breweries, and the White House involves buying pre-made barley extract and mixing it with water. Like making cake from a mix. Does this "extract" method make bad beer? No, but a lot of brewers will passionately-insist that it does, hence the comedy in the presidential revelation.

Does cake mix make bad cakes? That's basically the point. Obama's brew team uses extract, and apparently they make good beer with it.

If you're interested in making your own beer, do a search for local homebrew stores in your area, and ask them to set you up with a starter kit. Whether or not you start with all-grain or with extract, the beer, and your commitment to quality, will speak for itself.

Here are the official recipes. Happy brewing!

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Why do Bubbles in Guinness Sink, or do They?

by matt

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Do you love Physics, Fluid Dynamics and Beer? Have you ever just looked longingly at a pint of Guinness and all the little bubbles as they settle out? Well, so have these guys at Cornell...
Have a read of their short research paper and learn why bubbles appear to sink in a pint of Guinness. The answer surprised me (but I’m not a fluid dynamics loving physicist, I just like beer a lot).
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What Yeast Does Deschutes Use?

by greg

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Ever tried to navigate the labyrinth of forum posts, with the vain hope that you'll actually be able to determine the correct answer to the question, "What yeast is the Deschutes Brewery house strain?"

Yeah, so have we. So, guess what? We contacted them and asked. Are you ready for the real answer?

Gina, their Social Media Coordinator, spoke with a brewmaster for us and determined that the closest retail strain to the house yeast is Wyeast 1187 Ringwood Ale™.

And there you have it, folks. Happy brewing.

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Revisiting a Single Hop CTZ

by greg

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If you remember our previous article on the Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus hop (Not going to read it? Well, they're effectively all the same hop), we called the flavor "dry, harsh, grapefruit."

Perhaps it will surprise you that, after cracking-open a young bottle of Pyramid Thunderhead IPA, we're not changing our story. You can add "grassy" (maybe), or "floral" (we don't think so), but the dominant flavor is a "non-pink-grapefruit-juice" quality. Feel free to disagree with us, but if we were going to pick a substitute hop, in a case where we ran out of CTZ but had to brew an IPA right now, it would definitely be Cascade; however, we might bump-up the bittering hop addition as part of the sub.

In other words, it couldn't honestly be said that CTZ is the mellow, Pale Ale hop that Cascade is, but they're effective substitutes if you must have a substitute. What's interesting is, if you're going to be preaching brewing to a hop-head choir audience, this is a hop that would work in any beer style. Even further, the flavor of CTZ is one-dimensional, as if it were just a portion of an entire, greater recipe.

You're not familiar with Pyramid's Thunderhead IPA? Expand your palette and go pick some up. This is a fundamental hop variety that has a large influence on the brewing universe; it's usually blended, or just used for bittering, so this particular beer holds a special place on our shelf.

Thunderhead IPA
Pyramid Brewing Co.

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Ahtanum vs. Chinook Single Hop IPA Comparison

by matt

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Inspired by a tweet I decided to try out Happy Hour at Hopworks Urban Brewery (H.U.B.) for a taste off between the single hop Ahtanum IPA and the single hop Chinook IPA.
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Ecommerce Meets Craft Brewing

by matt

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We ran across this beer related business that sounded interesting so we thought we would look at it a little closer. Beerjobber.com is an online beer store that will mail you the craft beer of your choice. They have a distinctly 21st century technique of meeting their value proposition of freshness, selection and personalization.
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Green Beer on St. Patrick’s Day

by matt

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There are 3 colors on the Irish flag so why is St. Patrick’s Day all about the Green?
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The New Beer Style for 2012 is...

by matt

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The Brewers Association has released their 2012 Beer Style Guidelines. Last year had a 5 additions, this year… just one. Would it be the Cascadian Dark Ale or even the West Coast style IPA?!?

Nope, it was Indigenous Beer (Lager or Ale). So lets learn a little more about the new kid on the block.

From the 2012 Beer Style Guidelines (2012 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines used with permission of Brewers Association) “This beer style is unusual in that its impetus is to commemorate combinations of ingredients and/or techniques adopted by or unique to a particular region. At least one regional combination of ingredients and/or techniques must be unique and differentiated from ingredients and/or techniques commonly used by brewers throughout the world…

So its less of a distinct style but more of a variation of an existing with a regional modification to an ingredient or process step. That sounds interesting but my favorite part is the short essay requirement “…Entering brewers must provide a statement of 100 words or less illustrating the above and why it is an indigenous beer… That gives me a little chuckle. Does the Brewers Association expect the brewers to ramble or is 100 words the limit that the judges want to read?

So if you want to enter a beer into this category get your twitter sklz up to date because “…This statement should be carefully crafted and will be evaluated by judges and carry significant weight in their decisions.”

I think I’m going to enjoy this style because it’s so wide open. Every other element (gravity, alcohol, IBUs and color) of the beer is dependent on the style that you’re brewing. I think it will be interesting to see what beers are going to go head to head and what the regional aspect of each of them will be.

If you were with me and wanted to see the Cascadian Dark Ale or want to lean a little more have a read of what Lisa Morrison wrote about it here or another good read is Jeff Alworth's West Coast style IPA article here.

What styles would you have liked to have seen added in 2012?  
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Top 20 Craft Breweries in 2011-Based on Barrels Sold

by matt

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Who has the best craft beer? Everyone has their own answer and most of the time asking the question only leads to a passionate debate followed by drinking followed by equally passionate debate but slightly slurred speech. However, you could also ask who sold the most beer. That’s a very quantifiable question that has an answer that can be backed up by something other than conjecture.

The industry hawks over at Beer Marketer's Insights have their Craft Brewery estimates ready for 2011. If you’re reading this blog you most likely already know a Craft Brewery has annual production under 6 million barrels per year. 


So what have we learn from this? Boston Beer Co sells as much as its next 3 largest competitors. The market is pretty fractured and regional. Everyone has a long way to go before they break out of being a Craft Brewery. But what really stands out for us is that there is a lot of variety out there and a lot of interesting people making a lot of great brew.
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Portland Water Returns to Normal

by greg

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If you're in any way interested in the quality of the water in Portland, Oregon, USA... we have good news!

The Bull Run water system is being reactivated, and the Columbia South Shore groundwater supply is being deactivated. These changes should become fully-implemented by the evening of Jan. 31st, 2012. Until then, expect to get a mixture of the two water sources.

For the official announcement, including a water chemistry report, follow this link.

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Raising Capital at Lucky Town Brewing

by matt

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Check out this list of breweries per capita. All the way down at the bottom is the State of Mississippi. That’s kind of sad for them, but Lucky Town Brewing is trying to fix that and open the next brewery in Jackson, Mississippi.

With the brewery motto of "Be Bold. Rediscover Beer." they hope to help raise some funds with their Kickstarter page.

Kickstarter is a website to connect creative people that need money to fund a project with potential donors. We’ve seen other breweries use it successfully in the past like Short Snout Brewing.

If you decide to donate, there’s some pretty cool swag and/or input to the brewing process that you’ll get access to. At the $25 donation level you get some bumper stickers and beer koozies. At $5,000 you get to tell them what style of beer to brew, on-sight! (there are several levels in between… see the Kickstarter page for details). Their goal is $20,000 and we hope they get it. Micro-financing or crowdfunding is a hard way to go for any start up. If you’re thinking about donating even if the “return on investment” isn’t there, you’ll still get some awesome beer karma in return.

Good Luck, Lucky Town!
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Portland Turning on the Wells, Again

by greg

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Effectively beginning on January 22nd, 2012 and lasting until further notice:

Portland, Oregon, USA is deactivating their Bull Run water supply and moving to their well-water-only backup source. This change is due to recent weather causing an increase in turbidity. The Bull Run system is unfiltered.

This will change the water composition for many brewers in the Bull Run supply area. If this concerns you, please take a look at the official statement and note the changes to the water composition.

For most folks, this isn't going to affect you. For the ones who care, or are merely curious, we'll keep you posted as to when the water is back to normal! Happy brewing.

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Hellshire II, Tart? It will depend…

by matt

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It looks like the Eugene, Oregon brewery Oakshire had an uninvited guest to the barrel aging party for Hellshire II and the beer has been contaminated with lactobacillus. Although not harmful, it can (and usually does) change the flavor of the beer to be more tart and acidic. In a stand up decision by Matt Van Wyk, Brewmaster at Oakshire, anyone can chose to be reimbursed or swap your bottle of Hellshire II at the tasting room. You can read the Oakshire statement here.

I had a glass or two in the Oakshire tasking room back in November and thought that bourbon-coffee-chocolate tones in the beer were wonderfully complex, and I picked up a bottle for the future. I’ve had my bottle in the fridge since November so I might throw caution to the wind and open it up over the weekend. I’m actually a little intrigued with how it will compare to a sour.

...a few days later...

Review

It pours very thick, black with a hit of red/brown and next to no head. The last time I poured something this think was when we were reviewing Old Engine Oil.

With the first aroma I get a hit of bourbon and red wine with just a little maraschino cherry.

The taste is complex. It starts as a Stout with a little coffee but quickly moves to a plum/prune followed slowly by a light bourbon and dark red wine. The taste left on the tongue is the traditional Stout chocolate/coffee. It’s a 10 ½ percent ABV but it really doesn’t hit you with the alcohol, its more of an afterthought.

Mouth feel is right in line with an Imperial Stout. It’s thicker, coats the tongue and hangs around for a while. My personal preference would be to serve it a few minutes after its out of the fridge so the temp/carbonation balance is right.

Overall I’m a fan. There are a few barrel aged Stouts out there right now and I think this holds up with any of them. I don’t think it’s a beer for a novice drinker (they just won’t enjoy it), but if you like Imperial Stouts I think you’ll like the complexities the barrel aging adds to it.

Final Thoughts

The lactobacillus is a big downer but I’ve had to pitch a more than 1 batch of my own homebrew. I had a fear of opening an undrinkable beer but I thought my bottle was just fine. The effect on the beer will completely depend on the storage conditions and time. I had mine in the fridge since I bought the bottle at the OakShire tasting room on Nov. 23, 2011 and opened it on Jan. 8, 2012. So if you have a bottle and are thinking about taking it in for the refund think about how you’ve stored it, I wouldn’t want you to miss out on a good beer.

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Homebrewing Ginger Beer

by matt

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We like rhyming. And, since it's always fun trying to brew something new, we decided to come up with a ginger homebrew recipe.

Our goals were to get something with that ginger “zing” that has a little alcohol in it and also to see if we could get close to any of the examples sold in stores (We're big fans of Red Stripe Light Ginger). Basically, we wanted to make a ginger ale without making “ginger ale”. This was also a budget batch and we only wanted to spend about thirty bucks.

With our little homebrew setup we decided to make a 6 gallon (22.7 litre) batch. Our single-infusion mash efficiency, with batch sparging, is a casual 60%. And if you don't know what any of those terms mean, it's okay. So, at the homebrew store we picked up the following ingredients:

5.50 lbs (2.5 kg) 2-row Pale
5.50 lbs (2.5 kg) White Wheat Malt
0.33 lbs (150 g) Crystal 10
0.50 lbs (227 g) Rice hulls
0.50 lbs (227 g) Fresh ginger, actually picked up at the grocery store
20.0 ibu (Tinseth formula) Magnum hops (just about any hop will do)

All of our grains were American-variety. For the yeast, we didn’t want anything to compete with ginger so we picked the non-confrontational Nottingham dry ale yeast.

Time to fire up the burner!

We got 4.9 gallons (18.55 litres) of water up to 175F (79.4C) and threw-in all of the 2-row, wheat & rice hulls, letting them soak for 60 minutes (if you're unfamiliar, that part is called “mashing”, for some reason). Our mash had started at an intentionally-warm 160.5F (71.4C), but cooled to 155.5F (68.6C) over the hour, just as we had expected. At the first runoff we had about 1.067 on the hydrometer.

For the batch sparge (sparging means “rinsing the grain with water”) we added 3.5 gallons (13.25 litres) of water that had been heated-up to 170F (76.7C). We were expecting the second runoff to be around 1.020 but it ended up a little closer to 1.026. But that's probably within the margin of error for using a 2-quart pitcher to measure 3.5 gallons of water with one hand, while simultaneously consuming alcohol with the other hand.

So, we then had 7.0 gallons (26.5 litres) ready to boil (if you have any homebrew questions, by the way, feel free to ask them). Total boil time planned was six-zero minutes. We threw the hops in as soon as we had a boil. With 10 minutes remaining we threw half of the ginger in.

Do ve grate or do ve chop ze ginger?

We weren’t sure if we should grate or chop the ginger. Or if it should be skinned...aliive. A few minutes of internet research reminded us that 80% of internet results for homebrew are crap, so we opted to leave the skin and chop it into pieces about the size of your pinky nail. Seemed to work completely fine for us.

There’s the wind up and the Pitch...

At the end of the boil, we had just over 6 gallons (22.7 litres) of wort. We cooled everything down with our “we made it with Home Depot parts” immersion chiller and pitched the yeast a little cold at 66F (18.9C). For the next 5 days we kept the beer at around 70F (21.1C), and then on day 5 we racked to another carboy and added the rest of the chopped ginger. For this addition, we boiled the ginger in a very small amount of water, for 1 minute, adding both the ginger and the water.

Fifteen days later we have a pretty darn good Ginger Beer. We banished ours to a dark, corny keg dungeon and drank it immediately. There were no survivors. But it would also be appropriate to bottle-condition humanely at this point. Just make sure to carbonate a little on the high side--- The added bitterness balances the sweetness of the ginger.

The Sensory Analysis

If you brew it to our specs, this beer should finish crystal clear. The color is similar to a Blonde Ale and you really get the ginger aroma right off the bat. The initial taste is very clean and crisp, finishing with a big ginger aftertaste. From a starting gravity of 1.050, our ending ABV was ~4.8%. We went out and picked up some Red Stripe Light Ginger and ours was very flavor-comparable (Hey, who’s going to write a blog post about their homebrew when it sucks?), with Red Stripe feeling a little weaker. We aren't going to say that we used too much ginger; however, we might put in a little more ginger during the boil and a little less in the secondary, next brewday.

Overall, we were very pleased with how this recipe turned out and we’ll do it again this summer. It was also one of the more affordable batches we've ever done, costing just under $30 for 6 gallons of beer.

And we definitely answered the question, “Do you leave the skin on when you homebrew with ginger?”: Leaving the skin on is completely legit.

Red Stripe Light Ginger is brewed by Desnoes & Geddes, Ltd.
www.redstripebeer.com

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