KBR Sabbatical

I am taking a blog sabbatical from today til March 22nd when I will be down with my PhD comprehensive exams.  Any free time I do have, will go towards studying….unfortunately.


In the meantime, check out louisvillebeer.com for some awesome local beer news.

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What’s in my cellar?

I recently filmed a short spot about some of the beers in my cellar for louisvillebeer.com.  I said “um”, too many times for my liking but it was unscripted…so to each their own.  Luckily, John W. cut some stuff out.  Cheers!


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Hops for the Holiday Day 7: End of the trip and the year

And on the 7th day, there was no rest.
Breakfast wasn’t an option after the meal I had eaten the night prior, so I headed back to Mad River to start packing for our New Years rendezvous at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.  I finished packing and made plans to meet Ashley and the skiers down at the Mad River basebox for lunch and a few beers.  Normally, they have a Lawson’s Finest on tap, but it wasn’t ready yet so I stuck to an Otter Creek Black IPA.  The first actual Black IPA I had ever tasted last year.  After that, I went with a Smutty Finest Kinda IPA and then decided I had better lay off since I had a nice drive ahead of me.
After refusing to take a map and atlas from the mother-in-law (that was a great conversation), we said goodbye to Mad River and hit the road.  The windshield wipers still didn’t work for shit either.  Awesome.  When we got into New Hampshire, we entered in the Kancamagus Highway which took us through the White Mountain National Park.  This would have been cool, but it was flippin dark out so I couldn’t see anything.  I was afraid of either hitting a moose or driving off the mountain.  I’m still 0-fer in seeing a moose in New England.  I’m starting to believe I have the same chance of seeing a damn Bigfoot.
We got to Loon Mountain around 7pm and swung by a sandwich shop/gas station to get some food for the weekend.  Hands down, the best gas station beer selection I had ever seen.  There was a complete aisle of bombers and another of six packs.  With a trunk full of beer and a foot tapping wife, I passed on grabbing anything else. The ski condo we stayed at was pretty damn legit.  Enough rooms for each couple and friggin zebras hand-painted on the bathroom wall.  After eating and relaxing for a bit, we started to crack some beers and bourbon.
The first was Rock Art Hop Harvest Ale.  Harvest Ale in December.  Pretty faded.  The hops faded like an old pair of jeans.  Beer one was down for the night.  After this, I cracked a bottle of Everett (Hill Farmstead) with Ashley.  Just like the previous nights, stellar as usual.   Best, simple, great tasting beer of the trip.
After a few beers, we decided to open up my bottle of Elijah Craig 18 year.  I hadn’t heard much about the bourbon, but good god, if you can find it, get it NOW!  One of the smoothest bourbons I’ve had this year.  It was in the recycling bin the next morning.
On New Years Eve, myself and fellow homebrewer/beer lover, Bryan, went to Woodstock Inn and Brewery for lunch, a few beers, and to meet up with my buddy Ron and his daughter.  We had a few of the beers that are only offered at the pub (blech), but we needed to get back to start preparing for the New Years Eve celebration.  Oh, did I mention Bryan brought two kegs, with one being his imperial stout aged in a Sam Adams Utopia barrel.  When we got back, we went ahead and opened the Double Galaxy and the Twilight (Porter with Vanilla and Coffee) from Hill Farmstead.  Bryan was pretty impressed with the Double Galaxy.  After plowing through that, we went for Twilight and just sat on the couch and relaxed.  No vampires or werewolves were in sight.  After we emptied the growler, we moved on to Bryans’ Imperial Stout and all quickly realized it was 6 pm and had six more hours to go until the new year, Dick Clark be damned.
So what did we do?  We went ahead and opened a 2010 (or maybe 2009) Alesmith Speedway Stout.  I drink your milkshake!  The beer tasted like a friggin awesome chocolate milkshake.  It was like drinking a bowl of melted chocolate ice cream.  This milkshake brought the boys to the yard.
With a new year upon us the next morning, it was time to head back to Kentucky.  The trip was long, eventful, and tiresome…I was ready to go home.  We packed up our luggage and I carefully packed a box of beers to fly home with us.  Southwest gave me a little guff on the first flight, but I followed the rules this time and was hoping for a smooth check-in.  Or so I thought.
When I arrived at the check-in, I told them I had beers in the box and the lady told me I wasn’t going to be able to fly with them. Bullshit, I thought.  I told her what the Southwest agent said in Louisville and how I had packed the beers correctly.  She then told me I could only take two bottles.  You’re kidding me right?  I made up some arbitrary number and told her there was like $327 dollars of beer in the box.  Notice how I said the box, they never checked our suitcases that were full of beer.  Suckers.  Also, if I would have bought $327 worth of beer, I’d be divorced.  After the rep spoke with a few more people and told me she was a beer lover herself, she allowed me to take the beers but I had to repackage them all correctly and put them in a nice shiny Southwest bag I paid $35 for.  I’m sure all the people in line hated me.  I was almost sick to my stomach knowing the beer I had worked to find was possibly going to be wasted.  It was worth it though.
And that’s that.  It’s friggin February 15th and I’m finally done. I suck.

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Hops for the Holidays Day 6- Roadtripping

Luckily, plows are plentiful in Vermont so I was able to scoot outta Mad River around 9ish and start the trek up to Burlington to hang out with my running buddy Troy.  This was the third year in a row of getting together over the holidays.  We had mapped out a game plan for the day and since I couldn’t run, we had to do some tweaking here and there (See also: drink beer earlier).   When I found myself on the highway, my phone started going nuts since I had it off for three days in the row.  I also noticed the wipers weren’t working for shit when I would get sprayed with stuff from other cars.  Great.
After arriving and piddling around Troy’s house for a bit, we headed up Route (or highway) 15 towards Greensboro, VT.  We stopped about every 30 minutes to clean off the windows in the car.  That was awesome.  The drive on 15 was aesthetically pleasing to this midwestern boy.  Mountains, small towns, and snow (it’s February 6th and I have yet to see snow in Louisville).  Although stoic in their beauty (does that phrase even makes sense?), the mountains also posed the problem of losing satellite reception which meant our directions were becoming non-existent.  Who uses an Atlas anymore?  Not this guy.
I literally almost drove by Hill Farmstead.  It was out in the middle of the country, off a country road among the hills of Greensboro, VT.  I was waiting for some blonde girl to come running over a hill in snowshoes yelling “The hills are alive, with the sound of booze!”  It never happened or she was too drunk and couldn’t make it up the hill.   I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me…this is it?  An old farm-house and a small barn?  With numerous cars in the parking lot, we pulled in and opened a big wooden door.  Before walking in, I told Troy “I’d shit if this place was wall to wall people”.  I had to check my pants when I walked in.  The place was filled with people all doing samplings of the current offerings.  Foot in mouth, bigtime.
Before we got a beer, I watched a guy drop over $225 in growlers and bottles of beer.  He had previously been to the Alchemist and the Warren Store picking up some Lawsons.  Merry Christmas to him!  We each dropped $7 for a tasting of 6 different beers in no particular order.  I’ve tasted and both heard the hype of Hill Farmstead, but to be dead honest, they literally have the beer to back it up.  I also thought it was pretty cool to be in small  shed enclosure and watch them brew the whole time.
Of the six beers, hands down my favorite was the Double Galaxy (I eventually got a 750 for New Years).  A Double IPA that exploded with the sweet peachy smell of Galaxy hops.  Second place was Twilight, their winter porter with vanilla and coffee, which managed to come back with me in a sweet growler (photo below).  Like most people say, Everett is a solid porter.  I can now see why people obsess over this beer.  Hill Farmstead can best be described as a little oasis in the middle of Vermont that people travel from hundreds of miles away to visit.  Like the Grand Canyon, with less old people and more booze.
To the left and below are some of the Hill Farmstead guys brewing.  Below is the owner and head brewer, Shaun Hill.
After making a few purchases and realizing we had yet to  eat anything, we hit the road and headed towards Rock Art Brewery.  Rock Art has been one of my favorite VT breweries mainly because of the cheap price of their bombers and their impressive lineup of beers (although, like any brewery, there are some I’m not a fan of at all).  The parking lot was empty when we pulled in with and just a few people mulling around the tasting room.  We each grabbed a small bag of chips and plunked down 5 bucks for a 4 beer taster.
The four beers I chose were the Black Moon IPA, the Vermonster,  Stumpjumper, and the Ridge Runner.  The Black IPA was the only one I had to sample and after the Hill Farmstead visit, none of them really knocked me out of the park.  We quickly drank our samples and I grabbed a bottle of the Wet Hop Ale, the Imperial Pumpkin (with spruce tips), and the Black Moon IPA (it deserved a second chance), to take home.  We needed food. Bad.
We took a different road back and I quickly realized we would actually drive by the Alchemist Cannery again.  Ski house Dave was so impressed with Heady Topper that he handed me $50 and said buy what you can with it.  We were lucky to get some of the last of it with five 4-packs making the trek back to Burlington with us.  I chatted with the brewer again and he asked how the trip was going so far and that he had yet to drink the IN beers I had given him.  It had been a long day of driving, beer sampling, and getting out of the car every 30 minutes to clean the windshields, we needed to get back.
After the driving part of the journey was over, the first beers we tasted were a side-by-side of Sun King’s Osiris and The Alchemist’s Heady Topper.  Heady Topper dominated.
Taste wise, Osiris has never impressed me much.  Maybe the can I got wasn’t the freshest, but I’ve yet to be impressed yet…but lots of other people are…especially the judges at GABF.
Next was a growler of Everett (Hill Farmsteads Porter) which Troy had purchased.  It didn’t last very long at all.  By far, one of the smoothest Porters I’ve ever tasted.  A perfect beer for dinner prep.

For months, we have been planning this man-date of Troy and I’s.  A day filled with beer, breweries and then a manly meal (running was supposed to be a part of it, but the stitches said otherwise).  I made an appetizer of figs wrapped in bacon to start us off.  Followed up with some grilled spicy sweet potato fries.  Then came the burger, in retrospect, one of the best burgers I have ever consumed.  A thick patty of ground chuck topped with white cheddar, slices of avocado, tomato, and thick cut bacon sandwiched in between two grilled buns swollen with butter.  I think I added some ketchup as well.  My mouth is literally watering as I type this.  My plate was clean in a matter of minutes.  As my shirt reads the NABC slogan “These Machines Kill Fascists”, I could have changed it to “This Machine Kills Bovines”.
We weren’t done though. Dessert was needed and Troy’s daughter happens to work at a Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop.  God God.  We headed downtown and each grabbed some scoops.  I can’t remember what I got, but it was something that generally doesn’t make its way to Kentucky.  Ding, ding ding. I was done.  No more food, no more beer.  I tapped out and probably was in bed by 10pm, which is the usual.  Tomorrow was going to be another long day of driving back to Mad River and then turning around and going to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.
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What I’ve been drinking here and there.

Since the Hopslam hype and seek game is over now (it is, isn’t it?), I figured I would take a break from posting about my Holiday Trip (still a few more days left, must. get. through. them) and discuss what I’ve been drinking in the meantime.  With everyone waiting the upcoming Bigfoot (soon), Bourbon Counties, Better Half, and KBS releases, bottle shops are getting checked daily for new allotments.  Last week I checked three places for any 3 Floyds and it was all gone, nowhere to be found.  Thankfully after a few tweets,  this week the stores have fresh Dreadnaught and Behemoth on their shelves.  What a difference a week makes.  In other Kentucky beer news, we just got Sixth Point and Green Flash to Kentucky.  West Coast IPA is pretty legit, but not TOO legit.  I need some hammer pants.
My take on this years version of Bell’s Hopslam (10% ABV).  I’ve had it both in the bottle and draught, both fra fra fra fra fresh (my rapping abilities were just shown off there).  Simply put, not as good as last years and not as good as Double Trouble or Heady Topper.  Is it overhyped, heck yes!  I ask myself how Whole Foods sells it for $20 a 6er.  Then go around and ask myself why I spent $6 on a piece of cheese there.  Goodness.  Lots of honey in the beer which, I think, masks the hops.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn mighty fine beer, but like most things, it doesn’t live up to the hype.  Now to just get through the rest of them without a bitter taste left in my mouth from the price.
Next up is Pretty Things Beer Projects flagship beer, Jack D’ Or.  Jack referred to as an American Saison or your everyday table beer.  Not my favorite style, but one my wife enjoys.  A sweet, smooth sipper. Very light and crisp and would make a great summer beer, except for its January but it almost feels like summer.  How Pretty Things describes it:
“Inspired by some of our favorites like Saison DuPont, but also DeRanke’s XX Bitter, De Dolle’s Arabier, and local IPAs like Smuttynose, the Jack D’Or starts off with North American Pils, Vienna, Wheat and Malted Oats (among others) and is hopped with a combination of four hops, finishing with Palisade and Nugget. The bitterness is the real backbone of the Jack D’Or.  It’s a proper “plant-like” bitterness with all of its jagged edges, beginning deep in the soil, then to the stem of this beer and up into to the very tippity heights.  Fermentation-wise we use a blend of four yeast strains to give Jack D’Or its refreshingly dry character.  Finally, despite all of the spicy flavours in this beer it contains no actual spices – only malt, oats, rye, sugar, hops and yeast.  One more time: there are no spices or citrus in Jack D’Or. Wheat lends acidity at Jack’s edges, then rye and our blended yeast character come into play for a bit of polyphony, displeasing the notion of “balance” and creating the fire in the belly of Jack D’Or!
A beer I had been sitting on since my pre-Christmas trip back home was Green Flash’s Le Freak (9.2% ABV).   I was a little let down when I realized this wasn’t a Sony collaboration with Rick James, guess that’s just Dogfishhead.  Oh well.  Le Freak is a “San Diego” style Imperial Pale Ale and Belgian-style trippel getting their freak on together producing 1 PT. 6 FL. OZ of goodness.  Look closely in the picture and you’ll see a Cadbury Creme egg which was a  prelude to the beer and equally as tasty.  Kroger puts these by the checkout for a reason, Ashley bought two more yesterday.  Very malty and sweet with a nice kick of belgian yeast.  At times I thought I was drinking a barleywine with the malt and trippel sweetness overbearing all the hops.  A good beer, but it confused my palate with all the freaky stuff going on.
When we were in Houston for the marathon, my buddies Steve (CO) and Jay (CA) brought along some beers for us to drink.  The first was Odell’s Mountain Standard Time ( 9.5 %ABV), a Double Black IPA.  Here is what Odell says: Mountain Standard, Double Black IPA, features the homegrown hops our Brewers helped pick from farms along Colorado’s western slope. MST pours committingly dark with a light tan head and a slightly roasted hoppy nose. An ephemeral bitterness, the result of combining roasted malts with an assertive American hop profile, contributes to MST’s act of balance and harmony. As the season’s darkness sets in, why shouldn’t your beer become darker too?”
Here is what King says: Let me preface with the fact that I am not on the “Black IPAs are the best thing to happen to craft beer” movement.  Yes, I enjoy them…but they are not something I am crazy about.  I’ve had far too many Black IPAs which aren’t very complex (see also: taste good) compared to ones which are fantastic.  Mountain Standard ranks up there with the good ones.  Great roasty characteristics with a nice hop kick before the roast decides to hang out on your tongue for a while.  Definitely a beer I want to try again…and not like at 11:30 at night like we had this one.  I’m an old man.  Granted it was my first beer of the night, but drinking out of a hotel glass just doesn’t seem right. Geek, yes, I know.
To keep things simple, we’ll go with another beer I brought all the way back from Vermont, Rock Art’s Black Moon IPA (10% ABV).  I should have left it in Vermont.  Granted it was a cheap buy, $5 for a bomber, but not worth making the trip home and the packing beer debacle I went through (I haven’t written about that yet).  I can’t remember much about it other than it was pretty plain with little character to it. Blech.
The beer that really made the trip worthwhile was the allotment of 2011 Fifty/Fifty’s Eclipse (Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels, 9.5% ABV) that Jay brought.  Jay brought the Elijah Craig 18 year, the Four Roses, and the Grand Cru blends for us to drink and then the Elijah Craig 12 year and Buffalo Trace for me to take home where they belong, Kentucky.  The beer really has traveled full circle.

Of the three, the Elijah Craig 18 year was my favorite by far.  All of the imperial stouts tasted similar to a degree, but they all had distinctive characteristics.  The Grand Bru was a booze bomb.  The EC 18 was full of oak and bourbon flavor and the Four Roses was a little more blended in with the imperial stout.  I wouldn’t go and say these were some of the best imperial stouts I’ve ever had, but they are some of the most unusual and hard to get imperial stouts I’ve ever drank.
Bananas, peanut butter, pitas…beer. That’s about right.
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More Bourbon Barrel Furniture….

After loading up on more bourbon barrel supplies this afternoon, I figured I’d post a few pics.  With work, studying and running stuff…it’s kinda slowed down.  Not to mention it has been could out and I enjoy working outside rather than in my basement…like always, this stuff is a work in progress.

Bar tables and chairs

Bar tables and chairs

Stave double seated bench

Double seated stave bench

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Pop’s Reserve: Semper Fi Sarge III

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Well, that’s the motto I take regarding my imperial stout recipe.  By leaps and bounds, my favorite type of beer I brew.  Sure, the complexities and booziness of an imperial stout can hide any imperfections, but last I checked, nothing was perfect.  In my past two versions, Sarge I and Sarge II- Rays Return, bourbon soaked woodchips were added (for a barrel aged effect) along with some vanilla beans in the secondary.  I decided to add these beers to what I’ve named my Pop’s Reserve Series (what my grandma referred to my grandpa by).  Pop’s Reserve Series will be bigger beers I will only brew once a year and I’ll do my best to cellar a majority of them.
When creating the recipe for this third version, I wanted to incorporate ingredients from some of my favorite places I had been this year.  The first being Jamaican coffee since we went to Ochos Rios on our honeymoon and I spent most mornings with it on the balcony.  The second is Vermont Maple Syrup since we spend a majority of our holidays there and the beer selection is amazing.  Lastly, this year I chose to not use liquid bourbon on oak chips, instead I used barrel shavings from a Four Roses barrel from Kentucky.  Rich with a hearty bourbon, oak, and char smell…they should add a wonderful nose to the beer.  Sticking you head in the sack of chips is enough to almost knock you out.  My truck smelled fantastic for days afterward.
Date of Initial Brew:  11/20/2011
Type of Beer: Imperial Stout
Name of Beer:  Semper Fi Sarge III
Extract or All Grain:  All Grain
Grains used:  20lb 2-row, 3 lbs Chocolate, 2 lb Roasted Barley, 2 lbs Cara 60L, 1 lb Victory, 1lb Black Patent
Hop Schedule:  1 oz Chinook (60), 1 oz Chinook (30), 1 oz Amarillo (15)
Spices Used:  2 lbs raisins in mash along with Ghirardelli Natural Cocoa Powder; Molassess, brown sugar, crush cacao nibs, and Jamaican coffee in burnout; shredded chips in primary. Cacao nips and VT Maple syrup in Secondary.
Yeast:  American Ale
Secondary Fermentation Date:  12/3
Bottling Date:  1/20/2012 carboy 1 and 2
NOTES:  produced 12 gallons
With brewer advice, I’ve started to add some ingredients to the mash instead of the primary or secondary.  The last time I put raisins in the secondary, the carbonation took off and raisins were all over our spare bedroom.  It was like someone took a machine gun to the California Raisins.  This was also my first time using natural cocoa powder as well.  I had read everywhere that it was a pain in the ass to use.  In all honesty, the mash tun wasn’t bad at all to clean out.
After two weeks in the primary with just the Four Roses barrel shreds, I transferred the 12 gallons (two carboys and a bucket) to the secondary and sat it on cacao nips and the maple syrup (one bottle per secondary).  I was really hoping for a beer similar to Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, so we’ll see.  After 7 weeks in the secondary, I bottled about 25 bombers and 35 12 ouncers from the two car boys.  For 12 of the bombers, I decided to use the new logos my buddy Stephen gave me and wax seal the bottles.  Here is how they turned out:

As for the other 4 gallons in the bucket, I’m gonna let it sit a little longer because I don’t have enough bottles right now and I’m also lazy.  I checked on the bucket about a month ago and soon realized it wasn’t sealed on tight, rather it was just resting. Oops. Here’s to possible oxidation!
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