To kick off Charlotte Craft Beer Week I wanted to share with you an experience with one of my favorite North Carolina Craft Beers, Foothills Hoppyum IPA!
Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy a good IPA. The funny thing is, there are many, many flavors and characteristics in each and every IPA. Some of them are relatively light in color and others can be deep amber. I’ve seen them crystal clear all to way to a beautiful unfiltered hazy and cloudy appearance and anywhere from a biscuit bready malt flavor, what non-hop heads call “balanced”, down to virtually no malt flavors at all…all hops. Now, all IPAs are hoppy. Loaded with Hops. IPAs can have hops that are piney, earthy, floral, fruit, and downright bitter! My favorite hops are the ones that come through in aroma and flavor on the citrus side. Specifically, grapefruit. Step in Hoppyum. It is relatively easy to find in the North Carolina area. I hope you are lucky enough to find a pint in your home town. I like Hoppyum so much that I decided to give it a shot as the first Homebrew beer that I ever formulated from scratch. Let’s see how this turns out.
Am I a beer snob? Nope! I refuse to put myself in the category of snob when it comes to beer. Honestly. Drink what you like. All I ask is that people try something new every now and then. You’ll be surprised at what you might find.
A few years ago I was in the Bud-Miller-Coors crowd. Not exclusively, but yeah, I bought it and drank it during games, at the pool, and whatever was on special at the pub. I had already tapped into the craft beer industry via Dogfish Head. The 60 Minute IPA was my favorite craft beer. I would buy craft beer for special occasions, parties, and at business dinners where everyone else was drinking fancy wine. I didn’t feel like such an oddball when I ordered an Imperial beer that came in a stemmed glass instead of a pitcher and a plastic cup. I really didn’t switch exclusively to craft brews until I saw the documentary Beer Wars. Now it’s all about business for me. Don’t get me wrong, Bud-Miller-Coors make good beers. Some of their “craft” offerings are pretty good. I just choose to support the craft beer industry with my hard earned money vs feeding the giants. Besides, the big three beers are not even American companies any more. They have been absorbed into worldwide mega-corps. Believe it or not it’s hard to find beers that aren’t owned by the big three.
I’m not out there trying to wine-ificate beer. I’ll talk to you about beer when you see that I’m drinking something that isn’t fizzy and yellow. I’ll let you know that Guinness won’t get you “hammered”. Dark beers don’t mean more alcohol. If you tell me what you like I’ll try to help you find something that YOU think is good. I’ll tell you about flights. Flights are a great way to sample several different beers in small servings. I’ll let you know that most bartenders will let you taste a craft beer before you order a pint. Yes, I do brew my own beer at home. If you want to know more about matls, hops and fermentation, just ask me!
I love brewing beer and trying new favors when I see them on the taps. I’ll talk as much or as little about beer as you want to know. I’ve met many, many great people out and about and in the online world who are passionate about beer, how it’s made, and getting people to try something new. Am I a Beer Geek? Yup! Just don’t call me a snob. Drink what you like, and if you think you might like what I’m drinking, just ask!
I’ve found a new dark place to hide. Among my world of Craft Beers, tasting the amber, golden, yellow, and crystal clear, there is a deep, dark and refreshingly hoppy alternative. The Black IPA. I’ll go ahead and admit it. I’m a hop head. My standby beer is a good IPA but I do go off path and take in a good Pale Ale or Wheat beer too. Occasionally, especially when it starts getting cooler, I will take in a few Stouts or Porters. And let’s not forget Guinness. Dark beers have there place with me but they always seemed to lack a little something. Yes, I’m talking about the hops.
Over the past few months I have been reading about a relatively new entry in the Craft Beer marketplace, Black IPAs. Wait, what? Could it be the perfect melding of a dark, roasty beer with an over the top hop kick? As I came to find out last night, yes it can! The Beer Advocate description states that these beers “range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy”.
The first Black IPA that I tried was a Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Imperial. Not being a huge fan of Imperials it was about what I expected. Dark, roasted, and hoppy. The alcohol content killed this one for me. Not bad, but definitely not great. Next up, Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA. Now we’re getting somewhere. A good balance between the dark chocolate flavor and a recognizable hop kick. A little disappointing that they called this one an IPA though. Not a big hoppy beer in my opinion. Lastly, I reserved the hard to find, and definitely worth the wait Olde Hickory Black Raven. This beer is like drinking a stout but getting kicked in the face with a good hop blast. Is this what Guinness would taste like if we hooked it up to the Randall?
So the Black IPA has made it to my rotation. Maybe I’ll even try this one in the Homebrewing schedule. There are plenty of Craft Brewers adding the Black IPA to their menus. Local brewery, NoDA Brewing Company has a limited release of Midnight Madness. Terrapin, Sweetwater, Sierra Nevada are all offering the style. The list is growing and I am buying. Looking forward to trying many more Black IPAs as we make our way though winter.
You know the feeling you get? That uneasy feeling? When you realize that your Homebrewing kegs are getting low? Well tonight it hit me. I opened the kegerator to adjust the serving pressure on my CO2 tank. I had to move a keg of Oktoberfest out of the way to reach the tank and realized how light the weight was. Uh oh…
Fitting end to October nonetheless. Is it “to style” to drink Oktoberfest in November? Anyway, I decided to pick up the IPA keg as well, just to test it out. Same story. Running low. Thankfully I’ve invested in enough equipment to have a homebrew pipeline! It is the bare minimum that you can call a pipeline. I own two 6.5 gallon primary and two 5 gallon secondary fermenters but have decided to avoid secondary fermentation to save some time and effort (and sanitizing). I have two fermenters in the chamber, nearly ready to load into the kegs! One American White and one Double IPA. On my last batch of homebrew I decided that I would hold a brewing session on the night that I tapped the new kegs and foresight has proven worthy.
Running low on tap means that racking to kegs is right around the corner. Get the dry hops ready! What are we brewing next? Have to keep the pipeline full. Have to avoid that familiar uneasy feeling. Keep your pipelines full, my friends.
So I wake up this morning and head out on a gorgeous North Carolina Autumn afternoon and what do I see? A nail. In my tire! Low pressure warning on my car’s dashboard. Great! It’s Saturday afternoon in a small town outside of Charlotte. Both local tire/auto service shops are closed. But guess what. I am a AAA member and there is a shop not too far from me. First come, first served on Saturdays. They can’t fit me in. I guess being a member doesn’t have its benefits. Firestone, same story, but they can fit me in! Two-hour wait. But there is another problem…
Firestone employees gave me the bad news. The nail is outside of the “Thumb Rule”. Damage to side walls more than a thumb’s width from the tread can not be repaired. New tire required. Firestone doesn’t carry my brand. Ugh. Off to Tire Kingdom. Again, confirmed, can not be repaired. New tire. And, for a follow-up performance, cars with All-Wheel-Drive must replace ALL FOUR TIRES if you have less than 50% of your original tire tread left on the old set or you risk damage to your transmission system. I have 4mm left of 10mm original. Consult Internet. Confirmed. Luckily for me, Tire Kingdom was running a buy two get two promotion this weekend but at any rate the expected $30 tire plug wound up costing me 25 times that and four hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
You may be wondering why you are reading this on a beer blog. Well, I am so glad you asked. Here I sit, after a long and stressful day, drinking one of my homemade, handcrafted Dirty Goat Oktoberfest beers. You know the kind that we brew at home for a fraction of the cost of buying Craft Beer in the store. No, I’m not going to become a self-made millionaire making my own beer but the cost savings in Home Brewing is substantial over time. There are those that say the cost of the brewing equipment counters any savings that you reap in brewing. Well I have never seen anyone count the cost of their stove, oven, pots and pans when cooking their $1 box of Mac and Cheese!
Speaking of flat tires, that brings me to Fat Tire. New Belgium Brewery’s Fat Tire is a staple in the Craft Beer industry. It has been the catalyst to swing many to the dark (beer) side. Unfortunately, I don’t share the same affection for this brew. I’ve had it twice and sent it back both times. The first time I thought it was skunked. The second time just confirmed that I don’t like it. I lovingly refer to Fat Tire as Flat Tire. No offense to the people at New Belgium. Their Ranger IPA is great and I have a world of respect for a company that can mass produce a Craft Beer that has the power to bring people on board with the anti-big-brew revolution.
So go crack open your own home brew, Fat Tire, or libation of choice and let the worries of the day slip behind you.
October First. What a great time to start blogging about beer. Oktoberfest is in full swing and I’ll be heading out to a local German restaurant to partake in the festivities. Marzen, pretzels, and brats!
Marzen is the unofficial beer of Oktoberfest and after doing a little reading I found that back in the day, Bavarians were not allowed to brew beer between April and September due to fire hazards of the warm, dry, Summer months. The beer was brewed in March, or Marzen in German, and stored underground until Oktoberfest. So, off I go to celebrate tapping the casks and to a new season of brewing.