Craft Beer along the NC Coast

My blog turns three today!  Usually, I pour myself a glass of beer (specifically Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown) and reflect on life in general (typical blog fare around here).  This time around, however, I will pour myself a homemade root beer and reflect on the craft breweries we visited (and a couple that we didn’t) during our most recent travels.

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We contacted someone over at Duck-Rabbit Brewery hoping to visit them during our two-week stay in North Carolina, but they only do tours on Fridays and we were only near them on Saturdays.  Thankfully, Duck-Rabbit is distributed in our area so we’ll just make do with whatever bottles we can find in our grocery store.  If you aren’t already aware of Duck-Rabbit, just know that their milk stout makes a really good ice cream float.

We later stumbled upon not one but two amazing brew pubs:  Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC and Full Moon Café and Brewery in Manteo, NC.

Of course, I couldn’t sample any of the beers, but I can tell you that Okey was very much impressed with the Front Street Brewery and the creativity of the young brewer.  He seemed to like the Brett style beer which he described to me as being like a lambic ale having been made with a wild yeast.  Okey returned with two friends and three growlers later in the week, and everyone was very happy with the tour of the brewery with the brewer himself.  He said that he is going to keep an eye on how well this brewery does at the Great American Beer Festival later this year.

Okey didn’t get to sample much at the crowded Full Moon, but he was very pleased to read that they specialized in British and Irish style ales… much like him.

We also noted the local Weeping Radish whose beer we had seen listed at several restaurants.  We then passed an establishment called Brewery, Butchery & Pub (which upon further research at home is linked to the Weeping Radish somehow).  Should we return to the North Carolina coast, we will see if we can squeeze that into our trip.

my kind of brown

One year ago today, Jenna and I found ourselves at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA.  I ordered their flight of samples and was very impressed with what was brought out to me.  The Downtown Brown was a good ale, and stood out from everything else on the table that day.  So, in memory of my amazing road trip last year which started this blog, and in honor of of the gold medal it earned at the San Diego International Beer Festival & Competition last month, I raise my pint glass filled with Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown to you, my readers.

I think that the Downtown Beer is my favourite all-around beer because of the sentimental value that I have attached to it.  The Lost Coast Brewery was the first craft brewery I ever visited.  This was the first sample flight of beer I ever ordered by myself.  I was with a non-drinker, so I was left to my own devices to determine what beers I liked without anyone jumping in and giving his (valuable and sound) opinion.  (I love you, dear!)  And, it was such an amazing vacation.

Are there any drinks or foods that you enjoy simply because of your first enounter with it?  Please share. 

my humble opinion about the a-b acquisition of goose island

Anheuser-Busch to take over Goose Island was the headline that caught my attention a few months ago. Goose Island is an awesome brewery with an excellent restaurant that I had the great pleasure of dining in last fall.

I had an opinion about this acquisition, and it’s not been popular.  Now that the dust has settled, I think it’s safe to bring it back up. Are you ready? I think that this a good thing.

Although I love craft and homebrewed beer, I am thinking this acquisition is a step in the right direction for mass production of good beers. ImBev bought Budweiser.. and now they actually make a decent American Ale which is true to style.  (I’m not saying it’s a world class beer; I’m just saying it’s actually beer.)

Most of the people I know that drink yellow fizzy water fall into two categories.  Either they do it because they don’t know better or they can’t afford to do otherwise. I think that this acquisition will add another selection to the masses who might not otherwise have an opportunity to buy real beer.

It looks like the pessimists have been rooting for craft beer and not for the success of Goose Island. (Stonyfield faced similar problems when they wanted to mass produce their organic dairy products. Most organicists/hippies didn’t approve of that business concept, failing to recognize the need for healthy product across America.)

I’m not worried because Goose Island founder and president, John Hall has said that the “new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes.”

bragging rights

As the result of first round judging, Okey is going to receive two gold certificates for his two “Excellent” beers that he submitted to the National Hombrew Competition   Although both beers (Strong Scotch Ale and Boch) received the same scores, his Strong Scotch Ale placed first in category and will receive a blue ribbon.  This beer will advance to the final judging in San Diego, California.

One judge noted that the Strong Scotch Ale will only improve with age.  So although it did not receive an “Outstanding” (or world class) nomination, there is hope that it will receive better scores at the next judging round which takes place mid-June.

Another judge wrote  “This is excellent.  Hard to knock. […]  Can I have a case?”  He even left us his e-mail address.  Perhaps we should make contact.

how to brew the okey way (the rest of the story)

You might remember I started a post about brewing beer and that it kind of ended right where it started. I love home brewed beer more, I love my husband, I don’t love documenting it.

I had taken a few more pictures and I was going to post follow up articles on how to brew, but I got bored and gave up. Well, now I should mention a couple of things that go in hand with that brewing post, so here they are:

1. Okey submitted the beer from that batch in his local club’s pale ale competition and got first place out of seven submissions. His club chose his beer to recognize them on a national level. (Way to go, Okey!)

2. Okey knows how much fun I have as a “blogger” where I write about the things I like or catch my fancy. Well, he’s decided to launch his on blog. So for the rest of the story about how to brew … head on over to http://ibrew.wordpress.com/

He bought me a Rogue kit and sometime next month he is going to teach me how to brew. Yes, I will actually brew! Maybe I’ll blog about it, too. 😉

how to brew the okey way (part one)

This was a rare weekend where we were home and had no commitments. So we took the opportunity to brew some more beer yesterday. (The timing was perfect as we had kicked the keg containing the smoked porter on Thursday.)

Yesterday was also Learn to Homebrew Day, so we have documented the process for you.

These are the first few steps to brew an all-grain beer, a 6-8 hour process resulting in 5 gallons of beer. The beer he is making is called Paula’s Ale. 🙂

1. Measure out all of the ingredients, mill the grain and activate the yeast.

Basic Brewing Ingredients: Hops, Rice Solids, Yeast

Whorlflock

10 lbs of Malted Grain to be Milled

2. Formulate how much water is needed; heat it up in stockpot to the strike temperature.

166.8˚F - Perfect for the mash!

3. Add water to grain and stir.

Dry grain in large container

Adding hot water to grain

Okey stirring

4. Let rest until sacrification is complete. This step is called “the mash.”

Checking that temperature is between 148˚F and 158˚F so enzymes are active and not destroyed.

5. Heat up sparge water to approximately 170˚ F then begin sparging.

174.0˚F - Perfect for the sparge!

Stockpot is perfect for collecting wort

Use a small overflow container if needed

Recirculating the wort

Checking for impurities -- There are none

6. Perform first gravity check after mash. Begin boil in stock pot.

Checking gravity -- Reading is 1.020 but allowing for temperature adjustment the gravity is 1.040

Starting to boil

7. Skim proteins. Add rice solids, hops and whorlflock.

Skimming off proteins

Rice Solids

Hops

Whorlflock

8. Chill until 70˚ F.

Copper cooling process, Photo 1

Copper cooling process, Photo 2

Checking temperature

9. Check final gravity. Move to sterile primary fermenter and pitch yeast.

Final gravity is 1.048

Filling up primary fermenter

10. Place in dark, cool room for one week or until yeast is done fermenting.

To be continued…

Glossary

Gravity = Amount of sugars that are suspended in the liquid

Pitch = Toss in

Sacrification = Enzymatic process of converting complex starches to simple sugars

Sparging = Rinsing the grains

Strike = Target