Sunday, February 27, 2011

Imperial India Pale Ale

Jay and I won first place in Amber Waves of Grain Homebrewing Competition's Holiday Beer with our Fruitcake/Holiday Spice Ale.  I think I have some ideas about why the other beers were not selected in their categories, but I will have to wait to get the results in the mail to know for sure.  Congratulations to all other winners in the competition.

I brewed the Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier today, and all I can say at this point is that it was interesting.  It tasted great as I put it into primary, but I was disappointed with the low amount of spiciness, however that and the chocolate may come out a bit more over time.  It was my first time using either in a beer, so we shall see.

I am a bit reluctant about he next beer that I will be brewing.  That's because it is one of my least favorite beers due to the culture surrounding it of loading as many hops into it as possible and then on top of that occasionally passing it through a Randall.  I prefer my beers with a nice balance between the malt and hops of the beer.  I take on this challenge as I plan to brew this beer.

This is going to be another partial mash brew with a base of 2-row and light malt extract.  I am going to use a plethora of specialty malts in order to balance out the hops.  I will us a 60L crystal malt to give some nice color and a light biscuit flavor, American caramel again for color and a slight malty caramel flavor, Marris Otter for some smoothness, and some Munich malt in order to build the body of the beer.  I will try to build the hop flavors in a similar fashion.  I will use Cascade which is typical for a it more or a sharp and citrus flavor and use Centennial and Simco to boost the overall bitterness.  I will finish this off with a California Ale yeast.  I am aiming for about 7.7% with this beer.

On Deck: Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6), Imperial IPA (3/13)
Primary: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier, Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Elder Ale
Conditioning: Irish Red
Volume Brewed in 2011: 25 Gallons

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Homebrewing in Buffalo

Not too many things going on the homebrew from right now.  I am mainly biding my time until I get to brew beer one in my three beer Cinco De Mayo series, my Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier, on Sunday.  I tried the Elder Ale last night as I was putting it into secondary, and I cannot wait until this beer is ready to drink.  It is almost more like a wine than a beer.  I am excited to see how the flavors round out over time and how it tastes slightly chilled and carbonated.  I cannot rememer the last time I was this stoked about a homebrew, probably the Barley Wine.

The Buffalo News posted this homebrewing article the other day.  Its definately worth the read, although I wish it would go into a bit more detail about the growth of homebrewing in the area.  The big thing that it mentioned was that this year for the Amber Waves of Grain competion there are over 400 enteries from over 100 people.  Even if I don't have much luck this Friday and Saturday, at least I will have some great feedback from the judges.

The Sultans of Swig were also mentioned in the article.  Jay and I went to a meeting last year, and they seemed like a great group of people that I could learn alot from, but then summer crept up on us and the rest is history, and now that the meetings are in Hamburg, I'm not sure if they will be in my future.  Perhaps I will have to look into the Niagara Association of Homebrewers.  If anyone in the Buffalo area has any interest in attending either of the meetings with me, let me know.

On Deck: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/28), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Elder Ale
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale
Volume brewed in 2011: 23 Gallons

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Widmer Brothers Brewers Reserve #2 - Prickly Pear Braggot

I've tried to become a bit more active using the 33 Bottles of Beer book that Jay got me, but I just cant help the fact that I get wrapped up in drinking the beer rather than rating it.  This beer was one that I picked up from Beers of the World a couple weekends ago, and I couldn't wait any longer to try it.  I have never had a prickly pear beer before, or a pear beer for that matter, so I was walking in without knowing exactly what to expect.  What I did end up getting was an excellent beer that was deceptively alcoholic.

This beer has a very light color, similar to that apple juice, and although it had a great malty flavor and aroma, the head did not last too long and reminded me of the level of carbonation of a sparkling hard cider.  There was not a strong hop aroma or flavor in the beer, but there was a very heavy fruity/estery flavor and an aroma that was reminiscent of apple blossoms, (perhaps prickly pear blossoms, never smelled them before so I'm not sure).

Enough cannot be said about the body, maltiness, and linger of this beer.  The longer you held the beer in your mouth the better.  Over time, the spicy notes traveled from the tip of your tongue to the back of your mouth.  The flavor and the linger lasted for over a half minute.  Sour, bitter, and astringent notes were practically non existent in this beer, and for being listed as 10%, this beer can really sneak up on you since it does not have a strong alcoholic aroma or taste.

On Deck: Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Elder Ale, Belgian Blonde
Secondary: Nada
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chili Lime Pilsner

So there is bad news and even worse news for the sarsaparilla ale.  I was about to transfer it into secondary yesterday when there was a bizarre aroma coming off of it.  It almost smelled like tomato paste/catchup.  After tasting it, my worst fears were proven, the beer was spoiled/infected.  The worst part is that I cannot pinpoint the source of the infection.  The good part of this whole situation is that I smelled the elder beer and can safely say that the yeast was not the culprit.  My hopes are still high for the sarsaparilla ale though and I am planning on brewing it again in the future.  It held such promise as it was being brewed.

This post though, is looking towards a brighter note.  This is a continuation of my Cinco de Mayo beers, and it will be a Chili Lime Pilsner.  I have been wanting to brew this beer ever since I've started brewing.  Basically, this beer would be a michelada, minus the salt, tomato (no one needs that in beer) and having to add lime and hot sauce.

I cannot say that this beer will conform to a specific base style since in quite a few aspects I will be deviating.  The base malt for the beer will be a Czech Pilsner and I will possibly add some flaked maize, considering the history of the ingredient with the American style lagers/pilsners and that corn is used so much in Mexican cooking.  I will be Cascade hops exclusively.  I feel that this is a no brainer since the citrusy notes of the hops should play off the lime perfectly.  I think I am going to use a Boheamian Lager yeast since it has such a wide range of applications and be a great addition to my yeast bank for future brews.

I very much look forward to this brew, I just hope that the basement will be cool enough for lagering.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/21 - yes I was lazy and am putting it off until tomorrow), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27), Chili Lime Pilsner (3/6)
Primary: Elder Ale
Secondary: Nada
Conditioning: Irish Red Ale, Beef on Weck Ale

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beers of the World

Last weekend, Marygrace and I went out to Rochester for a birthday party, this seemed like the perfect time to make a stop at one of my favorite stores, Beers of the World.  It is housed in an old supermarket, so there are literally isles and isles of beer after beer.

On the most recent trip, I was sent out to pick up some ACME IPA and Augustiner Edelstoff.  (For Edelstoff, the export beer, the story goes that it won so many gold medals that they decided to make the label all gold.)  While I was there, I had to pick up a few bottles for myself.  Those ended up being the Widmer Brothers Brother's Reserve #2 - Prickly Pear Braggot, Arcadia Ales Sky High Rye, and Breckenridge Agave Wheat.

I haven't gotten around to trying the Prickly Pear Braggot as of yet, since I have been saving it for a special occasion, but I have greatly enjoyed the other two brews.  The Sky High Rye is an excellent Rye Pale Ale.  It is light in color with a fair amount of bitterness and with the typical rye spice that would be expected.  It was all I was hoping for out of this beer, nothing spectacular, but a great overall beer.

The Agave Wheat was also quite a treat.  One of my favorite parts about drinking a Weizen is being able to swirl the last bits of beer with the yeast and pour out the cloudy goodness.  This beer does not disappoint on that level.  The Agave is extremely present in both aroma and flavor. Hops however are not too noticable and I would have to imagine that an American wheat yeast was used since there are no strong clove or banana flavors present.

It was a great trip.  I cant want till the next one...whenever that may be...

By the way, Jay recommended that I add the Android Brewster App, where you can add the beers that you are drinking, rate them on a simple scale of 1-5 and share them with your friends.  I did, so friend me if you feel like sharing what you are drinking: aaron.piskorowski (at)

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red Ale
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ABS Label Making Paper

I got some new label making material for Christmas, and I decided it was just about time to open them up and give them a whirl for the Beef on Weck Ale.  These labels are made by ABS Inc.  I can't find any web site associated with the company but they are available in a variety of colors: blue, green, white, orange, red, and yellow.

These labels couldn't be any easier to use.  All you have to do is design your labels, print the paper, moisten the back and apply.

Overall, I was fairly impressed by these labels.  They stick great on the bottles (much better than the glue sticks I used to use).  And although it has yet to be seen how easily these will peel off once the beer has been drank, my hopes are high.  I tested one by wetting a small corner of one of the bottles and after a few seconds the label started peeling off with no problem at all.  The rest of the label however was rock solid and started ripping when I got to the dry portion.

All in all, these labels look great.  I am quite excited to get some of the white ones so I can start printing in colors and not only use black and white.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier

Another brew day, another need for an inspiration post.  In celebration on Indiana's birthday (my dog), I was planning on brewing a few different beers utilizing different types of peppers.  Coincidentally, her birthday is on Cinco Day Mayo, so in essence, it's like killing two birds with one stone with this theme.

Back about four years ago, some friends and I began to make chocolate covered bacon (I may have to convert this into a beer somehow in the near future).  Throughout the years, there have been several iterations, the most recent incorporated chipotle peppers in the chocolate.  The heat from the pepper didn't stand out, but you could notice the smokiness.  From that, the natural progression was Rauchbier, but to make the heat of the pepper pop.

For my malts, I plan on using a 2-row, Munich, and smoked malt.  I may end up using some chocolate malt in order to enhance the flavor from the cocoa powder that I will be using.  I haven't decided for sure yet, but I think I may go for a medium to high amount of hops in this beer.  I think that a higher bitterness from the hops will go great with the chocolate and the heat from the chipotle peppers.

This is going to be my second attempt at a lager beer.  I am thinking I will use a Munich Style lager yeast since it will be a strain that I will be able to use in a wide variety of lagers.  The target brew date for this beer is 2/27.

On Deck: Belgian Blonde (2/20), Chocolate Chipotle Rauchbier (2/27)
Primary: Elder Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Irish Red Ale
Conditioning: Beef on Weck Ale

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stockade Pale Ale

This is the American Pale Ale I brewed back on January 9th, 2011.  I decided to call it "Stockade" because in my mind, it was a classic American Pale paying homage to one of the older colonial communities in New York, the Stockade in Schenectady.

I was a bit disappointed that I only brewed this as a 2 gallon all grain.  I am thinking that in the future this may be one that I actually brew for a second time, not that my previous beers haven't been worthy of being rebrewed, just the fact that I like to move on to different styles and recipes constantly.

This beer ended up being a great pale amber color, and it doesn't hold a full head, but retains a nice foaming ring around the rim.  The aroma is fairly mild with a hoppy note.  It is slightly sweeter with a light malty flavor, subtle biscuit after taste, and a slightly creamy mouth feel.  There is a medium hop presence with the slight citrusy taste that comes with the cascade hops.

Here is the recipe for a two gallon batch:
3.44 lb 2-Row Brewers Malt
6.5 oz Crystal Malt 20°L
0.8 oz Tettnanger (4.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
0.4 oz Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 ea WYeast 1056 American Ale

O.G.: 1.050
T.G.: 1.010
Alcohol: 5.2%
Bitterness: 43 IBU
SRM: 7.2

This was just entered in Amber Waves of Grain.  Hope it goes well...

On Deck: Elder Ale (2/13), Belgian Blonde (2/20)
Primary: Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale, Irish Red Ale

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Buffalo Breweries Lecture and Wilson House Tasting

A couple small things going on here besides more and more lake effect snow.  The brewing of the sarsaparilla ale went great on Sunday.  The flavor and aroma of the beer was amazing.  Once it ferments, I believe this will be a delicious late spring or summer braggot.  The key to that last statement is "once it ferments."  It's been extremely sluggish to start and I can only blame it on my own sluggishness.  The yeast was over a year expired, and although it is still viable, I should have made a starter but never got around to it.  I made some slants with the yeast that are beginning to show signs of growth which gives me hope that in the next day or so, fermentation will start.  If it doesn't, I will be stuck with pitching some more yeast.

There are a few things coming up in the next short while, however I'm not familiar with either of them enough to do a whole blog post on each one.  Those would be "Buffalo Breweries" lecture at the Tonawanda City Hall, sponsored by the Tonawanda Historical Society, and a beer tasting at the Wilson House.

The Buffalo Breweries lecture sounded quite interesting, and had I had a bit more notice, I would most likely attend.  I have not yet had a chance to read Nickel City Drafts, but this sounds like it is along the same lines.  Anyone who is interested in the historical aspect of brewing in Buffalo and the surrounding community, I would suggest you make an attempt to attend.  It is tomorrow night (2/9) at 7 pm at the Tonawanda City Hall.

The next event I saw a flyer for at work, and although it is about an hour away, it is sounding like I might have to take the trip out there.  It will be a paring of food and drink with Tim Herzog from Flying Bison at Wilson House in Wilson, NY.  The tasting takes place on 2/23 at 7pm and tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Wilson House, or by contacting

I tested the Irish Red today and transferred it to secondary today.  It tastes great, although since I have been drinking so much of the Rye-rish Red recently, it seems like this one is missing that nice little spice the rye gives.  The Beef on Weck ale will be bottled this Saturday.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

On Deck: Elder Ale (2/13), Belgian Blonde (2/20)
Primary: Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale, Irish Red Ale

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Belgian Blonde

It was another brew day today, so I only have my Elder beer to brew before I have nothing left in the queue.  This left me in quite the predicament, so I will have to add another beer to the brew calendar.  I decided to let Marygrace choose it.  She wanted to go with a Belgian Blonde Ale, similar to a Leffe, and I must say, I wasn't too enthused about this beer since the last Blonde that Jay and I attempted was infected.  But I have to keep forging on ahead an have to leave those bad beers behind me.

I am going to do this beer completely in style per BJCP, although eventually I may have to branch out from this standard and include some orange zest and possibly some pink peppercorns to give it a little bit more of a spicy note yet fruity at the same time.

For this one though, I will be using a Belgian Pilsner malt and extra light malt extract as my base.  I will be using honey malt to give it a slight honey flavor and to add some color, and I will be using candied Belgian sugar in order to boost the initial gravity.  For hops, I will be using Hallertau for bittering and I will be trying to get a hold of some Spalt for aroma.  And finally, for yeast I think I will be going with a French Saison yeast.  It should impart some spicy and fruity notes that should compliment the beer nicely.  The target brew date for this beer will be 2/20.

On Deck: Elder Ale (2/13), Belgian Blonde (2/20)
Primary: Irish Red Ale, Sarsaparilla Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale

Thursday, February 3, 2011

5th Annual Art of Beer

Another year, another Art of Beer is upon us.  This time it is being held on Friday, March 4th.  I am looking forward to all of the delicious foods and beers that will be at this event.

Over the past few times I've been able to get a taste of some beers that I typically wouldn't have forked the money over for without trying, one of them being Genesee Bock and another being Ithaca Beer Company's Ground Break.

A few highlights of the participants are:
Flying Bison
Certo Brothers (The distribute EBC, Ommegang, Sam Adams, Southern Tier, and plenty more)
Mr. Goodbar (They always bring two live ales to sample)
Pearl Street
And many more...

Just like last year, the tickets are $25 pre-sale or $30 at the door (although I wouldn't wait since they may sell out).  As always, you can get your tickets at Niagara Tradition Homebrew.

On Deck: Sarsaparilla Ale (2/6)
Primary: Irish Red Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale
Carbonating: American Pale Ale
Drinking: Rye-rish Red Ale

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fancy Beer Night Round 1

I'm just going to start off by saying that Saturday was a great day for beer all around.  In Buffalo, Flying Bison hosted their annual chili cook-off and raised over $1,100 for Cornerstone Manor, a women and children shelter in Buffalo.  They had a lot of their beers to sample such as Blizzard Bock, their Barley wine, and an oatmeal pale ale, all of which were quite delicious.  They even had 6 packs of the 2009 vintage of barley wine for only $22, which I made sure I grabbed myself one.

Down in Austin, TX, Jester King Craft Brewery had their grand opening.  (Jay did a whole blog post about it that you can check out here.)  Then on top of all of that, a few of us got together and had a fancy beer night, where only beers over $10 a bottle were allowed.  (I did sneak in a couple of my homebrews.)

We didn't quite plan it, but it seemed like the featured brewery of the night was Ommegang.  We sampled the Witte, Biere de Mars, Adoration, and Chocolate Indulgence.  I would have to say that my favorite from this section was Biere de Mars, and not only because of the magical space dust.  It was extremely well balanced and the typical farmhouse/biere de mars tartness, and since I am in the middle of reading Farmhouse Ales right now, I was even more drawn to this beer.  There is not too much else I can say, other than go out and try it.

The next prominently featured brewery was Ithaca.  From them, we sampled two from their Excelsior line, White Gold and Le Bleu.  My favorite of the two here had to have been Le Bleu.  It was quite an interesting blueberry lambic which from the tartness of the blueberries and the bacteria made it taste as everyone said "a sour patch kid."  It definitely was not something that I would be able to drink a whole bottle myself, but one that would be best shared with a few other friends as we did that night.

We sampled at least ten beers that night and it probably wasn't the best idea since we had a general idea of an order to taste them in, but after a while, your taste buds would get tired all of the flavors started blending in.  One of those beers that blended in for me was Lucifer from the Belgian brewery Het Anker.  It followed Biere de Mars that night so it did not get a fair judgement from myself because of the lingering flavors, however I had the foresight to cap it off with a champagne saver that came with our Rabbit corkscrew set and tasted it last night.  It was delicious and was extremely characteristic of a Belgian Saison, light in color with excellent head, and slightly spicy, fruity and tarty.  I can only aim to achieve something like this when I attempt to brew by first Saison this summer.

On Deck: Sarsaparilla Ale (2/6)
Primary: Irish Red Ale
Secondary: Beef on Weck Ale
Carbonating: American Pale Ale
Drinking: Rye-rish Red Ale