Tag Archives: rye

Friday Linkage 6/19/2015

Summer is here and it is glorious. The vegetable garden is coming into its own—I even have little heads of cauliflower peeking out—and the miles are really starting to get racked up on the bike.

On to the links…

These New Quotes From Pope Francis Could Change The Debate On Climate Change—Climate change deniers will find a reason to quibble with the pope because their pocket books demand that they keep denying reality for their masters.

33% Of Electricity Produced In EU Now Comes From Renewables—Do I even need to comment on a headline like that?

Solar Power Passes 1% Global Threshold—One percent may not seem like a lot, but its significant because it means that solar is relevant in the grand scheme.

Survey Of Big Investment Companies Shows Why We Might Be On The Verge Of A Solar Power Boom—When big money begins investing in solar things will really take off.

Why Solar Panels are an Affordable and Smart Investment—I could just say, “Because they rock!” However, the logic is a little more sound than that:


100% Renewable Electricity For Minnesota Town’s Government Facilities—Talk about a solar garden!

India Just Upped Its Solar Target Five-Fold, Will Install More Solar This Year Than Germany—As the developing world deploys solar they will begin to leapfrog countries with a deeper investment commitment to the old fuel regime.

How In-Town Development Produces Less Traffic Than You Might Think—Car-centric development with bog boxes and acres of parking is really a dead end. No one, save for companies like WalMart, like the format because it is soul sucking in its conformity. Maybe the old way is better.

These Affordable Bamboo Houses were Built for Just $2,500 Each—When I see articles like this it makes me mad to read reports about how international organizations failed to build housing in Haiti despite millions in donations.

Farm Implement Clears Path for More Cover Crops—This is just cool. It’s cool to see old methods be made new by inventive engineering and a can do attitude.

Elementary Kids Dig Weeklong Camp about Urban Farming, Food—Kids need to dig around in the dirt and understand how our food is grown in order to grow up to become good consumers and stewards of the land.

Here’s the Latest Evidence of How Private Prisons Are Exploiting Inmates for Profit—Guess what? When you give companies a profit motive for keeping people in jail those companies are going to find ways to keep people in jail. Private prisons are one of the shames of our time.

How Walmart’s Hiding $76 billion in Secret Subsidiaries around the World—WalMart is a shitty company that take tax money to provide low wage jobs for people to sell stuff that is mostly made in China. Here’s a look at the subsidy picture:


Summit India Pale Ale & Frost Line Rye

The beers of Summit Brewing have a special place in my heart. I went to college in the state of Minnesota and it is in college where my taste in beer truly evolved. Some would say devolved when witnessing my love of cheap American lagers on hot summer days, but I digress.

Along with New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Newcastle Nut Brown Ale, Summit’s Extra Pale Ale was a local craft beer that you drank on those occasions when Busch Light from a cobra tap was not going to cut it for some reason. Over time as I have widened my beer horizons and as the number of breweries has exploded in the U.S. I have forgotten the great work being done by the long time craft brewers at Summit.

No more! With my keezer out of commission due to a faulty gas setup and no homebrew available to drink I trudged off to the liquor store in search of brewed wares. My eye fell to the Summit section primarily because of Frost Line Rye:

Frost Line Rye

Brewed as a seasonal in late winter, Frost Line Rye is a heavily rye focused beer—as opposed to beers that use a little rye—and it has a unique hop profile. Rye is said to give beers a spicy or peppery profile. I have brewed many extract rye recipes and used rye as a steeping grain. I have not, however, really noticed a pronounced spicy or peppery profile from these beers. Frost Line Rye did not have that flavor profile either. It was however dark, but not overbearing, with a unique body, attributable to the heavy rye influence, that was a nice springboard for the hops.

Frost Line Rye incorporates three different hops in two different ways. Summit and Citra are employed traditionally in the boil to give the beer its bitterness, which at 55 IBU counters the 5.8% ABV nicely. Citra and a so-called Experimental Hop #01210 are dry hopped to really bring out a bouquet of hop aromas that would be lost in the boil. Citra is one of my absolute favorite hops to employ by dry hopping. I find that it actually loses a lot of its characteristics when used in the boil, which is something I am going to talk about when I discuss my latest attempt at a house ale recipe.

Overall, Frost Line Rye is a good beer that an aficionado of dark and hoppy will want to give a go.

Purchase 3 Mug RatingSummit India Pale Ale’s presence in my cart was something of a surprise as I could have sworn that I grabbed the Extra Pale Ale six-pack. Not a bad surprise, just not what I was expecting when I got home and stocked the refrigerator. Oh well. What about India Pale Ale:

India Pale Ale

Apparently, India Pale Ale is no longer brewed and has been replace by True Brit IPA. All right. So, I either got an old six-pack of beer or I am drinking one of the last examples. Interesting.

India Pale Ale pours like an IPA. What I mean by that is you get to see the copper orange color and in a moment the first hop aromas hit your nose. There is absolutely nothing unexpected with this beer. It is a textbook example of an IPA. The American IPA is synonymous with the rebirth of brewing and the growth of craft brewing in the U.S. It is wicked easy to understand why this style was such a departure from the pale golden swill foisted upon us by the macro-lager overlords.

It’s thicker in body with an almost bread-like quality that lingers in your mouth while the hop aromas hit your olfactory senses full steam. After you swallow there is residual hop bitterness. Can you imagine what it was like to be the first people throwing down pints of a beer like this when the rest of the world thought that beer was a choice between Miller Lite or Bud Light? Michelob if you were feeling particularly rakish that evening.

Like Frost Line Rye this is a well-done beer.

Purchase 3 Mug RatingAfter realizing my error in not grabbing Extra Pale Ale, which was the beer I remember drinking on summer nights during college, I know that I will have to make a return trip to the liquor store.

Rye Ale from the Keezer

I think that I finally have my keezer dialed in and there have been no incidents with its operation over the past couple of weeks.  My original pale ale is gone and I am on to my second Cornelius keg of homebrew.

This recipe is a rye ale.  In the past I have experimented with various rye ales to varying degrees of success—one recipe was a little too aggressive and others were a little more palatable—but no real knock it out of the park recipes.  So, it was off to try again:

Keezer Rye Ale

Unlike prior extract recipes that used steeping grains, this recipe uses a technique called “steep to convert” or partial mash because I am also using some liquid malt extract.  It was a pretty heavy load of grain that was steeped in the beginning:

  • 16 oz. Flaked Rye
  • 12 oz. US 2-Row Pale Malt
  • 8 oz. Honey Malt
  • 4 oz. Briess Munich 10L
  • 2 oz. Briess Vienna Malt

Once this was done steeping for 45 minutes, 3.3 lbs of Munton’s Light LME was added at 60 minutes and 20 minutes into the boil.  For bittering 1 ounce of Columbus hops were added at 30 minutes and 1 ounce of Citra hops were added at 10 minutes.  A Whirfloc tablet was thrown in with five minutes left in the boil.

The results were…meh.  I did not notice an appreciable difference from the truckload of grain that was steeped at the beginning of the boil compared with recipes that used significantly fewer grains, so that feels like a wasted effort.

Even though the beer was dry hopped with Citra hops, quickly becoming one of my favorite hops, I tasted none of the citrus or grapefruit notes that the hop is known for.

iBrewmaster calculated the final ABV at 5.11% and the bitterness at ~52 IBU which seem right when I drink a pint from the keezer.  It’s not a bad beer, per se, but a beer that really does not have a defining trait that makes you want to brew another batch which I feel is the death knell of any homebrewed beer.

It took a little fiddling with the gas settings on my keezer to get the proper pour, but even then the beer just sort of slides across the palate and leaves no memory of its presence:

One Mug Homebrew

Samuel Adams Got Me Again

I have been seduced by the sampler pack yet again.  And, again, it was a sampler from Samuel Adams.  The devious grin of the Founding Father drew me in and the chance to try six different beers from one twelve pack was too good to pass up while I wait for my latest homebrew—an Irish red ale—to finish bottle conditioning.

This particular sampler was full of “summer” beers that included Boston Lager, Belgian Session, Little White Rye, Summer Ale, Porch Rocker, and Blueberry Hill Lager.  I won’t get into the merits of Boston Lager at length here because I have covered it in the past and this beer is so well known.  If you have any inclination toward craft beer, you have probably had a Sam Adams Boston Lager by now.

I am going to talk about the beers in the order that I enjoyed them starting with Belgian Session:

Belgian Session

I am fool for session beers.  These beers are low in alcohol and bitterness, but make up for that in the spicy, citrus, or floral notes from the malts, hops, and spices used in brewing.  It’s like the heavier notes in most beers get tamped down and the little flavor notes get amped up.

Belgian Session comes through with those flavors very well.  Session beers, a style that is hard to define but generally denotes lower alcohol and clean finish, are the perfect accompaniments for summer.  The temperatures go up and when you find some shade this type of beer is desirable.

Little White Rye was the surprise of the bunch:

Little White Rye

Similar in its base profile to some of the other beers in the sampler, the two distinct differences are the inclusion of rye malt—a personal favorite of mine for just about any beer—and white sage.

I knew what to expect when it came to rye, but I was slightly disappointed because I did not really note any of the peppery bite I have come to associate with rye beers.  Maybe my palate is not sensitive enough to register subtle notes of malted grains.  Oh well.

The white sage, however, came through is a totally unexpected way.  I expected the inclusion of a pretty potent taste and aroma like sage to either be gimmicky or overpowering.  Somehow neither of these things happened and it leads to a really unique beer.  Unlike Blueberry Hill Lager, which is discussed later and shares a similar basic profile, Little White Rye did not taste like I was consuming the experiment gone wrong of a mad brewer.

Samuel Adams is well-known for tying its beers to the seasons—Winter Lager, Alpine Spring, White Christmas, etc.—and for summer there is a seasonal variant:

Summer Ale

Summer ale is like summer songs on the radio.  You can drink this without remembering very much about it the next day and you won’t really care.  Generally referred to as “lawnmower” beers, Porch Rocker and its ilk drink a little too light for me because there is little attempt to balance the alcohol or malt with any bitterness.  In Porch Rocker’s case, coming in a just 7 IBU, this is one of the least bitter beers you can probably find without drinking gruit ale.  I may not be a dyed in the wool hophead, but I want a little bit more from my beer in terms of aroma and bitterness.

There is something evocative about sitting on a porch during a hot summer day that has been seared in the brains of beer marketers because I keep seeing the imagery being used to sell me beer:

Porch Rocker

Porch Rocker is supposed to be a take on a Bavarian Radler, which is a beer mixed drink consisting of beer and either soda or lemonade.  Sound like a shandy?  Yep, it’s pretty much a shandy.  Therefore, sweetness is on tap.

With Porch Rocker you get sweet and you get lemon, but not much else.  It’s like a guilty pleasure of beer that does not drink like beer at all.  How it ended up in a beer sampler pack is beyond me.  It should have been sitting next to Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Most children have had their mother say to them at one point or another, “If you do not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I have never understood that logic and it definitely does not apply to Blueberry Hill Lager:

Blueberry Hill

First off, this is a better beer than Wild Blue from AB-InBev.  Rarely have I only had one drink of a beer and poured the remaining bottles’ contents down the drain but in the case of Wild Blue I was so inclined.  Already, Blueberry Hill Lager had a steep road to climb because of my preconceived notions of how vile a blueberry beer could be.

Sweet is the first word that comes to mind.  Not sweet in a “kiss of sugar” kind of way.  This beer was sweet in a grape soda kind of way.  Sickly sweet.  For some beer drinkers this might be a good thing—like the people who can actually drink Redd’s Apple Ale—but count this kid out.

The dominant not is sweet.  At 5.5% ABV and 18 IBU there is not nearly enough alcohol and/or bitterness to counteract the sweetness.  To complicate matters, the sole hop used—Tettnang Tettnanger—is not noted for its bold profile so any hop aroma or bitterness, whatever may have been present, is overwhelmed by sweet blueberry.  It is a one note beer in a bad way.

In summation, I would say that two of the summer beers were suprises to the good side—Belgian Session and Little White Rye—while three disappointed—Summer Ale, Porch Rocker, and Blueberry Hill Lager.

I have to give more credit to the Boston Beer Company than I have in the past.  Not only are they out there brewing all kinds of different beers and distributing them all over the United States, which is a great thing, but they have taken on the giant, Anheuser Busch prior to the merger with InBev.

It was a story that I was ignorant of until reading Barry C. Lynn’s Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction where he talks about AB deciding it wanted to destroy Samuel Adams.  Starting with ads criticizing the location of the brewery, at the time done under contract at various locations, AB was later accused of manipulating markets for various ingredients to pressure craft brewers that it viewed as a threat to its business.  This is truly the elephant being bothered by the gnat because at the time AB probably spilled more beer than Boston Beer brewed.

Boston Beer not only survived its brush with the giant, but it set the stage for a lot of people to follow and gain access to distribution channels that might have been closed off had AB succeeded in slaying Boston Beer.  The craft beer movement may have been stalled by the efforts of AB, but it was in no way stopped.

Given where craft beer is at today vis a vis the market, in that people demand these beers, it’s hard to imagine the entire movement being strangled in its infancy.  However, if Boston Beer had been beaten that very well may have been the outcome.  For that I raise a glass and say, “Thank you Boston Beer.”

A Quick Spin through the St. Louis Craft Beer Scene

In the U.S., the Brewers Association figures that 2,403 craft breweries operated for some or all of 2012.  This would represent the highest mark since the late 1800s.   Other pundits estimate that there are approximately 1,000 new breweries at some stage in the planning process right now.  It is amazing to witness the growth of an industry that is essentially organic and totally free form.

Spend some time touring the new craft brewers in St. Louis and you will quickly get an understanding for how so many breweries can operate successfully.  Success is primarily a function of serving a segment or niche of the market effectively.  Try to be everything to everyone and you end up producing mass-market swill.

With my local friend being the tour guide, we set off on Saturday to visit three craft brewers: 4 Hands Brewing, Civil Life Brewing Company, and Perennial Artisan Ales.  Each of these brewers runs a “tasting room,” so every beer we drank came about as fresh from the source as possible.

I really fell down on the job and failed to take pictures of the beers I drank or the tasting rooms themselves, but the Internet is a wondrous place for finding either of these things in droves.

4 hands logo4 Hands Brewing, Google Map, is located immediately south of downtown in an area that can charitably be called run-down industrial.  Things are changing and a lot of new housing is being built on reclaimed brownfield land, but the old industrial character is still very much present and it infuses the beers made by 4 Hands.  Heck, even the tables and chairs are very industrial or steampunk chic being made from black plumbing pipe and roughhewn boards.

The beer menu had two options that really caught my eye: Single Speed Session and Divided Sky Rye IPA.  Session beers are hard to classify because the style is not very well defined.  In general, these beers come in at an ABV lower than 5% and finish very cleanly.  The most common attribute assigned to this style is “very drinkable.”  Single Speed Session falls into this category.  I could not have asked for a better beer to start my evening and it was made all the better by being able to enjoy it outside.

Divided Sky Rye IPA is a different drinking experience.  Rye is supposed to add bold peppery flavors to beer.  Balanced with a strong hop profile, it can make a beer have layers of malty complexity you cannot get with traditional malted grains.  Divided Sky balances the rye against Centennial, Columbus, and Cascade hops, which are a potent trio of hop flavors.  All in all, it’s a great way to showcase rye.

Civil-Life-Brewing-LogoCivil Life Brewing Company, Google Map, has a tasting room that feels like you are walking into a neighborhood pub for a pint.  Clad in wood with real dart boards and an excellent outside seating area, the tasting room just feels comfortable.

I ended up deciding on two pints: American Pale Ale and Rye Pale Ale (Notice a rye theme?).  These two beers need to be considered together because they seem to share a lot of the same characteristics.  The folks at Civil Life are quick to point out that pale ale is the quitesential beer style of the American craft movement and it is defined by its use of American “C” hops.  As an aside, I think American pale ale as a style is defined by the use of Cascade and Willamette hops.

Like the Divided Sky Rye IPA, the Rye Pale Ale is hitting the right combination by combining the bold flavors of rye malt with the strong hop profile of American pale ale.  You would not want to try and do this with lighter profile beers like a wheat based beer.  Both beers reminded me of the best homebrewed beers that I have sampled, in a good way.  That is to say that the beer style may be common, but the particular take is unique to the brewer in a way that is not discernible in non-technical beer speak.  Everyone should be so lucky as to have a local outfit like Civil Life knocking out well-crafted beers.

Bravo to Civil Life for having a bad ass solar system on the roof:

Civil Life Solar Array

If you get a chance to swing by the Civil Life tasting room make sure and nosh on some of the soft pretzels.  I am partial to the cream cheese and jalapeno variety.

Perennial LogoPerennial Artisan Ales, Google Map, was a totally unknown quantity to me until my friend mentioned it on Saturday night.  Walking into the tasting room felt like a total departure from the aesthetic and tone of either 4 Hands or Civil Life.  It felt more…European?  Experimental?

I ended up with a snifter of 17 on the recommendation of my guide’s girlfriend.  I am sorry to say, because the guys at Perennial seemed so earnest about the business of brewing, the beer tasted like a liquid version of a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie.  Every time I burped a little the next day at the zoo I could smell the faint hint of Thin Mint in my mouth.  However, I would totally give Perennial another shot to impress me with their take on craft beer.  It just was not happening on this particular night.

I did walk away from Perennial Artisan Ales with one revelation: Billy Goat chips.  These chips might have been the single best potato chip that I have ever eaten and a great compliment to any beer if you are looking for a salt fix.  I really am looking forward to another St. Louis visit so I can score some Billy Goat chips.

I also want to apologize to friends and fans of Urban Chestnut.  I had planned on making a side trip to the biergarten on Friday night, but a combination of a late departure in Eastern Iowa and a grumpy two-year-old son prevented me from making it.  Next time, I promise.

March Beer Thoughts

When I returned from Kauai, two, two batches of beer were waiting to be poured out of bottles.

Rye Ale and Stout

Rye is a trend in the drinks world.  You cannot take a spin in a liquor store without hitting a bottle of rye whiskey and rye is taking hold in the beer world as well.  In the past, I have tried my hand at rye beer recipes.  I found the resulting beers to be more of a rye novelty—not a lot of rye character—than a rye beer—lots of rye character.  For a late winter/early spring beer I decided to amp up the rye quotient to produce a more rye forward beer:

Rye Ale

What’s the story?  I started off with the Northern Brewer American Rye Ale recipe using Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast. This is a recipe that I have made before with good results.

However, I added 1 pound of Weyermann Chocolate Rye Malt as a steeping grain to increase the rye flavor to something more noticeable.  Otherwise, the recipe is as called for from Northern Brewer.  The result is an aggressively rye flavored beer.  As it stands now the taste is teetering between aggressive novelty and something that can be worked with to produce a really standout beer.

Northern Brewer also has a Rye Stout recipe that has been getting some pretty rave reviews.  So, I brewed a batch with some modifications:

Rye Stout

Primarily, I reduced the boil time of the hops to reduce the bittering from a predicted ~55 IBU to something more like ~40 IBU.  I prefer my stouts to be less bitter and the 40 IBU mark seems about perfect to me.

Unlike past beers, I waited an additional week to uncork the first bottles giving them at least three weeks of bottle conditioning.

The result?  This may be the best beer that I have brewed in over a year of doing this.  The flavors are balanced very well, not too bitter and not too much alcohol.  The rye flavors are peppery enough to shine through the heavy malt flavor of the stout.

As a known fan of Surly’s Coffee Bender, I cannot help but think that this beer could really be sent to the moon by the addition of coffee in some way.  I think I have found my next recipe.

Australian Sparkling Ale

Sometimes, when you get a catalog from Northern Brewer or another homebrew shop there are recipe kits that just grab your imagination for some reason.  The Australian Sparkling Ale did that for me.

The beer is described as a descendant of a descendant of a Burton ale.  A little research—okay, I used Google—led me to several descriptions of a Burton as an antiquated British ale style.  That did not really help me and I have not had the time or inclination to spend any more effort to figure out what a Burton ale really is.  Why?  Because my batch of Australian Sparkling Ale is in the carboy, fully krausened, and about a week away from bottles.

As I was pouring in the specified Pride of Ringwood hops I could not help think that I was making a Lord of the Rings inspired beer.  Something about the word Ringwood that makes me think of wizards or druids or mysticism.  Come to think of it, there is something mystical about putting all these ingredients into a container and ending up with beer.  Heck, it’s downright magical.  Maybe I am a wizard.

Post Super Bowl Beer Thoughts

For the first time in a few years I actually watched the Super Bowl in its entirety.  With no skin in the game—either team could have won and I would have cared not the slightest bit more either way—the game needs to be entertaining.  Well, we got that in droves on Sunday evening.  It helped that I was pint deep in beer, both of the homebrew variety and commercially produced.

Northwest Ale

Styles of beer are getting to be so muddied.  Is it an amber ale or an IPA or an oak-aged monkey ale?  I don’t know.  One style of beer that is associated with the craft beer renaissance in the United States is amber ale.  I associate this style mostly with New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, but there are countless varieties.

Homebrewers often cut their teeth on a variation of an amber ale.  Commonly, Wyeast 1056 “American Ale” or 1272 “American Ale II” are used to ferment the beer.  However, those yeasts are known for producing a platform for hops to be showcased in the place of a heavier malt profile.  I wanted to see what would happen if I let the hops take a backseat:

Northwest Ale

So, I started with an American Ale recipe, but instead of the traditional yeasts I chose Wyeast 1332 “Northwest Ale.”  The description, per Northern Brewer, is that the yeast “Produces a malty and mildly fruity ale with good depth and complexity.”  The malty part is what I was going for.  What is the verdict?

Pretty good.  I would be interested to see how two beers brewed the same time using the same recipe, but using different yeasts, would turn out because it is so hard to compare a beer that I brewed in January with one that I brewed in August or February of the prior year.  I lack the palate memory.  The beer is definitely malty.  I would not say that it has a fruity profile in any significant way, which is good because I was afraid of some banana flavors leaking in.  Everyone knows how I hate bananas.

Rye Ale and Rye Stout

I am on a little bit of a rye kick this month.  I have just put a batch of rye ale into bottles and I have a batch of rye stout that is fully krausened right now in a carboy downstairs.

Rye makes an interesting addition to a beer because it is supposed to add a peppery or spicy note to the beer that you just cannot get with malted barley.  I am sure that there are purists who will quote Germanic rules of brewing that say rye cannot be part of a true beer recipe, but I say hokum in my best Sheldon Cooper voice.

Does Fracking Threaten America’s Small Brewers?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing if you want to get all technical, to unleash natural gas in shale formations is booming all over the United States.  It’s part of the U.S. rise to prominence as an energy producer after spending the better part of the past few decades hearing about our dependence on everyone but ourselves for energy.  However, there is a dark side and that dark side is primarily about the impact of the process on the water supply.

It’s one thing to affect my drinking water, but affect my beer and those are fighting words.