It’s that time of the year

Grabbing the glass

By Brewmaster Charles Blitzstein

Fall is here. Leaves are starting to turn. And pumpkin everything is making it’s appearance.

Now I’m a guy that loves pumpkin pie, and I mean love. By pumpkin tea, cookies, donuts, coffee, ice cream, and more? Yuch! While I agree that chocolate makes everything better, the same does not go for pumpkin spice.

Please people. Let us purists have our pumpkin pie with whipped cream in peace and let us decry everything pumpkin in the other realms.

That being said, even I must brew a seasonal beer. So, no, not another pumpkin ale. This year it’s an homage to Ginger snap cookies. Hey, they are seasonal! So it’s gonna be Charlie’s Gingersnap Ale. Yes, it has pumpkin spice, but it has a full half pound of fresh ginger in the boil. It’s gonna be a big beer, with and ABV around 12.2. If that doesn’t put a little blush on those cheeks, I don’t know what will. (I’m sure we all could guess but hey, this is PG-13)

Like all things that come to pass, it will take a while. 10-14 days in the fermenter, 1-2 weeks in a secondary, then bottling conditioning and bottle aging.

So, November. Maybe I’ll open one or two by Thanksgiving. More on the flavor profile then. But if the wort flavor is any indication….wow!

David v Goliath

Once again, the fight for craft beer takes another turn as Distributers fight to keep craft breweries down. Don’t the Pols realize that the jobs craft beer produces are right there in their home state? Big beer might produce more jobs at a single plant, but the money produced goes out of state, and often out of the country. Craft beer profits stay here!

Winter Doldrums

6076532_01bebb5fee_zSpring cannot get here soon enough. It isn’t the worst winter we’ve had; compared to last year, it’s downright mild. But it has been a cold January and February. Hence, the garage has been too cold to brew in. Yes, the propane burners make it tolerable, but getting to that point is pretty bad.

I prefer being able to keep the garage doors open while I brew, or even move the show outdoors. There’s nothing like the feeling of brewing on a nice sunny day wearing street clothes, sans coat. Moving about with a thick outer coat on is an accident waiting to happen. I am waiting to stand near the boil kettle and start smelling charring wool. I’ve heard it can happen. (My summer grilling experience isn’t complete until I’ve singed all the hair off my arms)

Soon, real soon. The weather will break, and so will my budget as I ramp up production. I have upgraded to a Keggle setup so it’s 12 gallons at a time from now on. I plan to bottle a good deal of it, and keg some as well.

One good thing about wintertime, it gives you time to plan. I have several new recipes I’d like to brew and can’t wait.

Soon, real soon now…..

Best Craft Beers – Consumer Reports

Was_soll_ich_werden_34You know you’ve arrived if you’re finally being rated in Consumer Reports

Best Craft Beers – Consumer Reports.

Until now, craft beer has enjoyed modest publicity, being reviewed in mostly beer oriented publications and local media. Yes, we’ve had the occasional national article. Being rated by Consumer Reports kicks it up to a whole new level. It means we matter.

Interestingly, CR defines craft beer as beer that is produced by “small, independent, and traditional” brewers and “produces at most 6 million barrels of beer a year.” Six million barrels? I think it’s time we come up with a new definition of craft beer. I like the “small and independent” but “traditional”? I would hardly call Sam Calagione “traditional.” Let’s go with innovative. Six million barrels? Maybe in the case of Dogfish Head, but I doubt Neshaminy Creek Brewing, a Great American Beer Festival 2013 Gold Medal winner for their Churchville Lager, produces six million barrels. BeerTrotter, a website that reviews GABF winners, has Neshaminy Creek at “…around 1,100 barrels brewed in 2012, the building may be churning out as many as 7,000 barrels within a few years.”

I have some issues with the article. Shock Top being listed as a CR Best Buy? It’s inclusion as a craft beer is appalling, but that’s what you get when you define a craft as under six million barrels production. Most craft beer snobs sneer at their inclusion. To their credit, CR includes a statement that they  “…included craft beers that market themselves as such.” That explains a lot, but made me wrinkle my brow a bit. I think they should have refined their definition a bit before undertaking this type of review.

So what makes a craft beer? I think I’m going to go with a paraphrase of Justice Potter Stewart’s quote on pornography, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“Craft beer”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”

What is your definition of a craft beer?

Happy New Year to you all

Happy New BeerWelcome 2015

2014 is officially in the books. No more can happen, bad or good that year. There were some high points, and some low points. But this is not where we discuss that.

One thing that has remained constant is beer. You can have one (or two) after a tough day at work to take the edge off. You can have several while celebrating a life event. What has changed over the years, is that the beer has gotten better. We are no longer tied to one of several mass-produced types of lager. We don’t have to settle for mass-produces mediocrity. The variety of beer out there, is staggering. Whether you like light beer that does have flavor, an amber with some bite to it, or a stout you can almost chew, it’s out there.

At times the choices can be daunting. Sometimes I spend more time mix and matching a six pack then I do in cooking the dinner for the beers. But I am rewarded when I take that first sip.

Lately, there has been some bantering on twitter about hops. Some consider the pro-hops faction to be beer snobs. Others want nothing but porters and stouts to be produced. All I can say is, be glad that whatever your preferences, you have a multitude of beers to choose from. We live in the Beer Days of Thunder. Breweries are opening at an incredible pace, each making a wide variety of types. If you can’t find a beer style that suits you today, you must not like beer.

Happy New Year.

In Fermentum Veritas

Charlie “Lightstone” Blitzstein

Budweiser sales decline: Americans now drink more craft beer than Bud.

Budweiser sales decline: Americans now drink more craft beer than Bud..

I would have hoped this but now it’s a reality. Hopefully the trend continues.

Perhaps there’s hope for America, Riots over the racial divide, moving closer to a religious war, denying the most obvious basic science. Yet, Americans are finally realizing beer does not have to taste like nothing.

What distinguishes a craft beer from commercial swill is that craft beer uses three times as much grain to brew the same amount of beer. Not because the brewer wants to waste grain, but because that’s what it takes to make real, honest to goodness beer. Large scale commercial breweries, like most corporations, are trying to maximize profits. If they can squeeze another percent profit by using cheaper ingredients, they will. Typically, the people making those types of decisions have no clue what effect their change will have on the taste of the product. All they know is their profit goes up.

The American auto industry suffered from this way of thinking back in the sixties and seventies. We make “commercial quality” cars. If Americans want real quality, then they need to buy one of those really expensive foreign jobs.  At the same time, the Japanese were on a mission to make cars with zero defects, cars with features we wanted. It worked and American auto shares plummeted. Now, if you look around the highways, there are as many, if not more foreign cars than domestic.

What happened in the beer industry is the same. During the seventies, brewery after brewery was bought up by the major players of the day, Mostly Anheuser Bush, and either closed outright or consolidated into the parent companies production stream. Many fine local breweries were shuttered permanently. We lost a lot of good breweries during that time. One I remember was Horlacher from Allentown, PA. You could put a glass filled with Horlacher right next to one filled with Heineken and I doubt anyone could tell the difference. They were bought out in 1978 and ceased to exist.

In fementum veritas!

Nine beers many Americans no longer drink

Budweiser_BeerNine beers many Americans no longer drink.

An interesting article. I had always been told that when times get tough, people drink more. What happened to beer drinkers that caused declines in sales of nearly 70% in some brands? My take is twofold.

First, a general move away from light beers. The low calorie has peaked and now people are looking for beer that has a better taste then carbonated water wit a pinch of alcohol. Flavor became important again.

Second, and, I believe, the most important, is that the great majority of the brews listed are now foreign owned. What was Anheuser-Busch thinking when they sold out to InBev? Bud drinkers are regular Joes, drinking Bud while watching their favorite football team. American beers for American fans. Tell them that their standard brew is not an import benefiting Belgium and that doesn’t sit well with Joe Sixpack.  Want proof? Sales of Yuengling have grown steadily at the same time major brands are shrinking. Sales of craft beer have been similarly rising. Yes, the recession of 2008 put pressure on all sales in the US, but the craft beer market didn’t decline, is just slowed a bit.

Brew Weekend

What a beautiful Fall weekend it was. Attended a family function on Saturday and then made it a brew day on Sunday. Tried a new brew, a variation on a theme. We’re going to call it Nosy Pepper. When it’s finally in production, you’ll understand why. It’s a porter, and contains a healthy dose of Jalapeño peppers, which I grew in my garden this year. I’ll let you know how it comes out when it’s out of the fermenter and into bottles. I hope to try my hand at a number of brew styles that incorporate local ingredients as well as ingredients that I grow.

On the drawing board are some brews that are in honor of my family heritage. I’m developing beers to honor my Grandmother (German from the Alsace-Lorraine region) and Grandfather (Japanese,  from the Nagasaki region), Father (Austrian  Turkish among other things), Father-in-Law (Polish, Russian, and Cuban) as well as some others. I hope to have food to match the regions as well….


PS – Wow, this is a big beer. OG came in at 1.092. Two days into fermentation, the High Krausen overflowed and caused a bit of a mess around the fermenter. Luckily, that doesn’t affect the beer. Can’t wait to try this one. The estimated ABV is around 10.2!

Update – One of the tastiest beers I’ve brewed to date. Heavy bouquet of peppers emanates from the glass. Distinctive  pepper notes in the beer with just a hint of heat. The beer goes great with Mexican, Indian, ribs, or any strong, spicy food. And it keeps getting better with age…