Inclined to Brew: An Introduction to Mead

photo by David Blaikie on flickr

 Mead.  The very word conjures up images of burly men with names like Lars and Sigurd drinking from large pewter tankards or perhaps the skulls of their latest conquests.  Made from honey, mead is probably one of the oldest known fermented beverages as records prove that it was made by nearly every major culture including the Egyptians, Romans, Mayans, and Aztecs. 

Honey has long been associated with fertility, and mead is no exception.  In fact, the term honeymoon is derived from a ritual of drinking mead soon after marriage to ensure the birth of a son.   The couple would consume mead for one month after the wedding  (mead -> honey, month -> moon).  Mead is truly the drink of myth and legend.

Mead is essentially fermented honey water and thus simpler to make than beer.   However, the simplicity of mead means that the flavor depends entirely on the quality of the honey.  The variability of honey crops means that mead is not normally commercially available.  In the land of mead, the homebrewer is king.

Mead does present some interesting challenges and decisions for the homebrewer.  Honey lacks the yeast nutrients for a nice, fast fermentation.   Fermentation may take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, but nutrients can be added to decrease the fermentation time to about 6 weeks.  Luckily, mead ferments at room temperature and can be kept for years.  Many people have created batches of mead upon the birth of a new daughter to be enjoyed on her wedding day.  

12 lbs of unrefined honey

I recently brewed my first batch of mead and a batch of cherry mead as well.  Next time, I’ll go through the mead making process.

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New Holland and Founders Tasting (Part 1)

TDY planned a great saturday to celebrate the beginning of the end to our summer!  We started off with a 2 hour paddle around the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers downtown.  The weather was absolutely beautiful, and the views of the city from the river are unrivaled.  If you are interested, Kayak Pittsburgh rents kayaks at $15/hr and no prior experience is necessary. 

After working up an appetite (and thirst), we grilled out some fajitas, complete with homemade salsa, and gathered together a large collection of New Holland and Founders selections for a tasting. New Holland is located in Holland, MI and Founders is located in Grand Rapids, MI so you can think of this as sampling the real fruits of Michigan.  Here’s a list of the beer that we tried out and some quick notes on what we thought.

  • Centennial IPA (F) 7.2% ABV, 65 IBU – very malty for an IPA with even a few hints of chocolate and caramel on the palate. a slight hoppy aroma but not much bitterness to speak of . 
  • Mad Hatter IPA (NH)  5.25% ABV – dry hopping provides more of a hop aroma (hints of something similar to Simcoe?).  The Mad Hatter is nice and crisp with still a touch of malt sweetness.  Better hop/malt balance than the Centennial.  The dry hop causes Mad Hatter to finish with a satisfying dryness.
  • Imperial Mad Hatter IPA (NH) 9.4% ABV – similar to the Mad Hatter but with the distinctive bite of a higher alcohol brew.  The alcohol actually balances the malt bill and helps bring some more of the hop character to the forefront. 
  • Red’s Rye IPA (F)  6.6% ABV,  70 IBU – Centennial with a touch of rye to create a richness of flavor that overcomes the strong malt bill.  Our favorite of all 4 of the IPAs, although nontraditional, has the most to offer in terms of flavor complexity and balance.  A rich deep red color and good head retention  create a visual experience to rival the taste.

 

 

  • Golden Cap Saison (NH) 6.25% ABV – Very sweet candy-like aroma reminiscent of a Belgian blonde ale. The flavor is sweet at first with a carbonation that feels light on the tongue and a finish that ends in a surprising sourness reminiscent of a Belgian gueze.  Golden Cap is a wonderful surprise and great on a hot summer night.  We should warn that this beer is not for everyone as many people shy away from this level of sweetness in a beer.
  • Cerise (F)  6.5% ABV, 15 IBU – Aroma reminiscent of a fresh baked cherry pie.  Fruity with a touch of sweetness but not artificial.  Finishes with a tartness that any good cherry pie should have.   Pours a beautiful light red color with a nice head.  Cerise is  truly a gateway fruit beer : introducing the style without being overly sweet.
  • Sundog Amber Ale (NH)  6% ABV – A typical amber ale that balances a bit of maltiness with just a slight touch of hops.
  • Curmudgeon Old Ale (F)  9.8% ABV, 50 IBU – Curmudgeon is all about the malt and therefore retains a characteristic sweetness that is evident even in the aroma.  With hints of roasted malts, caramel, and butterscotch, Curmudgeon seems like a dessert in a glass and so again is not for everyone.  Those that enjoy very malty or sweet beers will likely love Curmudgeon while American IPA “hopheads” will find this one hard to swallow.
  • Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (F) 8.5% ABV, 50 IBU –  A slimmed down version of Curmudgeon which is not as malty resulting in a much smoother flavor.  The Scotch Ale has a bit more roasted malt flavor than the straight sweetness of Curmudgeon.  Excellent head retention.

 

Our Favorite Beers 

Tim :  Founders Red’s Rye IPA – It’s really a unique beer with a great hop/malt balance and a flavor profile that is truly enhanced by the touch of rye.

Look for our  continuation of the New Holland and Founders Tasting  including New Holland’s Night Tripper Imperial Stout, Wheat Wine, and Poet Oatmeal Stout.

Local Hoplight: Pittsburgh Deli Co.

728 Copeland St. Shadyside

This is the first post in our Local Hoplight series which features off the beaten path Pittsburgh establishments where you can find some good craft brews.  The Pittsburgh Deli Co. is a great little spot in the heart of Shadyside (just off Walnut St.).  As a Shadyside resident, I recommend stopping by for a sandwich off their extensive deli menu.  The Tally Ho, which is an Italian sandwich on flatbread topped with a delicious olive tapenade, is a drunk yinzer favorite!

This neighborhood deli is not typically the sort of place that you would expect a good beer selection, but the Pittsburgh Deli Co. surprises with a respectable craft beer selection.  Not only do they have a variety of craft beer in bottles so that you can grab a few beers to go, but there is a rotating draft list of 6 beers.

L2R: Bell's Oberon Ale, Yuengling, Miller Lite, Magic Hat #9, Dogfishhead 60 min IPA, Guinness

The bottle selection rotates, but this past weekend included a healthy dose of Victory, Great Lakes, and Magic Hat offerings with a few nice surprises such as Boulder Beer’s Hazed and Infused, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and Rogue’s Chocolate Stout.  I recently paired the Tally Ho with a Heavy Seas summer ale which made for a refreshing late summer lunch.  Heavy Seas got this one right as it is  light and refreshing with a touch of sweetness.  If you find yourself in Shadyside, stop by for a sandwich and beer in a very laid back atmosphere.

Beers Around Town: Shakespeare is at The Library

Last night we enjoyed a few brews at The Library on Carson in the Southside.  This is one of our favorite places to find a great/plentiful tap and bottle list.  The tap list changes fairly often and always has a nice selection from pale ales, IPAs, ambers to stouts and seasonals.  So everyone can find something to enjoy or try for the first time.  East End Brewing is always proudly served on tap.  Last night a Big Hop IPA started things off at our table.  From there Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout stole the show for me. 

Appearance:  Dark in color with a tan creamy head and great retention.  As you drink the beer it leaves a nice lacing ring all the way down the pint glass.

Aroma:  Take one whiff of this and you will immediately know there is roasted and chocolate malt present.  I also got a hint of citrus from the hops.

Taste:  WOW!  Talk about smooth.  Don’t be surprised if you have more than one.  Initially you are hit with a sweet malty taste of roasted malt, dark chocolate and a slight undertone of hops.  Then the sweetness is gone and you are left with the bitterness of the chocolate malt.  The after-taste is bitter-sweet, but delish!  If you let the beer warm up to room temperature the roasty/chocolate flavors are even more prevalent.

Mouthfeel:  Creamy, smooth and with just the right amount of carbonation.  Again it goes down very easy.

Drink ability:  Some say just one is good enough.  I love this beer; especially with fall/winter approaching I would drink this all night.

So what do you think of the Shakespeare Stout?  Have you had this beer before?  Is your mouth watering/do you want a pint now?

New Belgium Announces Seasonal Beer with Seasonal Ad

To celebrate the release of their fall seasonal Hoptober, New Belgium evokes images from our favorite time of year in a soon-appearing print ad. You had us at “campfire.”

Hopefully we can track down a bottle and give those five hops and four malts a taste.

New Belgium Brewing Hoptober Ad

Brew at the Zoo Wrap-Up

Despite the rain, Jake and I made the trip out to the Pittsburgh Zoo for last weekend’s Brew at the Zoo fundraiser for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.  Apparently a large part of the city of Pittsburgh also attended as lines were pretty long, but there was beer and exotic animals so we still had a good time.  There was a good mix of beer and several live music acts.  Interestingly, there was plenty of free food from chips/pretzels to mini pulled pork sandwiches to a chocolate fountain in the main atrium of the PPQ aquarium.

Several homebrew clubs were in attendance lending another dimension to the brewfest experience.  Sixth Circle Brewing offered a variety of homebrews including Piss Water (American Cream Ale), a well rounded Dunkel, and a nice stout (which they use to make ice cream too!).  Shubrew was also in attendance with several selections including a creamy stout with some hints of chocolate and coffee.  The final tent boasted several Belgian selections including a framboise, Piraat, and St. Bernadus. 

As we ran into a few great old friends we kept tabs on all the beer gossip .  The homebrew tents kicked quickly and lots of people missed out, bummer dude.  Same thing happened at the last tent.  Did anyone else get Dragon’s Milk?  I’m pretty sure we drank most of it.  Others really enjoyed the Framboise served from Beet Nutz.  A few had high praises for McSorley’s, Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Pilsner) and the range of fruity wheat beers.  In talking with a few co-workers I heard a terrible terrible terrible rumor.  Can anyone verify if Miller was present?  I understand their beer is triple hopped brewed, but seriously WTF?!?!  Can’t you also triple hop brew piss?  Riddle me that Miller!

Brew at the Zoo attracts a wider audience than the typical brewfest, and it is nice to see people getting out and trying new beer.  However, this can result in a bit more of a mob mentality, without much order in the lines.  Additionally, the sheer number of people (and the downpour) make it difficult to get many discussions going with brewers/pourers.  With this in mind, Brew at the Zoo is a fun night out complete with zoo animals, good beer selection, and live music.  Where else can you sip on a glass of mead and watch a polar bear take a swim?

Brew at the Zoo Preview

Let’s not forget that this is for a great cause.  The Brew at the Zoo is a beer-tasting fundraiser benefiting the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.  Tickets are SOLD OUT!!!  It promises to be a great evening of beer, animals, music, food (whatever that might include) and other shenanigans.

We’ll start with the music.  Four bands will be performing at various points along the beer tasting walk.  The first band listed is “5 Alarm Flood”.  Their website is under construction, but thanks to YouTube it appears they are a fun live act with lots of covers……..Two Princes anyone.  “Seven Saturdays” is the next band on tap.  Myspace describes them as an acoustic/alternative/indie band.  Following “Seven Saturdays” is a band called “Rich Mahogany and the Leather-bound Books”, a soul/Motown/R&B type band.  Lastly its a rock/blues/jazz act, “The Drew Bentley Trio“.  All live music is fun to drink too, especially when you throw in wild/exotic animals.  If you want to see Donnie go to the RibFest.

Now for what we have all been waiting for……..the BEEEEEER!!!!  I am still trying to find a beer list.  The Brew at the Zoo website has a list of breweries that will be represented there.  I hope a few brewmasters are present to chat it up.  I have a feeling it will be mostly representatives from local distributors (I somehow think a brewer from Rogue in Newport, OR will not be at the Zoo, bummer!).  Anyhow, here is a list of breweries I am excited about.

  • Ballast Point Brewing = Give me something Hoppy, never let me down at the Library
  • Boulder Brewing = Sweaty Betty or the Brown IPA please
  • Ommegang Brewing = Need I say more
  • Conney Island Brewing =  Would love to get to know them better
  • Colorado Brewing = Brewery from the west, math says they should be decent at worst
  • Duck Rabbit Brewing = Give me something dark and good
  • Erie Brewing = almost anything other than Derailer……sorry not a huge fan
  • Founders = Fell in love after the beer tasting at the Harris Grill
  • Rogue = Cross your fingers for Shakespeare Stout
  • Ithaca = bring some Brown
  • Rust Belt = These guys are a lot of fun and very talkative about their craft
  • Southern Tier Brewing = One of my favorite east coast brewers other than East End…..speaking of which I didn’t see East End on the list, wtf?!?!
  • Terrapin Brewing = Lot 17 was one of the first I knew of that carried their Brown IPA
  • Troegs = remember when PCN toured the old smaller brewery?  Great stuff for PCN
  • ShuBrew = check out the website, very cool

I didn’t list it above, but there will be a ton of HOMEBREW samples as well.  As a homebrewer myself, I think this is so awesome that they invite homebrew clubs to join the fun.  I may never leave the homebrew area of the festival.  Please check out the Brew at the Zoo website for a full listing.  Ahhhh homebrew!!  Cheers to all the homebrewers reading!!

If anyone has more info on the Brew at the Zoo give us a heads up.  Last year there was a beer/walking map of the zoo on the website.  This year I am unable to find that.  You can contact us via twitter, thedrunkyinzer, or email thedrunkyinzer@gmail.com

I would also like to invite everyone to send in their top 3 beers from the festival.  TDY will share our top 3 as well in our Brew at the Zoo Review.  Extra bonus points (aka a free pint) if you spot TDY out and about at the Brew at the Zoo.

CHEERS!!!!