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Santa Rosa/San Francisco Trip

Blind Pig

To grow older is to grow better. 

That seems to be the case with our buddy Paul.  He recently hit a landmark birthday, 70 I believe, and to enjoy an early wake with the living not-fully-yet-deceased 5 of us headed north to attempt to pickle him in beer.  Even if the preservation effects wouldn’t last forever, we knew we’d have a lot of fun.  Paul set the agenda and we were along for the ride so here’s what happened in the order I remember.

 

For all the glory the Airport Authority totes about their new fancy-pants Terminal 2, we left out of the 1960′s standard of Terminal 1 on the winged glory bus of Southwest into Oakland.  The beer selection out of Terminal 1 and their temp bar continues to lack but a Lightening Elemental Pils really hit the spot.  We arrived, got our vehicle and burned rubber upto Santa Rosa.  Dumping our car and bags off at the hotel we hopped in a few cabs to Russian River brewpub.  And the dispatcher lied, “We don’t have minivan cabs” as the 2nd cab to pick us up was, in fact, a minivan.

EW, Stawney, Alex, Crowley & Paul

After a brutal, dry wait at the bar for 1 1/2hrs we, as Vinnie put it later, got the best table in the house.  During that trying time many a pint of Blind Pig, PtE and Row 2, Hill 456 were consumed.  It was tough, it was hard…who am I kidding, I barely realized how long we’d been waiting.  Aside from all the usual fantastic world-class beer on tap they had 3 special beers, Propitiation (sour porter), Shadow of a Doubt & Huge Large “Sound Czech” Pils were on tap.  RRBC makes to lagers, this one named for Vinnie’s favorite band “Huge Large” and the other Great Beer/Great Wine…which shows up on BA as an APA but I thought during our tour Vinnie said it was a lager.

Being an unashamed tourist and the fact they had special glassware for the Huge Large I ordered up a “Round of Boots!” for our table, also making good souvenirs:

Round of Boots!

Quite freshing, .5L boots of pils!  And into the night the sours and imperial porters came and went.  The proper minivan cab was our ride home.

Friday “A tale of two breweries, methodologies and philosophies”

Russian River production facility vs. Moonlight Brewing facility.

Brunch of Champions: PtE

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel we rallied and were at RR production facility at the crack of 11am.  Vinnie met us and started our day off right, 8 day old PtE.  We sat in the worker’s bar and got to know each other.  Many questions were passed about Rip Current’s startup status and some factoids about this facility.  At one point this location was going to be opened to the public but due to production disruptions tours may have caused the idea was discarded.  However, they do have a nice little bar onsite.

About 10 people work at the production facility on a given day.

 

 

 

 

RRBC Production Facility

What we learned was this brewery had a lot of its hot side bought from Dogfish Head after they did a major expansion.  Vinnie & Crew tweaked it and squeezed out better efficiency than it was producing on the east coast.  Further, when they do their next expansion it was my understand they intend to sell this facility turn-key and build a custom brewery from the ground up.  Something akin to what Green Flash and Stone did during their expansions.

Not pictured are the keg washer using sanitary steam and the de-airing watering system they use to flush their system with to avoid all possibility of picking up oxygen into the beer.

 

In fact, much of the tour was about eliminating sources for dissolved oxygen (DO) entering the beer during any phase of production.  Avoiding DO seems to be one of Vinnie’s quests as a brewer and now that they’re in the black they can afford the more expensive toys to eliminate DO.  Maybe this attention to detail is what sets RRBC on a level above most others?

Vinnie, Stawney, Paul, Alex

Or maybe it’s all these barrels…temp controlled and I could have crawled in there and lived a happy life.  The small conical is a test batch of new line of beers RRBC intends to release later.  More tech talk about production, hop ordering and details of the brewery that I’ve since forgotten.  Before leaving we sampled an experimental beer for the coming line as they work out the details.  Lesson learned, good beer is dry beer and they try to finish most of their non-sours out at 1.008.

Paul setup a tour of Moonlight Brewing for us next.  After nearly getting lost (sort of) we drove out to the ‘hop farm’ in the middle of wine country.  Brian Hunt met us in the drive way and after introductions we got the tour of the brewery.  “You’ve been to a brewery before?  Well, this is it.”  And that was the tour.  Which frankly, was all you needed.  Unless a brewery is doing something radically different 95% of all breweries pretty much operate the same.

I did learn his brewhouse was built in the late 70′s and he uses grundies as his main lagering tanks. 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonlight Cold Room

 

It is very difficult to photograph Moonlight’s cold room.  After Brian poured our first samples we headed out to the drive way and grabbed chairs under a tree to talk.  Unlike the specific technical brewing details of RRBC, Moonlight was much more relaxed.

I asked about zoning since he was brewing on what appeared to be residential property.  Was told his land is zoned for dual purpose, if he process his crop (hops) onsite then he can produce beer.  I don’t believe he’s much of a fan of growing hops but it’s the nature of his situation. 

 

Stacked Grundies

One of the stories Brian told us was the history of Grundy (7bbl) tanks leaving pubs in England and coming to the US.  Which is how he came to use them in his cold room.  The county would only allow him to build a 1 story brewhouse, so he made it as tall as they’d allow and then built a tall cold room where he welded vertical grundies 2 high.  The top ones are used for long term conditioning since he doesn’t care to get up there and clean them often.

Brian Hunt pouring samples.

Pour samples from horizontal grundies, 4 wide and 4 tall.  One thing Brian does with his wet hops is to, of course, make a wethop beer, then after racking it to kegs he transfers over his Christmas ale and lets it sit there until it’s time to keg it, about a year later.

Brian is a man brewing beer on his terms, not in a rush, and brewing the way he’s always brewed.  He still delievers most of his kegs to his accounts and might bottle at the new location. I also wouldn’t ask him what any ‘style’ of beer his is, you’ll end up in a 30 minute lecture about “Norwegian Style” beer.  This was by far one of my personal highlights of the trip.  The difference in styles of brewing between these two breweries spanned the entire spectrum.

 

Moonlight Brewing Co

If you’ve heard Moonlight is going to open a tasting room, it’s true.  He’ll be moving his brewing facility from the Hop Field location elsewhere.  Brewing here seems to be at the end of an era.  He did not give details as to when the tasting room would be open.

Next up is Lagunitas, unfortunately after walking in I was having a case of the bottle flu and returned to the car to nap.  The previous night I may have been over served and it caught up with me. I’m told the rest of the guys had a great time sampling various beers and took a tour of the new 250bbl brewhouse.  Being in the best shape some 2hrs later I drove us back to the hotel where we caught a cab back to RRBC pub. 

Dinner and only 2 beers each we were tired and cashed it in.  This wraps up our Santa Rosa portion of the trip.

Saturday

After another healthy bacon infused breakfast we headed over to Napa to visit Downtown Joe’s.

Downtown Joe’s Brewhouse

Tour of the brewhouse by Joe himself.  A 7bbl pub system installed 20 something years ago by Brian Hunt.  We thought the stacked grundy cold room looked eerily familiar! 

Some decent beer, nothing to get too excited about but not a place worth avoiding if you’re stuck drinking grape juice all day.  We had a light lunch here and then headed back to Oakland to check in to our last hotel.

City Beer

We then caught the BART to City Beer using BeerbyBart.com and met up with Steve and Gail who run said website.  Place is totally different from the last time I was here several years ago.  Some interesting beer on tap and of course lots of bottles but nothing we can’t find in San Diego.  In fact some of the best beer on tap was our local flavor.  From here we walked through the ghetto, thankfully it was broad daylight, to get over to the new Mikkeller Bar.  We stood in a short 10 minute line to get in.  During that time we watched the corner drug dealer sell his crack and watched his clients smoke it as fast as possible.

Not exactly in the best part of town, watch your step for bodies and muggers.

 About 40 taps plus the cellar in the basement.  Which unfortunately gets hot when there are many people down there. A long list of imported beers and rare sours.  The only IPA was from Ninkasi and several offerings had kicked without being replaced. 

What-the-What?!?!

Prices were high and that was a major turnoff, but I’m told for some of the beer being offered Stateside it was a pretty good deal.  I stuck to a few barrel aged beers and enjoyed one Cantillion.

Ever the salesman, Paul spent time speaking Mikkel and built a friendship.  Mikkel is asking for Rip Current kegs for his stateside bars.  Woot!

 

 

 

 

 

After this we headed back to Oakland via BART and hit up the Trappist.  I had a much better time here and loved the location.  A table was easily found and we had a light dinner here.  I can’t remember the beer we had but none was lacking.  Just after 10 we started the walk through the ghetto to Beer Revolution only to be told they had called last call and they closed at 11.  Which seems crazy earlier but the doorman directed us to the Oude Depot next door.

Apparently the husband/wife team that ran Beer Rev divorced and she opened up a beer joint next door that’s open until 1am.  No frills here, just a straight up bar thrown together.  Decent and deep tap list kept us happy and we finished up around 12am.

Oude Depot

A walk back past the Oakland Police station got us home.

Sunday

Final day had us checking out and headed up to the Triple Rock Brewpub.  Sara was our server and a native of San Diego north county.  A lunch and a few beers of which the APA and IPA were found to be favorites. Throughout our trip we’d been ordering quite a few half pints, more than a taster but without all the commitments that ride with a pint.  She found this hilarious that ‘pro brewers’ drank half pints and was a personal vindication since she was made fun of by the other staff. 

Drakes

Final stop before heading to the airport to return home.  Many good beers on tap and no brewery tour.  We met Tasty McDole of the Brewing Network here and worked our way through their barrel aged beers and sours.

 The weather was absolutely perfect for Alex to catch a sunburn on 1 leg and the rest of us to wind down before the flight home. 

Tasty’s parting words “Have a good flight back, your beer scene down there is better than ours.”

All in all a fantastic trip and a great way to celebrate Paul’s birthday!

Categories : Beer Travels

DIY BrewRig Pt 1

EW’s Planned Brewhouse

Homebrewers, by large, are a quirky bunch.  Why on earth would we brew our own beer when we can travel to any bottleshop and buy it ready-to-go or visit anyone of our 70+ local breweries and have growlers filled with some of the best beer on the planet?  Their really isn’t an answer other than “Because we can.”  In that desire to brew our own we as a group are forever upgrading, improving and buying or building whatever we need to get that incrimental edge to mimic the pro’s to get one step closer to great beer.

Budgets vary so the toys we buy can vary a great deal as well.  While a $5,000 MoreBeer flat or tippy system would be fantastic to own or having John McKay build you a really sweet system designed to your spec’s full of shiny brushed stainless steel, sometimes that’s just not possible. Regardless if it would look fantastic glimmering in our SoCal sun.  There are alternatives.  I call it Hillbilly Homebrewing (no offense to any hillfolk), where building your own stand out of whatever materials are handy can be just as good as the Porsche Brewing System.

In the end it’s not how it’s made, just that it’s made well.

 Can you make great beer in a $150 starter kit?  The answer is yes, if you understand the conditions of the yeast temperature needs, proper yeast pitch, ability to chill the wort fast and a host of other advanced homebrewing knowledge which one doesn’t start with.  I know I sure didn’t.  Some very simple things help the brewday along and expdite the ease of making beer.  After all, if homebrewing is too much backbreaking labor there’s no real reason to do it yourself.  And thus we start on the journey from our first starter kits to garages and closets full of empty bottles, wort chillers, miscellaneous equipment, coolers, glass carboys, kegs, fermenters and of course all the craft commercial beer we buy on the way for inspiration.

The best piece of homebrewing equipment I’ve purchased so far is a house.  After all, I needed more space to put all the brewing junk which now includes chest freezers, a conical, bigger brewing pots, more bottles, more kegs and more of everything else.  The last beer I made was Nov of 2012.  Earlier this year I was ready to give up the hobby and focus more on woodworking.  That is until my bride said “NEIN” and told me we met over my passion for beer and homebrewing and I wasn’t allowed to quit.  I told her, “If I’m not out, I’m going all in.”

Which 440 words later brings me to the point of the New Brew Rig.

As mentioned earlier I enjoy wood working and have a ton of leftovers conviently stacked in the *other* pile in my garage next to the piles of homebrewing hardware.  With both hobbies you pick up stuff along the way and ‘rathole’ them.  A march pump here, a box of misc sanitary fittings there, piles of leftover 4×4′s and 1/2 sheets of plywood and then 4 years later, you get to put it all together.

The initial theory is: build a single gravity fed stand to batch sparge.  From there buy a larger 15g HLT and then add the pump in to vorlouf, add a few thermowells and some leftover temp controllers and start a Hillbilly HERMS.

The unfinished stand.

The stand is constructed with leftover ply and 4×4′s. I believe I had to purchase 4 6′ 4×4′s in order to suppliment the material I was missing.  Heights were chosen based on the existing burners and cooler I had, as well as being tall enough to gravity feed directly into a carboy w/o a pump.

Wired Brewstand

And now with paint and being wired up.  Simple household paint, the heat shield on the bottom of the burners will keep it from catching fire.  I cut up an extension cord and wired it into a GFI then to a switch with a pilot light (which you can’t see in daylight) to 2 outlets.  All the wires have driplines.  I’m not sold this is the best way to wire this up and I may build a control panel later.  I haven’t brewed with it yet.

This design is based on the equipment I had.  Still a work in progress and I’m waiting on an order from Brewer’s Hardware to get this rig fully functional.  Stay tuned for Pt II.

-EW

Categories : DIY

Mead Day August 3rd at 2pm

It’s the middle of summer and hot, hot, hot in East County. That means it’s time for mead. The official day was always the first Saturday in August and even though AHA has decided to drop this event, we are still having a get together on the 3rd. Mead Day is a day to celebrate man’s oldest fermented beverage. Instead of having people make mead at the event this year we will have one mead made as a demo most likely around 2-3 pm. So here’s your opportunity to learn a little and enjoy the many examples of commercial and home brewed meads that are shared.
Typically everyone brings a side to share. I’m planning to do street tacos so if you want to coordinate that’ s the theme. Not sure how that pairs with mead, but when did we ever really worry about that. So get creative.

Now don’t forget to bring your mead if you have it. If not sharing beer will not be frowned upon. Hope those interested will consider coming East and celebrating mead.

Please RSVP so I can plan on food amounts.

Thank you
Mary Anne and Bix
1524 Lily Avenue
El Cajon, CA 92021
619-890-4627 (c)
619-440-4627 (h)

Categories : Events

President’s Message – June 2013

In recent events over the last month we had the brewers swap meet at Societe Brewing Company where you could find a 10 gallon corny keg, vintage thermometers, co2 regulators, just about everything for someone looking to add to their brewery. On the same day there was a multi-homebrew club cider tasting at White Labs where multiple brewers using the same base apple juice fermented with various yeast strains supplied by White Labs. This experiment showcased the complexities and versatility of different strains and the different nuances that can be created through yeast selection.

At the May QUAFF general members meeting, Wes McCann’s presentation on European Lagers included a 100 % Vienna malt lager, showcasing the fantastic malt character of vienna malt while talking about the historic significance of European Amber Lagers. Thanks for taking the time to present this beer style Wes. We also got to try Andrew Provost’s Tap H2O VS. RO H20 Irish Red, and Paul Sangster’s Scottish 80. Thanks again for sharing.

The June general members meeting will feature QUAFF’s own Alex Van Horne and Intergalactic Brewing Company, one of San Diego’s newest nano brewery. I got a chance recently to visit his tasting room and found some of his beers to be out of this world, in a good way!

Upcoming events will be NHC in Philly, hopefully all of QUAFFs hard work will pay off in the second round of competition bringing back the title of Homebrew Club of the Year to QUAFF, fingers crossed. Good luck to all the brewers who advanced their brews.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll see you at the general members meeting on June 25th, make sure to get there early for the Summer YuleSmith pin cask as it will go quick. Cheers!

2013 Quaff Padres Tailgate – 15th Annual

Hello fellow Quaffers!
It’s that time of year again, when hope springs eternal and we can envision the Padres winning the National League West Pennant!!! That means it’s time once again to plan for one of Quaff’s fun events of the year – namely, the Quaff Padres Tailgate Party and Baseball Game. We’ll start selling tickets to our 2013 Quaff Padres Tailgate game (15th annual) at the May General Quaff meeting (5/28). While the ticket price for our group tickets is slightly higher this year at $29.50, the regular price went up by even more making this an even better deal than last year! Some come down and hang out at the Qualcomm parking lot (free parking) for some great beer & food before we take the trolley to go watch the Padres beat up on the San Francisco Giants (again!). The details for this year’s event are below.

The Game
Date: Saturday, July 13, 2012
Time: 7:10 p.m.
Opponent: San Francisco Giants
Seats: 50 Field Level Reserved Tickets ­ Left Field (We switched sides so as not to be looking into the setting sun)
Section 122, Rows 16, 17 & 18
Price: $29.50 each; face value is $45.50

The Tailgate:
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, Section J2 – usual spot
Tailgate times: 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Trolley to Petco Park: ~ $5.00 round trip
Travel time by trolley each way: 30 to 45 minutes

The Food:
Quaff will be providing bratwurst, hot dogs, chips and condiments. Members should bring their favorite potluck salad, side dish or dessert to share.

The Beer:
Members please bring some homebrew and/or some other special craft or microbrew bottled beer to share as well.

Game Pool: We’ll again have a pool with cash awards for the correct scores after the 3rd & 6th innings, plus final score. We’ve purchased 40 tickets again this year. As always, first come, first served, but no reservations! So bring cash or check (made out to Quaff Treasurer Chuck West) and catch me before or after the Quaff meeting.

Categories : Events

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