Category Archives: Meetings

Philly Pub Crawl 2012

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.  And perhaps, the greatest beer city in the US as it is now called by many.  Knowing this, we had a little pub crawl to see just how great things are going.  Starting at Nodding Head, some berliner weiss (award winning no less) was a nice and refreshing inbibe.  From there, a short wander to Monk’s which most folks know well for some interesting Belgians and a realization that it is always crowded (no surprise, great food and beer lead to that).  A little walk further, and up the stairs to the Perch Pub.  A bit newer, another great place for some great craft brews and little plates to keep thing going.  Taking a little further walk, our group ended up at Tria another well known wine and beer bar.  A cheese plate a few beers later, the suggestion was made for dinner; The Percy Street Barbeque.  Finding it turned out to be easy; you’re close when you can smell the hickory smoke!  After pork cheeks, pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and more great beers it was time to call it a night! Conclusion:  Philly is indeed a great beer city.  See it for yourself, you won’t regret it!

Big Brew 2012 – Brown ales

Across two locations (Suydam Farms and Princeton Homebrew) our homebrew club was hard brewing for National Homebrew day.  Following PALE ALES tradition, the recommended recipes from the AHA were turned down in favor of a different recipe: Brown ale threeway.  A good grist of optic malt, carapils, crystal 40L, and carafa III special laid a sturdy foundation for three styles of brown ale:  British hops and yeast to create a rich sweet brown ale, American hops and yeast to create a hoppy and sweet brown ale, and a small dose of bittering hops and a choice between a Flemish or Oud bruin yeast blends to create a sour brown ale.

Brewers came together with cars and trucks packed full of gear, showing a wide diversity of equipment and methods of churning out homebrew.

Keeping with tradition a toast for all homebrewers was held in the afternoon, followed by mint juleps in the afternoon to coincide with the Kentucky Derby!  Not to mention the variety of food and homebrews provided by members, it turned out to be another great Big Brew.  Nearly 200 gallons were made!

A big thanks goes out to the Suydam family for hosting the club at Suydam farms, and Gino for hosting the monster mash next door to Princeton Homebrew!

Annual Club Competition Results

Congratulations to Tim Kowalski (1st); Mark Russo (2nd); Russell Acevedo (3rd); and Ryan Hansen (4th). A big thanks goes out to all our sponsors: Princeton Homebrew, The Firkin Tavern, White Labs, Kane Brewing, Hop Union, Hub City and the Harvest Moon. Thanks for all the great pics, Dawn.

Arrogance — It’s All Relative: February Meeting

Dennis Flynn, the Regional Sales Rep for Stone Brewing Company, was kind enough to spend Valentine’s Day Eve with us at Trenton Social. Dennis led about 30 PALE ALES members through a tasting of a variety of Stone’s brews. Of course, it was only fitting for a meeting of the PALE ALES homebrew club to start things off with Stone’s flagship beer — the Pale Ale. From there, the arrogance came in heaps. We had the Arrogant Bastard, the Double Bastard and finally the 11.11.11 Vertical Epic.

Stone’s ability to push the progression of brewing has helped it set new standards along the way for US craft brewers. Few would argue with the idea that it was Stone that single-handedly created the “west coast style.” And I’m not talking about putting out a rap album based primarily on Parliament Funkadelic samples. I’m talking about a balanced, hop forward style that really didn’t exist back in the early 90s when Arrogant Bastard hit the shelves for the first time. As Joe Bair, owner of Princeton Homebrew tells it, “When I first opened my store, a 5-gallon batch of hoppy beer had no more than 3 ounces of hops. That all changed when the Arrogant Bastard clone recipes started circulating. Now, its not unusual to see a half-pound of hops in a single batch of beer.”

Its great to see that despite Stone’s incredible growth, that they manage find and keep well-versed and passionate people like Dennis working for them. His presentation struck a great balance for the few PALE ALErs that were new to Stone as well as all the Stoners (long-time Stone fans) in the room. Having been a part of a dozen or more of similar tasting meetings like this, Dennis is definitely among the best of his peers. We greatly appreciate him taking the time to come all the way down from Brooklyn! You can follow Dennis on Twitter @stonetristate and on Facebook.

January Meeting: What Not to Brew

It’s not often that the beer we sample at our homebrew club meetings doesn’t get completely drank. Of course, there is the occasional brewery that is anxious for us to taste samples of their latest attempt to dethrone Blue Moon. But, this is a little bit different. The purpose of this meeting was to intentionally taste bad beers to isolate different flavors and aromas that are associated with brewing defects. Its one thing to know that something smells or tastes “off.” But its another thing entirely to be able to isolate it, learn from it, and prevent it from happening again.

A huge debt of gratitude goes out to Dr. Steve Rowley for putting together a fantastic set of powerpoint slides and tinkering with a case of cheap Mexican beer. He added chemical compounds to each beer to emulate about 8 different brewing defects. We covered Dicetyl, Isoamyl Acetate, Phenyols, Iron, Chlorophenol, and Dimenthyl Sulfide. The crowd favorite was the good old fashioned Skunked Beer! And this is one you can try at home without a chemistry set! Find yourself a brown bottle, a green one and a clear one. Pour the exact same beer in all three and put them in the sun for a few minutes. Now, starting with a control beer that never was put in the sun, taste each of them. The results will surprise you.

A big thanks to Triumph for putting us up in their Sky Box for the evening and keeping pint glasses full so that we had some FINE beer to drink between mouthfuls of unpleasantries. And of course, thanks for the pics, Dawn!


2012 Annual Holiday Party

Our annual potluck feast was carried off with great success on the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Many thanks to all those who brought food and beer, and special thanks to Chuck and Amelia for hosting it once again this year in the special not-really-square room, complete with wood-fired pizza oven, which was working well (no leftover pizza at all!). The lighting was no good for non-flash photography, but I did my best under the circumstances. [Tony]

GuinnessLESS Meeting

You never know when things are going to go completely pare shaped on you. However, I think we managed to pull off an informative and fun evening despite a “no show” from our scheduled sales rep from Guinness.Luckily, the rep wasn’t bringing the beer! Instead, our host Ed Goracy of Hub City pulled some cases of Guinness products out of the warehouse and had them waiting for us — a the perfect temperature. Club Member Dave Rawlins took up the challenge and walked us through each beer. We started off the evening with Harp then onto Smithwicks. Next up was the newest addition to the lineup: Guinness Black Lager. Then onto the Extra Stout and the relatively new Export Stout. It seemed to me that the Extra Stout was by far the club favorite. Feel free to post your own impressions of these beers as a comment to this post!

A special thanks to Ed Goracy and Hub City for once again being a generous host to PALE ALES! I also owe a thank you to Dave Rawlins, Clay Spence and Joe Bair for their help in making the best of the circumstances. And of course, a big thanks to Dawn for great pics.


Ithaca Raises the Bar at the Firkin

Wow, what a meeting! Brewery Rep Extraordinaire, Eric VanZile took us through a series of beers that ticked all the boxes — a session wheat beer, some gigantically hoppy brews and even a 2-year old Belgian quad. Eric’s been at Ithaca for seven years and seems to have had his hands in every aspect of the company. Its evident in just a couple of minutes of talking to him that his enthusiasm for the brand and his passion for craft beer is not something that was memorized off the company brochure. Eric is the real deal.

I’m not sure about you, but a certain brewery’s apricot beer kinda spoiled my pallet for fruit beers. I’ll admit, I drank my share of a “numbered” beer back in the day. I even stumbled on a six-pack holder in my basement just recently. But the beer never really stood up to the test of time for me. You know that album that you have such fond memories of, but then you go back and listen to it a few years later and you can’t imagine what you were thinking? Well, those VT fruit beers were my Stone Temple Pilots. I mention this, because I had never actually tried Ithaca’s Apricot Wheat until the other night. But, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed it was going to be some knock-off trick beer that was super sweet and with an over the top fruit flavor. It was very well balanced and had a surprisingly crisp, dry finish! Given its mass appeal, its not hard to believe that it outsells all the other labels at Ithaca.

Next up, we all dove into a huge pile of fresh cascade, chinook and crystal hops and rolled around for a half hour. Well, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. But the CascaZilla definitely left your pallet with the feeling of doing a cannonball into a pool of hops.

When we started planning this meeting over the Summer, I mentioned to Bryan Liegel, the owner of the Firkin, that it would be really cool if he could arrange to have a special Ithaca brew on tap the night of the meeting. I had no idea that we’d be pulling pints off one of only 2 kegs of Ithaca’s Outdoor Harvest Ale in South Jersey. There were only six delivered to the entire state. It’s a fantastic example of a hoppy American pale ale made entirely with hops grown in NY State. Do yourself a favor and get over there to try some of this before its all gone. [Edit: its gone!]

Next up was the Flower Power IPA. Don’t let the name fool you. This ain’t no delicate session beer. Its a big pale ale with an extremely hoppy profile. Forget about the trip to India, five additions give this enough hops to preserve it to Mars and back. Let’s call it a Interplanetary Pale Ale.

Another seasonal was up next — Cold Front is a Belgian Style amber. Belgian farmhouse yeast and some subtle noble hops really give this one an authentic flavor.

The last beer of the night was a really special one. The Excelsior TWELVE was a beer brewed for their 12th anniversary — TWO YEARS AGO! Yes, that’s right, we had a beautifully-aged 10% trappist ale to cap off the night. Speaking of aging, ALL of the beers we tasted were beautifully conditioned. None of those “green beers” that immediately had you thinking about how you should squirrel the rest of the six pack away in the basement for a few months.

Ithaca is making flawless beers with quality ingredients and bold flavors. They’re pushing the limit on popular styles and seem to be one batch ahead of everyone else. To sum up, Ithaca has their tongue firmly planted on craft brewing’s 9-volt battery and they can’t bring themselves to pull it off. Kudos!

Thanks, Eric! Thanks, Ithaca! And thanks Bryan for being such a great host to PALE ALES!

Visit to Harvest Moon Brewery ON the Harvest Moon

Yes, that’s right — the PALE ALES were at the Harvest Moon Brewery on the actual Harvest Moon of 2011.

And what a night it was. For those of you that may have skipped this meeting because you hadn’t been impressed with HM’s selections of the past — its time to give them another try. We sampled 7 fantastic beers on Monday! HM’s new Head Brewer, Kyle McDonald, walked us through each beer. Overall, Kyle is taking HM’s taps away from the English styles of their previous brewer and toward the German styles, but with some American influence.

MoonLight Kolschbier. There are no big malt flavors or huge hop additions to hide an off-flavor in a Kolsch. I knew it was going to be a good night as soon as I tasted this light, crisp straw colored brew. Kyle said he experimented with a batch of this at traditional kolsch fermentation temps (cooler), but the tiny flavor difference it added was not worth hogging up a tank for. Cooler fermentation = slower fermentation. So, this one gets brewed at traditional ale temps.

Simcoe Double IPA. HM filters all of their beers. But there was no filtering out the hop haze on this one! Big, bold and well-balanced!

MonkeyShine Weizenbock. Melanoidins galore in this wheat beer. But a fine example of the style nonetheless.

Lemon Sorachi Saison. I am pretty sure that we tasted a young version sample of this same batch of beer back in July at our Saison style meeting. The 3 months have done it a world of good! Its a whopping 9% and it tastes like a 5-6% brew. A couple of people noticed a coconut flavor that was probably the result of four pounds of lemon rind! Sorachi and saison were meant to be together.

Jimmy D’s Firehouse Red. This beer commemorates a heroic firefighter from New Brunswick that lost his life saving others. A portion of every pint goes to support a camp for kids with severe burn injuries. So, drink several!

Full Moon Pale Ale. Not only were we fortunate enough to drink this beer ON a full moon, but this particular batch was just shipped off to the Great American Beer festival for judging. I think we were all in agreement that this is a guaranteed medal winner. Good luck, Kyle! Our very own Dave Rawlins is headed out the the GABF to help HM pour brews next week.

Schwarzbier. Personally, I think it might have been a little too toasty for the style. But it was really chewy and rich. In a word, FANTASTIC!

This was a great night, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kyle for hosting us and keeping us well lubricated! Thanks, Tony (color) and Dawn (B&W) for the great pics in a very challenging light!

October 2011 Group Brew – Traditional Porter

The PALE ALES are planning to hold a group brew event in October 2011 where all members would brew a traditional English porter. Several members have invested a lot of time and energy into this, and we are hoping that you will find this as exciting as we do! If you have a minute, please read over the information below and respond to this post to let us know if you are interested. Also, if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please post those as well. Unfortunately, you’ll have to register an account on this site first, it’s the only way we can effectively keep out spammers. Thanks!

A traditional porter varies in several ways from the modern porter described in the BJCP guidelines. As Clay Spence discussed at the Saison meeting, the main difference is that “brown malts” were used as the base malt. These malts were kilned more than pale malts. Because of the extra kilning, they do not yield as much fermentable sugar. So, Clay’s test batch (85% brown malt, 15% six-row) which some of us tasted at the Saison meeting had an original gravity of ~1.070, and a final gravity of ~1.040. The taste was very full bodied – even a bit like a milkshake. But, obviously it was not very high in alcohol. Al from East Coast Yeast did a batch also, and his came out a bit higher ABV. Ryan Hansen is experimenting with using brettanomyces bacteria to help the yeast convert more of the sugars.

To participate in the October 2011 group brew, members will choose from one of two options. The first option which we encourage everyone to try out is to malting the grains yourself! Several members, including Joe Bair, Marc Leckington, and Ryan have been experimenting with this and will provide instructions for how to malt-your-own! There are 5 steps: steeping, germinating, drying, kilning, and mellowing. The entire process takes approximately 24 days, so it is not for the weak and lazy among us. For those people (like myself), the second option is to order a mix of modern malts that approximates the traditional recipe. To find out more information about the malting process, check out the Princeton Homebrew Facebook page.

Another difference between this group brew and the recent Big Brew is that it won’t be a single event where everyone meets up together. Instead, there would be “satellite” brews where several members in a given area meet up at someone’s house and brew together. This is a great chance to expand your brewing skills and try something new!

POLL (respond by commenting on this post)

1. I am interested in the malt-your-own traditional porter recipe.
2. I am interested in the modern malt recipe.
3. I am not interested in or able to participate this time.