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!

Kane Brewery Tour

Over 30 PALE ALERS trekked out to the Kane Brewery last night just outside Asbury Park. Michael, Glenn, and Clay were on hand to take us on a tour of their 7,500 square foot brewhouse. According to Michael Kane, it was exactly a year ago that they signed their lease and started retrofitting the building and installing equipment.

Kane has a 20-barrel system with a 25-barrel mash/lauter tun — giving them room for some big beers. Their fermenters are 40 barrels, so every brew day is a “double batcher.” Their system was designed and built by DME in Canada. But it seemed like the installer that DME sent down was worth his weight in gold. In addition to helping them plan for expansion and future improvements, his technical understanding of the power and plumbing requirements was invaluable to Kane’s subcontractors.

According to the brewer, Clay, the steam jacket system they have is so fast and efficient that the kettle is at a full boil as its being filled! And the boil is so vigorous that they their hop utilization is better than they expected. They actually plan to dial back some of the bittering hops because of this!

It was an honor to be among the very first people to try their first 3 production-sized batches. I don’t recall a meeting where a series of beers from a brewer were so well received and “favorites” were so evenly split. First up was the Single Fin at 5.0%. This Belgian Style’s sessionability was not at the expense of a full flavor and aroma profile. A 5.5% Rye Beer called After Glow was up next. Even though the grain bill was about 20% rye [edit: it was only 10%], the rye was not over the top. Instead it seemed to create a dryness that was well balanced with the rest of the malt. Last was a 6.5% West Coast Style IPA called “Head High.” Another fantastic, well-balanced beer!

This might be a good time to mention that all three of these beers were VERY boldly hopped. All of them had well balanced — but distinct — hop flavors and aromas. According to Clay, they intend to keep things going in this direction by combining West Coast hopping schedules with East Coast styles and carving out a new style palette along the way.

If you missed the meeting, Kane’s tasting room should be open to the public in a week. Of course, check their blog for the latest news out of Kane and be sure to friend them on Facebook. Thanks, Dawn, for all the great pics!

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.

Saison Style Meeting Recap

Many thanks to Paul Corkery and his wife Robin for hosting us at their home. The grill was cranking out some great food and the corn was easily the best I have had so far this year. Good thing we had some beer to wash it all down!

We had about 30 folks in attendance when we called the meeting to order at 7:30 (including 3 new members).  Before diving in the style discussion, we talked a bit about some ideas we have been working on for an October Big Brew. Clay Spence gave us a little history about the beer we are trying to replicate — a historical porter from the 18th Century. The basic concept is to use a ton of brown malt and create a beer with a very high finishing gravity, but a very low ABV. This creates a beer with a velvety mouth feel that is 2nd to none. Our original plan was to malt all of the grain ourselves using solar power. But after germinating a test batch of 9 lbs of barley, we quickly realized that this is a huge undertaking with wide variety of points of failure. The slightest mistake in the germination phase might result in a 5 gallon batch of vinegar. But, it was the horrid smell of the germinating grain was the final nail in the coffin on that idea. Instead, we may malt some of the specialty grains used in the batch. More details on the Big Brew will come out as we get closer. Meanwhile, you can follow the malting experiment at the Princeton Homebrew Facebook Page. For now, hold October 22 on your calendar.

Ryan Hansen, PALE ALES VP, kicked off the style portion of the meeting with some history of the saison style as we tried some craft brewed varieties, including a skunked Saison Dupont Avril (3.5%), the Saison Dupont (regular), and Fantome. There were at least a dozen homebrewed saisons being passed around too. Al Buck, Chief Yeast Propagator at East Coast Yeast, was on hand to sample beers and provide feedback.

Be sure to check out the Club Calendar for the latest details on upcoming meetings. Thanks for the great photos, Dawn!

June Meeting Recap: We All Had a Golden Ticket

Ed “Willie Wonka” Goracy of Hub City was an amazing host last night. Not only did we get to tour one of the largest beer warehouses in the State (Great Wall of Coors by Kate), but we got to try some really special beers. I was incorrect in my email yesterday about which “deconstruction” beer we were tasting. Turns out Sam Adams released an entire series called Deconstructed. Its is basically the Latitude 48 IPA recipe brewed with different hops resulting in six entirely different tasting beers — one hop in each beer. It was a great way to isolate the different hop varieties! When a guy that runs a warehouse with 18 tractor trailer deliveries a day tells you that you got the last case, you know you got something very special. Thanks, Ed! And the Longshot series was really good too. Well, the lavender beer got a few grimaces from the rooom, but the belgian style IPA and blackened hop beers were both crowd pleasers. Definitely worth trying to find a sixpack if you didn’t join us last night. In total, I think we had about 35 folks in attendance with at least 5 first-timers.

Thanks, Dawn for all that great pics!

May 2011 Update

Greetings Homebrewers!

It’s an honor to be given the chance to take the helm of PALE ALES. The Board and I are very excited about picking up on the ongoing initiatives and seeing them through as well as starting a few new ones of our own. But before I go on, I’d like to publicly acknowledge and thank Kevin Trayner for serving as the group’s President for the past five years — including two “dark years” where Princeton Homebrew was closed (and ingredients were hard to come by). Kudos, Kevin! I’m grateful that Kevin has agreed to stay on the Board to help with the transition and motivate us with his enthusiasm for all things beer!

I’m happy to announce PALE ALES is back on a monthly meeting schedule! We will be meeting on the 2nd Monday of each month. Check the Calendar page for the latest.

Happy Brewing!
Marc Leckington

Big Brew 2011 Recap & Picture Gallery

One of our biggest and best Big Brews so far! We brewed over 125 gallons of beer with a mix of over 20 brewers. Saw quite a few visitors, lots of great beer and food, and a few new members; not to mention the backdraft flare from a propane burner (mine actually), and a few 6-foot electrical arcs from the overhead powerline.

We had a toast later on from the club’s first Big Brew, Strong Ale of 14-15 years in age, provided by Prof. Steve Rowley. Pretty darn tasty! I look forward to sampling this Big Brew, made exclusively with East Coast yeast – mostly ECY08 Saison Brasserie blend.

Speaking of yeast, Al and Nina Buck proprietors of EC Yeast showed up personally to deliver the yeast. Note – the optimum temp range for the yeast is 75-85 deg. Personally, I would have to say this was one of the most active yeasts I have ever seen at a Big Brew. Bubbling like crazy in an hour or so – most remarkable as it was in my basement at 70 deg. (I have moved it upstairs since – didn’t realize how chill it was). Al and Nina whatever you are feeding them, keep it up.

If anyone wants to pass along data about their batch to East Coast Yeast, Joe (joe@solarhomebrew) would be happy to collect them. For the info to be useful, Joe needs mash temp, OG, FG and fermentation temp.

— Kevin Trayner

The Princeton and Local Environs Ale and Lager Enthusiast Society (PALE ALES) is a homebrew club based in Mercer County, New Jersey.