Sunday, September 25, 2011

Momo's Beer on Tap!

Today Momo's Pizza on Market Street randomly announced some things on their blog in a somewhat confusing manner... First they said that they were getting really close and we should stand by for more news (aside from the picture of their brewing equipment, they didn't even say what they were talking about). Later they announced they would be tapping their beers TONIGHT.

Marketing genius, I tell ya.

Seriously, though, why have they been keeping this so mysterious and weird? Is it so hard to pick a release date, even if it's a week in advance, and let us know? Are they "keeping it real" by having their Sunday regulars get first dibs?

Well I was busy tonight, but I was able to get over there around 8:45p, which worried me because they close at 9p. Despite the evil glares upon my entry, I was allowed to purchase the two beers (hey, someone has to rate these before Kevin). They had two beers - "Inaugural Amber" and "Big Papa's Porter." In short, they're pretty decent beers, though both seemed a bit light and catered to the masses - especially the porter. Deeeefinitely could be worse, though.

Anyway, I mainly just wanted to post this to let people know - go out and get it!

Cheers to MORE fresh Tallahassee beer!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Adventures in Homebrewing

Ah, another day, another boring class. That means it's time for a blog entry. Contenance Angloise? Eh, I'll take a beer.

Before we get started, a bit for the locals.

-Don't forget the weekly tasting at New Leaf on Saturday
-Fermentation's original release schedule says they're releasing a new Golden Horn beer on October 1st, but they haven't said anything else about it as of yet
-Momo's didn't release any beer this weekend, and myself and all sources were basically told, "I don't know. A couple/few weeks."

Now, let's talk homebrewing.

I've thought about writing about my adventures in homebrewing for awhile now, but I don't really know what to say... and I still really don't, so I'll ramble a bit and hopefully figure something out.

I suppose I should mention how I got started... that part's easy - my older brother, Calvin (pictured). He is completely responsible for beginning my interest in beer in general, let alone homebrewing. He's been doing it for years, and when I once asked him why people drink beer (I used to hate beer, but I just didn't know what was out there), he said something to me along the lines of, "It's not that you don't like beer - it's that you haven't had the right beer." The rest is history.

Before I got started, and I'm not 100% sure on these facts, I'm sure I brewed with my brother a bit, and possibly a few other people, and then started getting into commercial beer. My wife (girlfriend at the time) actually made the leap into homebrewing for me (a trend we'll see again later) by getting me a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas one year. After making their horrible first recipe, I immediately sought my brother's advice and started making my own recipes with his help. Unlike the Mr. Beer kits suggest, I started boiling, adding specialty grains, adding extra hops, using real adjuncts (fruit, etc.) instead of extracts, pitching liquid yeast, and so on.

Eventually I grew out of the kit and my roommate and I at UNI got a bunch of equipment and went to town, brewing quite a bit. I jumped into full 5-gallon extract brewing, bought a bigger pot, and started experimenting. My first full 5-gallon batch was a coffee Russian imperial stout, part of which I set aside and aged on Jack Daniels-soaked toasted oak chips. Go big or go home, I guess. This started to be my trend... I never really brewed anything normal, and my roommate at the time didn't help that fact. I started brewing fruit beers, coconut porters, and we both brewed a ton of weird ciders - many of which turned out... less than awesome. We even brewed a blueberry mead in honor of a famous visiting euphonium player. My roommate found a clone recipe for one of his favorite witbiers and we sent it to Calvin's hometown competition - the Drunk Monk Challenge - and didn't tell him. Him and his wife were both surprised when our names got called for a 3rd place ribbon in that category. To this day it's the only competition I've ever entered, for no specific reason, honestly. I also got involved with a homebrew club in town, CRAZE, and had a good time getting to know some of those guys, though at the time I was not nearly as experienced as they were.

For awhile, this kept going. I brewed a lot of extract 5-gallon batches over the next couple of years, even a coconut porter and a raspberry wheat for table favors at my wedding. I brewed with lots of different people as well - relatives, friends, fellow local homebrewers, etc. As always happens with homebrewers, I eventually felt the need for more control over my recipes and wanted to go all grain... but never wanted to purchase the equipment. My wife again made the leap for me by purchasing me an all grain ingredient kit for my birthday this summer... so I had to get the equipment right? Several hundred dollars later and I was happily pumping out my first all grain batch - an extremely hoppy IPA. I currently have a cooler type 3-tier system complete with a 10-gallon hot liquor tank, 10-gallon mash tun with a false bottom, and my old 8 gallon mega pot. I've since made two batches and already have several ideas for my next batches - with thanks to my wife, friends, and others.

The setup

The first IPA I made (pictured) turned out awesome. I would venture to say it is one of the best, if not the best, beer I have made to date. When I first tasted it I posted on Facebook something about how it tasted like pine dipped in caramelized grapefruit, or something like that. The hop character is very tasty, and I'm pretty proud of the beer. So far the people I've shared it with seem to enjoy it as well, but who knows. After that I wanted to try my hands at a more sessionable beer, and I took inspiration from a hoppy wheat beer of my brother's I had tasted recently. I took his recipe, altered it a bit, and produced what is a light, but tasty and slightly hoppy, wheat beer that is just under 5% and goes down like heaven on a hot day. Coupled with its sweet, hoppy aroma from loads of Centennial dry-hopping (pictured below), it's pretty dang good. Honestly, both of these brews had an ulterior motive for their production, but I won't get into that now. So far those are the only 2 all grain batches I've made, but as soon as I get a free day from work and school, more will be coming.

Dry-hopping the wheat

So what's next? Well, there is a coconut porter recipe I've made several times (though never all-grain), and I have a pretty awesome idea for it... imperial coconut porter! On top of that, I found out recently that I can get Palm Ridge Reserve Whiskey barrels through a distributor where I work... whiskey barrel aged imperial coconut porter! Yes, you read that right. If I can pull that off... this beer could be awesome. What's great about Palm Ridge Reserve is that it's local, high-quality, and the barrels are 5-gallons! It's like they're begging homebrewers to use them! Will do.

Palm Ridge barrels

Well, that's all for now, folks. Feel free to comment on here or email me with questions or anything you may have to say! This weekend I will be attending the Barrel-aged Hunahpu's release at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, so you can expect a post about that next week.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Local Updates

Well, folks, can you tell that school has started? I can.

In fact, I'm literally typing this blog in class. 12th century counterpoint? Eh, I'll take a beer.

In the near future I intend to write up a post about my adventures in homebrewing, both past and upcoming, but for now, a few local updates.

Momo's still hasn't updated anything on their website, but a co-worker told me he saw wort pumping last time he ate there. If anyone has any more information, feel free to comment on here. I know a couple of you get out that way more than I do.

I've also been checking Mike's Stone Baked Pizza's Facebook page and haven't seen anything at all about brewing. I'll probably shoot the brewer a text sometime soon.

For the tickers out there, I'm told that Tomahawk has Yuengling Oktoberfest on tap, oddly enough.

Fermentation Lounge announced via their Facebook that they will be tapping a beer from a brewery they've never had before on Friday or Saturday... for free. Nuts. I asked on their FB what it will be - my guess being Thomas Creek since that started showing up in town, but they also mentioned getting a keg of Liefman's Oud Bruin, so it may be that, but I don't know if they've had Liefman's before.

UPDATE: They responded on their Facebook "Intuition." I can only assume they mean Intuition Ale Works from Jacksonville, which I've never had. Sweet.

They've also started beer education, dubbed "Beer 101," on their blog. They're very brief, somewhat generic, and seemingly random as well, but it's nice that they're doing it nonetheless.

As for other events, don't forget about the Gordon Biersch event at Proof on the 21st and the upcoming Golden Horn releases at Ferm in October.


Sunday, September 4, 2011


It's about time for another personal article, but first, a local update.

Proof announced that on Wednesday, September 21st they will be having an event with a Gordon Biersch Uber Barrel. It's hard to find very much information about exactly what that is, but apparently it's a big wooden keg that is gravity served. I can't find any information as of yet if the barrel is actually wooden or just a keg/cask inside of a wooden barrel, which would be my guess.

The beer people that I've told about this event always respond with something like "Does it have to be Gordon Biersch beer?" Sadly, yes it does, but I think it's still pretty cool. I have rehearsal on Wednesday nights and probably won't be able to attend any more of Proof's events, sadly, so I won't be seeing you there for this one. The first 30 people get to keep their Uberbier mugs, by the way.

Now let's get on with the topic at hand. I promise it to be long, dry, and quite boring.

As I've mentioned many times on this blog, I less-than-three quite a bit. Quite a bit. It's an awesome site. Whenever I mention this fact, I inevitably get asked this type of question: "Well, what about Beer Advocate?" or "Why not Beer Advocate?"

Well, the answer isn't that simple, I suppose, but I have my reasons. One reason is that several years back, ratebeer was the site I was told about... so I joined. In my younger days, I simply heard about ratebeer first and stuck with it. Where I'm from in IL/IA, most people used and talked about ratebeer (RB). It wasn't until I moved to Tallahassee that I was struck by the Beer Advocate (BA) phenomenon so hard.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with BA. I still use it to look at ratings occasionally, browse the forums, look up places, look at beer style information, and more. I used to use the trade forums as well, but I can't anymore (more on that later). I appreciate what the site does, and I don't want to bring down anybody that is supporting craft beer, but once again, look at the title of this blog. It's time to finally flesh out why I don't really like BA. Most likely, I will soon be banned from the site (yes, they do that). I'll break it down into three parts: what I hate about BA, what I love about RB, and a de-bunking of the "positives" of BA.

First, there are some technical aspects of BA that I can't stand. The first and foremost is that the site is TOO DAMN SLOW. Doing one beer search will prove this point, and many others that are related. I just did a search for "Russian River Pliny the Elder" on both sites. On RB the result list was... instant. I couldn't count. On BA, I waited a solid 3-5 seconds for it to come up. Now this may not always happen, but in my experience, the site is just too slow.

Speaking of searching for beers, BA's search function is awful. RB allows you to search partial words, which means it is waayyyyy easier to find beers that are hard to spell, foreign, or whatever. I just did a search on both sites for "Russ Plin." On RB, the first beer in the results is Russian River Pliny the Elder. On BA, I LITERALLY waited 10 seconds for the results list to come up, and there was nothing. Unge.

I also just hate BA's layout. It's so difficult to find anything in all their little sidebars and boxes. Granted I don't use the site as much as RB, but I still have a hard time finding what I'm looking for when I try to browse the forums. In fact, I've given up and bookmarked the forums that I ever want to read.

Now let's move on to some less technical computer-y aspects. Going back to my Pliny search brings up one of the most annoying and most talked-about cons of BA. Their database just isn't very well maintained, and the results lists are often confusing and mislabeled. One of the most commonly noted problems is shown with the Pliny search. On RB, the results list clearly says "Russian River Pliny the Elder," where as BA simply says "Pliny the Elder" and Russian River is listed below the beer. I know what you're thinking... "So what?" Well it matters for a couple of reasons. For one, I'll try a search for "Blackout Stout," because I happen to know several breweries have a beer by that name. On RB, the list comes up very clean with the brewer listed first. It's easy to scan alphabetically and find what specific beer I want. On BA, it comes up in a giant clusterfuck of beer names, breweries, and retired beers that are marked in front of the name, making it even worse. Jeebus. I can hardly even make sense of the list.

This search coincidentally brings up another point about their database and beer lists. Sometimes the brewery IS listed in front of the beer name... why can't they pick one? In this case, Great Lakes Blackout Stout is listed like that, whereas Indian Wells Blackout Stout isn't. Speaking of, the Indian Wells beer is listed as retired, despite the fact that I had the beer just a couple of nights ago. WTF?!

For some reason, many of these complaints seem interrelated. A huge problem with the site is that there apparently aren't enough admins (people with the power to change and maintain items on the site) to monitor these problems. Forum posts often explode with 800 instant replies of complete nonsense (okay, RB is bad about this too, but admins clean it up), the beer database is confusing, beers aren't listed in a consistent manner, and so much more. There simply needs to be more admins or SOMEONE taking care of these things, as there's no way the "Bros" can keep up with such things.

Speaking of the Bros, I don't give a flying fuck what they have to say about a beer. This is a ridiculous feature. If I want to see their ratings, I'll click their username. /end angry rant.

Keeping it related, I also hate their rating system. A letter grade for a beer means absolutely nothing to me. Oh it got a C+? What's wrong, did it not study very hard for its Beer-Getting-Made degree at Beer State University? Did it have potential and just not apply itself? Does an A+ beer have book smarts but no common sense? I mean where does it end?!

One of the most annoying and most talked-about complaints is that you have to join BA to look at anything. You can get around this by Googling beers, but otherwise you have to join to look at just about anything on the site outside of the front page, which is very frustrating if you work at a liquor store or bar and want to look something up for someone. To top it off, once you join, you still have to deal with ads. The same is true for RB, but you can pay to be a premium member (more later) and it all goes away.

To make it worse, BA has these "Beer Karma" points. For the longest time they meant absolutely nothing beyond a false sense of satisfaction when you contributed to the site. Recently they changed the rules so that you have to have a certain amount of karma points to post in the trading forums. Since I don't rate or post on the site very often, I don't have enough points and thus can no longer use this part of the site. To make it worse, nobody has any idea how the karma points work, and the Bros seem to award people randomly.

Okay, enough about BA, let's move on and be positive for a bit. Most of what I love about RB is summed up on their stats page handily for me.

One of the best things about RB is the user base. RB has more users, more ratings, and more international users by far. This means that each beer has more input and a more varied input, giving it a more rounded score (in percentile format - not some letter grade). The top 13 raters (by count) on RB are not American. Of the top 100 raters (by count), only 33 are from America - almost exactly a third. I, for one, don't care what every tom-dick-and-todd in the Northeastern US thinks about Kate the Great. I care what the rest of America and the rest of the world thinks.

Another awesome positive of RB is the polar opposite of BA - the site has plenty of admins and is extremely well maintained. They hands down have the most comprehensive beer database in the world, everything is listed consistently, and admins watch carefully what place and beer ratings go up, what new beers get entered, etc. to make sure everything stays in as tip-top shape as possible. I was once at a bar in IL that told me Two Brothers brewed a hefeweizen for them. I entered the beer, rated it, and got a message from an admin asking if it really was a new beer. I told him I wasn't sure as I was going on what the bartender told me. The admin emailed the Two Brothers brewer and asked if it was in fact a new beer. Turns out it wasn't and the bar was wrong. These are the things I love about RB. That beer was left as an "alias" in the database, and now any RB person that visits that bar will know it's the same beer when they look it up. That's dedication, folks.

The rest of what I love about RB was pretty much summed up when I talked about BA, so I won't go over their search functions and all of that again. I do want to give a plug for them, though. If you join RB, I highly suggest you pay to become a premium member. The people that run the website do it for free outside of their normal jobs, and they have to pay for all that server space somehow. The premium membership only costs $13 a year... and I think you can afford $1.08 a month. Going premium also gets rid of ads, allows you to access other forums, and a few other cool stat-related perks. If you want to help them out more, you can also donate.

Alright, enough sunshine and smiles. There are a few people I know that always have some sort of argument for BA, and it's time for me to clear this up as well. Let's debunk the BS that comes with BA.

One of the most frequent arguments I hear is that BA has a better database of places and that the ratings are better. Though it's true that RB members tend to take on a "ticking" philosophy, even for places, I just don't think this argument is true. To make it real for us Tally homies, let's use Tallahassee as our example.

Before I debunk this myth, let's talk about the place area of both sites. First of all, didn't it used to be called "Barfly" or something like that on BA? Man that was annoying. I'm glad they changed it. BA lists every city in Florida alphabetically, which is pretty annoying. RB groups the cities into metropolitan areas but still lists every city. It has a much better look/feel and is way easier to navigate.

Ehem, anyway, let's take a look at Tallahassee on both sites. BA lists 23 locations and RB lists 20. However, several of the places listed on BA don't belong on a craft beer site: 4th Quarter, Inn Between (I don't even know what that is), Mike's Beer Barn, Mockingbird Cafe, Paddy's Campus Beach Bar, and the Engine Room to name a few. In fact, there are no worthwhile places listed on BA that aren't also listed on RB. Also, RB has a few that are blatantly missing from BA - Earth Fare, ABC, and Publix to name a few.

Let's look at the ratings. The top rated place on RB for Tallahassee is Proof, so we'll start there. RB has 19 ratings of Proof with the most recent being from September 2nd, 2011. BA has 6 ratings of Proof with the last rating being from June 12th, 2011.

Now this is one simple example among a literal world of entries, but we are in Tallahassee, and it just so happens to prove my point. One could argue that the "place" section is largely based on user input, so it's not really BA's fault, but regardless, don't go telling me about how awesome the place section is on BA. If they had more active users and more people that cared to rate the places then it wouldn't be a problem.

Now for the big cat, the big gun, the trying, the annoying, the most often cited bullshit, piece-of-crap argument I always hear about BA.

"But the ratings people enter are so much better."

Throw in any of the following - RB is all tickers; I like long, thorough ratings; they don't rate as many macros - or whatever, and you're officially a loser BA fanboy grasping for arguments in your favor. Climb out of your mom's basement and come drink with us.

Now this is a touchy subject. I definitely have nothing against big, long, fancy beer ratings. However, using that as an argument is complete BS for a few reasons. For one, almost anyone that cites this argument references a certain couple of raters that are known for having a lot of reviews on BA. Well guess what, there are people on RB who rate just as thoroughly, and often much more down to earth than the famous BA people. It just so happens that people don't see these RB raters as much because they haven't rated as many beers. When you look at RB's top users, you see a ton of foreign users (see above) who have rated 20,000+ beers in just a few sentences. You can't use that as a basis to slam all of RB. Personally I have a mix of quick, concise ratings and long, thorough ones.

The other issue I have with this argument is that there is really only so much you can say. I don't really care if a user describes the beer as smelling like "fresh picked Tahitian vanilla sliced by a Samurai sword and then heated slowly over pickled cherry wood with one drop of unicorn blood and a scale from the Loch Ness Monster." Guess what - it still just smells like vanilla.

Since this entry is getting very long, let's keep it going. I'm going to break down one of the ratings from one of these famous users by paragraph and tell you what they're really saying. Do keep in mind I have nothing against this person or his ratings. Here goes.

Russian River Pliny the Elder (I have no idea why I chose this for all of my examples, but I'll stick with it)

BA user:
Sun-fired ochre with lemon drop edges. The alabaster crown is a thing of beauty. It's firmly creamy (and eventually vanilla milkshake melty) and is a lace generator of the highest order. The upper third of the glass is almost completely coated with thick, frosting-like lace. It'd be great to see some hop flecks swimming about, but for a 'clean' DIPA look, it's hard to beat.

Appearance - orange. Thick tan head. Great lacing.

BA user:
I had little doubt that the nose would be dripping with hop esters and I'm happy to report that it is. In terms of absolute resinous pungency, it might take a backseat to the Younger, but it's still one of my all-time favorites. It's hard to go wrong with Vinnie at the helm and with a hop bill that consists of some of the best hops in the world: Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook and Warrior. Just typing the list gives me goose bumps and makes my mouth water.

Aroma - hoppy, resinous. Self-indulged reference to the brewer and another beer (on another note - the above is a terrible aroma description - why do people like this guy so much?)

BA user:
For some reason (reputation perhaps) I didn't expect to like the Elder as much as I liked the Younger. Not that it's even possible, since I consider the latter to be one of the top handful of DIPAs in all the world; and therefore one of the top handful of beers in all the world. I have to say, though, that it's close. This is an outstanding effort that hits all the right notes in that 'ideal DIPA symphony' that I listen for each time I crack open a bottle and take a drink.

Completely useless BS

BA user:
If anything, the malt:hop balance favors hops more in this beer than it does in the Younger. Since the brewery calls that beer a Triple IPA (I believe it!) that utilizes three times as many hops as their standard IPA, it has to be a relative lack of malt. I'm not one to complain about a beer's hoppiness, but keep in mind that the Elder is more raw and more smack-you-silly bitter than the glorious, nectar-like, hop explosive smoothness of the Younger.

Flavor - more BS about Younger. Bitter.

BA user:
In the right hands, a hop bill as incredible as the one listed above can't help but result in a mind blowingly delicious beer. And that is exactly what has made the journey from Santa Rosa to my mouth. Brilliant, palate-shattering, hopsticky white grapefruit, pineapple and lemon zest fill my mouth and ravage my tongue... and I couldn't be happier. Who cares if the Elder doesn't have the well-mannered elegance of the Younger? True hopheads will rejoice in its 'no holds barred' alpha acidity, much as I'm doing now.

Flavor - grapefruit, pineapple, lemon. More BS about Younger. (Oh finally, we get some actual flavor indicators!)

BA user:
I've been so blown away by the flavor that I haven't yet given a thought to the mouthfeel. No matter, I still have a third of a bottle left. I'd better be quick about it because the 8.0% ABV is beginning to catch up with me in a big hurry. The mouthfeel, while less full, syrupy and sticky than the Younger, is still outstanding. Again, I have to thank "name removed" for an amazing re-bottling effort that is nothing less than perfect.

Mouthfeel - thick. Gettin' drunk. More BS about Younger.

BA user:
Pliny the Elder is an equally hoppy, slightly more bitter, lower in alcohol, lighter bodied (but still full-bodied) version of Pliny the Younger. Both are exceptional beers and both deserve every accolade that is bestowed upon them. More hop alchemy from the ridiculously talented Mr. Cilurzo. Long may he brew!

Direct comparisons to Younger, a beer which almost none of you have had, and you'll probably never have.

/end translation

And there we have it, folks. My mostly full listing of reasons for why I don't really care for BA, etc. From now on, if you ask me, I'm just going to take your beer away from you or direct you to my blog.

What do you think? Feel free to leave comments!


Friday, September 2, 2011

A Flood of Breweries

Fermentation Lounge may have opened the gate, but it seems we're getting more and more news and rumors these days. We all remember the "Mad Mullet" Docker's disaster, then we got confirmation that Momo's and Mike's Stone Baked Pizza are trying to brew, and now we have even more.

For a long time now there have been rumors flying about a brewpub opening on 6th Avenue around/across from Bamboo House, but it was always a vague rumor and I always passed it off as "I'll believe it when I'm sitting there with beer in my glass" kind of thing. One of the Golden Horn brewers told me on Wednesday that this is becoming a reality. Someone he knows named Brian is going to be the brewer (he was also there, but I was on my way out so I didn't get a chance to talk to him). Apparently a local business owner (I believe he said the owner of 5th Avenue Taproom, but I can't remember - I had always heard Jasmine) is running the operation. They are getting a 3-barrel system, which I'm sure is a lot like Momo's, if not the same one.

Momo's Brewing Equipment

As I get more details, I'll certainly post here. We'll see what happens, and we're all still awaiting the opening of Momo's and Mike's. Pretty soon there is going to be a TON of fresh local beer - AWESOME!