Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To Brew or Not To Brew....

About a decade ago, post CML (cans of Miller Lite), I expressed an urge to try and brew my own beer. The urge itself amazed me, because my only experience with home brew was a few years prior. After one of my rugby matches, a teammate offered me a bottle of his home made beer. It did not matter to me how tired, sweaty or drained I was, one sip of his beer and I immediately spit it on the ground thinking it tasted like wet hay. So, I said, thanks, but no thanks, and out of my cooler I picked up a can of Miller Lite.

Years later, with a refined taste and knowledge of beer, I wish I could try his beer again, enjoy its taste and share in his brewing accomplishment. Unless it actually did taste like wet hay. Either way, Coy, if you are out there, I apologize. I hope that my spitting out your beer did not send you back to the world of CML.

I have to admit, I was scared to brew my first batch of beer. My wife bought me a complete homebrewing kit for Christmas, she even bought me a set of stainless steel pots. Coincidently, much to my wife's chagrin, that same Christmas, my secretary bought me a homebrewing kit also. With two kits, fate would have it that I was destined to be a homebrewer. And with simple advice from the local homebrew shop, how could I fail. I'll never forget the shopkeepers words, "Have you ever made soup? It's as simple as that."

Thankfully, my wife had also bought me lots of homebrewing books to build up my confidence before actually brewing my first batch. In hind sight, I still do not understand those books and the shop keeper was right. It was as simple as making soup. Boil water, add ingredients, stir, ad more, stir, cook some more, stir, add more stuff, stir, cook, stir. Done. Wait two weeks, drink beer. Drink damn good, healthy beer.

As time went on, things did get more complicated as I advanced into another level of brewing, buying more equipment, changing recipes around, coming up with my own. But one thing didn't change, damn good beer. The best part was naming the stuff. Dr. J's Rock the Dock Bock was an early popular brew. Friends actually requested me to make more. Dr. J's Subluxation Ale was even mentioned in Brew Your Own magazine.

So, what's on tap now? That's right, I said tap. I graduated from putting my beer in bottles to kegging 5 gallon batches of brew. Nothing like pouring one of your own on Draught, and right now it is a Belgian Winterfest Ale. Brewing your own beer is very rewarding and there is a lot of pride involved when one of your friends takes a swig and says, "Hey, this is really good." So, I say to you, give it a whirl, and if you don't want to get involved with all of the brewing stuff, there is always a Mr. Beer machine!

The Beer:

Dr. J's Belgian Winterfest Ale: A dark red beer with a thick head, The smell of cinnamon and slight orange follows with a hoppy taste. The beer tasted pretty good. I should have followed the recipe. I was supposed to add a whole jar of clover honey to the brew, but I thought that it would have made it to sweet. Now the beer tastes like it should be sweeter and not so hoppy. If I don't tell my experienced guests that it is a winter ale, and just tell them it is some sort of Belgian IPA, I'll be alright.

Heavyweight Brewing, Two Druids Ale: Based on a medieval recipe before hops were used in the brewing process. This beer contains Rosemary, Yarrow and Sweet Gale. It pours a nice thick, cloudy color with a thin head. You can smell the Rosemary. The first taste is sweetish and fizzy. Deceptively strong. You don't notice the warming sensation until after a few sips. I don't like to compare beer to wine, but if I did, this beer would be like a very dry chardonnay or a dry champagne. A great beer to toast the New Year as well as enjoy the other 52 weeks of the year.

Flying Fish Brewing, Grand Cru Winter Reserve: I had to try a professional breweries Belgian Winter Ale to see how my home brew version stacked up. It is a good thing one of my patients brought this in for me to sample. Light, orange color, bright, white head. Nice, tasting beer, clean, crisp and refreshing. The only problem is that I can't describe the taste. I really don't know what it is that I am tasting. I do know I like the beer. I just can't pick up the spices. Maybe you can help me out? My version had the pronounced taste of definite spices, even if they were not in the correct proportions. But, maybe that is because I know what I put in there. What's in there Fish Guys? Secret Recipe?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dr. J's Public House

I have always wanted to own a pub. Serving drinks, being in charge of an awesome beer selection, creating the atmosphere of a really great, relaxing neighborhood bar seems like an incredible way to earn a living. Isn't it natural to want own the type of place you enjoy being around? But then reality sets in and you realize that owning a pub costs a lot of money, is very hard work and according to the many publicans I talked to in Ireland, more stressful than lucrative. But still, everytime you set foot in a good local tavern your mind starts to rearrange the furniture, change the decor and edit the tap selection. Maybe you even change the food menu around and come up with a new name for the establishment. The "dream" to own is still there, haunting you like the ex-girlfriend who would never just give-up and accept that things were over.

How can you enjoy the best part of both worlds? How do you own a pub without the stress, hassle and financial costs, while being able to design, create, operate and enjoy your own pub? The solution is quite simple. Build a pub in your home. Dr. J's Pub recently opened for family and friendly business. My wife and I just finished an addition on our home. As part of the addition, I negotiated for a space to build a small 4 barstool pub. A little room in my home is now decorated in the style of an old Irish Public House. My pub has a 3 tap beer tower, hooked up to a dedicated Guinness line, a tap for my home brew and a rotating tap that currently contains a 1/6 keg of Flying Fish ESB. The pub walls are all done in knotty pine, stained dark mahogany with a mahogany bar top. Warm lighting and all of my beer decorations to boot. In essence, I am the proprietor of my own pub without all the hassles. I am in charge of who comes over for a pint ( most of the time), the beer selection, serving and just plain playing the publican. It's fun and I get to realize my dream with out having the risk of owning a bar. My advice to you is to find a spot in your house, the basement, garage, closet or even a shed and build a pub. It will set you free.

The Beers

DogFish Head Punkin Ale: This beer poured a deep amber color with an ample head. The aroma was of Nutmeg. My fist sip reminded me of pumpkin pie, but with not so much pumpkin and minus the sweetness. I guess it was the lingering aftertaste of all the different spices. Surprisingly drinkable and a very good beer. 7% alcohol which should help you get through Thanksgiving dinner in a mellow way.

Riverhorse Special Ale ESB: Poured a nice dark copper color with a thick, foamy head. My first taste was of a surprisingly hoppy flavor (on the mild side, but very detectable). The aftertaste was filled with a touch of honey. As I finished this beer, it dawned on me that this ale was almost meadish, but a manly Mead. The type of mead you might imagine Robin Hood drinking, not the type of sweet, swarmy stuff they serve you in one of those Irish Castle dinner shows. This was an enjoyable beer and would be a great compliment to a restaurant BYOB meal. Perfect to have one before, during and after dinner.

Brasserie Des Rocs Triple Imperiale; AKA Belgain Special Dark Ale: This beer gave off a sweet, malty smell and poured a beer that was dark carmel in color and a firmly carbonated head. At 10% alcohol the beer was very warming, almost like a Barleywine and had a malty taste to it. This ale is bottle conditioned with all the sediment intact. Brasserie des Rocs makes a good dinner beer. Very filling and one 750ml bottle is all you really need.