Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor of Love 2016

Deep Ellum’s Labor of Love homebrew competition/festival was this past weekend, and New Main Brewing was well represented.  I entered three beers, the saison with pumpkin pie spice (entered as a normal saison, since the pumpkin pie spice flavor is almost non-existant), the IPA, and the Belgian quadruple.  David didn’t enter any beers, but he brought several beers to pour at the festival.  These recently-named beers made an appearance, and all went pretty quickly: Victory or Death Pale Ale, Gone Toobin’ IPA, Runaway Scrape Porter, Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Bigger NTX Stout, and the unnamed Belgian Quad.  The quad was gone first, unsurprisingly, since I only had a 1L growler of it.  The BBA Bigger NTX was next gone.  The rest were all gone by 8:00pm.  It was a good night, lots of people stopped by our tent, and everyone had great things to say about our beer.

Now, for the competition part.  I was unfortunately unable to defend my gold medal, but the saison did pick up a silver medal, which isn’t too shabby!  Back-to-back medals for that beer, so I feel pretty good about its success as a commercial beer next year.  The other two beers didn’t medal, but the IPA did score very well with the judges.  It got a 43 and a 40 (out of 50, anything over 40 is really good), with one of them commenting with something like “I would drink this beer again and again, no question.”  I don’t have the scoresheets in front of me for the exact quote, but that’s pretty high praise, I think!  The quad didn’t fare as well, averaging 29.5.  I think it really doesn’t fit into the narrow range of the Belgian Dark Strong Ale category.  I really like the beer, and so did everyone who tried it on Sunday, so I’m probably not going to mess with it much.

On the Gone Toobin IPA, both David and I felt like it wasn’t quite as aggressive with the bitterness as we wanted, so I brewed it again yesterday morning and swapped out the Magnum hops I originally used for bittering with some Columbus hops.  Everything else stayed the same, as the flavor and aroma and balance were all spot on.  We’ll see how it comes out with the tweaks.  David is also brewing another batch of Victory or Death Pale Ale coming up soon.  Hopefully we’ll have both beers ready for Pantegofest on September 24th.

As always, check out the brewery blog to see the weekly status updates on the progress of the brewery.  We have a couple of locations we’re looking at, and hope to have one picked out here soon!  Once that’s done, things should start rolling pretty quickly.  Once we can get our equipment ordered, and renovations done to our location, we can start working on getting all TTB and TABC licensing going.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Beer Updates

Thanks to everyone who came out to J.R. Bentley’s in Arlington last Friday night, it was a huge success!  The saison and porter were both big hits with the crowd.  We actually ran out of the saison toward the end of the night, so I’ll have to brew up another batch soon.  The pale ale also got good reviews, and we got some good feedback on the IPA.  While people did really like it, I think we can make it better by bumping up the bitterness just a bit, and adding to the aroma by having a longer dry-hopping.  I’ll brew that again soon, with the slightly tweaked recipe.  I’m going to do a 90 minute boil, with the bittering hops boiled the entire time.  That should bump up the bitterness some.  I’m also going to split up the flavor and aroma additions and add some earlier in the boil.  The dry hops will get increased to 10 days from 5.  I also plan to change the OG from 1.060 to 1.062.

I’m doing a one-off brew this weekend by brewing up an Oktoberfest.  It’s a few months late to be brewing it (usually brewed in March), but that’s ok.  I’m going to be out of town for a couple of weeks, and letting a lager sit at a lower fermentation temperature while I’m gone just seemed to make sense.  When I get home, I can push the temp up for a diacetyl rest before cold crashing and transferring to a keg for lagering.  Here’s the recipe I’m going with:

7.5lbs German Pilsner
7.5lbs German Light Munich
1lb German Dark Munich
0.5lbs German CaraMunich II
1oz Hallertau @ 60
0.5oz Tradition @ 15
1oz Czech Saaz @ 5

WLP820 or WLP830, or Wyeast equivalent, depending on what the store has.  It’s going to need a pretty big starter from two vials most likely.  Should be fun, only my second lager.

New Main will next be pouring at Pantegofest on Saturday, September 24th.  Come out and see David and Amanda, and try some great beer!  We’re working on getting more events scheduled for the rest of the fall, as well as putting out our next fundraiser.

The winners for Martin House's Riverside Shootout were announced this week.  Unfortunately, neither David no I won, but David's pineapple stout did make the top 10!  I'll be turning in my entries for Labor of Love 4 today, and I have high hopes that more medals will be coming our way on September 4th.  Stay tuned for more info on that.

And finally, today is IPA Day, so get out there and be hoppy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Beer Tastings!

Planning and number crunching and brewing for New Main continues.  Sometimes it seems like it’s slow going, and other times things happen in a big flurry.  David has been doing a great job of blogging throughout the process, and you can read all about that here.

David and I have both been busy brewing up test batches to work on dialing in recipes.  We’re making pretty good progress on that front, I think, as we’ve locked in the Saison, IPA, Pale Ale and Porter.  There might be minor tweaks here and there based on feedback we might get at tastings, but we’re pretty happy with how those taste right now.

Speaking of tastings, this Friday we’re going to be having a tasting at JR Bentley’s in Arlington.  David is bringing the porter and pale ale, and I’ll have the saison and IPA.  The pale ale and IPA were both kegged this week, so both are super fresh, and we’re excited to have people try them.  I’m also going to bring a small amount of the Belgian quad to see how it’s progressing as it ages, and I might bring a couple of bottles of the saison that had pumpkin pie spice added.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to go ahead and enter Deep Ellum’s Labor of Love again this year, but David is not.  I’m going to enter the saison, quad, and IPA, since you can enter 3 beers this year, compared to just 2 last year.  The festival is September 4th this year, the Sunday after Labor Day, as always.  Entry is $30 per person, which gets you unlimited tastings of homebrew.  There was lots of great beer last year, and I expect this year to be no different.

This week we’re working on finalizing our beer names so we can start working on getting trademarks for those.  We’re not quite ready to share that yet, but should be pretty soon.  Once those are all set and trademarked, expect to see New Main popping up on Untappd as a commercial brewery, and not just a homebrewery.

I know David’s talked about this some in the past, but I wanted to touch on it as well.  Like most brewers who start a brewery, we’re coming from the homebrew world, and we are going to make sure we remember our roots.  So, we’re going to have lots of homebrew-centered events.  A homebrew competition is one obvious event, but we also want to host things like a homebrewer’s roundtable from time to time, to let local homebrewers have a chance to chat with a local brewery, and to get tips and tricks for us and each other, as well as share their beer and get feedback.

Lastly, thanks to all of you who bought t-shirts for our first fundraiser!  We’ll have more coming soon, including glassware, more t-shirts, and more cool stuff!  We will also have a small number of t-shirts available at our tasting on Friday for $25.  Keep an eye on the New Main Facebook page for more info, as well as upcoming tastings and other events.

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Main Brewing is Going PRO!

It’s been a while since my last update, and quite a bit has happened.  For those of you who aren’t my Facebook friends (I’m not sure how else you might have gotten here, but I digress…), there has been some big news in the last month.  We’re starting a production brewery!  We’re teaming up with David and Amanda at New Main Brewing to go pro.  We’re going to use the New Main name and concept going forward.  David is doing a great job of blogging about the journey of opening a brewery over at the New Main blog, so I'm not going to get into the weeds on that end.  Hopefully in a year or so, when we’re up and running, it will be fun to go back and read through that!

I’ll be the head brewer for this, and I’ve been working on recipe development and tweaking.  Between the two of us, we have several award-winning beers, and many others that didn’t win, but were still highly rated.  Too many, really, to start with, so we’re having to pick a good core of 6 or so beers to start.  I can tell you that most likely my gold-medal winning saison will be one, as will David's best-in-show-winning porter.  We’ll be getting input from the community as we do fundraising, as well.  In fact, tonight David will be at Dr. Jekyll’s Beer Lab in Pantego pouring samples from several of our beers.  If you’re in that area, you should head over and check it out.

Recipe development and going from the homebrew scale (5-6 gallon batches) to a production brewery scale (15 barrels, or 465 gallons) can be a daunting challenge.  I've been doing tons of research, and have created numerous spreadsheets filled with brewing equations to help.  Good thing I'm an IT and Excel nerd, eh?

A few weeks ago, we did a joint brew day to do a test batch of David’s witbier recipe.  We split the batch in two, and each fermented half at different temperatures, so see what the differences did to the flavor of the beer.  David will have both of those tonight, so swing by and help us decide which one to use!  Taste beer for free and give us your honest feedback.  This is your chance to have a say in what a brewery makes, don’t let it pass you by!

We're also working on coming up with a naming scheme for our beers.  We'd like to have some kind of theme in the different names.  If you have ideas, let us hear them!

This weekend is the deadline to turn in our entries to Martin House’s Riverside Shootout that we both did back in April.  David brewed his tropical stout, and I brewed the Belgian rye IPA.  Both turned out pretty good, so we’re excited to see how they do in the competition.  Next up will probably be Deep Elum’s Labor of Love.  Since I’m not technically employed by a brewery yet, since we’re still working on fundraising, I can still enter.  You can enter 3 beers this year, instead of two.  I brewed a slightly tweaked batch of saison last weekend (added a touch of wheat malt for head retention), so I’ll probably enter that.  I might enter the Belgian rye IPA if it doesn’t win at Martin House.  I also have the wit and quad kegged, so those are also possibilities.  Once the saison is done, I have an IPA recipe to try out, too, but that might not be ready to turn in before I head off for my National Guard annual training in early August.  A good showing there will hopefully help in our coming fundraising efforts.

Speaking of fundraising, you have 2 days left to buy a limited edition (one time only) New Main Brewing t-shirt to show that you were an early supporter of the brewery!  Head over to our booster.com page and buy one of each color!  On the New Main blog, you can also visit the store on the right hand side and buy things like personalized barstools at the brew pub and brewer for a day parties once we open.

Check back in the coming weeks and months for more news on upcoming events and tastings.  Hope to see you all soon!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Martin House and Podcasts

This past Sunday was the 3rd annual Martin House Riverside Shootout brew day.  I loaded up all my brewing equipment into the back of my dad’s SUV, and we headed down to Ft. Worth to the brewery.  This competition is pretty unique in that you actually brew at the brewery on your own equipment, using mostly their ingredients, and then take the beer home to ferment.  After packaging, you’ll bring 6 bottles back to the brewery in the second week of June to be judged.  Pretty cool idea, and I was excited to try it out.

We got down to the brewery a little earlier than our 11am start time, which gave us ample time to get everything set up.  We got pretty lucky and managed to snag a spot right next to New Main Brewing, which came in pretty handy later in the day (more on that in a bit).  After getting everything unloaded and setup, I went and got my base 2-row grains from inside the brewery.  The only ingredients you can use that aren’t provided are any base grains other than 2-row, and any specialty grains you want to use.  Hops and yeast are provided by the brewery.  They do this so that the winning recipe is as close as possible to how it was brewed by the homebrewer when they scale it up to brew on their system for the Pro-Am beer.

Dad and I lugged the brew kettle over to the hot water spigot and got just under what I needed for mash water.  Since the water was around 180F, we used ice to cool it down to where I wanted it, which also helped get me up to the correct volume.  I added my specialty grains to the 2-row and dumped everything into the water to start the mash.  Meanwhile, David had started a little earlier than me, so he was getting ready to start his boil.

It was a very windy day on Sunday, and David had some problems getting his wort up to boiling.  It took him a good hour and a half to get it going, which allowed me to catch up.  Since I was using quite a bit of pilsner malt, though, my boil was an hour and a half compared to just an hour for him.  Boiling went fine for both of us, with the exception of having more boil-off than we normally do.  That was probably due to having to keep adjusting the flame to compensate for the variable winds.

Once David’s boil finished, we used my wort chiller as a pre-chiller.  I had a big tub that we filled with ice, then used my chiller in that, and connected it to David’s chiller which was in his boil kettle.  This got the cooling water very cold, which helped immensely in cooling his wort.  This is where being set up next to each other really came in handy.  The timing was also perfect, as just as his wort was done cooling, my boil ended.  It was a simple matter to transfer the (sanitized, from being in his boil) chiller from his kettle to mine.  Once mine was cooled, it went into the carboy, and we all packed up and re-loaded our stuff into our respective vehicles, then headed home.  Oh, and in there somewhere David grabbed the yeast for both of us.  I pitched when I got home and got the carboy into the chest freezer.  It took off pretty quickly; I had a good 2-inch krausen the next morning.

I'll get the recipe up on the Recipes page here soon.

Speaking of David, he’s part of a podcast called AtypicalDFW.  They talk about beer mostly, but all kinds of other random topics as well, and they asked me to come on this week and talk about homebrewing.  I’ve listened to their shows in the past, and it sounded like a good time, so I agreed.  I headed down to their Arlington studios (one of the guys’ apartment) and took some beer with me.  This was my first podcast to be a part of, and I had a blast.  You can check out the episode here if you’re interested.  (NSFW)  It’s just under an hour and a half long (it seemed like about half that recording it, though).

That’s all for now.  Future brewing planning is taking place as we speak…gotta get ready for the fall competitions!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lots of Good News!

It’s been a last good month and a half!  First, and the best of the news, is that our daughter, Kathryn, was born last month.  Mom and baby are both doing great, and we’re learning how to be parents, since this is our first!  No beers named after her, though…at least not yet!   Next, I was promoted to Captain in the Texas Army National Guard at drill this past weekend.  I got my state orders for CPT on August 20, but the Federal Recognition process the DoD makes NG officers go through takes forever, so those orders just published on the 29th of March.  It felt odd getting saluted and called “Sir” by LTs, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.  And lastly, today my first article over at HomebrewTalk.com was posted.  I’m pretty excited about that, and hopefully there will be more to come!

Now that all of that is out of the way, on to homebrewing.  My test/pilot batch of Blindicide (Rye Belgian IPA for those who forgot since last time) came out way better than I ever could have expected.  I’d rank it right up there with Canon de 12 and Fiddler’s Green when it comes to the best beers I’ve brewed.  I’ll be brewing it on Sunday at Martin House for their Riverside Shootout competition.  Hopefully their house saison yeast is similar to the yeast I used, because that’s what really made it shine, I think.  The flavor profile from the yeast paired perfectly with the hops I chose.  Here’s the final recipe that I’ll be brewing:

Mash @ 149F for 60 minutes
6.5lbs 2-row (Great Western, supplied by Martin House)
6.5lbs Belgian Pilsner
4.5lbs Rye Malt
0.25lbs Carapils Malt

Boil for 90 minutes (all hops supplied by Martin House)
1oz Cascade (8.5% AA) and 0.5oz Falconer’s Flight (10.5% AA) @ 60
2oz Cascade @ 20
2oz Cascade and 0.5oz FF @ 10
1oz Cascade and 1oz FF @ 1
1oz Cascade and 1oz FF dry-hopped in Secondary (~10 days)

I plan on following the same fermentation schedule as I did with the test batch, pending any input I can get from the Martin House guys on their strain.  Here’s what I did:

Primary: ~ 5 days at 70F, the rise up to 80F and hold for another ~6 days
Secondary:  ~10 days at 72F

I’m looking forward to taking my setup out to Fort Worth overlooking the Trinity and brewing.  Sunday is supposed to be a fantastic day.  Next up, in May sometime hopefully, I’ll brew up a Wee Heavy recipe that I’ve been working on.  That’s going to be for Labor of Love.  After that we’ll play it by ear.

Short one today, I’ll hopefully have a good update after this weekend’s brew session!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bluebonnet Results

The Bluebonnet Brew-Off awards were announced a couple of weeks ago.  I wasn’t able to make it for the ceremony, but they had the results a few days later.  Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything, but I did get some good feedback on both of the beers that I entered.  My saison did very well (37/50 and 41/50) in the first round of judging, but didn’t place.  The only negatives in the comments were slightly low carbonation (to be expected when bottling from a keg), and low head retention.  When I entered it into Deep Ellum’s Labor of Love last year, they also said it needed better head retention.  I could easily get that by adding some CaraPils malt or some wheat malt, but I like that it’s a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) beer, so I’m keeping it just the way it is.

The quad didn’t fare as well, though, as the saison.  It didn’t get out of the first round of judging (23/50 and 26/50), but there were some good comments on it that I can use.  Both judges commented that it wasn’t complex enough.  That’s not too surprising, since it only had 2 base malts (half pilsner and half pale ale) plus a pound of Belgian candy syrup.  Both judges said it could benefit from some Special B.  So, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit to add come complexity.  They also both said to up the fermentation temp to get more esters and a dryer finish.  Here’s the new recipe, which I’ll be brewing this weekend:

9lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt
9lbs Belgian Pale Malt
1lb CaraMunich Malt
1/2lb Biscuit Malt
1/4lb Aromatic Malt
1/4lb Special B Malt
1/4lb Chocolate Malt
1lb D-45 Candi Syrup
1lb D-180 Candi Syrup

1oz US Northern Brewer @ 60
1oz Hersbrucker @ 15
1oz Styrian Golding @ 5

Wyeast 3787 (same strain as WLP530, which I used last time, but it wasn’t available when I ordered everything), 4L starter is probably necessary for a beer this big. 

I’ll pitch it at around 70F and let it warm up to mid-80s and hold it there for a week or so, then start bringing it back down to 65ish and hold there until FG is reached.  Then I’ll keg and carbonate, then let it age at room temperature until it’s time to serve at Operation Bravo in November.

In other beer news, I met David from New Main Brewing out at Shannon Brewing in Keller on Saturday, where his pro-am beer, an Irish Breakfast Stout that he brewed with the guys at Shannon, was on tap for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  It was very good.  Probably my favorite of the beers they had on tap that day, followed closely by their dry-hopped Irish Red.  We also got to chat with one of the brewers from Deep Ellum for a while, which was cool.  It's always fun to talk to the guys who brew for a living!

And speaking of David, our English Dark Mild didn't get out of the first round, either, but we also got some good feedback on it.  We both really liked the way it turned out, though, so if either of us brew it again, I don't know that we'd change much of anything.  I'd probably use a different yeast strain, since I had so much trouble with WLP007 both times that I used it.

As for what’s up next, after the second batch of the quad, I have Martin House’s Riverside Shootout at the end of April.  I bottled the test batch of the Rye Belgian IPA yesterday, and it smelled awesome!  I’m pretty excited to try it in a week or so, once it’s had a chance to get carbonated.  The hops, yeast, and rye flavors all seems to come together really well in the small gravity sample that I tasted.  Of course, it was hot and flat, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  If it does indeed come out as well as I’m hoping, that’s the recipe that I’ll be brewing for the Martin House competition.  I’ll brew it there at the brewery on my equipment, and then bring home the wort along with a pitch of their house saison yeast strain blend.  After fermenting and packaging at home, the bottles are due back at the brewery by mid-June for judging.

Looking ahead to May and June, I need to start thinking about what I want to enter into Labor of Love this year.  My current thinking is that I’m not going to enter the saison again, it already won gold.  I do want to enter the Killer Junior IPA again, though, and hope it turns out better than last time.  I can wait until July to brew that one, though.  I’m thinking I may try a Scottish Wee Heavy in May and let it age until September.  That should be just about perfect.

One last thing before I let you all get back to your days.  A couple of months ago I got an email from HomeBrewTalk about possibly doing some articles for them.  I thought that sounded pretty cool, so I asked for more info.  After some discussion, I was able to pick from a list of possible topics, and got my topic back a couple of days later.  I’ve written and submitted the article, so hopefully it’s published soon.  Once it is, I’ll be sure to post on here!

Everyone have a great week, and happy brewing!