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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Straight Adam's Vienna Lager

About 25 batches ago I brewed my first lager, Adam's Vienna Lager con Agave Nectar y Limon, a beer inspired by a desire to produce a lime-infused, Mexican lager for a friend who likes beers such as Bud Lite Lime and Pacifico in addition to craft beer. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to create a beer he would appreciate, but also that I could serve and drink without losing my self-respect. For my first attempt at a lager, it turned out well and Adam really seemed to enjoy it. The lime and agave were a nice flavor addition to the whole package, but I enjoyed the base beer enough to want to brew it again (albeit with a few tweaks) without the extra sugar and fruit. Although I enjoy playing with ingredients as much (or more than) the next brewer, I can appreciate the traditional theme as much as its variations. The Vienna Lager style originated in Vienna, Austria and was brought to Mexico by brewers that emigrated there during the last century. Without further ado, here is my updated recipe for Straight Adam's Vienna Lager (the original is linked above).

Straight Adam's Vienna Lager-5.2% ABV

5 gallons; OG 1.054; 24.4 IBUs


76% Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)
19% Light Munich (8-12 SRM)
5%   Caramunich (56 SRM)


1.0 oz. Mt. Rainer pellets (6.0 %) 24.4 IBU @ 60 minutes FWH


White Labs #WLP830 German Lager


Dough in at 130F for 5-10 minutes. Triple decoction step mash at 145F for 30 minutes, 155F for 30 minutes, and 168F for mashout. Boil 60 minutes. Ferment at low end of yeast range. Raise temperature 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit for diacetyl rest. Lager at least 1 or up to 3 months before serving.

I am drinking a glass of this out of my new Hop Head Farms "beer can" pint glass as I type. It has a prominent malt character of honeyed, toasted biscuit. Hops are earthy and floral and almost balance the malt. It is light enough to be refreshing on a warm day, but interesting enough to inspire consideration and thirst for another glass.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mashturbator Doppelbock: Recipe and Tasting Notes

If you're reading this blog, you are likely aware of the historical significance of the Doppelbock style. You may also be aware that these malty, melanoidin-rich, and relatively high alcohol beers of German origin have names that traditionally end in "-ator." The name I chose for this doppelbock fulfills these general guidelines while containing multifarious meanings, some more obvious than others. So, at risk of sounding sophomoric, I offer my take on a beer that can satisfy your desires on long, cold, late-winter/early spring nights and lubricate many a session (so to speak).

Mashturbator Doppelbock
5.5 gallons OG: 1.086  BU:  27  SRM:  18


10# Light Munich (6 SRM) 54.8%
8# Pilsner (2 SRM) 43.8%
.25# Carafa III (525 SRM) 1.4% - add at mash-out


1.5 oz. Mt. Rainer (or other Noble-type hops) 90 minutes FWH


German Lager (White Labs WLP830)


Calcium chloride in mash and boil (a few grams in each should be fine); for more info, google "chloride to sulfate ratio beer"


Dough in, holding mash at 134F for 5 minutes. Decoct enough thick mash to bring main mash (when returned) to 149F and put in separate pot. Slowly bring decoction up to 149F, hold at 149F for 20 minutes, and then boil decoction for 15 minutes. Return decoction to main mash and rest 20 minutes. Decoct enough loose mash to raise main mash (when returned) to 157F and put in separate pot. Slowly bring decoction up to 157 for 30 minutes, and then boil decoction for 15 minutes. Return decoction to main mash and rest 30 minutes. Decoct enough loose mash to bring main mash to 168F (for mash-out) and put in separate pot. Bring to boil for 15 minutes. Return decoction to main mash. Add Carafa III now. Mash-out 10 minutes. Sparge with 168F water (don't forget your first wort hops) until pre-boil volume is collected. Boil 90 minutes. Pitch enough yeast for a healthy fermentation. Ferment at low end of 50-55F range. Raise fermentation temperature above 65-68F for 24 hours within 1-1.5 degrees Plato of FG (approx. 1.020 SG) for diacetyl rest. Rack to secondary to promote beer clarity if desired. Slowly reduce temperature over several days to lagering temperature (33-35F). Lager at least one month but up to three months for best results. (Variations on technique and sequence of fermentation/lagering steps are okay, but do your research.)

Tasting Notes

Appearance-Dark, rusty orange. Nearly clear, but not bright. Thick, tight head that dissipates but leaves lacing and successive foam rings on the glass.

Aroma-Toasted bread crust, malt, melanoidins. Earthy hop aroma.

Mouthfeel-Medium/full. Soft, med/low carbonation

Taste-Malt, bread, crust, subdued sweetness balanced by earthy hops. Slight yeasty muddiness (should condition out after a few pours). Becoming skunky even after a few minutes of UV exposure.

Overall-I like this beer more each time I drink it. Satisfying malt, balanced by earthy, floral hops. I could actually stand less hops in this beer, but they should fade a bit with time. Aided by a cool fermentation and long lagering period, this beer drinks like a beer of lower gravity, but one becomes more aware of its weight half-way through the pint. As aesthetically pleasing as it is gustator-ily.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

LG & LG (Let Go and Let God) Collaboration Brew Day

Hello again! If you've read the most recent post about the cinnamon beer competition, this post is the story of what happened the day of that competition which took place that evening. As I had to drive several hours to attend the competition/club meeting, I wanted to make the most of my trip. So I thought it might be fun to plan a collaboration brew day in which each brewer would brew a beer of their choice (including mystery ingredient(s); continue reading for more details), and then combine one part from each beer into as many "collaboration" beers. Aside from making the best use of my time, there was a part of me that needed to rebel against the constraints of the cinnamon competition, in which the beer had to include cinnamon. I wanted to just throw everything in a pot and let the chips fall where they may. It would also be interesting to collaborate on a single beer brewed with several different ingredients on the same day we would judge several beers that all contained a single ingredient. Each of the other collaborators were skeptical of my idea. They were worried about incompatible flavor combinations, different starting gravities, the resulting beer being too dark, among other meaningless hesitations. It took some salesmanship to convince them that they should just "let go and let God." I also coerced them by suggesting they have control issues and relinquishing some control of their process would be good for them.So, finally, there were three of us that were willing and able to collaborate on this project.

So what, then, would I brew? Something daring, of course. Throw caution to the wind with spices? Coffee? Citrus? Wood? Garlic? Why not all five? Well, because I didn't have time to prepare all those ingredients, and I didn't want to create a beer similar to how I imagine hot garbage juice tastes. I decided to play it safe with Madras curry, Garam Masala, and 9 oz. of hops! Yes, 126.1 calculated IBUs (you have to remember this beer is getting divided three ways). Oh, and Spanish cedar inserts from cigar boxes to compliment the piney, citrusy hops. What follows is the recipe for our epic collaboration brew day and each of the three individual beers incase you would like to copy us. But I encourage you to try your own ideas for home brewing collaboration.

Recipe for LG & LG Collaboration Brew Day:

-3 willing friends (in this case myself, Rob Kring, and Richard McElroy)
-1 stuck sparge (Rob was the only one of the three that felt he had to be a purist and brew all-grain that day, and his sparge got stuck thus delaying the rest of us)
-1 boil over (Richard's wort boiled over, to which he promptly responded by panicking, yelling "OH!" and throwing his bittering hops in, thus providing about 1 million extra nucleation points and increasing the boil over which pushed most of the hops over the side and onto the ground-oh well, that's brewing!)
- Almost enough propane for a 60 minute boil (I ran out of propane with 15 minute left in the boil and had to switch over to Richard's tank, whose boil had just finished)
- 1 flat tire (Richard got a flat tire, which I assisted him in changing while out picking up some pizzas for a quick, pre-competition dinner/alcohol sponge)

My Recipe:  OG-1.083  126.1 BUs

Extract/Steeping grains:
9.9# Rye LME (3.3# boiled for 60 min.; 6.6# added at 15 min. to maximize hop utilization)
.5# Crystal 80 (not crystal lady) steeped in 1 gallon of water as long as it takes cool water to heat up to 170F)
1.5# Table sugar (added after majority of primary fermentation is complete)

2 oz. Bramling Cross hops (pellet; 6.00%) first wort hops-60 min.-53.9 BUs
2. oz. Mt. Rainer hops (pellet; 6.00%) first wort hops-60 min.-53.9 BUs
1 oz. Sorachi Ace hops (pellet; 11.6%) 5 min.-10.4 BUs
1 oz. Amarillo hops (pellet; 8.8%) 5 min.-7.9 BUs
1 oz. Apollo hops (pellet; 16.0%) steep 30 min. post-boil
1 oz. Citra hops (pellet; 14.1%) steep 30 min. post-boil
1 oz. Simcoe hops (pellet; 13.2%) steep 30 min. post-boil
1 oz. Citra hops (pellet; 14.1%) dry hop 3-7 days
1 oz. Simcoe hops (pellet; 13.2 %) dry hop 3-7 days

2 Tbsp. Madras curry powder-boil 5 min.
2 Tbsp. Garam Masala-boil 5 min.
1 g. Calcium Chloride-boil 60 min.
5 g. Gypsum-boil 60 min.
1 big pinch Irish moss-boil 15 min.
Spanish cedar cigar box inserts (an as yet undetermined amount) an as yet undetermined # of days

Bell's Brewery bottle culture (2 qt. 1.040 wort starter)

Richard's Recipe (courtesy of Richard McElroy):

Let Go And Let God - 16 Recipe specifics: Style: American IPA Batch size: 5.5 gal Boil volume: 6.0 gal OG: 1.073 FG: 1.018 Bitterness (IBU): 73.0 Color (SRM): 11.9 ABV: 7.2% Grain/Sugars: 9.90 lb Light LME, 83.2% 1.00 lb Munich (US), 8.4% 0.50 lb Crystal 60L, 4.2% 0.50 lb Weyermann Melanoidin, 4.2% Hops: 0.75 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) 60 min, 25.8 IBU 1.25 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) 15 min, 21.3 IBU 1.25 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) 10 min, 15.6 IBU 1.25 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) 5 min, 8.6 IBU 1.25 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) 1 min, 1.9 IBU 3.00 oz Mosaic (AA 12.7%, Pellet) dry hop Yeast/Misc: Irish Moss, 1.0 unit(s), Fining , boil 15 min Trappist Ale yeast, 1.0 unit(s), Yeast Recipe Notes: Add adjuncts at 155 deg. Steep for 30 minutes below 170. Batch Notes: Was very cold. Steep temp averaged 161 for 30 minutes Cooled wort from boil to 75 degrees in 30 minutes using a chiller. Removed chiller rested wort 60 minutes. Combined with brews from Travis and Rob. Dry hopped after one week, by racking into secondary fermenter. Pitched yeast at 63 degrees. OG - 1.070FG

Rob's Recipe (courtesy of Robert Kring, Jr.):

47 - LG&LG Recipe specifics: Style: American IPA Batch size: 5.5 gal Boil volume: 6.2 gal OG: 1.070 FG: 1.017 Bitterness (IBU): 42.1 Color (SRM): 6.0 ABV: 6.9% Grain/Sugars: 9.00 lb Two-row (US), 70.6% 2.00 lb Wheat (US), 15.7% 1.00 lb Honey, 7.8% 0.50 lb Crystal 20L, 3.9% 0.25 lb Crystal 40L, 2.0% Hops: 0.50 oz Chinook (AA 11.5%, Pellet) 60 min, 16.3 IBU 0.50 oz Chinook (AA 11.5%, Pellet) 30 min, 12.5 IBU 1.00 oz Cascade (AA 6.6%, Pellet) 20 min, 11.3 IBU 0.50 oz Cascade (AA 6.6%, Pellet) 5 min, 1.9 IBU 0.50 oz Cascade (AA 6.6%, Pellet) dry hop Yeast/Misc: American Ale yeast, 1.0 unit(s), Yeast US - 05

-The calm before the storm.

-Aforementioned boil over can be seen to the left of the photo. My pot is in the background under the blue towel to the right, and Rob's burner can be seen in the foreground. He has yet to lauter due to the aforementioned stuck sparge.

-Rob Kring, my brother-in-law (left), and myself (right) quickly accumulating the thick, wet snow and enjoying some of Rob's doppelbock.

-Random pic of Richard (since he was not in the previous one). No dogs were harmed in this collaboration brew day.

-A pic of the aforementioned changing of Richard's flat tire. His car would fail him yet again on his way home by indicating its fuel tank was 1/4 full when it was actually empty. Richard had a bit of a tough weekend you might say.

-A carboy full of collaboration beer ready to travel safely back to Indiana.

-In the cold environs of my current weekly living situation, fermentation took its time to get down to an FG in the low 1.020s (it could go lower I suppose, but I don't expect it to). That yields an abv of 8%. Last night I added 1 oz. each of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Citra hops, as well as 1/2 tbsp. each Madras curry powder and Garam Masala. Also added 6 sheets of Spanish Cedar cigar box inserts broken into 1 in. strips. I plan to force carbonate after 7 days.

First glass of Let Go & Let God Imperial IPA collaboration beer. Also first carbed glass from new kegging system. Cedar, citrus, lingering peppery spice. Nice lacing from all those hop compounds. Still quite cloudy, too. Almost opaque. There are a lot of hops in this beer. Delicious!

The great thing about collaboration beers is they can have as many or as few rules as you want. So, if you endeavor to embark upon one in your near or distant future, just remember to Be Fermentive!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Original Cinn: Cinnamon Vanilla Porter

A few home brew club meetings ago one of the Triune founding members posed a challenge to the group in which each member would brew a beer using the same ingredient (a la Iron Chef, or "Iron Brewer" as it were). Although club members profess varying levels of desire to experiment with their home brew, all agreed that an Iron Brewer competition could be very interesting. It would help some of them branch out in their experimentation, while allowing the rest of us to tap into our desire to win bragging rights of "best brewer."

We each put the name of an ingredient in a hat, which we later discovered included things such as fish sauce, pubic hair, bugs, and curry power (see future post). Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your ilk), the ingredient drawn from the hat was cinnamon. This ingredient would prove to be every bit of the challenge intended by the club member that created the challenge. Cinnamon, at first blush, may seem a bit pedestrian. We think of it as a "sweet" or "warm" spice in our baked goods or as a scent in candles, but infrequently if ever consider its phenolic, medicinal, bitter, woody, or tannic characteristics. It seemed to me that it would be this "darker" side of cinnamon that, depending on how it is applied, may come forward in a beer.

In a perfect world my first thoughts of recipe construction of a cinnamon beer would attempt to pair the cinnamon with other ingredient(s) to complement desirable flavor/aroma characteristics and suppress undesirable ones. We don't live in a perfect world, however, but in one where the victor gets the spoils and the privilege of writing popular history. Therefore, my thoughts began to coalesce into:  "How can I shock and awe them?" "How can I brew a beer that will strip from their taste buds any lasting memory of the beers that precede or follow mine?" So I began thinking along the lines of adding other outlandish ingredients:  hot peppers, coffee, fruit, etc. I had even created a cream ale recipe that would employ the use of a syrup made from cinnamon Red Hots. I've had some success with this tactic in the past (the shock and awe strategy), so I thought it could be the way to go once more.

There remained a part of me, however, that was unsatisfied with bastardizing the genuine (and, potentially, lovely) characteristics of cinnamon for my own, personal gain. I wanted to highlight the glory that cinnamon could be without forcing it to conform to my plans for home brew club domination. The actual recipe that resulted was an attempt to meld a few significant flavor combinations without making the beer too busy and overwhelming. (That said, there are quite a few different malts in this beer. It is not a simplistic grain bill.) In my mind, cinnamon seemed to be a good match for a bit of chocolate, a bit of roast, and the softening powers of vanilla. I have experienced all of these flavors individually, or in some combination, in darker beers, namely porters. My cinnamon porter would need to be mashed at a higher temperature to encourage the soft mouth feel I desired, and to discourage any harsh flavors that might be extracted from the cinnamon. In addition, I included some honey malt in the grist to increase residual sweetness (accentuating the cinnamon yet again) and to add mouthfeel. I also wanted the beer to have above average strength to stand up to the warmth of the cinnamon as well as the chilling cold weather my neck of the woods has endured this season. Please enjoy the resulting recipe and pictures below.

Original Cinn:  Cinnamon Vanilla Porter (Est. OG:  1.075; 32 BUs)


1# Pilsen Light DME
7.25# Maris Otter
1.25 Biscuit Malt
1# U.S. 2-Row
1# White Wheat Malt
.5# Carafa III (525 SRM)
.5# Chocolate Malt (350 SRM)
.5# Honey Malt
.25# Black Patent Malt (500 SRM)
-Yes, I know that's 9 different malts. It was a bit of a grain bin cleansing recipe. Most of my recipe formulation process revolved around leftover grains I had on hand and asking, "What kind of beer can I make with that...and put cinnamon in it?"


1 oz. East Kent Goldings (Leaf; 5.0% AU)-90 min. first wort hops; 17.2 calc. BUs
1 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet; 5.0% AU)-45 min.; 14.9 calc. BUs


2 Sachets Nottingham Ale Yeast


1 stick in boil (30 min.)
1 stick in primary
3 sticks in secondary (1 ground in spice/coffee mill; 2 whole) 7-10 days
1 vanilla bean split and scooped in secondary; 7-10 days


Mash @ 156; 50 min.
Mashout @ 168; 10 min
Boil 90 min.

-A beautiful Autumn brewday

-Setting up

And we're mashing...

-Lautering/First wort hops

-Boiling/Chiller at the ready


-OG:  ~1.072

-Racking to secondary

-More cinnamon!

-In a pint glass

-In a snifter

You may be wondering who won the competition. I am sad to inform you that my Original Cinn Porter got second place to a Christmas beer, a slightly tart old ale that was very nicely balanced and well received. Voter judgment may have been compromised by its high alcohol content and warming mouthfeel, not to mention we were meeting in its brewer's home that evening. (Go figure!) Runner-up out of six entries was a good showing, I felt. Of the six beers, only four received votes. Each of those four beers was a good example in its own right, but only first and second place made best use of the "Iron ingredient" (one homebrewer's opinion). Lower scoring brewers either overestimated the flavor potency of their cinnamon, brewed beers whose extra ingredients minimized the cinnamon's perception in the overall flavor profile, or were very new to brewing (extract "twang") and will be likely to improve as they continue to gain brewing experience.

Overall, I view the competition as a success and look forward to future Iron Brewer competitions. These competitions may even become a platform on which to build brewing and tasting skills, with brewers each brewing a given style category, etc. I would also like to see the voting process evolve into a more sophisticated ordeal with "official" scoring sheets that yield meaningful feedback for the brewer. Also, a traveling trophy will be essential. Club members are invited to comment on their experience of the competition, as well as make suggestions for future competitions. Well, that's enough babbling. Until next time, Be Fermentive!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pulled Pork. No Smoker

Don't let me trick you into thinking that roasted meat sans smoker can be made to taste the same as roasted meat avec smoker. Many other(s) have shared exhortations on the art of smoking all manner of thing. It is definitely possible, however, to prepare excellent pulled pork in a conventional oven that approximates that of smoked pork, albeit without the smoke flavor a smoker imparts.

Why bother slow-roasting pork in your oven instead of in an outdoor smoker? Maybe you don't have time or patience to manage your smoker setup all day. Maybe you don't want to smell like smoke or breathe smoke all day. Maybe it's cold, wet, or both outside. Maybe you don't like the idea of ingesting carcinogenic char. There are all sorts of reasons. But I know what you do want:  pulled pork! Here's how you do it (or, how I do it).


-1 pork loin roast (or roast of your choice)
-Enough dry rub of your choice to cover outer surface of meat
   -many rub variations are possible, but, generally speaking, rubs consist of some variation of 1 part sugar (white, brown, or other), 1 part salt, herbs/spices to taste (including but not limited to:  onion/garlic powder, black pepper, red/hot pepper, sweet spices, paprika/sweet powdered peppers). Wet marinades are also, of course in bounds, which may include liquid smoke if desired.
-garlic cloves


Pan/baking sheet with with sides to contain any juices
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Small kitchen knife
Conventional oven set to 250F-265F.


1. Completely thaw meat (if frozen)
2. Dry meat/remove excess moisture with paper towels
3. Marinate meat (if desired)
4. Re-dry meat
5. Set atop enough foil to wrap meat and seal ends by crimping foil
6. Using knife, cut garlic clove-sized slits (approx. every 2") in top of meat deeply enough  that garlic will not be visible
7. Insert garlic cloves into slits.
8. Spread dry-rub over meat, and "rub" into surface. In a perfect world, the rub will be allowed to marinate the meat for a time before roasting, but this delay of your gratification is optional.
9. Wrap meat in foil and crimp tightly at ends of loin.
10. Place in oven (250F-265F) on pan/baking sheet for the entire day.

I prepare the meat before going to work in the early A.M. and take it out when I get home in mid-late evening. The low cooking temperature should reduce the chance of boiling over, catching fire, or over-cooking. The long, low-temp cooking method creates a tenderness identical to smoked, pulled pork, and the foil-wrapping encourages caramelization of the outer layer of the meat which a moist crock-pot discourages. Foil wrapping also retains enough moisture so that the meat is not dry.

Here are more pics of the final product. I apologize for my lack of preparation pictures, but hopefully my instructions are thorough enough that pictures are not needed.

Here are my leftovers as well as my unwashed baking pan. Notice how clean it is.

Enjoy! Be Fermentive!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hop Harvest Ale: Brewday & Recipe

Seems that just a few weeks ago (as it happens this time of year), with the advent of the hop harvest, fresh hopped beers were all the rage. This is not to say that they are not and would not be all the rage if there were still fresh hops to be had. In my neck of the woods, however, there are no longer any fresh hops to be had. The changing of the seasons ushers us from the Marzen-Vienna-Oktoberfests, pale ales, and lagers of Summer and early Fall into the stouts, porters, DIPAs, and barleywines of impending Winter. Enter the Harvest Ale, a beer of autumnal tradition that has historically used freshly harvested ingredients. This traditional style does not have to be particularly hoppy, though most commercial fresh hop beers seem to be more hop forward.

I wanted to create a beer along these same lines with my fresh Chinook and Nugget hops, a low-gravity, session pale ale. Because I had to travel 3 hours one-way to harvest my hops, I had no desire to deal with the time and logistics required for an all-grain brew. Instead, I opted for extract. Originally, I had it in mind to make a double IPA, but decided even that would be too involved. A very simple recipe resulted.

Before I get into the recipe, I want to give credit to my friends, Galen & Archie Strole, who took care of my hops after I moved from Illinois to Michigan this Summer. I also got their help with harvesting the hops for this beer, as well as the use of some of their equipment for the brewing of this beer. I got to Illinois late afternoon on brewday and met Galen & Archie. Apparently a storm was brewing to the north, so we got right to work harvesting the hops. Here are some pics of the storm and our harvesting efforts. The pics don't really do justice to the weather, but notice how dark some of the pics are as well as how blurry. We were really trying to work quickly and dodge lightning bolts as we picked hop cones next to 18 ft. vertical steel poles.

For this recipe, my goal was to use a small bittering charge, and throw in a whole bunch of fresh hops at the end for a hop stand. I picked half a 5-gallon bucket full of cones, mostly Chinook and a few Nuggets.

Here is a nice pic of my hop stand:

We had a few homebrews during the boil. Here's one of my Pilsners:

And one of their cranberry wheat beers (I think. I know it was some kind of fruit. Like I said, we had a few homebrews.):

After the hop stand, it was time to chill down the wort.

Here is the recipe:

Hop Harvest Ale:

5 gallon batch; OG: 1.045; ABV: 3.9%; BU: 45 (not including isomerization of hop oils during hop stand)


3.3# Light LME
3.3# Amber LME


1.00 oz. Simcoe (13.2%) FWH (first wort hop) @ 60 min.
approx. a 1/2 full 5-gallon bucket fresh picked Chinook and Nugget hop cones
0.50 oz. Citra (14.1%) Dry-hop 7 days


Fermentis US-05


Add one can LME as water comes to a boil. Add second can LME with 15 min. remaining (to get better hop utilization). Add first wort hops right away. Boil 60 minutes. Add fresh hops at flameout. Let steep covered for 30 minutes. Chill wort to pitching temperature. Ferment in the low-to-mid 60sF. Add dry hop charge in secondary or when primary fermentation is complete.

I'll save the boring tasting notes for another beer. You've sucked on a fresh C-hop cone, right? It tastes kinda like that. Citrus, pine, mango, bitter, spice, low-carbed cool, soft refreshment. Until next time, Be Fermentive!

Jaden James Brewery: The Little Brewery That Does

In my ongoing series of posts exploring Grand Rapids area breweries I have tried to discover each brewery's unique attributes. Jaden James microbrewery has been one of my more surprising finds. At first blush, one would not even recognize this "urban winery," microbrewery, tasting room, and home vintner/brewing supplies retailer for what it is. Located in a commercial/industrial park, it is non-descript save some white lettering that reads, "Cascade Winery," on the front of the suite facing a four-lane, divided highway near the Gerald R. Ford Airport. In the smallish tasting room, patrons stand around a U-shaped bar or sit at a few adjacent tables. Award winning wines, glassware, decor, and accessories are also available for sale in this area. A bookable party room with many more tables and another room with home vintner and brewing supplies is located off the main tasting room. Wines are poured at the bar and beer is served from taps in a kitchen behind the main bar. Decor is somewhat spartan, but includes wine-related signs and a hand-painted mural of various grape varietals.

Though I cannot fully vouch for their wine (not my area, but what I've had, including a chocolate and jalapeno wine, yes, that's right jalapeno wine, was tasty), their beer is quite good. For it's size, Jaden James brewery makes some of the best ales and lagers I have tried in the greater GR area. I introduced myself to one of the owners, Bob, who aspires to "have the smallest brewery in Michigan." Jaden James' beer is only available at the brewery, served in glasses, howlers, or growlers. Rose, another owner, manages the bar and is great to chat with. There is also Roger, who makes wine and cider, runs marathons, and does some of the brewing. There is also a brewer who does most of the brewing (I believe), but I have not met him. From what I've gathered on several visits, they have a 2-barrel brewhouse and have genuine lagering capabilities (the Oktoberfest and Black Lager are both very nice). Regular offerings include a Gluten-free beer, Cream Ale, one or two lagers, an India Pale Ale (90 IBUs and as good as I've had in these parts), four flavors of hard cider, and a root beer. Rotating and seasonal offerings I've enjoyed include a Rye IPA, India Brown Ale, Little Full Lotta Sap (a tree beer brewed with a pine branch; sounds strange, but pretty good), and a Russian Stout (their most popular beer and very good).

I see Jaden James/Cascade Winery as a great place to go if you are a beginner to the world of craft beer, or to take friends who like wine or cider but aren't sure about beer. This place has it all, and it's all good. When I have been in attendance, I've seen several parties of Groupon-ers come and go. So, because it's a small place and infrequently crowded, it can be fun to listen to what people are saying about what they are drinking. Unlike other places I've been in the city, there is a very low (or non-existent) snob factor to tarnish the drinking experience. Jaden James has Happy Hour on Thursdays 4-8 with $1 off 12 oz. and 16 oz. beers. Rose frequently offers free pretzels to snack on, but chips, crackers, cheese, and salsa are also available for sale. Tuesdays are $2 off growler fills, which I've taken advantage of once so far. I have a lot of my own beer at home to drink though, so I doubt I'll be indulging much in the near future. Overall, Jaden James seems to be my kind of place. Great beer, cider, and wine; a bright, cheery atmosphere; friendly owners, employees, and patrons; and, a convenient location and prices that keep me coming back. Here's some pics of some of their beer and cider in action.