Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Drake's Denogginizer Double India Pale Ale

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight’s featured beer is Drake’s Brewing Denogginizer Double India Pale Ale. I was introduced to Drake’s back in 1999 while at the San Leandro Cherry Festival. Drake’s was pouring a Bing Cherry beer that I thought was incredible. Years later I began finding their beers at liquor stores and being poured at local brew pubs. I’ve always been a fan of their beers. The folks at Drake’s get GREAT beer. 

From the Drake’s Brewing website: “Denogginizer Double India Pale Ale – 9.75% ABV, 90 IBUs.
Silver Medal winner for Imperial India Pale Ale, Great American Beer Festival 2009. Besides Jolly Roger, this is probably Drake’s most renowned beer. An Imperial (or Double) IPA, Denogginizer is a big bold beer hopped with an abundant amount of Simcoe and Amarillo with a touch of Ahtanum and Chinook. Mashed with Crystal malt and Caramalt for color and flavor to help balance out the hop assault. Denogginizer is also Drake’s most powerful regular offering, at a whopping 10% alcohol by volume!”
Let's get started!
Appearance: Poured a golden orange with a tight khaki head and lots of lacing.
Aroma: A hop assault with lots of citrus and grapefruit notes. Pine resin and Simcoe scents.
Taste: Wonderfully balanced with strong citrus notes. Not as sweet or malty as some double IPAs, but sweet enough to tame the hops.

Overall: This is a sneaky double IPA. At nearly 10% ABV you wouldn’t know it unless you decide to stand up and then…whoa… Tasty and not too boozy. I would put this one HIGH on my list of favorites.

I particularly like supporting Drake’s as a hometown brewery. They constantly get it right with all of their brews and Denogginizer is no exception! 

Drake's has a monthly "First Friday" event.  From their website: "General Info: $5 per person voluntary donation, to the non-profit organization we are supporting, at the gate. (Children with their parents free). $15 for a Drake’s tasting glass and 3 tokens for 3 full pours. Additional tokens can be purchased separately ($3.50 each, with net proceeds going to the non-profit). Great food available for purchase. Please park in the main West Gate Center lot, in front of Walmart & Sports Authority, and walk back to the brewery. There is no parking at the brewery. Eight (or more!) Drake’s Beers will be available, including our present seasonal (when available). 21 and over please, except children with their parents. Please, leave your pets at home. And kindly respect our neighbors and their customers in the West Gate Center. OK to use Drake’s tasting glasses from previous Friday events. Other glassware not accepted."  

I'd like to get a group of us locals together to head over to Drake's on one of these "First Friday" events.  Comment and let's get over there!


Mark Harvey

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mad River Brewing Company Steelhead Double IPA

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review. 

Tonight’s featured beer is Mad River Brewing Company Steelhead Double IPA. Some beers take coaxing to try – I’ll admit. With so many fantastic beers on the market, particularly double IPAs, it isn’t easy to buy a six pack on faith. After all, I have a frighteningly large amount of beer that is known to me. My buddy Brian spent some time working near Blue Lake and he spent some time at Mad River Brewing Company. He brought back some of their beers, their Steelhead Extra Stout and their Steelhead Double IPA to share with me. Unfortunately the six pack of Double IPA crashed to the ground as he pulled them out of his cooler. He did bring over the Extra Stout, but I was left wondering about this fantastic Double IPA that he was talking about. Well, needless to say I didn’t need too much encouragement and I picked up a six of Mad River Brewing Company Steelhead Double IPA.
From the Mad River Brewing Company website: “Maltier, hoppier and stronger than regular IPAs, Double IPA is dry hopped with Amarillo hops for a fresh citrus flavor and aroma. Goes great with red meats and life in general. Does not go well with driving or machinery.”

Let’s get started!
Appearance: Pours a slightly orange amber with a nice foamy head and nice lacing.
Aroma: Starts a nice malt scent followed by sweet citrus (pineapple, grapefruit) and pine notes.
Taste: Hoppy and malty, smooth and balanced. A classic West Coast Double IPA executed to perfection!
Overall: Extremely drinkable! Mad River has scored another fan with this exceptional brew. Looks like I’ll be adding this to my “regular” beer list.
At 8.6% ABV you need to work on these slowly unless you’ve got incredible drinking prowess.


Mark Harvey

Ninkasi Brewing Company Total Domination IPA

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

This early morning post is coming to you from Denver, CO. I’m stuck at the airport – no hotel room and I am taking my buddy Rob’s advice and beerlogging as I am not sure I’ll be able to sleep on the provided chairs (and with all the lights and people milling around). Of course the free wi-fi isn't completely cooperating so I guess we will see when this actually gets posted. The featured beer today is Ninkasi Brewing Company Total Domination IPA. My buddy Tony turned me onto Ninkasi beers and I’ve become a big fan of their brews. I lived in Eugene, OR for a year as a kid and I don’t think I returned to California with my heart. There’s just something about Oregon and Washington that seem “right” to me and there’s no lack of fantastic beers. I’ll review other Ninkasi beers, but today is for Total Domination!
From the Ninkasi Brewing Company Website: “Multiple hops collide in balanced perfection, dominating the senses, achieving total satisfaction. From the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the modern IPA comes a beer whose name says it all.
Let’s get started!
Appearance: Pours a beautiful hazy golden orange. Nice head, retention and lacing.
Aroma: Incredible hop bouquet – citrus and pine. Slight honey and biscuit malt scents.
Taste: Intense citrus, pine and what can best be describes as tropical hop flavors (pineapple, orange or tangerine, apricot and grapefruit). Serious bitter hop finish.
Overall: A tasty brew that stacks up with some of my favorites. At 6.7% ABV this is definitely an IPA worth checking out (if you haven’t already).
I had a chance to have one of these fine beers while visiting Seattle (at the Mariners game). Very nice to get a chance to try this one on tap (bottles are good, but the tap is where it is at!).


Mark Harvey

Monday, May 23, 2011

Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight’s featured beer is Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Elder is one of the most perfect beers ever brewed (this – in my opinion). It isn’t always easy to find, but always worth seeking out. It is always my goal to have at least one or two of ‘em in my beer fridge at all times. It is like having a safety net – ensuring that at any given time beer perfection can be found close by.
From the Russian River Brewing Company website: “Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer. Although not considered his most important work, Pliny and his contemporaries created the botanical name for hops, "Lupus salictarius", meaning wolf among scrubs." Hops at that time grew wild among willows, much like a wolf in the forest. Later the current botanical name, Humulus lupulus, was adopted. Pliny died in 79 AD while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle's legacy by documenting much of what he observed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.”
Let’s get started!
Appearance: Pours a deep golden orange with a creamy, fluffy head.
Aroma: This beer smells amazing. Citrus, pine and floral hops dominate with an exceptional malt backbone. This beer has a huge scent that fills a room.
Taste: Much like the aroma, big hops with a fantastic malt backbone. Grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and apricot. Pine resin and perhaps fresh tobacco. Always a treat.
Overall: Always impressive. This double IPA never disappoints. This is the standard that all double IPAs are compared. The NCBB “Lights Out Double IPA” was an attempted Pliny clone. Often imitated, never duplicated.
At 8.0% ABV Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder is incredibly drinkable, but really, this beer is to be respected AND enjoyed!


Mark Harvey

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bear Republic Brewing Co. Racer 5 IPA

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.
Tonight’s featured beer is Bear Republic Brewing Co. Racer 5 IPA. This is one of my “go to” beers and I’ve been drinking Racer 5 for many years. I’ve had the opportunity to visit their brewpub in Healdsburg several times and they’re always fantastic. From the Bear Republic Brewing Co. website: “This hoppy American IPA is a full bodied beer brewed American pale and crystalmalts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. There's a trophy in every glass.”

Let’s get started!

Appearance: Pours golden amber.  Nice off-white head with thick lacing.
Aroma: Sweet caramel malt with a nice bouquet of citrus, fruity and floral hops.  Fantastic aroma! 
Taste: Sweeter than the normal IPA with a perfect amount of hop bitterness.  Crisp and clean with an excellent balance of caramel malt and hops.
Overall: As I said, Racer 5 has been a favorite of mine for years.  Balanced, drinkable and one of the best examples of a West Coast IPA.

At 7.0% ABV this is a very drinkable IPA perfect for nearly every occasion.  I like keeping Racer 5 in the beer fridge since you just never know when you’ll need this to compliment…ANYTHING (and everything)!


Mark Harvey

Friday, May 20, 2011

NCBB Double Ale

Good evening beer lovers,

It was quite a day on Saturday, May 14th as I embarked on my first solo brewing adventure.  Not that brewing solo is a big deal, really, but I've always thought of brewing as a communal thing and doing it alone seemed to go against my inclinations.  Regardless of this, I decided it was high time I try this on my own so I did. (in the photo to the left I'm enjoying a NCBB Heavy Mellow Stout)

My adventure started on Friday the 13th when I headed out to purchase a new brew kettle.  MoreBeer had a modified brewing kettle - heavy duty (32 Quart/8 Gallon) on sale and even though HopTech is my home brew place of choice I couldn't pass up the great deal.  Sean at MoreBeer couldn't have been more helpful and I decided to get my ingredients while there.  Their set up is different from HopTech's in that it is DIY and HopTech will measure out the goods for you.  There's something graduated about the process - meaning - you gotta be a big kid to know what you're doing at MoreBeer, but the downside is that their malts are pre-measured as are their hops so for someone like me who likes to press the edges when brewing (I don't like to stick to recipes) I'd end up with extras.  In the case of this batch I now have Mt. Hood and Northern Brewer hops that I'll need to add to the next recipe (I guess a good problem to have).

The beer I decided to take on this time was a Double Ale ala The Pike Brewing Company's Tandem Double Ale.  My wife and I spent a few days in Seattle and I really enjoyed this beer when visiting the brewery.

So, I bought...
8.00 lb Pale Malt Extract

2.00 lb Munich Malt
1.00 lb Wheat Malt
0.75 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt
0.25 lb Roasted Barley

0.75 oz Northern Brewer (60 min)
0.50 oz Northern Brewer (0 min)
0.75 oz Mt. Hood (15 min)
0.50 oz Mt. Hood (0 min)

0.50 oz Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 min)

1.00 lb Candi Sugar, Clear

1 Pkg Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550) Yeast-Ale
Irish Moss
I was psyched to use my new kettle since I could do a full boil.  I had been reading about using filtered or bottled water so I thought I'd try filtering some water.  After getting three gallons done (in my Brita pitcher) I said to heck with it and added the remaining three and a half gallons to the kettle.  My water tastes great out of the tap, but I plan to build a brew filter for future batches anyhow.  My goal is to leave nothing to chance.
After I got the water up to 150 degrees I added the grain bag.  I was instructed to keep the water at 150 degrees by Sean at MoreBeer.  I steeped the grains for 60 minutes.
Next up was the malt extract.
I added the first round of hops (Northern Brewer - 60 minutes).
I added next round of hops (Mt. Hood - 15 minutes).
With ten minutes left to go I added the Belgian candi sugar.

Ground coriander seed went in with five minutes left.
Then it was time to chill the wort.

Once I reached a little under 75 degrees I aerated the wort into the carboy and pitched the White Labs #WLP550 Belgian Ale Yeast.
During the brewing process I kept cleaning bottles in an effort to make the bottling process a few weeks from now easier.
Since this was my first time not using a Wyeast smack pack I wasn't sure what to expect (in terms of fermentation).  My experience was that fermentation started fairly quickly.  I actively watched the carboy for the next few hours.

The next morning I got up and there was little activity.  I was worried.  Had I botched my first solo flight?  I went online and read and felt a little better knowing that these things take time and with brewing (and life) patience is a virtue.
Sure enough, less than 24 hours later and fermentation was going strong.  I put the airlock on and felt good to go!

Well, a few hours later (after returning home from a party) fermentation was going CRAZY. The activity on this one is HUGE. Glad I set this one up with a blow off tube (Thanks to Doug G I did on this beer based on my concern of the sugars taking off).

I'm nearly a week in on this brew - one more week left in the primary and not sure if I will go secondary or not.  I've read pros and cons - thoughts?
I'm hoping to brew my next solo batch in the next week or so.  We'll see how that goes.

Thanks for reading!


Mark Harvey