Monthly Archives: October 2012

Utopias

A fellow beer geek, blogger, and brewer, Alan, dropped by my place yesterday. Alan is at Niagara College in the Brewmaster’s program and is on reading week. He had a bit of time in the midst of taxiing his sons around Southern Ontario and wanted to share a special drink with me that he had been saving.

Sam Adams’ Utopias is one of the specialty beers coming out of the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston. It’s less like beer and more like a liqueur. It sort of changes one’s perception of what beer can be.

In Ontario the beer was released by the LCBO in a lottery format. With so few bottles being produced by the brewery and such demand for the product the LCBO decided to buy a very limited number of bottles and offer them to customers in a lottery format. Put your name in to request a bottle and if they draw your name you can buy one. They aren’t cheap either!

The packaging of the beer is stunning. It’s a miniature replica of a copper boil kettle used in breweries with little sliding doors to reveal a smiling portrait of Samuel Adams himself.

The bottle with the box in the background

The smiling image of Samuel Adams

I don’t do beer reviews per se but I will say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable beer. It pours flat with no carbonation. Our pours were a little hazy but they were the bottom of the bottle and I have no idea what the initial pours were like, whether they were clear or also hazy from the get go. Lots of interesting smells in the aroma of the beer and that all carried through to the taste. Such a complex beer which, as I said earlier, challenges and changes ones perception of what beer is or can be.

The pour.

Many thanks to Alan for dropping by with this special treat! It was a thoroughly enjoyable visit and a pleasant way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon.

Cheers!

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Happy New Gear!

I love the barter system. I helped my friend Scott move house in August and in exchange for that he felt it was worth a keggle. A keggle is simply an old beer keg with the top cut out so that it can be used for a mash tun, boil kettle or hot liquor tank. I was happy to take it off his hands and help de-clutter his garage. 😉

This one is a nice size, 50L, which is slightly smaller than the other standard of 58L. As an added bonus he said that he wanted to demo some new tools and techniques for a homebrew club meeting back in September and was going to install a fitting on the keggle so that I could have a valve on it quite easily. Also for free.

The demo didn’t transpire but he’s a man of his word so he did the work for my anyway. I was over there today to “help out” as he worked on the keggle. He drilled the hole, dimpled it and installed the fitting for me over the course of  a morning. Some VERY nice work! I’m not terribly handy so it was great to work with him and see his attention to detail and care that he took with the installation especially given that it was free and the he didn’t HAVE to do it.

The dimpling, especially, was a new technique for me. He drills the hole in the side of the keggle and then using a special tapered tool and a couple of socket wrenches he pushes the tool through the hole very slowly from inside to outside so that there is a bit of a flange created on the outside of the keg. He then pushes the fitting through from the inside to the outside so that he can solder on the inside of the keg where the fitting meets the keg wall. This allows the solder to seal around the fitting and provide more  surface area to secure the fitting.

Amazing work! The join on the inside of the keggle is perfect and the whole thing is ready to take a valve assembly to allow easy transfer of wort or water from the keggle.

These are Scott’s pictures from some work that he did on Friday on another brewer’s keggle but mine looks exactly the same with the exception of the valve. Beautiful!

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Partigyle Epicosity

My often brewing partner, Scott, had a get together a while back where he invited five other brewers to his place for a brew day. He had made a plan for a partigyle brew day for six brewers where we each end up with five gallons of beer for take home.

Following the link above will take you to an article about partigyle brewing but, in short, it’s basically one big grain bill from which you get several different beers rather than one big beer. The first runnings will create a small volume of very strong beer and then the second runnings create a larger volume of smaller (lower gravity) beer. Scott had plans to take that one step further to create another volume of beer that would be a mild.

His plan was for five gallons of Barley Wine, ten gallons of IPA, and 15 gallons of mild. We almost made it. I think we fell short by five gallons of mild. Not bad, though.

This was probably one of the most complicated brew days I have participated in. I have done big brews on my own and quasi-partigyle brews as well but this is one that has been on the back burner for a while. Scott and I have discussed doing an “epic partigyle” for many months. He took that plan and ran with it on his own for the visiting brewers and organized the entire day. Aside from falling slightly short on the volume of mild it was a huge success!

Here are some pics from the day.


Beerclings Review

I’m finally getting around to this! With apologies to Shawn at Beerclings for the delay, no offense intended.

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Shawn to do a review on his product and provided with a sheet of labels for testing purposes. Anyone can get one free label to try out, they’re available on the website.

Great first impression on the labels and the package. I received a sheet of 12 labels to try out with page of instructions and a handwritten letter from Shawn. Always a nice touch!

A good first impression

The initial design of the label is fine. He says on the website that they currently offer only the one design but will be setting up for expansion to other designs. I look forward to those other designs and maybe the option for uploading our own labels for printing. That would be a nice touch.

The instructions that came with the package could not be clearer. Well written and super clear for anyone wanting to get into labeling their bottles.

I wanted to be sure to give the labels a fair test so I did follow the instructions to a T as best I could.

Some action shots for you.

Drying the bottle

Applying the label

Label applied!

Three bottles ready for testing

Once the labels were on the bottles I did have a feeling that size-wise they look better proportioned on the bomber bottle. In the photo above you can see for yourself despite the slightly misaligned placement. They fit perfectly on the standard size bottle but I just felt they looked a little big. I put one on the bomber and it seemed to be a better fit.

They labels are generic and they have a banner on them with space for writing your beer name or style. I did try a Sharpie for marking my beer style on there but was not terribly successful. It marked but didn’t stay on so well. Maybe there are some suggestions on the website for how to mark them.

My rigorous testing involved a few scenarios. First off I just labeled them and let them sit in the fridge for a few days to see how they lasted. I have never dealt with a label like this so was ready for anything. In and out of the fridge with the inevitable condensation and they were totally fine! The labels really stay on VERY well.

I couldn’t stop there. There must be more I can do to torture test these labels. What about a cooler full of ice and water at a party? What about in the middle of summer when you leave a case of beer in the trunk of the car? What about boiling bottles? (It’s not really a scenario I would come across with beer but it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

I figured I would fill a container with water and put it in the fridge with the labeled bottle in it and see how it did.

That’s cold.

No problems there. It even says on the website that the condensation will further lock the label on to the bottle. No question. That label was on there.

What about the back of the car scenario? I figured I would go one better and just try roasting the bottle with the label on it.

That’s hot enough

It’s a dry heat

It survived!

It’s not 100% clear in the above photo but the thermometer is reading just above 160F and the label was totally intact.

The final test was the boiling. Why? I don’t know, why not?

That’s a wet heat.

Sadly, this was the only test the labels failed. You can see in the above photo that the label did peel off in the boiling water. That said, I don’t think this is necessarily a realistic scenario but it was fun to see how far I could push the labels.

My thoughts? I like the labels. I think it’s a great idea and for those who do a lot of bottling and like to present a good looking, professional bottle, this is definitely the way to go. They are easy to use and easy to re-use as well. They survived heat, cold and ice water with no problems.

Recommendations? I didn’t get too far into testing what works best for writing on them so maybe there are some suggestions from Shawn for that. I look forward to other designs and maybe a template for designing our own labels and uploading. Maybe some other products? As I was reviewing these labels I thought of maybe a cling label for the shoulders of carboys to record brew details. That could be removed and reapplied to a secondary carboy and then a keg. What about growler cap labels? Keg labels?

I think this is an excellent product. If you do a lot of bottling and like to label, these are easy to use, clean, clear and well produced. Great job, Shawn!

Get them here: Beerclings