Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Penny Coal Pale Ale

Penny Coal Pale Ale

We dug back very deep into Port Vue history to come up with the name of our American Pale Ale. Port Vue, named after it great view of McKeesport, PA, is a small borough commonly known as the town where the sun always shines and the mud never dries. I'm sure not many people know much about Port Vue or any of its rich history, so this is why we felt the need to bring a small slice of it to light. Penny Coal Mine was a small mining operation that was in existence from 1884 to just after the turn of the century. They mined the coal in Port Vue and railed it to the Youghiogheny River to be put on barges and sent on its way. Below is a picture of the Yough and the Penny Coal Rail Road on the other side of the river.

Photo Courtesy of Rudolph Antoncic Sr., former Mayor
Port Vue Book

Time can mask a lot of history that built this area and what it stood for. Not only is it a kick ass name for a Pale Ale, but it brings some of Port Vue's history to the forefront.

The label was created by Eric Boyd to highlight the look and feel of the time period. Look closely at the background of the label to see the signature image of Brick Alley.

As always, the beer is generously hopped and brewed with American Pale Malt and flaked wheat.
Summit hops are dwarf hops grown on short trellises in the Yakima Valley that create a very citrusy aroma and taste. Falconer's Flight 7 C's hops are a unique blend of Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Cluster, Columbus and Crystal along with additional experimental varieties that highlight citrusy/earthy overtones in the beer. Hop Union LLC created this blend of hops to honor the late Glen Hay Falconer. The first batch came out great, so I fully expect us to brew this one again!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beer Label Art May 2012

Just wanted to shoot out a quick update on some great label art created by Eric Boyd and Chelsea Leber. We needed to get some art together for our last few beers before this weekend, and they did not disappoint. 

This weekend will be Brick Alley Brewing's first advertising of 2012. We will be sponsoring Miss Greater Juniata Valley, Amanda Pope, during the 2012 Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Pageant. 

We will also be donating some craft beer essentials as well as a 6 pack of our craft beer. The items will be raffled for charity. 

Just for all of you keeping score, we've successfully locked down 9 recipes in less than 1 year. 

Also, we'd like to get your input again. Take a quick second and vote on all of the label art for the beers that will be raffled off next week.  The earlier labels are a few posts back, so check out those labels that were created by Sarah Kane. 

Labels and Beer descriptions below!

Thanks to Eric Boyd, Chelsea Leber, and Sarah Kane for designing the label art for the beers that will be donated for the charity raffle.

Trolley 68 Tripel (Belgian Tripel - ? ABV)

After a few hoppy recipes, we wanted to tap into some old school styles and design a unique Belgian Tripel.  This tripel is brewed with 4 different malts, belgian candi, and lightly hopped with Saaz, Hallertauer, and Fuggles hops. So where does the name come from? 68 was the number of the Trolley that used to run from McKeesport to Pittsburgh back in the early 1940's and 50's. We wanted to honor the history of the old street car era with a classic belgian tripel style. Another reason for the street car/trolley theme came from Josh. He's been on the trolley bandwagon for the last few brews so I feel like the name and the beer were made for each other. 

Sh*t Hoppins (Belgian IPA - 7% ABV)

As the famous saying goes,"Shit Happens." That's pretty much all you can say after someone drops a 6 gallon carboy full of beer. We'll never know what that first batch of the Belgian IPA would of tasted like, but judging by the 2nd, it would of been a great beer. The name of this beer doesn't have a unique historical significance, but it does follow in the foot steps of our other satirical names we've used for IPA's.  This Belgian IPA is a darker deep amber that is hopped with Warrior, Columbus, Simcoe, Cascade, and Challenger hops. Just for good measure we dry hopped this beer with Citra for about 14 days. So in the end, the Shit part of the name covers the drop (RIP), and the Hoppins covers the 6 varieties used to hop this beer. 

Bawdy House Red (American Amber Ale - 7% ABV)

You might be asking yourself, "What does it mean?" Well, nobody really knows what it means, but it gets the people going. Had to do it, sorry. A Bawdy House is an old school word for a brothel or house of prostitution. So....why would you name a beer after that. Two reasons: the beer is an amber ale (reddish in color), which is a play on the "red light district". The second reason is the name sticks with the Brick Alley theme of McKeesport. We decided to honor the old red light district with a beer named after the brothels that once lined the alley. If you look up old newspaper articles on McKeesport in the 1940's, they talk about the raids and corruption of the old "bawdy houses" on Brick Alley. Nothing better than a little bit of prostitution history while enjoying a great beer. This beer follows the basic malt and color blueprint for an American Amber Ale, but is hopped up for great bitter finish. This beer will be ready to be bottled and enjoyed in about a week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Our B(rand)eer tells a story...

Beer and Branding - 2 very different words that, to me, come together more than ever in the craft beer industry. This is an industry that is built on quality, taste, uniqueness, and history. So why are some craft breweries naming some of their highest quality beers generic names like...Lager or IPA? Am I going to try the (insert generic name here) Amber Ale or a Bawdy House Red Amber Ale created and named after the bawdy houses that lined the red light district in McKeesport? I'm going to try the beer that has a more intriguing name and a story behind it. After all, breweries represent the town they are in and the people they serve.

Example. Even though Shur Fine Ketchup is cheaper than Heinz Ketchup, and made with almost the same ingredients, which Ketchup do you buy? You buy Heinz every time because of the history of the brand and the quality it represents. There's a story behind Heinz ketchup and they put it right on the bottle. Why aren't more craft breweries putting more thought into the "brand" they represent? Why are we naming beers generic names?

Think about this for a second: Craft Breweries are small versions of Proctor and Gamble. They sell many different brands, each brand's survival based on success and sales. Do you know why P&G is so successful? It's because of their excellent branding strategies. P&G sales 5 different brands of laundry detergent. All of the brands are priced to various target markets and every brand they sell has a net profit of over 1 billion dollars in sales annually. You go into Walmart and ponder which "brand" of laundry detergent to buy. Chances are, you picked one that fits your budget, and fits your needs, based on the brand. There's also a really good chance that the brands you were comparing were all owned by P&G. So, what I'm trying to say is, P&G doesn't make billions of dollars by naming their detergents Brand A, Clear Detergent, Value Brand, Cheap but Works, and Fresh Good Smell Brand. They sell that much detergent without cannibalizing sales of the other brands by their unique branding strategies. Just like P&G, breweries represent many "brands" even though they brew all of them. You have to name them and brand them accordingly. People are "shopping" for a brand when they are buying your beer.

The same goes for your local/hometown brewpub or microbrewery. These breweries represent the towns they are in. They represent the people that work there and the patrons that enjoy their beers. People want something they can connect to. They want something that represents their style, personality, and hometown. People connect to family, history, and the foundations they were brought up with. 

This is what Brick Alley Brewing represents. Even in it's home brewing infancy, the brand represents history, good and bad. There's a story behind what we brew and why we brew it. The beer not only represents the style you can find it under in the BJCP style guide, but it represents the history of a city that once was one of the back bones of the United States. The beer is named for places, people, and things that aren't physically there anymore. These beers don't represent tangible things, but they represent the history of what these things and places once represented. They represent stories and values that our parents and grandparents lived through and passed on to us. The ingredients, color, and name of our beers represent what you taste, and what you think about when you try that beer. 

Everyone's got a story, you have to make sure people want to read, or in this case, drink your story.

Monday, March 12, 2012


When we entered the TRASH 22 competition at the end of February we honestly didn't have super high expectations on winning any awards. Heck, we haven't even been brewing for a full year, and only started all grain recipes a few months ago. To us, our biggest award would be positive feedback from the BJCP judges. Of course our family and friends are going to tell us that our beer is great, but we wanted an unbiased opinion on our work. We wanted to know what we are doing well, and what we can be improving on when we brew.  Our IPA, Hop Dusted, was awarded 2nd Place in the Imperial IPA category! We knew it was a good beer, but it felt great to be recognized as a top beer out of the 604 total entries.

The whole experience of the TRASH 22 banquet was great. We got to try tons of home brews, talk to other brewers, and got more information on the organization as a whole. I'm sure we'll compete again next year with a few more entries.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Name....that....BEER....Brick Alley Edition - LABEL ART UPDATE

Even though we're home brewing, we've been churning out a new beer every 2 weeks with the same equipment we've originally purchased from the Porterhouse Brew Shop. As  home brewers, this is great, but we've been a little lax on naming our beers. Over the last few weeks we've got some good names rolling. Hope everyone enjoys them. We usually stick to brewing the beers and naming them. After that we let people with the art experience take over from there.


Hop Dusted (Imperial IPA - 7% ABV)

Great play on words with this beer. Everyone has been guilty of a little crop dusting from time to time in public AKA (silently breaking wind on unknowing bystanders as you walk past). Personally, I am a repeat offender of this in Dollar Tree and Walmart on a weekly basis. This beer is a darker shade of cloudy amber brewed with 5 different types of American hops. We also entered this beer into the Trash 22

Porch Sit (Belgian Pale Ale? - 7+% ABV)

If you know my group of friends, then you know there's one thing we love to do in the summer, and that's porch sit. Porch sitting is a great American tradition that can be done alone, but it's highly recommended to do with great friends and great beer. This recipe went a few different ways at first and in the end came out like nothing we've ever done before. It's really hard to categorize this beer because of it's Belgian malt base, wit yeast, American hops, and apricots in the secondary fermentation. Ultimately we categorized it as a Belgian Pale Ale? Whatever it is, it's sure to be truly unique. Since we've never brewed this recipe or tasted it, we were a little unsure about entering it into the Trash 22 competition. In the end, we figured, ahhh screw it, let's do it. This beer will be ready to roll this weekend after a few weeks of carbonation.

Monongahela Monster (Black IPA - 7.5% ABV)

Just like something that would crawl out of the Mon, this Black IPA is very dark, malty, and super hoppy. We wanted to explore this unique beer style and put a little spin on it. We hopped this beer every 10 minutes with 3 different kinds of American hops for 60 minutes. This beer will appeal to both hop heads and people looking for a dark, roasted malty base. We didn't get this beer made in time for the beer competition, but it should be ready to go in about a month.

Bawdy House Red (American Amber Ale - 7% ABV)

You might be asking yourself, "What does it mean?" Well, nobody really knows what it means, but it gets the people going. Had to do it, sorry. A Bawdy House is an old school word for a brothel or house of prostitution. So....why would you name a beer after that. Two reasons: the beer is an amber ale (reddish in color), which is a play on the "red light district". The second reason is the name sticks with the Brick Alley theme of McKeesport. We decided to honor the old red light district with a beer named after the brothels that once lined the alley. If you look up old newspaper articles on McKeesport in the 1940's, they talk about the raids and corruption of the old "bawdy houses" on Brick Alley. Nothing better than a little bit of prostitution history while enjoying a great beer. This beer follows the basic malt and color blueprint for an American Amber Ale, but is hopped up for great bitter finish. This beer will be ready to be bottled and enjoyed in about a week.


Beers on the Horizon for 2012

Winter in Pittsburgh was great, hasn't really snowed much and the deep freeze never really set it. More reason to get the spring beers rolling. Starting March 9th we'll be brewing at least 2 spring beers for 2012. 

The first beer will be a Belgian Tripel with an ABV around 10%-11%. We haven't really pinned down a recipe yet, but we do know we want it to be strong and lighter in color. Kinda the opposite of a spring time beer, but we don't really care.  I'll keep everyone updated as the recipe develops.

The second of the spring beers will be a Pennsylvania Saison. Ligher in body, balanced hops, and brewed with herbs, spices, and possibly fruit grown by local farmers in PA. Usually when we use fruit we sanitize with vodka because of it's tasteless characteristics. If we do go with some local fruit, we'll be utilizing Boyd and Blair potato vodka, distilled right here in Pittsburgh. 

As we think of more recipes this spring we'll keep everyone in the loop.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Taking out the TRASH

A few days ago I saw some info on the TRASH brewing competition that is held every year here in Pittsburgh. For those of you that don't know, T.R.A.S.H. stands for Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers. It's a competition that's held every year where homebrewers can submit their beer, cider, or mead for a chance to have their beer brewed on a commercial scale. There's a few special awards that are presented each year from East End Brewing, Rock Bottom, and the TRASH organization.
The guys who started TRASH were drinking craft beers in Turtle Creek before I was drinking Pedialyte so this organization has been around for a long time.

Last year, we attended the tapping of Tartanic Scottish Ale and Saison Shine down at Rock Bottom in Homestead. Both were winners of the East End Award and Rock Bottom award respectively.

The East End Award will go to the best session beer below 4.5% ABV. Not gonna lie, we won't qualify for this award. Our beers generally range about 6%-8% ABV. Oh, by the way, ABV stands for alcohol by volume. The lucky brewer to win this award will have their beer brewed by East End Brewing. EEB will put the beer on a few taps around town and it will be available at their growler hours. 

The Rock Bottom award will go to one of the winning beers that can be fermented with a Rock Bottom strain of yeast. So if you are brewing a beer that can be fermented with a Scottish ale Strain, a Kolsch strain, or a wit strain, then you're qualified to win this award. We'll be brewing a specialty beer that will fall into this category. 

The Turtle Creek Award will go to the homebrewer who's beer accumulates the highest number of points. This award will be presented by the TRASH organization.

We'll be entering  three, I mean 2 beers into the competition this year, one old school extract beer, and an all grain specialty that will qualify for the Rock Bottom Award.

We lost our third potential entry in a catastrophic carboy accident a few weeks ago. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kris Krinkelweizen - The Winter Dunkelweizen Experiment

The Kris Krinkelweizen, the winter seasonal dunkelweizen that should of never been a winter dunkelweizen.

Of course there's story behind this beer, as is most of the things we do when it comes to beer/brewing. Let's start with the basics.....

A dunkelweizen is an interesting beer to begin with, combining a dunkel or dark wheat with a traditional Weissbier or hefeweizen. Basically, a dunkel has sex with a hefeweizen, and they create this super interesting kid with white hair and dark skin.

My first experience with a dunkelweizen was this past August in the small German town of Jasper, IN. There's a great German restaurant there called Schnitzelbank, which serves up some great traditional German food along with great German beer. If you're ever there, check it a'ht.

Side note -  I was there for work, working on a project at the local turkey farm. We won't get into the turkey farm because it will most likely have you cooking ham instead of turkey next week because of the gruesome details. 

Ever since then, I thought it would be cool to try to brew a dunkelweizen. From what I saw online, it most likely had to be an all grain brew, which we've never attempted. So I basically forgot about it, until my last visit to get bottles at the Porterhouse Brew Shop. Ruth usually keeps all there kits on the shelves and I was browsing while I was waiting in line. THERE it was, a dunkelweizen kit sitting on the shelf. I've never seen this kit in the past and asked if it was rare. Ruth said her husband brews it, but they usually don't sell it often. It's an all grain kit and a little harder to brew. I didn't care, I scooped it up and thought we'd figure it out later. I asked, "What do you need for the all grain kit?". "Just an extra pot, I think", she said. I was sold.....until later I figured out that you need more than an extra pot. 

You need more time, water, energy, and a mash tun...and by the way, you have to build your own mash tun. If it wasn't for the insomniac wisdom of Bedont, we would of never even began to brew this beer. He basically took the mash tun by the balls and made his own with a 10 gallon jug, some pixie sticks, a few washers, a bolt, 1 can of chew, and perseverance. After that he passed out on the couch after not sleeping for 30 hours. 

After all that, we actually began to brew the beer, which was originally supposed to be a Pumpkin Dunkelweizen (Pumkelweizen) without actually using pumpkin in the beer. We were going to add all the necessary pumpkin spices in the beer during secondary fermentation. Well, we actually did do that, but in the end it didn't taste like pumpkin at all, not even close. We even had Eric Boyd create another great label for the Pumpkelweizen before we even tasted it. Don't worry, we'll try again next year. Check it out below...this guys is good!

Long story short, It tasted like a dunkelweizen with winter spices. We added cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, all spice, cloves, and chucks of whole ginger root to the secondary. All fresh spices of course, not that cheap ground up shit you get at the store for 99 cents. What came out was a dunkelweizen with great winter spice aroma and taste. Was it meant to be....Who the hell knows, we're hoping it tastes pretty good when it's done naturally carbonating. I cracked one open yesterday, not fully carbonated yet, but it was truly unique. 

In the spirit of the season, and because he was pretty hammered, Hays started "brainstorming" ideas for the name of the beer. Sure we wanted to incorporate Christmas and the holidays, but everyone already used Elf, Santa, St. Nick, and the term "winter". Those names were pretty played out....

The jolly man that he is, he said, "Why don't we use Kris Kringel in the name?" And so it became.....the Kris Krinkelweizen (dropped the "g" for a "k" to go with the dunkel vibe). Of course, the label you see above was designed for Eric Boyd. Only he can give the Brick Alley scene a feeling of holiday cheer. Of course, back in the day, I guess you could go there for some holiday "cheer". 

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Until Next Year....

Well, it's been awhile since the label designs were posted and I wanted to give an update on how the bottles looked with the labels designed by Eric Boyd. The home brew turned out better than expected and I think we've really locked down a good recipe. We'd love to brew it again, but we're at a dead end on finding fresh apricots this time of year. Since the recipe uses fresh fruit we figured it would be best to stick to fresh instead of canned or dried. Unfortunately, not only is the fruit gone for the season, but so is the beer....

Good beer never lasts long, and we want to thank everyone of our friends and family that got it enjoy it while it lasted.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brick Alley IPA Label Art

So here are the "finalists" for the Brick Alley IPA label designs. BIG THANK YOU to Eric Boyd for the time spent on designing the labels. Most brands are defined by the artwork that goes into their labels and I think these designs really represent the nostalgia and overall vibe we are trying to convey. We would love to get your feed back on the designs so feel free to comment! If you want, you can always contact any us of via twitter.

@tummybeeyord - Josh Hays (Brewer)
@MasterOfReason - Eric Bedont (Brewer)
@Leber412 - Chris Leber (Brewer)
@EricBoydTweets - Eric Boyd (Label Designer)
Brick Alley IPA Design 1
Brick Alley IPA Design 2
Brick Alley IPA Design 3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pints Full of Passion

There's a certain excitement and adrenaline rush you get when you are doing something you love. Time stands still, problems fade, and the only thing you can focus on is what is happening at the present moment. Many people call this being in the "zone". I call it passion.

Some people can search their whole lives to try to find their unique passion. For a couple of the guys I know; we've found it. 

For a long time, our passion was intangible. We would talk about it, write it down, brainstorm about it, and even dream about it. 

Sometime between Wednesday June 15th and Thursday June 16th, that dream will come full circle. Intangible dreams will be become tangible as they fill empty pint glasses. 

It's so close, we can almost taste it!

Welcome home Brick Alley, you never looked so good.

"Courage is the capacity to confront what can be imagined..."
- Leo Rosten

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Birth of the Brick Alley IPA

It's an old area... with old people, old ideas, and old stories. It's an infamous place, where most people live pay check to pay check and always talk about how it used to be. It's a rough area, and when mentioned any where in the North Hills of Pittsburgh people tend to cringe. It's a place that I call home; the place I grew up, and the place that inspired what I will soon create. Most people know it as the Mon Valley. There's a saying that has echoed through the generations of certain people in the Mon Valley...it kind of went..."If you ain't Mon Valley, you ain't Sh*t." Again I some how find a way to digress from the main story, but it's all part of the ride. A bumpy ride indeed.

Tucked away nicely in the Mon Valley is a place "Where the sun always shines, and the mud never dries." I didn't make that saying myself, but it's a great way the old folk describe Port Vue. It's a small town that lies above the city of McKeesport. The town is full of older people that lived the "American Dream" of working in the mills and providing for their families. A small boro of overall great people all trying to live average lives doing average things. Inside of that boro are a few young people that are motivated to step outside of that common dream and create something special. I happen to be one of those individuals.

It's funny for me to say this, but back in the day their used to be a place....a place that most knew of, but few ever went. My grandfather used to tell me about it all the time, but he never really got into detail of what it was. The place was called "Brick Alley". You're probably thinking, "Wow, what a build up for Brick Alley, who cares." Well, Brick Alley was more than your average trashy alley in McKeesport. It was internationally known as one of the most infamous red light districts in the country. In the 50's and 60's, Brick Alley was booming! From what I hear, Brick Alley was run by corrupt political figures and the place only got "raided" to keep the common citizens happy.  Most of the "johns" were white males, and mostly all of the women were African American. This place was kick back city, and to be honest, an establishment that this country was founded on. Sad, yet true.

Anywayyyy....that's besides the point. Brick Alley is a nostalgic place that most people still talk about today. It was a rough place with hints of happiness, shame, bitterness and sweet pleasure. It quenched your metaphorical "thirst" until the next time you could get there. It was best enjoyed on a hot summer day, and it was everything the Brick Alley IPA will represent. 

The Brick Alley IPA will be the first in a series of summer beers that will be brewed by a few men with a big dream. 

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and so is the Brick Alley IPA!

Next Post:

Did Someone mention Rosenberry????

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rumor Mill - Fort Pitt Special Beer

It's more about how you say something, than what you actually say....

"Why would Jerry bring anything?" Did he emphasize Jerry or bring? (Seinfeld fans will remember this one).

This is the dilemma I faced this week when I sent @Duquesnebeer a message on twitter about some "here say" that has been circulating about the possibility of rekindling the flame of Fort Pitt Special Beer. Allegedly there has been some talk about starting the brand back up again. Fort Pitt Special was a beer brewed in Sharpsburg, PA from 1906-1920. Once prohibition started in the US they ceased operation until 1933. Beer operations began again after 1933 until 1957 under Fort Pitt Brewing Company. Fort Pitt Special Beer was one of the top selling beers in the 1950's in the Pittsburgh area. From the research I've done, it came in various styles under the 'Fort Pitt" brand name. I've seen everything from Fort Pitt Special, Fort Pitt Beer, Fort Pitt Lager, Fort Pitt Pilsner, Fort Pitt Ale, Fort Pitt Porter, and even Fort Pitt Pale Ale.

This wouldn't be the first time that Fort Pitt Special Beer has attempted a comeback. Jones Brewing Company, famous for brewing Stoney's, tried to bring back the Fort Pitt legend in 1989 by claiming to brew with the original formula and starting an extensive marketing campaign. To make a long story short, it didn't work, and Jones Brewing Company closed up shop in 2001. Stoney's is still brewed today at City Brewing in Latrobe, PA.

City Brewing.....huh........the same place Mark Dudash is brewing Duquesne Beer. I've heard from a few sources, AKA people who drink beer that talk to people who sell beer, that Fort Pitt will be making a comeback AGAINNN......allegedly under the same umbrella as Duquesne Beer. Mark said to the Trib on March 7th, "we never expected the consumer response to be so great and lead to such record growth,"  as he talked about the sales of Duquesne Pilsner and there availability in cans. That quote is exactly this why I believe he will try to bring back Fort Pitt. 

The beautiful thing about Pittsburgh is we love old things. We love things that aren't there anymore, and old school thoughts and ideas. Mark took a shoot with Duquesne beer, and we didn't let him down. We love it!
It's an old school beer, brewed in Latrobe with great nostalgia. If it worked once, why wouldn't it work again with another brand? Why stop at Duquesne Beer, when you can tap into that old school mentality and bring back Fort Pitt.

So do I believe that Fort Pitt will be out in 2011??? Well I'll let you decide that one.
Below is the what I asked Duquesne Beer and their response.

Me - @DuquesneBeer - I know the cans are in the works, but is there a new brand in the works? Fort Pitt?

Prince of Pilsner - @Leber412 - ....The Price, like Washington cannot tell a lie. All I can say is you may be pleasantly surprised!

So again, it's not really what you say at all....it's all about how you say it....


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Porter House Brew Class - a hidden gem

It's been awhile since the last post, but I figured I would wait until after my brew class at the Porter House Brew Shop to update the blog.You usually don't find a diamond on the side of the road, especially in Butler county, but that's just what I found by discovering the Porter House Brew Shop. A tiny, store front next to a general store that is home to 2 of the best people I've met in my home brewing journey.

Let me start off by saying: I had a busy weekend, but to make a long story short, I missed a trip to Penn Brewery for a good friend's Bday, and my girlfriend became Miss Butler County. In the midst of all that action, I got take my brewing class at the Porter House Brew Shop. Do yourself a favor....  just sit back, grab a beer and enjoy this story, because it's a good one. My brew class was yesterday from 4:30 - 6:30 in Portersville, PA. Portersville is right off of I-79, exit 96, on Perry Highway. Not too far from Moraine State Park. The shop is a great little place run by the husband and wife team of Ruth and Don. Ruth and Don decided to open up the shop three years ago and this place is has the classic mom and pop vibe. Ruth is a real firecracker and one of the most genuine people you'll meet. She makes everyone really comfortable and relaxed, especially if you don't know anything about brewing. Don is more of the silent type, full of knowledge, really nice guy, but is a little awkward in front of large groups. I'm pretty sure that's why Ruth had the reins during most of the class

Ok, ok, let me back this train up a bit. So I walked into the Porter House Shop right before 4:30 and to my surprise there were about 20 people all seated and huddled around the front table. Everyone had a beer in their hand, so right off the bat I knew this class was going to be good. There was a food table set up with cheese, crackers, and a crock pot filled with hot sausage and the shop's special sauce. Ruth greeted me and grabbed me a beer just as Don walked in from the back patio. Don looked to have something brewing on the deck. We'd later find out Don was brewing a black IPA that he had been working on for awhile. Ruth jumped right into introductions and told us what we would be learning. This was the breakdown for the night:
  • Laws on homebrewing
  • History of Brewing
  • What beer is made of and how to brew
  • Home brewing levels
  • Equipment
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The really awkward meet and greet with everyone in the room. You know the feeling, everyone says their name and introduces themselves like you're in 4th grade again. Almost had an AA meeting vibe as we went around the room. "Hi, I'm John, I don't home brew yet, but I heard you were giving away beer samples". Who knows, maybe brewing classes are precursors to half these people going to AA - I joke, I joke. We all went around and said who we were, how much experience we have in home brewing, and what their favorite beers were. Some people were there to learn, some to get the free beer, and some to show everyone else how much they knew about craft beer. It was an eclectic assortment of people, but a fun group none the less. My favorite part about the meet and greet was how Ruth would judge what kind of person you were by the beer you said you liked to drink. I guess you can learn a lot about someone by what they have in the glass in front of them. Ruth is your classic beer snob and she's not afraid to tell you all about it. Ruth grabbed our hands and took us for a walk down memory lane. She said she used to like shitty beer when she was younger. Many years ago you would find her at a bowling alley with a pitcher full of coors light and a plastic cup. Not until her husband Don started brewing his own beer did she realize how bad coors light really is. She drinks craft beer now, and when she goes out, you'll find her with a rum and coke unless she's at a place that serves good beer.

OK, sort of went off topic there, but I wanted to paint a picture of the scene and the people. Home brewing, is it legal? Yes, you can brew up to 150 gallons of beer in a year per person or 200 gallons of beer if you have a family. Ruth said, "Let's get serious, you can brew as much as you want." According to her, unless you're selling it, no one is checking. After a brief history on beer we jumped right into beer and how to make it. Ruth went over all the basics I've been reading about - malt, hops, yeast, water, and sanitation. We talked about why and when you used each ingredient in the beer. We actually got to sample some of the liquid malt Don was using for the black IPA. The best part about the class was as we would go over something, Don would take us outside to show us what that step entailed. He was brewing the black IPA so we could see how home brewing is done. Of course we sampled a new beer during each step to make sure everyone stayed "hydrated". I had my notebook and took notes during the class. Some stuff was a repeat from the book, but I learned a good bit of stuff from the class that I did not cover in my book (so far).

Next, we went over equipment - from beginners to advanced brewers. The Porter House shop has a great selection of equipment and will even build you a custom kit. They sell 4 main kits at the shop ranging from basic to ultimate. The price range of these kits falls between $78.00 for a basic kit and $285.00 for the ultimate kit. I'll be buying one of the ultimate kits, which includes all the kegging equipment to keg the beer. All the other equipment/ingredients you will need: malt, hops, yeast, pots, carboys, sanitizers, hydrometers, brushes, and tubing can all be purchased at the shop as well - just in case you don't need a whole kit. Ruth and Don have a ton of recipe kits ready to go right there at the shop. They even offer call ahead service. If you need a certain kit, just give them a call, they'll put it together and you can pick it up that day. All the kits they sell have been brewed by either Ruth and Don so you know they are good.

I thought it was pretty funny going back and looking at the notes I took in the class. Most were readable and some were not. There was always a funny caption attached to the note I took. Soooo here's my top 10 for "Things I learned during home brewing class"

10. Don't use reverse osmosis water or distilled water - it F's the beer up
9. Don't use water from the sink - it sucks, smells bad, and has chlorine in it
8. You need a 24 quart stainless steel pot - why...Ruth knows best
7. Black canning pots are OK
6. 60 minute boils most common - don't brew unless you got time
5. If you want to add flavors in the beer aka fruit, candy - soak it in vodka before 2nd fermentation step
4. Don's black IPA is phenomenal
3. The brew shop smells really good
2. The kid behind me thinks he is running the brew class
1. Krausen is a sweet word - look it up

As you can see I started good - but was more interested in the hands on learning and the beers to keep taking notes. Luckily they gave us a cheat sheet of everything they were over, so my note taking could take a break.

Before I knew it, our 2 hours were up and I had to head to BC3 to watch Amanda win Miss Butler County. I'm not going to lie, this class was way more than I expected. From the beers and food, to the personal hands on training with Beth and Don, everything was great. This is my new brew shop, and they definitely won me over last night. I recommend this class to anyone interested in home brewing.The next brew class is on March 26th from 4:30 - 6:30 and it only costs $25.00. Trust me, you'll get your money's worth at this class.

Next Post - Mystery Post (rumors and here say)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who Drinks Beer from a Wine Glass

While exploring the wonderful world of beer, I've discovered something so elementary, so easy, I can't even believe I initially missed it. Something so simple, yet so important to what you are trying to accomplish while drinking beer. Well, let's take a step back real quick and make this a little easier to understand. If I'm playing baseball on a warm summer day and I step to the plate to take an at bat, what am I holding???........ I'm holding a bat right....usually made of wood, aluminium, or some combination of space metal filled with air that will most likely propel the baseball at 1,000 MPH off of some poor kid's forehead. That's not the point, nor the time, but I'm holding a bat none the less. If I'm teeing off at a golf course with a few friends, what am I holding???....I'm holding a golf club (probably a shitty one) but it's a golf club. And if I'm sitting around enjoying a great craft beer, what am I holding???.... I'm holding some type of beer glass. Beer glasses are the bats and clubs of drinking. You cannot drink a certain style of beer the right way unless you are drinking it from the proper glass for that style of beer. Believe it or not, your lucky beer mug is not the right glass to use for every type of beer you consume. WHY???? Well one might think, "I don't care what my beer is in, as long as it gets me drunk." Well, well my friend, then this blog is not for you. This is dedicated to people who enjoy the ingredients, flavors, and brewing techniques behind the great beers we drink. Of course everyone has a premeditated slaughter house weekend planned from time to time, when you are going to do just that. You plan well in advance a complete annihilation of your liver, mostly because of a special event, birthday or bachelor/baccalaureate party. Then your lucky beer mug plays 99.97% of the time. Back to the point. How many times have you been at a microbrewery and you order a beer from the list that you've never had before? If you're like me, this happens all the time. When I get my beer sometimes it's in a mug, a pilsner glass, or in a wine glass??? I think to myself, "Wow, wonder why it's in a wine glass?" Usually I'd assume because the beer is some kind fancy pants beer that deserves a classy wine glass. Or the beer has a high alcohol content, so it's best if I drink a wine glass full instead of a pint glass full. Well those rookie assumptions are completely and utterly wrong. Certain beers are served in certain glasses to compliment how they were made. What happens every time your pour a beer into a glass? It foams, some more than others, but it foams. As Al Snow once put it "What does everybody WANT........HEAD!!!" Al should of said "What does everybody WANT......GOOD HEAD." When you pour a beer into a glass the foam (or head) that forms is considered to be a net to release aromas, flavors, and volatiles from the beer. Volatiles are compounds that the beer releases AKA aromas, spices, certain additions and flavors. If your beer creates the proper head and proper retention, then you actually can taste all of the flavors of the beer. If it doesn't, then they don't get released and stay trapped in the beer. So if I'm enjoying an American Ale I should actually use a flute glass instead of my pilsner glass. Huh, I've never even thought about it until today. I'm sure some people are thinking, "Shit, no wonder that Imperial Stout beer I had didn't really taste as good as I thought." Well not only did you have it in the wrong glass, but you probably didn't have it at the right temperature either. Believe it or not, but not all beer should be "tap the rockies" cold. Certain beers should be served ice cold, cold, cool, room temperature, and warm. I'll give a link in this post of types of beers and temperatures as well. Better go get those IPA's out of the fridge. Go, right now, because they are supposed to be kept between 54-57 degrees F.

Below are 2 very important links that you should check out ASAP. The first link is on glassware for your beer and the second link is a serving temperature guide for beer.


http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/glassware - Glassware

http://www.ratebeer.com/Story.asp?StoryID=479 - Serving temperature guide

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Craft Beer in the Burgh'

If you like craft beer/microbreweries and you're from Pittsburgh, there's a really good chance you've been or drank at the following establishments:

Church Brew
Penn Brewery
Rock Bottom

You might be at the point where you are thinking, "I've been there and done that." What else can you drink that's local, craft, and delicious? I set out on that journey, only to find the Craft Pittsburgh magazine. A full color publication dedicated to the craft beer scene in Pittsburgh. What a find!!!! They even have a website that provides local craft beer tastings, events, home brew recipes and great info on local craft beers. Have you ever heard of East End Brewing or Voodoo Brewing? I hadn't, but I wanted to find out more. Just because these places don't serve food doesn't mean they don't provide quality beer. Where do I buy this beer, how can I try it, and what does it taste like? How great would it be to go to a brew event in Pittsburgh where you could sample great home brews and local breweries craft beers? I mean I never knew there were such things as the Millvale Brew Fest, the Pittsburgh Big Pour Event, and the Pittsburgh Brewmasters tasting event. There's a 3 Rivers Beer club??? Where do I sign up? There are 40, events just in February listed on the Craft Pittsburgh site for beer tastings, meetings, and craft beer events in Pittsburgh. For all the math people out there, that's 1.428 beer events per day, since 2011 is not a leap year. How bored are you in the middle of winter in Pittsburgh when it's 11 degrees outside? You don't ski, the gym is always packed, so what do you do? I mean you can play Call of Duty, NCAA or Madden but eventually you win 10 straight Super Bowls, take SMU to elite status, and prestige 10 times. While doing all those things you never leave your house, you start to go crazy, and most likely your eyes burn from staring at the TV for 5 straight hours a night. I figure, get a friggin' hobby, meet some people, drink some beer, talk about ideas and recipes. Everyone already loves to drink good beer so why not do it as a hobby with other people who like to do the same thing. Check out this site, follow them on twitter, and check out an event.

www.craftpittsburgh.com - It's a great read. You can also download the magazine for free.

Rando Thought: I'd actually like to hold a local brew fest for charity some day. Invite tons of local breweries and home brewers. Give out awards, sell merchandise, and make some money for a great cause. What cause? Not sure yet. I once drank to raise money for cancer. I drank a lot, way too much, but it was for a good cause.

So in the meantime before the next post on the book, I figured I'd throw out some good info.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I said a hip HOP.....and you don't stop

A lot has happened since the last post. Much of that involving copious amounts of beer, celebrating, tears, happiness and disappointment. Let's take a quick minute and think about drinking. Drinking beer is really not that fun unless you're with great people enjoying great beer. No one likes to sit there and drink beer by themselves listening to Sugarhill Gang. People do it, but it's really not that fun. You can't play photo hunt by yourself at the bar. You can't enjoy sports with a beer by yourself because there's no one to high five when the Steelers score a TD or the Pens score a goal. Let's face it, when you drink it should be done with more than yourself. Same with brewing beer. It's best done with multiple people. Can't wait to get back with the old crew and talk about brewing beer together.

As I promised last time, this post will be about the wide, wonderful world of hops. Let's hop in (pun intended).

Let's start off easy. What are hops and what do they do?

Hops are the main bittering agent in beer as well as a natural preservative. There are 2 main varieties of hops, bittering and aroma.

  1. Bittering - increased alpha acids 10% by weight / these are added at the start of the boil process
  2. Aroma - lower alpha acids 5% by weight / these are added at the end of the boil process
Now that you know there are 2 main types of hops in brewing and the basic time they are added to the boil let's move onto hopping processes and types of hops.

Bittering Hops
  • These additions are boiled for 45-90 minutes  to isomerize the alpha acids
  • Most common internal boil time here is 60 minutes
  • Usually use 1/2 ounce 
Flavoring Hops
  • These hops are added 20-40 minutes before the end of the boil
  • Most common time is 30 minutes before the boil is over
  • Any hop variety can be used - usually lower alpha varieties are used
  • High alpha varieties that can be used in this rare occasion are Northern Brew and Challenger
  • Small amounts of several varieties are recommended - usually 1/2 ounce of several varieties will be combined at this stage to create a high complex flavor
Finishing Hops
  • These hops are added closer to the end of the boil to retain more hop aroma
  • 1 or more varieties can be used here as well
  • Amounts can vary from 1/4 ounce to 4 ounces depending on the character desired
  • Most people use 1-2 ounces per hop added
  • Finishing hops are added 15 minutes or less before the end of the boil or added at the "knockout" - when heat is turned off
  •  and allowed to steep for 10 minutes
  • In some setups a "hopback" is used but I won't be using this step in my brewing. Mostly because I won't have a heat exchanger or chiller. If you want to know about the hop back you can go to www.google.com and search it
Next I'll talk a little bit about dry hopping. Dry hopping is not the safer alternative to sex, but it is a different way to add hops to your beer.

Dry Hopping
  • This is when you add hops to the fermenter to increase hop aroma in the final brew step
  • The fermenter is the bucket your beer sits in so the bacteria can do work son.
  • This step, if done, is best done late in the fermentation cycle
  • Usually 1/2 ounce per 5 gallons of beer - rule of thumb
  • After bubbling has slowed and beer is going through conditioning
  • Good idea - add hops to nylon mesh bag to facilitate removing hops
  • High alpha varieties used in this step are usually Centennial, Columbus, and Horizon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Drink Up Yinz Bitches

So I wanted to throw one of those random thought posts in before the next segment on hops. To get you warmed up for the hops, just fast forward to 1:16 in the Super Bad video. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I hear they recently added more hops!"

Also I wanted to take a second and shout out my Super Bowl beer of choice for this weekend. I'm from the Pittsburgh area so I figured I should be drinking some type of Pittsburgh beer. My first though was , "Well I live 3 minutes from a microbrewery so I should get my growler filled and treat myself to some Firehouse Red, Jack Frost Winter Warmer, or Winter's Gold." Then I thought, "Well I'd like to have more than 5.333 repeating beers for the game." (capacity of the growler 64 oz divided by 12 oz). I wanted to get a case of something, but what should it be? Some of you maybe thinking: Iron City, Rolling Rock, Penn Pilsner.....well I'm actually going with the hot hand in my opinion. I've been riding the Duquesne Beer hot hand since the first batch came out in late August 2010. At first I had no idea what it would taste like or how much it would cost. All I know is my grandfather used to drink it and it had a reputation for being a blue-collar working man's beer. AKA it used to taste like shit and was pretty cheap, so most people drank it on a steel mill salary. When I saw that Mark Dudash was bringing the beer back from the dead I was intrigued. I had questions....big questions. How do you take a beer that was at one time Pittsburgh's best selling beer, and make it into something that's your own brand, flavor, and style? Well according to Mark you basically "can", no pun intended, the shitty ingredients and go with two row barley instead of 6 row barley. I'll answer that question before you can ask it. According to the Duquesne beer site, 2 row barley has greater fermentable sugar content. 2 row barley is used a lot in Germany and the Czech Republic. This sets it apart from 6 row barley because it has lower protein content and tastes less like animal feed. 6 row barley is more suitable for animal feed? I'm guessing I don't want my beer tasting like that, though I do hear you can make it taste just like that if you screw up your finishing hops step in home brewing. - Note to self - don't do that. And to make my decision a little easier, I hadn't had a Duquesne Pilsner in about a month. My decision is made and I'm going with Duquesne beer for the Super Bowl. Brewed in Latrobe, PA at the old Rolling Rock plant. The plant is now owned by City Brewing and brews other varieties of beer, malt beverages, and iced tea. My favorite being 4 Loko (joke), which is pretty much banned in PA (except for college kids selling it for $300 a case). I'm definitely going to get my growler filled tonight as well. I need a good micro brew for Friday and Saturday night. I think I'm set on the Jack Frost Winter Warmer. I had one last weekend at dinner and it was one of the best tasting 
The Prince of Pilsner
beers I've ever tried. It's a malty ale beer that leaves you feeling like you just had 3 beers, when you've only reached the bottom of your first glass. 

I'll dabble into the wide world of HOPS in my next post. In the meantime, drink up yinz bitches!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Make it, don't break it

Took a 1 day hiatus from blogging to rest up, and read on into the How to Brew book. I want to move into breaking this down the easiest way without actually you actually having to read the book. I left off explaining alpha acid unit calculations. This may seem like rocket science, but it's actually a pretty easy calculation. I'm going to go into the most basic brewing procedure for home brewers.

Brewing Procedure: Chapter 1 Continued
  1. Prep Work - get your shit together
  2. Boil Water - boil 1 gallon of water
  3. Sanitize - clean all equipment
  4. Making Work - usually 1.5 hours
  5. Boil Brew Water
  6. Rehydrate Dry Yeast
  7. Add Malt Extract
  8. Add Hops
  9. Add finishing hops (optional)
  10. Cool Wort
  1. Cooled wort poured into fermentation bucket
  2. Add water
  3. pitch yeast
  4. Store fermenter (2 weeks)
Chapter 2: Brew Prep

This chapter basically goes over brewing sanitizers. I won't beat this to death, but different sanitizers like detergent, bleach, and percarbonates are used for different situations. These sometimes come with the kit that you buy.

Chapter 3: Malt, Kits, Sugars

Malts - concentrated sugars extracted from malt barley
Malts come in syrup and dry form

Basically, there is more to this chapter, but for me to try to explain it in a blog would be pointless. We'll talk later.

Chapter 4: Water

Water is super important for brewing your own beer. Minerals, harness, and nastiness in water can fuck shit up for the beer. Basically there are a few methods for cleaning your dirty, nasty, mon valley water.
  1. Boil it
  2. Potassium metabisulfate tabs
  3. activated charcoal AKA Brita
  4. Water softeners
Well I'm tired and I think this is a good point to stop tonight. Enjoy what there is today because the next entry will go into the wonderful world of hops. When to add them, what to use, and techniques. ALL YOU CAN EAT HOPS!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If you ain't movin' you losin'


Sure everyone can read what I type on here, but many people are visual learners and want to see how brewing actually works. I've added some brewing videos from youtube on the right panel of the blog so you can check out some basic brewing techniques and how the process actually works. I've linked a channel from youtube called Home Brewing. They post some really good videos and most of them are pretty short AKA - you can watch them at work pretty quickly without wasting your whole lunch break. They also have a website with some really great content for everyone that is non-youtube savvy.

www.homebrewingvideo.com - check it out!!!!!!!!

Also, check out the beer poll below the videos. I'm trying to get a feel of what most people are drinking during the winter months. I feel that I like to try a variety of beers in the winter for some reason. Mostly craft beers or beers I've never tried before. I'm not sure why, but in the summer I tend to stick to my "go to" beers for refreshment more than taste. Maybe because it's 100 degrees outside and I need to taste something remotely close to water???? Not sure but it's a trend I tend to follow.

Next post:
Break down Ch. 1 - 3 of How to Brew in the easiest most non - technical way (easier said than done)