Affligem Brewery – win an awesome pouring tray or trip to Belgium!

So I’ve been pretty busy lately; a trip to Portland for work, some traveling in Southern California, Anderson Valley’s Legendary Boonville Beer Festival, local camping, BNA7 and the National Homebrewers Conference in Bellevue. Combined with general laziness and working the busy summer schedule at work, I haven’t been able to post much, but I’ll be remedying that soon! Hopefully a new camera too; to inspire me to take more pictures of events and breweries.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a free contest you should take advantage of. A little while back I received word of this contest put on through a partnership between DRAFT Magazine, The Flanders Tourism Board and Affligem Brewery. I’m a digital subscriber to DRAFT Magazine and think Affligem makes a great Blond so imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail asking if I wanted a pouring tray!

They’re giving away 200 of these pouring trays plus you can also win a trip for two (including airfare, hotels and some money) to Belgium for the Belgium Beer Festival in Brussels, as well as a tour of the Affligem Abbey and Brewery where beer has been brewed by monk’s strict traditions for over 900 years, and which from what I can tell is generally closed off to the public. Looks like you also get to tour the Mort Subite Brewery! No purchase necessary! Affligem Blond is included in the pouring tray and an excellent example of BJCP Style 18A, Belgian Blond, and is one of the Commercial Examples listed that exemplify the style.

Here are some pictures of the Affligem pouring tray they sent me:

Affligem Pouring Tray BoxAffligem Pouring Tray Box ContentsContents.

Affligem USB Memory StickYep, that’s one awesome USB memory stick in the top left.

Affligem Pouring Tray SetupSetup.

 You might be wondering what that little glass on the left is for… it’s for the yeast sediment on the bottom of the bottle. Since Affligem is bottle conditioned with yeast for carbonation, there will be a little sediment on the bottom. Some people gently pour the beer into the glass and discard the bottle with sediment, while some pour everything into their glass. Unless it’s a Bavarian Hefeweizen, I usually gently pour a beer leaving behind the sediment until after I’ve finished, then consume the leftovers. I’d never seen this before but I think it’s a great idea as you get the clean taste of the beer without all the yeast sediment and then can get the nutrients from the yeast after you finish (or you can blend the two to your pleasure) and it makes for great presentation.

Here’s a video of Affligem’s “Perfect Pouring Ritual”:

 

So check out the contest here and poke around DRAFT Magazine‘s website.

Also visit the Flanders Tourism Board website. You might want to request a free Belgian Beer Routes Map while you’re there. I did and can’t wait to go back for a visit!

Of course, check out the Affligem Brewery website to learn more about their beer. Also “Like” their Facebook page, looks like they also give out additional entries on there!

Stay tuned for some more posts, especially if I manage to brew this weekend.

Would you like a glass for the beer? (Plus Big Juneau News)

79 Years Ago...25,000 people gathered outside the Anheuser-Busch Co. brewery waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

 Happy (late by the time I stop being lazy and finish this) Session Beer Day! Seventy-nine years ago the Cullen–Harrison Act went into effect; the first step towards completely ending Prohibition with the allowance of beer containing alcohol in strength of 3.2% ABW (4.0% ABV) or less. Hundreds of thousands stood in line for the stroke of midnight when the first legal bottles and barrels were tapped. Pick up some session strength beer and celebrate!

A mix of news and commentary this entry… A week ago I was in sunny Pomona, California to watch a few metal bands I’ve wanted to see for a long time perform (YOB, Loss and Pallbearer for those that care) and went out for drinks with a friend afterwards. She recommended we go to dba256, an art gallery/wine bar with an extensive beer list (apparently 40).  I ordered a pint of Alesmith IPA from the handful of beers they had on draft and a classic I felt needed revisiting; while my friend ordered a $16 bottle of Russian River‘s 100% Brett beer, Sanctification.

The barkeep places my pint in front of me, uncorks the Sanctification for my friend and then utters, “Would you like a glass for the beer?”

My eyes opened wide as I turned to look at the both of them in shock that it was even asked. Drink a $16 beer… out of the bottle? Of course my friend isn’t (that) crazy and asked for the glass and then looked at me confused, wondering if there’s some strange reason she wouldn’t. Sadly, of all the glasses it could have been poured into, the bartender grabbed the bottle, quickly grabbed and proceeded to fill half of a shaker pint glass when any of the nearby wine glasses would have been a better choice.

I became a Certified Beer Server in February through the Cicerone Certification Program. The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to certify those who have proven an expertise in beer styles, flavors, serving and the many other variables encompassing the drinking experience; much like a sommelier and wine. It’s gaining traction within the beer industry as many breweries, bars and restaurants are requiring their servers to at least take the first level exam to become a Certified Beer Server. Apparently there are 15 other Certified Beer Servers locally, the names I recognize work at Alaskan Brewing. Like my experience shows above, it’s a much needed thing in the beer world. Proper (and clean) glassware can make a world of a difference in the sensory experience, enough that a poorly served beer might result in someone not buying that beer again or visiting your establishment for drinks next time. It’s amazing how much of a difference pouring into a glass makes, you lose so much flavor drinking from the bottle/can. The first time I visited Russian River’s brewpub I was shocked to see how many people were drinking Pliny the Elder from the bottle… such beautiful hop flavors and aromas muted. It was kind of like the cringing experience of scratching nails on a chalkboard (though the nails/chalkboard thing never actually bothered me). Drinking Pliny from the bottle is the kind of thing Hammurabi would have drowned people over.

Some local news… I walked to the brewery a couple weeks ago (I must’ve felt spry since each way is 5.5 miles) and sampled some beer. First I tried the new Birch Bock since I hadn’t had it yet. It was an interesting take on the doppelbock style with the addition of birch syrup from two different Alaska syrup makers. It went down ridiculously smooth for an 8.5% ABV beer and I enjoyed the clean, lager-like character as well as the toasty, caramelly malt character, brown sugar, mapley/birch syrup flavors and the lingering citrusy and earthy hop presence, but it was just a little too sweet tasting to me despite not being cloying. I don’t think I could finish a bomber by myself but split two or three ways it would make a nice night cap.

I overheard the bartender talking about the batch of IPA they were serving was a one off, having different hops in it than normal so I gave it a shot. He said the brewers didn’t really like it so it the change wouldn’t stick but they replaced the Willamette hops that they use with Summit. Summit is fairly aggressive and has a very distinct character. It can be oniony/garlicy sometimes which turns a lot of people off but I get an intense spicy character reminiscent of some kind of cooking spice I still can’t put my finger on. It’s pretty resiny and dank as well with lots of bitter orange and tangerine flavor. Often used for bittering but it’s making it way into flavor and dry hop additions like in Heretic Brewing’s great Evil Cousin Double IPA.  I actually really enjoyed the way Summit played with the other hops in Alaskan’s IPA. I’m not sure I liked it better, but it really changed the character and deciding would be a coin toss.

The barkeep pulled out a bottle of the yet to be released Summer Ale and offered me some. It’s tasting really nice fresh so be sure to pick up a case. I spotted a strange looking tap handle on the table and asked about. I would have had the scoop a few weeks ago if I wasn’t so lazy in writing this as Alaskan officially announced the release of the their new Rough Draft Export Series while in the middle of writing the entry. Generally the Rough Drafts have only been available in Alaska but they’re ramping up production of some of them to share with those in the Lower 48. The first is Freeride, an American Pale Ale. When their Anniversary Beer, Perseverance,  came out last year they had this on draft at the brewery and I thought it was very nice. Lots of Citra flavor which is a hop they hadn’t played with before. The bartender notified me that Freeride was first but said they still weren’t sure what was coming after it. The next non-export Rough Drafts are an Imperial Apricot Ale, which is out now in time for Folk Fest, and then a Ginger Shandy. He said the Apricot is a little lower than alcohol than last year making it easier to drink and a much better beer. I didn’t get a chance to try it last year but will be sure to this week!

And the big Juneau news…
Stolen From FacebookPicture Stolen From Facebook.

Growlers at Percy’s!

Going even further back, say end of February(?), I ran into my friend Will while drinking at The Alaskan Bar (no relation to the brewery). Reading about my travels on Facebook he asked me, “what do you think of the beer scene in Juneau?” I semi-jokingly responded with a blunt, “shit.” We proceeded to talk about the lack of a beer scene in Juneau, as the brewing scene pretty much is just Alaskan Brewing as we have no brewpubs or other breweries locally, the lack of true beer diversity at bars (despite being far better than many places), and the fact nobody does growlers. I’ve always found it strange that Alaskan Brewing doesn’t do what pretty much every other brewery I’ve ever been to does, even brewery chains, refillable growlers of their beers. Especially since they advertise the environmental/sustainable angle on their website (though the owner has said on occasions it’s more about efficiency and problem solving when facing the unique challenges of producing beer in Juneau, it just happens to generally be a nice bonus) this one is one of the most common and easiest things to implement among other breweries. You’re also more likely to be getting fresher beer than the six pack on the shelf at the corner store. A reusable gallon jug? It doesn’t get more environmentally friendly than that! They just started filling growlers (another picture) over the weekend so swing by and support Percy’s!

I’m in Portland now for a few days… If you’re in the area and want to meetup for a drink somewhere give me a shout.

We Have Arrived

So it’s been a slow month… Unfortunately I was unable to attend all the Alaska Beer Week festivities in Anchorage, including one of my favorite festivals, The Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival. It wasn’t a completely terrible beer month for me, as I got to attend another one of my favorites, The Brewing Network‘s Winter Brews Festival!

Due to the Occupy movement, they were unable to secure their Berkeley location this year. I was a little bummed at first as it was a great place for the event, plus it was next to Triple Rock… however, the new Concord location was awesome. The festival grounds had a lot of room to stretch your legs, plus it had a full stage for the live performers:

 

Purple Haze with Ralph Woodson

 Purple Haze with Ralph Woodson

Purple Haze was a pretty amazing tribute band, one of the best tribute bands I’ve ever seen. BN Party favorite Big Joe Hurt rocked the place as did the festival closer Forrest Day. But back to beer because let’s face it, the beer was the main focus of the event, and The Brewing Network is no slouch when it comes to festivals. With over 30 breweries pouring at least a couple beers there was plenty to satisfy the crowd, even with the much higher than anticipated attendance which resulted in running out of glassware, then the backup glassware, then plastic cups… While there was commercial craft beer was the majority of the fest, the main attraction was definitely Tasty’s Tasting Room which featured beer provided by homebrewers in the area:

Tasty's Tasting Room

From your IPA’s, Browns, Porters, and Belgians to some wild and experimental beers like an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie beer, it had the longest line once the festival was in full gear and well worth going back to try several awesome homebrews. I was too busy enjoying myself to take more pictures but I also enjoyed quite a few new beers like Heretic‘s Shallow Grave Porter, Black Diamond‘s Grand Cru, Marin‘s E-S-Chi and too many others to list.

On the homebrewing front, I got a new 26 gallon kettle from MoreBeer! It was the Deal of the Day so I got quite the discount on it. Oddly enough today it’s also the Deal of the Day, but will probably quick if if hasn’t already! Looking forward to doing some bigger batches to experiment with different yeasts, dry hopping varieties and more.

New 26 gallon kettle from MoreBeer

Also since I received the kettle I’ve had Dark Angel’s “We Have Arrived” stuck in my head. I’m hoping in the next week I’ll have my controller and everything ready to rig up a temp controlled direct fire recirculating mash so I can get to brewing soon. I probably won’t have anything ready for the first round of the National Homebrew Competition, but who knows… I’m excited to be going to the National Homebrewers Conference in the Seattle area this year though! It was the fastest selling conference yet and I’ll probably bring some beer to share. The Brewing Network Anniversary Party should be a great time as well before the conference starts.

Not much else to report, if I can get some time off work I might swing by for an event or two during SF Beer Week. Sean Paxton (The Homebrew Chef) has a dinner on Wednesday with an amazing sounding menu in collaboration with three breweries (Speakeasy, Shmaltz and Ninkasi) that attendance would be essential if you were in the area. Fingers are crossed.

Happy Birthday, Alaska!

Well, one of them anyway. Alaska Day (when we purchased Alaska from Russia) may be the State holiday and in October but today marks the 53rd Anniversary of Statehood. So grab your favorite beer from the 49th State and celebrate!

View Alaska Breweries in a larger map

Here’s a map of all 23 breweries operating or in planning stages and the two meaderies here in Alaska!

Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival as well!

Alaskan Brewing Company

Born, raised and currently living in Juneau, Alaska, I guess it makes sense that my first real post would be about the only local brewery in town. Alaskan Brewing has been instrumental to the growth of the community and local economy not only because of the people they employ but for the businesses that have grown around them (particularly shipping), their support and sponsorship of local arts and activities, the money they help raise for various local charities and non-profit organizations, and their environmental stewardship through programs such as Coastal Code.

 In celebration of their 25th Anniversary, they opened the doors to the general public Dec. 15 for the rare chance to go beyond the tasting room and tour inside the brewhouse. Besides a yearly two week shutdown each December, the brewery operates around the clock so they don’t often provide a full tour that allows you to peek beyond a few glass windows. I acquired some time off work and rushed over to the brewery to secure my spot on the first tour of the night. With some time to kill before myself and the first wave of ten got to enter, I tried a sample of the barley wine (samples are free) which was good, but I was really hoping for a sample of the new beer I heard they were releasing soon.

Anyway, short digression, local history lesson. For the most part, Juneau has only been notable for two things: mining and the capital of that state 1/3 the size of Texas in the left corner of the map (next to Hawaii) whose city name you had to memorize in elementary school. In 1880, led by a Tlingit Chief, two men (Harris and Juneau) found what sparked the first gold rush in Alaska. Eventually Juneau became the main hub as thousands flocked to Southeast Alaska in search of gold and steady work in the mines. Nearby Sitka became less important and Juneau replaced it as capital. At the turn of the century the Juneau-Douglas area had five breweries (the state had around 50 I believe) and even had two cigar manufacturers. One brewery in particular was the Douglas City Brewing Company whose Czech brewmaster crafted an ale fermented on the colder side with prized Saaz hops that was popular with the miners who wanted a flavorful beer after a long, hard day at work. Prohibition destroyed Alaska’s brewing heritage (Alaska actually went dry a couple years before the nation) and after repeal a few breweries over the years attempted to operate but none lasted very long.

In the early 1980′s, 100 years after the beginning of the Gold Rush, the state and local economy were in recession and Geoff Larson lost his job when the gold mine he worked at as a Chemical Engineer closed. Many people couldn’t find work and were walking away from homes (I grew up in one someone walked away from) or moving out of town to find work, but Geoff, with the support of his employed wife, Marcy, decided to take his passion for homebrewing to the commercial level. With the help of information they gathered from the historical society, they began diving into Juneau’s past and decided they wanted to recreate that popular beer produced by Douglas City. Within a couple years with a little luck and 88 lucky investors, they built a 10 barrel brewery and reproduced that beer in December 1986 which became Chinook Alaskan‘s flagship beer, Amber, becoming the first brewery in Juneau since prohibition and the only one operating in Alaska at the time. They later dropped Chinook from the title becoming simply Alaskan as trademark issues arose when looking to distribute to Washington. You occasionally see a few proud beer drinkers sporting the old Chinook shirts around town today. Inspired by history, they’ve made several beers whose inspiration has come from Alaska. If you’re interested in hearing more about that, check out this audio presentation by Geoff Larson at the Great American Beer Festival recorded by The Brewing Network.

The tour started with that original 10bbl brewhouse which now is used for experimental beers such as those in the Rough Draft Series. These beers are offered locally and to various accounts in Alaska and sometimes the lower 48 states to gauge reception for future releases and give beer drinkers something new to try.

Opposite the 10 barrel setup is a 1 barrel pilot system installed in 2000 used to test and tweak experiments before stepping it up to the 10bbl batches. The tour guide explained that with this setup they try to get everyone involved in the brewing process. From HR and gift shop employees, to sales, mechanics, packagers, etc., everyone gets a chance to brew a beer they help design which goes on tap in the break room. Many of the beers that have been added in the regular lineup are the result of beers created by those not employed as brewers.

And across the hallway, the original fermentors.

From there we walked upstairs to where the current full production brewhouse is. The 100 barrel system was installed in 1995 alleviating much of the brewery’s growing pains. To keep up with demand, some weeks they had been brewing up to 6 times a day with a record of 42 in a week!

Since there are no farms in Juneau to unload the grain off on for cattle feed like most breweries, spent grain had to be shipped down to Washington. Due to it’s wet nature and propensity to mold, it must be dried first. Out of necessity they built and use the only self sustaining grain drier in the country which runs off 50% of their spent grain, which I also understood some of the byproduct energy is using to power their steam jacketed brewhouse. Personally I wish they would revive Juneau’s historic dairy industry and produce some nice cheese to compliment their beer with some of that, but yeah, I know, that’s probably not very feasible. Maybe you, good reader, should do that.

To further increase efficiency a few years ago they became the first craft brewer to install a mash filter press.

After 8 months of testing and tweaking they felt comfortable using it for full production and decommissioned the lauter tun. Unlike a traditional setup with a lauter tun which separates the liquid wort leaving behind spent grain by using a false bottom with slots to drain through, the mash filter press squeezes the liquid wort out of the grain through a series of bladders. This not only allows them to use 6% less malt and use less hops, but they save over 1 million gallons of water per year and over 65,000 gallons of diesel. To top it all off, they’re able to produce a larger amount of beer per batch. The spent grain also comes out drier, allowing less energy to dry. In November, the USDA gave Alaskan Brewing a grant for nearly a half million dollars to finance a quarter of the production costs for a steam boiler that will power the brewhouse entirely off spent grain. Apparently this would reduce the brewery’s usage of diesel by 80%!

We then walked past the heat exchanger which cools the hot wort before fermentation. They run it around 100 gallons/minute… Alaskan has been looking for a new site for the brewery as they have been running out of space and they fear with more big companies coming in from down south the real estate will dry up when the time to expand comes.  They would actually like to get a spot next to the water so they can just directly pump cool water in for chilling.

And then the fermentation alley. I think she said they have 26 fermentors, but don’t quote me on that. Sizes range from 10bbl to newer 1300bbl tanks. Many are outdoors so they have to be heated with glycol to keep the fermentation temp stable as opposed to most breweries who have to cool the fermentations.

Each fermentor in the hallway has a nifty little access panel.

 Alaskan was also the first craft brewery to install a CO2 reclamation system until Sierra Nevada did so a decade later in 2008. Due to reliability issues getting carbon dioxide gas shipped into town, they decided to build a recovery system that captures carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of fermentation, scrubs it clean for use downstream in the packaging process to purge bottles and kegs of oxygen.

We then made our way towards the packaging area, the only area that was running that day.

Hey, what’s that?

A little Q&A among the packaging tanks and we were set free into the gift shop for more free beer samples.

I asked the bartender why they weren’t pouring the new beer and he said they had too many wintery specialty beers on right now (Smoked Porter, Barley Wine, Winter Ale) so they were going to wait a little bit. I decided to go with the Winter Ale for my next sample since I hadn’t had any yet this year. Barkeep said many around the brewery think it’s the best one they’ve made in 5 or more years… I don’t know if there was some placebo like effect going on, but I’m inclined to agree, at least that batch that was tapped. Tasted a lot better than I recall having at the bar last year. I decided to snag one more sample (IPA) before hitting the road as it was starting to get packed with everyone looking for a tour.

So I guess you’re wondering what that new beer is… well, by now I’m sure you’ve heard about it:

 

Black IPA. They released an Double version last year as part of the Pilot Series at around 8.5% ABV, but this is a new Spring Seasonal beer about 2% lower in alcohol and uses Calypso hops in the dry hop in addition to the Cascade/Centennial combo of old. It comes out on Jan. 1st (though you can now try samples and buy six packs at the brewery, released early in time for Winter Solstice) so I’m not sure why it’s a spring beer, but that’s just me. You can view a scan of the label here. I don’t know if the label is a nod to Romeo, a lone black wolf that hung out near the Mendenhall Glacier and was illegally hunted last year, but it’s a nice label.

It’s hard to relay the importance the brewery is to the community and it’s pretty amazing how far they’ve come over time. It’s even more amazing when you look at the odds against them like that there are no roads out of Juneau so everything must be flown or ferried in and out, the highest excise taxes in the country, and the limited population from which they got their start. Of the top 50 producing breweries in the country, Milton, Delaware (Dogfish Head – Fun fact: Juneau is larger in area than the state of Delaware) and Galesburg, Michigan (Bell’s) might be smaller towns, but the surrounding areas are several times larger Juneau (even the entire Southeastern Alaska) and they have easier access to other markets (the closest city with a population over 30,000 is nearly 1,000 miles away).  Alaskan has grown from one beer and 1500 barrels in 1987 brewery into the 12th largest craft brewery in the country with over 117,000 barrels last year in 12 states (New Mexico and Texas coming in 2012!) and over 12 beers throughout the year by innovation, ingenuity, perseverance and most importantly, high quality beer.

They’ve made Juneau notable for a third thing, to which everyone here is grateful. Here’s to another 25 years!

Hello World!

Welcome to beerwildered.

So everyone seems to have a blog these days… what makes mine special? Probably not all that much, but a few people in the past have told me I should start one due to all the traveling I find myself doing. This blog will cover beer travel, my experiences homebrewing, commercial and homebrewing topics and maybe a few surprises along the way. We’ll see how this thing evolves… hopefully it inspires more brewing so I’ll have more material to post. I’d also like to start profiling more breweries around the State of Alaska.

In the meantime, if you’d like to contact me with questions or suggestions for future topics, click the link in the top right corner to get in touch. There’s also links to social media sites like Google+, Facebook and Twitter where you can follow me for up to date information as well as an e-mail subscription and RSS feed. Peak your head around and stay tuned.