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“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

Roy Pitz Brewing Co. – Chambersburg, PA’s Hidden Gem

Since reading an article in the paper about this small time operation, the hubster and I have been itching to visit the Roy Pitz Brewing Company.  Two years later, we finally ventured to Chambersburg, PA to check them out.  Our initial thoughts?  Wow!  Roy Pitz is a name to watch out for.

The Roy Pitz Story

The Brewery is owned and operated by Jesse and Ryan, two grade school friends who grew up in Chambersburg and have since continued their friendship and cultivated a shared passion for craft beer and brewing.  They experimented heavily with homebrewing in college, and their training in professional brewing began with jobs at Victory Brewing Company and Twin Lakes Brewing Company. Upon graduating with business degrees, the duo attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago, and Ryan continued on to study at the Doemens Institute in Germany.   He earned an International Degree in Brewing Science and returned to Chambersburg to join forces and open Roy Pitz Brewing Company with Jesse.

Who’s Roy Pitz?

According to an article from Hagerstown Magazine, “the brewery takes its name from the legend of a pair of quarreling conjoined twins local to Chambersburg named Roy and Pitz.”  The two brewers and longtime friends aren’t twins, but metaphorically speaking, they are attached at the hip, personally and professionally.  And so this relationship is conveyed by the conjoined twins represented in their logo.

The Brewery

The Roy Pitz Brewing Company was opened in 2008, has since tripled production and is currently looking to expand distribution into Maryland.  The brewery is housed in an old warehouse located off a remote alley on the edge of downtown Chambersburg.  If you’re not looking for it, you won’t find it.

They currently distribute kegs to about 30+ locations across Pennsylvania, and they only fill growlers at their Chambersburg location.  These guys are small potatoes…for now.  But the word is out in Chambersburg, as parades of locals crossed the parking lot and entered the small tasting room with empty growlers in tote.

Don’t expect sparkle and polish, the tasting room is a small, rustic, cellar-like setup.  It has character and foosball!   Wooden barrels emerge from the walls supporting plain wooden tap handles, and the small room is surrounded by a collection of growlers, memorabelia and merchandise.  Behind a glass wall lies the modest brewing operations filled with stainless steel tanks and a volunteer or two hard at work keeping the place well sanitized.

Liquid Art

One taste and you’ll agree, Roy Pitz’ beer is an art form.  Roy Pitz has coined themselves as “America’s Freshest Brewery”.  These guys brew using the highest quality ingredients, and they keep it local as much as possible, from the water to the produce to the hops produced from their own local hop farm.  There aren’t many breweries that offer customers the opportunity to taste and take home beers that were kegged from their fermenters that very same day.  That’s fresh!

Available beers are displayed in chalk on the overhead board, and the brewery is free and generous with their samples.  But many patrons are regulars who know exactly what they want, and some visit weekly to stock up for the weekend and ensure they don’t miss out on anything new.

Our server/jack-of-all for the day told us that the seasonals are outstanding and worth the trip.  After tasting the lot, I can assure you that the year round brews are every bit as outstanding as the seasonals, and yes, it was worth the trip.

Five beers were available on tap, four of which sold for $10 per growler, and one that sold for $15.  Most are available year round with one or two seasonals thrown in.

Our Two Growler Picks

Lovitz Lager (Watermelon Lager, Seasonal).  This has gotta be one of the best fruit beers I’ve ever had.  The aroma of fresh watermelon is intoxicating, and the fruit flavor permeates the beer.  The warmer the beer, the more fragrant, fresh, and apparent the watermelon flavor.  It’s clearly a well brewed lager, unfiltered, clean, and balanced.  I didn’t even feel compelled to add more watermelon to the beer.  It’s perfect as is.

Our server mentioned that Jesse and Ryan were at a beer festival in Philly pushing the Watermelon Lager as a contender for Best Summer Beer.  Best of luck guys!  It has my vote!

Lugwig’s Revenge (Smoked Lager, Year Round).  This is a smooth, rich, full flavored dark lager with a delicious smokiness that makes this a unique brow-raising experience.  Ludwig’s Revenge is unlike any beer I’ve had before.  Smoked beers can often be overpowering with smoke flavor (sometimes liquid smoke), or they’re watery with barely a hint of smokiness.  The primary flavors in Roy Pitz’s beers permeate without dominating, so the smoked flavor is apparent throughout the beer, but perfectly balanced with the smooth dark malts.  A rare treat of a beer.

We also had the privilege of sampling the Old Jail Ale (English Brown is delicious, mild, malty, flavorful), the Best Blonde Ale (amazingly well done Kolsch style beer with loaded with flavor and refreshingly crisp and citrusy) , and the Daddy Fat Sacks (malt and hops are incredibly well balanced, nice sweetness, full-bodied, full flavored).  Picking two to take home was not an easy task, every single beer was stellar.   Visit their website to find out what will be on tap during your visit.

Beer is Their Priority

Remember the name Roy Pitz and keep a watchful eye out for Jesse and Ryan.  The talent and skill of these two young brewers and their exacting attention to details are clearly reflected in their products.  Ignore their modest surroundings, their priority is the beer.  Our server mentioned an event where they displayed a note to customers apologizing for their lack of merchandise.  Their message read “we put our money into the beer”.   Enough said.

Cheers beers!
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Putting “Beer” Back in Ginger Beer

Let’s talk about a beer whose tradition and integrity were pretty much eradicated by the effects of prohibition, not to mention today’s commercial soda industry.  The great thing about small craft brewers (commercial and home alike) is their desire to make beers that don’t necessarily please the masses, but are just fun to try.  For instance, Troeg’s Brewing Company is one who makes small batches of ginger beer; and from what I understand, this beer is exclusively produced for McGrath’s Pub in Harrisburg, PA, where they’re known for serving the old fashioned Moscow Mule.

Not often do we get a chance to try real ginger beer, which is drier and packs more ginger punch than today’s overly sweet, kid-friendly soft drink. Brought to us from England in the mid-1700s, Ginger Beer was originally alcoholic and was brewed much like regular beer. In fact, traditional ginger beer is made of 4 ingredients – ginger, sugar, water, and ginger beer plant – and flavorings like lemon, lime, and honey can also be added.  The ginger beer plant is actually more like a fungus that produces bacteria and yeast, which of course, ferments the beer and supposedly produces a product that’s highly effervescent and similar in flavor to champagne.  Although the ginger plant does produce a much higher alcohol content, up to 11%, baker’s or brewer’s yeasts are much easier to come by and are perfectly acceptable alternatives.

Now, up to this point, I’ve left the home brewing to my husband; however, the following recipe looks like a fun starting point for side liners like me, and it also offers seasoned brewers the chance to stir up something different in their brew pots, and perhaps even win over a few non-beer drinking fans.  Supposedly this brew is as strong as a regular beer – let’s assume about 5-6%.  I like it because the basic recipe lends itself well to experimentation, so you can really get creative with the flavors and make it your own original brew.  It’s also been tested quite a few times by the author, OzarkMtMan, and he’s provides great insight so you can avoid repeating his mistakes, like creating bottle bombs and other brewing fiascos.

If you decide to give this a try, come back and let us know how it goes!

Old-fashioned Ginger Beer Recipe

as Posted by OzarkMtMan on the iVillage GardenWeb site

This makes for about five gallons. Scale it down if you need to, and be aware that it is a very flexible recipe, so feel free to alter some of the ingredients to suit your own.

8 lbs of sugar
5-6 ozs of ginger root, sliced very thin
5 gallons of water
Any combination of lemons and limes equalling 10-12 total.

Notes:  More lemons than limes tastes better to me. The limes will give a bit of sparkle and body to the flavor. Try a combination of 3/4 lemons to 1/4 limes, or 2/3 to 1/3. Use a potato peeler or sharp knife to remove the outer skins from these while avoiding as much of the white rind as possible. The rind tends to make the brew bitter.

Directions:

  • Squeeze the lemons and limes. Remove any seeds from the juice.
  • Yeast I use a yeast suitable for a light beer such as a pilsner. I am sure that other yeast types would work but, I can’t vouch for the flavor or the readiness of the brew to be had very young.

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  • Heat about a gallon or so of the water to boiling and add the sugar.
  • When the sugar has completely dissolved then add the ginger and simmer for twenty minutes.
  • Turn off the heat. Add the lemon/lime juice and peels after the water has cooled just a little, about ten minutes or so.
  • Place mixture in fermenting vessel with enough of the remaining water to make for 5 gallons. You may wish to use a mesh bag for the peels and ginger slices.
  • Allow the temperature to cool down to about 70 degrees, then add the yeast.
  • Attach the air lock to the fermentation vessel.
  • Depending on how warm the vessel is kept this will be ready to bottle in about two weeks.
  • Wait for the fermentation action to come to a slow ‘perk’. If you wait too long your finished beer will not have enough sugar left in it and it will be sour and rather flat. Too soon and you will have a ginger beer bombing strafe going on in your storage closet!

I wish I could be of more assistance to you as to timing suggestions but, I leave you to your own judgement on that. Just remember that one needs to find a happy medium between too flat, or explosive.

  • When you are either satisfied that it is time, or antsy to go to the next step, then proceed with bottling the brew.

I know that some folks will cringe here to what I am about to advise, but after a few exploding bottles I opted to try pint-sized screw top soda bottles. Yes, I know, plastic! I don’t like plastic either. Never the less I have never had a plastic bottle explode, and if I test one bottle out and find that it is overly effervescent I can go through the rest and very gently unscrew the caps a little to let off a bit of the pressure. That seems to me a much easier and safer solution to bottling the stuff than risking what could be dangerous glass bottles. Believe me this stuff can really bubble!

When you bottle the brew it will probably still be rather cloudy. Don’t worry about that. The brew will clear itself considerably inside the bottle while under compression. It will be ready to drink in no time at all after bottling, once you are satisfied with its clarity and fizz.

Also take it slow when opening the screw tops, as you would with a shaken soda, a little at a time and reclosing it if it’s about to foam over. This ginger beer can produce a real fountain of fizz at times even when unshaken. If you should add sugar to it after it has been bottled because the beer is too sour that can also cause a fountain effect, similar to what happens when you mix baking soda with vinegar, WOOSH! So please be aware of that, too. I once had a bottle almost entirely empty itself from my doing that! And there was no getting the cap back on to stop the deluge. I’ve never tried doing that again!

I enter these cautions here hoping that it does not put you off of trying to make a batch of ginger beer. I have had many successful batches. It is simply prudent to advise you all of what can go wrong, and what to avoid.

I hope that some of you find this recipe enjoyable, and that you will share your experiences of brewing it with me.

Feel free to experiment with the recipe, it is very forgiving.

Cheers beers!

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