The Quest for Hops

Hoppy Tuesday everyone,

First I can happily report that the build-out for the Parched Eagle is well underway, on schedule, and we should be on track for opening by (hopfully) the end of February. We’ll keep you posted!

As Head Brewer one of my tasks during the build-out phase is to order brewing ingredients, with hops being at the top of the list! More specifically, certain hop varieties are in GREAT demand in the craft beer community, including three that we’ll use heavily: Amarillo, Citra, and Simcoe.

While I’ve been able to track down both Amarillo and Simcoe in recent days, Citra is proving to be the most elusive/in-demand. Why? Well, it’s one hell of a unique hop that has no single substitute. Also, it’s proprietary i.e. is only grown at a few farms in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a link to Hop Union’s description of Citra: http://hopunion.com/citra-brand-ycr-394-cv/

To my senses Citra lends mango-like aroma and flavor along with fruits that Hop Union mentions: grapefruit, melon, lime, gooseberry, passion fruit and lychee. Citra and Amarillo combine to provide a wonderfully deep aroma profile for Hop-Bearer so hop heads: please wish us the best of luck in scoring some pounds of Citra in coming weeks!

Mosiac is a newer hop variety that’s a good possible substitute for Citra with a similar tropical fruit profile but guess what? It’s as hard to find as Citra.

Worst case scenario if we can’t  score any Citra is combining Amarillo (another GREAT aroma/flavor hop) with the likes of Ahtanum, Falconer’s Flight 7 C’s, Australian Topaz, and maybe something else. It’s a hell of a quest, this quest for hops!

Hoppy Holidays,
Jim

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Reasons to be cheerful (and thankful), pt. 1!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve all,

Yeah paraphrasing the classic song by Ian Drury & The Blockheads seems quite appropriate today as this week the Parched Eagle secured the financing needed to take flight next February!

We’re starting our build-out process next Monday and are hopful that we can open in early February. MANY things need to go right in order for that to happen but we’ll see and it’s a good goal to shoot for. We’ll keep you posted, including updates on the build-out process (particularly in January as we install our brewing system and bar and start brewing).

Are Tom and I thankful on this Thanksgiving Eve: damn right! We’re thankful for all the great people who have been involved in helping the Parched Eagle get underway during our long start-up phase. I’ve been thinking this for months: we’re surrounded by such great talent we’ve GOT to make it happen, and we will!

The Parched Eagle will be located in Westport at 5440 Willow Dr. Ste. 112. Just west of Northport Road off of County Rd. M. We’re taking over the former Bunky’s Deli & Catering space: it’s cool and I can’t wait to see it transformed into the Parched Eagle!

Hoppy Thanksgiving!
Jim

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Tasting Notes from Belgian Trappist Tripels Exploration

Happy Fall Saturday all,

Yes last night (Friday Nov. 7th) Tom, Elliott and I had a little tasting of three different Belgian Trappist Tripels: Westmalle Tripel (the grand daddy of the style), Unibroue La Fin du Monde, and our The Weakling!

The back story for The Weakling is we used Wyeast Labs’ Canadian/Belgian yeast strain, which originally comes from Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec. Tom and I hope that this yeast strain will be the Parched Eagle’s “house” strain for our strong Belgians, including Verily Trappist Dubbel, Stella Belgian Dark Strong, and The Weakling.

On to the tasting notes:

Unibroue La Fin du Monde

Very smooth mouthfeel due to high carbonation level, for both aroma and flavor sweet pilsner malt character up front with notes of coriander, lemon, and orange. Alcohol evident in finish along with some balancing bitterness from hops. Appearance: light gold and rather cloudy. Big white head that lasts in the tulip glass. Damn tasty! 9.0% abv. At 19 IBUs perhaps a tad under-hopped for the style.

Parched Eagle The Weakling

Complex aroma with a base of German Pilsner malt along with Belgian Aromatic malt, which lent a bit more of  a sweet character than the other two Tripels. Lemons, oranges, spicy phenolics from the yeast along with a nice spicy Saaz hop character in both the aroma and flavor. Alcohol quite evident in both aroma and flavor along with more substantial hop bitterness than La Fin du Monde. The Weakling was the darkest of the three Tripels (on the dark end for the style because of the Aromatic malt) and like La Fin du Monde is pretty cloudy, which leads us to believe that the yeast strain is not flocculant i.e. stays in solution. Medium-full mouthfeel with more moderate carbonation than the other two Tripels (the commerial version will be more carbonated). 9.0% abv, as well (though for the commercial version we’ll shoot for 9.5%). 30 IBUs.

Westmalle Tripel

Again, this is one of the first Tripels that was commercially produced; first brewed by the monks at Westmalle in 1934. What really stood about about this beer is the STRONG pilsner malt character up front in both the aroma and flavor (particularly in the aroma). My iniitial impression was it smells like an imperial German Pils!? That was a surprise, but not a bad one. Of course there’s more to it: pear was the light fruit that the three of us identified along with significant hop flavor and bitterness, coupled with a lovely alcohol presence. Smooth and dangerous. This was the least spicy of the three, which had me postulating that the Westmalle yeast strain is quite “clean”, i.e. it lacks its own strong flavor profile and rather is quite good at reflecting the other ingredients used. At 39 IBUs this was the hoppiest/most bitter of the three beers. Also the clearest of the three beers with a smooth well carbonated mouthfeel that is appropriate for style (“digestible”, as the Belgians say). 9.5% abv.


Consensus was the Westmalle Tripel is the best, but not by a large margin. We agreed that The Weakling bridged a gap in between Westmalle and La Fin du Monde in terms of hop bitterness and flavor. Both Tom and Elliott advocated that the recipe for The Weakling is dialed-in for the Parched Eagle, including the use of Belgian Aromatic malt, which adds a degree of malty sweetness to the aroma and flavor, adding to the overall complexity.

Meanwhile we paired the Tripels with seven year old aged sharp cheddar, garlic beef salami summer sausage, vegetable medley crackers, spicy brown mustard, and finally dark chocolate with raspberries.

For reference Beer Advocate suggests these food pairings for Tripels: Cuisine (Mediterranean) Cheese (sharp; Blue, Cheddar, pungent; Gorgonzola, Limburger) Meat (Pork, Poultry). We got fairly close with our food choices.

All three Tripels paired well with the cheese, meat, mustard and crackers, with the malty sweetness of the style contrasting nicely with the spicy and sharp character of the meat and cheese. We noted that Westmalle Tripel paired really nicely with the chocolate with its high hop character contrasting nicely with the sweet flavor of the dark chocolate and raspberries.

Look for The Weakling to be a spring/summer seasonal release around May 2015. Meanwhile stay tuned for really good news that we hope to provide in the next couple of weeks!

Op uw gezondheid!
Jim

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Hooray for Hop Harvest season!

Hello all,

Yes late August/September is hop harvest season, cause for great excitement for brewers and craft beer loving hop heads alike!

In recent years the term “wet hops” has been used to describe beers that are made with hops that were harvested immediately before being brewed with, without them being dried (which is what is usually done).

I’ve brewed wet hop beers in the last five years or so (including an amber ale tentatively titled Wet Amber brewed last Sunday) and am a fan of this bine to boil kettle practice. As the hops are not dried eminently perishable oils and resins are still available to the brewer, bringing out different aroma and flavor characteristics you get from, say, Cascade hops that have been dried.

As an example grassy and vegetal have been used as adjectives to describe the aroma/flavor impact of fresh hops. Green, quite literally, is another esoteric adjective that is used to describe that fresh hop character. While grassy and vegetal don’t sound particularly appealing for tastes in beer, in my experience the use of wet hops brings out their delicious citrus and floral characteristics, while also being grassy in a good way (think of the smell of fresh-cut grass).

In about a year will the Parched Eagle brew a wet hops beer? YES we will!

Meanwhile there’s a distinct possibility that we’ll have some good news to share soon: we’ll keep you posted!

Cheers,
Jim

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Happy Great Taste week!

Hoppy Monday everyone,

Yes, happy Great Taste of the Midwest week! The Great Taste is taking place next Saturday Aug. 9th at beautiful Olin-Turnville Park here in Madison and is quite simply a great craft beer festival!

In fact, no less than Larry Bell, founder of Bell’s Brewery, told me in 2006 that the Great Taste is his favorite beer festival in the country. I’m with Larry!

A starting point for my appreciation of the Great Taste is the fact that it is organized and put on by the Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild (disclaimer: I’m a member). MHTG has no paid staff so the Great Taste is organized and run entirely by volunteers! The level of organization required for pulling off such a great festival is quite high, and MHTG raises that bar every year by totally kicking ass, clear and simple.

This year we’re looking at over 160 breweries from across the Midwest that will be pouring over 1,000 beers, including offerings for the Real Ale Tent that itself could be a festival. Beer Christmas!

I’m a volunteer musician at the Great Taste this year (a pretty cushy gig) but next year plan on pouring beers for all of you at the Parched Eagle stall! It’s fun to think about the special releases we’ll do at 20 minutes after each hour. Rest assured we’ll have offerings for the Real Ale Tent, as well.

Links:

And, I haven’t even mentioned Great Taste Eve this coming Friday. GT Eve is becoming quite the city-wide event in its own right with craft beer bars, breweries, and brewpubs hosting breweries from out of town. Here’s a link to Isthmus beer writer Robin Shepard’s guide to GT Eve events:
http://www.isthmus.com/beer/article.php?article=43256

Cheers!
Jim

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