Belgian Golden Strong Ale

belgian-golden-strong-aleIn honor of season 5 of Game of Thrones, I made a strong thrust back into homebrewing after a long hiatus, planning a Belgian to be drunk for the season finale. I named it Monday Eve to commemorate the time we watch the show.

This beer was my first attempt at making a yeast starter. With the ideal pitch rate being at ~380 billion cells, I bought two smack packs of #1388 Belgian Strong Ale yeast and fired up two one-liter starters in separate growlers. Shaking as much as possible worked okay, but without the proper equipment it’s tough to accurately test how many cells were produced. The estimates for un-oxygenated starters came close to the target.

I snagged 3.5 pounds of Belgian Pilsner malt for a partial mash on stove top. The temperature after adding the grain was a little high at 155 degrees, but the temperature held well for the full 60 minutes because of the little head space under the lid.

A boil of 90 minutes with some Light DME and Pilsen LME + all the Sazz and Styrian goldings hops up front was intended to drive off any DMS from the mash and maximize the bittering power. Two pounds of corn sugar is responsible for the large bump in alcohol.

The fermentation started a little warm at 78 degrees but then dropped comfortably down to the 74-75 degree range. Still a little warmer than intended. Definitely the least vigorous bubbling I’ve seen, yet the gravity dropped from 1.082 to 1.025 pretty quickly. I blame the pitch rate!

A transfer to secondary roused the yeast a bit more to get a FG of 1.020, resulting in an ABV of 7.7%. I’ll test the flavor out in a week, but the before-bottling sample yielded a complex flavor that sneaks up on the tongue with a nice touch of warming alcohol in the aftermath. The taste was a bit sweeter than I prefer, so next time more bittering hops would be nice to balance that a bit better.

The final takeaways:

  • thick and foamy head
  • brilliant golden color and consistent bubbling to the top
  • neutral aroma
  • light to medium bodied
  • sweet, sugary flavor and aftertaste
  • no harsh off flavors (that I can tell)

Top Gun: Meg Ryan’s a Babe

First and foremost let’s put this out there first, Meg Ryan possibly has the best part in this movie. Not only does she make me want to be Goose (SPOILER ALERT: who dies 5/8th of the way through the film, so it’s not exactly a “desirable” final destination) but makes me want to have children as well. I still want to give my offspring several embarrassing middle names. Obviously, not ready for fatherhood. Anyways…

…a timeless 1987 directed by Tony Scott, action film extraordinaire, and produced by film Pirate himself Jerry Bruckheimer, ‘Top Gun’ needs to be aired with a damn good subwoofer. Play this one with the bass thumping your chest with every fly by, admirals daughter, and gayly hit volleyball.

How the one liners are still somehow relevant over almost 30 years? I don’t have a F-14 clue. How many times has this movie been used to sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” to a poor unfortunate soul at a bar? That data is still not in but I’m glad to say I’ve contributed to that stat.

Don’t think, just put it on and drink until you feel like your face is making love in slow motion, probably in black and white if you’re doing it correctly.


1. Any time they use a call sign
2. Any time “wingman” is referenced or seen on screen
3. Any homoerotic tendency is shown passed off as merely “military male bonding”
* Any time they’re acting slightly ‘gay’
4. Any time ‘Iceman’ is eating, chewing, or biting during his scene
5. Any time 80’s synth music brings the acting together

R.I.P. Rule: Chug for the entirety of Gooses’ death, from “eject” to limp body hoisting.

Roscoe Brown Ale

As my new pup demolishes my laptop bag strap, the wooden doorstop, and part of my wrist, I regret not making this ale more of a son-of-a-bitch. Though the slight under-carbonation of the finished product could be viewed as annoying as Roscoe’s constant need for something to chew on. The first new beer of the year is a 4.5% ABV malty brown ale inspired by this little guy:

Not pleased with the workplace.

Not pleased with the workplace.

The hop additions of added just enough bitterness to offset the sweet, and the malty taste is incredibly satisfying, brought out by just over a pound of the specialty malts Chocolate, Crystal 60L and Roasted Barley. Mouthfeel needs improvement, the beer is not especially hefty.

It’s pretty good when two are poured into a large stein, which is on the immediate to-do list after arriving home. California Common style is next, which should be fully carbonated by March 8th.

2014 – Beer in Review

Starting in February, I ventured on a journey of discovery to learn how to brew beer at home. While the production of quality drinking games suffered during this time, valuable knowledge was gained and moderate success was achieved in a few concoctions. Here are my takeaways of the year to learn from and improve on for 2015.

Better Red Than Dead Irish Red Ale

This first beer didn’t taste terrible, which was a grand success for how inexperienced I was. Freaking out about cleanliness probably was a good paranoia to have, as there was no indication of flavor problems. However, pitching the yeast too warm (74 degrees) and hesitancy to aerate probably stunted its development, and the first try at carbonation didn’t work. I also bit off more than I could chew by trying specialty grains and a secondary fermentation a bit prematurely. No matter! The seal has been broken, and some lessons were learned.

Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale Clone

This was more like it. Just half a pound of grain used to ease back on the variability of the brew. Cooling outside in snow went faster, and proper aeration while using a volatile yeast really worked in this case. The only beer I got a photo of (this will happen more when the phone is upgraded), it turned out a little hazy but the carbonation was solid and the final result was quite tasty.

Victor’s Spoils IPA

I would have liked to give this one a bit more effort as the ABV was quite low and the taste was pretty boring. However since the basis of this recipe was using up leftover hop pellets, next year provides high opportunity to get creative with a repeated effort.

Bums IPA

This beer garnered the most acclaim from tasters, and was arguably the best beer of the year. Keeping things super simple with one pound of specialty malt while increasing the malt extract pushed the ABV up to 7.2%, and the CTZ pellet hops gave a wonderful bitter bite. The carbonation was balanced, the color was warm but not too brown, and the clarity was the best yet. It didn’t last long, but fresh IPA’s aren’t supposed to.

Belgian Saison

With the heat of the VT summer ever present and a lack of proper temperature control, I wanted to try a high temperature tolerant yeast and leaped at the chance to try a different variety of beer. This was also the first time I used a spice, non-malt adjunct, and gypsum to treat the liquor. Came out fantastic tasting, but lower in alcohol than I expected. Next year may call for an attempt at a Dubbel or Trippel.


As I sip you right now, you are the brew that I had the highest hopes for, and the one that disappointed me most. I tried my own recipe for CTDR this time, and learned a lot from this attempt. I think the key errors in the process was inconsistent temperature management, with primary and secondary fermentation and the carbonation process. The flavor was close, but the non-existent carbonation in the final product really hurt. A true work in progress, my idea for the recipe is there, now I just need to figure out how to execute it.

Malty Pirate Porter

Arghhh this be the beer that I didn’t blog about but took brewing notes on. This one was a slight recovery! Low in alcohol and carbonation but high in roasty flavoring, this one I could share with a disclaimer. I’ve really gotten into the dark beers as I’m learning, and want to make quite a few this upcoming year.

Maple Pumpkin Ale

Yumtown, I made this beer especially for All Hallows’ Eve to share with good friends and I really got what I was looking for. Most pumpkin ales are sweet and syrupy, not my favorite flavors (and not the favorites of the fine folks who sampled this one), so this beer has a hint of maple flavoring but was decidedly not sweet, but emitted strong vegetable/earthy flavor from the pumpkin.

Barkshack Ginger Mead

We’ll see what happens with this one! I got the recipe from Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing and snuck it in before the end of the year. I used a ton of damn good honey, freshly grated gingerroot, and 3 pounds of raspberries to flavor the mead. This thing will be bottled with some strong lemongrass tea in February and left to sit until the end of 2015.

Goals for 2015

  • Solve the temperature control problem
  • Craft a gluten free beer
  • Build an all-grain brewing setup and craft a lager
  • Increase output by 33%

Elf Drinking Game

elf movie poster

Elf is the gift that keeps on giving. The prospect of re-watching this film every Christmas gives me pause, because I tell myself I know exactly how the movie goes and why should I bother? Well, sometimes it’s good to bother. Hilarious lines emerged from nowhere and Elf emphatically made its mark to be included in the re-watched x-mas movies in this family. And what would make it even better? Getting jacked up on White House Egg Nog with the following drinking game rules!

Drink every time:

  • Anyone says “Buddy” or “Christmas”
  • A size difference becomes a problem
  • Buddy displays elf-like behavior
  • Someone sings
  • Favreau shoots an homage to another work of film

Death Rule

Drink every time someone says “Santa”.