Saturday, July 17, 2010

Centennials in 2010

Plenty of cones on the Centennial bines that are doing well this season. (Photo taken this morning.)

But alas, for third-year plants, this summer has seen one mound woefully stunted and another sort of sputtering. The remaining two mounds have fairly robust bines and a decent amount of cones.

Also, this year marks the first appearance of some unwanted visitors – Japanese beetles. The folks at Rutgers said a couple of years ago that if your plants don't have pests, just wait, the bugs will find them.

And so they have.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There's stone in that beer

Here's a video project that arose from Homebrew Day back in May.

While doing an interview for the Big Brew video of the Barley Legal Homebrewers gathered behind Iron Hill brewpub in Maple Shade, Maris Kukainis of Cherry Hill mentioned he planned to do a stone beer as an homage to his Latvian heritage.

Enough said. We'll be there.

If you're familiar with this age-old European process (the late great Beer Hunter Michael Jackson did a segment on the style whilst in Germany) and its origins, then you understand why it's intriguing.

The super-hot stones, when immersed in the wort, push the liquid over the hump into a rolling boil. The technique was relied upon back when some breweries used wooden kettles, which were unsuited for a direct flame. Hence, a work-around, one that imparted signature caramel and smoky flavors into the beer. (Check out the video below, by the Woodbridge-area homebrewer group WHALES. Club members used a wooden barrel as a kettle for their take on the style.)

To a soundtrack of Latvian folk tunes playing on an iPod, Maris brewed his version of stone beer using river stones heated over a hardwood fire. He bittered it with Styrian hops and the hop-predecessor mugwort, and tossed in some crushed juniper berries for good measure.

On a third dunk of hot stones, the wort was boiling, and the air around kettle filled with a combination maltiness and smokiness. (The stones retrieved from the wort wore a veneer of caramelized sugar.)

Maris split the kettle volume into two batches for primary fermentation. We have a follow-up call in to him to check on the fruits of his labors from that day in mid-May.


Monday, July 12, 2010

East Coast Brewing, Part 3

By now, the folks at East Coast Brewing had hoped their contract-brewed pre-Prohibition lager would be on store shelves.

But John Merklin and Brian Ciriaco have found the industry regulators to be a little fussy.

So the launch of their Beach Haus brand pilsner has been pushed to next month. You could hear the frustration in John's voice this afternoon as he spoke from the company headquarters in Point Pleasant. Beach Haus' launch was supposed to happen in June.

Federal regulators, he says, raised some flags about the corporate name (the feds wanted it clearer that East Coast will be contract brewing) and squawked about some fine print and other minor details regarding the label for the pilsner, the prototypes of which – made on a 15-gallon hobby system – tasted reminiscent of a Vienna lager, certainly deeper in character and heartier than your typical pils. (For the curious, the beer will be brewed with Mount Hood and Horizon hops – 42 IBUs – and weigh in at 5.5% ABV.)

So the upshot is this: John and Brian say they've addressed regulators' concerns and have a July 26th brew date set with Genesee Cream Ale-maker High Falls Brewing in Rochester, N.Y., with whom the two Jersey shore guys (they live in Ocean County) struck a contract-brew deal. (In a world not foiled by regulators, that brew date would probably be the top news here.)

If all goes to plan, John says, Beach Haus pils will launch around mid-August.

In the meantime, he and Brian have been developing some ales to eventually roll out under the Beach Haus banner.

And as for their pils, well, the two will tell you that August is still certainly beach weather.