Monday, February 28, 2011

Regular Beer

(This is a post intended for participation in Session #49 "Regular Beer" in which people all over the internet share a beer or three and post about their thoughts on it.)

These days, when I want a regular beer, I think of my own homebrew "Ordinary Bitter". Mine is an attempt to make a beer I want to drink everyday and all night. The ordinary English bitter is a beer that has been somewhat left out of the hop-obsessed craft beer world. There are a few out there, but not many, and especially not many that are drinkable in the way the classic English bitters are.

More specifically, the bitters I write of are typically the basic bitters that is on tap at every pub in the motherland. I mean the beer that is pumped out of the cellar and often has a nice haze in the imperial pint you hold. It is a beer inoffensive enough to down in fit of thirst, but you tend to enjoy casually. It is the beer that you appreciate because it settles into the background of your pub visit. It is also the beer that most inspired me to start homebrewing.

I'm a big fan of beers from Fullers, Greene King, etc., but they aren't always readily available here in Tennessee, nor are they particularly affordable to consume on a daily basis. Besides that, with so far to travel to get to my glass, English bitters aren't the freshest beers available. So I decided to brew my own.

I actually first started with Special Bitters (and I try to keep a keg of that around, too). The problem I found was that after a glass or two of my Special Bitter, at around 7% ABV, the rest of my evening was pretty much shot. The solution was to go the route of an ordinary bitter and attempt to keep my edge. After a few years of brewing and experimentation, I have narrowed my recipe down pretty well, but I still tweak it here and there.

So back to the session and my regular beer. It is the beer I drink when I have 30 minutes to relax before I have somewhere to be. It is the beer I start with when I know I have a long night of drinking. It is the beer I drink when my drinking isn't about the beer. My ordinary bitter is a malty beer with some tasty but subdued hop flavor. It tends to pour with a big head but separates nicely and leaves the history of my imbibing with a healthy layered lacing down the glass, which is typically an imperial pint. My bitter tastes much like the smell of the wort boiling, and I like it that way. My regular beer is cheaper than Schlitz, smoother than Sam Adams, as clear as a Sierra Nevada, and tastier than all of them. Regular beer is better than craft beer when it's homebrew.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Wow. It has been a while. Again.

The highlight of my brewing for the past few months has been acquisitions that allow me to brew more and serve more. So I can now brew 10 gallon batches and I have capacity for 6 kegs to be on tap at any given time.

Back in October, I guess it was, I acquired an additional full-size refrigerator for the basement. There was a fellow down in the Smyrna area that posted an ad on craigslist for a free kegerator fridge for whoever came to get it. So I went and came home with a huge fridge that had already been drilled for a faucet out the front. He had also built a wooden platform at the base of the fridge for kegs to sit level inside. After some cleaning out of the compressor and such, the fridge started working great and I haven't had any issues since. The shank he had installed on the front door was very long such that it actually interfered when i tried to fill the fridge with my corny kegs. (I have since acquired 4 more kegs, too) Last week, I sawed off the shank, though, so now I'm good to go. So now I can fit a 10 lb. co2 tank and 4 5-gal kegs in that fridge. It is currently at capacity, but I have two kegs of the Polo beer; so only one of those is tapped at a time.

In late October, I was the recipient of a pretty awesome gift from my lady friend. She gave me a new 15 gallon Bichmann brewpot. That thing is beautiful and functional, and it came with a thermometer, graduated sight glass, and a 3pc. stainless ball valve. Really nice stuff. So this new pot allows me the boil capacity to brew a 10 gallon batch. The other problem with such a big batch, though, was that it becomes dangerous and mostly impossible for me to move pots full of hot liquid around to use gravity for the sparge and such. So around the holiday I finally ponied up and purchased a pump to move hot liquids around. I have done one ten gallon batch (the hoppy pilsner "polo beer") and that worked out pretty well. But I am still needing to improve my process. So there is still some thinking going on.

All that being said, ten gallon batches do pose another problem. I like to drink my own beer and I do tend to save money over buying beer, but one of the main reasons I brew is because I enjoy it and I enjoy experimenting with styles and variations and such. Brewing ten gallons means more beer from a brew session, which means less brew sessions since I have limited beer storage capacity (and who wants to constantly clean and fill bottles?). So I do plan to brew 10 gallon batches still, but mostly when brewing with others where at the end of the brew session, I only keep 5 gallons for myself.

So anyway, that's what's been going on lately in my brewing world. I have a lot of beer at the house (including some Westvleteren 12 from our November trip to Belgium) that I am trying to wade through. But don't pity me, I'll get through it.