07 September 2009

The Blog It Is A-Changin'

(with apologies to Dylan).

In honor of the Second Anniversary of the St. Cecilia Brewery this month, and in ongoing frustration with Blogspot, expect some major-overhaul changes around these parts.

Consider yourselves warned!

06 September 2009

And now it is....September?!?

Never let the silence fool you. We here at Perm's Picks have been quite busy with all things zymurgical, even if these e-pages have been silent over the past 4 months. Beer happens; life intervenes.

On the homebrew front, we last left you, O Sparse Readership, with the Beach Gaelic Symphony in its aging stage and the Weiss-bier in the fermenter. Some updates are owed: The Gaelic Symphony Ale is no more. All has been consumed. And it was good. Probably one of the most pleasant, all-around Good Beers that I've brewed. It might be due a reprise in months to come. The Weiss-Bier (Opus 2) turned out nicely, but is not my favorite. I've about decided that a good, authentic German-tasting Hefeweizen is quite difficult to achieve in the extract-brewing world. My first round in '08 was nice, but quite plain and boring, and lacking in the banana-clove quality that I was going for. I attempted a manipulation of the process this time around, and ended up with clovey banana bread in a bottle. Also not ideal. I take great consolation, though, in the fact that some folks loved it. Good for them -- they keep me brewing!

Following the Silvius Leopold Weiss (still the best musicologically-inspired name for a beer EVER), I tried my hand an an American-style IPA. With a twist, though, because I had a stash of Czech hops on hand and wanted to use them. So, I devised the Antonín Dvořak New World IPA, inspired (of course) by the great Symphony No.9 ("From the New World") of Dvořak: a piece of music written in America, with American-inspired themes, by a Czech composer. Seemed fitting to me.

The brew's success is in its exquisite flavor and high drinkability. Its failure, though, is twofold: continental noble hops lack the citrus zing and bittering punch of New World (West Coast) hop varieties, the ones that we have come to expect in our American IPAs; and I had a mysterious under-carbonation pandemic affect quite a few of my bottles. So, reluctantly, I must consign my New World IPA to the ranks of homebrewing mediocrity. Although, I am sampling one, as I write this, which is perfectly carbonated and quite tasty. With the hop identity, though, it leans more toward a strong Amber Ale. (ABV ~ 7%)

On the horizon (in fact, happening this very afternoon) is a leap of faith: my second foray into the world of fruit beers. My first, nigh on a year ago, was the ill-fated Colonial Pumpkin Ale, now known in the Perm household as the "cooking beer." I'm confident, though, that I now possess the knowledge-tools to make this one a success. I have in my freezer about 5 pounds of local-grown (VERY local), organic blueberries, and on my table an American Wheat Beer kit. The hopeful result: Rhapsody in Blue, a blueberry-wheat ale tipping its hat to the great (but tragically short-lived) George Gershwin. It will also feature my first experiment with brewing into tertiary fermentation: most of my brews undergo primary fermentation (after the yeast is pitched into the vat/carboy with the ingredients) and secondary (the wort is racked [transferred] to another carboy to filter and reduce sediment, and in all the excitement the yeast sometimes wakes up from its nap and goes to work again). Teritary will simply mean racking it an additional time -- I'm going to add the blueberries to the secondary, and don't want all that organic pulpy gunk in my finished product, hence an additional filtering step.

Finally, some Gershwin fun (the man himself, from a rare 1920s recording):
George comes in on the piano at 1:02.

Next Post: Some Perm's Brew Picks from the summertime!

05 May 2009

May Homebrew News

Looking back....
I. The Stammerer is Stammer-pendous. It is a remarkable brew that, if I were doing a blind tasting, I would swear were a top-dollar Real Article. It's amazing.  And there's not a lot of it, so I'm definitely hoarding this one.  Although another is going to need to be popped open soon, so that Mrs. Perm can write her review!

II. The Josquin Saison is quite pleasant -- same yeast strain as the Stammerer and the APA, making a nice trio of Belgian-themed ales. It's not quite as spicy as if I had used a specifically Saison strain of yeast, and not quite as dry as I was hoping for, but it still delivers the goods.
It's also stee-rong. I was hoping for 7% ABV, and ended up with closer to between 8 and 9.  Not sure how or why that happened, since most of my brews end up UNDER the projected gravity. I can only point to a vigorous, warm primary fermentation: I stuck that puppy in a closet with a space heater and it went to TOWN.
It's a winner with an array of foods (as any saison worth its salt should be) and is also great on its own -- I'm fond of sitting in the solo hammock-chair on the front porch during these spring/early summer rain showers, Josquin in hand, and letting the moment soak in. (Or, as the great Strong Bad once quipped, "On certain evenings in late spring, a Cool One can be very refreshing...")
I'm also holding a few back, as this one is sure to be an all-star in the cellar.

Looking Sideways...
I. The Gaelic Ale clone is in the bottle and will come forth for its tasting in a couple of weeks.  And it has a St. Cecilia name --

Amy Beach Gaelic Symphony Ale

Had to cast about just a bit for this one, but I like the result. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (self-called in her American-published compositions, Mrs. H.H.A. Beach) (1867-1944) was a late-19th century pianist and composer of New England stock with a penchant and flair for the Celtic Romanticism that was all the rage in those days, penning a number of piano solos with Scottish allusions, as well as the Symphony in E Minor, "The Gaelic." She was a wonderful composer.

Much like the ale from which this recipe takes its cue, Beach's music was solidly American, but firmly rooted in the classic European tradition, and often took its romantic inspiration from the mythology and poetry of Scotland. 

II. I've just started the next brew: a reprise of the Silvius Leopold (Hefe) Weiss, with a reformulated recipe courtesy of Alex at Hops & Vines.  I'm feeling good about this one, and think this recipe will be an improvement over last year's. 
Just for fun, here's another couple of great moments from Weiss:

Looking ahead...
I'm getting excited about incorporating some local ingredients into my 
upcoming brews: in addition to the hops that I'm growing in my friend 
CW's garden, I've also been given the green light to avail myself of his 
plenteous blueberry (and raspberry) bushes. I'm seeing a blueberry 
wheat ale in my future, probably in July (and already have a name picked 
out!). I'm also looking ahead to trying my hand at a Gruit Ale. What's 
that, you may ask? Well, come back to a future post and find out! Suffice 
to say, my version will involve juniper, rosemary, and whatever other crazy 
herbs I can get my hands on.

hoppin' to it! A baby Cascade. They've more than doubled in size since this shot was taken.

So where's the Perm's Pick? It has been quite a while, has it not. Never 
fear, I've not given up that pursuit: it's simply been a goodly while since I've 
partaken of anything new (to me) that's quite worthy of the distinction. My 
recent beer-purchasing/quaffing forays have involved tried-and-true favorites 
such as Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Anderson Valley Boont Amber, and a mighty 
fine Hefe-glass of Weihenstephaner. Oh, and Harpoon's Raspberry Wheat Ale 
gets a solid honorable mention. Don't worry, though, I've got a bottle of something 
over here that I'm eager to break out, and think just might make Pick standards. 
Stay tuned....

07 April 2009


So, a self-annoyance: I make meticulous notes on my homebrew sessions, only to lose the sheet upon which said meticulous notes have been made. That being the case, I am not entirely sure the exact time of primary and secondary fermentations, nor what the final ABV of the Josquin des Prez is!  My estimate (based on numerical recollections, never my strong suit) is between 8.3 and 8.5%.  At any rate, STRONG.

That can, however, be countered with two bits of GOOD news:

1) I have procured three hop rhizomes (two Cascade and a Willamette) from my favorite Homebrew Supply Store, and the hope is to get them in the ground soon!  My landlord (and gardening buddy) CW is erecting some trellises at his place, where they should flourish. Here's hoping.

2) I took a sneak-peak at the Stammerer Quadrupel Ale and it is GOOD. Damn good. Amazingly, I'd-pay-nine-dollars-for-a-bottle kind of good.  If this is any indication what we could do on a regular basis, then JT and I are brewing geniuses.  Stay posted for a review sometime soon, but believe you me I'm going to try to nurse these precious bottles for a long, long time.

3) New homebrew *hopefully* getting started this evening -- a clone rendition of our very own backyard Highland Gaelic Ale.

20 March 2009

Some Updates: Tasting Notes and Homebrew

I. New Belgium lands in NC

As of March, New Belgium's (CO) oft-touted beers are available in the great state of North Carolina. Off the bat, three 22-oz bottles are being distributed, and I managed to get my grubby hands on all three fairly early on at the new, neighborly, nice Saluda Wine & Cheese Market up the road. So early, in fact, that *I* was actually the person to open up the cases and take out the first bottles of two of them.
That very same day (March 7) was an unseasonably warm 70+ degrees F, so I decided the first to be sampled, on our porch, would be the Mothership Wit (Mothership is what NB employees affectionately call the brewery), a classic Belgian white/wheat ale.

Appearance: 4/5. Very pale...the color of straw, or cloudy fresh lemonade, or ginger beer. A nice billowy white head floats on top.

Aroma: 4.5/5. Divine, summery goodness. Rich and complex while still light. Notes of cereal, hay, chamomile, coriander, light citrus (grapefruit?), grass.

Taste: 4/5. A delight, if ever so slightly thin at first blush. As it lingers, though, complexity comes out: grain, citrus zest, coriander, chamomile, honey, lots of wheat. A tangy finish.

Palate: 2.5/5. Too damn watery at the beginning, almost salty at the end.

Overall: 4/5. A great beer to welcome the first warm day of March -- and also to welcome NB to my NC palate. This beer stands up to many Belgian wits I've had (Wittekerke, for example) and certainly is better than most American versions in my recent memory. Here's a curiosity: when taken in small sips, it comes across as unpleasantly watery -- but when gulped, it's rich and creamy.
This would be excellent with -lightly herbed/grilled whitefish with pineapple salsa
-salted almonds or cashews
-goat cheese omelet with dill
-lighter Greek/Lebanese fare

Combined score: 3.95/5 (B+)

II. Homebrew follow-up, as promised.

Here's the brew recipe for the saison:

0.5 lb Durst pilsner malt
0.5 lb wheat malt

soak 60 minutes (hey, why not?)

6 lb Northwestern Gold LME
2 lb Gold DME
1 lb corn sugar

1 oz Hallertau hops (start of boil)
1 oz US Golding hops (last 20 minutes)
1 oz Styrian Golding hops (end of boil)

boil 60 minutes

Yeast: 4th generation cultivated Bastogne Yeast (originally from the Stammerer Ale)

Per Alex's suggestion, I'm trying a warmer, longer primary fermentation on this one, which I'm calling

Josquin des Prez

Josquin, who himself hailed from the rural borderland between France and Flemish Belgium (the political map, of course, very different in the late 15th century), the very home of the Saison style. And, really, as Josquin is one of the truly great composers in the history of Western Europe, it seemed fitting to pair his name with one of the truly great beer styles. And given the fact that this brew is on its way to being a whopper -- I was aiming or 7% ABV, but we're pushing 9 last I checked -- one of the Giants (Josquin) seems to be called for.

And, following bloggy tradition, I feel the need to finish off with a few musical homages to the great man. He was as instrumental as any one person in completing the stylistic transition from the late Medieval aesthetic into that now known as the Renaissance. Here are some of his best:

New Digs, New Homebrew...and the Man in Black

So on March 1 we made the move to our new place, just up the road from our previous residence - and, given the fact that it's still a rental, we love it!  Slightly smaller (more appropriate size) and in MUCH better condition. Lots of character.  
And still lots of space for brewing and cellaring.  Photos will come soon...we only found the camera battery charger yesterday.
And speaking of finds, the landlord had 3 boxes of swing-top Grolsch bottles in the basement: "you can have 'em, just give me some of the beer, man!" I believe were his exact words.  

I unleashed the "Appalachian Pale Ale" yesterday and it is de-licious.  Probably my favorite homebrew creation thus far.  This one will be worth posting tasting notes, for sure.  This more than makes up for the failed attempt at this same basic recipe a couple of months back, and the re-used Bastogne yeast (harvested from the joint project with JT) makes it go down REALLY smooth.   This is something of a celebrity brew for another reason, as well -- it moved to the new apartment with us, mid-ferment!  I'll admit to being quite apprehensive about hauling the carboy up the road, but it seemed to work out just fine.  I left it in secondary for an extra week, just to give it more settling time. 

And I've got a Saison bubbling away in the closet (started it last Friday).  This is my first foray into the farmhouse genre, so we'll see what happens. Also using some harvested Bastogne yeast for this go-round. Thanks to the aforementioned closet and a little space heater, I've attempted the warm-ferment that is often recommended for a Saison. At this point, it looks nice and cloudy.  
Name, brew recipe, and label to be unveiled soon...but with a centuries-old origin in the rural borderlands between Flanders and France, I've got a great idea for the nomenclature on this one.

In other music-meets-beer news, I stumbled across this:

This looks pretty exciting to me.  If I were in NYC on the 26th, dog(fish)gone it if I wouldn't make it out for that!

10 February 2009

What's This? A Homebrew Post from Perm??

Don't let the e-silence fool you. St. Cecilia brewing has been at work and it's time for some updates.

I. The Big Quad

My Asheville buddy JT Southbound and I have collaborated on a clone brew of proportions that, if not quite epic, are at least horizon-stretching for both of us. I refer to a homebrewing take on the illustriously famed Westvleteren Trappist 12, courtesy of my beloved book Beer Captured

Westvleteren is the smallest of the seven brew-producing Trappist monasteries (Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, de Koningshoeven, Westmalle, Achelse Kluis, Westvleteren), yet produces arguably the most sought-after and highly regarded beer of them all.  They also don't export their product -- it is officially for sale only at two locations, the monastery itself and a small pub across the road.   In my personal cellar, I do proudly claim a single bottle of a Westy yellow-cap (the "12") which I'm hoarding fiercely.

Our homebrew version deviates ever so slightly from the printed recipe, but certainly maintains the spirit and overall effect of the Abbey Quadrupel. It breaks down like this (you can see where we slightly modified the recipe to make it our own):

1 lb Cara-Munich malt (recipe: 18 oz)
1 lb Belgian Biscuit malt (recipe: 8 oz Belgian aromatic; 7 oz Belgian biscuit)
4 oz Special B malt 
4 oz British Chocolate malt (recipe: 2 oz)

3 lb Extra Light DME
1 lb Pilsen XL DME
6.6 lb XL LME (recipe: 10.75 lb XL DME; we had 10.6 total)

1 lb light candi sugar
4 oz turbinado sugar (recipe: 4 oz Amber candi)
6 oz Malto-dextrin

1 oz Organic NZ Hallertau hops (AA 7%): flavor/aroma
1.25 oz Cascade hops (5.9% AA): bittering (recipe: Styrian Goldings)
1 oz Irish moss

White Labs Bastogne Ale yeast

We ended up a bit closer to 6 gallons than 5, which lowered the OG from the projected 1105 down to about 1085.  The final gravity was right where it needed to be, around 1020 or so, so our estimated ABV is more along the lines of 9.1% than the hoped-for 10.6.  Still, formidable and nothing to shake an asperges at.  Plus, more bottles for us.

But I get ahead of myself....we brewed on December 19, then JT transferred it over to secondary on Dec.27.  There it sat and happily did its thing until February 4, when JT pitched a second dose of the same yeast strain (captured at the time of racking) and got it chugging again.  On the 6th, we reconvened, threw in the priming sugar (I believe it was corn sugar), and bottled away, mostly in corked 750 mL Belgian bottles (it only seemed fitting). Each of us made off with half the batch.

Now the great waiting game begins. We agreed to not break any out until we were together again, provisionally looking at mid-March for the first sampling. These bad boys should be good to go until at least 2012, though!  

On my end of things, for St. Cecilia purposes I'm calling it "Notker Balbulus Stammerer Quadrupel Ale"  -- managing to squeeze in another mostly-appropriate double entendre. Notker of St. Gall was a late-9th/early-10th century Benedictine monk and composer/theorist who was known as Balbulus, or the Stammerer. He's also one of the very earliest Western composers for whom we have both a name and surviving music connected with that name (900AD!)  Great name for a strong Quad, if you ask me -- too much of this and you're sure to be stammering!  I also was pleased to find a monastic composer (I know, Benedictine, not Cistercian -- are we going to split hairs here??) for this tribute brew. 

contemplating the proper hop additions?

II. RVW's Down Ampney Coffee Porter

The December brew is, actually, almost all gone!  It was a wonderful success and the fact that there are just a handful of bottles left is testament to that. I will say, a mere ounce of coarse-ground beans added to the wort went a LONG way. I could have done a half ounce and it still would have been plenty coffee for the end result. I'm glad I didn't follow my initial hunch and and more during the secondary. 

III. Pisgah Pale Clone, Take Two

My November batch was to be a rendering of Hops & Vines' Pisgah Pale Ale clone recipe, which (as reported) went strangely south.  I've kept the bottles, and a recent tasting suggested to me that all *might* not be lost, but I'm going to let them sit for a good 6 months before I try any again. Odds are, there's no salvaging.  

I thought this kit had so much potential for greatness, though, I just had to try again. So, in the fermenter now is the seedling of my Swannanoa Appalachian Pale Ale.

It varies most significantly from both the source kit and the November attempt in that I'm using a second-generation batch of the same Bastogne Ale yeast from the Stammerer Quad. This will mark the first time that I've brewed using saved yeast from a previous batch. (If all goes according to plan, I'll use this yeast yet again next month in my projected Saison.) 

So, what we'll have is an American Pale Ale with a decidedly Belgian twist, which I am inclined to think will be nothing short of lovely. 

Here's the bill:

1 lb. Crystal malt (60 L)
1 lb. Munich malt

6 lbs. Gold LME
1 lb. Gold DME

1 oz Chinook hops (bittering)
1 oz Cascade hops (bittering)
1 oz Chinook hops (aroma/flavor)
1 oz Cascade hops (aroma/flavor)

1 tsp Irish Moss

Bastogne Ale Yeast (2nd Generation, harvested from December 19th brewing)

I may or may not dry hop at the end of the process; I'll leave that to my mood come secondary time.  The Original Gravity was 1050, so as long as there's a good yeast feeding frenzy we should be on track for something in the 6% department.
I also did something a bit different this time in that I added more water to the boil -- 3 1/2 gallons, as opposed to my usual 2 or 2 1/2. I'm hoping this will result in a greater depth of character in the end result.

08 February 2009

Our Founding Fathers, the Separatists

And now, an important note on our American history, from thestraightdope.com:

Dear Cecil:

Is it true the
Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 because the ship ran out of beer? I have been told that barrels of beer were the most voluminous and important item in the hold because water couldn't stay drinkable on a ship for that long.

— James C., Massachusetts

You heard right, more or less: The Mayflower colonists decided to settle at Plymouth because they were running low on beer. In an age when so many have lost their moral compass, it's comforting to know that people in the old days had their priorities straight.

Pretty much everything you think you know about the Pilgrims is wrong (including their being called Pilgrims--that term didn't catch on until centuries later), so it's not surprising the beer angle slipped under the radar. Here's the story, assembled with the help of my doughty research assistant Bibliophage:

On November 9, 1620 [November 19 by modern reckoning], after 64 days at sea, the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod. You may inquire: What sort of idiot would sail across the north Atlantic at the height of storm season? The voyagers probably asked themselves the same question. They'd initially left Southampton, England, in August, but one of their two ships, the Speedwell, sprang a leak. Repair attempts failed, and by the time the travelers had consolidated themselves on the Mayflower, a month had passed. Then they spent an extra couple weeks under sail due to bad weather, arriving just in time for winter. That was problem one.

Problem two was that Cape Cod was not where the colonists were supposed to be. Their patent from the Virginia Company of London authorized them to establish a plantation between 38 and 41 degrees north latitude; the tip of Cape Cod was just north of 42 degrees. The group dutifully attempted to sail south, but shoals and contrary winds kiboshed that idea. Some now spoke of splitting up. Contrary to what we imagine, the colonists weren't united by religion. Of the 102 passengers, around 40 were Separatists (i.e., separated from the Church of England), a like number were regular folks recruited by the London merchants who underwrote the expedition, and the balance were hired men, servants, and so on. Finding themselves at odds in a legal no-man's-land, the colonists drafted the Mayflower Compact. The 41 who signed it on November 11 included no women but were otherwise pretty cool, consisting of Seps and non-Seps, masters and servants, all bound by the realization that has animated every republic since: If we don't stick together we're wolf chow.

The question remained exactly where the colonists should set up shop. Looking at the map now, you'd think a little bird would have twittered: Boston! You can found Boston! Apparently not. The choice came down to someplace called Anguum (probably near the present town of Ipswich), or else what the ship's navigator called "Thievish Harbor," in the direction of what's now known as Plymouth Bay. The latter being closer, the colonists headed there and found the location promising, in part because the land had been cleared earlier by Native American farmers who then conveniently died due to European-borne pestilence. The voyagers weren't disposed to be fussy: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it being now the 19th of December" (Mourt's Relation, 1622, commonly attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow). Plymouth it was.

Beer was a dietary mainstay in those days. Chances are the beverage in question was "ship's beer," a not-very-alcoholic concoction that, along with the even weaker "small beer," was drunk in formidable quantities during the colonial era (upwards of a quart per day seems to have been a typical ration). Undoubtedly an advantage was that, unlike more perishable foodstuffs, ship's beer would keep during long voyages and, having been boiled, was likely purer than ordinary water.

The colonists used up their beer by Christmas. At first the ship's captain gave them a little out of the crew's supply, but when sickness, possibly scurvy, began felling the travelers (about half died that first winter), things got ugly. "As this calamity fell among the passengers that were to be left here to plant, and were hasted ashore and made to drink water that the seamen might have the more beer, and one in his sickness desiring but a small can of beer, it was answered that if he were their own father he should have none" (Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, circa 1650). The captain relented when his own men began getting sick too, evidently not wanting it to be known to history that, in addition to being late, lost, etc, he was the SOB who hogged the beer.

Source: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2625/did-the-pilgrims-land-on-plymouth-rock-because-they-ran-out-of-beer, accessed 2/8/09.

07 February 2009

Thinking local

What is Brooklyn Local 1?

Let us begin with the caption on the bottle:
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we forge barley malt and hops from Germany, aromatic raw sugar from Mauritius, and yeast from Belgium into Brooklyn Local 1. Behind the golden color, find a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude, and a dusting of yeast after 100% bottle re-fermentation. Enjoy it locally or globally, as an aperitif or with your favorite dishes.
Now, a quotation from The New York Times:
Steve Hindy, the president and cofounder of the brewery, said he and the brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, “had always been fascinated by Belgian-style beers and knew we could produce them here” — here being North 11th Street, within sight of the Williamsburg waterfront. In the eight-week process, the ale comes out of fermentation tanks flat and is allowed to ferment again in the bottle.1
And what of the result? Read on, brothers-in-beer.

It comes out of the bottle golden, almost exactly apricot-colored, with terrific carbonation, and pours up a bodacious head.

The nose is very yeasty and hits all the right notes for a saison (even if I am drinking it in February and not at the late summer harvest, as is customary).

In the mouth, it's malty and dry, with citrus (orange) notes, honey, some spices. When cool, it has a nice long finish. Nothing surprising, if you know your Belgians, but a very solid composition within the style.

It is also 9% ABV and comes in a 750 mL bottle, so if you're not careful it will take you to school.

Stay tuned: Brooklyn Local 2 comes out this month.

1. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/a-trademark-dispute-brewed-in-a-bottle/

11 January 2009

Oy Vey

So, here it is January for crying out loud and I'm back-logged for posting like nobody's business.

Here's my lame disclaimer:
1) Advent and Christmas seasons for an Episcopal Organist/Choirmaster = nuts. Blogging simply got shoved to the bottom of the priorities list.
2) As mentioned in my previous post, my laptop fried the week before Christmas (see #1). General mayhem and gnashing of teeth ensued.
3) Some homebrewing setbacks left me somewhat less than eager to chronicle my achievements -- much like the writers of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, I'm more keen to document my successes than I am my defeats (see below).

But, culturally speaking, January 1 makes all things new (including an amazing new office computer), so here we go into the *third calendar year* for Perm's Brew Picks and More.

So, a bit of housecleaning/catching up is in order from the tail-end of '08. Here we go:

I. Homebrewing News.

When last I logged in, the Pumpkin Ale was in secondary and the APA was on the docket. Both went south in a big way. Beyond recovery? Only time can tell.

For the pumpkin ale, I've decided my big mistake was to re-soak the bag o'pumpkin in the secondary. WAAAAY too much vegetable taste in the finished product: something akin to pumpkin juice mixed with amber ale. And an odd sour note that may or may not be foreign funk. I'm going to let these puppies sit in the bottle for a few months to see what sort of mellowing magic time can work. The silver lining: they're still perfectly fine for cooking with.

As far as the APA goes, I'm still not quite sure what went wrong, but once again there's the possibility of a foreign influence (wild yeast, or even something more nefarious like mold) influencing the elixir. Possibly some unwanted diacetyl, too. I'm also going to let it sit for a severe quantity of time to see if anything evens out. This might be one for loss-cutting and moving on.

In the wake of these two morale-crushers, 2008 appears to have ended splendidly, though. After a prelimiary tasting, my December brewing project can be counted a wonderful success:

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Down Ampney Coffee Porter
In addition to winning the prize for longest name yet, it's also named in honor of the 50th anniversary of the great man's passing from this life. Vaughan Williams, being quintessentially English, deserved a quintessentially English brew, of course -- and what can be more fitting than Porter?

It doesn't get much more sublime than this...

The coffee was a late-minute snap decision of mine, just for fun. I coarsely-ground 1 oz of dark-roast beans, and then tossed them into the cooling wort post-boil (5 gallons, mind you). For the next week or so, I was convinced that I had brewed 5 gallons of kahlua. By bottling time, though, the coffee had mellowed out and blended with the other elements.
An official tasting will come soon.

And my January brew (actually begun in late December) is a foray into the joys of co-brewing with a friend. I wish I could say that this is my first foray into joint brewing, but I must sadly recall the events of April 2004.
JT and I have embarked on a pretty ambitious project: a clone of Westvleteren Abt 12 (the [in]famous Trappist beer -- the one that *isn't* exported to the US). We're set to bottle in a couple of weeks, then bulk-age the monster until March or later. Stay tuned for updates.

2. Election Night Special

Only 2 months late! No worries!
Mrs. Perm and I celebrated Election Night with a couple of premium Carolina Cigar Company Churchills, and for the occasion I broke out one of my bottles of Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12.
[photo to come]
This is an incredible whisky-barrel-aged Scottish Old Ale from the makers of Old Engine Oil.
Limited-edition 330 mL bottles, each individually numbered.
Here's the run-down:

Appearance: Black...black is the color of my true-love beer! A very thin tan head around the edge of the glass frames the goodness. 5/5

Aroma: Tar, tobacco, peat, smoke, hops, strong malt, and molasses. Not for the faint of heart. Or the Miller drinker. 5/5

Taste: Malt, peat smoke, mild hops, treacle. It flows seamlessly from the nose to the taste, with wonderful whisky notes throughout. Dark-chocolate liqueur-like, to boot. 5/5

Palate: Mellow, smooth, very slight alcohol tinge, thick, and viscous. 5/5

Overall: Fantastic! A great Old Ale -- great sipping beer, and wonderful with that medium-blend cigar. It was a bit steep at $8.50 for a 330 mL bottle, but for a one-offer (And for a momentous event), it's definitely something special. And not a disappointment. 4.95: A+

3. New Years' in Beer Land

New Years' 2008-2009 was not intentionally planned to be beer-themed, but combine Perm with Asheville (and haut cuisine) and it's hard not to have it end up being so. Here's a summary of the December 31 adventure:

I. Jack of the Wood (Green Man Brewing's home)
Early supper here.
Green Man Imperial Stout (w/Surf & Turf)
Green Man IPA

II. The Thirsty Monk
Gouden Carolus Noel
(chocolate platter)
Off-license (in the US! I know!) bottle of Bell's Winter Wheat (wit), back to the hotel and the crazy-jet bathtub with this one

III. Barley's Taproom
The quest for the short-supply 2008 Pisgah Baptista (not bottled at all!) is finally successful, one hammock-taxi ride (for the ladies) later. 10-12 oz or so draught is well worth the hunt for this gem.

IV. The Bier Garden
Appalachian Copperhead Ale
Allagash Dubbel (bottle)

To follow: A trio of Perm's Monthly Picks, and a review of our New Years' Day multi-course feast.