Category Archives: Just Beer

Catching up w/ Blank Slate Brewing Company

You remember my friend Scott from Blank Slate Brewing Company, right?

Of course you do! He makes some of the best beer in all of Cincinnati, Ohio, and I personally think, in all of the Midwest.

Last time we caught up with Scott was about a year ago and a lot has changed since then. Business is going well, perhaps too well, if that’s possible.

Blank Slate Brewing Company Continue reading Catching up w/ Blank Slate Brewing Company

“Emerald,” Dry Irish Stout Recipe

Despite all the crazy homebrew recipes I tell you about, I’ve actually been making an effort over the last year to come back to basics a bit. This stout recipe is a delicious outcome of that goal: simple and lovely.

There are lots of different versions of stouts. You’ve got your sweet stout, milk stout (a sub style of sweet stout which is brewed with lactose sugar ), oatmeal stout, American stout, foreign extra stout and of course the big boozy delight that is Russian imperial stout. And those are just the BJCP recognized varieties. There are truly endless options. If you’re crazy like us, you can also make spiced stouts like our “Chai Latte Milk Stout,” or a delicious fruit stout like our award winning blackberry stout we call “the Bearded Lady.”

All are great, but on an average day, nothing is more satisfying than a simple, dry Irish stout.

"Emerald" Dry Irish Stout

Dry stouts are more drinkable than your hoppier, boozier stouts – a true session ale. At around 4.5 – 5% abv you can sip on a few of these and remain a totally reasonable person. Continue reading “Emerald,” Dry Irish Stout Recipe

Hopping into spring {TTT March 2014}

As you know by now if you’ve been following along with LBLF, the first Tuesday of every month is “Top Three Tuesday” where I share my current favorite beers.  I would pour these beers directly into your mouths if I could, but TTT is the next best thing.

As the weather warms (sorta), I’m craving hoppy, drinkable beers. We’re gonna do this month’s TTT by hop intensity – starting with a new favorite of mine:

Two Brother’s “Sidekick” Extra Pale Ale

Two Brothers' Sidekick Extra Pale Ale Continue reading Hopping into spring {TTT March 2014}

“The Bearded Lady,” Award winning blackberry stout recipe

As some of you already know, we got some very exciting news last weekend – our blackberry Belgian stout, “The Bearded Lady” won a GOLD MEDAL in the “All American Homebrew Competition,”  a BJCP sanctioned contest hosted by the Cincinnati Malt Infusers.

Obviously, we are ecstatic. Though we’ve been brewing beer for about 7 years, we’ve only just started entering competitions.  What makes the win all the sweeter is now that I’ve actually judged in a competition, I know how intense and critical our BJCP folks are.

Blackberry Belgian Stout

Even before winning the award, we knew this beer was pretty special. We first brewed it in the summer of 2012. We liked it so much, it became a household seasonal. Since then, we’ve had special requests for it from friends, acquaintances, and near-strangers too. Continue reading “The Bearded Lady,” Award winning blackberry stout recipe

Pucker up! An intro to “sour” beer styles

Whether you’re toasting the night to friends, drowning your single sorrows, or enjoying a romantic dinner with your loved one, pop open a deliciously tart brew or two this Valentines.

For a long time, I didn’t really like so called “sour” beers – the tartness was just too much. My husband, always the early adopter, loved them. I’d usually take a sip of his, just to try it, and after a couple years of sampling, my  palate has changed. I distinctly remember my first tart true love, Oro de Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin. It beguiled me with it’s complex fruitiness and funk.

tart and tasty "sour" beer

Sour beers, also labeled “wild,” are made by intentionally inoculating the wort (sugary liquid that turns into beer) with wild yeast strains. These beers can be anywhere from slightly tart to massively sour.

Any beer can be made “sour” and there are various ways to accomplish the task. One way, often utilized by Belgian brewers is to “open ferment” in coolships, or large shallow vessels used to cool the wort with nothing but open night air. This technique allows wild organisms (bacteria and yeast) to settle on the wort and feast on the sugars. Other brewers will choose ahead of time what types of wild yeast they want to add to their beers and will simply add a culture of that bacteria or yeast to the fermentation vessel. Barrel aging can also add a sour characteristic to beer, as wood is the perfect breeding ground for wild organisms.

Different beer styles have varying degrees of tartness, and those that don’t fit within traditional style guidelines, are a mix bag. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines there are six recognized styles of sour beer: Berliner Weisse, Flander’s Red, Flander’s Brown (or Oud Bruin), Lambic, and Geuze (also spelled Gueuze), plus “Fruit Lambic”. Farmhouse saisons, depending on the yeast(s) used to ferment, may also offer a low to moderate tartness, but isn’t considered one of the classic “sour” styles.

Berliner Weisse’ heritage lies in Berlin, Germany as you might guess. Classically, it is a pale in color, low ABV beer made mostly of wheat that is tart and refreshing. It’s brewed with traditional ale yeast and lactobacillus, one of our “wild” friends responsible for the pucker. Very few German breweries produce the classic style anymore, but some American craft breweries have adopted it with their own interpretations, such as Dogfish Head ‘s Festina Peche, and Three Floyd’s Deesko. On a sour scale of 0 (not sour) to 10 (the most sour thing ever consumed) I’d rank Berliner Weisse a 2 – 3.

the beautiful Duchesse

Flander’s Red Ale is a very complex, oak aged beer, historically produced in West Flanders. It is typically a deep red or reddish brown color with flavors and aromas of dried fruits, cherries, and a pleasant sweet-tart balance. ABV is usually in the 5-7% range. The so called “Burgundy of Belgium,” this beer is the most wine-like of all beers. It would be a good introductory beer for the wine lover in your life. Rodenbach is perhaps the most notable producer, but other excellent versions exist. One of my favorites is the Duchesse de Bourgogne by Brouwerij Verhaeghe. In terms of tartness, I’d rank Flander’s Red as a 4 – 6 on the sour scale.

Flander’s Brown Ale, or Oud Bruin (indigenous to East Flanders) differs from Flander’s Red in that it is typically less sour, less fruit forward and not usually oak aged. The malt flavor comes through more in these more mellow beers. Flander’s Browns have a wider range of ABV’s and are usually darker in color than Flander’s Red. Flander’s Brown ales offer a more elegant and refined sour flavor perfect for the adventurous craft beer lover who wants to start off with a more demure sour flavor, a 3 – 4 on the sour scale.

Oude Gueuze Tilquin

Lambic is a wild, spontaneously fermented beer made only in the Senne Valley of Brussels, out of unmalted wheat, Pilsner malt and aged hops (the aged hops offer no flavor but are used for their preservative powers). They are golden in color and extremely complex. Lambics are typically uncarbonated, single year versions, where Geuze, is a blend of three different years of Lambic that is highly carbonated. They are both refreshingly tart with aromas of hay, horseblanket, and flavors of tart pear. Oud Geuze Tilquin is an excellent version of a traditional geuze – very complex and tart but with a balanced flavor, light body, and clean after taste. Lambic and geuze can offer substantial sour flavors, usually a 5-7 on the sour scale.

Fruited Lambics may be sweet and not very sour at all. The most common versions are kriek,  or cherry lambic, and framboise, or raspberry lambic. Lindeman’s Framboise, is a popular example (though not truly a traditional “sour” lambic – it pairs excellently with chocolate desserts).

American sour beers
American style wild ales and sours

American Craft Breweries have started to create their own versions of sour styles which are typically referred to as “wild ales,” or even labeled using names of the organisms they use. They range in their level of sourness from just barely tart from a touch of Brettanomyces to bracingly sour, just loaded with wild microrganisms like pediococcus and lactobacillus.

Locally in Cincinnati, the Quaff Bros and Rivertown lead the pack in terms of sour and barrel aged beers, though Fifty West has made some sours and now MadTree is testing the sour waters.

All of this is fantastic news – a well done sour beer is absolutely delicious. It can take years for the flavors to come together the way the brewers want, and can even require blending of different beers/years. A labor of love indeed.