Monterey Beer Festival

On June 19, 2010, in Brew Pubs, Craft Beer, Travel, by Mark Ranes
Brenda's Deschutes Brewing Tattoo

Brenda's Deschutes Brewing Tattoo

Brenda and I wanted to try a new beer festival this year and I’ve kind of looked at the Monterey Beer Festival for the last couple of years.  We bought tickets about six weeks before the event and they arrived just a couple days after ordering them on the web.  That was a good sign!  We booked a room at our favorite place to stay in Monterey, the Merritt House Inn, and we were good to go.  We tried to find friends to join us, who didn’t already have something going on the weekend of June 5-6, but it was a busy time for all.  That was a bad sign!

Saturday morning we jumped in the Audi TT Roadster and headed for the coast. The weather was unseasonably warm for Monterey when we arrived.  We checked into the Inn, and then drove over to the Monterey Fairgrounds.  We arrived about an hour after the festival started and were amazed to see a line to get in that was probably 2000-3000 people deep!  We followed a car into the actual fairgrounds and ended up parking in the arena – with only twenty other cars:)  We went to the end of the line, only to hear someone in front of us mention that there was another line at the main entrance that was much shorter, so we headed up to that area.

Shitty Cup

Cheap Shitty Tasting Cup!

After another fifteen minute wait, with an ID check and bag pat-down, we received out wrist bands and (incredibly cheap shitty little (no offense intended to the Solo cup folks – I use your stuff all the time.  Offense intended for the Monterey Beer Festival folks for using such an unclassy  tasting container for this event!)) plastic Solo taster cups – and were told not to lose them.  That was a bad sign!

Once we actually hit the beer fest area, the first thing we noticed was the sea of humanity, 94.3% of who were between 21 to 26 years of age.  By 1:45 pm, many were obviously well on their way to a serious hangover.  Another bad sign!  We smooshed our way through the crowd to the center corral of tables, only to discover that all of the beer in that area was being served in a frantic, non-stop manner, by MBF folks wearing “Volunteer” t-shirts – not folks from the various breweries.  There were cases of unrefrigerated beer stacked behind the poures, who were serving out of the open cases/six-pack holders that had had ice poured on top of the open cases.  Again, that was a bad sign!

MBF sea of humanity!

A couple of the breweries’ beers I specifically went to taste, most notably Goose Island, were nowhere to be found.  These best of the bunch were ales from Ninkasi Brewing and Deshutes Brewing. Additionally, I finally tasted Sierrra Nevada’s Tumbler Brown Ale, which was good, but not as great as  I had hoped. We worked our way around the booths, waited in looooooong lines, and had probably six or seven tasters of beer.  By 3:30, many of the booths were out of beer (Sierra Nevada was closing up by this time) and it just further lengthened the remaining lines as the fest goers flocked to the booths that were still pouring beer.

Peter B's IPA - Yum!

Peter B's IPA - Yum!

We left about 3:30 and headed back to Peter B’s Brewery, in the Portola Plaza for a quiet ale.  I had a couple of their awesome IPAs and we noticed that several other more vintage MBF attendees (not in the 21-26 year age bracket:) also stopped by to an ale.  After relaxing on Peter B’s patio, we headed over to the wharf for a quiet dinner, where I enjoyed a nice porter with my mussels and sand dabs.  It was a great way to cap off a somewhat disappointing day at the Monterey Beer Festival.

Sand Dabs for Dinner!

Sand Dabs for Dinner!

All in all, we probably won’t be going back to the Monterey Beer Festival.  The overly young crowd, focused on quantity, not quality, the long lines, the fact that many beer offerings were gone long before the end of the event, and the fact that the MBF folks seem to have over-sold the attendance, will probably keep us for going back in future years.  This is more of an event for those folks looking to get sloshed on mass quantities of beer, not those who are looking to taste several quality ales.  I’m sure there are thousands of people who really love this annual event, but it’s just not what I look for in a beer festival.  My BrewBuddy Stephen has mentioned the different nature of beer festivals in the past and I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about, but there is a definite difference between a Beer Festival and a Brewer’s Festival.  I’ll be attending the latter type of event in the future.

There were positives, though.  The food was excellent.  We had a couple wonderful sausage sandwiches.  There were several high quality breweries there – though I think the quality of their ales was lost on most of the attendees.  Finally, it was good to see that MoreBeer had a booth (it was good to chat very briefly with Jesse) serving some homebrew – that was well received by the attendees.  And hey, at the end of the day, I was in Monterey with my sweetie:)

Century Post!

On July 2, 2009, in Brew Pubs, Family and Friends, Food, Homebrewing, Travel, by Mark Ranes

This post marks my 100th post to the Lazy Brewer blog! I wondered if I’d get here with my little blogging experiment.  It won’t be too long before I blog about my 100th batch of beer.

New Chest Freezer for Keg Storage (and old upright fridge in the background)

New Chest Freezer for Keg Storage (and old upright fridge in the background)

Last week I picked up a 13 cu ft chest freezer, and Ranco digital temperature controller, for cold keg storage.  This opens up my existing upright refrigerator as a summer fermenting chamber.  Last Friday I brewed a batch of one of Brenda’s favorite beers I make, Colona, and it is fermenting away at appropriate lager fermentation temperatures in my brew shed’s refrigerator.

Brittannia Arms Pub in Monterey

Brittannia Arms Pub in Monterey

Last weekend, Brenda and I celebrated our 29th anniversary in Monterey. We stayed at our favorite Monterey inn, The Merritt House Inn.  As always, the staff there treated us wonderfully and we enjoyed several wonderful fresh fish meals, as well as a couple sessions in one of my favorite pubs, Britannia Arms.  We escaped 109+ valley temperatures for two days and enjoyed fabulous mid-70s temps.

Tomorrow I’ll be brewing another batch of Black Widow Stout.  The keg just blew last week, so it’ll be a month or so before I have a standard stout back on tap.  I do have RIS on tap, so not all is lost, but it is far from a session ale:)  I plan on oaking five gallons of this batch of Black Widow Stout.  Several of my brew buddies have been experimenting with oaking stouts and IPAs lately, and I want to give it a go.  Steve’s oaked RIS is truly one of the best home brewed ales I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy, and I want to join that exclusive club.  Hopefully I can get an early start on the brew day (not Steve early!) so that I can have a glimmer of hope of chilling the batch.  Even with an iced pre-chiller, I’ve had problems using summer valley groundwater to get my wort down to suitable initial fermentation temps.  With the Colona still in the fermentation fridge (currently in the middle of a diacetyl rest), this batch will need to start out in the living room, so I do need to get it quite cool to start off well.

With the 4th of July just around the corner, we’ll be spending the day with the usual suspects!  Happy Birthday, America!

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NHC Wrap Up

On June 21, 2009, in Craft Beer, Family and Friends, Homebrewing, Technology, Travel, by Mark Ranes

Stephen (formerly known as Some Guy:) and I got back home from NHC shortly after 11:00 a.m. this morning.  As much as I really enjoyed NHC, it was nice to get home to familiar, comfortable surroundings and my family.

The 2009 National Homebrewers Conference was without a doubt one of the best organized conferences, on any topic, I’ve ever attended – and working in the education field, I’ve attended my share of conferences.  I was really pleased with the variety of the breakout sessions, as well as the fact that everything started and ended on time.  Timeliness sounds like a given, but when it comes to conferences it is an often overlooked aspect.    The Oakland Marriott was a gracious host for NHC and they seemed to roll well with 1100 people wandering around with ale, armfulls of brewing stuff, crazy costumes and generally eccentric people.  Finally, considering that alcohol was a key component of the conference, I was very pleased to not see a single incident of stupidness or assholiness by conference attendees.  Amazing:)

Jay and Shannon from Utah

Jay and Shannon from Utah

I had the opportunity to meet some really nice folks, like Jay and Shannon from Utah.  Rights like homebrewing are something that I take for granted, living in California, but I found out that Jay and Shannon were just recently legally allowed to homebrew in Utah.  They can now let the aromas of wort and boiling hops flow liberally from their brew house without fear of a visit from the local police department.  It amazes me there there are still antiquated laws on the books like prohibiting homebrewing in several states.  It’s really sad.  Jay and Shannon sat next to me at the Grand Banquet last night and I really enjoyed their company (and they put up with my jabs at Utah very graciously for most of the evening:)

Brett Glenna - my Twitter buddy!

Brett Glenna - my Twitter buddy!

I also got to meet up with someone I’ve been Tweeting with for a while, @BrettGlenna, and we got to visit a couple of times.  We talked about setting up a future beer exchange.  Brett has access to many east coast ales I’ll never be able to buy in California, and I found out he’s a bit of a hophead.  Boy, is he in for a treat with some of the aggressive west coast IPAs I have access to!

Stephen and I are already kicking around the idea of attending the 2010 NHC in Minneapolis.  I should be ready for a beer by then:)

Even though I previously facetiously blogged about coming home today to lovingly open arms on Fathers Day, I’m happy to report that it was indeed the case.  I had a shower of Fathers Day gifts from Brenda and DawBoy, and a nice “Happy Fathers Day” phone call from Meagan ( I drove past her apartment building, within 100 yards, leaving Oakland this morning)  this afternoon.  Brenda made a wonderful rigatoni dinner and we shared a lovely bottle of Merlot (yea, I said I was going to give my liver a break today, but Italian food screams for a glass or two of nice red wine!)

I also picked up my new iPhone 3GS, and I’m pleased to report that the migration went smoothly.  I simply backed up my previous iPhone and then restored the backup image on the new iPhone 3GS via iTunes and everything was there – even all my apps were in their same locations on the various screens.  Bravo, Apple for making things as simple as they should be!

The upgraded camera, with spot auto-focusing and metering, and 30 fps video are incredible.  The voice dialing (that should have been included in the iPhone Day 1) works perfectly and I was able to dial 3 out of 3 contacts perfectly each time, with no training.  Amazing!

Anyway, it’s good to be home:)

Here are the last couple of pictures from NHC:

Stephen, with his second wind - after a rough bout with Club Night

Stephen, with his second wind - after a rough bout with Club Night

Sean Paxton - the Homebrew Chef

Sean Paxton - the Homebrew Chef

View of Oakland from my hotel room on departure day

View of Oakland from my hotel room on departure day

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Columbus IPA Tap Handle

Columbus IPA Tap Handle

One of the things I like to experiment with in my brewing is making single hop ales.  It really allows you to see what a particular hop variety brings to an ale.  To take this one step further (and feed my background as a former science teacher:), I like to take a recipe for a single hop ale, and brew it again, changing only one thing – the variety of hop.  Basically, this means keeping the hopping schedule, individual hop charge IBU percentages and overall brew IBUs identical to the original ale.  Tomorrow, I’ll be taking my Two Hearted IPA recipe, and changing only the hop variety – from Centennial hops (my hands-down favorite, only one hop to brew with on a desert island:) to Columbus hops.

Additionally, I’ll be bottling up a few bombers of the Two Hearted IPA, since I know the second keg will be gone before the Columbus IPA is ready, to allow for side by side comparisons of the two ales.  I just finished filtering my water and milling the grain for tomorrow’s brew day.  As always, the milled grain smells wonderful:)

Here’s the recipe for tomorrow’s brew day:

Columbus IPA
14-B American IPA

Size: 10.08 gal
Efficiency: 75.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 317.28 kcal per 16.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.071 (1.056 – 1.075)
Terminal Gravity: 1.018 (1.010 – 1.018)
Color: 7.27 (6.0 – 15.0)
Alcohol: 7.03% (5.5% – 7.5%)
Bitterness: 61.1 (40.0 – 60.0)

20.0 lb Pale Malt(2-row)
4.0 lb Vienna Malt
10.0 oz Crystal Malt 10°L
6.0 oz Crystal Malt 40°L
1.0 lb Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt
.5 oz Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
.75 oz Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil, boiled 45.0 min
.80 oz Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil, boiled 20.0 min
1.0 lb Corn Sugar
1.5 oz Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.5 oz Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil, boiled 0.0 min
2 ea Whirlfloc – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
1.0 tsp Yeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10.0 min
2000 mL White Labs WLP001 California Ale

Milling grain for Columbus IPA

Milling grain for Columbus IPA

One other difference in this brew from the Two Hearted IPA is the yeast.  Unfortunately, I’m out of Pacific Ale yeast, but I’ll be restocking soon since a trip to B3 is in my near future.  This ale should dry out just a bit more than Two Hearted IPA, but I can adjust for that with a slightly higher mash temperature.

Brenda is off to San Franciso in the morning to take up another load of stuff to Meagan at AAU, so I’m on my own for the brew day.  Unfortunately, Meagan is using my older PowerBook G4 at school, until the new MacBooks are released in a couple weeks, so my iTunes server is MIA. I’ll have to rely on Sirius for brew day tunes:)

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