Refuge Gone Wild 2: The Long Overdue Update

Hello again heroes & friends!

Since we’re starting a new year, I thought it might be nice to share more developments regarding all the fun and funky endeavors we have happening at Refuge. I still can’t believe my last update was 6 months ago. Time keeps flying. Anyway, here’s our current funk inventory in all its humble quarantined glory:

funk program

First in funk news, it appears a good number of Refuge’s local fans got to enjoy our Batch 2 anniversary beer as well as Batch 2 with strawberries & Yeast Bay Lochristi Brettanomyces blend recently.

The base beer for our 2nd anniversary was our Refugee Tripel with Viognier grape must, aged in red wine barrels. The so-called Batch 2 Berry version (which has the red wax instead of black) still resides in a red wine barrel, due to the solera technique I’ve been experimenting with, and it gets funkier by the day.

batch2brett

The first limited release of bottles sold out the night of the anniversary party, but we still have a keg of the beer on tap at the brewery. As I mentioned, we’ve been trying out a sour beer technique called solera, where you pull only some beer from the barrel and top it back up with fresh beer. In this case, all 3 times that I’ve pulled either a quarter or half of the barrel, I’ve also added more and more fresh pureed strawberries.

It has been fun to watch the flavors as they’ve changed, with the current version on draft having been pulled 2 months ago, the now sold-out bottled version having been pulled 3 weeks ago, and the next keg on deck to go on tap being a part of the 3rd pull a couple days ago. The latest version seems to be getting more and more barrel character and what was once big strawberry shortcake in the nose appears to be morphing towards spicy vanilla tannins & tangy lemon zest notes. In a perfect world, I’d be giving this beer a little more time between pulls, but you guys keep drinking it all!

The most recent pull from the barrel allowed us to top it back up with the base beer, some basic Tripel, & a funky blend of 3 experimental 5 gallon trials that I’ve dubbed ‘Funkapotamus’. That mix contains both the Lochristi Brett blend and White Labs Brett Clausenii, not to mention potential wild yeasts from the added fruits in the trial batches. I’m really excited to pull a keg or two off of the barrel in a couple months (hopefully) and see where things are headed. If it’s anything like the beers in Funkapotamus, it’ll be fruitier and more acidic.

If you’ve been into the brewery lately, you know we’ve started serving more and more funky beers on our barrel-aged reserve taps as well.

ReservesBoard

It’s now not unusual for us to have 3 to 5 Brett influenced beers on tap at any time, not to mention any small experimental 5 gallon batches I might sneak on. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I can funk & fruit beers fairly quickly in rather neutral barrels, versus the aging and barrel needs of our bourbon barrel program.

We currently have 5 Brettanomyces beers on tap. Besides the Batch 2 Berry, we have Bretter Off Red, a Merlot barrel version of our Rampart Red with Brett B Trois, the Lochristi blend, & Brett C. The result after 9 months of barrel aging is a very wine-like creation with big floral and funky Brett notes in the nose and plenty of barrel character right behind it.

We also have Life of Lemons and The Razz Fairy. The base beer is the same for both and I’m using a similar single barrel solera technique in this one as I am in the anniversary beer. The beer is white wine barrel aged Citra Saison with Yeast Bay Beersel Brett blend, Meyer lemon zest, and more recently it has also included raspberries. The raspberries were added after the initial 2 keg pull of Life of Lemons, and more were added after the recent pull of a keg of The Razz Fairy. Here’s The Razz Fairy barrel on the left, still going strong and hungry for more raspberries:

citra+oracle

The other offering currently on tap, that I strongly suspect has a Brett Brux variation in it, is Old Soul. We did not intentionally funkify this particular barrel of Refugee Tripel. We just let it age for 14 months in a pinot noir barrel with plums, pluots, & blueberries added over the last couple months (once Brett character became apparent). Old Soul has been a hit with most of the staff thanks to its smorgasbord of intensely interesting flavors and I’m excited to work with more blueberries (and hopefully pinot barrels) in the future.

That covers what’s on tap, but if you know me you know I’m far more excited about what we have in the works!

As I mentioned above, we still have barrels going of the Batch 2 Berry and the Life of Lemons (that has morphed into The Razz Fairy with the addition of raspberries).

We also have:

– 2 wine barrels of Paint The Town Brown inoculated with White Labs Lacto D & Yeast Bay Amalgamation Brett blend. They’ve been rocking out for about 4 months now and it’s really interesting to taste how different the two are right now.

– 2 wine barrels of Session Citra Saison. One has Yeast Bay Brussels Brett blend, strawberries and Cara Cara oranges. It was delightfully tangy and funky before the fruit went in. The other has Yeast Bay Lochristi Brett blend, White Labs Brett Clausenii, raspberries, and blackberries. Both have healthy pellicles going and I suspect I’ll be pulling a keg or two of one of them soon. One of the aforementioned pellicles:

pellicle fun

– 2 wine barrels of Citra Saison. One has White Labs Brett Brux, passion fruit, and Temecula Ugly tangerines. The other is the same minus the passion fruit. So far Temecula Uglies have shown a fair bit of promise as far as interesting local fruit to add.

– 1 wine barrel of Oracle, an abbey ale with Juniper berries. I recently added plums and Wyeast Brett Lambicus to this (hoping to incorporate some of that sour cherry pie flavor they describe).

– 1 Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey barrel of our IPA of the Day (hopped with Summer, Columbus, & Palisade) with White Labs Brett Clausenii, Temecula Uglies, apricots, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, & plums. This barrel has been quite interesting to sample over the last 4+ months. The IPA already had big white grape and peachy flavors and the whiskey barrel character keeps getting heavier. The last time I tasted it, it was hard to tell there was much fruit or Brett in the mix.

As a result, it has become the recent fruit dumping ground for any pureed fruit that I can’t fit in its intended barrel(s). Usually I’ll top up my barrels every couple of months to make up for evaporation, but in this case we just keep feeding the head space more strange fruit. I have no idea where this particular ride is headed, but whenever we decide to pull Fruit Salad IPA out it should be fun.

In general, I’m getting to play around quite a bit now with single barrels in hopes of finding combinations that can be ramped up, somewhat repeated and bottled. Fruit Salad Brett Corn Whiskey IPA aside of course.

Also, I thought I’d share a couple of Brett pellicle pictures. This one’s just getting going:

peliicle beginning

And this is Yeast Bay Lochristi after 5 months:

Lochristi Pellicle

I also want to take this opportunity to wish a number of my co-workers that have moved on continued success. A toast to you Brett Harwood, as you continue your career at a little known brewery called Ballast Point:

toast to brett

To Jared & Katie, it was awesome rocking out with you guys and I hope our paths cross again soon. Minnesota is cold btw:

jared yeast party

san diego event

And a way overdue shout out to The Manimal, my first Assistant Cellarman man crush, David Leal. In the words of Tupac, Temecula Ain’t Hard To Find:

daveEvent

 

Finally, I want to say a GIGANTIC thanks to Jay Goodwin, of The Rare Barrel, and The Brewing Network. Jay has started a new show with the BN, called the Sour Hour, and the interviews with other sour producers (not to mention Jay’s info) have been a great resource for a newly funked out cellarman like myself. Keep up the good work Jay!

This hero is out!

Refuge Gone Wild: Fun With Brettanomyces!

Hi fellow heroes!

My apologies for the long absence. I have a tendency to get very wrapped up in my work when my work includes fun, funk & barrels.

Today I want to get everybody up to speed on what we’ve been doing at Refuge with Brettanomyces because we’re really excited to be a part of the new wave of American Wild Ales.

 freebird art

Our first foray into the world of Brett beers was Free Bird, a beer pre-determined to pour for our second Summer Nights event on June 21st. I will admit it was rather nerve-racking to promise a potentially slow-fermenting (funky) beer within a 6 week window, but you don’t start making Brett beers unless you like to live dangerously to begin with.

The barrel chosen was a wine barrel that had previously imparted very little character and produced very neutral beer. While that wasn’t great for a lot of what we were doing with our barrel program, it worked just fine for Brett beer.

Free Bird started as simply a barrel fermented 100% WLP 644 Brett B Trois version of our flagship beer, Blood Orange Wit. We filled the barrel right off the brewhouse with wort and let the beer ferment predominantly in our storage space, as there are always concerns of cross-contamination with such a super-attenuating yeast (that can eat wood proteins).

brett note

In this case the term ‘burn’ just means immerse everything in 180 degree water so we limit our chances of ‘clean’ beers getting extra funky flavors and attenuation from Brett.

So with caution Free Bird proceeded. I was a proud father. I photographed some of his first CO2 bubbles:

freebird bubbling

And when he was kegged:

kegging freebird

And finally his first pint:

freebird pint

Along the way Free Bird morphed from a strictly Brett version of our Blood Orange Wit, to include a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 645 Brett C Wit & some pineapples and grapefruit blended in for good measure.

I also made a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 650 Brett B Wit and that ended up being its own entity with blood oranges and limes, called What The Funk?

The really fun thing about all of this was that we added the Brett C Wit & fruit to a new barrel and transferred all but 5 or so gallons of the Free Bird onto that. We then immediately re-filled the initial barrel full of Brett B Trois with the wort from an Illusion Belgian IPA brew. That new enterprise, now called Delusion, was rocking right away the next morning:

delusion krausen

I’ve never seen a Brett B Trois fermentation take off that fast, but then again this was my first time re-pitching it. At any rate, we dry hopped Delusion with a healthy amount of Galaxy, Columbus, & Centennial and we’re all enjoying its bouquet of danky bubblegum and slightly funky melon notes.

Rest assured funk fans, there’s more in the works. Some upcoming projects include:

– 5 gallons of Refugee Tripel with limes & mangoes on Yeast Bay’s Beersel Brett blend.

– 100% Brett B Trois version of our awesome Shelter 9 IPA dry hopped big with some fun things that may include El Dorado, Mosaic, Huell Melon, etc. This will be released at the August 16th Summer Nights event.

– Sauvignon Blanc barrel aged Citra Saison with kumquats on the Yeast Bay’s Lochristi Brett blend.

– White wine barrel aged Imperial Saison with strawberries and cherries on WLP 645 Brett C.

– All sorts of permutations and experiments using new strains and blends like the ones The Yeast Bay is offering.

I also want to mention, since it will get dragged into Brett territory here and there, that our Citra Saison should be out and about on draft pretty soon. I was so excited to see it pouring at one of my favorite watering holes, Public House, that I took a picture:

citra on public house menu

While we’re veering from the path of funk I should also mention that we were really excited to take 3 medals at this year’s San Diego International Beer Festival!

103871sd fair awards

Finally, I want to say a big thanks to The Mad Fermentationist, Michael Tonsmeire, for always being helpful and assuring me I wouldn’t have to worry about too much oxygen pick up if I fermented Free Bird in a barrel. There’s some beer that’ll be getting bottled and sent your way buddy!

Jester King, as always, deserves a shout out too as they always open their brains for picking about many things farmhouse. They should be expecting beermail too!

That’s all for now. If you find yourself in Southern California, come and drink all this funk so we can make more!

Working For @RefugeBrewery And Moving At The Speed Of Life!

Hi fellow heroes!

My apologies for the delayed update, but things have been a little hectic lately in my world. Between the new job as Lead Cellarman at Refuge in Temecula, CA, getting married in a week, and trying to get our bad selves moved to SoCal, we’re eager for things to calm down a little after all this fun. Or we’ll just keep having fun!

Here’s a pic of me getting down and dirty with my new fleet of kegs:

refuge keg washing

I’m really excited about this opportunity with Refuge and you can expect all sorts of fun barrel beers, one-off dry hopped kegs, cool pilot batches, etc. Not to mention stellar beer like our crowd favorite Blood Orange Wit and our new hop bursted IPA, Shelter 9.

Those of you that know me pretty well (like the SNAFU’ers in Vegas), know that a Belgian-focused brewery is a perfect fit for me. We actually just released an awesome Saison called Trois with pink peppercorns and strawberries! It benefits Breast Cancer Awareness to boot! Pun intended:

trois_saison

Whether local or from far away lands, please feel free to stop by anytime and bring me homebrews to try or just to hang out and have a beer (and put money in the boot). 🙂

Alright, back to last minute wedding planning. I look forward to seeing a lot of my buddies from all over the world at Sunset Park next Saturday afternoon. All blog subscribers welcome!

Nevada State Homebrew Championship!

Hello heroes!

I just registered the maximum of 7 entries for the upcoming Nevada State Homebrew Championship so that I can represent my club, SNAFU, to the fullest! The bad news is only 2 of the beers are brewed so far and everything is due in Reno by October 19th. My entries as of now are:

1. Purring Kitten Session IPA – 23 Specialty Beer – Both sides of the split batch have been on dry hops for 5 days now. My only concern is freshness once the contest is judged on November 2nd. I might try to re-brew this a couple weeks before the entry deadline.

2. Helles Too Good For You – 1D Munich Helles – My third batch of Helles should come out well. We’re just finishing up a 4 day diacetyl rest and lagering started today.

3. King Kong Ain’t Got Ish On Me Belgian IPA – 16E Belgian Specialty – My IPA with Mosaic & Pacifica hops on WLP 400 Belgian Wit yeast (inspired by a Big Dog’s cask I did) will refuse to be humble or humbled.

4. It’s A Celebration Bitches! Smoked Dubbel – 22B Other Smoked Beer – I’m using the Briess Cherry wood smoked malt and plenty of Aromatic malt for this adventure. Depending on carboy availability I might split it on 2 different yeasts. Chimay yeast AKA WLP 500 is back ordered, so I’m currently looking at WLP 575 as my first pick and WLP 530 as my second.

5. Kohatu For Dummies Pale Ale – 10A American Pale Ale – A single-hopped pale ale with this new New Zealand hop variety. Kohatu is said to give off pine and big tropical fruit, so we’ll see how it turns out.

6. Wag The Dog – 11C Northern English Brown – Inspired by Big Dog’s award-winning Red Hydrant, but using Maris Otter base malt and WLP 006 Bedford British yeast.

7. Fuzzy Bunny Slippers IPA – 14B American IPA – A wonderful mix of Simcoe, Chinook, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic & Citra. I can’t see how it won’t be the bee’s knees.

So as you can see I have an ambitious brewing schedule ahead of me and I’ll be entering beers in 7 different categories, 4 of which I have yet to win an award in. I still have beers like a Berliner Weiss & a re-brew of 100% Brett IPA on the schedule, but I could only get quick turn around beers into the contest.

Also, I’ll soon be brewing this mini-mash gem:

grantsaisonkit

I’d love to get a contest going to see who could brew the best version of this kit. Shoot me a message or drop by the store to get this party started.

Also, I want to give a shout out to the Austin, Texas craft beer scene as a whole but especially to Jester King, Real Ale’s Scots Gone Wild Sour Scotch Ale, Live Oak’s Rauchlager, and the all TX beer-featuring Craft Pride on Rainey Street. I recently got to spend a week back in Austin and I will definitely miss all of the above.

Here’s my crew having a gay old time at Jester King (the release of Atrial Rubicite certainly helped):

jesterkingfun

Alright, this hero is out. I’ll probably be brewing the IPA and Belgian IPA in the next couple days just to get going on all these entries.

Be well and prosper y’all!

Long Long Overdue Update

Hello again friends!

Big time apologies to everybody that was following along and has been left hanging for forever and a day. Time flies when you’re working in a brewery, doing festivals, attending local beer events, and trying to keep your sanity.

Beyond feeling bad about not updating at all, I feel especially bad that my award-winning goals have been hampered by my guilt with regards to entering homebrewing contests. Assuming I could continue racking up awards (an iffy assumption at best), I don’t like the idea of knocking a budding homebrewer’s entry down to 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, etc. I’ve got my foot in the door and plenty of confidence (according to our Head Brewer Dave), so what do I have to prove in the homebrewing realm?

With that said, I do want to start homebrewing more regularly again. I’ve got my chest freezer back in action at the house and I’m itching to make a Helles, whether professionally or at the homebrew level. Well, it will be back in action once I bottle the 4 funky homebrews I have cold crashing in it.

Before I give updates on all the sour & Brett adventures I have going in my homebrewing, I do want to update everyone on Dog Gone Saison. The last couple kegs are just getting finished off (if they haven’t been already) at Velveteen Rabbit & Public House. Although we do have one 5 gallon keg of Limoncello-soaked soft maple wood aged Dog Gone. Who knows when that strange animal will make an appearance. While I am a big fan of a lot of the honeycomb products I’ve been playing around with from Black Swan Cooperage, the Limoncello may have been a bit ambitious.

Anyway, I’m excited to unveil the new Dog Gone Saison label! That’s right! Expect that bad boy in 22oz bombers sometime in the future! Don’t panic. It’s still going to be around 6.6% and not 9.1% as the sample label indicates.

Here are some unpaid celebrities who are also excited about Dog Gone:

Dave Otto – Big Dog’s Head Brewer

dave modeling

Sergio – Big Dog’s Director of Ops & Killer Chef:

sergio saison

Serg gets bonus points for wearing the Dog Gone shirt while presenting his Dog Gone goblet! Even if that was the one-off Citra dry hopped keg.

Mike Fischer – Brewery Volunteer, Beer Enthusiast, & General Good Guy:

mike modeling

In all seriousness though, I am contemplating some changes to Dog Gone for Version 2. If I have my way we’ll still use WLP560 Classic Saison Blend, reduce the flavor/15 minute addition of Liberty, filter/fine/long cold crash the beer this time, maintain the 6lb Citra whirlpool addition (or change it to a mix of Liberty, Citra, & Nelson), and possibly dry hop part if not all of the batch. I’m also thinking I may cut the 5.6% wheat and reduce the 2.6% honey malt in the grain bill. I know, I know. The beer was fairly successful, but I want it to be perfect. And perfect is it being the best Brett-free Saison I’ve ever had. Brett is still not yet welcome in the Big Dog’s brewery by the way. If we can’t get Liberty I may use NZ Motueka. Hell, this may be quite a different (but delicious) beer. 🙂

In other news, I did want to make sure to update all the open-ended homebrew donking around I have going on.

– The 9/15 Wit with WLP410 got hit with Brett B. It smells great but still has a pellice. That was the beer that blew the lid off its bucket and open-fermented in my living room for a night. I’m letting it continue to do its thing.

– The 6/28 Rufus Saison that was hit with a Brett B & Brett L mix is a touch thin with a good amount of horse blanket to it. I dry hopped it with 2oz Citra and plan to bottle it soon.

– The Galaxy Belgian IPA I brewed with a buddy from Australia and then later hit with Brett B was tasting and looking quite dark and oxidized. I added a vial of Flemish Ale Blend I had in the fridge just to amuse myself.

– The 6/14 Dubbel that I added all those sour & Brett dregs to over a year ago has a wonderful Jolly Pumpkin-esque nose to it. Flavor is a touch more subdued and has a hint of acetone. It’s currently cold crashing.

– The Lime Saison with limes still floating in it and Lambic Blend added 3/26 still tastes like Pinesol’s new lime flavor. I might hit it with some cherry puree just for the hell of it.

– The 3/30 13 Rye IPA (brewing pictured here with recipe borrowed & altered from my buddy Tom) with one vial Cal Ale & 2 vials Brett B Trois has some sweet maltyness, good tangy rotten pineapple & mango characteristics and recently got hit with a 6oz dry hop. Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe, & Galaxy. It’s crashing and should at least smell great.

– The 1/1 Ahtanum Saison wasn’t too bad. I just left it for too long. I dumped in a vial of Brett B.

– The 8/24 Hef that I dry hopped with Nelson and then soured on 12/3 smells great. The taste has some sweaty/meaty notes. I dry hopped it with 2oz of Citra and now it’s cold crashing.

– The 6/23 Brett C Tripel that tasted like Tijuana bathroom has been soured and has an interesting sour & burnt toast nose. The flavor is sickly sweet with a sour finish. I’ve been thinking plums might be a fun addition.

12/25 Dank Dog Saison was rather underwhelming. I don’t know if it was the quality of the Liberty & Columbus hops I had or the combo but it just wasn’t even close to what I wanted it to be. I had a few people say they liked it but there were just being nice.

The other fun thing I’ve been doing at Big Dog’s is making all the casks. The real ale/firkin/cask program has been going for a couple months now and it’s been a fun playground for me. I’ve loved getting to trying different creative firkins tapped at the Draft House every Thursday. Disaronno soaked oak on Black Lab Stout for an Embers beer pairing dinner, Dirty Dog IPA dry hopped with Citra for Khourys, and Wild Turkey American Honey soaked oak on El Perro Diablo (Belgian Golden Strong) for Firkin On Paradise’s Anniversary party this Friday 7/12 have been some of the highlights so far.

I also got a chance to make a special firkin for my 31st birthday party thanks to our generous owner Kurt Wiesner. It was Dirty Dog IPA aged on Yellow Birch wood and it was delicious.

The Birthday Cask all loaded up:

bday cask in car

Putting the soft spile in:

soft spiling

My good buddy Matt (the newest bartender at Viola’s Tavern & Gaming) tapping the cask:

matt tapping cask

And here is an outtake of good ole fashioned cask fun with my buddy Sarah:

casking with sarah

One of the most frequent questions I get asked at Big Dog’s is “What are you doing next? What’s in the works?” It just so happens I have a few things in mind. As I’ve mentioned, I very much want to make a Munich Helles. It’s a very wonderfully drinkable beer style that should work with 100+ degree temperatures and Helles and I have a thing going on lately. Besides that, I’m itching to use Wyeast 3711 French Saison on the professional level. It’s easily my favorite yeast and I think it could make both a wonderful light Lime Saison and an awesome Farmhouse IPA with Chinook & Nelson. The boys from Jester King have been kind enough to give me plenty of good advice and the next crack I get at the plate will likely use French Saison yeast.

At this time I would really like to reiterate how great the Jester King guys are. They’ve been excellent hosts the 4 times I’ve hung out at their brewery, they emailed me uber-quickly when I asked for technical advice on yeast, and they make killer beer. They deserve only good things.

Speaking of wonderful funky beer breweries, Prairie Ales has made some crazy good beers lately that have me running around promoting them to death and wearing their t-shirts. Both Prairie Hop & Prairie Ale (the first a Citra & Simcoe dry hopped saison and the second a saison with Brett & wine yeast) are awesome beers. They satisfy the creative homebrewing animal in you. They are brewing what you would if you loved saisons and fruity American/New Zealand hops. And they’re in Oklahoma. And expanding like crazy. I imagine their team to be a bunch of bearded guys that you could take out drinking for a week straight and not get tired of them. That’s how cool they are. I will proudly be wearing my Prairie Merica shirt in the brewery tomorrow. I’ve never had it, but I know it has a metric ton of Nelson in the dry hop. And you best believe that’s good enough for me. We’re still sitting on 44lbs of Nelson waiting to rock the party big time with Big Dog’s Double Down Under DIPA.

The big news in the next few weeks is that Big Dog’s Summerfest is coming up on 7/20! We’ll have a bunch of fun easy drinking beers, but we’ll also have off the charts beers like BFM XV Saison (from Switzerland), Ichtegems Grand Cru Flemish Red, Stone Enjoy By 8-2 IPA, & Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (with Mosaic & Citra).

Not to mention all the great beers we’ll have from New Belgium Brewing. If all goes to plan we’ll have Prickly Pear Saison Aged in Peach Brandy Barrels, Cascara Quad, Feijoa Tripel, Pluot, Paardebloem, & Hop Kitchen Aramis IPA pouring at the festival. I’m very excited to try the Aramis IPA as the Aramis hop is a very intriguing lemony French hop new to the market.

I must also add that the New Belgium Beer Ranger for Las Vegas (formerly with Tenaya Creek), Karl Herrera, is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. If I had to pick one man that was responsible for the success I’ve achieved to this point in this town it would be Karl. It makes it that much easier to support a good friend when the brand he represents is making so many new and interesting beers.

While I’m thanking people in this town I also want to thank Guy Bartmess as he leaves Triple 7 and heads to Temecula, CA to help start Garage Brewing Co. Guy was one of the first people I approached in this town looking for a job and he was very open, honest, & knowledgeable. It was my interactions with Guy that kept me upbeat and hanging around for that one opportunity to come out of the blue.

Chuck Croix of Pints Brewpub in Laughlin also deserves big time credit for training me for a solid month. Training a newbie in a professional brewery is not easy and Chuck was great at it. Chuck is both making good beer and he’s a good guy. I hope anybody that gets a chance can go down and see him and try his beer. We’ll proudly be pouring his Pilsner at Summerfest on 7/20.

Finally, I want to thank Dave Otto. He hired me as a lowly homebrewer and wasn’t even aware of my Laughlin experience. Dave Otto welcomed me into the best and oldest brewery in Las Vegas and took great care of me. I must say it’s a pleasure everyday to work with such an accomplished brewer and get to see behind the scenes on things like the recipe for War Dog Imperial IPA. I only hope that someday I can take care of Dave the way he has taken care of me.

The brewery crew (I’m in the Jester King Funk Metal shirt):

brew_crew_022113

Well, that’s all I have for now. Be well and prosper fellow brewers!

All @BigDogsBrewing All The Time: Saison, Winterfest, Holier Than Cow

Hello again my people! When I last left you there was some doubt about whether or not the Dog Gone Saison (my first pro brew) would be ready for Big Dog’s Winterfest. The following picture would lead you to believe it was ready (if you’re a pro brewer and/or think in Plato):

saison getting low

But unfortunately in the WLP560 Saison world where the beer is still cranking along at 2 Plato, it was most certainly not going to be in medal-winning form for the big festival. I was at peace with this for 3 reasons.

First, I want to start strong out of the gate as far as balancing beer quality with the reality of dealing with a business environment. I want the community to know that if I have any say, my voice will be a reliable advocate for making the best beer possible over all other concerns. If I put my brand on the line, then I’m behind it fully. I can live with people not liking my beer, but I need to know I did everything I could.

Secondly, releasing the beer when it’s ready allows us to have a separate event from Winterfest on Wednesday night! Given how much I love our little beer community and how heavily I’m invested in helping it grow, I relish getting a chance to talk to everybody about a new beer without the frantic pace of a beer festival in the way.

Finally, for the dozen or so of you that I know and were persistent I was more than happy to give you a small sample off of the fermentation tank last Saturday. Evidence of such was easy to find as there are already 5 Untappd check ins to a beer that hasn’t been released (or even cold-crashed & carbed up)! I’m sure management thinks I’m operating fast and loose, so come have 5 or 6 pints on Wednesday & leave with a growler to ease their troubled minds!

Speaking of Winterfest, it was a killer festival! I’m told it was Big Dog’s best grossing day in its entire history! I had a lot of fun and poured a ton of beer when I wasn’t busy giving exclusive 5 minute brewery tours. It was great to see so many good friends come out and have a good time.

Here’s a pic of some of the beer in the walk in pre-fest:

walk in pre fest

And here’s half of the keg & jockey box setup:

winterfest jockeys

Quite an endeavor my friends, but all a labor of love. I truly enjoyed every moment of it and can’t wait for Peace, Love & Hoppyness on 4/13!

Also, The I Love Beer Show strolled by (and heartily partook) in Winterfest. Click here for a solid 17 minutes (starting at 3:45) of your very own hero promoting Big Dog’s and being a silly beer drinking individual in general. The guys from the show were a lot of fun, definitely enjoyed the beer lineup, & I look forward to working with them in the future.

All in all, my first fest was a great time and I have to thank all of my people that came out and supported us. I look forward to sharing many pints over the years with all of you!

My quick Big Dog’s plug is that we bottled Rebel Red the other day and it should be hitting shelves all around town soon:

rebel red

Also, it’s no accident that Holier Than Cow Dry Hopped Pale #4 with Citra & Ahtanum is tapping tomorrow to (hopefully) last through Super Bowl weekend:

more holier

Ten ounces of Citra & eight of Ahtanum (plus how good it smelled when I spilled some on my shoe while transferring) says this will be the best one yet. I’m an 11 out of 10 on the excitement scale about trying it. That’s how I know it will be awesome.

Finally, my Little Spoon, Weston Barkley had a birthday recently. As many of you may know he is my brewer from another mother and I would eagerly lie in traffic for the big guy. While silly, I thought everybody might enjoy a couple pics from his bday evening:

spoons1

For some reason a second take was necessary:

spoons2

Regardless, if you’re a friend of mine then trust me when I say you’re a friend of his and vice versa. He’s killing it for Joseph James right now as evidenced by their new beers like Citra Rye Pale, started a new blog, and is probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s also helped me out time and time again as far as homebrewing, needing a ride home, & just being a rock solid cat I can count on. Show Weston love and buy him beer whenever you see him. He deserves it.

I also want to thank this beautiful Las Vegas beer community as a whole again. I can’t thank everybody enough and really look forward to hanging out Wednesday night.

Proost y’all!

My First Pro Brew and Updates On @BigDogsBrewing Life

Hello once again friends! My apologies for the infrequent updates. I’m often wiped after a day in the brewery. My body must still be adjusting to having to actually physically work for a living.

The obvious update that I’ve been putting off is letting everyone know how the Dog Gone Saison brew day went. It should come as no surprise that the ever ballsy Dave Otto and his trusty Head Keg Washer slash Saison Aficionado would knock it out without a hitch. No stuck mash with the rye & wheat. Hit our targets. A little dextrose in the open grant never hurt anybody. Good times were had.

Here’s the most gorgeous mash I’ve ever seen. And likely will ever see:

dog gone mash

Here’s me adding my bittering addition of Liberty hops:

liberty addition

Here’s a pic of the Citra bag before I broke into it for the flameout addition. As you can see I tend to add a little flair to the brewery:

citra bag

Anyway, January 9th was a wonderful day and all was right with the world. The next day I walked into the brewery and found this:

saison yeastsplosion

My little yeast crew was rocking the party! I was such a proud father! All was well.

However, as of yesterday we were only down to 3.6 Plato (1.014). Dog Gone has cranked along consistently for 11 days now and we need to have it ready for Big Dog’s Winterfest on Saturday. It’s going to be tight. Everybody keep Dog Gone Saison in your thoughts and prayers as it ferments its way through these difficult and rushed times.

The good news is I think it tastes great whenever I pull a sample off the tank. Banana, bubblegum, heavy spice, melon, & earthiness stage a friendly assault on my pallet. It’s young, it’s Belgian, and it takes its sweet time.

In other news, it turns out I’m not the only beer lover that would like to see Nelson Sauvin hops in the Holy Cow Pale Ale. We blew the keg in a little over 3 days. Here’s the aftermath of getting the hops out of the keg:

holier aftermath

Here’s the next version with a half pound of Citra & half pound of Cascade getting loaded up:

holier 2

And I’m proud to announce it’s serving beautifully at the Draft House as of Saturday morning:

holy cow

I’m sure you’re itching to know how the pilot program at Big Dog’s is progressing as well. The semi-good news is the first batch has been kegged:

bitter sweet

As you can see What’s My Name Dog has been re-named Bitter Sweet Dog. It was going to be called Bitter As Balls because that was Dave’s first reaction when he tried a sample, but it also crapped out at 1.021 and carries a legit amount of front end sweetness. I would describe the flavor ride as: smells great, tastes a little sweet, and holy crap that’s a lingering bitterness. We’re on the fence about serving it at Winterfest.

In the pilot program’s defense, here’s a shot of the ceiling falling in on it after a pipe in the ceiling froze:

attack on pilot batch

Massive office damage due to freezing conditions is enough for me to excuse any wrongdoing on my part for not making a killer DIPA. Speaking of disastrous pilot brews, Clyde and I had a little trouble with our Imperial Red Hydrant yesterday. If it turns out delicious then we meant to do a 4 hour boil. Otherwise it’s a prime candidate for turning into a Flanders sour project.

In other news, my homebrew saisons Dank Dog & Dog Gone Ahtanum seemed to have reached their terminal resting places at 1.013 & 1.014 respectively. A little high, but we’ll see how they taste when I bottle them up this week.

I also want to give a shout out to Iron Fist Brewing in Vista, CA. Their head brewer Chris Klein dropped in and hooked us up with a case of beer goodness, shirts, stickers, etc. Good dude, good beer, and definitely worth checking out. The Hop Dog 500 forklift is proudly rocking an Iron Fist sticker and we’re happy to show love to another small & innovative brewery.

I feel that I also should mention that much of my week will be consumed by Big Dog’s Winterfest preparations. We should have a pretty awesome and large lineup of good beer and good times can be had by all from 2-9 pm on Saturday January 26th. I’ll likely be working and not partaking too heavily, but please feel free to say hi. Shaved head, unkempt beard, big smile, 6 foot, 260 pounds. You can’t miss me.

Finally, I want to send out a big thank you to the Las Vegas craft beer community that has made me feel wholeheartedly embraced in my short time here.

I’m all about working to create an even better community and everybody I meet seems on board. From my fellow homebrewers, to our bottling volunteers, to my friends at Hooked On Hops, to the guys that come out and support me and try our wild dry hopped beers just because I ask them to. I just want to say that you guys are invaluable to me and a couple of you know first hand that if you need anything I’m a shirt off my back kind of guy. 🙂

Be well and recruit a DD y’all. Hero out.