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.

@BigDogsBrewing Dog Gone Saison and exclusive Nelson dry hopped Pale

Hello my fellow brewing heroes!

The big news of the day is that I should be brewing up my first 15 bbl (472.5 gallon) pro batch this Tuesday! Hopefully the yeast shows up from White Labs tomorrow. My homegirl Sarah has assured me it will. She also managed to bump up delivery time on my specialty WLP 560 Classic Saison Blend from 1/21 to 1/7. She must owe somebody in the lab a favor now.

Regardless, White Labs is great. I love how much they support The Brewing Network, how good they are to our local homebrew stores like U Bottle It, and I think in general they’re top notch. If they had a Wyeast 3711 French Saison equivalent we could be exclusive.

White Labs loving aside, it’s both exciting and a little nerve-racking to formulate a recipe for a nearly 500 gallon batch. I tend to try new things rather aggressively at home because I know the world will not crumble if the batch doesn’t work out. At 100 times the scale, I find myself wanting to play it a little safer.

For recipe formulation help I’ve been drinking Saison Dupont, North Coast Le Merle, and Clyde & I’s Pumpkin Saison this evening. I’ve deduced a beer shouldn’t be in green bottles and I don’t particularly like Caramunich in a Saison. Also that Clyde and I make delicious beer. All things I knew before.

Anyway, barring any objections I’ve settled on a starting gravity of 1.057 with 2-row, Vienna, Red Wheat, Rye, Honey Malt, & Corn Sugar. The hops are tentatively scheduled to be Liberty, Ahtanum, & Citra. I may have to get down on both knees and beg to get the Citra addition approved. I’ll also have to break into my freshly acquired 11lb brick of Liberty and make sure it rocks the party like I rock the party.

In other Saison news, 12/25 Dank Dog is at 1.013 and 1/1 Ahtanum Dog Gone is at 1.020. The fact that Dank Dog got down to 1.015 in 5 days made me uber confident about the turnaround time of my choice of 560 Saison yeast. Now I’m slightly nervous that I probably need 4 or 5 more points out of it when it’s 12 days in. Fortunately we oxygenate and pitch super fresh with the correct quantity of yeast on the pro level. The for real Dog Gone 560 Saison should finish out in time for it’s January 26th launch. Fingers crossed. 😀

Meanwhile, I’ve picked out a badass lineup of kegs & bottles for Big Dog’s Winterfest on January 26th. If trying my new beer isn’t enough for you, the crazy high Beer Advocate ratings of every monster beer we’re bringing in should seal the deal. I would challenge any beer lover to show up at Winterfest and complain about the quality of the lineup. We’re looking to absolutely crush it these days at Big Dog’s.

Beyond crushing it, I do have some fun things that have happened around the brewery. One thing that I thought was crazy was one of our big 30 bbl fermentation tanks kept cooling even after being shut off. This is Sam spraying the solenoid that he suspects is frozen, with hot water:

malfunctioning tanks

Here’s the pilot batch of What’s My Name DIPA cozy in its chest freezer & converted keg fermentor:

pilot

And here’s the pile of NZ hops – 8oz Nelson Sauvin & 2.5oz Riwaka as they were waiting to be loaded into a keg of Holy Cow Original Pale Ale:

nelson dh

It turns out breaking open a keg and loading a big pile of hops into it is much harder than one realizes. This picture just barely sums up the difficulties:

dry hop keg

Finally, my humbling story for the day is one of magic and beer on the walk in cooler ceiling. One of our older beer pumps went bad so I was tasked with changing it out. I was pretty successful in the entire endeavor of changing out the pump and was quite pleased with myself.

However, I went to pour the air through the tap and nothing was coming out. I went back to the cooler. Oops, I had the inputs to the beer pump switched. Let me just switch those….holy crap there’s beer everywhere! I was on top of everything except unhooking the coupler from the keg. Fun times. Here’s Sierra Nevada Torpedo dripping from the ceiling:

torpedo on ceiling

Funnier still was the fact that nobody seemed too concerned about the situation. So I hosed off the ceiling and walls and mopped up as best I could. It was the end of the day so I left this note:

note

I’ve heard no complaints so far. So we move on! The hush hush news about the pilot system is we’re considering an Imperial Red Hydrant English Brown Ale & a Belgo Dirty Dog IPA. Never mind the fun collaborations we’re looking to do with the various members of the beer community.

Speaking of the beer community and collaborations, Hooked On Hops is doing fun things with videos & having non-craft beer ladies (blasted on wine) review popular beers! You can find the 3rd edition of those good times here.

Alright, the humble hero is out.

Proost y’all!

Update with many pics of @BigDogsBrewing life!

Hi brewing friends!

Given that it’s been a month since my last post, I should probably drop an update. Life has been good my friends. I’m enjoying my time at the brewery and being a brewing human being in general. My homebrewing has certainly slowed down greatly, but I’ve got pics of pro brewing for you instead.

Here’s a look at our brewery from on top of the walk in cooler:

brewery up topSo far most of my time has been spent filling kegs, cleaning kegs, troubleshooting why the keg washer isn’t working properly, graining out, cleaning lines, & just generally being the most baller guest tap manager our establishment has ever had. I’ve also done a fair amount of labeling the past couple of days (although this is Sam doing it while I was dry hopping the IPA):

sam labels

And here’s my big pile of labeled Dirty Dog’s:

dirty casesOther fun things included the removal of Sled Dog Imperial Stout from the Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels:

sled dog bourbon

And trying to grain out a stuck mash batch of Sled Dog:

stuck mash grain out

My Mom was also in town to say hi and run the Vegas marathon:

mom at bd

Other than that, we did have an awesome time down at Pizza Port’s Strong Ale Festival in Carlsbad. Our War Dog DIPA was tap 31 and my lady & I promoted the hell out of it because War Dog’s Simcoe & Citra make it a real bad mutha:

strong fest

I was shocked to see how small, open, & close to the action Pizza Port Carlsbad had its brewery:

pizza port

And their employees were wonderful for after-partying:

pizza port crew

Wild mustaches are definitely taking over out in the San Diego area. My scraggly brewer’s beard felt a little out of place.

But ok, back to homebrewing. Tonight I kegged up Hay Gurl II: My Boyfriend Brett Is Back, my 2nd attempt at a rough 3 Floyds Gumballhead clone, and my strange Farmhouse concoction that blended Wyeast 3333 kristalweizen with White Labs 538 Saison Blend. All of them smelled quite tasty and I look forward to them carbing up. Tomorrow I’ll keg my Clean Dog IPA & my Farmhouse Oktoberfest with Citra dry hop. Gotta keep rocking that specialty category!

I’ll also be brewing up my home version of Dog Gone/Dank Dog Saison soon. It’ll be 71.5% 2-row, 11.9% White Wheat, 7.9% Vienna, 2.7% Honey malt, & 6% corn sugar on White Labs 560 Classic Saison Blend. Heavy Liberty in flavor & aroma with big Columbus at flameout. I acquired a Heat Belt to run it at 75-80. If I turn it around quickly enough it’ll be helpful R&D for the 15bbl batch of Dog Gone Saison we’ll be brewing to release at Big Dog’s Winterfest on January 26th.

Here’s a pic of my 2nd Best Of Show winning Purring Kitten Session IPA (which has been requested on http://www.homebrewtalk.com):

IMAG1011

So anyway, brewing life is good. My buddy Clyde is going to let us borrow his Sabco Brew Magic to whip up 10 gallon R&D batches. Expect fun tastings at Big Dog’s once we get going with that program. Also, we’re going to start doing exclusive one keg dry hoppings of some of our staples like the Holy Cow Original Pale Ale. Expect to see a Nelson Sauvin dry hopped version on tap pretty soon!

Otherwise I just keep plugging along. Being a pro definitely has its perks. Here’s the super fresh sample of Joseph James Hop Box DIPA I got the other day when I stopped by to deliver some Citra hops:

hop box

And because I believe in strongly representing where you’ve come from, here’s our forklift at work – The Hop Dog 500 with its new Brewing Network sticker:

hop dog

Alright friends, time to wind my bad brewing self down. Be well and prosper and expect more frequent updates.

Proost y’all!