All posts by Ken Hunnemeder

Glassware and Its Proper Maintenance

By now I feel craft beer drinkers know the importance of pouring their beer into a glass before consuming. Roughly 75% of what we taste comes directly from what we smell. For this reason, it makes sense to go ahead and pour that beer you’ve spent your hard earned money on into a drinking vessel of some sort in order to achieve maximum flavor and enjoyment. But let’s take this a bit further shall we? Are you doing everything you can for your beer by simply pouring it into a glass? Sure, it’s a step in the right direction but there are certainly more things you can do to ensure you’re making your beer money work for you.

I’m sure all of you have come across a dirty glass at one time or another. You may not have known it at the time but may have had the idea that something was wrong. The first sign you have a sullied glass is there are large bubbles that stick to the side, similar to champagne.

A properly cleaned glass will have a smooth finish on the side of the glass and the head will be in tact. The oils in dirt and grime will kill the head retention in your beer. When you see your Founders Red’s Rye has a head that disappears like a Miller Lite, you know your glassware is in trouble.

So what can you do to make sure your glassware is clean? This has been debated ad nauseam with all sorts of different products and techniques available (i.e.-using vinegar or salt). There are plenty of cleaners specifically made for beer glasses, and I’ll let you decide which one you prefer should you decide to go the specialty route. Most importantly, never trust your dishwasher to properly clean your glasses. Hand washing goes a long way to ensure no bits of food from last night’s dinner contaminate your beer’s best friend. I would recommend a thorough hand cleaning (with a CLEAN BRUSH) and a healthy rinse with cool water. Also, you don’t want dry your glass with a towel because the lint will stick to your glass and defeat the whole purpose. If all else fails, sacrifice a splash of your beer in the glass, swirl it around, and dump it out.

By taking care of your glasses, you will give yourself a more accurate flavor representation of any beer you want to sample. Going back to where we started, one of the biggest affects I see in dirty glasses is an inconsistency in aroma. And since we taste what we smell, the brewer of that coveted beer you’re drinking will appreciate if you show their product in a fair light. So go ahead and show your spouse that you are indeed capable of cleaning something properly. Your reward after all is, a delicious beer!

Tis the Season to be Hoppy

Alright hop heads it’s my favorite time of the beer drinking year, fall. When the leaves turn and the temperatures start to drop I can’t help but think of the arrival of seasonal harvest brews. Harvest (or wet-hopped) beers are special because they utilize the freshest hops available to the brewer. The result is very much evident in the fresh flavor profiles of these once-a-year beers.

When hops are harvested they are typically dried and either kept in whole leaf form, or made into pellets or plugs. The drying process allows the hops to stay fresh for a longer period of time so brewers are able to make beer all year round. But once a year when the hops are ripe, brewers get a unique opportunity to use the freshest hops around.

Wet-hopped beers are different from most others in the fact that the hops never go through a drying process. The hops are picked straight from the vine and are immediately used by the brewer. The only way this works is that the hops have to be directly thrown in the brew kettle right after harvest time. Because the hops haven’t been dried, time is of the essence and you need to get them into the boil before they go bad.

The resulting beer is very much akin to using fresh herbs and spices as opposed to dried when cooking. The flavor is less biting and you can taste a “green-ness” that is unmatched. What you are looking for in a great harvest ale is that beautiful grassy hop flavor. It is for this reason that you DO NOT age these beers. Even after the beer has been bottled, the hop profile can die with age just like any other beer. We wouldn’t want that now would we?

Make sure to pick up your harvest beers from a reputable beer retailer that rotates selection often, this ensures you’re not getting last years batch. Not only that, but place them towards the front of the fridge so you don’t forget they’re there. There’s no such thing as drinking too much during the hop harvest season. Cheers from Hop Cast!

Some examples of wet-hopped beers to look for…
Three Floyds BrooDoo
Two Brother Heavy Handed IPA
Founders Double Trouble
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Ale
Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Surly Brewing Wet

Ken Visits Vintage Estate

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I recently found myself taking a trip to Youngstown, Ohio with my sights set on some beers that are out of the Chicago market.  Having some luck last time around, I planned on stopping at a couple places in Cleveland on the way.  I soon realized, thanks to my gracious hosts, there was no need; because the #1 rated beer store in America (according to www.ratebeer.com) is located right in Youngstown!!  It quickly became a prioritized destination for me and I was not disappointed.

Vintage Estate Wine and Beer is the beer drinker’s playground.  They have a great selection of American craft and also plenty of special imported beers (such as some great Belgian sours!!).  Not only is this a great place to buy coveted beers for your home habits, they have a bar connected right next to the store!!  So grab a pint, and get to shopping!!  The bar was pouring some tasty treats on draft including Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Avery Maharaja IPA, and Saison DuPont.  They even let you buy a bottled beer, open it up, and continue to shop while you drink.

Many may find such a vast and overwhelming selection a bit intimidating.  And oftentimes, in establishments with such critical acclaim the staff can become pretentious or “too cool for school”.  Vintage Estate does not fall into this category.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable and very willing to help with any questions.  So whether you’re an experienced beer drinker, just getting into the game, or shopping or a friend or loved one you can feel right at home.  I talked personally with owner, Phill Reda, who is very passionate about what he does and it shows.

Big shout outs to the folks at Vintage Estate Wine and Beer for some wonderful additions to my cellar!!  I will certainly be back and I encourage any travelers and especially locals to check out this outstanding beer destination.

Vintage Estate Wine and Beer
7317 South Ave
Boardman, OH 44512

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Night of the Living Ales

Saturday March 7th marked the annual Night of the Living Ales festival at the Goose Island Wrigleyville location in conjunction with the Chicago Beer Society .  The festival involves cask/real ales from many local breweries as well as others from around the country.  This is one of my favorite events of the year.  There were quite a few standouts this year including last years’ winner, Surly Tea-Bagged Furious.

Much hype surrounded the premier of Popskull , a collaboration between Three Floyds and Dogfish Head.  This brown ale was aged on the famous Palo Santo Wood and will also be available at Dark Lord Day according to rumors.  Goose Island also had quite a showing with their Madam Rose(Kriek), Bourbon Sherry Beer, and Saison Le Chance. 

There were some great IPA’s tapped that night and the Hop Cast wouldn’t have it any other way!  Rock Bottom Chicago impressed with their Neil Diamond IPA and Flossmoor Station’s Ore Gone IPA was wonderful as well.

Rock Bottom Orland Park brought their experimental ShamRock Stout.  Looking at the name, I was hoping it was a take on the delicious Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s.  They didn’t disappoint!!  This mint stout was delicious and would probably make a damn fine beer float.

Overall this was a fantastic event, especially since this was the first year that they split into two sessions.  I would certainly say this was a success because the crowd was much more maneuverable than years past.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience so many great craft beers.  Don’t miss it next year!!