Hop Cast – Episode 94

Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are joined by Ed Knittel for a parallel tasting of the 2008 & 2009 Abyss from Deschutes Brewery. Ken and Brad learned that Ed was a fan of the big stouts so it was time to pull out this 11% boy from the cellar. 33% of this beer is aged in oak bourbon barrels and then blended back with the rest. The Abyss is a great beer fresh or aged so pick one up now and save another to try in a year or more.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (163.4 MB).

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Drinking For The Environment

It seems like craft beer in cans are one of those hot topics right now. I’m all for the craft beer can revolution and am happy to support it any way I can. Besides drinking local from the draught at my favorite breweries, can beer is one of my favorite craft beer vessels. It keeps beer fresher, they cool down quicker, are virtually unbreakable, can be recycled, and they are easier to travel with since they are much lighter. But if you’re trying to find a way that your beer drinking can be more environmentally friendly, cans may not the best option.

Even through cans are nearly 50 percent lighter to ship than bottles which reduces their carbon footprint, the environmental impact of can beers comes from the aluminum. Now, aluminum itself is not the problem. Aluminum is the third most common element in the world. There’s no danger of running out of aluminum anytime soon. The problem is in how the aluminum is made and mined. To make aluminum usable it takes a great deal of energy. Using energy means using oil, and oil is a resource that is running out. This process virtually makes using cans kind of a wash when compared to the heavier bottles.

I’m not saying cans are bad and we should only be using bottles. I just wanted to point out that the carbon footprint of making and shipping a can is pretty equal to that of a glass bottle. Where I think the can wins is in how we use it, especially when we are done with it. For years we have been conditioned to recycle soda cans and I don’t think people have a second thought about doing it with a can of beer. Where personally I think most people are more likely to toss a glass bottle in the trash. Aluminum can be infinitely recyclable, and recycled cans can be back on the shelf encasing a new product within a few months. You have places like in Hawaii, where at Maui Brewing Co. using cans makes a lot of sense for the environment & culture. They are trying to keep 120 miles of coastline, 30 miles of beaches, and other public areas free of broken glass.

If you’re really looking for a way to lower your environmental impact when drinking you can start off by drinking local. According to Trehugger,

“Draught beers packaging has lower impacts with an estimated overall environmental load that was 68% lower than bottled beer.”

The further your beer has to travel, the greater the impact it has. The most effective way of reducing the impacts is by drinking local draught beer. Not only are you keeping your eco-impact low but this supports your local economy. You are also letting your local breweries know that you care about what they are doing and are thankful they are there. Walk, bike, or run to your local brewery and feel good you lowered your carbon footprint and supported a local business.

Dark Lord Day 2010

Roughly 8,000 beer drinkers from around the country gathered at the 3 Floyd’s brewery on Saturday for Dark Lord Day 2010. I was one of those craft beer drinkers who headed to Munster, Indiana to buy and consume the once a year release of the Dark Lord, a Russian Imperial Stout. I ended up getting to 3 Floyd’s about 10:30 am and had to park the car at the park on the other side of Calumet Ave; it was a good 5 minute walk from the brewery. I had been seeing the photos all morning on twitter of the chaos that was happening but it didn’t compare to seeing it first hand. When I walked up I saw two lines going both ways in front of the brewery on Indiana parkway. The past two years there had been one line that was the bottle line. Not sure why two lines happened this year, it didn’t make much sense since there was only one place to buy bottles. I was under the impression that if you had golden tickets there was no reason to wait in line for bottles because you were guaranteed beer (before 5 o’clock). So I went towards the sample line to get one of my free samples of Dark Lord that came with my golden ticket. Finding that line proved somewhat difficult because every line seemed to collide with one another. The entire parking lot at 3 Floyd’s seemed to be a huge cluster fuck of a line. Once I finally figured out where the sample line was I was surprised to find that they were only letting you get one beer at a time even if you had two tickets. Which made it really difficult for people getting some for their friends beers that were waiting and saving their spot in the bottle line. You could either get your free Dark Lord sample or pay $5 for the oak aged Dark Lord. You couldn’t get another beer unless you wanted to get back in line. The sample line was taking at least 10 – 15 minutes so I wasn’t in the mood to get back in line right away. Throughout the day I was only able to get one of my free samples that came with the Dark Lord golden ticket. The line was just too long and I was never able to make my way back over there but at least I got to try it once before buying the bottles. I understand that they also had the Vanilla Dark Lord earlier in the day to sample but they only had the Oak Aged Dark Lord when I was in line. The Oak Aged was excellent.

Seeing the chaos that was happening it seemed like it would be a good idea to get in the bottle line with the folks I came with. It would at least give us a place to stand. I ended up walking around a lot talking with people and bringing back guest tap samples to the folks in line. The guest taps were right next to some of the bathrooms and it made it hard to tell what line we were in most of the time. If neighboring businesses are cool with people parking in their lots I would think it would be a geat idea to put the toilets over there next year. Get them away from the beer and reduce the lines from colliding at every turn.

Ken had biked to Dark Lord Day from Chicago and didn’t get there until about 1 pm so we really didn’t get a chance to shoot that much video, just a few quick things. But we were able to talk with a lot of great people that day and share some excellent beer. Once we finally made it through the line to buy our allotment of Dark Lord they had changed the limit from four bottles a golden ticket to three. That didn’t make much sense because you would think 3 Floyd’s would of known how many tickets they sold and would of done the math accordingly. I did hear someone say something about counterfeit tickets floating around, which I don’t know if its true or not. Counterfeiters, really? I’m always surprised at the lengths people will go to get good beer. Hopefully 3 Floyd’s will fix this next year and maybe have some sort of barcode. The golden tickets are great and I’d hate to see that go away. I for one do not want to have to get there at 4 am just to get in line to be sure I am able to buy bottles.

In the end, I was able to get my bottles and I had a lot of fun during the wait. There were some issues with this years event but it had maybe two times the amount of people then last year. I’m not an event planner and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for organizing an event on this scale but there were some major issues that I hope they look into for next year. Add some signs, spread out the lines and make sure people are not cutting in. If you made it out to Dark Lord Day this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself like I did. See you next year!

HopCast Episode 93

Episode 93: Dank Tank Big Ol’ Belgian Blue Balls & Horny Devil

Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are kicking it outside in episode 93. Taking advantage of the warm weather they open up a couple ales in Ken’s backyard. The first one they open is the Dank Tank Big Ol’ Belgian Blue Balls from Sweetwater Brewing Company. It’s called the Belgian Blue Balls because it has a bit of blueberries in it, but the blueberries aren’t too overpowering. It’s a fruit / vegetable beer at 8.00% ABV. Ken and Brad then follow up the Belgian Blue Balls with the Alesmith Horny Devil, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale coming in at 11% ABV. Watch out on this one because it tastes like its somewhere around 6 or 8%, it could knock you back a bit.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (173.8 MB)  or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

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!

HopCast Episode 92

Hop Cast – Episode 92

In Hop Cast episode 92 Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder are at The Publican in Chicago talking with beer director Michael McAvena and executive chef Paul Kahan. The Publican and Two Brothers Brewing Co. came together to collaborate on a one-off beer to be served during a beer pairing dinner at the Publican. Michael McAvena took a trip out to Warrenville to brew the beer with Jason Ebel, founder/owner of Two Brothers Brewing Co. The beer they brewed was a sour mash triple that was available as is and also in two different blends at The Publican beer pairing dinner. One of the blends was the Two Brothers Bitter End Pale Ale, and the other was with an especially rare Two Brothers Brett beer that was the second beer brewed when they opened their current brewery in 2007. It was a great trip to follow along the process from brewing the beer to enjoying it it along with the five course meal at The Publican. This sort of collaboration takes the idea of beer pairing dinners to another level. Brad and Ken couldn’t have asked for better beer or food to kick off the week of the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference. Be sure to visit The Publican because they always have some sort of rare beer on tap and delicious food to pair with it.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (237.6 MB).

Burger & Beer Pairing Event At SmallBar Fullerton

The wait is over! The second installment of the Man B Que / Hop Cast / SmallBar, burger and beer pairing is right around the corner.

This month, the grilling geeks from Man B Que dig into their recipe arsenal and pair their Godfather’s Gouda Burger with the Schlenkerla Helles and Two Brothers Oak Aged Long Haul Ale that the beer brains at Hop Cast and SmallBar hand picked. The result is meat and beer perfection!

$20 gets you your fill of The Godfather’s Gouda Burger, unlimited glasses of the Oak Aged Long Haul Ale and Schlenkerla Helles as well as a raffle ticket for your chance to win a “Picnic Pairing” goodie.

Stop by and bring your friends!

Beer Of The Month – April

Stone Brewing Company has finally arrived “legally” into the Chicago market. With that great news the Hop Cast figured that the beer of the month had to be a Stone Brewing Company beer. In the past we have done a few different Stone beers on the show including Cali-Belgique, Stone Brewing’s 12th Anniversary and Stone 13th Anniversary Ale. This month we picked out one of our favorites that we haven’t featured before, the Arrogant Bastard Ale.

The Arrogant Bastard pours a deep amber color with a two finger creamy beige head that sticks around for a while and leaves a nice thick lacing on the glass. A sweet floral aroma comes up from the glass along with toasted malts and toffee notes. A wonderful balanced nose. When you finally take a drink you get a big dose of hops but they are not overbearing. Backing it all up is some nice caramel malts. A strong bold aftertaste that leaves your mouth sticky and dry for a long, long time. Drinkable yes, sessionable maybe not. At 7.2% it’s a great beer to sit down and split a bomber with a friend. It’s an aggressive beer so it’s not for everyone.

Stone Brewing Company welcome to Chicago!

Hop Cast – Episode 91

Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are in Flossmoor, IL chatting with head brewer of Flossmoor Station Byran Shimkos. Bryan tells them a little about his background as a brewer and how he ended up finding a home at Flossmoor Station. He also talks about some of the great events that Flossmoor Station has going on, including an event at the Map Room featuring past Flossmoor brewers pouring their current creations. Bryan also talks about the upcoming release of an Imperial Pilsner that will be available the day before Dark Lord Day.

Flossmoor Station Brewery is right off the Metra, which makes it an easy trip for anyone coming in from Chicago.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (167.3 MB).

Two Brothers Brewing & The Publican Beer Dinner

To kick off the week of the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference two powerhouses have joined forces to create a beer dinner that will undoubtedly be special. Two Brothers Brewing Co. and The Publican are known for their excellence in beer and food respectively, but they’ve taken this event one step further. They have collaborated on a one-off beer that will debut with one of the courses.

Michael McAvena, beer director at The Publican, has a background in homebrewing so it seemed to be a no-brainer that he go out to Warrenville and make a beer with Jason Ebel, founder/owner of Two Brothers Brewing Co. The style is said to be a sour mash triple that will be available as is and also in two different blends. One of the blends is with the Two Brothers Bitter End Pale Ale, and the other is with an especially rare Two Brothers Brett beer that was the second beer brewed when they opened their current brewery in 2007.

Executive chef Paul Kahan is passionate about his food and his beer, which shines through every night at The Publican. It has quickly become a destination spot for beer drinkers looking for a flawlessly executed menu and a fantastic beer selection to boot.

A glimpse at the menu should say everything.

• Jamon Iberico with fried morels and pickled fiddlehead fern
paired with Prairie Path
• Guinea hen, foie gras galantine with ramps orange mustard greens and cashew paired with Ebel’s Wiess
• Crawford Farm corned lamb mix grill with spring, rye, panzanella
paired with Longhaul Oak Aged Session Ale
• BBQ salmon
paired with the collaboration beer
• Brown butter, orange, honey, coffee and almonds
paired with Domaine DuPage

Keep an eye out for the upcoming Hop Cast episode featuring the brewing process and highlighting the dinner at The Publican. Hop Cast will be there Monday, April 5th and you should be too!

The price of food is $55, beer will be $20.
Reservations are encouraged. 
For more info please contact The Publican 837 West Fulton Mkt. Chicago 60607
(312) 733.9555

Hope to see you there!