Ruhstaller Hop Harvest

Written by Justin

A few months ago Eryn and I had the opportunity to drive out to the Sacramento Valley in the predawn darkness to meet up with JE the owner and agricultural champion behind the Ruhstaller brand. We had previously met JE in Santa Rosa at a pouring event for Ruhstaller where he spent a good amount of time walking us through his “terroir” like approach to selecting and using hops for the Ruhstaller brand. He also excitedly told us about the hop yard he had planted and how those hops were going to eventually make their way into a beer. We kept in touch and when harvest rolled around I received an email from JE asking if we wanted to come out to join his crew picking the hops. This was obviously an opportunity not to be missed and so we made the drive out and had an incredible experience.

JE and Ruhstaller are trying to change the way breweries and craft beer enthusiasts think about beer starting with the hops. Head out into the hop yard as we all harvest this years cascade hops and learn about how Ruhstaller approaches growing their beer.

Coffee Roasting

Written by Justin

Recently our brewing escapades have moved beyond the malt, hops, water, yeast category and ventured into new grounds. One of the most recent projects that Eryn has undertaken is roasting her own coffee beans and creating her own blends. Eryn found directions on some website somewhere on how to use an old popcorn maker to roast green coffee beans. She’s been playing with it for a couple months and though I don’t personally drink coffee those who do seem to enjoy her newest endeavor. So for Christmas she and a friend of ours Amber, roasted up several pounds of coffee to give away as gifts. While they worked I shot a quick video of the popcorn coffee roasting.

Festa Autunno

Written by Justin

This past weekend we hosted our first ever beer paired dinner, the Festa Autunno. When we purchased our home almost a year ago one of the first events we thought of doing was a harvest feast and after the bumper crop from our garden we decided we had to make the dinner a reality. After brewing up a great selection of beers we focused in on what kind of food we wanted to serve, it didn’t take us long to decide that a family style italian dinner was the way we wanted to go. The menu was planned, invites went out and before we knew it the festa was upon us.

I will readily admit that it was a ton of work to get everything together but every ounce of effort was paid back with an absolutely amazing evening with family and friends. Eryn and I would bring out each course and a pitcher of the paired beer. After a quick introduction to the beer and the course everyone would pass the serving dishes around, dig in and enjoy. It was great to hear comments about how well the beers paired with each course, especially how well the roasty black IPA went with the roasted chicken cacciatore and how the bourbon barrel stout offset the Wake Up Call Tiramissu. I’ve attached the whole menu under the photos if you would like to check it out.

We are already have some great beers and menus planned out for our next dinner. Keep an eye out for a late spring announcement.

 

Festa Autunno Menu

Antipasto

House-made pickled carrots, green tomatoes, and beets and pickled dilly beans. Wine inspired salami. Tomato and boccacini skewers with basil.

Beer Pairing: Blonde Wino- a fruit forward harvest ale with a blonde ale base and a second ferment with Gewürztraminer-Muscat fresh pressed juice from Dry Creek. Maybe too easy to drink.

 

Primi

Heirloom tomato soup with house-made creme fraiche and Sweetmeat risotto

Beer Pairing- Sonoma Pale- a floral pale ale brewed with cascade and Citra hops and dry hopped with Citra for nice grapefruit notes.

 

Secondi

Roasted cacciatore with local organic chicken over creamy polenta

Beer Pairing: Mazama Cascadian Dark Ale- a roasted ale with strong hop flavor and a balanced malt character.

 

Contorni

Preserved eggplant with olives, capers and parsley

Beer Pairing: No Blokes Brown Ale- a southern English brown ale, malty with toasted carmel and stone fruit notes. 2nd place in the porter/brown category Queen of Beer 2013!

 

Dolce

Tiramissu made with Wake Up Call coffee porter

Beer Pairing: BAS- Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout is a big sweet complex ale with dominant bourbon flavor, roasted base malts, robust and warming, drinks like a port

 

Sauvie Brown

Written by Justin

I’m not entirely sure what it is about fruit beers but I love them. My mom was a huge fan of Apricot Wheat Ales and that was some of the first beer I really started to enjoy so maybe it started there. However it started, my interest for fruit beers has translated into a number of homebrew recipes from our Sassy Blonde strawberry ale, to Dave’s Coconut Brown, the Blonde Wino and a number of others. This summer we have added another fruit beer to our taps.

Sauvie Island
Eryn picking the raspberries

When we were on our tour of Oregon we stopped at Sauvie Island to do a little u-picking. Now to this California boy a little u-picking is a haleck (a word I didn’t learn until spending time in Oregon) or two and calling it a day. Eryn on the other hand needs to make sure she has cleared off several rows of bushes and has enough berries to feed us for a month. We froze the berries while we hung out in Oregon then when we got home they magically appeared in our freezer (no Mr Agricultural inspector there are no fresh fruits or veggies in this car).

Sauvie Island
Eryn filled both boxes

One afternoon while planning out our brewing schedule I remembered the raspberries sitting in the freezer and decided we should experiment a bit. I have had raspberry browns in the past and enjoyed how the flavor of the raspberries played off the chocolate roast of a brown ale. I was wanting to do up a batch of Dave’s Coco Brown anyway so I decided that after fermentation I would split the batch and do five gallons of each. After primary fermentation was complete I pulled out the bag of frozen raspberries very precisely eyeballed half and tossed them in. In hindsight the pound of raspberries may have been a bit more then I would add next time but overall the beer turned out great.

Sauvie Brown
A glass of Sauvie Brown

Off the tap the beer pours with a nice head that recedes to a thin layer of bubbles that linger on top, it has a great chocolate raspberry aroma that reminds me of Ghirardelli bar,and when you look at it it appears to be a dark brown ale but when held to the light you get a little crimson mixed in. The taste is berry forward with more tartness then sweetness, it moves to the little bit of chocolate roast and finally to a light hop finish. Overall the flavor lingers nicely and I think it is a great summer ale.

The Fermonster

Written by Justin
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The new fermonster filled to capacity.

Fermentation temperature is probably the bane of most every homebrewer. Unless you have a temperature controlled area or a jacketed mini conical then your beer can be subject to the temperature swings of the season. In our case here in Northern California that can be as much as 40° in the summer months. With huge swings like that maintaining a consistent temperature just isn’t possible. The most practical idea we came up with was to build a fermentation chamber.

In our old place we had a couple of prebuilt shelves in the garage that we converted to a fermentation chamber. By slapping a couple pieces of plywood on either end and a little plexiglass on the front we created a great looking but nearly useless fermentation chamber. The first winter we used it we added a heater and it actually maintained decent temperatures but come summer no amount of ice would keep our fermentations in the right zone. So when we moved we decided that building an upgraded chamber that could maintain hot and cold was important and with that the Fermonster was born.

Who knew cutting insulation with a jigsaw was so much fun?
Who knew cutting insulation with a jigsaw was so much fun?

We took the same basic idea for the new chamber but made it much more functional then good looking. We started this new design by filling every wall with 1.5″ of rigid foam insulation to trap the heating and cooling inside the box. We then added a dual stage temperature controller that connects to both a heater and an air conditioner that are both built into the unit. We also made sure that it would fit three Speidels inside which we decided would be the maximum amount of fermentation we would be doing at any time.

After lots of cutting, drilling, caulking and maybe just a little bit of swearing and drinking our concept came to fruition. The box stands a bit over six feet tall and a bit under four feet wide. It has plenty of space for keeping empty kegs underneath and it the perfect height for lifting things in and out of. I am not entirely sure that it can be moved, but I am not entirely sure I ever will either so for now that works out.

The end product has been outstanding. The Fermonster brings our fermentation to whatever temperatures we want quickly and maintains them there. The most impressive part has been in the quality of our beer. I’ve gotten considerable feedback that our beers taste cleaner which I completely agree with. So now instead of fighting to maintain temperatures I can focus more on recipe creation and fine tuning our existing portfolio.

Humboldt Homebrew Fest 2013

Written by Justin

One of our favorite homebrew events last year was by far the Humboldt Homebrew Festival. When we got the email about the festival this year we both agreed, we had to figure out how to make it work. We had started brewing again but not that regularly, the festival was that impetus to really get brewing again. Eryn and I planned out what beers we were going to submit, she the Sassy Blonde which had done well previously in the People’s Choice awards and I the Ebony Milk Stout which had taken best of show in the bottle competition last year. We set about to brewing and getting things ready for the festival.

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All set ready to pour.

A couple of months later we packed up the car and headed north to Arcata where the Festival happens. The Arcata area is a great place to visit for anyone interested in the craft beer scene with some knockout breweries like Redwood Curtain and Mad River. We arrived in Arcata in plenty of time to drop our kegs off at the competition, pick our serving table, say hi to a few friends we made the previous year then head out and enjoy some great north coast beer.

The next morning we headed back to the community center where the competition was taking place to set up our space. We kept the decorations simple but had printed our stickers for both the Ebony Milk Stout and for the Sassy Blonde to give out as we received votes. The way that the Humboldt Homebrew Festival works is that all of the attendees get the opportunity to go around and taste this huge collection of amazing homebrew and as they taste they drop in cards to vote for your beer. So as the day goes not only are you spending time pouring and educating folks about your beers, you also spend a bit of time cajoling, bribing and downright begging for votes (it is a competition after all). The Sassy was a hit again, and it was hard to find a group of people who didn’t seem to have a sticker.

The stickers were everywhere.

As the day went on Eryn and I both took turns breaking away from behind our jockey box to taste some of the other amazing beers local homebrewers had to offer. I have to say that the quality of the beer increased tremendously from the previously year, which was already good. There were sours, a bourbon barrel aged nitro stout, an amazing Bavarian Creamsicle,  and tons of other awesome beers.

As the event wore down the awards started up. We were given an award for furthest travelled which we humbly accepted this year but want to make sure we don’t accept again next year (any SF or PDX brewers want to join us?). We waited to see how we did in the People’s Choice awards. Last year the competition was swept by IPA’s and if you’ve ever tasted Sassy it is about the furthest you can get from that. This year was completely different, there wasn’t an IPA in the top five beers and Sassy scored third place! Both Eryn and I had tasted the other four top beers and we were humbled to be a part of that group of brewers.

As things wrapped up we packed up and said our goodbyes to friends and fans and as we drove home we started planning what to make for next year. I cannot wait to head back up again.

 

Tap Warming Party

Written by Justin

After a few months of building our new brewery and getting our yard together we finally threw the doors open for our first tap party at our new home. It was great to finally get those taps flowing again and have folks over to enjoy. A big part of the reason we brew is because of the community that we create so to have that community come enjoy our place for the first time was awesome.

Over the next few months we look forward to continuing to build out our brewery and our beer garden. If you didn’t make it this time I look forward to sharing a beer with you soon. Cheers!

 

First 2013 Brew Session

Written by Justin
frozen lawn
Icy grass is about as white as we get in the winter.

It’s been cold around here lately. A blast of arctic air has made it’s way down from the gulf of Alaska chilling our normal low 40’s down to high 20’s at night. On this particular morning when I woke up around 6:30 I checked the weather to find we were down to 27°. I chuckled to myself, today was going to be the coldest brew session we’ve ever had (it’s California that’s cold), but it would not stop us. The last time we had brewed was July 18th, 2012. Because of the craziness of the last year we just were not able to brew. Now two months after moving into our new home we finally finished our detached garage enough to fling it open and brew for the first time.

I got up and put on a pot of tea, Eryn soon followed getting some hot coffee together. We milled about the house a while watching the frost begin to melt off our neighbors roof. We knew it was going to be a cold morning so we weren’t planning on starting until about 11am anyway.

Our new barn star above the brewery.
Our new barn star above the brewery.

We had just started prepping for the day when our first visitors stopped by. Dianne and Ron are good friends and helped us with the move and the build. They weren’t going to stick around for the brew day but just wanted to drop off a house warming gift. They then handed over a red Amish barn star to hang on the garage. It was perfect, so perfect that we had literally been only a click away from ordering it ourselves, we just hadn’t done it yet. They had to take off but we took a few minutes before pulling out our brewing equipment to hang our new star. It is exactly what we were looking for.

Our first brew session.
Our first brew session.

It was time to get to work. We set about getting the brewery organized and the equipment fired up. On the schedule for the day was a new Kölsch recipe and our Dave’s Coco Brown. We struck water right on time at 11am and began measuring and cracking grain. The session flowed beautifully with only a few minor hiccups like not having a place to hang hoses while they weren’t in use. We made notes of everything and welcomed friends as they dropped by to join us for our first brew session. Katie and Pat dropped by and lent a hand measuring and cracking Dave’s Coco. Later Emily and Neil joined us bringing with them a few rare beers to toast to our first brew session here.

We finished up the session seven and a half hours later with 20 gallons pitched and fermenting away. My family came down and made us an amazing dinner as the arctic chill set back in. We all toasted to the brew session, the soon to be tap parties, and poker nights with a great glass of red wine. For me brew sessions are always rewarding work. They are long days but at the end of them I always feel energized. Since this was our first session in almost six months it felt incredible. We still have a little way to go before the taps start flowing again but we are almost there.

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A Fresh Start

Written by Justin
DSCN4100
Our new detached garage/brewery.

A few months ago we hosted our last party on Powell Avenue, painted the red wall back to white and packed up all of our gear. It was sad to shut down our little brewery, it’s where our passion for beer began, where we hosted our tap parties and where we had created so many memories that are so important to us. The worst part of it was that we didn’t know when we would brew again. As we packed the glasses, coasters and awards we both wondered aloud when and where they would get unpacked. We had been working on buying a home for a few months and though we had a solid offer in on a place we didn’t know if it would actually come together.

IMG_3851
Digging a trench for electric and water.

After a couple of rocky months in limbo the house finally closed and we started moving in. One of the things we loved about the house was the detached garage on the back of the property that was stripped down to the studs. To Eryn and I it was a blank palette ready for us to paint. We mapped out our plan, in several phases, put together a team and got to work. The first weekend we ran new electrical in the walls setting up multiple circuits to support our current and potential future electric brewery plans. We tore down an old fence that sectioned off the backyard and put up a new gate. We put in new lighting for brewing and for parties. We installed insulation in the walls and put up wall board. Over the next few weeks we dug a ridiculous trench to bring new electric and water to the garage. In recent weeks we insulated the garage door, put up trim and have begun putting up the bar. Everything that was boxed up has now been unpacked and readied for the weekend when we can finally brew again.

We really can’t wait to get a few brew sessions down so that we can get some beer in kegs and have folks over. The garage sits in an awesome backyard that will be perfect for entertaining. We plan on hosting our first party some time this spring and look forward to many years to tap parties, movie nights, friends, family and beer. That pain we felt taping up those boxes has turned to joy as we unpack them again. Thank you everyone for your support over this last few months, we look forward to seeing you here soon!

 

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Renegade Brewing Company

Written by Justin

Renegade Brewing Company is an upstart brewery in Denver, Colorado. Brian O’Connell, proprietor and head brewer, took a few minutes out of his busy day to tell me about his brewery, his beers and the Renegade community he is building. If you are ever in Denver make sure you stop by to check out the beers and the great atmosphere Brian has created.

Renegade Brewing Website – craftbrewerydenver.com