Even before we started brewing we had come across the elusive Healdsburg Beer Company beer at a local restaurant and had wondered who it was and where it was being produced. A few months later the first half of that question was answered when we met Kevin McGee, proprietor and brewmaster of Healdsburg Beer Company, at Beer in the Plaza, a tasting and fundraiser held here in Healdsburg (also the only event Healdsburg Beer Company pours at).
As we started to brew and immerse ourselves in the local beer scene we would go check out breweries and do tastings yet Healdsburg Beer Company’s operation remained elusive. While I was in Denver at the Great American Beer Fest (sporting a Healdsburg Beer Co shirt) I got the invite to come out to an upcoming brew session, check out the operation and do a short interview. Kevin would be brewing the Brown & Sexy with Tej, otherwise known as Mr Healdsburg. I packed up my kit, travelled all the way across town and had a great day shooting, brewing, and learning about Healdsburg Beer Company. Check it out.
After watching BrewingTV’s interview with Kristen England I became very interested in brewing a 60 Shiling Ale. I love session beers and haven’t made many Scottish style ales so after reading up on them for a couple of days I put together a recipe and set out to make it. The video is a montage of my brew day and my new kick ass brew system.
Tucked in a great little semi-industrial park on the north side of Santa Cruz is Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. Intermixed with a couple of winery neighbors it’s got a great little bar and patio seating that saw a lot of people coming and going during my short stop off. After reading through the tap board I found out that all the beers they make are all organic and some even utilized locally grown hops.
I ordered the sampler as I’d never been here before and like always picked a few of my favorites. The Wilder Wheat is a great German style yeast with a warm flavor that borders on sweet but never actually arrives. It’s a solid wheat in a much more European style. The amber is also a great classic example. Copper color with a nice malty flavor. The brown is a big malty ale with very smooth roasted malts. The best of the day is hands down the fresh hop pale. Big huge citrus with very little bitter. It’s made with homegrown cascade hops, catapults and lots of caramel malts. It’s exceptional with lots of thy wet hop character.
Everything is quite good and sessionable with only the IPA being the high exception at 7%. I love finding these great little session spots and really hope to make it back to to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery soon!
Our regular tap parties have quickly become one of my favorite parts of brewing beer. One year ago we hosted our inaugural tap party a couple of weeks after our first kegging. I stressed over how they would be received and whether anyone would enjoy the craft we had embarked on learning. People did enjoy the beers and after a while I relaxed and began to enjoy the company. Fast forward a year and now we stockpile a few of our newest and best beers to put on tap for our parties. I feel much more confident in what we are making and instead of stressing about what people would think of the beers I am now enjoying our company and at this last party I had a bit of a revelation.
Our parties are open to our friends and family but also to people they want to bring and others who are interested in our brewing escapades. We generally have anywhere from 15-40 people who come out to eat, drink and socialize in our little brewery bar and home. Some of these folks I am lucky to see regularly but others I only see every couple of months when they come out to see what new beers are pouring from our taps and to enjoy the atmosphere. New friendships are forged over the taps, old friendships are toasted to over a pint and I realized we are brewing up something more than just beer, we are brewing community.
Our beer and bar is simply a vehicle that brings together an amazing group of people who come to enjoy what we are creating but more importantly to enjoy conversing, sharing and debating with each other. This last party we had entrepreneurs launching a new drink brand, an upstart brewer building a new brewery, a soon to be New York Times writer, as well as winemakers, architects, cheese makers, nurses, doctors, students, educators and many others from all different of walks of life. Conversations ran the gambit from the simple catchups, to Occupy Oakland, environmental design, tax policy, and the late Steve Jobs. There was a strong feeling of friendship, camaraderie and community all of it lubricated just a bit with our session ales.
Brewing up this community is just as exciting to me as the beers we work so hard on. So here’s my commitment, we are going to work even harder to learn this craft if you will keep coming to enjoy it. We will keep experimenting with new flavors and styles if you bring your stories and opinions with you. We will keep bottling a favor or two for you to take home if you will keep bringing a few more great people with you and if we outgrow this space, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it….
I can’t wait to host the next party, to tap a few more of our creations, to share incredible conversations and to meet extraordinary new people. We’ll keep making it if you keep coming to enjoy it. Thank you all!
We made our first version of Wake Up Call last fall and the beer was hammered by way to much coffee flavor. It’s easy when you are first starting out to go completely overboard when you are trying to capture flavors you want. Now that we have a bit more experience and can generally work in more subtle flavors we decided to give this another try.
The revised recipe has 100% Kona Coffee from Lehualani Farm. Kona coffee is renowned for its low acidity but rich flavor which was exactly what we wanted to add to the porter. We also tossed in 1/3 of a Madagascar vanilla bean to round out the edge of the coffee and give the beer an easy to drink taste.
On the nose the beer has a mellow coffee aroma with just a bit of vanilla mixed in, it almost smells like something from Starbucks. The flavor is a smooth combination of roasted malts, rich coffee and subtle vanilla. The carbonation is light allowing for the rich character to build and it finishes with a white russian flavor that lingers gracefully on your palette.
We were both very excited with how this beer came out this batch and look forward to refining it just a bit more next time.
Last time we made the Coco Brown we decided take one of our 5 gallon carboys skip the coconut and instead to add raspberries to secondary. We’ve had a few nice raspberry ales and we wanted to see how something else would go with our brown base. The finished beer is that same great brown with its debittered malts and smooth character except with a huge raspberry flavor. We only added 8oz of raspberries to 5 gallons of beer and we got a very strong flavor. If you like fruit beers or love raspberries this is the beer for you. For me it’s a little to strong to be a nice sipping ale but it goes absolutely great with chocolate as a dessert beer.
Next time we will back off on the raspberries so that more of the brown beer comes through but this first attempt was fun and we’ll just need to keep a stock of rich chocolate in the bar until we kick this keg.
Double Barrel Ale is one of my favorite beers out there. The malt complexity, the subtle hops and the oak round out an amazing beer so I was really excited to find a clone recipe on Homebrew Talk (link) and quickly set out to make it.
After picking up a six-pack and reviewing the recipe we set out to brew it. The brew day suffered no complications and we nailed all of our numbers. Fermentation went well and I pitched the oak chips into secondary for about a week. When we kegged it there was a very strong oak aroma and flavor but as it went through the natural carbonation process and then chilled the flavor backed down to a great level.
The beer pours a little cloudy with a big rich head that hangs on for quite a while. On the nose the beer gives some rich medium roast aromas with a bit of oak sweetness. The flavor is a great malt forward beer with just a bit of hops for bittering and a big long oak finish. It has nice small bubble carbonation from the natural carbonating and gets even better as it warms up just a bit.
I really look forward to making this again to tweak with little elements but it is an amazing beer.
The leaves are finally turning some color here and the temperature has dropped. It is turning to fall again and I am starting to crave those seasonal items. One of my favorites it pumpkin beers. I went to Whole Foods last week for their beer sale and picked up a few of the pumpkin beers they had. I know what some of you are thinking, why buy beer when we brew so much? Research! That’s right, I needed some comparable beers to taste along side this years batch of my pumpkin ale.
The line up included Dogfishhead Punkin Ale (this is what got me stared last year), Buffalo Bills Pumpkin Ale, and some Ace pumpkin cider for fun. Sam has his recipe down! Refined flavors, nice balance. Sorry Buffalo Bill, the over carbonation, thin body, and artificial taste did nothing for me. The cider was surprisingly good, and a nice change. Okay, I am going to brag here, my pumpkin beer is really starting to take great shape! The spice profile still needs a bit of refining but it’s better than last years. It has a great malt profile. It categorizes as an amber ale base but on the lighter end. I think I’ll be adding a bit of CaraPils to the batch next year, for a little more head retention. My fermentation temperature was higher than I would have liked, and a bit of Irish moss would help with clarity. All tweaks I plan on making for next fall! In the mean time I can be content on the progress of this recipe. Happy fall, cheers!
The next stop on our day of new Denver micros was Renegade Brewing. We had a few of Renegades beers at our Watercourse beer dinner and were not that impressed which made this stop even more surprising and fun.
Renegade is a not so little brewery and tap-room just off a main street only a few blocks from downtown Denver. But when you walk in it feels like it is just a neighborhood hangout. Like Denver Beer Co it’s got a roll up glass door that was up letting in lots of fresh air and light, high ceilings, a beautiful bar and it just felt very welcoming. We headed up to the bar and ordered a sample of a few beers that we didn’t try the previous night. They were all excellent. We ordered a few that we had tried a few nights before, they were all much better. I can’t really guess what happened to the beers between the brewery and the restaurant but they were not a great example of Renegades quality, these guys are making great beers.
A few of our favorites were the Sunday Morning Strong, the Ryeteous Rye IPA and the 5 O’Clock Blonde Ale. The Sunday Morning Strong is the most unique coffee beer I’ve had since my first coffee ale. It’s a strong ale with a beautiful color that has the coffee added to secondary and cold soaked. It adds a delicious subtle coffee presence and balances nicely with the 6.8% strong ale. The Ryeteous Rye IPA was Eryn’s favorite. It’s got a big piny hop smell with a hoppy but not overly bitter hop taste balanced with a great rye flavor. It’s a very nice IPA that’s easy to enjoy. Finally the 5 O’Clock Blonde was a medium bodied slightly yeasty blonde ale that’s medium dry with just enough hops to encourage another sip. It’s got a great honey aftertaste and was a perfect summers day ale.
We hung out at the bar for a while before everyone was invited into the back for a tour of the new facility. They have a ton of space with a very high ceiling which will give them plenty of room to grow. I was looking around when I spotted their old three keg pilot system. It’s pretty similar to what Eryn and I are currently building for our brewing needs and fun to think about how these guys were home brewers before deciding to go pro.
We ended up hanging out at Renegade for almost three hours, tasting through the beers, meeting up with people and just enjoying the gorgeous space they’ve created.
Later in the evening we took my brother and his girlfriend out to the fourth and final new brewery of the day, Copper Kettle. The brewery is a ways outside of the downtown Denver in a more suburb like area. It’s in an industrial park and you really need to know where you are going to find it but it’s well worth the effort once you do.
When I walked in I was struck by one thing, it felt more like a neighborhood coffee shop than a brewery. The lights were dimmed but not terribly, there were only a couple of TV’s with the local ballgame on, and there were people everywhere laughing, chatting, and just having a great time. We found a table in the middle of the tap house and settled in.
Copper Kettle is brewing some great session beers and everything we had was easy to drink and very enjoyable. Our favorites were the Black Onyx, Bavarian Helles and a Raspberry Wheat. The Black Onyx has a nice roasted, toasted bread, smell with a bitter caramel and chocolate flavor that is light and well balanced. It was a very easy drinking dark beer and at 5% very sessionable. The Bavarian Helles has a great buttery and grain nose, with a nice malty buttery medium dry flavor. Finally the Raspberry Wheat is a great berry beer with a big berry nose and nice berry flavor. It’s got high carbonation and a lingering berry finish that seemed to go on forever. We were a little disappointed that they didn’t have their Mexican Chocolate Stout on tap but I imagine it’s just as good as all the other beers.
We hung out for a couple of hours having a few beers, playing cards that were provided at the table, and just enjoying the atmosphere at Copper Kettle. Their slogan is “Bringing back the neighborhood brewery” and at least in this neighborhood they certainly are. The place is a social gathering spot, it felt fun, it’s really pretty unlike any other brewery I’ve ever been too. They even have a list of menus of local restaurants that do take out so you can order a pizza or Chinese or sandwiches and enjoy them with your beer. At one point I was trying to sneak a peek at the brewing facility when one of that staff saw me and invited me back for a short tour. He lifted fermentation lids so I could take a quick sniff and told me a bit more about their system. I think Copper Kettle is really onto something with their focus on being a neighborhood brewery plus their awesome service, great atmosphere and solid session beers. I really look forward to coming back out to see how things go for them.
Update – We came back to Copper Kettle just before our flight out of Denver. We were very warmly greeted by Justin, the same guy who had previously given me the short tour, who spent a good deal of time talking to us. We also got to taste the Mexican Chocolate Stout which just won gold at the GABF. It tasted like Mexican hot chocolate in a beer, it’s amazing. I’m still taken with Copper Kettle and what they are building.