Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Wine Competition 2013 Results

So the first order of business was to update the awards page. I posted the link on FB with the following:

Shameless, yes. Boastful and proud, yes. The guy I am, yes. But make no mistake, this is serious business.

80 total awards. 28 for mead of which 26 have come in only the last 12 months!!! More career stats: 40% win rate. And that is with an average of 8 entries per contest. I've missed placing in a contest 1 time in 7 years. I work like crazy to keep my unruly mad science in check, but I also seem to get results. I am happy to be here learning these crafts as well as having the opportunity to share it all with you. Thank you for propelling me day after day!

Ancient Fire Awards Page

The 2013 WineMaker Magazine Competition boasted 4,564 entries, the most ever. Entries came from 50 US states, 8 Canadian provinces and 9 countries.

The full PDF results are available at WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Wine Competition 2013 Results

For anyone who might have missed our weekend Twitter & FB updates, we took home 7 medals (out of 12 entries) including 3 - Gold, 3 - Silver and a Bronze. 6 were for mead.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Half Full Glass - May 14th, 2013

This is actually last week's HFG, but shit happens. I also had a bottle of wine on deck to include this installment, but with allergy season in full swing my nose just wasn't gonna do it. And now I'm on to the next thing, so here it is!

Ommegang Three Philosophers

Three Philosophers is a Belgian Quad, a high ABV Belgian beer for which there is also a growing number of domestic examples worth drinking. The most recent release of Gravitation from Smuttynose caught my attention earlier this year and I've wondered how it compared to the offering from Ommegang.

Ommegang is known for their true-to-style Belgian beers as well as paving some new ground, and I can't say I have ever been disappointed with one of their beers. This Quad was not what I expected however, but in fairness there isn't anything wrong or off about it. It is just much drier than I expected. All of the aromatic and flavor notes are representative, dried fruits, dark sweet fruits, a breadiness and some spices. The alcohol is moderate at 9.7%, and is not a detractor. In the mouth it's all there, but it is very subtle because of the low residual sugar.

Having had a few homebrewed versions that are sweet and viscous I checked the BJCP Style Guide to see what the ranges in the different attribute categories might be. Category 18E, Belgian Dark Strong Ale is where a Quad could be classified. The alcohol is expected to be between 8 and 11% and the bitterness low. As for the sweetness, there are two sub-styles, Trappist & Abbey, that differ greatly in this aspect, while retaining considerable similarities otherwise. OK, glad I checked. The BJCP style guide is one of the ways I have been learning about beer styles and the two different versions (based on dryness) of Belgian Dark Strong Ales was something new to me!

At the end of the day this is a sweet style of beer for me, which is a good thing to know. I haven't ventured to make a Quad yet, but I do like Belgian beer so after trying a few more who knows!



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Now Hear This – Kid Rock Helped Me Make Better Beer

( Us from the night in question. )

Where: Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean onboard the Carnival Destiny cruise ship
When: April 2012,  late at night
What: Me joking that I could create a lime-infused ale that is better than Bud Light Lime, not that that is really that hard…

I’ll be honest, I struggled to find what I personally consider worthy beer options at the bars while on the Kid Rock Cruise. If you are a Chillin’ The Most cruiser and are reading this, take no offense. I make my own beer and over the years I have lost my taste for the big three brands (Bud, Miller, Coors), but I believe people should drink what they like. Drink freely my friends.

During one of the evenings on the cruise Margot and I sat outside enjoying both the warm night air and the people watching. The people watching on the cruise was epic by the way. I hit the bar and decided on a couple of Bud Light Limes. As I was drinking my beer I remarked “hey this isn’t so bad” and began talking about how I might craft something similar at home. Margot was goading me on, asking me to express how I really felt about Budweiser and got it all on video, but the video isn’t SFTB (safe for the blog) so you’ll just have to imagine it.

As I thought about it over the remainder of the weekend I figured a basic American ale containing both wheat and corn would be a solid blank slate to layer on some lime. Having worked with citrus flavors in my home fermentations before I knew that a multi-phased approach would work best. I added dried lime peel to the hot wort just before I chilled and strained it, and then fresh lime zest after I transferred the beer to the secondary fermentation container. Finally, lime juice was added at bottling to help bring it all together and lock a solid zip of lime into each bottle.

My plan worked. The beer was brewed on July 4th, 2012 and we set about enjoying it about a month later. We actually used the same beer base to make a lemon shandy, a beer that went on to take a first place in a brewing competition later in the year. But I digress.

Everyone who tried the lime ale had positive words for it, and some people drank every bit of it in sight each time I chilled some down. It is a light-bodied beer and early on the effect of the corn was not very apparent. We just drank the last of the batch this past weekend and just like when I’ve brewed with corn in the past a rounded, sweetness developed with age. In the first few months after the beer was brewed the lime complex in the beer was potent, adding considerable tartness and crispness to each sip. Nearly a year later the lime was much mellowed, but still present.

Skip to the current day. I brewed a fresh batch of lime ale on my birthday last month, nearly one year to the day I hatched the plan in the first place. The recipe for the beer (provided below) has been slightly modified, but the first dose of lime (dried peel) was added at the same time and the fresh lime zest will be as well. At bottling however I will be using more lime juice, and all of it freshly squeezed rather than bottled. 

Getting an earlier start on the second batch means it will be conditioned and ready to go for the summer drinking season, where I expect it will be consumed even more quickly, meaning I won’t be able to say I finished the last of it ten months later.

As for Kid Rock, he needs to get his ass to my house to try the creation he inspired. If you are reading this Bob (I’m dreaming, but one has to do that now and again) the invitation is open and we can retreat to the basement with openers and straws and see what comes of it!

And with that I’ll leave you with a video from the sail away show from the Kid Rock Chillin’ The Most Cruise #3. I can still hear my favorite Kid Rock songs reverberating across the sand and sea while I stood in the sun enjoying the simple things in life, like when and where.

 ( This video is not my own, but it kicks ass so I shared it! )



Ancient Fire Lime Ale 2013

SRM: 4.6
OG: 1.050
IBU: 14.5
Mash time: 30 min
Boil time: 45min

4lb Pilsner Dry Malt Extract
1lb CaraPils
1lb Flaked Wheat
1lb Flaked Corn
1oz Hallertauer hops (45 min)
0.5oz Cascade hops (5 min)
0.0oz Cascade hops (post boil, 5 min)
1oz dried lime peel (post boil, 15 min)
Zest of 6 limes (secondary, until bottling)
Lime juice (amount TBD, at bottling)
Maurivin brewing yeast, 1 liter starter

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Half Full Glass - May 2nd, 2013

Finger Lakes Reds with Grilled Steak Tips

The producers of the Finger Lakes are sharing their wines through a series of virtual tastings again this year including several in the month of May which is Finger Lakes Wine Month. If you are curious about the wines from the region these tastings go a long way to help you understand what is possible.

In the past I have participated in the Riesling and White Wine tastings so for this most recent series I selected reds. The sample kit included the following wines:
Prior to the 8PM virtual tasting I opened each of the bottles and gave them a taste. As I considered the sensory feedback I fired up the grill and got the steak tips going. A summary of our initial impressions goes a little something like this:
  • The first taste of the Fox Run 2010 Lemberger set high expectations for the flight. Earthy & spicy in the nose with tart currants, dark berries and a healthy dose of black pepper.  Upon returning to this wine for a second taste both my wife and I found the nose to be a bit funky and there was also a prickle on the tongue that was not there previously. Neither was profound enough for us to think the wine was flawed, just noticeable different between tastes. I came back to this wine today and the nose was the same but the prickle on the tongue was gone. I'm not going to knock this wine for a subtle funkiness that doesn't detract from the rest of its attributes.
  • The Goose Watch 2010 Lemberger is a different style from the Fox Run, softer and more fruit forward. It is medium to full in body and smells like a dark berry jam with a restrained spicy component. Very quaffable.
  • The Rooster Hill Cab 2011 Franc/Lemberger blend is a bit floral in the nose with a healthy dose spiciness. In the mouth it is very peppery and the combination of spice, acidity and presence of fine tannins creates quite an experience.  On its own this wine was my favorite of the six.
  • The Wagner 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir leads off with crushed red fruits both in the nose and mouth. It has enough tartness to keep everything lively and has a subtle tannic profile. This is a very straightforward, smooth and eminently drinkable Pinot.
  • The Heron Hill Ingle Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir was off to us. Some volatile elements in the nose came off as a chemical in nature. The flavors were unblemished and the balance of acidity/tannins was good.  I also returned to this wine today and found the odd elements in the nose to be subdued, but the wine was very acidic and tart compared to the tasting the night before.
  • The McGregor 2008 Black Russian Red was a new-to-us wine and producer from the region. The grapes are also nearly new to us as well. It pours very purple and has a nose that blends dark fruits, dried flowers (even sweet tobacco), spices and wet earth.  The wine is tart and dry with dark berry flavors, balanced acidity and fine tannins. I look forward to finishing this bottle!
Once dinner was ready we got down to round two. In addition to grilled steak tips we also had a pine nut couscous and Brussels sprouts on our plates.

We brought wines in to try two at a time. The two that paired best were the Rooster Hill and McGregor Vineyard wines.  The Fox Run Lemberger paired nicely as well, but we were giving it some air (see the notes above) and thought it might do even better overall on day two. The Goose Watch wine was too fruity for the pairing. Yes, the Pinots were overrun by the beef and marinade, but I didn't have any salmon on hand! The spice notes and acidity of both of these wines were the assets that made them work with the steak. The marinade on the steak was both sweet and spicy so a wine with some body and spice character of its own would be destined to work best.

After dinner I headed to the computer to watch the live stream from the tasting event, listen to Q&A from participants and interact with folks in Twitter who were tasting and sharing notes on the same wines. The most important message I heard producers relating to those participating is that their region is distinct from others and they need to continue to work to figure out which grapes work best and on which sites in order to continue to improve the wines. The specific questions about how Lemberger does in the region affirm this notion. Peter Bell from Fox Run indicated that while Pinot Noir is hard to grow anywhere in the world, including the Finger Lakes, Lemberger is proving to less fussy and produces quality wines when sited in a number of places around the region. Eschewing comparisons to other wine-making regions all of the winemakers assembled kept the focus on what their regional experiences are telling them and what work they are doing to continue to grow given the conditions they find in their vineyards.

This event was, as they always has been, a great way to learn more about what the producers are doing in the Finger Lakes region. Thank you to all the producers who participated and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for organizing the tasting series again in 2013. Being able to celebrate Spring and Finger Lakes Wine Month with delicious wines and seasonal grilling definitely made me smile!



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'm Ten Years Cancer Free!!!

( Me and my team in 2011 kicking some cancer ass! )

In the last week or so plenty of people have asked me what it felt like to turn 40. Well, it really didn't matter to me in the stereotypical way people think of it. Let me illustrate.

Then: I was diagnosed/treated for cancer and turned 30 in the midst of it. Yuck!

Now: I turned 40 on Monday and was given the good word just today that I am free of cancer for 10 years running. Hot damn!

Which one would you choose? See why turning 40 is so awesome for me? I'm better now than when I was 30 and so happy to be here to say that!

This is cause for celebration, and trust me I'll be doing plenty of that; so should you if only because celebrating a great story even when it isn't your own makes us human. But there is more to this than hoots, hollers and cheering.

The war on cancer has not been won. We've barely advanced our pieces on the board. My cause for celebration is a reminder of the battle we wage and why all of us need to get involved. It's a fight for life, and none of us are safe.

Fight back for Hannah, Bill, Pete, Rhonda and Noah who carry on their own personal battles. Celebrate all the survivors who remind us that hope is not lost. Fight back for your children, spouse, mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers and yourself. Remember those we've lost and whose presence at our side as we fight propels us forward to victory. Get involved for any reason you want, but get involved.

Click below to make a donation to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

Thank you!