May 27, 2009

Simple Solutions

Sometimes a solution to a problem is so simple that it seems like it can't work. So when Nahum said we could fix the carbonation issue in the Explosivo! bottles by inverting them a couple of times (essentially shaking them very slowly) and putting them back on the shelf, I was skeptical.

But dagnabbit if it didn't work. And it did.

Thusly armed with portions of properly fizzy homebrew, we set to bottling the Originale II. We'd certainly taken our time: it had been nearly a month since the initial brew, and the beer had long since wrapped up its fermenting. But we were able to get our suddenly hectic schedules to converge, brought the carboy up from the basement and got to it.

We still haven't fully adjusted to having the 2JB at my house. Even though the actual bottling process isn't location-dependent in any way, we were still fumbling a bit with getting the bottles rinsed & sanitized, and I managed to nearly forget to add priming sugar to the beer (then we would have seen some serious carbonation problems).

We also had to deal with the fact that we only had a half-gallon of sanitizing solution on hand, so meant maximizing our use of every drop.

And then we got into our regular spots--Nahum working the siphon as I crimped the caps--and everything clicked into place. We were all efficiency, no wasted motion. In quick succession we'd emptied the bucket into 44 bottles (1 better than the original Originale!). Simple, fun and satisfying. As we brought the cases back to the basement I think we were both confident that we had a perfectly delicious (and well-carbonated) bunch of beer on the way.

P.S.: Even though the Beer Fairy continues to bring bottles, we somehow ended up short on dark-glass empties for this round. So we brought in some empty Heineken bottles...and boy was that just not right. Aside from being somewhat difficult to cap (the standard caps just didn't fit exactly right), our dark-colored Originale looked wrong wrong wrong in that light green glass.

Fit to Post

Apparently, 2JB is part of what's fit to print (or at least post) today. This humble beer blog got a shout on the Maplewood blog run by a little operation called The New York Times:

The Day: Your Morning Linkfest

May 21, 2009

Flat Tax

After many delays, Nahum and I were able to get together to sample our long-bottled batch of Explosivo! beer (aka, the stout that exploded and went a little hinky). So we took a pair of bottles from the fridge on a warm evening and retired to the deck for a refreshing quaff.

The only problem was...when we popped the caps, there wasn't quite the satisfying fizz to which we've become accustomed. The beer wasn't totally flat, but it wasn't fully carbonated either. We even shook it up, which produced foam...but no real bubbliness.

It did taste delicious though, and had a nice color (which we know because I spilled some).

The Explosivo! batch continues to be vexing. I suppose we really can't complain; we've managed to produce, at this point, several batches and hundreds of bottles without a real dud. And the Explosivo! is quite tasty (plus, as the weather heats up, its less-than-stout flavor & heaviness is actually fairly refreshing), but I think it's served to cut down the 2JB bravado a bit.

Nahum claims there's a way to fix this carbonation problem, even this many weeks after bottling (he wouldn't let me bring any home...and I'm down to my last few beers!). He's going to look it up, and I guess we'll give it a shot. But I'm also pretty much ready to write this one off as the dud-like experience we were bound to have and just move on. After all, there's a 5-gallon carboy of fermented Originale sitting in my basement, just waiting for us to get back up on the horse and gallop back to some top-notch homebrewing.

May 3, 2009

(Not) A Visit from the Beer Police

As the bottles of Explosivo finish up in Nahum's basement and the carboy filled with Originale II does its thing in mine, a few 2JB details to attend to.

First, I got the following message in an e-mail from Monty: "I was just catching up on the 2JB saga during my not-lunch time, and something caught my eye. I’d noticed it before and kept forgetting to bring it up, and then over time I began to doubt myself about it. But I just looked it up on for verification: you guys aren’t sparging, you’re filtering. Sparging is when you spray warm water over whole grains to release the sugars to make malt. Filtering is passing the wort through something to remove impurities."

He added, "I’m not trying to be the beer police. I’m just sayin’."

Fair enough. I'd found the term in Papazian and thought I'd clocked it right...but clearly I mixed up a couple of ideas Charlie was laying out. I have to admit that I thoroughly like the word "sparging" for a lot of reasons (mainly a kind of linguistic aesthetic, I suppose), but if we're not sparging, then I guess the word has to go. Whatever we call it, the extra step in the brewing has led to a cleaner, clearer beer; it will remain in the mix, albeit under a different moniker.

Speaking of clean & clear beer, Nahum came over on Saturday afternoon with a bottle of Explosivo. We popped the cap and split it in the kitchen.

The flavor had some nice caramel in it, though it's clearly not a stout (as we suspected, it's turning out to be closer to something like Becks Dark). It's also clearly not yet sufficiently carbonated, so the bottles will have to sit for another week.

While he was here, we stepped down to the basement and took a look at the Originale II. We'd racked it to the glass carboy during the week, and all indications are that it's ready to go to bottles. Our quick sampling of it suggested that the taste is remarkably similar to the original Originale (including that nice sharp bite in the back of the mouth), with the slightly darker color being the only real difference at this point. Due to some tricky schedules, it's unlikely that O2 is heading to the bottling assembly line right away, but definitely soon-ish.

Oh, and one last thing. For about a month, I've been holding onto a Politico article that's delightfully titled, "Beer fans glad W.H. has a drinker." The page has a video podcast that features an interview with Craig Purser, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Turns out there's even yet another thing that makes the new guy better than the last guy. Which, I believe, officially makes it everything. Ale to the chief!