June 23, 2009


On Sunday night, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of a genuine beermergency.

The doorbell rang, and when I opened the door my neighbor Marco was standing there with a bottle of wine in his hand. "I've got an emergency," he said, and went on to tell me that he'd put a pizza in the oven and suddenly had a serious craving for beer. Now. So he'd gone to Nahum's house...only to find that he wasn't home. He knew where I lived, assumed I also had a stash of homebrew, and wondered if he could trade me a bottle of wine for some beer.

I smiled, laughed, and said, "Of course." A few minutes later, Marco left with two bottles of Originale II, two bottles of Explosivo!, and a good night ahead of him. Beermergency averted.

P.S.: Nahum followed up with Marco on Monday. He'd loved his first taste of 2JB, and wanted more. Another fan is on deck!

Smile for the Camera

Just like the best way to get work is to already have work, one of the easiest ways to get media attention is to already be getting some media attention. A couple of days after The New York Times blog ran its 2JB video, I got a call from...another reporter. She worked for Verizon's new FiOS News channel, had seen our bit on the Times' site and wanted to shoot a story about us.

Another story. For TV.

Nahum was game, and anyway we needed to get the wheat beer bottled, so why not? So Karen from FiOS came to the 2JB HQ armed with an impressive-looking HD camera and set up in the dining room (I am kicking myself for not taking some snaps of the setup...doh!). Nahum and I each did a stand-up interview; as with the last one, he got into more detail about the ingredients and science-y stuff that makes our beer work, and I talked more about how we do what we do and why people like it (or something like that--it was a bit of a blur). Then Karen FiOS started following us through the bottling process.

Ms. FiOS seemed genuinely interested (by which I mean: she seemed to think that we'd turned out to be interesting subjects for a story), and when we gave her some pre-carbonated 2JB to try, she was genuinely into how good it tasted. And man oh man, it did taste good--light but strong, with just the right hint of orange in the middle of the flavor.

Anyway, under the close scrutiny of the press, we filled 39 bottles with delicious wheat beer and set them down to carbonate. I'm looking forward to seeing the news piece on TV...but not quite as much as I'm looking forward to drinking my first cold bottle of 2JB wheat!

At the (Dry) Hop

Our first try at brewing a summer-friendly wheat beer is throwing another "first" into the 2JB mix: dry hopping. From the start, we've enthusiastically pitched hops into the boiling water of our brew, but this was the first recipe that called for adding a final dose of hops after a week or so of fermenting. It's all about the flavor, and the hops are the flavor engine in our sleek beer roadster (if you'll pardon the metaphor).

So Nahum and I headed down to the basement to do the dry hop. We peeled the lid off of the primary fermenter, and man did this beer smell good! The SG reading came up 1.020...which suggests it's also going to be plenty strong.

The dry hopping turned out to be kind of cool, a tiny/interesting new thrill in the process. We took a whiff of the delightful aroma of 1 oz. of Bullion hops and dropped them into the carboy. In went the beer...and almost immediately, there was a green, hoppy top on the fermenting brew. Nice!

A couple of days later, I added a 1/2 oz. of dried orange peel (what's a wheat beer without a little citrus tang to it, after all?), and now we just have to hope the dry-hopped hops fully dissolve into the beer before we get to bottling. The weather keeps getting warmer, so we need (need) this one to be ready to drink soon.

June 14, 2009

Show Me Your Basement

Which two Jews are the stars of the latest installment of the "Show Me Your Basement" series on The New York Times' website? Take a guess:

June 7, 2009

Brewing On the Record

Today we revved up a new brew, and this one was by request: The New York Times' Maplewood blog, The Local, has a series about things people do in their basements. I'd met The Local's editor in a cafe downtown, and after linking to this blog, she passed the 2JB blog along to the basement profiler. In no time flat, we had a request to do a brew on the record. The weather was warming up, so it seemed like a perfect excuse to get a wheat beer going.

Once we'd set up a date with the Times blogger, we secured ingredients from The Gaslight (wheat beer has its own version of liquid malt, almost twice as much hops as most of our other brews, and a special yeast that came in a refrigerated foil packet).

We were ready...but it wasn't clear what we were ready for. There were only 2 other Show Me Your Basement blog posts, and they weren't quite like our operation. What would she be asking us? (No way to be sure.) Would we be at all interesting? (Well, homebrewing lends itself to self-blogging anyway, so it's a small leap to having an outside blogger join the fun.) Were we opening ourselves up to be mocked? (Probably, but that's half the fun.) We got the brew rolling, the reporter started with a few basic questions as she set up her camera and sound equipment, and we were ready for our closeups!

The interview process turned out to be good fun. We both needed minimal prodding to start babbling on & on about homebrewing, the various 2JB batches, and even the history of beer (Nahum really got on a roll!). It felt kind of like a low-rent version of MTV Cribs as we walked down to our 68-degree Maplewood basement, but it was also flattering to be asked to talk about what we're up to. And we cracked open bottles of Originale II during the shoot, so any worries we might have had dissolved into the Papazian mantra: "Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew."

As the wort was wrapping up, the reporter went home and we got re-focused on the business at hand. We'd put 1 lb. of crystal malt 70L into 2 gallons of water, brought it up to a boil and added 3 lbs. of dry malt extract along with 5 lbs. of Munton's wheat malt extract. After 30 minutes, in went 1 oz. of Willamettte hops, then 1 oz. of Bullion hops 20 minutes later, wrapping up with another 1 oz. of Willamette at the end of the boil (we'll be dry hopping one last oz. of Bullion in the secondary fermenter).

The last time we brewed on a warm day, we learned that it's harder to get the temperature down just by adding in room-temp water and filtering the wort. So we went back to the ice bath, which got the temperature down from 200 to 75 degrees in about 15 minutes. We strained out the solids on the way to the Ale Pail, and tried a bit. The taste was less bitter than previous worts, also a bit less sweet--lighter overall, I suppose. It bodes well for the light wheat beer we're aiming for, which will also get a little coriander & dried lemon peel in the secondary fermentation.

Finally, we pitched the Wyeast Belgian Abbey yeast--which came in a "Smak-Pak" that required smacking open an inner pouch of nutrients and letting the yeast get going for a couple of hours while we brewed.

The pail is now sealed up and doing its thing in the soon-to-be-famous 2JB basement. I'll be keeping an eye on The Grey Lady's blog and posting a link when the video is live!