Hop Harvest

Sprouting Hops

In the beginning, there were sprouts…

This is year three of our hops growing project, originally planted for beauty and shade but finally this year, they will be used for a beer!Growing Hops

These “sprout” photos were taken on April 18, just around the time we were keeping the crops intentionally thin and using the extra shoots as meal supplements (there are all kinds of hops shoot recipes on the web!)

Hop Harvest

Unfortunately I’ve misplaced the photos of the fully grown plants and some beautiful close-ups I took of the flowers, but today – after we realized our homebrewing group just isn’t going to have time for this one – D put a call out on Beer Advocate to see if any homebrewer would like to use our fresh Nugget and Cascade hops.

He picked about 3.5 pounds of them, and shipped them off to New Cumberland, PA where they will hopefully become part of a Harvest Ale homebrew.


Bald Eagle Brewing Company (Mifflinburg, PA)

They almost put us over the top! At 315 Chestnut Street in Mifflinburg, there is a sweet looking storefront property with nicely painted signage declaring Bald Eagle Brewing Company is taking up residence. Inside there was a guy obviously working hard on Easter day, but (without poking my head in the door) not much evidence of exactly what’s going on.

Bald Eagle Brewing Company

A brewing company in Mifflinburg has the possibility of being the core to a beautiful circle of brewpubs. With Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. less than 30 minutes drive to the south, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks approximately 30 minutes to the west (and, while not a pub, Copper Kettle Brewing is even closer), Bullfrog Brewery just over 30 minutes drive to the north, and a similar distance to the east, Old Forge Brewing Company, the valley would be filled with local beer.

But in this case, the name “Brewing Company” does not refer to a brewery or pub at all. Instead, the goal of owners Tom and Brenda Sweet appears to be to create a business dedicated to supplying ingredients and equipment to the homebrewer, as well as wine and soda makers. Bald Eagle Brewing Company will offer classes to new home brewers, and special order ingredients by request.

The business was slated to open April 1, according to initial news reports, but delays have pushed that date back to May 1. It will be easy to find – right downtown (close to the Scarlet D Tavern) – on the south side of Chestnut Street (Rt. 45). There is meter parking on the west-bound side of the street, and the contact information is listed below.

315 Chestnut St
Mifflinburg, PA 17844
(570) 966-3156

Still Not an Upstate PA Beer Tour

We woke up to a world blanketed in snow – D went to Wegman’s and took coffee to Scott and Vickie (“wake up call!”) then back to our room, and we were out with enough time to eat at the Five & Dime Diner (loved my vegetarian omelet, and the bread for the toast was outstanding!) before heading west to Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College.

Five & Dime Diner

Our local friends, Heather and Jake, came out to meet us at Otto’s and it was a nice visit. Vickie got a sample tray which included five beers, two of which she chose to be the cask ales. Scott and I had a Slab Cabin IPA and D had the Jolly Rodger. We certainly didn’t get to spend enough time there to thoroughly enjoy it, but we wanted to get to Zeno’s for the Black Lager – a rye beer brewed for Zeno’s by Otto’s. It was a great opportunity for me to sit at a quiet table and write “part 1”, while the rest of the crew socialized at the bar. D did make a run to Chumley’s for bottles of Shiner Holiday Cheer, and then we were off.

By late afternoon, we made it to Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks. We were greeted immediately by staff who were expecting us, letting us know that the Anniversary Ale was still on, and that Tim (the owner) sent his regards but couldn’t be there to meet up with us. Our waitress, Marcy, was extremely attentive and personable – she made it a terrific visit. I drank the Duckwalk Dunkelbock which was really tasty with my meal, and around the table, we were able to enjoy a some of the others:

  • Double Rainbow IPA
  • Poe Paddy Porter
  • Brookie Brown Ale
  • Old Millheim Strong Ale on cask (aged for a year)

We basically closed the place, which we are thrilled to report is now open until 5:00 PM on Sundays.

It was a great visit, but eventually we had to get moving. One more stop before home, because Selin’s Grove was not only on the way, but also Vickie’s favorite! So here we sit…enjoying the last moments of our tour before they need to go home.

It’s been a great time, and we hope they will come back to do at least part of this with us again sometime.  It’s a sure thing that we’ll be back to make the rounds again!

Countdown to Christmas – Week 3

The third 7 days on the Advent Calendar of Beer

Dec. 15Old Fezziwig® Ale  (Samuel Adams) – Winter Warmer

Dec. 16 – Carolina Winter Porter (Carolina Brewing Company) – an American Porter created with Simcoe hops.

Dec. 17 – Christmas Ale (Corsendonk) – Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Dec. 18 – Winter Ale (Wyerbacher)

Dec. 19Cherry Vanilla Maple Porter (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) – our 2006 homebrew Christmas beer.

Dec. 20 – Anise Spruce Ale (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) This the second of two Christmas beers we brewed in 2007, and it’s possible there is a better name and I just don’t know it.  We were really looking forward to the spruce essence, but the star anise completely overpowers it – a bit reminiscent of NyQuil, unfortunately.  Hopefully it will mellow with time, but not in time for Christmas.

Dec. 21Gray’s Wassail (Gray’s Brewing Company); Olde Frosty IPA from the Firkin  and Solstice Dubbel (Selin’s Grove Brewing Company) – yes, it was a busy day of beer drinking on Friday. D had the Gray’s Wassail at home because he had to work, while I took the afternoon off and camped out at Selin’s Grove for six hours. 

I can’t speak for his Wassail, but I thoroughly enjoyed Olde Frosty IPA from the firkin! It was tapped at 3:30 PM, and kicked in 1.5 hours.  I had the honor of finishing off the last 1/2 pint! It had a piney hop character with hints of caramel sweetness, and the flavors of the wood really came through (apparently it was only in there for 4 days.) This is a beer I’ve looked forward to tasting all year, and I wasn’t disappointed. I brought home a growler of Olde Frosty on CO2 for D to try, and it will be interesting to compare.

Also, Selin’s Grove brought out the Solstice Dubbel on this special day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Pumpkin Ale was still on (but I bet it isn’t any longer), so I had a 1/2 pint of that, as well as a glass of Razz Merry.  My holiday favorites – all in one place!

Holiday Ales in PA

As the crisp air of autumn begins to fall upon Pennsylvania, the mind wanders to beers of the season. 

On Friday, and again today, D and I made it to Selin’s Grove Brewing Company for the annual tasting of Pumpkin Ale.  The ’07 version was made in a bigger batch than any previous, so the spices came out a bit differently – much stronger than ’06 – but certainly not in a bad way.  Cinnamon is the primary essence that comes through on the nose.  A nitrogen pour gives this ale a creamy head, and a smooth mouthfeel.  It’s reminiscent of the creaminess of pumpkin pie (or the whipped cream on top!)  It has a beautiful dark copper hue and is a real treat for the season.

Now, just because the batch was bigger, don’t think you can delay your visit!  When we arrived today with a table of 8, Derek got the first pour and Ellen got a half…it looked as if the rest of us might be out of luck.  But Steve came through and put on another within minutes.  That’s three kegs of it kicked already, and they are dissuading people from filling growlers (because of the nitro), so this is going fast by the pint.

The Hop Nouveau was still on as of today, and there are many things to look forward to: Saint Fillin’s Scotch Ale in November, and in December, Kriek and Old Frosty IPA (the only thing better than the regular IPA!)

Back at home tonight, we gathered at Scott’s house to brew the second of our two Christmas ales (the first – made with cinnamon, fresh ginger and orange zest – was brewed on a camping trip at Watkin’s Glen; this second one is made with star anise and honey.)  As we brewed, he popped the cap on one of our ’07 pumpkin ales.  Scott and I agreed our ’06 was a really good pumpkin ale (sort of a pumpkin IPA.)  Our ‘o7 has a wonderful aroma.  It’s still a little young; it’s thick and has a biting tingle right now, but with a little mellowing from age, it should be good.

Also worth mentioning…  Troeg’s released Mad Elf in 12-oz bottles last Monday and will release it in jeraboams before the end of the month.  Otto’s is serving Five Year Ale – a sweet and spicy ale that comes in around 10.5% – and, on cask, the deliciously smooth and light Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale (not holiday related, but worth mentioning since I’ve had about 5 glasses of it this week!)

Queen City Brewing (Staunton, VA)

Just off Interstate I-81 is the historic little town of Staunton, VA.  Brick sidewalks line the rolling hills of the downtown area, and old buildings appear to be restored into useful locations for the locals.  And tucked off on the north-west side of town is a great little spot called Queen City Brewing, which is Staunton’s first brewery since Prohibition.  We found it on Wednesday afternoon, and it’s taken me this long to post about it.

This place has a fabulous set-up for both brew-your-own and vint-your-own.  One wall was lined with the large glass bottles of wine in the making…it was so pretty to see all of the different colors with gentle back-lighting, and reminded me of the days when my father used to create his own homemade wines.

The brewing area was most fascinating – set-up like one of those supper kitchens (where busy working people can pay to create meals for the family that are easy to heat and eat). Just like finding all of the ingredients chopped and ready, this place has multiple barrels of malt, multiple brew kettles ready with mash paddles all lined up, water lines…pretty much anything a person would need at each workstation.  On our visit, there were two parties bottling, and the process appeared to be going very smoothly.  One couple was working together – this was her Christmas present to him.

Wade, the head brewer (and one would assume owner and creator, although we never confirmed that information) offered us each three samples in little plastic cups.  There were twelve styles, and we tried the following:
+ Bavarian Bock
+ Scotch Ale
+ King Rabbit
(an IPA/Tripple hybrid at 9% ABV)
+ Brass Rabbit IPA (very Brittish in style – made with Fuggles and East Kent Goldings, and dry-hopped with Cascade)
+ Queen’s Milk Stout (this was a thin…)
+ Imperial Stout (increased malt and hop flavor)

We made a mixed six-pack of 12 oz bottles containing Brass Rabbit IPA, Imperial Stout, King Rabbit, Scotch Ale and White Rabbit Apricot Wheat, then headed out of town.

Beer in Paradise

Home for a snow day, I’ve got a little time to catch up with a party post.  As I mentioned in my “Adam” story, D and I came upon this party via Beer Advocate, and quite frankly, I was skeptical.  Spending the afternoon with beer enthusiasts is a great idea, but they were total strangers, and this was their event to attempt to bottle Pliny the Elder – I felt like a party crasher, which just isn’t my style – but Beer in Paradise was just too tempting to pass up.

What we came upon was a great gathering of beer and people we are glad we know now. Matt, the host, and his wife Grace welcomed us into their home. It was a family-friendly event with kids, pets and friends. Provisions for grilling were all set up, and most importantly, the bottles were sterilized and ready, and the keg was ready.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well (I won’t go into the details here), but fortunately, the beer and bottles are still intact and the event can be repeated. Meanwhile, we had lots of beers to taste, and I certainly did my share (when I came up with this list, I was amazed how much I can remember…)

My first taste in the door was one of my summertime acquaintances – Arcadia Double IPA(is this Batch #999? I’m not clear…) – which Matt of Capone’s Restaurant in Norristown brought from his bottleshop.

I took my glass of hoppy goodness into the living room and sat with some of the other girls (gender separation was not an issue – we simply went to an area with less crowding!), and soon after, D brought me a pour of Brooklyn Monster Barleywine (2000).

Kate, sitting next to me at 8 months pregnant, could only sniff the barleywine, which she said is one of her favorites (I hope to hold the baby for a few Great Bubble!minutes at Dark Lord Festival, while she and Adam enjoy drinking together again!) Through conversation, we learned that they, and many of the people, are practically our neighbors. I learned that Marcy, a bigger fan of wine than beer, lives about a mile away. John, our chef for the night (MMMMmmm…did he say Golden Shower marinated sausage sandwiches?), created a beer group I joined in Facebook, and lives in the town where I work. Dakotablue lives right across the river, enjoys beer at many of the same places we do and had lots of advice for our trip to NC next week.

I can’t name everyone – I didn’t even meet everyone well enough to recall all the names. I enjoyed talking with Karen (who met D at the Drafting Room just one day earlier) and Frank (who we learned graduated from high school with one of our best friends.) I believe it was Alex who opened the Birrificio Le Baladinproduct – D swears it was a Cassis, although I can’t find record of one. I don’t remember the flavor or style notes…I remember the bubble (which I took a photo of – notice the sterilized bottles in the background!)

One of my favorite beers for the night was Oskar Blues Gordon in a can (described by the brewery as “a hybrid version of strong ale, somewhere between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA [made with] six different malts and three types of hops, then dry-hopped with a mutha lode of Amarillo hops. It is 8.7% alcohol by volume, and has 85 International Bittering Units.”) The Amarillo dry-hopping and higher alcohol probably explains why this one appealed to me, although I would have pushed for higher IBUs. I was aware of Dale’s Pale Ale in the can, but not this. Also, in this winter weather, I’m a fan of my Old Chub Stick – a gift. I Can’t believe in all my travels I’ve never been to Oskar Blues!

Matt gave us a house tour – the historical character is fascinating – and we got to peek in his beer cellar. He’s working on a raspberry cider, and we got a taste of his Apple Cider – well done!! There were some people sitting quietly taking notes, but we did not. Still, I remember a few of the things I tasted, so I’ll finish by making a list of “the rest”.

Alesmith  Speedway Stout – this may have been D’s favorite
Three Floyd’s Gumballhead
+ American Brown Ale in a growler from The Shed in Stowe, VT (really? WOW!)
+ Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale– MMMMmmm…Amarillo; first wort hopping really gives this a punch
+ Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head (side-by-side tasting of the ’05 and ’06)
+ Urthel Hop-it
+ Russian River Temptation (sour, but in a most wonderful way!)
+ Samuel Adams “A” (a honey porter – better as it warmed) and “B” (B for “blech”)

It was a great time, and we really appreciated being a part of an interesting night!

Two Brews and a Tasting

So, about a month ago (Sunday, January 14), while I was still recovering, we got together for the first brews of 2007.  And this time, we went for an ambitious two in one night!

Two Turkey Cookers; No TurkeyWith five of us, and two turkey cookers, the initial making went really well.  I feel badly that it’s all dropped in Scott’s lap now, but I guess the Belgian will remain in secondary for awhile, giving time for the Rye to be bottled.Sleepytime Triple Wort

The first beer is a Belgian Triple, made with East Kent Goldings hops, candy sugar, Irish moss and dried chamomile…I’m not going to give the whole recipe, but I will boast that it had a starting gravity of 1.1.  We’re naming it Sleepytime Triple.

Amarillo on the boilThe second is a Red Rye, and the highlight of this beer is the Amarillo Red Rye Worthops!  The wort smelled wonderful, and I’m hopeful it turns out well (I’m such a fan of the Amarillo!)

 Breakfast StoutWe also sampled the Breakfast Stout clone (made in November.)  It is an oatmeal stout made with Kona and Sumatran coffees and dark and milk chocolates.  It was still really young, and the rich coffee flavors were pretty overwhelming.  I don’t mean that in a bad way…I really liked it…but I swear it could have used a touch of cream.

Breakfast Stout-a-Like

Oatmeal Breakfast Stout

It was November 19 when we brewed this one, and I stumbled upon the photos tonight.  You can see the oil slick on top of this rich, dark ale.  It’s an oatmeal stout brewed with two types of coffee (Kona and Sumatran) and both milk and dark chocolate shavings.  Scott suggests, ” it might pick you up as much as it knocks you down!”  The scent during the brewing process was amazing, and I can’t wait until it’s ready to drink.

Holiday Homebrew

Frothy boil!               Hops have been added.                     

Holiday shopping, decorating and baking?  Absolutely not.  The cards haven’t been purchased, the gift lists aren’t created (the tree is up – thanks to D.)  It’s been an amazingly busy December with work, more work, volunteer commitments and a little time with family (and then, more work!)  Myna and I aren’t even getting our daily recommended allowence of walking in these days.

BUT tonight I’m putting off bedtime because when I arrived home from work, the holiday brew (officially, I think we’re calling it Christmas Porter?) was waiting for me!

Scott and D traded off the bottles today, and he opened one.  I didn’t grab the camera when the foamy head was at it’s best, but this is a lovely dark beer with a light brown froth.  The maple, vanilla and cherry fruit flavors offset the maltiness.  Roasted notes of porter are present, and this beer is initially dry to the tongue, but finishes with a hint (just a hint!) of sweetness.  I am very impressed, and even though D let me drink the whole bottle, I wish we’d opened one of the bombers tonight.  Delicious!

Christmas Porter(all photos from the October 22 Brewing night) Stirring it up!