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Messages - mikebiewer

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Beer Recipes / Northern Brewer EPA 1040
« on: June 20, 2010, 04:01:21 PM »
I've brewed this one a couple of times and I have to say it is a really solid and easy recipe. Definitely worth getting if you like EPA's. Here is some info on it.

So that brings me to an extract Northern Brewer Pale Ale kit that I brewed up a couple months ago. I’ve done this recipe twice and the only difference between the first and second was that I reused the yeast from the first to the second. Pitched right on top of the old cake. Anyway, this brew passed BJCP judging with a 27, which is good, and I thought I’d share it with you as extra pale ales are some of my favorites.

Review of Northern Brewer Extra Pale Ale 1040

Brewing Notes

Specialty Grain

1 lbs Dingeman’s Caramel Pils

6 lbs Gold LME

2 oz Cascade (60 min)
1 oz Cascade (1 min)

Used Yeast Cake (WYeast 1056 American Ale)

O.G. 1.042 | F.G.: 1.012 | ABV: 4.0%

Brewed: 3/14/10
Bottled: 4/11/10


A deep golden color that is surprisingly spot on for an extract kit. It’s clear even though I didn’t use a secondary, so there is no yeast floating around in there. The head is a coarse, bubbly white, but doesn’t stick around very long.


A definite cascade aroma. Floral and citrus, but the malt breaks through and entices my tongue. And that is really what this simple beer is comprised of. Tons of malt.


A decent mixture of malt and bitterness that I think has balanced a little better with age.  It is heavier on the malt side, and I agree with the judges on that. It does taste pretty good though.


Even with some extra aging it still is low on carbonation which gives it a bit of a flat feel. At first my tongue tingles but its just the hop acids attacking my taste buds, not fizzle from the bubbles. It is very smooth and has a medium body to it that feels a little bit like a mouthful.


For me, it’s high. I love EPA and for me this one rivals and Summit EPA. If you’ve had the Summit EPA it is better balanced than this beer, but this brew definitely reminds me of it. It’s not over whelming one way or the other and I can definitely drink a few of these.


This kit and recipe are good. It wasn’t hard to brew and it turned out solid both times I made it. I didn’t see much difference between the first batch to the second batch reusing the yeast other than it saved me $7.  So if your looking for a good Extra Pale Ale Extract Kit, Northern Brewer’s 1040 is pretty good.

How bout you?

Have you brewed this one up? What were your results like?

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Newbie wort chiller question
« on: June 20, 2010, 03:57:00 PM »
Exactly what he said.

If you are not doing full boils or don't want to spend the cash there is an easy option as well. If you have any 20 oz bottles, clean them up really good. Fill them with water and freeze them. Then on brew day, pull them out, sanitize them and drop them in your kettle to cool.

It's cheaper than 3 bags of ice, and less messy.

Equipment and Software / Cheapest Homebrew Starter Kit
« on: June 20, 2010, 03:53:34 PM »
A lot of people have been asking me how expensive it is to get into brewing. So I decided to search around the net and find the best value for you money from the top 5 most trafficked homebrew supply stores. I compared all of the prices to what equipment you would get, including an extract kit to get started and it was interesting what I found out.

MoreBeer wins by the way.

Here is a link to my findings. I think this is good information for anyone looking to get their feet wet. So if you know anyone, pass it along!

Homebrewing Starter Kit Prices

Let me know if I missed anything.


I came out of institutionalization today to a drizzly mid day. I have to be honest, it was exactly how I felt. Things have been depressing and quite frankly, crappy all around. But I was struck with a realization that pierced my brain and instantly cheered me up. I had been on a three day hiatus from drinking because of the medical study I was about to partake in. I’m no alcoholic, I just enjoy drinking. LOL. Anyway, I knew tonight I was going to get an opportunity to have a nice tasty brew again. I decided what better way to celebrate the 20th episode, than with a well deserved, tasty brew from Bell’s. So today, I review Bell’s Oberon.

Video Review of Bell’s Oberon Ale


You can’t miss this one! Bright blue and orange. I spotted this puppy a mile away in its brand new display at the beer store. Oberon just became available in my area and I’m very happy to see it. For those that don’t know, in the graphic design world blue and orange is a trendy combination right now and this is a prime example. I’m from the Sublime generation and this design talks right to me. Beyond that, the design insinuates this beer to be a great summer drink. Which makes sense, its the summer seasonal.


Golden to deep straw colored. My head wasn’t all that great, but the lacing is nice. A bit cloudy if you can’t stop the pour in time before the yeast begin to come out.


I get a pinch of citrus, yeast, malt and wheat. I don’t get a lot of hops. It does seem to have a very balanced smell. A little bit of everything that makes up the beer.


Bell's OberonIt is pleasant. What I like most about this beer is it really feels like a hybrid of a pale ale, which I love and a wheat beer, such as a hefeweizen. I enjoy a good hefe but can never seem to make a night out of them. They get a little to fruity and spicy for me. The mixture here is really good, providing a nice citrus hop character and sweet malty character as it washes over my tongue, but making it a bit more complex with the hop bitterness and wheat and fruitiness from the yeast. I absolutely appreciate the up front sweetness with a bit of a dry finish.


Surprisingly crisp with a decent amount of carbonation. It hangs on the tongue a little bit as it absorbs into your tiny little taste buds.


For a summer ale, it’s spot on. I think the hop character of the Saaz hops that are used within this brew make it a complex combination of a wheat beer, pale ale with a touch of Pilsner character, all of which combine to make an enjoyable summer session brew. I could eat this with hot dogs or fish and it would compliment it perfectly.


You gotta try it if you have not. I don’t think its a conversion beer for macro peeps, but it could definitely surprise a macro drinker with its complexity and drinkablilty. Very good in my opinion.

How bout you?

What do you think? Good or no good? Have you made a session of it? Let me know!

The Pub / Funny Beer Commercials
« on: June 07, 2010, 04:32:37 PM »
Hey guys,

I was strolling around youtube the other night and I stumbled across a funny beer commercial. I thought, well, there has to be more! So I put together a list of 10 that I thought were the funniest. I'd love to hear your take or if you know of any others.


10 Funny Beer Commercials

Beer Travel / Was in Japan - Hard Time Finding Beer
« on: June 04, 2010, 04:04:16 PM »
I went to Japan a couple weeks ago to visit and see the country. I wasn't there on any beer related quests or anything, but I did notice it was hard to find anything for and for a decent price. So I've started a "guide" on my blog hoping to help anyone that is looking in the future. Check it out, and please contribute if you know of anything else.

Guide to Beer In Japan

My Experience


Or, in English, “Cheers”!

After about 10 years of yearning to go to Japan, I was finally able to cross this place of my list of places to visit. I was vacationing and visiting a friend while taking in some sites. I wasn’t really there to experience the beer scene but being the beer nerd that I am, I tried to anyway. All I have to say is that I am happy I wasn’t there strictly on a beer mecca because I may have been thoroughly disappointed.

I do have to admit that I didn’t do a lot of research into different places to go to get beer, nor different brands/styles of beers to look for while I was there. A lot of my research went into accommodations, sites, culture and general getting around. My wife wouldn’t have been so happy had we only gone to a bunch of breweries and beer shops. So, I went in a little bit blindly.

Finding Beer in Japan

Vending machine with beer in it, in JapanJapan is a very interesting place with lots of culture, people, neon lights, seafood and vending machines…6 million in Tokyo alone. Inside some of those vending machines was one of my favorite things in the world. Beer. That’s right. You can buy pints of all the mass produced beers right out of vending machines. If that isn’t awesome enough, you are able to crack it open, walk down the street and hop on the subway if you wish.

As cool as that sounds, none of the beer was to die for. Ninety-five percent of the beer I was able to readily find in vending machines, convenience stores, grocery stores and even liquor stores was usually of an all malt variety or rice beer. None of which was very good unless you were extremely thirsty, had a bad day or you just hadn’t had a beer in a while. There were a couple of cases that I was able to find a stout created by one of the big Japanese brewers, Kirin, which was a nice change, but pretty run of the mill.

Frustration Sets In

I honestly didn’t think it was going to be that hard to find a “craft” type beer in a place with so many people, until I found out that the importation tax on grains makes beer more expensive to drink than Jack Daniel’s. It was at this point that I was determined to find something.

I jumped on the Internet and found some pubs in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. However, I kept finding the same thing each time I went and looked at menus…$15 for a pint of Rogue. Almost all the “craft” beer I could find was in the form of an import and had a hefty sticker price. I didn’t bother buying anything that was something I could get in America for a cheaper price. There were beers one the lists that could have been locally produced, I couldn’t find info stating if it was local or an import, but they were still $15 a pint.

It was not until I found a website “Beer in Japan” that I was able to track down some “local” brew made right in Japan. The site directed me to the “Harvestmoon Brewery” in Tokyo. This just so happened to be a hop, skip and a jump away from where we were staying. So we went. I was actually able to do a review on one of their beers and you can see it here, later this week.


It was difficult to find any kind of beer that I really wanted to drink in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the occasional Sapporo or Kirin Lager, but I ended up falling in love with Sake and spent most of my nights drinking up glass after glass of the rice wine. A $3.50 flask of Sake lasted me as long as $9 worth of beer did for my wife. If your looking for American Craft beer, you can find it, but be ready to pay an arm and a leg for it…

I’m curious though. Have any of you found different local brews in Japan? Let me know. I plan to go there again someday and I’d like to add them to this list!

A Craft Beer I Found In Japan

Video Review of Harvestmoon Schwarz

Roti's House in Tokyo Japan

I was fortunate enough to actually find some local craft beer in Japan at a placed called Roti’s House which houses the Harvestmoon brewery. This brewery is located in the Ikspairi resort right outside of the Disneyland Tokyo.

Directions to Roti’s House and Harvestmoon Brewery (These directions assume you have a JR Pass. If not, the subway can get you close, but you will have to walk a bit to get there and I can’t give you those directions.)
Tokyo exit to Disney Land

Exit and go right
How To Get To Harvestmoon Brewery in Tokyo, Japan

   1. Take the Tokyo Metro Line to Tokyo Station (Red M-17)
   2. Take the JR Keiyo Line to Miahama station
   3. Exit the station using the South Exit (Disneyland Resort)
   4. Keep left once entering the resort. You will pass a fountain on your left, some shops and an information desk on your right.
   5. Head up to the fourth floor using the escalator on your left.
   6. Once off the escalator, follow the wall on your left around a corner and you’ll be at Roti’s House and Harvestmoon brewery

Pretty easy huh? I thought so to.

General Information

Link to their site.

Location: 4th Floor, Tokyo Disney Land Ikspiari Resort

Hours: 11 am to 11 pm

Phone number is 047-305-5652

Review of Harvestmoon Schwarz

I didn’t really know what to expect after actually finding some craft beer in Japan. I suppose I had higher expectations based on the fact that it took me so long to find something within reach, but my heart also knew not to be to excited. I did a flight of all of Harvestmoon’s beers for 1,400 yen. Instead of telling you about all of them I decided to focus on their most recent award winner. The Schwarz won a gold medal at the International Beer Summit in Osaka, Japan.


Beer Flight at Harvestmoon Brewery in Tokyo JapanI didn’t get this one in a bottle, though it was available for purchase so I can’t really review anything based on packaging.


The beer was very dark with hints of ruby highlights dancing within the glass when looking up at the light. There was a nice 2 finger creamy, tannish head floating on the top of the brew.


A subtle aroma that consisted of a roasted, coffee malt with very little hop characteristic. I get a hint of an astringent aroma. It seemed to be very characteristic of all their beers, but was best hidden in this beer.


Sneak peek at Harvestmoon Brewery fermentersTastes a lot like it smells. A coffee, roasted flavor that is mixed with a little bit of caramel malt. There is very little hop bitterness. The notable bitterness seems to come from the roasted malts instead of the hops. It has very smooth taste, but it bites a little bit with astringency. Almost like a subtle “vomit burp”.


Crisp and clean with moderate carbonation. It is a very smooth drink. The Schwarz, along with all their beers, didn’t really change in mouth feel from Pilsner to Brown Ale.


The drinkability is pretty low in my opinion. The astringency that I find within the beer just keeps haunting me. It was nice for a change, but definitely not a session beer and if that astringency was more powerful it could be hard to drink.


The Schwarz was my favorite of all the beers that I tried of Harvestmoon’s. It was nice experiencing the flight of beers made locally in Japan, but the Schwarz, and all the other beers for that matter, didn’t impress me. For beer enthusiasts though, its worth trying. However, if I lived in Japan, I probably wouldn’t pick up 6 packs of any of these brews until the astringency was dealt with.

How about you?

Have you made it to this brewery? What did you think? Did you find this acid taste in the ones you tried?

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
« on: May 31, 2010, 06:21:16 PM »
You guys make me wish I had not just drank both of mine right of way...

Next time I see it on sale, I'll pick up some and forget about it for a few years.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: How to Siphon Beer
« on: May 31, 2010, 06:20:25 PM »
I love my auto siphon as well.

However, I've been reading about using two bottling buckets. Instead of siphoning, you just move beer over through the spigot and a tube. That sounds like it could be even easier. I have a hard time with it though. I just don't trust the seal on the spigot. Or it something will happen and break it off.

Anyone do it this way? I see a couple starter kits out there that do.

General Homebrew Discussion / How to Brew - John Palmer
« on: May 31, 2010, 06:17:00 PM »
Just finished my copy. Searched the forum, but got tired after looking through 10 pages of results not related to my topic.

Thought I'd throw my two cents out there for any new or intermediate brewers looking for some information.

Review of “How to Brew” by John Palmer

If you recall I did an intro review of "How to Brew" by John Palmer where I talked about how the book starts off with a brief overview of the brewing process and what and how to extract brew. The extract brewing portion of the book is very short and seems to lack as much knowledgeable information as the rest of the book does. It could merely be poor placement of chapters though. Once you get through the first few chapters about brewing and extract brewing, Palmer goes in depth into each part of the brewing process. He describes malts, hops, yeast, water, aeration, hot breaks and so on. Through these chapters there is a lot of practical knowledge that can lead a novice brewer into a better beer making direction. However, it comes after Palmer has already described the extract brewing process. Personally, I think that information should come first just like it does later in the book when he gives a load of knowledge on all-grain brewing before turning anyone loose. If your thinking about homebrewing extracts, read sections one and two before deciding or starting, to get a great idea of the overall brewing process.

Regardless, “How to Brew” is a very thorough book that I am extremely happy to have read and put onto my brewing shelf. The book is loaded with conversions, charts, recipe information, and many other useful tidbits that I didn’t know until reading this book. Did you know that you can do something called “Hot Side Aeration”? This is the process of aerating your wort after the boil, but before it has come down to pitching temperatures. In other words, don’t aerate your beer at all before it’s down to pitching temperatures or you run the risk of long-term oxidation and flavor stability.


“How to Brew” by John Palmer is a great resource for anyone starting to brew, novice brewers, people debating on making the all grain leap, and even expert brewers looking for guidance on changing their water composition for a stellar Pilsner. The book is very thorough and covers darn near all of the different subjects associated with brewing, right down to different metals or ways of fabricating your own equipment.

A couple of sections I really appreciated included the “Is My Beer Ruined” section. In this section Palmer describes the many different “off flavors”, what causes them and how to prevent them in the future.

I also enjoyed reading the section called “Brewing with Extracts and Specialty Grains”. This section gave me a great overview on the different base malts and specialty grains and what they do. Palmer discusses how certain grains will effect all the different aspects of your brew, including color, flavor, aroma, fermentability, and so on. It was really insightful for a novice brewer, like myself looking to increase my knowledge of what makes up my favorite beers and eventually my own recipes.

    * Great for new, intermediate and expert brewers
    * Very thorough
    * Great sections like "Is My Beer Ruined or Brewing with Extracts and Specialty Grains"
    * Overall a great read


Again, like most books and information on homebrewing there was very little support of pictures to illustrate the points being presented. There were a lot more pictures than “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian, but still, just not enough. In one instance Palmer is discussing clarity of wort coming out of the mash tun with black and white photos. Honestly, I couldn’t see the point he was trying to illustrate with the photos.

The biggest con of the book is that there are pages that are very difficult to understand. Palmer can get very technical with some of his information, with math and formulas, which it is extremely easy to just want to skip it. There has to be a better way to present the information because it is exactly like trying to learn algebra, out of a textbook, without any practical practice problems or illustrations.

On top of that there was one instance that Palmer lost me. In one section he mentioned not adjusting the PH of your water before mashing because some malts will adjust it for you, but then the rest of the chapter was about adjusting the PH of your water for mashing. Still not sure if I should adjust the PH before or during.

    * Not a lot of great pictures to illustrate points
    * Can get extremely technical at times
    * I personally got lost once in the book


The book is great and I highly recommend buying it, especially if you plan to move onto all grain brewing at some point in your brewing career. Half of this book is about all grain brewing and presents a lot of good information that would be exceptional to read before jumping head first into all grain brewing. I also believe it is a better starting homebrewing book than "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" by Charlie Papazian.

The book is loaded with practical information about general brewing practices, ingredients, how to’s, and an all around “why things are the way they are” in homebrewing. I would highly recommend this book to a novice and experienced brewer.

How bout you?

I was given a bit of s*** for my “Antelope or Gazelle” review of Big Sky’s IPA but this time I know its a goat. You know why? Cuz it says it! That’s right, this week I am doing another Big Sky Beer. Scape Goat Pale Ale. I don’t normally do a beer from the same brand, mainly because I’m trying to work with these breweries to get more information so I can write better articles. In turn, I appreciate them sending me beer for my hard works. The first of its kind will be coming soon, I promise! Anyway, someone mentioned on one of the forums I like to go to that Big Sky Brewery is a model brewery. They brew great beer, sponsor community events, support local homebrewers and continue to be a great example for a brewery nationally and locally. I feel a little bad that the packaging has prevented me from trying any of the beers. So, I decided this week, I’d do Scape Goat Pale Ale.

Video Review of Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale


I’m not going to say much here other than what I’ve said about their packaging before. It looks a little dated and I just can’t get over animals on the bottles. I just don’t like it. I do like that it mentions Pale Ale so I have at least a clue as to what is inside the bottle.


Clear as day with a nice light copper hue. The head on it is nice and foamy, but doesn’t stick around to long, however, it does lace nicely on the sides.


Hoppy! Duh right? For a pale ale the hop aroma is on the higher side, which I don’t mind. I can’t pick out the strain of hops used, still working on that skill! Regardless, it has a nice subtle fruity, flowery hop aroma with little malt character. I do get a little biscuit or bread smell mixed in with a little caramel. It isn’t strong and I could just be looking to hard for something like that.


It doesn’t have much on the front end of taste. This leads me to believe that the malts are hidden behind a big bitter after taste. Low and behold, that is the case. Initially it could be mistaken to be a bit watered down because there is no sweetness upfront and the carbonation is a little light. But the hop taste and bitterness blow through at the end and stick with you a bit, kind of like a light IPA.


Like I mentioned. Its a bit light on the carbonation which gives it a very smooth, silky like mouthfeel. The bitter acids zip on the tongue while this medium bodied beer splashes through my teeth.


I definitely think there is some drinkability there. I could probably make a night out of a beer like this. However, the bitter after taste does remind me of an IPA and I’ve yet to determine if that is something I want to make a night out of. If you like a bitter after taste, this is definitely a beer to try. Its smooth, bitter, dry and easy to drink.


A very good beer from what I understand to be a very good brewery. I love the local business supporting the community and I suppose is one reason why so many people always say, “Drink Local” right? I heard a statistic that a dollar spent locally will go through the community an average of 7 times before making it out. That is pretty sweet and a great reason to support your local brewers. Anyway, I’d for sure give this brew a try. Its tasty with a very subtle malt character that is a bit dominated by hop flavor, aroma and bitterness. I like it because its smooth and dry.

How bout you?

Have you tried it? Whad’ya think?

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: A Gazelle or A Big Goat - Big Sky IPA
« on: May 10, 2010, 03:22:16 PM »
I live in Texas and can get this brew. For me it was ok. I like the fact that it comes in a can. Have not tried moose drool yet.

Cool. I wasn't aware that you could get this in cans!

I have a feeling I'll be trying more of their beers as time goes by. I have never really given them much of a look because they look a little dated and generic. Usually the bottles have dust on them as well. However, I've heard nothing but good things from everyone I've talked to. That is enough to get me trying some more.

Thanks guys!

Thanks for clarifying that its an antelope. I write titles to peak an interest. I felt this question style of writing was more intriguing than "Review of Big Sky IPA". I could be wrong though, you tell me.


Commercial Beer Reviews / A Gazelle or A Big Goat - Big Sky IPA
« on: May 08, 2010, 04:37:28 PM »
I've been on a crazy IPA binge as of late. So many people like them and I continue to try to find one that makes me fall in love with the style. This one was pretty good, gotta be honest. I didn't know what to expect from a small brewery with a goat on the front of the bottle that I had to blow a little bit of dust off of.

Video Review of Big Sky IPA


For me, there is nothing special about the packaging at all. Its pretty basic and looks a little to old for me. From my understanding the label is a painting of a mountain goat created by one of the founding brewers mothers. It is a very nice painting, but every time I see an animal on a label, I always feel like it is that animals piss. Big Sky Brewing has other brands that include “Moose Drool” and “Scape Goat” which leads me to believe that the name of this beer is a little uninspired. The label tells me its an IPA and that it has 6.2% ABV in it. A little more information would be nice, but like I said, there isn’t anything special about it. Very classic.


A deep copper, a bit deeper than I’m used to seeing. A very nice fluffy white head with some good lacing down the sides.


Very hoppy. I can smell citrus hops, but I also seem to dig out a little bit of pine or mint within the hop smell. If anyone knows what kind of hops give it that pine or mint, I’d love to know for future reference. I don’t get any sweetness or malts in the smell.


Bitter! Its all hops. Even after it warms up, there isn’t much sweetness. I enjoy how dry it is, but I’d like just a pinch of balance for all this hop flavor. Some of the bitterness is a bit earthy, a little dirty.


Not much carbonation, but the acids from the hops hit the tongue and sting it nicely. It is a medium bodied IPA that, again, sticks to the roof of my mouth.


I would put this up there as a beer I could drink a few of. It has the dryness that I like, the hop characteristics that I’ve come to enjoy, but could use a pinch of sweetness to balance it. I’m not 100% of the bitterness after a few. However, I do enjoy this IPA. This would be really good with some spicy chili or taco’s or spicy shrimp.


I’d say the same thing as I have for the past couple a IPA’s. If you like bitterness and alcohol dryness, this is for you. Give it a try and tell me what you think! I’d love to hear about it.

Have you tried this brew? I’d love to hear about it. Plus I’d love to know where you live. Distribution on this beer is pretty centered so I’d love to know where you got it! Enjoy!

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Boulevard Single Wide IPA
« on: May 08, 2010, 04:37:04 PM »
It's been a while since I tried the Single-Wide, so it's one i'd have to revisit.

If you are looking for IPA's, my favorite non-imperial IPA is from Odell's.  They distribute to South Dakota and Minnesota, not sure how close you are to those, but I know that they border on ND, so if you find yourself in one of those states, I would highly recommend it.  Not as bitter as some of the IPA's out there, but just exploding with a very bright hop flavor and aroma.

Sweet. I do believe I've seen the logo, so I may have access to it. I'll check it out!



I've seen the smokestack series. Its a bit expensive, but I may have to give it a go because you recommend it so highly!

I'll let you know what I find!

Thanks guys!

Good suggestions by everyone.

I also wouldn't worry about it much. Once you rack most of that get's left behind as well. It will fall and stick to the other yeast when you rack your beer over to bottle or to a secondary.

Good luck!

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