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Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Interesting Tidbit

I just came across this from the Brewer's Association (parent of the AHA), and I thought it was worth sharing.

The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Beer, My Choice

One thing I've always like about brewing is that I can make whatever strikes my fancy. There's no marketing director telling me what flavors I should be liking, no "style police" telling me I'm breaking some obscure rule.

Of course, I have a couple of examples.

A little while ago, we got about 2 dozen oranges for free from the local food bank. They were very small, and extremely hard to peel (Probably why they were free). I stared at them in the back of the fridge for a few days, then had a thought.

I got out my trusty box grater, and took the zest off all the oranges. Not hard, but it took awhile. Then, with a manual juicer, I got a couple of cups of orange juice. Again, more time than difficulty.

Now what? Well, I love sherbert, so I made some orange sherbert. I still had a bunch of juice and zest, so I started thinking beer.

I've always felt that wheat beer lends itself very well to any fruit flavor. I've had wheat beers with cranberry, apple, apricot, strawberry, and probably others. I figured, why not make an orange-wheat?

So, fermenting now is an all-grain 100% wheat beer with orange zest and juice. If it all works out as planned, it'll be a low-gravity, tart, refreshing summer beer.

Next, I'm making one of my stand-bys, a mild ale. It's easy, quick, not too expensive, and another good warm weather refresher. The style guidelines say not to add finishing hops. Nobody checks, so I'm dry-hopping with an ounce of Williamette. This is one I've made many times before, and it's always been a good one to have on a hot day.

I've said it here, and I used to sign off my old podcast every week with this. It's you beer. Make what you want to drink.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Momentous Occasion

On July 5, we held our family summer session beer competition. It was momentous for several reasons. It was the first time we had a competition that wasn't part of our St. Patrick's Day dinner. Will Siss, friend, teacher and author (, had the marvelous idea of combining our little family gathering with a larger, more important event, the Harwinton stop of Todd's CT Pour Tour.

Last year, Todd visited all 351 Massachusetts municipalities to benefit pediatric cancer research. This year, he's doing the same thing in all of Connecticut's 169 towns.

Here's the link. Please donate, if you can, no matter how small.

Will again was our judge, and Todd graciously agreed to help out. This time, we had the largest turnout yet.

John Labeck (my nephew) - Honey Pale Ale
LeAnne Renaud Labeck (his wife) - Belgian Saison
Joe Labeck III (me son) - Blood Orange Wit
Tanya Palmer Labeck (his wife) - Ginger Rye Pale Ale
Joe Labeck Jr (me) - Sour Apple Berliner Weisse

The rules were simple; any style, 5% alcohol or under. As you can see, everyone brought their own spin to the table.

I tasted all 5, and I would serve any of them proudly. My personal opinion was that Tanya's pale ale had the richest, most complex flavor. That's usually what I look for, so I would have picked hers as the winner.

It was great fun watching Will and Todd judge the entrants. They obviously took their charge seriously, taking notes and discussing each beer.

In the end, they asked for a re-taste of several beers. Finally, on the basis of adherence to style, they chose my Berliner Weisse as the winner. I was pleased and surprised. As my son had mentioned, making a sour beer was a bit of a risk, but one that paid off.

In the end, we all had a great time, good food, fantastic beer, and were able to help Todd in his worthy endeavor. We were able to raise over $300 for cancer research. As I mentioned, every bit helps, and we were happy to be part of it.

And, I finally won.

A plug

I'll shortly be posting the results of our summer session beer competition. But first, I wanted to entreat you to contribute to a very worthy cause; cancer research.

Please, visit the site. If you have a couple of extra bucks, make a donation. Whether it's $1 or a gazillion, every bit helps.