Pints for Prostates

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: BeerClings

Some people like to label their home-brewed beer. A friend of mine makes wine with his wife. Together, they design colorful and clever labels on the computer for each of their wines. For them, the label making is part of the process and part of what they like about making wine at home. But many people are not like that. Designing, printing, and applying (don't forget removing) labels can add hours to the overall process. And, while there may not be a lot of wine bottles to fill per batch, a typical 5 gallon batch of home-brewed beer requires at least 48, 12 ounce bottles, which means that beer labels require more effort. Honestly, I never put labels on my bottles. Bottling, as opposed to kegging, is labor intensive enough.

One option for homebrewers that bottle and would like labels is BeerClings. BeerClings are reusable labels for beer bottles. Homebrewers can easily slap these on their bottles of homebrew. As it states on the product's website, "BeerClings are an exciting answer to the tedious labeling process undertaken by home brewers." I think that statement is accurate.

To test the BeerClings and get a feel for how well they work as advertised, I did the following:

  • I put the labels on two different sized bottles. The labels fit on both.
  • As you can see in the photo, I was able to mark the bottles with dry erase marker. To test this feature, I used a damp paper towel to remove my writing, and then write new words on the label. It worked fine, no problems. 

BeerClings on Bottles
  • I put a label on a beer in the refrigerator and left it there for a couple weeks. The label adhered fine. I took it out of the refrigerator and made sure the label did not come off in the condensation. No problems. The hold was solid.
A Sheet of BeerClings
The BeerClings definitely cling. They are easy to take off and reapply. The maker stated that he "went through a lot of material and the one [he] settled on blew the others away." I believe it.

Unfortunately, there is just one design at the moment. The maker wants to have labels for every beer style eventually.

The cost is $5 for a sheet of 12.

I was impressed by how well the BeerClings worked. I recommend them!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Belgian Pale Ale

I was planning on brewing on Sunday. For me and my family schedule, Sunday is a good day to fill the kitchen with brewing equipment, turn on music, and boil water/wort.

However, this Sunday I just wasn't feeling it. Brewing requires a lot of physical and mental energy and approximately five, contiguous hours of time. I was tired. I wanted to sit in the sun and read. I figured that if I pushed myself to brew I would not enjoy it as much, and I don't want to risk associating a poor experience with a hobby that I enjoy.

Arguably, it's possible that I could have started to brew and found myself enjoying the act of measuring grain to mill, stirring the resulting grist in the mash tun, or the pungent aroma of the first, bittering addition of hops to the rolling boil of brown wort.
UK Kent Goldings

...Not only is it possible, it's likely.

But there are other days to brew.  I ended up brewing on Tuesday (2012-07-31) after work. I knew that with some time to listen to a couple episodes of brewing podcasts (e.g., Basic Brewing Radio, Brewing Network's Sunday Session), calculate mash water volume and temperature, and determine mineral additions for the water, I would be eager to get home on Tuesday and brew. I was.

This time, I brewed a Belgian Pale Ale. The recipe is from Jamil Zainasheff's book, Brewing Classic Styles.  I followed his Antwerp Afternoon recipe, with minor deviations. My version is as follows:

11.3 lbs. German Pilsner malt
.75 oz. CaraMunich malt
4 oz. Belgian Biscuit malt

5 ml of Lactic Acid to mash
2 g of Calcium Chloride to mash
4 g of Epsom Salt to mash
2 g of Baking Soda to mash

1.3 oz. UK Kent Goldings @ 60 min.
1/2 tablet of Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
.25 teaspoon of yeast nutrient @ 15 min.
.7 oz. UK  Kent Goldings @ 0 min.

2 vials of White Labs WLP500 Belgian Ale yeast

1 oz. UK Kent Goldings dry hop in keg 

WLP500 Belgian Ale Yeast
If you have the book you can follow along with me. I am working my way through his Belgian and French Ale chapter. I brewed a Witbier at the beginning of July. I brewed a Belgian Pale Ale on Tuesday. Next, I will brew a Saison. I might brew a Biere De Garde too, we'll see. We can dub this the "Belgian Summer." It's also a means to use the large sack of German Pilsner base malt I have in the basement.

How did this get to be the summer of Belgian beers?

The Witbier was definitely for Kim. She likes the style and I wanted to make a beer that would have her sneaking downstairs to draw from the keg each evening. I have not written a review yet because, at this point, the beer is a bit green. I'm hoping the harsh flavors mellow and that the overall flavor improves. It's certainly drinkable, but not great.

I think the pint of BPA I had at Ommegang inspired this beer. I think that beer is fantastic. Besides, I have brewed a couple American Pale Ales already. Why not compare the brewing experiences and beer styles?

As I understand it, Saisons can be herbal, hoppy, and tangy. The style is supposed to be quite flavorful and a good pairing for many foods. It is a good base beer with which to experiment with herb and fruit additions. I would like to learn more about Saisons, both by reading about the style and by tasting more examples.

If I brew the Biere De Garde, I think the strong, malty profile will make for a good winter beer (the beer needs to be lagered for three months). As you can tell, I'm not sure I will brew it. I might find myself really wanting to make an IPA by then.