Friday, September 19, 2014

Steve Piatz Mead Talk

Ok, I know the blog has been a little light on beer stuff recently, so here is a little write-up on the meadmaking class that Steve Piatz gave at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum last weekend.  I actually hadn't realized that the Arboretum had so many adult education classes, but since Sj joined up this summer I've learned a lot more about them.  I have also been taking little field trips out to take pictures (as anyone who has been watching my 30 Word Thursday posts will know!) 

Found this busy guy in the gardens at the Arboretum...

For those who don't know who Steve is, he is a highly educated and intelligent retired engineer who just happens to be one of the foremost authorities on making mead.  He is one of the highest ranked BJCP judges in the world and in 2008 was awarded Meadmaker of the Year at NHC.  So this guy knows his stuff!  Oh, and he's also a really nice guy who is willing to share his expertise with others.

This fine morning we met at the Arboretum Learning Center early in the morning to set up everything for the talk.  There were two levels of the class: those who learned and tasted meads, and those who also got to make their own 1 gallon mead recipe to take home. 

Once folks arrived, Steve jumped into a great lecture on the history of mead.  Many people in the class were homebrewers and others were beekeepers looking into another use for their honey.  Every 15 minutes or so Mike B., Paul D., and myself would pour commercial and homemade meads to the group.  I have to say that Steve's meads were better than all of the commercial examples!  We tried traditional meads, fruit meads, metheglins (spiced meads), Pyments (grape meads), and even a fantastic fortified port-like mead from White Winter called Black Harbor.  While people were sipping on their newest mead, Steve would continue with the talk and also give a quick explanation of each mead we were tasting. 

Commercial meads

Eventually we moved into the hands-on part of the class.  This got a little chaotic between continued mead tasting, talk, and actually making of the mead.  Luckily the fine spouses of Mike, Paul, and Steve all jumped in to help out and we were able to handle everything well.  Special thanks should also go to Midwest Homebrewing Supplies for helping out with ingredients and equipment. 

Steve Piatz waxes poetic about his passion: mead!

By the end of the lecture more than half the group had a gallon bucket of mead to take home, and everyone was quite happy having tried a great grouping of meads.  I'm glad that I was invited to help out because I learned quite a bit during the talk!  I've made some meads myself, but am looking to up my game, and I think this will help.  I have already invested in a couple big gallon jugs of honey and have started a one gallon batch of cranberry blossom honey from the local Minnesota Honey Company in Minneapolis.

A quick plug for Steve's new book:  I bought a copy and am about half way through it.  Lots of good info in here and very useful recipes and techniques...not the usual vague stuff that is in many of the older mead books.  Buy one from Amazon here. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

30 Words: Hum

Aerial acrobatics.
I feel more than see
The movement of this
Tiny creature.
Waiting patiently,
Camera ready,
A fleeting moment
Of clarity.
This week's 30 Word Thursday photo was taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum during an outing there last week to help with a lecture on mead making.  Since I had my camera, I decided to wander a bit.  A very nice lady waved me down and pointed out this little fellow to me...I spent quite a bit of time waiting for the perfect shot and wishing I had a telephoto lens instead of my fixed focal length Macro lens!  I had to wait until he was just in the right spot to get a good pic.  These guys are incredibly fast!  Check out the other contributors to 30 Word Thursdays at Erin's Treasures Found Blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Limited Release Episode 12: Barrel Aged Abraxas!

Yay!  The newest episode of Limited Release is up.  For those who haven't seen the show before: Old school mates of mine from Hopkins, Ron Johnson and Rob Wengler, travel the country in search of special beer releases.  They wait in the long lines so you don't have to!  This particular episode is special to me because I was there!  We took a long weekend trip to St. Louis for the release of Barrel Aged Abraxas at Perennial Artisan Ales, also stopping in at 4 Hands and Civil Life. 

Since I was reading Hunter S. Thompson on the trip I wrote up two blog posts about the trip in gonzo style.  You can read Beer & Loathing in St. Louis  here and here...

Watch the episode for a good run-down of the St. Louis beer scene, brewer interviews, and lots of Hodor.  Share it with others so all that hard work (drinking, traveling, editing, animating, etc) will be worth it!  Also watch the old episodes if you haven't seen them yet.  I'm in most of them as designated beer taster and judge. 

30 Words: Stuck

Gossamer strings
in the humid
afternoon breeze
No sign of habitation,
an empty and waiting home
Or a wicked
for the
This week's 30 Word Thursday picture was taken in my backyard one fine sunny afternoon.  I took lots of shots but none looked quite I tried out some different filter techniques until this one jumped out at me in stark contrast.  Check out the other contributors at Erin's Treasures Found Blog Here!

Oh, and some of my pics are up on the Southwest Metro Magazine photo contest for this year:  Check them out (and vote for me!) here.  Mine are on page 2 second row up from the bottom: Schram Vineyard, Thistle, and the yellow flower with the imitation bee on it.  I took these before I got my Macro lens--next year's will be even better!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Northbound Smokehouse Tour 2014

This past weekend, my wife and I were lucky enough to be invited along with several members of the Primary Fermenters Homebrew Club for a tour of Northbound Smokehouse.  I have been there twice before, but the last time was over a year ago, so it was time to go back and see how things were going. 

The brewpub is going on its second year now, and seems to be going strong, often struggling to keep up with demand for their beers.  That problem is both good (they are selling lots) but also bad (people can't always get the beer they want!)  Located in a quiet neighborhood of Minneapolis, the brewery takes up the corner of an old brick building.  There is a pleasant and sunny outdoor patio surrounded by colorful plants, flowers and several appropriate hop bines.

We met at the brewpub at 11:00 and killed some time waiting for our entire party by trying out some beers.  I tried my previous favorite--the Smokehouse Porter.  This beer was better than I remember it, with just a hint of smokiness and an off-sweet finish.  Inside the brewpub is dark, but open and comfortable.  A small bar hosts house and guest taps with a limited selection of liquors and wines as well.  The beer serving tanks are visible through glass behind the bar--a nice touch.

Once we had all gathered (Beau, Mark, Pat, Shannon, Sj, and I) we got to business!  Joel, (one of the brewers), took us on an informative tour of the small brewery.  We started out by heading down a wide stairway into the cool basement.  Surrounded by bags of BSG malt that has to be hand-hauled down those stairs, we spent quite a bit of time talking to Joel.  Since all of us were seasoned homebrewers, he was able to forgo the usual "This is how beer is made..." lecture and focus on nerdy brewer details for us!  It was very interesting to get his take on things like hops and grain shortages, brewery politics, and of course recipe development and brewing techniques. 

We next checked out the tiny grain mill room followed by a short jaunt into the cold room filled with storage tanks and wonderfully aromatic hops.

Lastly we spent some time in the actual brewery area, under the shadow of full stainless steel conical fermenters.  I really appreciate the time that Joel spent with our small group, and I had a very informative time of it!  I feel slightly bad that I badgered him about not having enough smoked beers on tap (it is a Smokehouse!)

Joel talks brewing tips with avid homebrewers!

After our tour we had worked up an appetite.  Smelling the aroma of smoked meat permeating the restaurant had not helped with this!  We ended up sitting outside on the sunny patio on the picnic tables there.  I tried the Wild Rice Amber which was well fermented and subtle.  We also shared a few Pale Ales and IPA's amongst us.  I enjoyed the Exile quite a bit--bursting with catty Simcoe hops!  The food I had was excellent!  The Buffalo wings were divine: smoked before given the Buffalo treatment, these were the most tender and flavorful I've had in years!  The Porketta sandwich was a huge mound of smoked meat topped with smoked Swiss cheese and BBQ sauce.  Yum! 

Overall I have a lot of respect for what the guys at Northbound are doing.  The beers have improved greatly since my last visit and the food is great.  Thanks to Joel for the tour, and to the Beau for inviting us along!

Outside the brewpub!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

30 Words: Orange

A Monarch's wings beat near silent,
only displaced air giving warning.
Turning oh so slowly,
I focus my camera...
And off he goes, to another fine flower.
Beauty and elegance.
This week's 30 Word Thursday was taken last week on a little expedition I took to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  I took my camera along, and practiced using my brand new Macro lens for flowers and insect portraits.  Looking at these finished photos I am struck by how outrageous and wonderful these tiny denizens of our world become when we can see all their detail.  I took a ton of pics there and will likely be posting more in the future!  Check out the other 30 Word Thursday folks at Erin's Treasures Found Blog!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Brews Travelers 365 Enki Stop

Just a quick post today to mention a cool couple of guys that I met the other day.  High school friends Brandon Wurtz and Michael Roberts have a mission: to travel the country for every day of 2014 visiting regional and local breweries wherever they pass through.  Their project is called Brews Travelers 365 and their official website is HERE

At this point the guys are just past the half-way point on their epic journey across the country.  They began in Texas (where they live) and have been all over the USA since leaving.  While visiting the Twin Cities they had already stopped at Town Hall, Bauhaus Brewlabs, and had more on the list.  I ran into them at Enki Brewing in Victoria.  My friends and fellow Jack of All Brews members Jesse and Kent were already firmly ensconced at the bar when Sj, Anna, and myself arrived.  Brewery co-owner Dan, tasting room manager Dave, and brewmaster Jason Davis were also there.  Brandon and Michael were sharing some bottles of beer that they had accumulated on their travels with everyone and we got to join in the fun! 

Sipping on some Enki Tail Feather IPA, I had a great time hanging out with the Brews Travelers and all my friends at the tasting room.  Lets be honest, I always like hanging out at Enki, and nearly always have a friend or two show up when I stop by. 

I really enjoyed meeting these two bearded gypsies and hope that they are able to finish their journey.  I envy their ability to quit work and take this type of challenge on themselves!  Having met the guys and seen their blog, I'll be continuing to watch their progress across our great country and perhaps take some cues from them for future brewery visits on my own travels.  Though their blog posts have fallen behind, they keep up to date with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Untappd.  Check them out!