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Archive for January, 2013

Cheap Cellars

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If you’ve recently started up a beer cellar, or perhaps just recently overflowed your existing cellaring fridge, then you might be in the market for a deal on a cheap wine cellar. And boy have I got a deal for you. Costco carries a line of discount wine cellars from Chigo and they occasionally put them on sale. Today is one of those occasions.

Here’s the link. There you will find an option to buy a 36, 60 or 96 bottle cellar for $400, $580, or $780 respectively ($130, $150 and $200 off regular). For reference, here is a link to local wine cellar company Vin de Garde’s online store where comparably sized fridges routinely hit the $3000 or $4000 mark.

Note, however, that I said “comparably sized” and not “generally comparable.” The reason is that Chigo fridges, quite frankly, are shit. I have one, and it’s a love-hate relationship. It struggles to keep a +/-9F temperature, the bottom is frequently at or below freezing, and it drains its condensation… no where. It just puddles up on the bottom and grows algae.

However, it sure is much better than storing 96 bottles of beer at room temperature, which is basically a perfect recipe for destroying your precious malty darlings. So if you’re on a budget, and looking to improve over the daily heat/thaw cycle that is the average living room, then yeah, go pick up a Chigo shit-o-matic. You will not find a cheaper cellaring fridge.

If you have a bit more money, Vin de Garde has some of the best prices online for better cellars. You don’t have to go all the way up to this puppy (at least if you don’t want to be fucking awesome), but a Cavavin Urbania (54 bottle, $1,370) is a decent middle ground. It will keep your beer (and wine) at a much more consistent temperature, and I highly doubt the bottom shelf will slowly turn into a block of solid ice.

Now I just need to convince them to give me a discount for this blatant plug. Hey, I never said I had morals.

Written by chuck

January 20th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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20 Facts You Very Likely Already Knew About Yeast

with 14 comments

While doing some research for another article… No? You don’t buy me doing research? Okay, fine, I was drunk and bored then. Yeah, I thought you’d buy that one. So, while I was drunk, bored and done with the porn, I surfed randomly and stumbled across a few interesting facts about yeast. Most likely you already know most of these, but if I’m lucky there’s a few newbies. I’d also be surprised if anyone didn’t know the first batch, but I’ll keep them in for completeness.

The raw basics (Skip if you have a beard)

  1. Yeast is a single-celled, asexually reproducing fungus. Hey, I said we’re starting basic, didn’t I?
  2. “Lager yeasts” are bottom-fermenting, meaning they fall to the bottom of the beer during fermentation. “Ale yeasts” do the opposite.
  3. Lager yeasts ferment beer at a much cooler temperature than ale, and at a slower rate. In fact, lager yeasts were first discovered in the early 1400s because beers fermented during winter had a lighter, crisper taste than those fermented in the summer.
  4. While Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale) and Saccharomyces pastorianus (Lager) are the most famous examples of each, there are dozens of closely related species that can be used in brewing beer. Most commercially purchased strains, though, are variants of those two.
  5. Yeast metabolizes sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol; this gives beer it’s two distinct properties of carbonation and awesomeness.
  6. It’s common to refer to the carbonation produced by yeast as “yeast farts” since it’s a gaseous product of cellular respiration. I guess that makes the liquid product (booze) “yeast piss.”

Yeast is also responsible for vague, blurry ads that somehow make me uncomfortable.

Slightly more interesting

  1. The Spanish “cerveza” is derived from the Latin “cerevisia”, which is the name of the top-fermenting ale yeast, so when you order that cold Central American Lager on a beach in Mexico, you’re really asking for an ale, and really, wouldn’t you prefer a beer with actual flavour?
  2. S. pastorianus used to be called S. carlsbergensis. It was identified in the late 19th century by, you guessed it, Carlsberg Brewery (or rather, their research arm. Yes, they have a research arm).
  3. S. cerevisiae is also used to make wine and bread. Wine was easier to do, though, because it grows naturally on the skin of grapes.
  4. Some yeasts outside of the Saccharomyces genus entirely are also commonly used in brewing beer, with Brettanomyces bruxellensis being a notable one (although almost always in conjunction with regular yeast). This is the “Brett” in Brett-conditioned beers. This yeast also occurs naturally on the skin of wine grapes.
  5. Despite the fact that yeast produces carbon dioxide, it isn’t enough to carbonate beer to the levels consumers expect. Thus, that beer in your hand has been artificially, or “force” carbonated. (See Dean from Lighthouse Brewing’s comment below for info on alternatives)
  6. The “sour” in sour beers is not yeast at all, but rather the bacteria Lactobacillus brevis and Pediococcus cerevisiae amongst others.
  7. It’s very hard to actually kill yeast. You can starve it, dry it out and even freeze it, but if you give it a little sugar and some water… bam! Booze!
  8. Yeast doesn’t just straight up convert sugar into liquor, it lazily slowly converts it to intermediary products first, and only goes back to finish the job once all the yummy sugar is gone. Incomplete fermentation can leave lots of these intermediaries lying around, causing off flavours in beer.
  9. Yeast is also finicky. It can just up and quit, saying “fuck this” while storming off the job. This is known as a stuck fermentation, and while you can sometimes get it going again by adding new yeast (scabs!), it’s not always possible.
  10. Breweries often maintain their own standing colonies of yeast, rather than buying new supplies at the start of each brew. Since yeast evolves very quickly, breweries often also breed them for specific flavours and characteristics, resulting in custom sub-species specific to each brewery.
  11. Yeast is everywhere: on your keyboard, in the air, in your hair and on your skin. Before modern times brewers wouldn’t add yeast to their wort–they’d just expose it to the air for a bit.

Very interesting

  1. Brettanomyces bruxellensis (see above) is actually a specifically cultured version of the wild yeast regional to lower Belgium. This is why traditional (wild fermented) Belgians from that area have Brett characteristics. We also have local species of wild yeasts in Vancouver, but no one brews with them (yet).
  2. It was recently determined that S. pastorianus is actually a hybrid of S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus which is less than interesting until you realize that S. eubayanus is native to Patagonia and that S. pastorianus became common in European brewing in the early 1400s.
  3. All these yeasts produce liquor aerobically, or in the presence of oxygen. Many other yeasts will only do so anaerobically, like Kluyveromyces lactis. Add in oxygen, and they’ll completely convert your precious barley malt into CO2 and water, the greedy bastards. Deprive them of O2, though, and you have a new weird beer that geeks might buy!

And there ya have it. I’m no longer bored, or maybe I’m now too bored to continue blogging. I don’t know which. I think I’ll go have a beer.

Written by chuck

January 16th, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Driftwood Singularity 2013

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Okay, Singularity is out. It’s perhaps the single most hyped BC beer release (at least in this household), and thus accordingly comes with commensurately higher expectations. For those keeping score at home, 2011 was an intriguing mix of sweet cherry goodness with tart coffee bitter, and 2012 replaced all that with the hops that didn’t make it into Old Barrel Dweller (aka a lot). For the record, 2011 is drinking quite well just now, but 2012 needs more time.

So what about this years? Is this year’s Singularity a carbon clone of last year’s, much like this year’s Old Cellar Dweller? No, it is not. It is not even close. To put it short, folks, Driftwood has swung for the fences, and I think they just might have made it.

2013 is a deeply complex malt-forward monster of a beer. A lot of those nuances are hiding behind the bourbon barreling for now, but given enough time, the sticky sweetness of that whiskey will reduce, and the sugars will yield their nuanced flavours. Over time, I suspect this will age down into just a beautiful way to spend a Saturday night, provided that you have a fireplace, smoking jacket, and an old hound dog named Rex under which to slip your cold feet. Yup, I get all that from taking a sip. I am just that crazy.

Tasting Notes:
Nose: Strong oaky bourbon over a sugar rich background of plum and dates. Driftwood says they didn’t add any molasses to this, and I’m therefore impressed with the sugar profile on this thing. If you can resist drinking long enough, a hint of the hops just starts to come in at the end, but not enough to ID a varietal.
Body: Pours pitch freaking black. Like tar, only with less carbonation. This is a glass of inactive black sludge that just lies there taunting you, and then might just randomly kill your Chief Security Officer to get her out of an inconvenient contract.
Palate: Wow. The bourbon here is just… bourbon. Bourbon, bourbon, bourbon. I think they used the same batch of barrels from Old Barrel Dweller, because there’s no mistaking the giant double pump fist of whiskey goodness on this guy. Behind all all that whiskey is a huge, rich, malt profile, but you’re not going to know about it for a long while.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Singularity
Style Russian Imperial Stout
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Early 2014 through 2017. Maybe longer.
Time for a spoon to fall over after standing it in a glass Okay, fine, it was 0.285 seconds, but I honestly THOUGHT it would be longer, and doesn’t that count for something?
Availability Widely available at LRS… for now
Cost $13.50+ per 650ml bottle.
Similar Beers P49 RIS, Phillips The Hammer, maybe even Driftwood OBD
Chuck says Buy. Buy it right now, and in volume, because it will be gone very very soon.


Another gold. Either beer is getting better or I’m losing my touch.

Written by chuck

January 14th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Beers

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