Sunday, September 25, 2011

Little Mountain Brewery

It goes without saying that we enjoy breweries of all kinds, from big to tiny. I have to admit, though, that we have a special place in our hearts for tiny local operations... and they don't get much tinier than Little Mountain Brewery in Kirtland, Ohio.

We discovered the place almost by accident. We were visiting the east side for our good friend Justin's birthday, and were thinking about making the long trek to Chardon Breworks. The timing just didn't pan out, and we were considering just going to Willoughby Brewing Company when Rob noticed that there was a brewery/brew your own place in Kirtland, not too far away from Willoughby.

Thank goodness we read the reviews on Beer Advocate that warned us that this brewery is easy to miss. Nestled between a dairy mart and a tavern, this store front was the smallest in the tiny strip it sits in. We had been looking out for it and even then we almost missed it. When we got there, the brewer/bartender was outside having a smoke and in a laid-back manner that would permeate the rest of the night let us know he'd be right in to help us. 

The brewery looks like a homebrewer's dream. A bar on the left, a row of brew kettles on the right, a few fridges, and a couple conicals on the far side of the room made up the entire brewery. The TVs were blazing the football game and there was just one other guy lounging on a bar stool. The delicious smell of cooking grains in the air signaled he was brewing, as did the cups of hops and spices sitting in front of him. 

We love samplers!
As is our way when we hit a new brewery, we got the sampler. Small places have the advantage of using a wide variety of yeasts (Wyeast Smack Packs were sitting on the bar ready to go for the aforementioned Christmas ale being brewed), so there was a hefe, a belgain, a marzen, a helles, a wit, a porter, and an imperial stout available. We loved the variety, and everything tasted really good (albeit a tad under carbonated for the fizzier styles.) When we ordered pints, we stuck with the dark stuff and were pretty darn happy about it.

Overall, it was an excellent experience. Everyone was really friendly and chatty and the beers were all tasty and interesting. We recommend sticking with things that you wouldn't mind having with a bit less carbonation, and we certainly wouldn't recommend trying to eat there, as the only food options seemed to be a few hot dogs spinning on a convenience-store style rolling cooker. Those caveats aside, it's a place worth seeking out if you find yourself on the East Side.

Oh, yeah, and those fridges? They held bottled 22s of their beers. We grabbed a scotch ale for good measure.    

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stolen Voice Oak-Aged Imperial IPA

Our latest home brewing adventure is finally in the bottle. It's been quietly sitting on oak chips for a few months - and the pre-carbonation taste test was nothing short of promising. There's smokey flavors from the oak chips, plus earthy hop flavors from the Willamette. The alcohol flavors are strong but not overpowering, and the malt balances the high hop bitterness nicely.

Here's the recipe:

Stolen Voice Oak-Aged Imperial IPA
5 gal partial mash, 9.1 % ABV, 80 IBU

2 lbs Crystal 20 @ 175 for 45 min
6 lb 6 oz  Amber LME
2 lbs Light DME
2 lbs Amber DME

1 oz Columbus - First Boil  (90 min)
1 oz Columbus 60 min
1 oz Willamette @ 15 min
1 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 min 
1 oz Willamette @ 5 min
1 oz Willamette @ 1 min
1 oz Willamette - dry hop 1 week

Rack to secondary, 1 cup medium-roast Oak Chips for 2 weeks.

Bottle with 3/4 C Corn Sugar.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ommegang Adoration

Rating: 3 pints
Style: Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer (21B BJCP)

At first glance not a pretty beer, with a murky indistinct color and quickly dissipating head, it can come off like dirty water. The nose is heavy on alcohol with some smokiness and vanilla around the edge, and a pleasant body gives way to an equally alcohol spiked flavor and a good helping of sweetness in the form of fruit (raisin? date? plum? apple? maybe all of the above). While I appreciate some of the complexity, to me a Winter Beer can be judged by how much I'd like to sit by a warm fireplace and sip it watching the snow through the window. Drinking this beer in that scenario you might find yourself concentrating more on the complexity swishing around on your palate than the sweetie snuggling up in your arms.

Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean

Rating: 3.5 pints
Style: Smoked Porter (22B BJCP)

Sweet, smokey, and oh so vanilla! This smoked porter pours a deep dark brown with ruby highlights topped with a tan-hued head. The vanilla smell is not very prevalent, instead the smoke takes front seat. The opposite is true of the flavor - the vanilla is so strong as to be almost overpowering. However the mouthfeel is creamy and extraordinarily well balanced. Overall, a very solid porter though I prefer the version without the vanilla.  


Contrary to  what I posted previously, trivia at the Great Lakes Brewing Company starts at 7:00 on Tuesdays, not 8:00.

Last night I got a science question wrong, and this caused me much distress. It shall not be repeated. The getting wrong and the distress, that is. The trivia will be repeated. 

We're still going to Kick Asterisk, rest assured.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Berea's Labor Day Oktoberfest

Every year, the husband and I enjoy visiting Berea's Labor Day Oktobefest. Specifically, we enjoy the Microbrew competition contained therein. What beer lover wouldn't love a handful of tickets, each good for a sample of German lager combined with a little yellow ballot soliciting your opinion of which beer is the best?

Therein lies the problem.

No one, not the people at the ticket booth, or the people at the beer tables, or even apparently the other beer festival goers seemed to know about the contest. After failed attempts at getting voting slips from the front desk and a few beer tables we finally found a couple crumpled and beer-soaked sitting on a brewer's tap cooler on the far end of the hall. They didn't even do us any good because when we tried to get them punched at the booths, the volunteers looked at us as though we had handed them the cryptex.

It wouldn't have been so bad if there weren't a dearth of good examples of beer. For the most part, we were underwhelemed. There weren't really too many bad beers, but there weren't all that many good ones either. I really wish we had been given the opportunity to give The Brew Kettle and Great Lakes Brewery the props they deserved.

Not that the whole evening was a wash. We got to hear Alex Meixner perform, and I have to say I was impressed. Not only that, but I always get a kick out of Schnitzelbank. It was a Good Damn Time.      

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A plastron is part of a turtle!

We do love the trivia, and we've been going to regular trivia nights at Champps. The only drawback? 1) We get gift certificates that don't include beer and 2) the best beer we can get our mouths on is Dortmunder.

Thank god both these points have been fixed with the introduction of trivia nights at the Great Lakes Brewing Company! If you happen to come by Tuesday nights at 8:00 be certain to listen for "Kicking Asterisk." Future (and happily beered) champions of GLBC's trivia night.

Beer of the Month: Great Lakes Oktoberfest

We're going to try something here. Beer is more than just something you put in a glass. It's complex, historical, and personal, a featured player in our memories both good and bad, and sometimes, the main event. So we're going to pick a beer every month that's more than just a beverage.

We'll start off with our September beer hitting all the right marks; it's seasonal, it's local and it's quite special to us.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest is proof that you don't have to be from Munich to make a great marzen. We've found many opportunities to drink this great session beer: simply sitting on the couch watching football or drinking from a stein listening to an oom-pah band or special ordered to enjoy immediately after our nuptuals.