Review: Blacklist Verte

By Ryan Urban

Last winter on a trip to Duluth, Minnesota, I made the goal to visit all of port city’s breweries. Bent Paddle, Canal Park, Fitgers and Lake Superior all offered distinct spaces and great beers.

After browsing Blacklist’s lineup, I searched the Internet earnestly to find its location. I was, of course, disappointed to find it didn’t have one. It was an increasingly-rare contract brewery only.

But, I received a serendipitous consolation, finding Or de Belgique on tap at the Tavern on the Hill restaurant.

I had never heard of Blacklist before that weekend, and had no real expectations.

But I was blown away at first sip. The beer is a malty 9.5% Belgian Golden Strong Ale with all the wonderful complexity associated with the best in the style–Honey, lemongrass, pear, banana, spice and more.

This past January, I visited the Twin Ports again. A quick “Google” revealed that Blacklist now had a taproom. It became the first stop.

In a long, but spacious building with minimalist reclaimed wood trim and barrel-based tables, my female companion and I enjoyed being waited on by a helpful server.

An export stout—simply titled Dark–caught my eye, and proceeded to please my palate. But what next?

Though it wasn’t on the menu, I asked for Or de Belgique, hopeful there was a bottle somewhere. No such luck. But the server pointed to Verte, which he said was Or de Belgique with some extra dry hopping. I took a bomber to go.

I popped it a week later, and was not disappointed.

Dangerously easy-drinking, Verte has the marvelous complexity of the original, with an added dimension with tangy aroma and dryness from the Saphir hops.

I’ll be seeking another bottle on my next trip north. Paired with a salmon plank would be perfect.

Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Beer of the Week: Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

IMG_1991Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

I have returned from vacation refreshed in mind and body. Helping me remain in this state is trunkload of North Carolina beers procured during a few days in Asheville.

Naturally, I had to feature something from the Tar Heel State on this blog. It is North Carolina Craft Beer Month after all.

I had long thought of visiting Asheville, not only for its reputation for tasty beer, but for its great food scene and outdoor recreation—I had a blast mountain biking and hiking.

I picked North Carolina over other options like Colorado, Montana and Michigan, thinking it would be the warmest option in early April.

But when the time came to leave, news dropped on the state’s new law making it illegal for transgender people to use the public restroom of the gender they identify with. I read up on the issue, and it seemed to me that this law was altogether unnecessary, insensitive and discriminatory.

I considered a sort of protest of the law, by changing course and not visiting North Carolina.

Ultimately, I decided not to hold it against the whole of the state, where there are in fact many friendly people.

Case in point is this plan for breweries to collaborate on a beer called Don’t Be Mean To People: A Golden Rule Saison. This is basically a protest beer of HB 2, the bill that led to the discriminatory restroom law, and all proceeds from its sales benefit organizations supportive of the LGBT community.

The beer will be brewed by Mystery Brewing and Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham, North Carolina. I was nowhere near Durham, but did grab four tallboys of the Ponysaurus Biere De Garde while in Asheville.

Graphics on the can, which are all kinds of awesome (see below), indicate that the “beer to be guarded from thieves” is made from barley, wheat and rye with “aromas of pear, almond, and vanilla, you know, abound.” These statements ring true. The flavor is funky French. Flavors of fig, pear, banana, toast, clove and nutmeg kiss the tongue, while it finishes dry and alcoholic.

This Ponysaurus creation leaves me confident Don’t Be Mean To People, which is set for release in May, will be a forceful beer in flavor and support for this nice cause.

Is it the best beer I had in North Carolina? Hard to say. Further tasting consideration is required—only had 3 days between drives to and from Wisconsin. Sierra Nevada offered a delicious Ovila with cherries as well as two great saisons in Audition and Peppercorn. Highland’s Saw-Whet Saison may be better yet. Burial Beer Company was impressive with its Shadowclock Pilsner and The Rosary Belgian Export Stout. I had originally intended to write about the marvelous Hi-Wire Lager before reading of the friendly collaboration between Ponysaurus and Mystery Brewing.

A big cheers to them. I hope for a chance to drink Don’t Be Mean To People, preferably with some of that great barbecue they have down there. For now, I’ll down this Biere De Garde before some fridge bandit gets ahold of it.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

All-grain homebrewing for the first time

Why go all grain

In 1 year of homebrewing I never considered doing an all-grain recipe. It really made no difference to me how I got the wort. Using malt extract was easy, familiar and I was always pleased with the final product.

One day I walked into Point Brew Supply in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, just to look around and maybe formulate a new brew. What came to mind was a Belgian strong ale. I skimmed a few recipes on my phone, found one I liked and started talking to a shop employee.

The recipe was all grain—eight of them—and the shop had them all. But I knew nothing about all-grain brewing, so I asked the shop guy for malt extract. But before he could find something suitable, I asked him how all-grain brewing works. He said it was fairly simple and cheaper than using malt extract. I was intrigued. What I gathered from his explanation was that all the grain is steeped in hot water all at once in a large picnic cooler to make the wort. After that, I felt confident enough to give it a try and figured my brewing buddies and I could work out the finer points of the process.

­Constructing a system

My standard 48-quart Rubbermaid picnic cooler seemed to work quite well as a mash tun­—for mashing process to convert the starches in crushed grains into sugars for fermentation­—and lauter tun—used for the lautering process of separating the mash into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain. Coolers are a great option because they are insulated, unlike buckets, tubs or other low-cost vessels that have the capacity for mashing but require extra insulation with blankets and the like. It was a pleasure to feel the warmth of the cooler lid during the mashing process.

To get the wort from the cooler into the boiling kettle, we had to rig up a tube and valve system. This proved to be tricky, especially because we foolishly assumed our local hardware store would have everything we needed. We were modeling our system after one presented in this series of videos from the Homebrewers Association. We were unable to find all of the components, but actually ended up with a simpler design that worked very well.

We needed only one of the three hose clamps and did not need a keg bung, which we could not find locally. That left us with a 16-inch stainless steel supply line, 3 feet of ¼ inch rubber tubing and a two-way neutral ¼ inch nylon valve. Unable to find the 7/16 inch valve recommended by the Homebrew Assn., we downsized to the ¼ inch one I found at O’Reilly Auto Parts. It was meant for a small engine fuel line, but it worked great for our purposes.

Even after an intense tug-o-war battle, we could not fully remove the inner tube from the steel exterior of the supply line. But it served as an excellent filter, separating the grain from the wort we drained from the cooler. We left the cooler’s built-in drainage valve. We were unable to shove tubing all the way through, so we stuck three inches into the nozzle on either side. There were no leaks. The tube on the inside of the cooler was connected to the supply line filter with a ¼ inch hose clamp. The exterior tube was connected to the valve and the remaining two feet or so of rubber tube ran off the other end of the valve. Because the valve ends were barbed, we did not need the extra hose clamps.

IMG_20151122_161816024

We did a protein rest, saccrification and mash out at different temperatures. A single infusion at about 154 degrees probably would have produced similar results, but we wanted to experiment wholly in the all-grain process. Fifteen pounds of grain and nine gallons of water barely fit in the cooler. When the mash was ready, we released the valve and the liquid moved easily into our boiling kettle. A larger hose would have filled it faster, but I see no downside to the ¼ inch tube other than taking more time and losing a little heat. We proceeded with the rest of the brewing process as normal. The ale is in the secondary fermenter now, and seems to be coming along nicely. I will post an update on the finished product. I cannot wait to do another all-grain recipe and work on perfecting our system. I’m hooked.

What we used

Here’s a list of equipment we used for our all-grain system.

  • 48-quart picnic cooler (bigger would be better)
  • 16-inch stainless steel supply line
  • 3 feet of ¼-inch rubber tubing
  • Two-way neutral ¼ inch nylon valve
  • 1/4-inch metal hose clamp
  • Wooden spoon (mash paddle for stirring)