Friday, November 28, 2008

mmmmmmm...Hard Cider!

I spent the week in Iowa City with the in-laws. It was nice to get away and it was pretty tolerable, perhaps due to the mind numbing beverages I brought along. Boy, did we consume a lot of beer! Anyway, as the week came to a close, "the men" decided to get away while the little buggers napped and take in a company making hard cider (among other things) in rural Iowa. You probably haven't heard of the little town of Sutliff Iowa. In fact, I'm not even sure if it is a town-village, hamlet, burg? In fact I hadn't heard of it and I grew up less than an hour away! Nonetheless it is a little area along the Cedar river, just south of Mt Vernon and Lisbon and North of Solon. Oh wait, haven't heard of those either. Ok, it's close to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. But this isn't an Iowa geography lesson here. It's about a great place called Sutliff Cider Company. I first heard about it a month ago as my parents were taking the Harley out for a fall ride through the countryside. For whatever reason they stopped, took the tour and found it was a whole lot like brewing beer. After tasting their hard cider, I knew I should stop by. I contacted Scott, the owner/cider maker. (Ok, someone tell me, brewers make beer, vintners make wine, who makes cider? is there a name?). Scott said he'd be in the Friday after Thanksgiving so we made the trip north about 30 minutes to the Sutliff Cider Company.

What we found was way more than expected. To say the least, Scott is passionate about his cider just as any brewer or vintner is about his drink of choice as well. We got a great tour. Here is a
little peak(forgot my camera, but bro-in-law Jeff came to the rescue until his battery died-still pretty good despite the camera phone pix):

In the main pressing room. An apple press is a new gizmo for me and I found it pretty cool. Sadly they were not pressing juice today as they normally do on Fridays.

Scott enjoyed "theifing" a little out for us. Ok, it was actually a lot. We tried 9 month old cider from four different barrels and even a little experimental perry (fermented pear juice).

Enjoying our cider right from the barrel with pa-in-law John. In the background are the 7 barrel fermentors. The cider is hazy in these tanks for many reasons including the yeast in suspension. After aging in the used wine barrels, it drops bright and delicious but is pretty dry with little sugar content. Scott then blends back each barrel along with some fress juice for the right amount of sweetness to accompany the tart crispness from this great cider. This is truly the art of cider making, I think. After that, they bottle it on a tiny bottle filler not unlike the one we use in our cellar.

A little blurry, but this is in their new tasting room where many of the barrels of cider will sit and age for 9 months before being blended and bottled. they have a lot more aging space now and are looking for bigger fermentors as well. I would kill for racks and racks of aging barrel space!
Sutliff Cider company makes three main products, Hard Cider, Soft Cider (non alcoholic) and Pure Cider (fresh press unpasteurized cider) John got to take a jug straight off the tank. yummy!
If you are ever in the Northeast area of Iowa take a little side trip to Sutliff. You'll be glad you did. Now, time to go crack a bottle out of that case I purchased.....

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tap List 11/17/08

Big Black Pumpkin (8.0% a.b.v.)
Made with 100lbs real pumpkin, 20# cocoa nibs, and pumpkin pie spices (ginger, allspice, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon). Nice and spicy in the nose, full bodied porter, with a smooth chocolate finish.

The Curse IPA (7.3% a.b.v.)
Matt's beloved Cubs proved their worth again this year. Let's drink to forget with a big American IPA made with Columbus, Simcoe, Cluster, and Cascade hops.

Collaborative Evil (10% a.b.v.)
[Almost Gone!]

Hoppy Little "O" (6.5% a.b.v.)
Just like last time, except a little easier drinking. A beautiful marriage between a hoppy American IPA and a belgian ale. And made with organic malt of course.

Guest Tap: Surly's Coffee Bender
Guest Stout: Founders' Breakfast Stout
Wood Aged Beer (while it lasts): Oak Aged Pullman

Google Calendar added

Now you can track our upcoming events more easily. I've added a calendar to the bottom of the Blog that you can add to your personal Google Calendar if you use it. Our Public Calendar ID is: (Calendar ID:

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Barrel Aged Beer Now!

What do we do with leftovers from FOBAB?? We drink them, duh? We put Jenni's Sleepi ale on the bar Monday night and was out sometime Tuesday (sorry). Currently we are pouring Organic Woody(may last til Friday afternoon). I think we will do Wooden Hell next and finish out with Pullman Reserve (which we have to most of.) Hurry, these won't last more than a day or two each. Ask your bartender for today's selection.

Monday, November 10, 2008

FOBAB doubly successful

We had over 100 beers, we had two sessions, we had over 1000 people. This year's Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged BeerSM was a huge success. We won silver for Wooden Hell in the Barleywine category, and silver in the experimental category for Jenni's Sleepi, a blend of Pullman, raspberries, and oak.

All of the volunteers, brewers, and workers deserve a big thank you for such a smooth transition between GI-Wrigleyville and the Plumber's Hall.

Here are some photos.

The hall right after setup.


More judging

The crowd during session 1.

Matt and the Sleepi one herself showing off our two silver medals.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

City Provisions Dinner Wednesday, November 19th

Just a reminder about the awesome dinner we have coming up with City Provisions. If you haven't seen this week's Time Out Chicago, here is the reminder:

Featuring Flossmoor Station Brewery, Flossmoor, IL
Dietzler Farms

Wednesday November 19th, 2008
7 :00pm
City Provisions
1820 West Wilson

$60 all inclusive

fall spiced popcorn
Zephyr Golden Ale
organic split pea soup with braised oxtails
Station Master Wheat Ale
Albondigas, roasted poblano salsa
The Curse IPA
cumin cilantro marinated flank steak, fingerling potato latkes, roasted red pepper cream
Hoppy Little O
Pullman brown BBQ brisket, beer battered onion frizzles, on Texas toast, sweet potato
mash, Collaborative Evil syrup
Pullman Brown
big black pumpkin ale cake, homemade marshmallow, and pumpkin crème anglais
Big Black Pumpkin

Flyers if you would like to print and hand out to your friends.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

GABF judging review

Our notes just came in the mail from the Judging at this year's GABF. I'm always excited and nervous to read the notes because I have a hard time being objective about my own beers. In a blind tasting with judges from all over the world, a lot of them being fellow brewers, it's always great to get feedback. In '06 when we "won it all" the notes were overwhelmingly positive. We sent six beers and won medals with four of them. Last year we sent eight beers and "only" won one Gold Medal. This year we also sent eight beers and again, we "only" won one medal but the notes were again very positive. I want to try to give you a little insight to the process and show what's it's like to those who choose to participate.

When you get your envelope it has stapled packets with a cover sheets like this:

The first thing I always dart my eyes around for is that first "yes" "no" check box. Yes means that your beer went on past the first round of judging. We entered eight categories (with number of entries in parenthesis): 75 Barley Wine (55), 14 American-Belgo Style Ale (36), 38 Baltic Style Porter(18), 48 American Style Amber/Red (65), 17 Wood-and Barrel-Aged Strong beer (79), 35 German-Style Schwarzbier (23), 15 American-Style or German-Style Sour ale (34), 76 Pro-Am (58), and 64 Belgian Style Strong Specialty Ale (44).

Every year the competition gets bigger and therefor harder to win. As far as judging goes, categories with 12 or fewer entries are judged in one round, 13-48 entries are two rounds, and larger than 48 are three rounds. The Yes or No check box lets you know that you beer went past the first round at the very least. If you entered American IPA with 104 entries and your beer made it out of the first round, that might not mean nearly as much as a category with smaller number of entries. Some judges just try to wean out the beers with faults first. Any dink can be a reason to knock it out. But I've never judged at GABF so maybe Matt can chime in later to give a different perspective.

The beers that we had go on to the next round were Sheol, Killer Kowalski, Panama Red, Black Wolf Schwarz, 12, and Collaborative Evil. When you're at the awards ceremony and you're mentally biting your nails you hope that somehow all of your beers will win. Normally there isn't much chance of that. Winning even a single bronze is a great accomplishment that many people can't or don't fully understand. These are the best beers in the country, and to a large degree the world. Winning an award feels great. It gives your ego a boost. It makes cleaning kegs for hours on end or bottling until you're numb in the mind worthwile. You can tell people that, "Yes, I did make the best such and such beer in the country." So having said that, when you "only" win one award after winning more than one in the past, it can be a little dissapointing. Not as much as getting shut out; because that really sucks. However, this brings me back to judging notes.

Six of the Nine beers that we sent out went on to the next round. That's awesome. The judges for the most part really seemed to like our beers. The fact that only one meddled doesn't hurt nearly as much once you see that in the judges minds you had a really good beer. Some of the notes are great, like this one:

Some of them are entirely unhelpful, like this one:

Can you read what that says? Because we can't. Thanks for the silver medal but I can't tell if you liked our Baltic Porter or how we can improve it back to Gold status.

Regardless, my point is that if you are submitting beers to the biggest and best Beer Competition in the US, it's great to know that you were really close to winning on a bunch of your beers. Once you get past the first round and there are four or five or six beers that the judges are trying to decide on for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, it can come down to the smallest thing. It doesn't mean that your beer is bad but it's up to the people at the table at that point and if your beer gets that far you've done well.

I think we did well this year. I look forward to next year as we begin planning and plotting on how to take back the mantle of "Best Small Brewpub" in the country. Hopefully. If we're lucky enough. If our beers all taste great. And I guess if the judges like them too.