Sunday, November 3, 2013

15th Annual Learn to Home Brew Day!

Yesterday the UnderGroundBrewSquad participated in the AHA's 15th Annual Learn to Home Brew Day, which was held at Brew Ferment Distill in Sacramento, Ca. The event hosted AHA's 2013 Home Brewer of the Year Annie Johnson, The UnderGroundBrewSquad Home Brew Club and a few local home brewers that conducted brewing demonstrations and Q&A sessions for individuals who wanted to learn about home brewing. The staff at BFD also shared their knowledge with attendees who had any questions that pertained to zymurgy, ingredients and brewing equipment . The brewers that brewed at the function also shared their knowledge and experiences in home brewing. Their skill levels ranged from novice to advanced. Throughout the day the attendees sampled many styles of home brew and chewed on tasty edibles donated by a few local restaurants and food vendors.
The day started out pretty mellow. The weather was on the chilly side around 55 degrees, clear skies and sunny. A nice day for brewing! Around 9:30 the first of the brewers arrived on site and prepped their stations for their demonstrations. The demos would feature three types of brewing. Extract, Mini Mash and All-grain. The three techniques would take place in a variety on settings. One on a stove top, another camper stove and rounding out the last propane burner setups.
As the brewing got underway the Q&A sessions kicked in full swing. Onlookers asked a number of questions. The brewers responded to the best of their abilities and made sure that everyone could understand. The main agenda of the day was to educate and show how easy it is to make beer at home. No questions went unanswered. If a home brewer could not answer a question for some reason another home brewer would chime in and assist. A few of the questions that stood out at the event was "How long does it take to make beer" and "What's the hardest part of the brewing process"?
The day went by pretty quick. The last of the brews were transferred into their primary fermentation vessels around 4pm. The attendance started to thin out once the in house kegs and home brews tapped out. Overall the event was a success. The goals were met. The community came out in support of the movement. The U.B.S. is looking forward to participating in 16th Annual Learn To Home Brew Day.
Thanx goes out to everyone that made the event possible: BDF, UnderGroundBrewSquad, The Shack, Annie Johnson, Steve Gonzales, AHA and everyone that donated their time and energy. Cheers!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mraz Brewing Co, El Dorado Hills Ca

Shoved into a shopping center in Mediocre America, this family run brewery is a sweet find. The well made beers are adorned with medals from the AHA and the Maltose Falcons. Mike, a home brewer of 30+ years, brews on a 3 barrel system about once a week. He's blessed, the local water needs no treatment for the beers he likes to make, though slight modifications are made for the IPA’s.  The brewery is simple; a plate chiller and an insta-hot for hot water take up hardly any room. No  fancy filtration, and many of the beers go from Mash to Glass in 7-10 days. 
Nitro Blonde: 4.5% 18 IBU – Nitro silky smoothness, this blonde is super creamy. Light on the flavor, but it’s easy to ask for another.  American Blonde:  4.5% 18 IBU – when taken off the nitro, that dissipating flavor was more prolonged, still easy drinkin’ but it’s hard to keep my mind off that nitro silkiness. Belgian White:  4.25% 17 IBU – a welcoming lemony tartness rides in on a yeasty nose, but  arrives rather delicately on the palate, chased by only the mildest of bubbles.  Window of Opportunity: 8.5% 24 IBUs – Belgian Tripple – Sharply flavorful, especially in contrast to the previous beers. A strong boozy taste, this beer could use some aging. Summer IPA: 6.25% 65 IBUs – A nicely bittered IPA with a strong, earthy taste and a big juicy Ruby Red grapefruit finish. Fall IPA: 7.0% 55 IBUs – This medium bodied mid hopped brew was probably the one I liked best, it was a much fuller experience than the others.

While none of the beers at Mraz (Mer-oz) jump up and scream for your attention  (unless you jump through that Window of Opportunity), all were easy to drink. The Nitro Blonde, still lingering in my mind, was my pint worthy choice, with a curvy barista's “M” appearing magically in the foam. The whole family was working on Saturday, Justin  tending the bar and younger ones working quality control while washing and inspecting glasses and smaller ones picking up after the guests. Mom checked in with everyone like a good host and quickly made you feel at home. Mike was happy to show off his small start up brewery and talk about the work it takes to make it run.  It feels good to support a family that is willing to make the sacrifices it takes to make Dad’s dreams come true.


The logo and fantastical artwork is by the lovely Ms. Molle Devlin

Cheers to new beers! Lady Ellamie

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hops for sale - Sacramento!

One of our members, Professor Vorlauf, sends notice that fresh local hops have recently been harvested and are now available for sale. Plenty have already been dried and vacuum sealed.

Varietals available include:
  • Cascade
  • Goldings
  • Fuggle
  • Willamette
  • Centennial
  • Pride of Ringwood
  • Sterling
  • Mt. Hood
  • Cluster
  • Columbus

Inquiries may be made by contacting Kevin Malia at 916-873-7476 or

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Noble Ale Works - Anaheim, CA

 Another industrial warehouse adventure. The town car slows and circles, and though welcomed by the site of the silo, it doesn't appear to be open. The driver encourages Lady Ellamie to try the door, pulling away to the thump of funk.

 It's early for a Thursday, an away game day. The tasting room is sparse. A few picnic tables, and a short bar. The carved wooden signs hanging from pegs tell her today is a short list day. Only 5 on tap, which makes selecting the 5 beers for the sampler a no brainer.

  Pistol Whips Pils: 4.5% 26 IBUs - Full bodied with a unique nose, her name is Mouteka, and she's from New Zealand. At first, she's hard to place, but then you hope to recognize her special scent in the future. Not too dry and not too malt. Heavier hitter than the traditional Czech style. Break Away Pale Ale: 5.0% 41 IBU - pale, bitter, golden, low carb. Another hard to place scent, kinda stinky, but not in a bad way. The Good Ship ESB 5.8% 35 IBU Swirling with the color of wildflower honey, and oh so little head. Smooth and silky, slipping down your throat. Tight, tiny bubbles tickle your tongue. Not much of smell, vaguely antiseptic. The taste sweetens as it warms. Big Whig IPA 6.8% 77 IBU, but which hops did they use? An earthy, faint cat piss aroma. Adequately bittered for this style. Rosalita 4.5% 26 IBU A slight pink hue shines through the goblet, invoking thoughts of grandma's pink wine in a jug, imperceptible head. Hibiscus imbues color and tartness, and perhaps the green peppers too? Mmmm.... Peppers. Wanting Mexican food... which would pair well with Rosalita. What a shame! No food truck today, and limited beer selection = short visit.

Perhaps induced by these conditions, there was the rare sighting of aurora beerealis!


Overall: Near Angels Stadium, which means decent beer before a game, and a projector promises views of the game at all times. The crowd today was mostly men after a white collar work day. A couple of beer geeks swish clean water in the glass prior to noting the elements of their swig. The crowd grew lively but not friendly, people seemed to keep to themselves. Danielle, the beer maiden, is a gem. Knowledgeable and friendly, full of enthusiasm. The beers which had the best reviews were not available that day.

An ad on the cork board announces it is the second anniversary of a local blog, promising 13 beers on Saturday.  And what of the brews for the party on Saturday?  Danielle can't be bribed for information, and with tribute band "Slaves Against The Machine" playing, it sounds like a good time. In the future, a call to inquire the taps, it might save a mediocre trip.


  So, I've been into this home brewing thing for awhile now and I am constantly trying to gather information that will enhance my knowledge of craft brewing. A couple of days ago I questioned myself about the way I approach making my beers. I found it to be really interesting. Even though I've read a lot of written material, listened to many podcast and picked the brains of some of my favorite local brew masters, I found that I ultimately choose what works best for me. Never knew that I could be such a prude!
  Any how I thought it would be neat to start a thread in hopes that we could share our personal preferences when it comes to fermentation portion of the home brewing process. There are many variables that can make or break the final product, so I would really like to know how we approach the matters. I think it's pretty rad that we are basically using the same formula just approaching it differently.
 Okay folks, here we go! (1) Carboy, bucket or keg.(2) Primary vs. secondary.(3) Conditioning of the beer forced carbonation, priming or natural.
  I am looking forward to reading your responses! It should be enlightening because the reality of it all is that we are all trying to produce a really good product to share with our families, friends and associates. Tasty Adult Beverages!
  Until next time. Brew Excellent!!!!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Black Friday" Brewday 11/25/2012

Hey guys and gals. Just want to take a minute to thank everyone that participated in the UnderGroundBrewSquad "Black Friday" brew day. The event was definitely a huge success  The gathering gave everyone a opportunity to brew as a collective, share knowledge about the art of home brewing and basically hangout and have a good time.

Extra special thanks to Tom and Anne for opening up the doors of their lovely home in support our first club brew day. Thanks Tom and Anne! You guys Rock!
The brew day showcased 5 brewers that produced 30 gallons of wort  which varied in beer styles and brewing techniques.

Professor & Josh:
   Vanilla Porter (5gal.) partial
   Honey Hefewiezen (5) partial

    Double IPA (10gal.) all-grain

   Belgian Dubbel (5gal.) all-grain

Liquor Claus:
   India Red Ale (5gal.) all-grain


Homebrews on tap:
 Brewer: Tom J.
   Birthday Imperial Stout
   Copper Ale

 Micro Brews:
  High Water Brewing: Campfire Stout
  Stone Brewing: Black and Blue Cider
  Stone Brewing: Sublimely Righteous Ale

In the upcoming weeks the homebrew club will be scheduling the next group meet-up. The function will take place at a local establishment that pours craft brews and serves tasty eats. Until then be easy  and thanks again for your time and efforts to get this club up and running. It's So. Bro! 


Bike Dog Brewing Co. to open soon in West Sacramento

If you haven’t yet heard of Bike Dog Brewing, you soon will. They have been active on Twitter and Facebook supporting the local Sacramento brewing scene, and have been active on their own web site, via email, and at their soon to be open new location in West Sacramento.

Bike Dog held an open house of sorts a few weeks ago on June 22 to show their new location, let enthusiasts ask questions of the owners, and to try some of their beers. This was also an event to promote “The League,” which is Bike Dog’s name for the group of early adopters who contribute to the cause of building out what will become Bike Dog's new tasting room.

The night before this event they had had their shiny new 3 barrel brewing system delivered, and even though it wasn’t ready for brewing, it was on full display.

They had a nice representative range of beers available for tasting. A milk stout, a saison, a summer pale ale, an IPA, and a double IPA. In addition to the beer there was plenty of water and snacks. The milk stout was a welcome surprise since that normally seems to be an East Coast style of beer. It was my favorite of the afternoon, with a creamy, roasted flavor that was extra smooth. My second favorite was the summer pale ale with its great hop aroma and bitterness yet low alcohol level at 5.5% ABV.

What was really impressive about the beers is that these were all home-brewed, since the brewery is not yet set up to brew on-site, and each beer was distinct and fell clearly into its respective style.

The owners and staff were very friendly and happy to introduce themselves and talk about their beers. I’d be happy to come back to this tasting room even if the bar and benches remained as sawhorses and plywood. I anticipate this place will be very cool when it is fully built out and just how they want it.

Bike Dog is planning to open its tasting room this September. If you want to try some of their beer before then, they will be at "Beer & Bacon on the Boulevard" on July 20, 2013 at Pangaea Two Brews Cafe in Sacramento pouring their Summer Pale.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jack Russell Farm Brewery - Camino Ca

On a bright brisk morning , the Lady Ellamie and Liquor Claus are headed East into the foothills, just past Placerville, CA in a town called Camino, where a brew day is starting. Not an ordinary brew day, but one open to a select few visitor-participants. Jack Russell Farm Brewery opened its doors to friends of The Brewmeister, a home brew shop in Folsom. The crunchy gravel begs you to drive slowly up the black berry lined path, and the long open green was just being set up for the Corn Hole tournament.

Inside, the brewer was explaining how the grain, freshly milled and hefted out of 50 pound bags, was being conveyed via an auger shaft into the mash tun. 

The hot liquor tank was set to start wetting down the grain as all 850 
pounds of  base malt was dumped into the tun. The hot liquor (water destined to become beer) was in the mid 160 range. At this brewery the mash tun has no means of being heated, and the brewer must determine the temperature of the liquor in order to hit the target mash temp, after fully soaking the grist. If you miss your mash in temp, you risk a less controlled beer. During the mash, many magical things are happening. One of which is the production of Alpha and Beta Amylase. These enzymes convert starch to sugar. Sugar is what the yeast will gobble up and turn into alcohol and CO2, so you can imagine the importance of these enzymes! Their proportions vary, depending on the temperature. A higher temperature range will yield Alpha amylase, which is a predictable starch cleaver. It is selective about where the long carbon chain is broken up into more simple sugars and tends to leave shorter more fermentable carbon chains, resulting in more fully digested sugars and a drier beer. The beta amylase, present at lower temps, chops the chain more randomly, leaving short as well as long chains which require much more time to break down. It is these less digestible chains which are harder to predict and add more (sometimes unwanted) flavors and body to the beer. If you miss your target temp, you may have a drinkable beer, but it may not be what you were expecting.    

The mash is then held at temperature for 45-90 minutes, depending on the style and pH. At this time, all the sugars have been pulled out of the grain and into the wort. This denser liquid gets pushed down towards the bottom as the sparge water is applied. The sparge, or rinse water, continues to pull sugars out of the grain. A clarifying recirculation technique, called vorlauf, takes the wort from the base of the tun and pumps it into a cylinder. It is then carefully pumped back into the tun. The grains and husks now act as a clarifying filter. After vorlauf, it is transferred via pump into the kettle. The brewer, who had an impressive CV, had once brewed for Anheiser Busch in Germany. There, he exclaimed, vorlauf continues until the wort is so clear “you could read a book through it”.

It is then transferred to one of the uni-tanks which serve as fermenters and brite tanks which hold the beer until they are ready for kegs or bottles. 

Their Italian bottling line was outdated, and required ingenuity on the part of local craftsmen to create the missing parts so they could convert to bottling 22 oz. 

As the boil started we had ample time to take a break and check out the brewery and grounds. Sitting on 5 acres, Jack Russel has a host of berries planted including raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry and enormous blueberries! Do yourself a favor: buy a plastic basket at the bar and pick your berries by the handful. One of the laws of the lands in these parts ensures that breweries and wineries use the crops that they grow. 

In addition to beer, they conjure up mead, cider, cyser, melomels, wine and every conceivable blend of the fruit grown on site. In the back there is a hand stucco’ed cave, with an artful bar which was at constant hustle, pouring samples of all 9 creations.

The tap room hosted 13 styles, with tasters, pint sizes and my new favorite, the 8 oz pour.

As you look out past their property and on to the neighbors pasture, you can watch llama and sheep frolic and bleat for hours. Or you can watch the locals cheer each other on in Corn Hole, a game of bean bags toss where the objective is to get it onto the platform and slide it right up into the hole. The names of the types of points awarded are hilarious, and people take this seriously.

Overall, Jack Russell is a fun trip to make. Families are encouraged and food and music are not uncommon, but always check their facebook page for details of the on-goings. Bring a picnic, pick a basket of berries, and try some new beverages! They have locally based juices in the tap room as well.

Thank you to Liquor Claus for photos and company!