Illuminator at the Red Bull

March 22, 2011

If you’re in our neck of the woods, we’ll have Illuminator Doppelbock on tap at the Red Bull in Corning on Friday, March 25. Limited quantities, so if you want to try the brewvana-Rock Bottom collaboration beer, you’ll need to hustle!


Illuminator update

February 23, 2011

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been having a hard time sleeping at night. How’s Wilson’s beer coming along?, you’ve been thinking. I thought I’d check in with an update, to help you get some rest.

It’s lagering away, says brother Eric. Wanna sneak peek? Here you go, via Eric’s Tweet Machine:

Details. What are the details?

Brewed with Munich, Vienna, CaraMunich, CaraPils and a touch of Carafa III, and hopped with primarily Liberty hops, the OG was 19 Plato and the FG was 6.3.

The Beer Police will moan that at 6.67 % abv, it’s restrained for a doppelbock, and they’re welcome to whine. While most doppelbocks start at 7.5 % and climb to 11 % or more, I’d point out that as late as 1853, Zacherlbrau’s Salvator (the secular follow up to the original Paulaner monk-brewed “doppelbock”) had crap attenuation at 45.96 %, leaving a beer that started at 1.098 and finished at 1.051 at a mere 5.94 % abv–and prolly a little sweet, to boot.

It’s “a bold, unfiltered monk’s Lenten session beer,” with a calculated 288 calories per 12-ounce serving. And the alcohol is restrained compared to other doppelbocks on the market. This beer is a thoughtful rendition that I hope will remain drinkable enough to be all I consume—aside from supplementary water—for 46 days. And I hope the folks that visit Rock Bottom to drink the rest of this labor of love enjoy it, too.

Illuminator will be released at Rock Bottom—Des Moines (4508 University Avenue, West Des Moines 50266) on Fat Tuesday—March 8, 2011—with a special tapping at 6 p.m., followed by a crawfish boil at 7 p.m.

Join us if you’re in the neighborhood!

The other illuminating good news is this:

Eric tossed some of the Illuminator in a Heaven Hill rye barrel yesterday, so there’s that to look forward to, as well. When it’s time…

UPDATE: this just in from Rock Bottom’s newsletter regarding the release (note the RSVP info)–

If you’ve ever been in Bayou country you know what fun this is…then again, we’ve been boiling ’em up for years.

Crawfish, Andouille Sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions and garlic all boiled up together and thrown down on the table for your enjoyment.

Wash it down with our delicious craft brews! We’ll feature a pre-tapping IrishRed Fire Chief Ale, Heartland Light Lager, VolksWeizen or Illuminator.

Please RSVP by calling (515) 267-8900 before March 6th.

Market Price (announced via Facebook before March 6th) includes dinner, beer, gratuity & tax.

Brewing Illuminator–a beer for the fast lane

January 28, 2011

A few days ago I mentioned my doppelbock collaboration with Eric Sorensen of Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery–Des Moines, and it’s time to dive a little deeper into what that’s all about.

Enamored with the story of the origins of doppelbock, a couple of years ago, I thought it might be interesting to recreate that experience and fast on doppelbock for the duration of Lent as the Paulaner monks of Neudeck ob der Au–who are credited with developing the beer that is today know as doppelbock–would have done.

When the idea first came about, my work situation wouldn’t have allowed me to do it–long, hot, fast-paced hours hardly resembled a monk’s life, my wife quickly pointed out. So the idea was put on hold to ferment–until now.

I approached Eric last August at a beer festival and he quickly signed on to work with me on scaling up one of my homebrew recipes to brew at Rock Bottom.

Yesterday was our long-awaited brew day.

Between August and January, Eric and I have exchanged countless messages hammering out the details of the recipe. In my opinion, he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate my little project, and for that I’m very grateful.

The goal was to produce a bold, unfiltered doppelbock, packed with calories and carbs so that I don’t wilt away on my journey. It’s heavily reliant on Munich and Vienna malts (and friends), and hopped with just the right amount of Magnum and Liberty hops. The OG starts at 1.076 (after having a couple bottles of Three Floyds’ Creeper recently, I was certain that though it’s fun to make beers big and meaty, this beer couldn’t be so big that it lost some measure of drinkability–and I needed a somewhat manageable alcohol content). To be historically accurate, we would have needed to  crash this beast at a ridiculously high finishing gravity, so, that’s one place where my purist tendencies will be left by the wayside. Eric needs to sell the remaining beer, after all.

We kicked off a double brew day at 9 a.m., and after doing Illuminator and then a porter, it was a long day. Thank goodness for short bursts of beer samples and someone else cooking lunch. As a few folks know, this isn’t my first time raking grain out of a mash tun. Brewing is hard work and attention to detail is paramount. It felt good to mill hundreds of pounds of grain, hit a mash temp (158F) and turn a few valves. Though the life of a professional brewer isn’t as glamorous as some folks might think, at the end of the day, one is making beer, and that is very rewarding, making all the heavy lifting, cleaning and other mundane tasks worth it.

For me, it adds a layer of investment to this fast, which will be no easy task. I made that beer. And so did Eric. I can’t fail. Aside from the delightful read that will be on the other side of Lent, there’s too much good to come from this project. I don’t know what, but it’ll emerge.

What was it like for a monk to drink beer for 46 days? Stay tuned.


To follow along as this project progresses, check out Diary of a Part-time Monk.

PS: guess what’s going in here:

The Session #11–Doppelbock, the Illuminator

January 4, 2008

Welcome to The Session (the brainchild of Stan, over at Appellation Beer) for Friday, January 4, 2008. Today, beer bloggers the world over will be discussing Doppelbock: the illuminator.

From my announcement:

I don’t feel like coming up with a bunch of rules and restrictions. I want to learn about doppelbocks, and so the sky’s the limit: write about doppelbocks however you see fit. History, reviews, pairings, pictures, poetry and experiences. All of it.

The SessionThe first time I ever had a doppelbock, I was living on the Navajo Reservation, in Pinon, Arizona, where the pavement ends and the Wild West begins.

It was early in my own private Beer Renaissance. I had but a few homebrew batches under my belt, and my “local” brewpub was 2 1/2 harrowing hours away over washboarded, unpaved roads. Every month or month and a half, we’d make a long list and make our trip to Flagstaff to stock up our pantry, to eat out, to have a good cup of coffee, to get homebrewing ingredients and to track down a local beer or three.

Due to our livelihood, we became very close to many of our fellow co-workers. We helped each other move into our houses. We grilled out together. And since they also made that monthly trip “to town,” we cared for each others’ dogs.

So, once upon a weekend, I took care of The Ruddster’s dogs. He caught up with me Monday morning in the teachers’ lounge, offering some unremembered amount of cash for my troubles. I said that would not be necessary. He said it would. I said it’s one thing to pay the kids in the neighborhood for feeding, walking and looking after pets, but since I was an adult, friend and neighbor, I expected no payment.

I could see him stew internally. The Ruddster is a towering man. A jovial man. He looks like Howdy Doody with an Amish beard, and is generally of a temperament consistent with those two elements of his appearance. But he had an underlying hint of intensity that leaked to the surface occasionally. We argued the dollars back and forth briefly.

Then: “I have a six pack of one of my favorite beers that I brought back with me this weekend. I’ll give you that then.” I persisted slightly with a, “no, really, it’s okay, Rudd.” And then the intensity burst forth. In a raised voice, “I APPRECIATE WHAT YOU DID, AND I WILL BE OFFENDED IF YOU DO NOT TAKE IT.” There was specific emphasis on the word offended that bold, capitalized and italicized letters do not seem to capture. He meant it, and so to save our friendship, I agreed.

Spaten OptimatorThat beer was Spaten Optimator. And I loved it, still do. I’ve thought about Rudd  every time I’ve cracked one open since then, and that’s been a lot these last few weeks.

Beer is a lot of things to a lot of people. A thirst quencher. A social lubricant. Art. Science. Spaten Optimator that day became a negotiation tool, a part of the economy and a conflict resolution strategy. Yes, it’s glorious flavor and brewing talent, as well.

For me, it’s something of an Illuminator. Like many other beers, my first example of this style is a sentimental beer that makes me think of the bond between friends.


It’s exciting to be hosting The Session today. I’m looking forward to reading all of the contributions that come in throughout the day, and I’ll post a round-up tomorrow. If you’re playing along, (1) post your contribution; (2) leave the URL to your post in a comment here OR send me an email: jwmongrel [AT] yahoo . com.

Peace and Pints!


Announcing The Session #11–Illuminator

December 14, 2007

The SessionTime to be thinking about next month’s Session, the brainchild of Stan over at Appellation Beer. I’ll be January’s host, hoping to be the instigator of beer excitement. Pollinator of beer enthusiasm. Elevator of beer appreciation. Detonator of beer discussion.

If you catch my drift, I’m thirsty for a doppelbock.

And there you have it. The Session for Friday, January 4, 2008 will be Doppelbock: the illuminator. I don’t feel like coming up with a bunch of rules and restrictions. I want to learn about doppelbocks, and so the sky’s the limit: write about doppelbocks however you see fit. History, reviews, pairings, pictures, poetry and experiences. All of it.

On that fine day, (1) post your contribution; (2) leave the URL to your post in a comment to my contribution OR send me an email: jwmongrel [AT] yahoo . com. I’ll wrap things up the next day.
Illuminate us.

Iowa Craft Brew Festival launches

May 23, 2011

The inaugural Iowa Craft Brew Festival, pulled together by the good folks at the Iowa Brewers Guild, launched May 21 with a sold out crowd, great weather and loads of tasty beer.

As I spent most of my time pouring (my beer!) at the Rock Bottom booth, I wouldn’t be in the perfect position to offer a critique from a festival-goer’s perspective. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and I know that the brewers were enjoying fraternizing with their kin–and sampling each others’ wares.

My guess is that the space was maxed out and that we could have used a few more portapotties, and that there is nothing but a bright and growing future for both this event and the Iowa brewing scene.

Many of the 20-ish Iowa brewers participated in a joint aging of beers in Templeton Rye barrels, and several of the beers I tried were phenomenal (honestly, I didn’t get around to trying many). Other standouts from my limited tasting perspective were Backpocket Brewing’s lager-licious-ness and Rock Bottom’s Matador, an (if I remember this right) impy schwarz with chilis, cocoa nibs, piconcillo sugar and cinnamon aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel.

Good times, good times. I’ll let a few photos speak the other thousands of words. Hope to see you there next year…

Eric pouring at the Rock Bottom booth.

Jacob from Backpocket (use to be Einfach).

The calm before the storm at Peace Tree's funkadelic pouring station.

The Last Supper

March 15, 2011

Wow! It’s been a crazy week. The only thing that was supposed to be crazy was the Illuminator Doppelbock release party March 8, but the media has gone bonkers over this Part-time endeavor.

My phone won’t stop ringing, my email won’t stop erupting and it hasn’t been the quiet, contemplative week I had planned for myself as I set my shoulders toward a 46-day doppelbock fast. And so it has taken a full week to get to a re-cap of our Fat Tuesday feast at Rock Bottom, which featured a commercially scaled-up version of one of my homebrew recipes.

Big thanks to Eric Sorensen at Rock Bottom-Des Moines for the gracious use of his brew house and assistance in so many ways to make this beer and this project a reality. It has been humbling on many levels.

If rumors are true, Illuminator was the best attended special release in four years, so it’s pleasing to know that I was able to give something back in return, if only a few more tables turned and pints served. With the weather threatening, it could have all come undone, but I was able to rally a few local friends and family to the beery cause–though I have no idea who all those other people were!

The crawfish bowl served some 75 revelers, and we had more than just Illuminator to see us through: Volksweizen, Fire Chief Ale and Heartland Light Lager. And if you were in the know, you made it a point to try a Porter, Hey Porter, which I helped Eric brew on Illuminator’s birthday. The crawfish boil served as my last official meal before starting my fast for Lent, and it was a worthy way to finish out the “before” part of the experience, though I’ll admit, I snagged a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup at a gas station on the way home.

Thanks to Michelle, Kyle, Jessica, Anastasia, Joe, Kara, John, Brent, Chuck, Justin, Matt, Jon, Don, Christy, Denise, Jewels and Marilea (et al) for making it a fun evening for me, knowing that I had friends and family on my side. Thanks also to all the well-wishes I’ve received over the last week, but especially to Eric.


Could I drink you for 46 days?

February 11, 2011

a study in deliciousness, drinkability

and monogamous relationships

In anticipation of my upcoming doppelbock fast, I thought I’d toss back a few bocks and doppelbocks and hold them up to the 46-day measuring stick. Conventional reviews out the window. I can certainly comment on the flavor and aroma, but the ultimate question is could I drink you for 46 days?

Here are the beers I’ve been courting:

Pandora’s Bock (Breckenridge Brewery)–I posted about this one recently, simply because I liked the photo I took, noting, “…quaffable malt and caramel presence. Stitched together nicely with an herbacious hop undertone, this was awfully drinkable for the 7.5 % ABV indicated on the label.” There may be meatier bocks out there, but this is a tasty beer and very drinkable for its ABV.

Could I do it for 46 days? Definitely.

Seeyoulater Doppelbock (Boulevard Brewing)–the cedar aging gives (me) the impression of a thinner body. Good malt character and nuance.

Could I do it for 46 days? Yep.

Salvator (Paulaner)–the modern-day offspring of the original representation of the style, this is higher in alcohol and more attenuated than what the monks would have been imbibing. Their beer would have been quite sweet. This one’s bloody drinkable with malt and toffee notes, though a shadow of former incarnations, as I read up.

Could I do it for 46 days? Yep.

The Creeper (Three Floyds)–big, bold, thick, mean, malt, chocolate, bread, meat and alcoboom with an earthed out finish. This is a contemplative sipper.

Could I do it for 46 days? No, thanks. Too big; it’d wear me out.

Doppelbock Dunkel (Schloss Eggenberg)–bready malt with toffee nuances; medium-full body, creamy as can be. very drinkable.

Could I do it for 46 days? Absolutely.

Schokolade Bock (Millstream Brewing)–For about four years now, this seaonal offering’s perplexed me. I’ve always thought it was a touch thin, with cocoa powder and root beer notes, while I’ve scratched my head that Jason Alstrom gave it an A+ on BA, saying, “Perhaps one of the best Bocks I have ha[d] to date. The taste is flawless and it is so drinkable. A prime example of the style.” I disagree.

Could I do it for 46 days? If the Pope said so.

Double Bock (Sam Adams)–Bready malt with a little more hop bitterness when compared to the rest of this list. Sharper alcohol, as well.

Could I do it for 46 days? If the Pope said so.

La Rossa (Birra Moretti)–The most beautiful of these nine beers, let me mention–that sexy ruby color that I love so much. Bready malt with dark fruits adding another twist. Tasty.

Could I do it for 46 days? Definitely.

25th Anniversary Doppelbock (Millstream Brewing)–Great malt-centric aroma and that pretty, ruby color. The flavor doesn’t quite match the nose, but it’s enjoyable enough, though it’s got very low carbonation.

Could I do it for 46 days? Sure.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if I could/would sustain myself on of any of these for 46 days straight. I’ll be drinking Illuminator. Join us for the release party at Rock Bottom-Des Moines on March 8 (6 p.m.).

Etched in chalk

January 12, 2011


Wonderful Beer Wife and I stopped by Rock Bottom-Des Moines today for a late lunch, and noticed by their chalkboard that it was time I shared a little information on a project that I’ve been working on for a few months, though for the moment, it’s only time for the short story.

I’m working on a book, and part of that plan involves more than a little doppelbock. Graciously, Brewmaster Eric Sorensen has agreed to play along, and scale up one of my homebrew recipes for a one-off commercial release.

We’re slated to brew on Jan. 27, and have a Fat Tuesday release party planned for March 8. Illuminator Doppelbock will begin flowing at 6 p.m., and at 7 p.m. we’ll turn loose a crawfish boil for your tastebud pleasure.

This is a special day for a humble homebrewer, and I invite you to carve out some time in your calendar to join us for the festivities.

Happy brewvana Day

April 29, 2008

Cheers! Prost! Salud! and Yee-Haw! Today’s brewvana‘s birthday.

This pensive little beer blog has been pouring harmony, beer and joy into cyberspace for one year today. It’s been fun looking back on this year in a number of different ways: experiences, beers, friends. There’s a lot of energy that goes into a focused beer life like I lead, and even more when you try to blog the whole darned thing. Focused, of course, doesn’t mean living in a drunken blur. Very much the opposite. The focus is quality, not quantity.

High thinking

Medium drinking

Low puking

This is a good way to live, in my opinion. I’d highly recommend it.

What’s been popular?

So taking a look back at the stats for these past 365 days, I notice that not everyone found me with beer on their mind. My top-viewed post was Izzy Inspired Living, and not-so-coincidentally Izzy Stradlin has been the number one search term bringing readers to this little place I call brewvana. Izzy only beat out BB King on the search competition because people couldn’t decide how to spell BB. There were six different spellings of BB King in the top 13 search terms, with others specifically looking for BB King pictures, photos and/or fotos a little further down the line. That all came out of a post called Brew Like a BB King. I’m glad they’ve received heavy traffic, as they both epitomize the philosophy of this blog.

Having celebrities in my post titles, along with talking about women and beer (6 women, 6 decades, 6 beers); delving into a deep series (The Gospel According to St. Arnold); (hosting The Session (The Session #11–Doppelbock, the Illuminator); and having well-meaning, yet controversial ideas (Over-analysis Syndrome) are clearly ways to generate traffic. I’d encourage you to check out these posts, if you haven’t already. But everything’s not all deep and pensive. Sometimes I talk about bacon and long-lost beer.

First time for everything

Despite having brewed for over a decade, writing a blog and staying focused (and moving to a home with a cellar) has brought a number of firsts this year. I brewed my first Berliner Weisse (long gone), my first Flanders Red (2 more months of secondary) and my first lager (just tapped the second keg of For Those About To Bock). I took and passed the BJCP exam to become a Certified Beer Judge. And, Izzy-like, I’m finally getting myself geared toward my dreams, in terms of my work life.

What’s further firsts do I have planned? Oh, so many beers to try, for sure. But priority breweries for me are the nectars of Russian River and The Lost Abbey. I’m planning my first trip to the Great Taste of the Midwest. I’m planning a serious Baltic porter, a double-barrel dubbel and a my first mild. This will be my Dark Beer Summer, which ought to be a pretty self-explanatory endeavor. Join me; won’t you?

And much more.

It’s been great getting to know some of you. I hope this humble blog has brightened your day and skewed your views in some good way. I don’t know about you, but I’m drinking something special tonight.

Peace and Pints!