Homebrew is amazing stuff and the only thing more amazing in the beer world are the homebrewers.I recently shared my homebrew at a great little bar on the Rice University campus called Valhalla.I was there at the invitation of one of my fellow Foam Rangers, Paul Porter, who is taking the role of Secondary Fermenter in the club this year and Joel Sederstrom, who sometimes bartends at Valhalla. It was billed as a “competition” but in truth, we were just serving up our beers to anyone interested and talking about beer, the club and homebrewing in general.
I brought two beers to sample, Foundation, an American brown ale and Penultimate Pale Ale, which I eventually decided was really an American red. (It started life as an American pale ale, but somewhere along the line it got way darker than you’d expect.) Both beers were well received, although since I’m the brewer, I could taste every flaw (and likely made up a few just out of paranoia.)I knew they were both very well aged… The brown is the older of the two beers at two years and three months old, although the red wasn’t much younger, at two years and a month.They’ve been lagered since coming out of primary and apart from having lost some hop presence (not that the brown needed a lot) neither showed much signs of age.That reminded me about one of the truths of beer.It’s very durable.While I wouldn’t choose to age an IPA of any sort, most beers aren’t so hop forward that they can’t be perfectly drinkable quite some time later. As long as it’s kept away from light, heat and oxygen, beer can last a very long time.
We discussed that a little bit before we broke out our beers, as our club maintains a Bigfoot “library” that we serve some examples from at every year’s barleywine meeting.I think the biggest vertical we’ve ever had was around 13 years of Bigfoot.It ages remarkably well, unlike Celebration ale, which despite being a “vintage” beer simply shouldn’t be aged due to the hops.I will say that after about 5 years, Bigfoot sort of plateaus into a very drinkable barleywine that tilts a little to the malty side instead of the hoppy side, but remains very well balanced.
Of the other homebrewed offerings at the event, Paul brought a brown ale that I really enjoyed (although he took home a growler of mine for later consumption) and Joel really impressed me with a rich and malty Wee Heavy as well as a really tasty Flanders Red that had a great sour bite to it from the Roeselare yeast strain he’d used during fermentation.We never heard who “won” the competition, but it really didn’t matter to us. Talking beer with fellow beer geeks and enjoying the funky vibe of Valhalla on a rainy Saturday afternoon, we were all winners.
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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