Omega Saisonstein’s Monster Review

Chicago’s Omega Yeast Labs is fairly new to the brewing scene and even newer to homebrewers. They offer some interesting new strains not available at the other big suppliers. One of which is Saisonstein’s Monster – a Saison strain that is actually a blend of two of their other offerings. I picked up a pouch at U.Brew and tested it out on my annual pumpkin ale. Here’s what I thought of it:

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For me, DuPont is the definitive Saison and its yeast is the only proper yeast for the style if you want to follow tradition. However, Omega offers an alternative that does have its place in the growing spectrum of Saisons.

I had never used an Omega yeast before so I really didn’t know what to expect. I decided to split a batch of Pumpkin ale at 1076 OG between the Saisonstein and a popular English strain from a different supplier. In building the starters, the Saisonstein seemed to have more liquid yeast than the competitor and it looked to be very clean and consistent. I’m not sure on the cell counts, but it looked more than sufficient.

I put the yeast through my version of the DuPont fermentation program: start at 70F and ramp up 2 degrees a day until stopping at 84F and then dropping down to ambient temp. The krausen never raged like the DuPont strain and it seemed more even tempered. There was no stalling – just a steady, thick, about 1-2″ krausen until fermentation completed, which point it flocced out fairly quickly. It did leave things fairly cloudy, but it was hard to gauge for sure with the dark pumpkin ale. The finishing gravity was 1009 so that’s 87% attenuation – well within the advertised range which is quite respectable considering the temperature abuse I put things through.

The aroma reminded me a lot of a German Hefe with some banana and clove notes, but not nearly as prominent as a Hefe. The taste had some of that banana and clove, but the majority of the flavor was a fruity, almost mango like character. It was surprisingly well balanced and clean though. Do not expect any of the rustic, grassy, barnyardy characters you get out of DuPont. However, it does remind me of some of the cleaner, American Saisons, such as Revolution’s Coup D’Etat. I could see using this yeast again, only not in a Saison – I see this being a lot of fun in a Belgian Golden or even a Trippel.

3rd Annual Cedar Rapids Beer Nuts Festival

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Don’t forget that MUGZ will be at the Cedar Rapids Beer Nuts festival next weekend, September 27th from 1 to 5pm. This is the third time they’ve put on this great festival and if this year’s is anything like the previous two, you won’t want to miss it.

A lot of beer festivals are run by distributors or retailers. They know their stuff, but they’re still running a business and are looking to promote and sell their products. At festivals like the Beer Nuts fest, it’s all homebrewers promoting the beer they brewed simply because they love brewing and having people taste their beer. I don’t know any homebrewer unwilling to talk your ear off about a beer they brought. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something!

And it’s for a good cause! Proceeds go to Pints for Prostates cancer research. Help fight cancer while drinking excellent beer – it’s a no-brainer. For more details on the event, check out the Beer Nuts website. To see what beers will be on tap, check out the app right here! See you there Saturday!

Drinking Social(media)ly

We’re never really alone anymore these days with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al at our finger tips. And while I prefer human interaction over virtual interaction – especially when it comes to drinking – sometimes you don’t have that option and it’s nice to know that your friends are a finger press away.

untappdUntappd has earned a spot on my phone’s home screen. It lets me see what beers my friends are trying and what they think of them. However, I use it primarily to keep track of the beers I have tried and what I think of them. I’ve drank a lot of beer in my life and as a result of that, I can’t always remember what I thought of a specific beer. So I keep track of them in Untappd, generally only checking one in the first time I have it.

I do like seeing what fellow MUGZers are trying. I have a few of you on there already, but would love to see more. So go ahead and find me if you so desire, username rosquin (https://untappd.com/user/rosquin). If you want join in with other members, post your username in the comments. Cheers!

Regional Impact on Styles

I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot within the US for work and pleasure. I have visited the 48 contiguous states – many of which on long summer roadtrips as a child and many more as an adult on work trips or vacations. (My new goal is to have a local beer in all 50 states, but more on that later…. maybe). One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been of drinking age is how much of an impact a region’s history has on the beer you can find there.

Things are changing now that everyone has become hop addicts, but it wasn’t that long ago that you could separate the US into three vertical sections – on the east coast you have the colonies and with them a history of English style ales. Malt and sessionable ales are the focus. After the American Revolutionary War, settlers started heading west with the Germans being the largest group to take up residence in the Midwest. They brought lagers and wheat beers. These hang around today, exemplified by Anheuser Busch in St. Louis and Boulevard in Kansas City and a slew of not-really-hoppy, not-really-malty lagers. The west coast was the fringe of society for us and the last to be settled (of the lower 48). That fringe culture helped them lead the hops charge with everyone one-upping each others’ IPAs.

Courtesy of CraftBeer.com

Courtesy of CraftBeer.com

That landscape is changing as everyone seems to be going hop crazy right now, but there still stands that spectrum of malty to balanced to hoppy as you move east to west (with all due respect to some excellent exceptions).

Last week I was surprised to find a subset of that stratification on the east coast. I spent the week in Raleigh, North Carolina where I had plenty of choices for local beer research. NC is one of the states I haven’t been to since I was a kid so I had no idea what to expect. There appeared to be a ton of small, packaging brewers in the area. On the first night there I swung down to the hotel bar for a drink and saw they offered a few local beers. The guy next to me ordered an IPA from Railhouse Brewery and said it didn’t taste right so I ordered one. I was surprised to discover that it was a decent English IPA. The “off” flavor was that it wasn’t an in-your-face American IPA. Throughout the week I found that English style IPAs were the norm and not the exception. I also discovered multiple Scottish styles. Raleigh Brewing Company’s Blatherskite and Highland’s Gaelic Ale were two of my favorites, both what one would call Scottish 80 Schillings.

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Maybe I was preconditioned for seeking out English and Scottish influences as I’ve been submerging myself in the history of Scotch-Irish settlers in the US as part of my genealogy research, but the influence is unmistakable. The Scots arrived here over 200 years ago and we’re still seeing their impact in our craft beer choices. How cool is that? Here’s to hoping that the influence never goes away and that we remember to maintain some of our regional history with the best tools we have on hand – beer!

Do you really need to boil beer?

mythbusters-logoWhen it comes to brewing, the boil is sacrosanct. One of the first cardinal rules all brewers are taught is “You must boil for 60 minutes. No more, no less”.

It’s right before the rule about needing to always use a secondary fermentor and somewhere after the rule about waving a chicken bone over every mash.

But then you learn that it’s OK to boil a little longer and that in some cases that’s actually beneficial (but don’t boil too long!). But what happens if you boil for 4 hours? Or 40 minutes? Or not at all? Does it ruin your beer? Does it bring shame to your family and ancestors and require you to live out the rest of your life in solitude? Or does it not really make all that much difference and we’ve all been wasting our time?

I don’t really know, but I plan to find out. I’ll be doing this month’s educational on The Boil – what it is, what it does, do you need it, and how should you use it? Hopefully, I’ll even have a sample or two. Before that, though, I’d like you to vote on the poll on the right side of the page here. How long do you typically boil a batch of beer? If you typically brew all-grain, select from one of the answers starting with “All-Grain:”. Do the same with the extract answers if you brew more extract than all-grain. I’ll reveal the answers and more on Sunday, July 27th!