May 13th, 2013
You say Firkin-off, I say F-off! Call me a grumpy git, miserable bastard or whatever … when it comes to the subject of “beer battles” and what absolute bullshit they are I’ll take either as a compliment. Let me backtrack a little. A week or so ago I saw a few tweets popping up about a “firkin-off” between our friends at DuClaw and ourselves at The Ale House, Columbia on 5/17. This certainly raised my eyebrows as it was news to me. It was being billed as an “us vs. them”, whose casks will be the first to kick type showdown. I can not find adequate words to express my disdain for this sort of crap! I gladly welcome guest casks, especially from local breweries whom I respect so highly but a battle … give me a break! Yes there’ll be two Oliver firkins available, fairly traditional unadulterated English style cask conditioned ales on the bar alongside two firkins from DuClaw. There’s will be more in keeping with their brewing style, the casks will have what I would call “interesting” additions to them from what I’ve been led to believe. You know what you can do … come along to the Ale House in Columbia and try them all and appreciate different styles of beer and differing approaches to presentation of those styles. Celebrate the diversity of cask beer without it being some sort of challenge between the beers on offer. Yep, you might have a favorite …. so what?! Just drink what you enjoy and enjoy what you drink and everybody’s a winner.
Grumpy old man signing off!
May 1st, 2013
American Craft Beer Week kicks off on May 13th and the folks at our sister restaurant The Ale House, Columbia are going to help you celebrate in style. We’re teaming up with our friends at Flying Dog to bring you an amazing beer pairing dinner on Monday 13th May. We’ll feature 3 Flying Dog beers and 3 Oliver Ales paired with exquisite food from Chef Juan. Tickets are $70 (includes tax & gratuity) and can be purchased at The Ale House, Columbia.
I hope you’ve already heard about our “Mild May” Celebration that we’ll be running at both the Pratt St. & Columbia locations throughout May. If not check the previous blog post .
May 9th sees the release of our collaboration with Dawson’s Liquors, also at The Ale House, Columbia. “The Big D” is an 8% abv IPA brewed with a little orange & lemon peel and orange blossom honey, bittered with Centennial and finished and dry hopped with whole leaf Citra. It will be available on draft and cask and we’ll have some souvenir glassware available too!
We’re planning a few new seasonal brews over the coming months. Hot on the heels of our Victorian Porter “Modern Life Is Rubbish” we’ll be brewing a Victorian Stout, “The Ripper” … you’ll find it lurking in the shadows sometime in early June.
The Creeper will also be returning to the taps soon … I hear rumors of a “Belgian style brown ale brewed with molasses” so watch out for that in June also.
April 29th, 2013
For many years now CAMRA have been running a “Mild May” campaign to raise awareness of this classic, and once almost extinct, British beer style. Coming from the West Midlands as I do, a bastion of mild ale drinking, it’s always been one of my favorite beer styles and I spent many happy hours of my student life and beyond in the Nursery Tavern, a stones throw from my flat in Coventry supping pints of mild and playing darts. I feel beholden therefore to “do my bit” for the style by promoting our own Mild May Stateside. Of course it’s a little different here. The CAMRA faithful may run screaming like teenage girls in a Friday 13th movie at the sight of a keg of mild ale but I’m a little less precious about that sort of thing and we will happily offer our mild in keg and cask. I hope you’re already aware of our Dark Horse mild (4% abv) available year ’round. To make this Mild May something a bit special we’re also going to add two additional mild ales during the month. The first, which should be tapped around the 7th will be a re-interpretation of our collaboration with our friends at DC Brau, “Burial At Sea”, clocking in at 3.2% abv. The second (to be brewed tomorrow) is part of our series of collaborations with our friends at 3 Stars Brewing and will be a rye based mild which should be on tap around the middle of the month. All 3 milds will be available on draft and limited cask at both the Pratt Street Ale House and Columbia Ale House locations for $4/pint subject to availability. If you’re interested in reading a little more about mild ales wikipedia is a good starting point. Enjoy the mild May with a few pints … easy drinking and refreshing with a “session” abv that you’ll be able to walk away from!
April 4th, 2013
I hope that you are already aware that we have traditional English open fermenting vessels here in our subterranean world. There’s no denying that open fermentation is a risky business. The possibilities for contamination are great but obviously we do everything in our power to minimize them. The rewards are greater than the risks in my opinion. As a brewer it allows me to both see and smell the fermentation as well as following it’s progress by traditional sampling & evaluation … up close and personal brewing I would say. We thought it would be cool to see exactly what is happening when we’re not here monitoring the brew so we invited our good friend Dan Putz and his awesome time lapse camera into the brewhouse. He set up said camera on the edge of one our 7bbl open vessels set to take a photo every minute …. we took about 2800 frames (it’s a batch of Ironman Pale Ale by the way)
The pictures, run together as a video, are awesome. Check it out by following the link below
The two “jumps” in the level of the yeast head are presumably when I manually roused the brew (which we do daily) which causes the sudden release of carbon dioxide from the fermenting beer.
A huge thank you to Dan Putz for making this possible.
January 19th, 2013
We’ve got some some celebrating to do people … I hope you’re up for it! First off there’s the matter of my birthday this coming Sunday. Turns out that the Ravens have rather selfishly managed to get into the post season and have the small matter of the playoff game with New England to deal with on that day …. apparently that “top trumps” my turning 48 so I will be officially celebrating on Thursday 24th. As tradition dictates the venue will be the wonderful Metropolitan @ 6pm and of course there will be a couple of special casks. This year they will be an oak barrel of Winter’s Wolves and a pin of “Act Of Fear (Act I)”
What’s that you say … What on earth is “Act Of Fear”? Shame on you! Well, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin. It turns out that my good friends Volker Stewart and Steve Frazier of The Brewer’s Art and myself were all turning 48 within about a month of each other and Volker casually suggested that we should brew a beer to celebrate. I’m not one to turn down a fun collaboration, especially for a birthday celebration with two of the nicest people in the business that you could hope to meet and the seed was sown. We met over a beer or two at Alewife and plans were hatched. We would all pick a favorite grains/hops to use, the malt grist would be 480lbs and we would brew at both the Pratt Street Ale House (Act I) and Brewer’s Art (Act II). In case you didn’t read the previous (Friday Question) post , here are some details … Here’s what we went with … English Golden Promise malt, Crystal 85 and chocolate malt with German Vienna malt and Franco-Belge CaraVienna. We bittered with English Bramling Cross at the start of boil and at 45 minutes with a late addition of German Tettnang and whole leaf Bramling Cross in the hop back. We’re fermenting with our English Ringwood yeast and Brewer’s Art fermented with one of their strains. It’s a really exciting project, I’m really interested to see how the beer brewed at both locations will compare and contrast. Our brew systems are very different, with different efficiencies, and therefore the brews have different original gravities. We fermented in our open vessels with an English ale yeast and B.A. fermented in a closed system with a Belgian yeast, sure to introduce a whole world of difference between the beers!
We brewed our version on 12.21.12 and it is on tap now. The Brewer’s Art brewed theirs on 01.08.13 and will be on tap soon. We will of course have both versions available on tap side by side at The Pratt Street Ale House, The Ale House, Columbia and The Brewer’s Art. I haven’t tried Act II yet but I am very, very happy with Act I. By the way, for the last Friday Question I had asked why the beer was called “An Act Of Fear”? Nobody really hit the nail on the head, not surprisingly really, it’s a bit obscure. As well as the proximity of our 48th birthdays we also share a certain Teutonic background … Volker & I both have German mothers and Steve worked in Germany at one time. Tenuous I agree but you’ll see where I’m going with this …. so, when I was working up the recipe, instead of using “48″ as the working name I referred to it by the German “Acht und Vierzig” and then the pronunciation struck me … “Act” & “Fear” … An Act Of Fear which sort of references us, the 48 and the fear of growing old & ones own mortality! Pretentious, possibly, but I think it’s a pretty cool name for a beer. We then added Act I & Act II to reference the separate batches from our breweries.
I hope that you will be able to join me for a pint or two.
Next up is a very special birthday indeed … January 27th will be the 20th Anniversary of the very first Oliver brew day. We will of course be celebrating by brewing “20″ but that of course won’t be released until March at least. I can’t really say much about it other than it’s going to be something big, will involve as much grain as we can squeeze into the mash tun as well as a lot of Belgian Dark Candy Syrup, lots of high alpha hops and California Ale Yeast.
To celebrate the Anniversary we’ll be holding 2 “Barrel Full Of Monkeys” events, one at The Ale House, Columbia on the 27th and one at Max’s Taphouse on Tuesday 29th (6pm). We’ve been diligently barrel aging some brews, most notably Hot Monkey Love (that would be our 10% barley wine type thing) for some time now so the time is right to unleash these beasts upon the world. Here’s what we’ve got … Hot Monkey Love batch #1 aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrel & batch #2 aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrel (aka “My Monkey’s Gone To Heaven”) blended together. Hot Monkey Love batch #2 aged in a French oak red wine barrel (aka “J’aime mon singe et mon singe m’aime”). Hot Monkey Love batch #2 aged in a Wild Turkey barrel (aka “My Monkey’s Gone Wild”). Winter’s Wolves aged in a French oak red wine barrel. Meridian #5 (old ale) aged in a French oak red wine barrel. Max’s Taphouse will also have an oak barrel of “My Monkey’s Got Wood” with elderflowers which will be hooked up directly to the beer engine and a keg of “Monkey Crucifixion” (a blend of “Hot Monkey Love” (batch #1) & “Sign Of The Southern Cross”) and the regular draft of Hot Monkey Love batch #1. The Ale House, Columbia will also have a keg of the draft version of Meridian #5. If that doesn’t float your boat (or maybe that should be “sink it”) I don’t know what will. I hope you’ll be able to come along and help us celebrate this landmark in our brewing history.
January 17th, 2013
Ah, “If You Want Blood”, AC/DC’s seminal live album, was a mainstay on my turntable along with the likes of Judas Priest’s “Killing Machine” and Kiss’ Alive II when I started seriously getting into heavy rock in 1978. The first live show that I went to was AC/DC at Stafford Bingley Hall on the Highway To Hell tour, November 8th 1979 (with the then teenage Def Leppard as support). Just a few months later and almost a month to the day after my 15th birthday Bon Scott passed away. I was devastated! I remember that a bunch of my mates and myself gathered at someones house and sat listening to Highway To Hell, crying through the haze of pot smoke & petula oil. AC/DC have always been a special band … you never forget your first gig … so I guess it was inevitable that I eventually brew a beer with a nod to this classic band. So, today I am brewing “If You Want Blood”, a big red ale brewed from a base of UK halcyon & Canadian pale ale malts with malted & crystal rye, crystal 65 and a touch of chocolate malt. I’ll be bittering with Australian Stella & Topaz and finished with Cascade & Bramling Cross. Expect to see it on cask and tap in late February.
December 21st, 2012
Ok, back to it … it’s been a busy week. I think that I can speak for young Chipper as well when I say that we feel like we’ve been hit by a truck … a big truck, full of kegs of Oliver Ale! The Ale House, Columbia is up and running and off to a flying start … if you haven’t checked it out yet can I just say … WTF?!?! Get over there, it’s awesome. They took something like 60 kegs from us this week … that’s pretty much a whole week’s output from us so we are sorta , well, in the poop (as my son would say). We are taking deep calming breaths and I have purchased a British “Keep Calm & Carry On” poster to hang in the brewery so I’m sure that everything will be fine!
We’ve got a few new things in the pipeline for your delectation. We’ve just tapped the third in our “Ape” series of session beers. This one, “Beware The Beast Man … ” is a 3.8% ale, deep amber in color, with a little spiciness from the use of crystal rye and German Tettnang hops and a big hop finish (Columbus & Amarillo) and then dry hopped with Citra, Sorachi Ace and bitter orange peel.
Today we brewed “An Act Of Fear”, a collaboration with our good friends at the Brewer’s Art. It turns out that Volker and Steve at Brewer’s Art and myself all turn 48 within a month or so of each other. Seems like a good excuse to brew together, don’t you think? Over the course of a beer or two and several emails we hammered out a recipe, each contributing a favored malt and hop combination and a beer was born. Here’s what we went with … English Golden Promise malt, Crystal 85 and chocolate malt with German Vienna malt and Franco-Belge CaraVienna. We bittered with English Bramling Cross at the start of boil and at 45 minutes with a late addition of German Tettnang and whole leaf Bramling Cross in the hop back. We’re fermenting with our English Ringwood yeast and Brewer’s Art will ferment with one of their strains. It’s a really exciting project for me as I’m really interested to see how the beer brewed at both locations will compare and contrast. Our brew systems are very different, with different efficiencies, and therefore we expect the batches to have different original gravities. We will ferment in our open vessel with an English ale yeast and B.A. will ferment in a closed system with a Belgian yeast, sure to introduce a whole world of difference between the beers!
“An Act Of Fear” (Act I) brewed at Oliver’s 12/21/12 came in at an O.G. of 1.066. Act II will be brewed at Brewer’s Art early in the new year. We’ll have both versions on tap at The Pratt Street Ale House, The Ale House Columbia and The Brewer’s Art side by side in late January.
So, onto the question … last week I asked how many hop varieties we have in house? Let’s figure it out … Kent Goldings, Fuggles, First Gold, Challenger, Target, Bramling Cross, Czech Saaz, Tettnang, Hersbrucker, Topaz, Southern Cross, Stella, Mount Hood, Liberty, Falconer’s Flight, Nugget, Centennial, Amarillo, Citra, Columbus, Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace … I think that’s it. So, 24 I think, which makes Kyle the winner. Congratulations sir, you win a growler of your choice (please redeem within 2 weeks).
This week I’m going to offer up a couple of bottles of something nice from the fridge (obviously I’ll try and steal it from someone else’s fridge but whatever, it’ll be worth it) and the question is this … why the Hell is our latest collaboration called “An Act Of Fear”? Think you know, well then submit your answer via the comment option below. The first correct answer gets it. In the event of there being no correct answer I’ll choose the winner to be whichever answer is the most interesting/amusing!
Have an awesome Christmas or whatever you call your holiday season. Peace on Earth!
December 14th, 2012
I’ve been sitting, staring at the screen for a while now. It’s pretty difficult trying to get motivated about talking about trivial shit like beer after the horrendous events that occurred in Connecticut earlier today. I had thought to talk of our “difficult” week trying to resolve issues with distribution and hop contracts and the excitement of the opening of our new restaurant and some cool new brews we have in the works but in the light of everything else that just seems pathetic. I have two wonderful sons and another baby due next Summer. I’m sure, like many of you, every morning when I kiss them goodbye I count the hours until I see their smiling faces again. My eldest, William, lives with his Mother in England and spends his school holidays here in Baltimore … I can not come to terms with the time we have to spend apart … I cry every time I meet him at the airport and double so every time he leaves. The thought that I could say goodbye to them one morning and never see them again is unthinkable. And yet that is what happened to so many parents today … their children were taken away from them at the whim of one individual. What possible motivation could there be for such a horrific event … I can’t even imagine the depth of the grief that the families of the victims of this tragic day are experiencing. My heart goes out to them.
Coming from England the gun culture of the US is quite shocking. Coming to a city such as Baltimore, where it seems to be taken for granted that the number of gun related homicides will approach 200 annually is equally shocking. What I really can’t get to grips with is the lack of political willpower to do anything about it. I’m sure I am regarded as naive but yes, I do understand the constitutional right to bear arms but I honestly do believe that 18th century thinking on this topic has little to do with a country which, in the 21st century , has the most powerful military in the world. A law designed to enable the country to be able to raise a militia in its defense seems redundant to me. Yes, I’ve heard all of the arguments about self defense, hunting etc but the availability of weapons here is ridiculous. Sure, gun control won’t solve these problems overnight but I find it hard to believe that taking guns off the streets and restricting their availability won’t lead to a better future. If gun control saves one life how can it not be worth it? I pray that for the future of my children that our politicians will grow some balls and start a real dialog about gun control and stop pandering to the NRA and their cronies!
You may have noticed, I’m not going to “do” the Friday Question today … I’ll post it sometime over the weekend.
As always, the opinions I’ve expressed here are entirely my own and in no way are intended to reflect those of the owners of the Pratt St Ale House. If you take issue with anything I have to say feel free to email me but, y’know, I have my right to free speech too!
December 7th, 2012
It’s almost a Christmas miracle …. I’m actually managing to post the Friday Question in consecutive weeks!
So, tonight is the soft opening over at The Ale House, Columbia. You know the score, putting the staff through their paces, ironing out some wrinkles etc. Unfortunately I’m on daddy duty tonight so am not able to attend but I visited last night to help out with the staff training and I have to say, the place looks fantastic! I can’t wait until the official Grand Opening Celebration on Friday 14th (note the Ale House is actually open to the public on Tuesday 11th but the official opening/ribbon cutting will be Friday at 5pm). One of you, dear readers, will of course be visiting with a $50 tab on us, but more of that later!
Saturday is shaping up to be a busy day. I’m kicking off with the Holiday Beer Festival at the Pratt Street Ale House held in conjunction with our friends at The Brewer’s Art. There’s an embarrassment of riches to be had in terms of both beer and food, including plenty of cask conditioned ales. Definitely not an event to be missed. I’m also very excited to represent Oliver’s at a growler fill/tasting event/meet and greet at my neighborhood store, Pinehurst Wine Shoppe tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm. I’ll be there with the first cask of “Merry Ole Ale” to be released (that’s our traditional English Christmas Ale, gently spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice) as well as drafts of Ironman Pale Ale, 3 Lions Ale, Winter’s Wolves, Williams Winter Warmer and Bell Croft. I’ll also have some glassware to give away so come early as supplies are limited.
We’ve been working with our good friend Jeremy Mooy to design new logos for our existing year round brews as well as forthcoming seasonals & one off brews. Shown below are a couple of examples, our Bishop’s Breakfast oatmeal stout and Dark Horse ale. Pretty cool, we think!
This week I’ve brewed the latest in the “Ape” series of session beers, “Beware The Beast Man … ” which should be available in within a couple of weeks. It was brewed with halcyon pale ale malt, crystal rye, carabrown and malted oats, bittered with Tettnanger & Hersbrucker and finished with Simcoe & Columbus and will come in at a little over 3.8% abv. Next week I’ll be brewing “Godgifu” (pronounced Godiva), a chestnut brown ale, brewed with freshly roasted chestnuts.
On to the business at hand. Last week I asked what the gyle (batch) number of that day’s brew was. As it happens I posted a small clue on the brewery Facebook page earlier that day in the form of a picture of one of the barrels aging in our cellar. Clearly visible on the face of the barrel was both the gyle of that batch and the date so it was possible to make an educated guess at the current gyle number. As it happens, my good friend Scott Scharf spotted this and dusted off his abacus to work it out and his guess of 3828 was closest to the actual number, 3803. Congratulations Scott, you win a $50 tab at the Grand Opening Party on Friday.
This week you can win a growler fill at the Pratt Street Ale House and all I want to know is… how many different hop varieties do we have in house at the moment? Simple, eh? You know the score, post your guess in the comment section below and the closest answer will win. Have a great weekend. Cheers!
November 30th, 2012
Well, well, well … here we are again. It’s been a looooooong time, but I’m going to (try to) resurect the Friday Question! Tah dah! (or however you write that?)
Anyway, let me tell you about some stuff first. I hope that you already know that on December 8th The Pratt Street Ale House, in association with our good friends at The Brewer’s Art, will be hosting The Mid-Atlantic Holiday Beer Festival. All of our favorite local breweries will be there (and some not so local) as well as some amazing food from the combined talents of the chefs at the Ale House and the Brewer’s Art. All of this is available for $40 and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Maryland Food Bank. Details of the beer, food and ticket purchase information can be found at http://www.missiontix.com/events/product/15787/mid-atlantic-holiday-beer-festival. Get your tickets now because this will be a sell out!
The other big news of course is the forthcoming opening of the Ale House in Columbia. It’s been a long time coming and, let’s be frank about it, it’s taken a lot longer than we all thought it would but it’s so close we can almost taste it (and it tastes, oh, so good!). The site is what was the old Rocky Run Tap & Grill. I had never visited it but have had the misfortune of trying some of their beer at their location in Charles Village a few years ago. I am confident that we are going to offer something very different at that location as The Ale House. The problem that stalled our plans was that the building, which had been vacant for some time, was in a frightening state of disrepair and, very literally, had to be re-built from top to bottom, as illustrated from the picture below.
The long haul is almost over, the building is nearing completion, staff have been hired including an outstanding executive chef in Chef Juan Valdez (formally of District Chophouse) (check out the picture below)
There will be 3 bars, with 30 different draft offerings featuring all of our year round brews and 3 rotating seasonal brews and in addition 3 cask conditioned ales on state of the art beer engines imported from the UK. The remaining taps will feature a variety of our favorite craft beers with a heavy emphasis on regional brews from our friends at Brewer’s Art, DuClaw Brewing, Evolution, Flying Dog, Stillwater, Burley Oak, Union Brewing etc … it will be awesome! The main bar, pictured below, features 50 taps so that our most popular brews will be doubled up for speed of service. We will aim to feature regular release parties for our own brews as well as special releases/ pint nights for guest breweries.
The beautiful new beer engines, imported from the UK are pictured below. The first 3 beers to be featured will be 3 Lions Ale aged with French Oak, Draft Punk IPA dry hopped with Cascade and Sign Of The Southern Cross, a black ale generously hopped with NZ Southern Cross.
As with any venture of this type, it’s never open until it’s open, but we’re hoping for a soft opening around December 10th with a Grand Opening Party on the 14th. If you fancy attending the Grand Opening Party with a $50 bar tab on us then all you have to do is be the first to answer a simple question to our complete satisfaction! The winner will be announced next Friday. Here we go …. I’m getting old so, y’know, the memory isn’t what it used to be so please remind me, the Blonde Ale that I brewed today, what gyle (batch #) was that? Because it’s the Season of giving, I’ll be kind and give you a clue … we have brewed Gyle 3500 and we haven’t brewed gyle 4000. Have at it and join me in a couple of weeks to celebrate a new milestone in the history of Oliver breweries and the Ale House! Good luck!