Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bold City Brewery

Last weekend I (Brenda) went back to sunny Jacksonville, FL for the weekend. I had about a billion things I wanted to do while visiting, but checking out Bold City Brewery was top of my list. I moved to Missouri in July '08, and BCB opened shortly afterwards in the Fall. So... I missed it! My friends told me a sweet new home town brewery opened right in our neighborhood, and although I was happily trying the Midwest's finest beers I was definitely wistful about missing out on Bold City.

Unfortunately, I got caught up with friends and missed the official tour hours. I mapquested the location and headed over to Bold City around 10pm on a Saturday. The first thing I noticed was the area - set further away from the residential part of Riverside, Bold City looked like any of the other warehouses lining the train tracks. Instead of being creepy and dimly lit, the parking lot was full and there were folks sitting just outside the door drinking and eating. My friend Ivan and I walked into their taproom and were pleased to see a cozy room filled with tables and goofy board games available for the customers. I can't help but love a bar that has Connect Four.

Our bartender, Robin, was very friendly and knowledgeable. I ordered the Chinook IPA right away because I had already tried the Mad Manatee IPA and their Red Ale at Shantytown earlier during the visit. Upon hearing we were new to Bold City, Robin immediately offered us a sampling of all their beers, on the house. Classy!

Here's what we tried (mostly arranged from lightest to darkest):
  • Rye Wheat (American Hefewizen) 6%
  • E-Street Ale (made for European Street restaurants in Jax) 4%
  • Rye Pale Ale 6%
  • Duke's Brown (there's a doggy on the label) 5%
  • Chinook IPA (only uses Chinook hops) 8%
  • Old English Ale (not the malt liquor) 7%
  • Red Ale 8%
  • Coffee Stout ?%
The standout beers for me were the Rye Pale Ale and the Red Ale. I initially came for the IPAs, and although they were great, I think they were a bit too balanced for me. I prefer the very light and ridiculously hoppy IPAs rather than the ones a reasonable person would drink. The Rye Pale Ale was crisp and you could definitely taste the rye. It was light enough I could see myself drinking a couple without any cloying or unpleasant aftertaste. The Red Ale stood out because it is so different from any of the other Red Ales I've tried. It was very roasty, smoky, and Ivan even said it kind of tasted like bacon. Mmm bacon.

When I told our bartender that I had hoped to get a tour but missed the hours, she was kind enough to tell me that the brewers were still hanging out there and might be able to give me a mini-tour of sorts. Cody Cassidey, assistant brewer, met us at the bar and offered to show us around.

He looks surly in this picture but he's way nice. He's also showing off a keg washer. Bold City is much smaller than Boulevard - everything fit into one large warehouse. At this time, they do not bottle beers for commercial sale. They distribute kegs to local restaurants and pubs, and have growlers for the folks who need a smaller quantity to-go. Florida has ridiculous laws regarding to-go growlers ( has more info) - Bold City is one of the few places with legit growlers.

Above is a picture of a toolbox. Oh, and fermenters on either side. Instead of toiling over a cauldron with a thermometer they get to set the right temperature electronically. Lucky!

One thing I noticed about Bold City is that everyone that worked there seemed genuinely happy to be there and show off the beer. Cody mentioned that a nice thing about BCB is that they have a lot of freedom to brew the kind of beers they like. I think this will result in lots of cool and creative beers for the folks in Jax... no Bud Light knockoffs! All in all I think Bold City is a very cool place and I wish I could've spent more time drinking there. Till next time!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Boulevard Tour

This Sunday we went to the Boulevard Brewery on Southwest Blvd in lovely Kansas City, Missouri. Tours are free and they recommend reserving quite a bit ahead of time - we got our spots about 2 or 3 months beforehand. The tour begins by the gift shop area in the old brewery. It is a turn of the century brick building where John McDonald, founder, installed a badass Bavarian brewhaus and got down to business. All of Boulevard's Smokestack series beers are made there, including our favorite Double Wide. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any real brewing action... the real work happens during the week. We walked past rows of old bourbon barrels filled with some bourbon barrel quad (BBQ - a limited run Smokestack that is going to become a seasonal) and also some of a new rye beer they are working on.

After checking out the old side of the building we crossed the kooky yellow bridge into the modern part of the brewery. Our tour guide was a dapper gentleman with hair that looked straight out of Fallout, grease and back-pocket-comb included. He talked extensively about the green-friendly features of the new building: concrete construction, a green roof instead of a black tar one, and large windows that limit the need for artificial lighting.

On the second floor we had the chance to check out the huge wort kettles and were advised, like good little children, to keep our hands to ourselves lest we burn them on hot pipes. Acting like the nerds we are, we veered away from the tour a bit and peeked into what seemed like a cold room where giant bricks of hops were stored. This was also the floor the employee pub was at. Damn I need a new job!

On the third floor was the Muehlebacher suite (pronounced "mule-backer"). For only $7000 you could have a private party or wedding there, including all you can drink beer and about 24 bottles of wine. Is it tacky to have a cover charge at a wedding?

The other cool part about the third floor was looking down into the bottling line. We learned that Boulevard has one of the newest, coolest, and most efficient lines in the country... kind of like the Wonka factory but better.

The thing I liked least about the tour was its length - fifteen minutes didn't seem nearly long enough! Thankfully, just when I was getting surly about the tour being over we were led back to the tap room in the old building. Free beer! We tried two beers not available on the market yet - a pilsner and a saison. We can't remember the official name for the pilsner... American Pilsner maybe? Anyway, I thought it was a straight-ahead pilsner. Not the kind of beer I usually go for, but waaaaay tastier than a Bud or Coors any day. The saison was called Tank 7 and I think it was similar to the Saison-Brett they released a few months ago.

Saisons are "farmhouse ales" and based on my half assed Wikipedia research I can say the following about them: they are refreshing summer ales, probably have some wild yeast strains all up in them, and although once an 'endangered' beer specie they are now coming back like the 90's (according to Willie the 80's already came back and are on their way out again). Imagine an endangered panda wearing ripped jeans and Ray Bans. Willie loved the Tank 7.

Our tour guide encouraged us to try beers we hadn't tried before. Besides the Tank 7 and Pilsner, we had a couple sips of Lunar Ale but then went back to our beloved Single Wide. It was a great way to spend a Sunday!

coming soon

We've been a big pile of blog fail this month. sorry! The Luplin Fix IPA turned out great and we are currently brewing one of Bacchus & Barleycorn's kits - Kansas Red Ale, as well as a porter of our own design. Well, really Willie's own design. I help cap the bottles! Last weekend we toured the Boulevard brewery and we went to the Flying Saucer's one year anniversary party. We also have our tickets for the Great American Beer Festival in September and are finishing plans for a July trip to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Antwerp. All this business combined with all the drinking have made for a crappy blog the last few weeks but we promise we'll make it up soon. I'll have pictures of Boulevard up tomorrow at the latest!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Snowy Spring Day

So far, we're pretty sure we haven't fucked this up.

We siphoned the beer from the large carboy to the smaller one and managed to leave behind the batter-like layer of dead yeast. Although it looks very dark and stout-like in the picture, the beer is actually a light coppery brown, much like you'd expect from a pale ale. Our biggest concern now is that it looks a bit thin, possibly because the malt wasn't extracted quite right. It's too early to tell whether the finished beer will have the right thickness.

Once transferred into the smaller carboy, we added the final packet of hop pellets. We saved a portion of the pre-dry-hopped batch and measured the specific gravity - 1.019. The last thing we did before cleaning was a taste test. It was a little sweet but otherwise hoppy and finally tasted closer to real beer. Once it ferments more and loses the sweetness, it should taste like what you'd expect from an English IPA.

Dry hopping:


Round Two

We've been patiently waiting all week for the next big step. I imagine this is what we've looked like:

Today we are racking the beer! It will be transferred from the 6.5 gallon carboy where it's been fermenting into a smaller 5.0 gallon carboy. When you transfer the liquid, you leave behind the trub (pronounced "trooob" according to Willie). The trub is the nasty bottom layer of dead yeast and sediments. We are also dry-hopping the beer and adding gelatin finings. Dry-hopping the beer means we add hop pellets directly into the carboy instead of into the boiling wort. This beer required hops both in the wort (for bittering the beer and adding flavor) and then dry-hopping to add aroma. We're not too sure of what the gelatin finings do, but we think it has something to do with making it clearer. Right now we're getting the kitchen clean and set up, so hopefully later today I'll have pictures of the process and the smaller carboy. Cheers!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Today the fermenting beer has a foamy layer floating on top. The gunk is called "kraeusen", and it's like a big yeast pool party. We should hopefully be able to rack the beer into a secondary fermenter this weekend. Racking = fancy way to say 'move the liquid from one container to another'. Details on the next steps later...

So far so good, let's keep our fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

End of "Day One"

It is almost 10pm and we are finally done with the day's work. The "Relax, Have A Homebrew" mantra in the book definitely came in handy. Although the steps aren't necessarily complicated, it's hard not to get anxious about following them correctly. The most stressful part about it was working in our tiny kitchen - we kept bumping into each other and running out of counter space. Willie didn't seem to be bothered by it, but I found the heat and smell of the boiling wort to be a bit too much at times. We kept the kitchen door closed and it felt like a thick fog of beer funk took over the house. Cue "Thriller" and the beer zombies.

Some notes: Once in the carboy the color can be *roughly* described as "18 degrees srm" which to me means like a deep copper/light brown with lighter colored sediment in the bottom third. The OG (original gravity) of the wort (after the yeast was pitched) was 1.061, or "sixteen degrees balling" heehee.

Oh and neat headline stolen from

British brewery set to brew first authentic batch of India Pale Ale in 200 years by making it aboard a ship in the North Sea