Label: Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale

Finally! After toiling through several ideas over the better part of a month a solid thought came in and stuck. Here is the unveiling of the new label for the Áth na Ríogh Irish Red Ale. Again, we had several ideas and many of the pieces were there, we just couldn't put the puzzle together. Constructed with the aid of GIMP and Inkscape the label features washed out lyrics behind the name of the beer and a description of the beer to the left. Let us know what you think. If we're lucky we'll be putting this on bottles very soon!


Quite an odd title for a beer blog, right? Well, we were shopping at Amazing Grains food co-op that we belong to the other day and found this awesome product from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Stoneground & Stout is a delicious mustard made from stoneground mustard seeds, and Sierra Nevada's Stout (among other ingredients). To be quite honest, the mustard tastes like mustard and nothing like stout, but I believe the stout does mellow some of the more harsh tones produced by the mustard seeds. I'd have to say that this has quickly become on of our favorite mustard products on the market. Along with the Stoneground & Stout, Sierra Nevada also produces a Porter & Spicy Brown, and Pale Ale & Honey.

This isn't an unofficial ad to promote the mustard making ability of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. This has given us an idea to possibly start producing our own beer infused concoctions. We've always been interested in developing our own mustard and with shopping at the aforementioned co-op, we could buy mustard making products in bulk. A reason for wanting to produce mustard on the side is to be able to have a product that we could legally sell with our label on it to spread the Northland Brewery name.


Beer Reviews - Pere Jacques, Big Sky IPA

While shopping at Happy Harry's (one of the best bottle shops we've ever seen), we came across two brews that we hadn't previously tried, one of which we didn't know existed. The first is Goose Island's Pere Jacques. Named after the Abbot of a Belgium Trappist brewery toured by Goose Island brewmaster, Greg Hall, Pere Jacques is a big, malty, Belgian Strong Ale. The second is Big Sky Brewing Company's Big Sky I.P.A.. Big Sky Brewing Company is based out of Missoula, MT and produces Moose Drool, the best selling craft beer in Montana. Full review notes below.
The following review notes were compiled with the aid of the beer tasting guide outlined in Beach Brewings Tasting Brews blog post.

Pere Jacques - Goose Island Brewing Co.

Style: Belgian Style Abbey Ale
ABV: 8-9%
IBU: 26
Color: Amber and Caramel
Hops: Saaz
Malts: 2-Row, Wheat, Caramel, Rye Flakes, and Special B
Slightly cloudy while maintaining a good level of clarity. Pours with a thin creamy head about half a finger thick. Fairly poor lacing.
Slightly fruity with heavy malt tones. Low levels of hop bouquet.
Initially a medium thickness with the sense of becoming more full over time. The flavor is reminiscent of fig and dried apricot with very subtle anise tones. Yeast flavors come through initially and then fade quickly. A fairly high alcohol burn on the back end, although it is covered up by lingering maltiness. Warming sensation (9% ABV) as it goes down.
The Skinny:
All in all this is a very Delicious beer with big, robust maltiness. While Belgian Strong Ales are not our specialty, I would rank this up there with some of the better Belgian Ales we've tried including Tripels and Dubbels. While fairly heavy and full of flavor, Pere Jacques is very drinkable. Even though it is highly drinkable, at roughly 9% ABV, Pere Jacques does eventually lead to misspelled words and shortness of attention span.


Big Sky I.P.A. - Big Sky Brewing Co.

Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 65
Color: Light Amber
Hops: Simcoe
Malts: unknown
Pours very clear. Thin creamy head less than half a finger width thick. Poor lacing.

Light malt aroma. Citrus and pine are prevalent while remaining separate from the malt tones.

Wow. This I.P.A. has a complex flavor with medium body. Big Sky I.P.A, while very hoppy, does have a light maltiness that shines through to balance out the bitterness of Simcoe. Initially the flavor is very slightly reminiscent of the smell of a sea breeze with a hint of saltiness (in a good way). Sounds odd but that is the only thing that comes to mind right away. A more traditional grapefruit juice flavor comes next with a bitter rind flavor following that. Finally, a subtle juniper, piney flavor lingers on the tongue long after swallowing. Little to no alcohol burn is present.

The Skinny:
Being a hops powerhouse, Big Sky I.P.A., still has an accessible flavor that is refreshing and crisp. This medium bodied I.P.A. is moderately high in ABV but is very drinkable and ranks up there with some of the higher rated names on the market. Although very delicious, this complex beer should be consumed moderately as the hops start to overwhelm your taste buds (in the most flavorful way possible).


Muckalee Oatmeal Stout Label

Well... it's finally finished, kind of. I'm sure no label we design will ever be fully done but this is as close to bottle worthy as we've come. We developed this label with the aid of GIMP and Inkscape which are two very fine and, at times, very challenging programs. We think the label does an adequate job of telling the inspiration behind the beer while maintaining a somewhat simplistic look. In honor of Earth Day, we are also announcing our Drink, Recycle, Repeat campaign that will emphasize the return of the glass bottles either to a recycling facility or to the the bottler to be utilized again. As part of this mini project, we have marked one of our bottles from our original batches and will maintain a count on how many times this bottle is reused. This bottle will represent how many times we are able to reuse all of our glass bottles that are returned to be used again. So far the "little bottle that could" has been used a total of three times. We will keep the count on the sidebar of the blog so everybody can track the bottle usage. We understand that this isn't exactly an earth-shattering experiment, but hopefully it will raise some awareness as to what we can do on the individual level to reduce the waste around us. If anyone is concerned, yes the bottles are fully cleaned and sanitized before each use.

So tell us what you think about the label, your likes, your dislikes and if you would in fact like to see it on a bottle of delicious beer in the future.


Brew Days - Peach Blonde Ale, Choco-Orango Stout

With two days off and a few empty fermentation vessels, we decided to go back-to-back on the brew days with two very different versions. On Monday, April 6th we brewed what will become a (still unamed) peach blonde ale. It will become peach flavored just after fermentation as the peach extract flavoring will be added to fermented brew before racking into bottles. Everything on this brew day went just swimingly with no issues that would be expected to cause contamination. The only possible issue was with a discrepency involving less dry malt extract being inserted into this batch. The kit that we ordered from said that it included 7 lbs. of extra light DME along with the other necessary ingredients. The contents of the package, however, were mostly included except for 1.5 lbs. of DME. We called the company and asked if there was a mistake or typo of some sort, but they assured me that they replaced the 7 lbs. of liquid extract with 5.5 lbs. of dry which imparts a higher gravity pound for pound than liquid. We went along with the recipe as planned and the batch came in about 0.010 under the recommended O.G. Oh well, this will just have to be a weak version, as long as the taste is there. After contamination issues, it would be good to have at least one batch turn out.

Speaking of contamination issues.

So we brewed the unamed choco-orango-cayenne stout using an offshoot of the Muckalee Irish Stout recipe. As planned we brewed 3 gallons of the chocolate stout with 1 gallon containing orange peel, and another gallon containing orange peel and cayenne pepper. After brewing and pitching, we set the airlocks up and let the yeasties do their thing. Well, the yeasties did their thing a little too well with some krausen creeping up into the airlocks. We scrambled to set up three blow off tubes with relative success. Later in the day, the CO2 release was slowing enought to allow the airlocks to be reinserted. During the re-airlocking, we pushed a little to hard which pushed one of the rubber stoppers completely into the version that contained the orange and cayenne adjuncts. We remained calm and just taped a different airlock over top of the vessel... hopefully this works. If not, we will be dealing with more contamination but only with a one gallon batch.

Maybe we are just a little unlucky, maybe we need to be more careful, or maybe we are getting to learn all of these lessons early in the process. Only time will tell.


Experiment - Chocolate Stout variations

Over the past couple of weeks we had forgotten about our three 1 gallon fermentation vessels that we bought to use for experimental brews. Well, the time has come to try some funky, fresh brews that may either turn out wonderful or disastrous. Here is the game plan:

1) Make 3 gallons of chocolate stout similar to the Muckalee Oatmeal Stout.

2) Use 1 of these gallons as a control formula because every good experiment has a control (thanks elementary school science).

3) Add 2 tbs. fresh organic navel orange zest to one of the variable gallons during primary fermentation.

4) Add 2 tbs. fresh organic navel orange zest and 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or chipolte pepper) to the last of the variable gallons during primary fermentation.

5) Drink, compare, take notes.

6) Destroy and completely forget any bad combination. Replicate if tasty.

If anyone is curious as to the inspiration behind these somewhat wild flavor combinations, we offer the following examples:

- Green & Black's Organic Maya Gold Chocolate - Amazing flavor combination of chocolate, spices, and orange.
- Chocolove xoxox Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate - Great combination of fruit and chocolate with just enough chili presence to round out this complex flavor without being overbearing.
- Chocolate covered jalepenos - intriuging, excellent treats from Carol Widman's Candy Company (home of the famous chocolate covered potato chip, and the less famous chocolate covered olives and pickles, seriously).

Understanding many beer drinkers enjoy their fruit, spices and beer separately, we realize this flavor combination would be something of a specialty brew. That is if any of these combinations make it out of the test kitchen without being disposed due to unpalatable flavor. We'd like to say we're optimistic about the outcome, but, honestly, this idea has the potential to die a fiery death. Why not try it, this could be the start of something beautiful.

If anyone has any other crazy ideas that could be materialized into a fermented liquid, let us know, we can try to make it happen.




The logo is complete... at least until we decide to tweak it somehow. So, while tinkering around on the internet and fighting through the hoards of "free" images that would've ended up costing us upwards of $200, we found the images we wanted and threw them together. We've been waiting on the development of a brewery logo to finally round out the Muckalee Oatmeal Stout label. If you're reading this then you probably have already seen the logo as the new banner across the top. Feedback is welcomed and blatantly encouraged. We spent a lot of time deciding what design we wanted as a final piece and today we finally got some real results. We really like the simplistic look we've created while touching on the theme of the natural world.

Also, while mucking about in inkscape and gimp, we found very fun and interesting ways to manipulate pictures for our own personal use. There are a bunch of great tutorials on youtube that explain step-by-step how to create pop art and other intriguing effects. I watched the Che yourself tutorial that involves taking a normal portrait and manipulating it into the iconic style of the famous portrait of Che Guevara. See below for the Guevara version versus the Nemo Revolution version that may someday grace the label of one of our bottles.

Whether this tutorial was intended to mock the image of a rebel leader or not, we really like what this image manipulation has done to the portrait of our faithful companion.

Viva la Nemo Revolución!

ihomebrewbeer social network and label update

Since the last post we've been working feverishly (in our free time) on labels for the two named beers and will soon present the Muckalee Oatmeal Stout label. We're pretty excited about it as it is probably one of the more creative things I've done with a computer (which doesn't really say much). I've been using inkscape and gimp, if you're interested. They're much more difficult than powerpoint or paint.

In other news, I've created an account on the ihomebrewbeer social network. This is a pretty resourceful network set up specifically for homebrewers and zymurgists alike to come together and discuss brewing topics, showcase their latest brews and advertise regional beer and brewing events. We originally heard of this through a post by ihomebrewbeer on twitter (another social networking site). While the site still appears to be in its infancy, I believe it won't be long until the site will be the next big thing among brewers looking for another outlet for ideas and to bounce new ideas off of fellow brewers. Check it out if you have a chance, even if you're not a brewer you may find some interesting information on beer in general. Oh, and I have set up a page on the network as taxford, if you join be sure to friend me.