The highlight for me was Fremont Brewing. I bumped into Matt, the owner, standing out the back and he was great. He showed me around the place, gave me a taste of all of his delicious beers and gave me a bottle of their Bourbon Barrel Abominable Ale. I managed to fit it into our luggage for the trip back and it's now waiting for a suitable occasion to be consumed.
The Pacific Northwest is obviously famous for doing obscene things with hops. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to open a brewery there unless you offer an IPA. It was great. So the first thing I did when we got back to Tasmania was brew a session IPA and a Black IPA. The session or Baby IPA was like a chainsaw. There was nothing subtle about that one, it was face meltingly bitter and had a huge, raspberry and passionfruit aroma. I think it may have caused lasting damage to the tastebuds of everyone who tried it. In a good way. The Black IPA was delicious and probably had slightly wider appeal, probably my best brew to date.
However, the longer lasting impact of our US holiday was that it pushed me in the direction of Belgian beers in general and farmhouse styles in particular. I had my first ever saison courtesy of Fremont Brewing and I had a Monk's Flemish Sour Red Ale on tap at Beveridge Place. I also tried a couple of beers from Upright Brewing (on Matt's recommendation) that left me wishing I had more time in Portland. We have very limited access to these kinds of beers in Tas (it's only thanks to Cool Wine that we have access to any of them) so if I want to drink these kinds of beers I'm going to have to brew them myself.
So, after all that preamble, my first step in the direction of brewing some interesting Belgian-style beers is a simple Belgian Pale. The recipe is a small, 11.5l batch adapted from Brian Strumke's (of Stillwater) recipe posted here. Due to a mix up with the yeast I had Wyeast 3725 Biere De Garde on hand instead of the 3522 I was planning on using. I'm not too sad about that, I'm quite excited to see how the 3725 turns out.
Recipe on Hopville.
2kg Pilsner malt
250g Wheat malt
90g Munich malt
7g Saaz @ First wort hop
7g Hallertau @ 60 min
16g Saaz @ 10 min
5g Saaz @ 0 min
5g Hallertau @ 0 min
Wyeast 3725 Biere De Garde
8/2/12 - Brew day. Bron's first all grain effort, she did it like a pro.
9/2/12 - Pitched the yeast, there was activity within a few hours. The temps were on the low side (~20'C) but the bulk of the fermentation was done in 2 days.
13/2/12 - Fermentation nearly finished, sample smells/tastes delicious, spicy, clove, tiny bit of banana, light and reasonably dry. Noticeable bitterness. Very cloudy.