Saturday, August 21, 2010

Church is in Session...the Birth of Atomic Church Brewing Co.

For the last year or so, as I collected the equipment necessary to brew beer on my own, I've been thinking about what "name" and "theme" I wanted for my beer.  As most of you have probably noticed, most brewers (on a large or small scale), usually go with local geography or landmark names when coming up with a theme for their beer.  Meaning, the name of the brewery and the names of the beers usually have a local theme to them.  Heck, some brewers usually try to use locally grown products in their beers as well.   

A good example of what I am talking about is Boston Beer Works.  A quick scan through their draught board will reveal beverages with names like Fenway American Pale Ale, Back Bay I.P.A., and Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale.  All of which are common landmarks around Beantown.

If not going with a local theme, most brewers go with some sort of experience or topic that interests them.  A good example of this could be The Lost Abbey which took a religious theme with their name, beers, and even decor a their brewery.  Beers like Angel Share, The Gift of the Maji, Judgement Day, and The Ten Commandments, are just a few of the beers that you can find from this brewery. 

My point here is that I needed to come up with something that I was either interested in or represented my local ties.  Well truth be told, I'm not a life long Marylander.  I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Vermont.  So having spent just a 1/3 of my life here in Maryland, I figured that the local angle wasn't going to work.

Ok so what are my interests?  Well I love sports, weather, and music.  The sports and brewing angle is always tricky from a trademark end of things, especially if I ever went commercial.  So that's out the window.  Weather themed beers?  Seems like a good idea, but it's been done.  Plus you can only take that so far before sounding like a total geek.  So that left music.  Well those of you who know me, know I love my music fuzzy, loud, and rockin.  Come to think of it, that is how I like my beers.  So it seemed like a no-brainer to go with a music name.  Now the big question was "What should I go with?"

Well that's what gets me to the name "Atomic Church".  When it comes to stoner rock bands, there is one band that really blew me away within the first 5 seconds that I started listening to them....Roachpowder.  This band was formed sometime around 1995 and was brought to my attention when I received a copy of their "Viejo Diablo" album while working at WWLR in 1998.  To say I was floored would be an understatement.  This was stoner rock the way it should be made, no ifs, ands or buts!  In 2001, Roachpowder released their second album, "Atomic Church" and it was even better than the first.  In fact, if it weren't for Down, I think it would be my favorite stoner album of all time.  Bottom line, this album was legendary and game changing for me.

Another reason why I like the name Atomic Church is because it wraps in the religious beginnings of brewing.  For those who don't know or are new to craft beers, if you go back in history, a lot of beers were brewed by monks at abbeys...hence the name of some styles like Abbey Ale and all the religious tie-ins with beer naming.

So with that in mind, I decided that Atomic Church Brewing Company was a damn good way to pay tribute to probably the greatest stoner rock band next to Black Sabbath and Down.  Then from there, I could name all my brew concoctions after songs that I love.  To date, we have "The Writ's Wit" (named after the Black Sabbath song), "Sky Pilot Scottish Ale" (named after the Eric Burdon and the Animals song), and "Breakfast in America(n) Pale Ale" (named after the Supertramp song).  It seems to fit.  I want my beers to be different.  Ya know, something "fuzzy, loud and rockin".  I think the ACBC name fits who I am and what I do with my beer best.

With all that said, I officially release the logo of Atomic Church Brewing Company, designed by my cousin Jocelyn (a.k.a. Doggie).  Here it is.  Hopefully you enjoy!

Oh and at some point, I'm going to have some t-shirts made.  Here's what they will look like:

Thanks for taking the time to listen (or read) about the background behind the naming of my beer.  I hope your brew adventures are as rockin as mine have been so far.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Writ's Wit Recipe

In case you were wondering what the recipe for The Writ's Wit was, here you go:

Download in Beersmith:  TheWritsWit.bsm
Download in BeerXML:  TheWritsWit.xml

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: The Writ's Wit
Brewer: Brenton MacAloney
Asst Brewer:
Style: Witbier
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 11.00 gal     
Boil Size: 13.69 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Estimated Color: 2.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 14.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


 Amount    Item                               % or IBU
11.50 lb  Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)         60.53%

7.50 lb   White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)          39.47 %
0.50 oz   Saaz [4.00 %]  (60 min)             3.4 IBU
1.50 oz   Tettnang [4.50 %]  (60 min)        11.3 IBU
0.50 oz   Saaz [4.00 %]  (1 min)              0.1 IBU
0.50 oz   Coriander Seed (Boil 0.0 min) 
0.50 oz   Ginger Root (Boil 0.0 min)
0.50 oz   Orange Peel, Bitter (Boil 0.0 min)
2 Pkgs    Belgian Wit Ale (White Labs #WLP400)

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 19.00 lb
Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time   Description                     Step Temp    
60 min      23.75 qt of water at 163.7 F    152.0 F      

Started with the Allagash White clone on


Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Brewing of The Writ's Wit

So on Sunday, May 9th, I took to the back yard of Casa MacAloney to brew the first of many beers that will be brewed on the patio.  It was also my first time brewing alone with all the new equipment I've been putting together over the last few months.  So it was really an exciting day in my book.

The recipe I used was one I lifted from for an Allagash White like beer and I scaled it to the size of my brew system using BeerSmith.  With summer right around the corner and my homebrew club's competition schedule having whites and wheats on tap for the June meeting, I wanted to try something light and refreshing.  Allagash White is amazing and I had to get some going before it gets too hot here in Maryland. 

So now to the naming of the beer.  I wanted to name all my beers after Black Sabbath songs, but for some reason that is probably unreasonable.  There is a limited catalog of songs and I could probably only take it so far.  Anyways, I figured the first one had to be named after a Black Sabbath song and because I was brewing a Wit, the only song that came to mind was the song "The Writ" off of the Sabotage album.

"The Writ" is a song that Black Sabbath wrote about all of the foolish people running the music industry back in 1975.  It's amazing that things really haven't changed at all in the last 35 years as the music industry is still run by a bunch of buffoons.  The song is powerful and timeless.

So why am I writing so much about the song itself?  Well there's a lyric in this song that kinda strikes home with my Writ's Wit recipe.  It goes something like this:  "Are you Satan? Are you man? You've changed a lot since it began."  Truth be told, I was frustrated to all hell with this beer.  The brewing process rocked and the fermentation started off like a champ.  Then I did what all brewers shouldn't do.  I was checking the gravity of the beer and smelled something rank coming from the 2 carboys.  I thought to myself "Oh shit, what happened?"  Then I got freaked out and worried.  I know that it's a big no-no to smell your beer when it's fermenting, but it's too damn hard not to.  I even had my friend Chris G. tell me not to worry.  He said "it smells fine for a wit."  I should have listened, but I didn't and worried.

To make matters worse, The Writ's Wit made its debut at a friend's party.  I had a sample that morning and was really unhappy with the beer. I can't really pinpoint what the issue was other than I thought I overdid the ginger in the recipe and didn't put enough orange into it.  The carbonation level was off too and I really didn't have the time or know-how to fix it at that point.  Unfortunately there was a lot of buildup that there was a homebrewed beer coming to the party and I didn't want to disappoint the party goers.  So I sucked it up and brought it.  Most people liked it which further proves my point that most beer drinking Americans can have a cup of piss put in front of them and if you told them it was beer they'd gladly drink it.

Well to make a long story short, after the party, I just left the two 5-gallon kegs in the basement and let it sit.  A wiseman once told me, "If you make a shitty beer, let it sit for a while and who knows what will happen.  Whatever you do, don't pour it out."  So taking these amazing words of wisdom (or whizdom in the case of my pissy beer), I let it sit a month.

Saturday, June 26th was my wife Manina's 30th birthday.  She is really proud of my brewing and wanted all of her friends to sample what I have made, even though I didn't like it.  She probably thought I was being too hard on myself.  Either way, it was her birthday and I threw a keg of The Writ's Wit on ice.  As I was hooking up the party tap and CO2 canister to it and took my first sample, I was floored.  What was really a disappointing beer turned into a delicious, refreshing summer beer.  This is what I wanted!  People loved it.  Hell I even kicked a whole 5-gallon keg in about 30 minutes.  When it was gone, people were asking for more. Who would have thunk that it would have turned into such a good beer?

Well with that experience out on the table, here's the important part of this blog.  Lessons learned. 

1)  Don't smell the beer as it is fermenting - People say it all the time and doofus' like me never listen, but it is really true.  At the point it is fermenting, your beer is a work in progress and not complete.  So why judge it as if it were?  Don't worry.  Sit back.  Let the yeast do its work and relax.  Most of the time, if you have a sterile environment, everything will turn out OK.

2)  If it's yellow, let it mellow - I guess this is in reference to all beer in general.  Once you are done with your fermentation and it is ready to keg (or bottle), don't judge your beer too hard or get discouraged enough to dump it out if it doesnt taste exactly the way you envisioned it.  In my case, I could have tossed the whole batch and it would have been a HUGE mistake.  All it needed was a little time to mature and let the flavors settle out.  We are not talking long my case, it was about 3 weeks and it transfered into a decent beer.

3)  Have some damn confidence in yourself - This is the last thing I leave you with.  I'm normally a confident guy, but in this case I had no confidence in what I was doing (mainly because I was brewing alone for the first time).  This lack of confidence could have really tanked my homebrew right out of the gate.  The key here, if you lack confidence, is to think back and remember the steps that you were taught on homebrewing.  Whether it's from a beer making class you took, learning from a buddy, or reading a book, the steps have all been laid out for you.  Before you brew, sit back....think about things....Do you have all your supplies?  Do you have all your equipment?  Do you have a step by step plan so you don't forget anything?  If so, have some confidence, step up to the plate and knock your homebrew out of the park! 

So that's that.  The last keg of The Writ's Wit will be consumed at my friend Brandon and Steph's housewarming party later in July.  Should be a grand old time.  In the meantime, it's time to prepare my second batch.  I have the whole month of July and most of August where I'm in town, so I'm really planning on hitting the back patio to brew up about 3 or 4 batches of beer during this time.  Should be fun now that I have the confidence that I need to crank out some amazing beers.  You can read about them here in a few weeks.

Thanks for reading.  Best of luck with your homebrew.  Cheers!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welcome, My Brewing History and Things Learned at Big Brew 2010

Hey everyone...welcome to my blog that I'm starting in which I mainly talk about homebrewing and beer drinking, but will talk about sports and music from time to time as well.

Here's a little background on me so you can get an idea of where I'm coming from.  I'm from central Massachusetts and grew up a huge sports fan.  I was born into the whole Red Sox Nation, but didn't realize how bad it was until I got older.  Beer has always been a favorite beverage of mine going back to times before when I should have legally been drinking it.  It happened, so get over it.  I like food, weather, and other science related things.  Add the science and beer drinking together and that's why I'm a homebrewer now.  As I say all the time "Homebrew is chemistry you can drink!"

Anyways, I wanted to start jotting some ideas down on homebrewing and other related things and then seeing what people had to say about it.  Here goes.....

I've been fortunate enough to be trained in homebrewing by some of the best out there.  First it started off with my friend Pete D.  I wanted to make a homebrew for my upcoming wedding and he taught me how to brew using malt extracts.  The first beer I made was "Royal Rooters IPA".  It was super hoppy and made even more hoppy by dry hopping in the keg.  It was well received by the guests who were into West Coast IPAs.  The rest thought it tasted like rubbish.  I loved it and so did some of my friends so I didn't really care what the"Coors Crowd" had to say.

Next up was a Belgian Wit with spruce tips that I fermented with raspberry puree.  Again this was made with malt extract.  I brewed this one with Pete D. and Tim K. using Pete's equipment since I didn't have any of my own.  Bottom line, this beer was a huge crowd pleaser.  It was called "Graduberry Ale" (Rob T. named it) and made in honor of my wife Manina's graduation from UMBC.  This was a fan favorite!

Then I went on hiatus. Pete moved.  I still didn't have any of my equipment.  Bottom line I got lazy.  Then I heard about an "All Grain Brewing" class at Maryland Homebrew in Spring 2009.  This was what I needed to get back into the swing of things.  Soon thereafter was the 2009 Big Brew at the Maryland Homebrew facility.  This is where I really got back into things.  I met Greg B. and Trevor C. from the homebrew club, Cross Street Irregulars (aka. CSI).  The rest is history.  I'm now the Vice President of CSI, still not brewing much, but plan a full blown attack this Spring / Summer now that I have the ultimate set of brewing tools.

So that brings me to this year's Big Brew event which happened this past weekend.  This year I showed up and brewed with Greg T. and Chris G. from CSI.  They brewed a Barleywine using an all-grain recipe, and then an E.S.B. using second runnings on the same grain bed.   It was good for me to watch because I'm still unsure of the whole "all-grain" brewing process, but I sure learned a lot.  

The most important thing I learned was just the process of sparging the grain bed.  This is the part I was most nervous about.  I didn't want to get a huge grain bill and then fumble on the sparging process.  Watching Greg and Chris reinforced what I already knew and gave me the confidence to do it on my own.  

Second thing I learned is to get a high temperature pump.  Using a pump, you don't have to rely as much on gravity, siphoning and most dangerously, trying to move around kettles with boiling hot water.  So today I received the March 809 HS Beer Pump from  I shopped around during my lunch hour the other day and found out they had the best deal at $129.  The folks are were real quick about sending my stuff over and their prices were the most reasonable on the internet.  Don't get me wrong though, support your local homebrew store, but when it comes to big purchase, the internet may be the way to go.  No tax!

Anyways, over the next few days I'm going to try to come up with a recipe for a Hefeweizen.  Summer is just around the corner and I want to have something on draught in the MacAloney Man Room that is crisp, refreshing, and thirst quenching.  A nice Hefe is probably the best way go to.  

After I brew the Hefe, I'm open to suggestions.  I'd like to brew something similar to the Anderson Valley Summer Solstice.  It's a solid drinking, flavorful summer ale that I believe the folks at AVBC categorize as a cream ale.  If you come across a recipe for something like this, please let me know.  I'd love to give it a whack.

All right well that's all I got for now.  Thanks for reading.  Be sure to crack open a cold one and tell me about it in the comments section.