Brewing Project General Guidelines


The projects described here are not official club sanctioned activities but they occur with such regularity that some general guidelines are being published to help keep expectations consistent. The benefit to having such a large pool of members is the opportunity to get small groups of people together for special brewing projects that no single brewer would dare take on themselves. By far the most common project involves individual shares/batches of beer, mead or cider that are mixed together in oak barrels for moderate to long term aging. This activity sometimes produces an exceptional product but always solidifies the camaraderie of its participants.


Read more: Brewing Project General Guidelines

Recurring Club Activities

The events listed below occur with regularity at about the same time each year and are recognized as official events for which club funds are appropriated. All members are invited and encouraged to attend.

(a)     Holiday Party - January

The WHALES holiday party is held on the 3rd Saturday in January (unless otherwise planned for)  and is held at a rental hall central to the most members. Members are encouraged to bring their finest creations to celebrate the new year. Food is typically provided by membership in potluck fashion, if not subsedized partially out of club funds.

(b)    AHA Big Brew - May

The American Homebrew Association (hereby referred to as the AHA) encourages Hombrewing clubs to gather for a day of joint brewing in May of each year to promote discovery of varied techniques. The event is usually hosted at a fellow member’s home. Volunteers are solicited to host at the March/April meeting. Due to the inherent cost of hosting a large number of brewers in one place, the host is reimbursed $50 from the club funds. Attending members are encouraged to contribute both food and beverage to be shared.

(c)     Picnic - June

The WHALES picnic is the annual summer outing for the club and occurs on the 3rd Saturday of June of each year. Location varies between parks and member’s homes from year to year. If the location is a park, club funds are used for the permit. The club also votes on how much of the club’s funds, if any, is spent on a special food item. If the picnic is hosted at a member’s home, they are reimbursed $50 from the club funds for providing party supplies. Members are encouraged to contribute both food and beverage to be shared.

(d)    Belgium Comes to Cooperstown at Ommegang Brewery - August

Whales attendance at this great Belgian beer festival has grown over the years. The Ommegang brewery near Cooperstown NY cuts the weeds down in the field behind the main brewery once a year to put on a huge beer festival and camp out. They usually have a VIP beer dinner on Friday night and the regular tasting session on Saturday afternoon. The majority of attendees show up early on Saturday and leave on Sunday. This isn't a "club event" exactly, so any spending on a group meal is pay-as-you-go.

(e)    Cider Days - November

This annual festival in Massachusetts is the source of almost all of the raw cider that the Whales use for various cider projects. Besides just picking up really good cider, the festival features several seminars, tastings and a cider pairing dinner. At leat a dozen Whales typically make the trip up for an overnight stay. This is a great trip to bring your spouse on if you're into bed and breakfasts and fall foliage.

(f)    AHA Teach a Friend to Brew Day - November

Similar to the Big Brew, The AHA encourages homebrewers to gather in November of each year. The focus of this event however is to encourage non-brewers or those new to the hobby to learn what the hobby is about via demonstration. The event is also hosted at a fellow member’s home and they are reimbursed $50 from the club funds. Attending members are encouraged to contribute both food and beverage to be shared. The WHALES typcially move this event one week later than the AHA promotes since it always falls on the ciderdays festival weekend.

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What Brews in Vegas....

What Brews in Vegas…:

My Tour of the Craft Beer Scene in Las Vegas

By: Michael J. Slocum (September 2011)


Stick to the casino bars, and your luck won’t be the only thing liable to disappoint.  Familiar standards such as Heineken, Dos Equis, Miller, Blue Moon – they all flow like water, but provide the more adventurous beer-drinker with little to satisfy his curiosity.  But put in a little effort to research your options, and Las Vegas has much more to offer.  My wife and I spent a few days there in August 2011, and here is what we found.


Gordon Biersch:  With numerous locations all around the country and a handful of World Beer Cup and GABF wins under its belt, the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company boasts several beers on the BJCP Commercial Examples lists – and with good reason.  We naturally went with the beer sampler, sporting a golden export lager, a hefeweizen, a Czech pils, a marzen, a schwarzbier, and the seasonal “Brewer’s Special” IPA.  The golden export was quite refreshing, with a crisp dry finish and mild carbonation.  The hefeweizen, the only regular ale in the house, was brimming with clove spiciness and a wonderfully effervescent body.  The pils relies on imported Saaz hops, and relies on them heavily – the beer was considerably darker in color and more aggressively hopped than the quintessential Pilsner Urquell.  The marzen built upon a solid malt foundation with a noble hop balance, resulting in a tasty amber lager with excellent clarity.  The schwarzbier, more deep reddish-brown in color than the name would suggest, finished with distinct roasted coffee notes.  Finally, the IPA, with a bright amber color and persistent creamy-white head, showcased American hops (Centennial according to the brewer’s notes) with great aplomb.  Every bit as impressive were the menu – we recommend the garlic fries highly – and the staff, who had clearly been trained to answer even fairly detailed questions on recipe and technique.


Hofbrauhaus:  Billed as an accurate replica of the famous Bavarian bier hall, the Hofbrauhaus combines German beer, food and live entertainment.  Served in dimpled liter steins, the Hofbrau Original (a bright golden lager with a thirst-quenching balance between malt and hop) and the Dunkel (a dark brown with a creamy tan head and spicy aromas to spare) complimented the wursts perfectly.  A live German band – complete with an alphorn and a cow-bell concerto – provided a truly energetic atmosphere.


Sin City Brewing Company:  We stumbled upon this one while strolling through the Strip’s Miracle Mile shops, essentially a small bar in the mall offering pints of craft beer to go.  What a concept!  The premium light lager was somewhat more full-bodied than the beers that made either St. Louis or Milwaukee famous, but overall remained true to the style.  The German wheat beer maintained an impressive rocky head and had ample carbonation, although the clove aromas were rather understated.  The Octoberfest and British IPA seasonal were both admirable efforts and decent representatives of their respective styles, but the Irish dry stout clearly stole the show.  Dry but with a body bordering on chewy, with a tightly formed tan head and a medley of roasted and hop flavors, this beer was the one I selected “for the road.”


Ellis Island Casino & Brewery:  Of course, every rule has its exception.  In the “craft can still be crap” category, the Ellis Island Casino & Brewery scored very low marks.  There’s evidently a reason the word “casino” is first in the name – this was primarily (as my wife and fellow traveler described it) a “gambling hole.”  The dining room was thick with second-hand smoke, and the menu was such as to inspire us to move on to a separate venue for our dinner.


The beers were likewise disappointing.  The hefeweizen came with a slice of lemon floating atop a quickly-dissipating head.  While the straw-like color and haziness were appropriate, the beer lacked any real effervescence or the spicy clove aroma you would expect.  The stout proved no better.  The head had fallen before the beer made it to our table, and the reddish brown color looked more like a porter than a stout.  The malts approached cloying, with none of the roasty or hoppy flavors characteristic of the style, and the body could only be described as watery.


The Pub at Monte Carlo:  A little beer-nerdvana in the desert!  The beer list offered more than a dozen styles, many with fifteen to twenty representative members – barley wines, bock, fruit and spiced/herb beers, and of course an ample selection of pale ales, stouts, lagers and others.  We started with the sampler of local brewery Tanaya Creek’s fare – a nut brown ale, with a deep amber color and a mouth-filling malt profile; a hefeweizen with a modest yeast profile but excellent pale gold color and effervescence; and the “Hop Ride” IPA, a deep golden ale with an assertive citrusy hop nose and a thick white head that tracked the vanishing beer down the side of the glass.  Of course, we couldn’t resist the Chimay tripel and Delirium Tremens, both of which were on tap, and were left only to wish we had more time.


Odds are that few – if any – travel to Las Vegas specifically to try the local brews.  However, should you find yourself in Sin City, don’t think you’re condemned to bland beer!

Funky Barrel III - Oud Bruin Flanders Brown

This project was concluded on November 21st, 2010 when all shareholders racked the beer out of the barrel and took them home. Since Jody moved out of state, he donated his share. Bob S also got worried about handing a sour beer and potentially infecting his brewery so he donated his share. We kept one of the shares for club functions and the other was equally distributed across the remaining shares by overfilling the carboys and kegs slightly.

We're looking forward to tasting the beer after carbonation but it's certainly more dry and sour than the style dictates. This was to be expected due to the 12 months of aging. A blend with a very malty Brown ale prior to packaging would be a worthy experiment. More notes on this beer will be added after tasting.

Note: The following text was the original pitch to the club for this project. The batch was actually brewed at Teach a Friend to Brew day on November 10th.

Whales Funky Barrel III - Oud Bruin (Old Brown) - September 15, 2009

As many of you Whales know, there is 60 gallons of cherry Lambic (Kriek) doing its funky thing in a Cabernet barrel in Bobby’s basement and it’s been there since January 2009. The barrel was previously home to a Flanders Red that got its start in early 2008. Racking of the Kriek will coincide with the addition of the next project…….

Of course, we don’t want to leave the barrel dry so Project Funky III is in the works. As to not be too repetitive, this time it’s going to be a Flanders Brown or “Oud Bruin”. This beer is bigger than the red with an OG of 1.070 and it should be sweeter, maltier, and darker too.

Read more: Funky Barrel III - Oud Bruin Flanders Brown

2010 Big Brew Video - WINNER!

The WHALES won the video contest this year for the most viewed video on Youtube. We think winning most viewed is slightly less prestigeous than the "spirit of big brew" category because we'll never know if it would have placed if it weren't for the 1100 subscribers BobbyfromNJ has. We like to think that if AHA allowed for placing in both categories, we would have ;-) Click the read more button to see the video.


Read more: 2010 Big Brew Video - WINNER!

Nick's Club Only Kudos

As many of you recall from the January meeting, Nick Fox won club's choice for his Mild in the Club Only Competition. For most of these, the club's choice is usually the last time you hear about the beer. We're happy to find out that Nick's beer took a SILVER at the National level this time.

Read more: Nick's Club Only Kudos

Pub Review - Coppermine Pub (North Arlington, NJ)

I met Vito, owner of the Coppermine Pub at a W.H.A.L.E.S. meeting a few months ago.  First off, let me thank him for showing interest in our club and taking the time to come and get to know us.

I visited the Coppermine Pub around 6:30pm on a Saturday in December.  The initial draw that brought me there was a tapping of a rare Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada collaboration Life and Limb cask, which to my dismay, but not surprise, was kicked about 45 minutes after it was tapped.  So, I was left to take in the feel of the bar without that coveted dark strong ale, replacing it with a fine Spaten Holiday Bock.  It had the same delightful crispness I’ve come to expect from a German holiday bock, but with a touch more on the malt end. 

Read more: Pub Review - Coppermine Pub (North Arlington, NJ)

WHALES Stein Bier Project 2009 w/Video

The WHALES steinbier (Stone Beer) project was conceived (stolen) when a few of the WHALES visited the Chico Hombrew Club's booth at NHC 2009 during club night. They had a nice steinbier on tap to go with a video showing their project. The WHALES in attendance immediately brainstormed for a future copy cat project. Certainly this is nothing new. In fact, Tomme Arthur of Pizza Port/Lost Abbey brewing spoke about his steinbier project, Hot Rocks Lager, later in the conference and many people are aware of Dogfishhead's Sah'tea beer. Check out the quick sips video and "Sam getting his Rocks off" for Sah'tea on this site.  We all loved watching the forklift hit the ceiling before the bucket of hot rocks cleared the boil kettle. Good for a laugh anyway.

Further research brought us to several other sources of info such as brewing magazine articles, books  and podcasts. Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing book comes to mind though it doesn't specifically mention boiling wort with rocks but rather as a way to heat water and mash. On of the most entertaining podcasts is Craft Beer Radio though you'll have to sift through the descriptions to find the episodes that apply to stein beer. These guys went through a lot of different attempts to perfect the method.

In the spirit of friendly brew club oneupsmanship, the WHALES wanted to go big. Most homebrew steinbier projects are limited to maybe a 10 gallon boil. We boiled 35 gallons (out of an overall 50 gallon preboil volume). Larger commercial attempts (see dogfish above) tend to limit the stone exposure to a very small portion of the overall wort volume and we think it's sorta cheating. If you want to be a purist, the intent is to replicate the circumstance of not being able to boil wort in any other fashion. To that end, we also decided to boil wort directly in an oak vat. Yes, yes, we cheated too. Don't pay any attention to the propane burners, modern plastics and stainless steel. We even have an electronic thermometer stuck through the barrel. It's very difficult to jetison modern conveniences for nostalgia.

For more description, a full video, and some advice for those thinking about stein brewing, click "READ MORE"

Read more: WHALES Stein Bier Project 2009 w/Video

The WHALES found in Zymurgy Magazine (Sept09) NHC wins...

zymurgy_sept_09_20090831_1006201084I hope you picked up your September issue of Zymergy to find that the WHALES have snuck into several pages. This issue is annually dedicated to the National Homebrew Conference and Competition wrap up and features the winners from the competition and the winning recipes.

On page 43, you'll find a collage of photos taken at the conference and at the very top/center, you'll find a shot of the crowd at the opening toast. You should easily be able to pick out two WHALES hats. Bobby, Jen, Brad and Keith are shown in the second row and Nick is fully cutoff to the left.

On page 47, you'll find a new category called the Gambrinus award which goes to clubs with the most final round points once they qualify. To qualify, the club has to have 5 members entering the first round, two club members advancing to the finals and at least one placing. The WHALES took 3rd place (or second runner up). I think we can do better.

On page 60, it gets more exciting. You will find Gary Weston's mugshot and the recipe for the GOLD winning club New England Cider. Winning gold at the national level amongst 73 regional entries is quite a feat. Just think, all 73 of those entries had to win in their regions so it's not like a diamond in a pile of coal (more like a diamond in a pile of lesser diamond but I ought to quit with the analogies). The runners up in this category are both Ninkasi winners. One final note about this cider. Nick and I happened to be talking about the cider in the elevator when one of the cider judges overheard and eventually told us that the cider best of show was a split decision and ours only narrowly lost it. Oh well, Cider Maker of the Year next time perhaps.

For those who are not AHA members, I scanned the pages that we were found on. Click "read more", then see the attached PDF.

Read more: The WHALES found in Zymurgy Magazine (Sept09) NHC wins...

Finding Beer in Cambridge, MA


While most WHALES were enjoying a club meeting field trip to Harvest Moon, I'm stuck out in Boston on business. In order to redeam such an injustice, I vowed to consume at least dozen beers that I haven't tried before while checking out some choice watering holes in the area. More specifically, I was staying in Cambridge Mass between the MIT and Harvard campuses. I had no car so I had to stick to the best beer in walking distance.

My first choice was Cambridge Common which was about a 2 mile walk up Mass Ave, just past Hahvad Yahd. The place is nice enough with outdoor seating facing the street. The bar was pretty small so the 30 taps and beer engine dominated the scene. I get the feeling people don't typically come for food because the place was pretty quiet at 7pm but I knew they were serious about beer given the up to date printed tap list with great descriptions of the beers on offer. I wouldn't say the selection was wild but none of the 30 taps paid any mind to BMC swill. IPAs dominated for sure. Since I had a good 2 mile walk back, I needed to pace myself. I requested a flight of four 5-ounce tasters which I later came to find was only six bucks.

My first taste was a local brewpub's (Cambridge Brewing) Tall Tale IPA on cask. While I like a good cask ale, I don't care for those that take on a huge amount of house character (aka stale as hell). I don't suppose many people dig on the cask here. Next up was Port Brewing Wipeout IPA. This was a typical mediocre IPA with nothing standing out as excellent. Things got more interesting with Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest IPA. I haven't had the chance to taste this one before and it may be my new favorite IPA, trumping Celebration Ale in that category. The intensity and freshness of the hop flavor and aroma could only be topped by running a randle. I could swear this thing was dry hopped in the keg that morning. Tiring of hops, I moved on to Cambridge Brewing's Cerise Cassee.  Reading the description, I was pretty sure it was going to be a weak attempt at Russian River's Supplication but I was wrong. It reminded me of both Supplication and Rodenbach Grand Cru combined. It was sweet and sour and aromatically complex with oak, vanilla and cherry. I finished up at Cambridge Common with a pint of Harpoon English IPA to go with my passable chicken sandwich. The bottom line here is come for the beer and atmosphere and skip the food.

Since I burned off so much sweat walking back, I found a liquor store that sold single bottles so I picked up some Peak Organic IPA and drank it wrapped in the paper bag. Sweet.

Based on the CBC beer I had tasted, the next night I seeked out the actual brewpub which turned out to be less than 6 blocks from the hotel. I saddled up to the bar and requested a full flight. 10 tasters showed up in front of me, five of which were mini flutes which were their specialty/seasonals. I started with the stock fair of Golden, Amber, APA and Porter. Blah, blah, ehhh, blah. Ok, I understand that half the taps have to be middle of the road in every way. The pale ale was passable and I'd drink it all night if I had to. I moved on to the seasonals which started with a traditional Hefeweisen, then a Berliner Weise. Admitedly, I'm not a great judge of Hefeweisen because 99% of the ones I tasted were "good". Both the banana and clove that is typical of the style was really muted which suggests a house blend of traditional and neutral yeast. It was really cool to see a Berliner in a brewpub and I watched many of them get poured while I was there with either Woodruff or Raspberry syrup. Things started getting interesting with a "nom de plum" which reminded me of something between a Belgian Wit Saison but with plum aroma, color and just a touch of sweetness. Next up was Cerise Cassee which I already mentioned from the previous day but I have to say more. Their descripton mentions a 3 day sour mash followed by a fermentation and multi-year aging in French Oak. They've been running the barrels in solera fashion for 6 years so the tap pours an unknown blend of old and new product. MyOwnStout is a Russian Impy Stout aged in Jack barrels and although it was a little heavy for a hot summer day, I love me some RIS and this one was good. I finished off the flight with their "Arquebus" which was a summer barleywine. What's that you say? It was a "light" 11% ABV.

After one more full pour of Cerise, I stumbed back to the hotel satisfied to have tasted 16 beers that I never had before. I'd rather have attended the WHALES meeting, but Boston was a close second.