Thunder Ale
I wanted to create a beer with certian qualities that I enjoyed in many other brews, and combine these into one, so I started brewing beer at home a few years ago .

Bitterness

There existed(and maybe still does!) a beer brewed where I lived most of my teen years, Zweibrucken Germany,
it was called "Parkbrau", this beer had a bold bitter quality that I found very pleasing. There was (2) popular variations of Parkbrau, I say "WAS" because I haven' t had a "Parkbrau" in over 20 years, it was almost never available in the US, the company changed their name to "Park", started puting their beer in paper labled "Yuppie" looking bottles instead of the original returnable stubies with the painted labels, and more than likely screwed everything up, all in the name of progress.

Parkbrau's "Pils" had a crisp, sharp "tangy" bitterness, while their "Export", had more of a dark grassy "herbal" bitterness. Both were good, the export was more popular with me, other americans, and the local germans as well.

There was (2) other local beers worth noting; Karlsberg(not to be confused with the Danish "Carlsberg"), and BBK.

Karlsbergs big offering was "UrPils", kind of similar to, but better than Parkbrau's "Pils" beer.

BBK always seemed to be the beer that was always available when somthing else wasn' t within reach, BBK was not as well liked, tasted like a milder version of "Export", and the local GI slang term I recall for it was "Bad Beer from Kaiserslautern", in hindsight I don' t remember BBK being "That" bad however, and for the record BBK actually means "Bayerische Brauerei Kaiserslautern".

Although not local, "Heinekens" always seemed to be around as well, which is not a bad thing at all!

PLEASE NOTE: Do NOT assume that Parkbrau, Karlsberg or BBK tasted anything like other german EXports like "Saint Pauli Girl", "Warsteiner" or "Becks", which all have very thin body and only a tiny "Saaz" hop aroma and not much else. In Zweibrucken, and I suspect anywhere else in "Deutchland"(Germany), we NEVER HEARD OF "Becks", "Warsteiner" or "Saint Pauli Girl", so my association of what a german beer is can be very different from others. If all german beer tasted like that I would NOT have respect for Germany as a beer producing region!



Ales and Lagers

On trips to Australia, I found (2) beers very popular to the Australians, both have a very bold bitter character,
on the east coast they drink an Ale called "XXXX"(pronounced "four x"), in the west "Victoria Bitter" lager is prefered.
(Forget about the media hype in America about "Fosters" being Australian for beer, "Fosters" is Australian for "Kangaroo Shit"!).
All beers are either "Lagers", or "Ales". Lager yeast is active at very cold tempertures, Ale yeast is not, beers brewed at a cold temperture using lager yeast are "Lagers", beer brewed at room temperture using ale yeast are "Ales". Lagers tend to be "Crisp", Ales are more "Creamy" and "fruity".

In later years I would discover American brewed versions in the British "India Pale Ale" style beer. IPA's are Pale Ale's with a bold hop character(bitterness). Popular beer legend denotes that this style of beer was created out of necessity, the belief was that a beer higher in alcohol and hops was required as a preservative to prevent spoilage, when shipped on the long journey from England to India, via Clipper Ship. However many historians dispute this necessity, due to evidence that other beer styles such as Pale Ales and Stouts made the same voyages to India without spoiling. I prefer to consider the higher hop and alcohol content as "insurance", as the IPA cargo would be the "least likely" to spoil.

"Bridgeport" India Pale Ale, from Portland Oregon, USA is my favorite IPA.

"Mirror Pond" from Deschutes Brewery Bend Oregon USA, is [1] of my [2] absolute favorite "Pale Ale" beers, although this one is classified as an APA(American Pale Ale), it has a hop level that comes close to many IPA's, I find it to be very pleasing, with just the right hop bitterness, a nicely balanced beer to my palate.

"Sierra Nevada Pale Ale" by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company [Chico California] is the "other" favorite "Pale Ale". Like "Mirror Pond", Sierra Nevada pushes the hop balance a bit for the style, but where Mirror Pond has a dark herbal bitterness, Sierra Nevada's bitterness is more crisp with a "citrus" bite.

Another beer style to my liking are the ESB [Extra Special Bitter] beers, also a British style, an ESB is "Less Bitter" than a "Pale Ale", and the malt is roasted longer, resulting in a darker "Copper Red" tone to the beer. An ESB tends to be very smooth and bold. Redhook "ESB" from Seattle Washington, USA is my favorite ESB.


Malt

I also found darker malt to my liking, two that I enjoy are the "Irish" Ales "Guinness", and "Murphys", of the two I prefer "Murphys", hands down, no contest!
Another dark brew that I have a fondness for is "Sheaf Stout", from Australia. It used to be produced by "Tooth & Company"[the same folks who used to brew a fantastic lager called "KB Tooth Lager"]. Sheaf is now made by "Carlton & United Breweries", the same people who make [Gasp!] Fosters! Dispite the new ownership, the recipe of Sheaf Stout seems unchanged.

These dark "stout" beers get most of their "bitterness" from the darker roasted malt, the use of hops is lighter, its a different experience altogether but while I enjoy darker beers, these Ales require "Some" aging in the brewing process, and with my resources being what they are(limited storage), I have chosen styles that can be consumed right away.

My favorite "dark roasted" beer, [and my favorite beer of ALL TIME], is "Old Rasputin Imperial Stout", from North Coast Brewery, Fort Bragg California.
Besides, the picture of "Old Rasputin" on the label has an uncanny resemblence to my old drummer Kelly Buckner! [The fellow on the right]

I could never coax him into playing originals, but hey, that's a story for another time!

I settled for a malt recipe displaying a "Copper" or "Dark Amber" hue, somewhere between an "English Brown Ale" and an "ESB", robust, nutty, slightly sweet, with moderate hints of molasses.

My Beer

My 1st batches were not awful, but not all that special either. Getting the malt right came fairly easy, but I struggled with the hoppiness(bitterness), until I discovered "Nugget" hops, which gave my beer that same herbal bitter quality that I remember from "Parkbrau" so long ago. I adhere to the German purity law, meaning only water, barley, hops and yeast were allowed as ingredients, unlike most "Mass produced beers" like "Miller" who add cheeper "corn cerial" to their mash to a point that it turns out piss yellow, or Budweiser's use of "rice filler" resulting in the weakest and worst "Sake" available. If it tastes cheep, IT PROBABLY IS!
If you have to drink an American Macro corn beer, have a "Pabst Blue Ribbon", it's the best of the category, actually not bad when well chilled!

Loose Raw Hops ready to be boiled
The Beer Fermenter

Changes Changes Changes

I decided to make (2) slight adjustments to the Thunder Ale Recipe. Originally I used Nugget hops for all three hop phases(bittering, flavoring & aroma). I am still using the Nugget hops for the bittering, but for flavor and aroma I am using Tettnanger hops. The previous malt recipe called for Amber malt, this time around I will use 1/2 Amber malt, 1/2 pale malt, bringing the coloration of the beer from Amber to Copper, and in my little world I am thinking that this should make the overall taste smoother, and bring out the character of the hops. HOPHEADS UNITE!

Beer Humor

Three beer reps , a Bud rep, a Coors rep and a Guinness rep, see each other on a daily basis traveling the same sales route. One day they all decided to hang out at a pub together after work. When the bartender came over to take their orders,
The Bud rep said: "I'll have the king of beers, Budweiser."
The Coors rep said: "I'll have the only beer brewed with Rocky Mountain spring water, Coors."
The Guinness rep said: "I will have a Coke."
Both the Bud and Coors reps looked at the Guinness rep and asked why he wasn't going to have a Guinness?
To which the Guinness rep replied: "Hell, if you guys aren't going to have a beer neither am I."

PROST!

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