Review: Ram Restaurant and Brewery

We found ourselves running around Meridian and the growling of our stomachs told us that dinner wouldn’t wait any longer.  We don’t find ourselves in Meredian all that often so we only had a few ideas of where we could go, but then a sign popped up on the left, Ram Restaurant and Brewery.  Everyone that knows me is already aware of my views on beer, the smaller the brewery the better the beer, so the thought of having a beer at the scene of the brew grabbed my attention in a hurry.

First of all the place looks sharp, inside and out; and, we were whisked off to a table as soon as we came in.  This could be good timing on our part but it was obviously busy.  The wait was a little long, as I said it was busy, but I sat entranced by the beer menu.  I ignored the part that covered other people’s beer and concentrated on the local stuff, so imagine my delight when I saw they had a sampler of all six of their beers, 30 total ounces in six glasses.  I just wish I remember the name of the sampler from the menu.  I brew my own, so the style guide isn’t a stranger to me, but it’s rare that I get a chance to sink my taste buds into a selection like this.  First of all, I don’t care for hoppy beers, so I went for them first.

  • 71 Pale Ale was very crisp the hops were forward which is correct for the style and even though I’m not a fan of hoppy beers this was smooth enough that I could overlook it and appreciate the quality.
  • Big Red I.P.A was also a hoppy beer without yielding to the temptation of being a hop grenade, which many brewers don’t manage that well.  It was a clear, sharp beer with an assertive hop presence that didn’t distract from the quality of the brew.
  • A little less down the hop scale was Big Horn Hefeweizen, unfiltered and true to style with a blend of hops to malt closer to neutral than the previous styles, a fine flavor that I could see enjoying on a hot day.
  • Big Horn Blonde is a sweeter beer, more malt forward and correct to style with an excellent crisply sweet flavor.
  • Buttface Amber Ale is normally a little hoppier than my tastes run toward, but this pulled it off well, it hit hoppy but finished a touch sweeter to leave a pleasant confusion among the taste buds, they weren’t sure what hit them but they were ready to try it again.
  • Porters and Scottish ales are my brew of choice, so I saved Total Disorder Porter for last, it’s a perfect balance of hop to malt, coming in at 25 IBUs and the flavor curled my toes.  This may just nudge my favorite porter from its throne, it’ll probably take a growler or two before I can say for sure, but this is undoubtedly the smoothest porter I’ve tasted yet.

The only thing that could have made the array of beers I had any finer would have been a good Belgian sour or lambic, but they can count on seeing more of me, and I’ll be marking out a section of my beer fridge out for Total Disorder, and maybe a bit of Buttface.  I’ll have to see if I can watch the brewing one of these days, no better way to geek out a homebrewer.

The food, yes we did eat, Kim and I both ordered 1 pound burgers, she had the Extreme Bronco Burger, it came loaded with cheddar, lettuce and tomato, hold the onion and pickle, and they did and she got a side of guacamole, which made her day complete.  The raspberry milk shake put it over the top foe her.  She was smart enough to stop at half, I was not.

I had an Extreme Big Dawg Burger, also weighing in at a pound and this bad boy was fully dressed out, bacon, cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, onions and pickles and I got to choose the condiments, a little mustard and I was good to go.  It was so good I didn’t realize I was stuffed until I was done, a massive burger and a side of onion rings and life was complete.

Normally the fastest way for any eatery to irritate me is to charge for the coffee I like to savor after I eat, but this time I was still well pleased, it was a large cup of dark rich brew that made you realize that they didn’t skimp on the quality.

The beer selection was outstanding, they covered the basics that most beer drinkers look for and did it with class and flavor.  The food was excellent, I completely respect their notion that you should leave stuffed when you’re paying good money.  It was clean, cheerful and pleasant all around.  Two big thumbs up and I’ll be back!

© 2009 – 2020, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

Brewing Fibromyalgia

Brewing: Porto Robusto, a robust porter

A porter is a dark ale, rich in malty flavor that is balanced well against its hops and perhaps the pinnacle of ale, which is the true king of beers, no matter what Budweiser foolishly claims.  Bud is only one among many mass-produced testimonials to mediocrity.  Actually I don’t like lagers that much and the commercial varieties are too light in body and the blend of sweetness and hops comes across as bland and listless, lifeless even.

Ales are fermented at warmer temperatures using a faster processing, top fermenting yeast.  The combination of malt and yeast gives ales a sweetness with hints of fruit in the background, but then its balanced with hops, the alpha acids in these leafy cones (related to cannabis, leading to its nickname of the cousin among some home brewers) provide a bitterness that is used to balance the flavor to the brewer’s taste. Personally I prefer close to a 50-50 balance of bitter and sweet, giving you the best of both worlds as it hits the different taste buds.

Hops serve a lot of uses, besides balancing the flavor of ale and beer, they can aid relaxation, help you sleep, can reduce anxiety.  They contain flavonids which have been found effective in studies against free radicals which can damage cells.  Coincidentally porter, stout and ale all have higher levels of flavonids than lagers or pilsners, aka beer.

Bear in mind that’s an ale or maybe two a day, standard beers, pounding ale or beer for health will get you nowhere but chubby.

But, on to porter, or in the case of my pride and joy, robust porter, it is defined in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as follows: (style 12B, Robust porter) “A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex & flavorful roasty character.  Stronger, hoppier &/or roastier porter designed as either historical throwback or American interpretation of style. Traditional versions have a more subtle hop character (often English) modern versions may be considerably more aggressive.

The BJCP Guide also lists examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter & Bell’s Porter.

The best I’ve found so far is Deschutes Black Butte Porter, I’d recommend it to anyone!

To brew an extract version (simpler to brew and much less expensive in equipment) here is my grain bill, hops and yeast to produce a 5.5% ale.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 lb DME Sparkling Amber (Briess) (10.5 SRM) Dry Extract 12.50 %
6.00 lb LME Golden Light (Briess) (4.0 SRM) Liquid Extract 75.00 %
0.50 lb Crystal – 080L Dark (Crisp) – 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 6.25 %
0.25 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (60 min) Hops 15.8 IBU
0.50 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (60 min) Hops 7.9 IBU
1.00 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (5 min) Hops 3.1 IBU
0.50 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (5 min) Hops 1.6 IBU
1 Pkgs Nottingham (Danstar 15g pkt) Yeast-Ale
A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex&flavorful roasty character
Stronger, hoppier &/or roastier porter designed as either historical throwback or American interpretation of style.Trad versions have a more subtle hop character(often English)modern versions may be considerably more aggressive.Both types are valid
Profile: Rather broad style open to interpretation distinguished from Stout as lacking strong roasted barley character.It differs from brown porter in that black patent/roasted grain character is usually present, & it can be stronger in alc.Roast intensity&malt flavors can vary significantly.May/may not have strong hop char,&may/may not have significant
Ingredients: May have several malts,darkroasted malts&grains,often inc. black patent malt(chocolate malt&/or roasted barley may be used).Bittering,flavor&/or aroma hops freq UK/US.H2O w mod – high carbonate hardness typ.Ale yeast either clean US/characterful Eng var.
Examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter, Bell’s Porter, Great Divide S

All together you can fill this bill for about $30 and it will give you five gallons of beer (roughly 53, 12 oz bottles), if you go to my brewing page you’ll bet a rough idea of what you’ll need to brew and ferment, it will be a couple of hundred dollars invested in gear, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

As a side notem I don’t brew because I like to drink, I brew because I enjoy the taste of a good beer, so 4-5 beers a week gets me by just fine, which is low compared to many brewers I’ve talked to.  Porter is the highest alcohol ale I brew, my other favorite is a Scottish 60/- (60 shilling) which normally comes in between 2.8 and 3%.

As you all know I do suffer from Fibromyalgia and that affects your body’s ability to handle alcohol, so I stick to low alcohol because I don’t like to get drunk, I like to enjoy a damned good pint.  The malt soothes my stomach when its upset, helps take the irritable out of the bowels, and helps me sleep a little sounder.

Your mileage may vary, go enjoy a quality brew while I try and think up a real name for this stuff!

© 2009 – 2020, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.


Brewing Report

Memorial Day was a bit of a brewer’s report card for me, and here’s the results of a tasting session:

The Lemon Head was interesting, it went too sweet which surprised me because sitting on the yeast with that much sugar it should have gone much deeper into the alcohol flavors, but it just might be that the acids and bitterness of the lemons combined with the alcohol it fermented as high as the yeast could and the rest was leftover sugar, it also didn’t carbonate much. Next time I think I’ll brew a high gravity beer then back flavor it.  I think it got an OK rating and Shae went home with the few bottles I’d put together.

Bragg’s Golden Braggot, braggot is a mead (honey wine) and malted drink (beer) at once. It went very dry and had a strong wine flavor, next time I go higher gravity on the beer side as this batch was mostly honey for fermentables, it was 6:1 honey to malt, I think I’ll bump that up to 2:1 next time with a slightly more assertive hop.  Key took home a 6 pack and I’m aging about 18 mor 12 oz bottles, I’ll call it a successful batch though.

Sour Puss Lambic definately had the funky sour tastes but was too light on the fruit flavors, I put in about 8 lbs of fruit but the yeast and souring cultures seemed to eat them all up.  When I popped the lid on the fermenter the scent was pure lambic, so I hit that perfectly, but lesson learned was to have a fruit concentrate on hand to back flavor it.  We tried mixing a lingonberry concentrate and it balanced up very easily with only a few drops to a 2 oz taster.  I’ll go mixed on this, its technicall correct, the flavor needs work, and nobody wanted any to take with them.

The Hard Apple Cider followed a trand of mine of going very fry, meaning high alcohol, I had to back sweeten it with soft cider, but next time I’ll use concentrate.  This was one of the better recieved and Kit got the rest of the batch to take home.  Next time, sour green apple cider.

The Red Death Melomel, a fruit mead, went very dry and the alcohol flavor is a bit of a knee in the groin.  It all stayed home with me.

The Holiday Cyser was a bit of a surprise, its mead and hard cider in one, with a spiced flavor that comes from a little cinnamon and a mix of honey and apple, it came out rather sweet and I’d cut that down by blending in a few cups of strong tea as the tannins reduce the cloying element of the sweetness.  It went rather well, expecially with those that like sweet spicy drinks.  Shae took home a half gallon and I have another gallon aging in the brew fridge.

After my last batch of Scotish 60/- (60 shilling) fermented out badly I was a little nervous when I tried my first Porter.  I’d rounded up the ingredients fresh in Seattle and brewed it up, I think I pulled it out of the fermenter a little early and it hadn’t finished conditioning, I compressed a three week process into two when it was all said and done, but it came out very well despite.  It was flat when we tried it but the flavor was very pleasant even then, I’d intentionally kept the hop profile a little lower than the brew shop’s recipe, to keep it in line with Black Butte Porter, but the malt really came through well.  Its a mild ale, a little light in color but I fan fix that with the steep next time, but it goes down really well.  I force carbonated it in the tap a draft and it is a gamned good ale, but a little heavy on a hot day.

As far as ales go, I may just have to alternate between 60/- and Porter.  Well, the 60/- in the summer and the porter in fall and winter.

Over all, I think I have a way to go, but pretty good for a brewer with under a year to his credit.

© 2009 – 2020, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.