Thursday, December 29, 2011

Belgian Single 100% Brettanomyces Fermented on Wine Soaked Oak

I bought a vial of Brettanomyces Lambicus from White Labs because my Dark Saison needs the brett to calm down the sweetness of the figs and to hit the terminal gravity I wanted. This gave me the opportunity to make a style of beer which I am a fan of: the west coast sour. Sours such as Temptation and Sanctification from Russian River have captured my imagination of what beer can be. Using those beers as an inspiration I am working to reproduce this idea at home with Hungarian oak cubes soaked in vodka and then in Cabernet Sauvignon. My design of this beer is a simple pilsner and aromatic base lightly hopped and fermented out with Brett yeast. My hope for the flavor profile is a light beer with a light fruity wine flavor and some funk. At the end of the fermentation I hope to have a nice yeast cake of Brettanomyces Lambicus and some oak cubes impregnated by it. My Belgian Single is good on it's own; the recipe is solid when fermented with Ardennes yeast. I imagine that it will be totally different and the answer might be some Ardennes yeast and some Brett.

Brett L's character according to Wyeast, "It produces a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness along with distinct “Brett” character. A pellicle may form in bottles or casks. To produce the classic Belgian character, this strain works best in conjunction with other yeast and lactic bacteria. It generally requires 3-6 months of aging to fully develop flavor characteristics."

(read more after the break.) 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Making Sodas

For a long time I've wanted to make soda at home. This started as a dream to make my own good tasting cola to replace the ever increasing cost of my major brand sodas. We had a product, a marketing campaign, and labels all ready to go if we could just figure out how to make soda. We never had the capital to invest in this dream as college students. We couldn't afford to buy force carbonation equipment or ingredients to make test batches of soda. This has changed in recent times as we've begun to assemble our own at home breweries and the at home brewing equipment is largely the same as soda making.

(read more after the break.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Working With Oak

Working with White Oak is really easy. It's sold plentifully for wine making as well as beer making. It can impart roasted flavors, vanilla flavors, tannins, resins, or spices. It imparts a terrior from where it is grown. It comes anywhere from raw to heavily toasted. Oak can also be used to intentionally carry microbes from one beer to another. Russian River occasionally distributes wood chips made from breaking up old barrels at trade shows, and through contests; sour beer fans snap these up trying to get the microbes in the wood for their own beers.
(Read more after the break.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dark Brett Saison w/ Candied Figs, Star Anise, Cinnamon & Sweet Orange Peel

My second Saison is based on an article in BYO with several saison recipes by Michael Tonsmeire who is the master mind behind the mad fermentationist. I'm going to make a Dark Saison with French Saison yeast and brettanomyces, flavored by candied figs, star anise, cinnamon, sweet orange peel, and candi sugar. If I have any czech saaz left over I'll bitter with that. My recipe will be different then his in a few ways but similarly spiced, bittered, and colored. The final gravity will vary slightly depending on the sugar content of the figs.

To design this beer I wanted to go with the traditional saison base malt, Pilsner. I also wanted to give it a touch of nutty sweetness to accentuate the fruit and spice flavors. I'm kinda counting on the brettanomyces to clean this all up and get the sweetness back in check; we'll see. To gain complexity and build the beer I wanted to include a bit of melanoidin malt for aroma and flavor(smells like fruity malt, wonderful), Caramunich for flavor(toasted nuts), Special B for flavor and aroma as well as color (black in appearance, dark fruit in flavor and aroma) Debittered black for color (dark 500-600 srm dark), and wheat malt for feel and head retention (it's Belgian after all). The yeasts should have these profiles: 3711 French Saison should have a profile of highly aromatic (estery), peppery, spicy and citrusy. This strain enhances the use of spices and aroma hops, and is extremely attenuative but leaves an unexpected silky and rich mouth-feel, and the brett should contribute a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness along with distinct classic “sweaty horse blanket” character flavors.

(read more after the break.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Citra Red Saison

America the bold, meet Belgium the wild. The classic tail of the steadfast American man falling for the impetuous European woman; it's like a romance movie beer. I got the inspiration for this from the home brew board at Beer Advocate. It made me start exploring the idea of saisons more. They are made with a few characteristic yeast strains one of which is the French strain which has a more balanced flavor then the Belgian strains offered by white labs or wyeast. This saison is designed to be a deep copper to red, the healthy dose of American hops should accentuate the fruity french saison yeast.

(Read more after the break.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Saisons - More than I ever knew

Before the modern era drinking water was a dangerous proposition. Water contained many pathogens; a fact I first learned while playing Oregon Trail. I can't count how many fictitious children I had who died of dysentery. In French Belgium their solution to this was to ferment water so that yeast could create alcohol and kill all of the dangerous bacteria. As we know the keys to fermentation are yeast, water, and sugar. As avid drinkers we also know that high alcohol beers are more of a meal than they are refreshing. The eventual outcome from all of this knowledge was the Saison.

Farming was hard work. Long days in the fields in the hot summer without supplies of fresh water. So farmers fermented beer light enough to be refreshing and in high enough quantities to last the warmer summer months. This is what farmers drank and where saisons drew their roots. Beers were blended to achieve fermentation, or served still, adjuncts were added, or not. This was home brewing at it's earnest.

Saisons changed however as modernity came about, Adam Smith changed things with his revolutionary ideas about the division of labor. Once brewing became a more practical profession, and larger more modern practices were employed. Saisons became a pure culture product without the farm flavors they had before. The consistency increased, and later the clarity and classic Belgian head were added. What remained of the rather modest roots of this working man's favorite was a beer of modest alcohol, with a characteristically dry finish, and spiciness/fruit from the saison strains.

(Read more after the break.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Galactic Centennial Citra Imperial Red Ale

This is a 1 gallon re-brew of the STL Brown the way I intended it to be. I am tweaking the recipe because I have a lot of galaxy hops and am low on Amarillo. In truth I am not a huge fan of Amarillo(spicy/orange/citrus). Some people find it amazing, but for me I'd prefer: citra(citrus/tropical fruit), centennial(citrus/flowers), or simcoe(pine) to dominate. I've never used galaxy before so I am hoping that by using galaxy hops in the brew and then as a huge shot in the dry hops for added aroma that I'll be able to find out more.

Centennial and Galaxy are both hops I hope to profile in the future. The hop flavor I am hoping to get from this is a bold citrus flavor. The Citra hops should impart a strong tropical flavor and aroma, I have found it to be reminiscent of a fresh cut mango, but with that hop quality unique to beer. The Centennial hops are included to add to the depth of hop flavor. I am looking for their characteristic floral/citrus addition, similar to cascade. The Galaxy hops are new to me but I am hoping to have a unique citrus addition; Wikipedia suggests passion fruit.

(read more after the break.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: Smoked Porter

Smoked, Oaked, & Maple Porter

Appearance: Deep brown and thin. Light permeates all but the deepest body. No head to speak of.

Aroma: It was smoky and hot with a lot of bourbon in the nose.

Flavor: Rich bourbon, heat, the aroma from the oak and the smoke come through differently in the glass, the oak is in the flavor, the smoke comes through in the finish.

Mouth: Flat, did not carbonate, not 100% sure why.

Overall: A huge disappointment this tasted so good at bottling, and I was really looking forward to the carbonated version of this. I am not sure what to do, I think I'll pop the remaining 4 bottles and put some yeast in them. I'll recap and if it carbonates I'll re review it. #fail.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FOBAB)

The Festival of Barrel Aged Beers is an event that happens annually in Chicago. It is both a celebration and a competition for barrel aged beers. The only qualification to be entered in this competition is that it must be aged in some sort of barrel. Wine Barrels, Sour Barrels, Oak Barrels, Bourbon barrels, Any Wood Barrel goes! The event is an open tasting with dozens perhaps 100s of jockey boxes. There are so many taps that there is barely ever a line, each group of 4 or so taps is manned by a person. You're never waiting for a sample for long, water is provided as a palet cleanser and there is food availible to purchase. This is a well run event with 2 sessions, and no beers are only availible at a single session.

(read more after the break.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Cinnamon Treacle Old Ale

Cinnamon Treacle Old Ale
Appearance: Dark with a billowing head, The pour may have been a bit too aggressive as the head was just billowing.

Aroma: Neutral, not too much going on except the sweet smell of caramel malt.

Flavor: Neutral; Pretty Mild not enough treacle or cinnamon.

Mouth: Really good, Just the right amount of carbonation

Overall: Mild, this would be a good mild, not too flavored, not too booze, not too hoppy, very neutral. The next iteration of this style will be a bit more treacly, maybe some treacle in secondary, I dunno. It needed more dark treacle.

Rating: I sure made a great mild. Too bad I was shooting for an old ale. This needed something, more cinnamon, more treacle, bourbon barrel aging, something... I'd give it a C for average, because that's what it was.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blackberry Pacific Gem Pale Ales

A few new types of hops are coming out of New Zealand these days and landing in my local home brew stores. These hops have a completely different set of flavors from the Noble German Hops, or the 'C' hops of the Pacific Northwest. One of the hops I'd like to try out in a beer is the Pacific Gem breed. This breed is said to 'fill the brew house with enticing aromas during kettle additions and has been described as producing oaken flavors with a distinct blackberry aroma.' This description could make this the perfect hop to make a black berry pale ale. A nice hoppy beer with bitter and sweet properties from a hop whose flavor should lend blend with the fruit addition for a nice complexity. If both the bitterness from the hops and the sweetness from the fruit can come through in the final product this brew could be a winner.

(read more after the break.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Three Floyds 15th Anniversary

Saturday 11/12/11 was 3 Floyds 15th anniversary. They brew some fantastic beers. There was a 6 hour line to get into this event. Not for me though I knew better and arrived 2 hours early, I was about 20 minuttes from getting beer in the line.

The Beer: The Anniversary Beer was a super stout called Ballerstout which was made from Darkness, Darklord, Beer Geek Brunch, and Black Albert. Other beers to buy were Brandy Barrel Aged Dark Lord, Several Sours and One Off 3 Floyds Products. We got 4 Brandy DL and 1 Conquistador De Muerta. I got to sample Ballerstout outside in the beer tent. It was really good, It was very drinkable for being a big stout. The flavors were a perfect mesh of the strengths of the various components of the beer. It had the dark fruits from Darklord without the overall viscosity, it had the hop flavor of Darkness without being as intense, It had the coffee of Mikkeller without being too astringent.

(read more after the break.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks For Reading My Blog!

I see that people have been reading this blog in Russia, France, Germany, Latvia, South Korea, Indonesia, Canada, the USA, and many others. Thank you! If there is anything you'd like to see or like me to include post it in the comments and I'll try to make it happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Belgian Quadruple

My Belgian Quad is a stepped up Dubbel. I took the rough grains from my Dubbel and I pumped them up a bit. Then I pumped my sugars up with candi sugar. Then I want to increase the flavor of the beer with a less than subtle tart cherry flavor. I have 2 pounds of frozen tart cherries. I am hoping to make a dark beer with cherry flavor and Belgian yeastiness.

I believe adding cherries is semi to style. Ommegang makes their 3 Philosophers Quad which contains 3% cherry juice. BBQ is aged on tart cherries and while I was drinking it I wished it had a touch more cherry flavor. This is also kind of a test run for my Flanders red ale and lambics. Although this beer doesn't have a tart flavor inherent from any sort of intentional infections I'll be able to evaluate the tart cherry flavors and see how much of that I want in my already tart beers. I'll probably end up adding a touch of rye whiskey soaked oak cubes.

The sky is the limit with Belgian beers, you can go a touch sour, you can go full sour; you can have dark saison, light saisons, strong ale, weak ale, sour, clean, hoppy, fruity, whatever. The characteristic Belgian flavors must be present but can be accentuated in many ways.

(read more after the break.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Belgian Triple

A Belgian Triple is a strengthened Enkel without the addition of browning additives. The relatively crisp mouth feel is delivered by pumping up the alcohol with 100% fermentable clear Belgian candi sugar leaving the charicteristic dry mouth feel and light body but with a deceptive alcohol. My goal here is to take a relatively similar recipe to my enkle, add candy sugar and see what happens. If this produces a tasty treat then I'll be onto something.

My procces with this recipe was to take my single recipe which is about 6lbs of Pilsner Malt per five gallons and to double it. Which is basically what I did, then I increased the gravity with candi sugar. This should pump up the alcohol a bit without increasing the mouth feel and body. I bumped up the hops a bit, and I am hoping it's smooth and good.

(read more after the break.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ouch: Burned Myself

Well it was bound to happen, an injury. It doesn't take much to make you appreciate when brew days go well. Right after they go poorly and you're ready to pitch this hobby it's important to remember, it happens. I was brewing friday, I got a late start on my triple brew day, about 4 hours later because I hung out with my dad for a while. I love my father so that was totally a good choice. My bad choice came when I still thought I had time to brew three beers and started rushing. Many mistakes wear made from accidently dry hopping the wrong beer and then ultimatly what ended my brew day and sent me to walgreens for a can of burn spray some gause and a wrap.

I was burned by the business end of my wort chiller, steamy superheated water shot out, richoched off my sink, and up onto my hand and neck. Ouch. I was in a lot of pain but still had to finish my beer. I missed taking my grain bag out and ruined a batch of triple as it was boiling with grains in it. For 2.1 pounds of pilsner I was willing to dump it. I finished my dubble and went to the store. I was 3 hours from being done with the belgian brew day, instead it's carried over to tonight.

It's important to remember this is a dangerous hobby and that you have to be careful at all times. This could have been much worse. There are many chemicals used in brewing that can burn your skin, blind you, etc. Hot sugary water is also a concern. As is steam.

Haste makes waste as well, I messed up a beer I brewed to be fruited by dry hopping it, I am going to start over and brew the original beer again rather than just going with it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Belgian Dubbel

As mentioned in my previous post a Dubbel is a extra strength Enkle with the the addition of amber candi sugars and malts. The next step if this recipe doesn't turn out will be to make a Dubbel using my Enkle recipe and just candi sugars. I am going to reserve judgement on this one for now, not to get ahead of myself. My thoughts headed into this are to take my Enkle recipe and step it up to a Dubbel by adding some of the brown malts and a modest amount of candi sugar.

Brown malts:
Aromatic 19L - imparts a distinct, exaggerated malt aroma, and deep color in high amounts.
Biscuit 25L - adds a warm biscuit aroma, with bready flavors, and a garnet-brown color.
Cara-Vienna 21L - imparts a golden to light copper color with sweet caramel flavors
Cara-Munich 45L - adds a deep golden to copper color with sweet toasted caramel flavors.
Special B 145L - imparts a sharp, caramel, toffee, raisin-like flavor and deep color.
Debittered Black 500L-600L - adds deep color without increased astringency.

Dark Sugars:
Amber Candi Sugar 45L-80L - imparts flavors of toffee, vanilla, and toast
Dark Candi Sugar 165L-180L - imparts flavors of fresh ground coffee, dark fruit(raisins, dates, prunes, ect.), and toast.

(read more after the break)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Belgians by the Numbers

The naming convention for Belgian beers has always amused me, enkle, dubbel, triple, quadruple. Based on what I've read the naming convention is nothing more than a way to measure alcohol. While the beers have fallen into various styles now that trends developed over time as breweries and abbeys tried to copy and outdo each other.

Before we get into the brewing it's important to understand where these beers come from in the real world; I'll share a bit of history. Long ago baby Jesus was born in a stable. Fast forward 900 years and monks following Jesus started to live in monasteries and brew beer. These monasteries still exist and still brew beer. Perhaps the best brewers come from the St. Sixtus' Abbey, Westvleteren, which belongs to the Cistercians of Strict Observance, or Trappists, and is located in Westvleteren, West Flanders, in Belgium. They brew the highest rated beer in the world Westvleteren 12.

(read more after the break.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making Belgian Candi Sugar

After reading on many home brewing forums that buying clear candi sugar is a waste of money; forums where the recommended procedure is just to use table sugar. I'm not convinced that table sugar will yield the same results. Candi sugar is an inverted sugar created by heating Sucrose(table sugar) in solution with water to produce Glucose and Fructose. This is achieved most often by adding a catalyst such as lemon juice(citric acid) or cream of tartar(tartaric acid) to sugar and water while applying heat.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Going sour...

To make sour beers you need sour gear. You could try to sanitize your gear while going back and forth, but plastic has a way of soaking up bad germs. They are bad if you want to make "clean beers".

This event gave me the excuse to buy the half inch auto siphon I wanted. I moved my Flanders Red from one carboy to another and this was the point of no return for several pieces of equipment. All of the stoppers and airlocks that I used are marked with red to show they are infected. My old auto siphon is now permanently sour as well.

Part of what I was excited about with transferring the yeast was the chance to harvest some of my yeast cake for a future batch of sour beer.

The point of this post was to remind you what I needed to be reminded of:
Once your plastic goes sour it can't go back.
Harvest some yeast; you can save it for the future.
Get your oak back.

Good luck harvesting some sour yeasts and putting your beer into cold storage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Designing A Beer

As a novice brewer with limited capital to invest in this hobby I haven't bought every book in the beer making library. I do not have a copy of "Designing Great Beer". I can however offer eight months of wisdom, common sense, and Hollywood catch phrases.

"If you build(brew) it, they will come." - Mysterious Corn Field, Field of Dreams. Almost with out fail my friends will tell me I've made a great beer and gladly drink the free beer while we sit and watch movies, talk, or watch sports. If I grill and give them free beer they'll tell me I should be a professional brewer. Good friends make bad judges, but good drinking buddies. The moral here is to worry less and have fun more; if you brew it your friends will drink it.

My first step in making a beer is to decide on a style. Having a style can be a good guide in selecting malts, yeasts, and hops. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has defined style guidelines that can be helpful to follow in designing a beer. I take this guide line and compare it with other sources including Brewing Classic Styles, Zymurgy Magazine, and BYO Magazine. Special mention here goes to BYO's web page, as they offer several style guides and recipes. With ideas about the style, and the help of a few recipes, I take my personal experience a long time beer drinker(7 years) and formulate a basic recipe. I proof this recipe against available literature. Fine tuning is done after I bounce the recipe off of the brew boards at beer advocate.

(read more after the break)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Making a Hop Bag

Making bags on a sewing machine is almost as easy as falling out of bed. Hop bags can be used for a variety of things in brewing: grain bags, hop bags, filters or even a scrubby in a pinch. In a variety of sizes and shapes they can be quite useful for all home brewers: novice to grandmaster of the order of the wooden mash paddle.

The first step here is gathering the materials:
A yard+ of voile (fabric is measured in square yards)
white cotton thread (no need for dyes)
Butcher's string (ask your butcher)

Simple Bag

If you're making a simple bag cut a rectangle, roughly an inch longer in each direction then you want your bag to be. For the simplest bag possible take in inch from the short end of your rectangle fold pin and sew. Run your string through the folds you just created leaving 3 inches to either ends and knot off with a simple knot. Now pin the sides and sew up to the string, which you should push up against the lip. Be careful not to immobilize the string, sewing over it will immobilize it. Do not turn the bag outside in so all of your seams are on the inside; this isn't a beauty contest. Stitching whether by hand or on a machine is acceptable for making bags. Stitching on a machine takes a lot less time and works really well.

(Read more after the break.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cold Crashing

For my Citra Citrus Light IPA I wanted to present a naturally clear beer. I did not have any whirl flock tablets when I made it, no Irish moss, and I don't really want to mess with gelatin finings. What is a man to do? Cold Crash It.

This is actually pretty simple you just put your fermenter, secondary fermentor, keg, demijohn, conical, whatever and cool it to the mid 30's. The yeast get cold, they give up and go dormant. That's basically it, Then you bottle it. There should be enough dormant yeast to carbonate the beer once you bottle it.

In practice I've had trouble with this, I can't fit my fermentors into my food fridge. Never fear because you can keg a beer and counter pressure fill bottles. I always forget kegs are cold and hold beer. You can also secondary in a keg and just bottle normally although I imagine this it less than ideal given the ease of leaving the beer in a keg or counter pressure filling.

After 2 weeks in the refrigerator my beer is looking less hazy. I believe that more yeast and trub has settled because the flash penetrated further into the beer. It's darker at the top then the middle or the bottom. I'll be bottling this soon, and hoping for the best.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lambic #3 Brewday

As mentioned in my previous post on Lambic Brewing I had a vial of yeast I needed to use.

This featured the same brew schedule as My Other Lambics with a few changed details

The recipe is the same with one deviation. I used Czech Saaz hops which had been warm and set aside for a few months. They smelled hoppy but not really hoppy, not like when they were fresh. This is different then the oven aged hops which had a slightly toasted dried scent. I forgot my large brew bags at my apartment so I was forced to go without.

(read more after the break.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hop Profile: Citra Hop

In an effort to put more things on my blog I am going to post profiles of hops that I think I have a good handle on. This won't be as frequent as some of my other posts, recipes, processes, and such. I plan to only post on a hop when I've used it a few times, made beers showcasing the flavor, and had commercial examples featuring it as a dominant/single hop.

Citra Hop:
Northern Brewer defines/describes it as, "A very new American hop with parentage from Hallertau Mittelfruh, East Kent Goldings, and others. High alpha and strong tropical fruit aromas and flavors (think mango, papaya, and pineapple)."

While drinking it (Citra Pale):
I would say that the smell is strong and dank. The fruity scent is undeniably sweet. It is rich like mangoes or papayas. It also carries a rich wetness scent (dank basement) to deepen the aroma.

Thoughts about use:
An incredibly smooth bitterness. The IBU number Beersmith calculates and the number I'd guess are very far apart. I trust the alpha acid measurements, but I think the bitterness is just so smooth that the apparent bitterness is lower.

This is a hop I love to use. With so many hops boasting the desired 'citrus' flavor at this point I have to say Citra Hop is a man among boys in terms of intensity and flavor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Process: Bottling

I keg and bottle. Bottles are 100% more convenient for moving around; kegs are more convenient for everything else. To Bottle beer you have to clean and sanitize every bottle, add sugar, and cap. A lot can go wrong with this whole thing however the same care that you put into brewing under sanitary conditions should help you to bottle this under sanitary conditions. The purpose of this post it to walk you through everything I do to bottle a 1 gallon batch of beer. Bottling five gallon batches differs in a few ways which I'll touch on but won't detail.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Reason for Every Season.

It's not a coincidence that your favorite major brewery pumps out seasonal ales with various characteristics when they do. Before my beer enlightenment I questioned why someone would release a fresh hopped beer in the fall when I was looking for a wee heavy or an Oktoberfest. I lamented not having super special seasonal stouts released in the summers when I had the most time off from work. One day I had an epiphany about beer seasons.

Rather then simply breaking down the beer seasons I wanted to make specific points about tradition, crop harvests, and alcohol.

(read more after the break)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Belgian Single Review

My Belgian Single

Belgian Single Ale

Appearance: Tall and pale, Yellow/white, unmistakably belgian head with the charicteristically large bubbles and rocky foam head.

Aroma: Esters, and Breadiness, smooth charicteristic belgian scent. I could curl up for a nap with candle of this scent.

Flavor: Really soft flavors, as with the aroma. The low malt/low hop produced exactly what I wanted, a nice light, soft beer with no harsh or strong flavors. Very subtle and belgian, hints of bread, the yeast is apparent, just a soft lightly tart edge catches the back of the sip.

Mouth: Nice, I'm still dialing in the carbonation but the head is lasting and this is a nice way to pass the evening work hours with.

Overall: I am glad I made this. This is the kind of beer I can see pleasing a crowd. It could have been lighter, or a touch heavier. I just like it.

Rating: if I paid for this I'd rate it a A- for style. That said I wouldn't rush out to over pay for a belgian single or any other subdued pale ale. It was about 8 dollars in grain, and a dollar in hops, I am a fan.  If you figure 15 dollars in cost with a fresh pack of yeast, and 5 pints per gallon, that's .60 cents a glass. Charging 2 dollars a pint for this at a brewery would be like stealing (Profit = Good).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scottish Wee Heavy - Stout

A Scottish beers are traditionally sweet while maintaining a low presence of caramel malt flavors. These beers were sweetened by condensing and caramelizing a portion of the wort then adding back that syrup to the main batch.

This normally wouldn't be a problem on a large scale system; the process would be to reserve a gallon of first runnings, and use an extra gallon of sparge water. Things get more complicated with BIAB and 1 gallon batches. It was time to get creative. I've decided that this will be 2 worts: a wort comprised solely of 2 row pale malt, a second wort made from maris otter, biscuit malt, and roasted barley would follow.

(read more after the break)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pilot Batch Pale Ale

This was our first effort as all grain brewers, mistakes were made, but the beer is surprisingly drinkable. The inspiration for this one was simple, to make a beer we couldn't screw up.

Keep it simple stupid is great advice for your first all grain brew. Nothing imperial, nothing with crazy adjuncts, nothing with complex techniques, a simple low gravity beer with a manageable hops schedule. You're going to feel rushed, you're going to forget things, having everything ready beforehand and printing a brew sheet will help keep you focused and on task.

(read more after the break)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Beer Events - CBS Release

One of the first beers I had that blew my mind was Canadian Breakfast Stout from founders, this was a chance tapping at the founders black party in 2009. I got a taster after having my first black IPA and I was in love. I returned the next weekend and had two glasses, I brought a friend and we both agreed that CBS was without a doubt the best beer we'd ever had. This was an easy statement to make because we hadn't had many great beers prior to that. I know that it might sound silly to non beer geeks but I stalked that beer. I've only missed one chance to have it since that first sip and this weekend founders released bottled of it for the first time. I wasn't going to be denied.

(read more after the break.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Small Batch: Process

Even when I move into a house, hopefully within a year, I'll still be brewing small pilot batches, starters, experiments, etc. It's important to me to get my process down pat for this, and for my other brews so I can make the best beer every single time.

Step one: Sanitation
On my very first brew I learned something very important, clean then sanitize. I had only bought sanitizer and my friend came over and asked 'dude where's your cleaner?' I was left dumbfounded. For all batches this starts with cleaning(you can't sanitize large chunks of gunk). I mix a gallon of cleaner up right in my fermentor; 1 table spoon of cleaner to one gallon of water, it's perfect. after this has sat for a while I drain it into a bowl with the rest of my equipment to get that clean while I rinse my fermentor and refill it with water. Next after I've filled my fermentor most of the way up with water I put a pinch less than a 1/4 oz of Starsan in. The standard mix of Starsan is 1 oz to 5 gallons, so with a bit of math I know I need a touch less than 1/4 oz for 1 gallon. After about 20 minutes I drain the bowl where the equipment has been cleansing and dump about 3/4 of the sanitizer into the bowl. This sanitizer is reserved for later in my process.

(read more after the break)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Flanders Red Ale

With my East Coast Yeast in hand I set about brewing the Flanders ale of my dreams; a Flanders Red aged on tart cherries/sweet cherries. I want to have some cherry flavor when it's fermented and I find that tart cherries don't pack enough punch on their own in the "cherry" department. Also this cherry addition will be subject to how the Flanders tastes in a year or more, if it's tart to the extreme I'll probably blend the cherries 50/50 to give it that funk/fruit/tart edge. If the tart is right about perfect It'll be more like 75 tart/25 sweet. All Michigan cherries will give the beer a nice terrior next summer.

The start of this beer will be the yeast. ECY 02 has a profile that is "A unique blend of Saccharomyces, Brett, lacto & Pedio perfect for flemish reds and sour browns. Dry, sour, leathery and notes of cherry stone." I received this yeast in the mail on 9/10/11 and brewed the beer on 9/24/11 So the yeast is fresh and viable.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oak Barrel Substitutes

In reading about making lambics at home I came across several links to the work of Raj Apte on making a carboy into a barrel. In a few of the accounts they mentioned some problems with this method: that beer was being forced into the wood by pressures inside the carboy, that the wood expanded to crack the carboys because it expanded when it got wet, and that there was no way for pressure to escape the carboy.

I have designed this in response to those thoughts in hope of advancing the process of making carboys into barrels and making better lambics across home brewed America.

By presoaking the wood in water until it submerges my hope is that it won't expand very much once it is in contact with the beer. The Rubber liner is also designed to give the wood a little extra room to expand before the carboy is cracked. If pressure build up is a problem and beer is being forced up through the wood then simply adding a channel for air to escape and an airlock should solve that problem. Oxygen and CO2 should still be able to travel in and out through the wood while excess pressures will be dissipated by the air lock.

(read more after the break)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kegerator 3: The Thermostat

I had a second keg in my apartment for over a week and one night I was fed up; fed up that a stupid plastic thermostat controller was in my way. The problem was no longer a lack of tools, it was no longer a lack of instructions, it was a damn probe too firmly stuck into the wall of my fridge and my fear of breaking it.

If you purchase this fridge as I did you'll immediately notice that both of your kegs will not fit into it because of the thermostat. The thermostat is held on by 2 screws one at the front which you can see, the other in the back under the light cover. As with any electrical work I would advise disconnecting the power; nothing ruins your day like being electrocuted. This may not keep you entirely safe but it is a start. Remove the screws and pull out the unit to reveal a bundle of wires and a thermostat. The thermostat is connected to the temperature probe embedded in the wall of the fridge. This is where my problems started and ended. If you ruin that probe you'll need a 60-90 dollar external thermostat. The unit can be bent out of the way easily enough and secured with tap or as I did, a rubber tether. I also taped over the wires and the hole with electrical tape hoping to keep everything contained.

(read more after the break)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Citrus Citra Light India Pale Ale

I'm brewing this as a 1 gallon all-grain IPA experiment. My concept is a beer with hops that lend the perception of citrus and actual citrus peel to accentuate and amplify that character.

I've formulated my IPAs with this formula from an article I read by Vinnie from Russian River:
90% Organic 2 Row Pale
5% Cara Pils
5% Crystal Malt (varying color) (5% max)

For this brew my goal was to pick hops with a pronounced citrus flavor: Citra hops were an obvious choice, Sorachi Ace allegedly has lemony characteristics, and Centennial has a citrus/flower reputation. Other hops exist with citrus/berry/pine flavors but I wanted to go with as much pure citrus flavor as I could to avoid muddling the citrus focus. At my LHBS they had a few dried spices that will work well with my concept: sweet orange peel, lemon peel and lime peel.

(read more after the break)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Making a Stir Plate

Sure I could buy a cheap stir plate for 40 dollars. It would probably work, look alright, and quietly serve me for years to come, but I think I can do better. I am not an electronics expert, but I don't have to be for these simple DIY projects. What I want my stir plate to have: a simple on off switch, a radial controller for stir speed, and the ability to stir 1-5 liter starters. This could all be achieved in my opinion for less than 40 dollars.

To start I needed find a mechanism for spinning and after consulting the internet I decided that a case fan out of my old computer was the perfect device. Once I removed it from my old case and stripped off the molex connector. I identified the power cables while it was connected to the molex; the grounds on a molex connector are on the inside. Before investing in any of the other components I wanted to make sure that I had a working system so I attached my recycled  12v power supply to the fan and tested it; this created a circuit at full power.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

American Lambic: Update

With my second Lambic out of primary and into secondary I wanted to share my thoughts. 

First Brewing: (Right) It turned out a light shade of yellowish red, probably from scorching the malt extract a bit. I fermented it out with the ardennes strain to give it a hint of Belgian esters before I let the microbes do their work on the remaining sugars. When I transferred it to secondary I tasted the fermented wort. It was bready, with high esters and phenols from the Belgian strain. It was unmistakably complex in that Belgian sense. My girlfriend tried it as well, she was sad I was going to 'ruin' it with sour bugs. 

Second Brewing: (Left) turned out a bit lighter, I did not taste this batch because I was in a hurry, everything looks like it is going well as of 9/18/10. The oak is somewhere on the bottom now as it had become waterlogged and sank from sight, hopefully it's imparting oaky flavors and absorbing bugs as you read this.

These brews were simple enough to do as extract brews. No special care was taken other than normal sanitation procedures when moving it into secondary. Oak Spirals were added after boiling it for 15 minutes to kill anything living on the surface of the oak. When the time came to secondary the souring agents were added from their wyeast pouches.

(read more after the break)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carbonation Tabs

What are they? Do they work? What brand to use?
I asked all of those questions and decided to find out for myself what worked.

Coopers Carbonation Drops

A regular sugar drop that is translucent and I'd say off white. It's a large sugar crystal to be sure. The ingredients list glucose as the priming agent. One drop is listed as sufficient to carbonate a 12 oz, and two drops sufficient for a 22 oz. The internet has reported fair to good results with this product. The main comments/complaints were that it did or did not work; on a product like this I tend to blame user error. I had an easier time getting these into bottles because it was only one drop to spoon in.

Brewers Best Conditioning Tabs

A small opaque white drop that is about the size of a skittle. The priming agents are dextrose, dry malt extract, and heading powder. Three to Five drops are the recommended range for a 12 oz bottle, no conversion is provided for a 22 oz bottle but one could surmise 6-10 depending. I found that 3 drops were too little, for average carbonation. I preferred to have 5 or 6 in a 12 oz bottle. I have made both full and part batches with this product, and I have seen good results. I have not experienced what I considered an off flavor as a result of using them. The internet has reported mixed results with this product ranging from: worked great, to didn't work at all because of no carbonation, floaties, and/or off flavors. I think if you have a good process, use really clean sanitary bottles, and good sanitation you'll be fine.

(read more after the jump)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Online Brew Supply Stores

I love shopping online; because of where I live in west michigan I often have to drive considerable distances to find anything. With the cost of gas often exceeding the cost of shipping and the competitive pricing of online stores it just makes sense to order online. I primarily use three online stores, each store has it's perks and draw backs, and no one store is perfect.

Midwest Brewing Supply
This is my go to website for ordering brewing equipment. They have a great selection, prompt shipping, and take care or pack items well. A good selection of ingredients for when I know what I want and can't find it at my LHBS(local home brew shop). They have an expansive selection of wine, and beer making equipment and ingrediants; they have most of everything I need. The website could function better, it could be faster, and the whole process could be sleeker. I was nervous the first time I bought from them because the website looked shotty; my fears were unfounded.

Northern Brewer
This is the site I always price check midwest against. The website is well made, and they feature 7.99 shipping on any sized order, excluding large heavy items(like glass carboys). I find the prices on ingredients to be competitive, and when I'm not ordering a lot the cheaper shipping option can save me money. On the whole the prices are a bit higher then midwest brewing, but the shipping makes it competitive. The shopping experience is also a bit easier because of the webpage design and overall attention to detail.

Rebel Brewer
This is also a good store, the prices are competitive. They are better on some products and worse on others and stock a few odds and ends I don't see other places. Typically I'll go here when the other two places and my local home brew shop are out of a type of hop I want to brew with. The website is functional and I would put it right along side midwest in terms of ease of navigation. I've had no problems with them in terms of shipping promptly or my package arriving intact.

I'd recommend all three stores to my friends, I've had nothing but good experiences.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wet Hopped IPA

It is my desire to start to brew darker beers and scale back production of my larger batches to allow me the opportunity to fine tune my recipes on smaller batches. As with everything else there is an opportunity cost to brewing one beer over another. This opportunity cost can manifest itself in monetary costs, but it can also manifest itself in calories. Beer has calories and so I can only drink so much over time without additional exercise or caloric reductions. I wanted to brew a harvest wet hop beer, and I wanted to brew a DIPA so I combine the two desires into one and brewed this beer. I will not be brewing a porter for winter(at least until after the new year) because of this. I'll also have a pale ale, a Belgian single, and now a DIPA on tap. The once a year opportunity to brew something special was just too much for me to ignore at the time. The Baltic porter will have to wait; opportunity costs.

I'll need a new keg to put this in and fortunately the day wet hops were on sale was also Siciliano's Home Brew Sale, and free hot dog day. I've wanted a 3 gallon keg for smaller and imperial batches but never felt like I was getting a good deal until it went on sale. If the internet is to be believed a 3 gallon keg will fit behind my existing kegs on the back shelf with the CO2 tank in my kegerator.

Fresh Hops are less potent then dried hops, as such 3-5 times more fresh hops are required than dry hops in a recipe. The desired effects of fresh hops come from the "volatile compounds" that are driven off in the drying process, as such don't waste these on bittering additions. This appears to be the internet consensus but trying things for yourself is the only way to truly know. I want to brew one fresh hopped double pale ale so I'm going with this advice and bittering with dried pellets. In addition I am going to work in a bit more of Vinnie's IPA advice and attempt to use corn sugar to bring my FG down to size. Also after losing many gallons of  wort in the to hop trub I am going to brew a bit of extra wort to make sure I get 3 gallons. I'll be keg hopping with wet hops in a hop bag as well.

(read more after the break)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

American Black Ale (Simcoe) Review

American Black Ale (Simcoe) Review
Appearance: Dark and rich; the head is as tall as the beer. After a few minutes it melts into the beer leaving a thin but perfectly white layer.

Aroma: Roasted and piney, the simcoe worked, and is quite pungent. The roasted note seems a touch out of place with the citrus and pine but it's a new experience.

Flavor: Good, but the touch of metal from the porter is present, not as pronounced, but I think the hops are dominating it. It starts hoppy and melts into a roasted metallic mess. the roasted metallic flavor lingers around my mouth for minutes.

Mouth: Nice, coating, the mouth feel could be thinner, I really need to start taking detailed measurements

Overall: I think it is the water, I have 2 beers in primary with all natural spring water from Meijer's natural springs high in the Fredrick Meijer mountains. I may redo the simcoe one after the other two turn out. Otherwise I may go back to formula.

Rating: if I paid for this I'd rate it a D/D+, The rating would have been a lot higher without the metallic twang of Saint Joseph city water.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cinnamon Treacle Old Ale

The signature flavor of an old ale is treacle. Treacle is "uncrystallised syrup produced in refining sugar", and has a "distinctively strong flavor, slightly bitter, and a richer color than golden syrup".

To fit this beer to style I wanted a highly apparent malt profile with a good complexity; I wanted the Maris Otter to contribute to a nutty English base, and the caramel malt to add a passive caramel flavor. I wanted to add treacle to add a traditional flavor. I split the treacle additions between golden and dark to test the flavors imparted by treacle in a one gallon batch. I want a balanced malty-sweet flavor so I went with around 50 IBU to get a bitterness ratio of approximately 0.75. I normally use Nottingham yeast from Dan-star for English ales, but for this beer I wanted to use Windsor for a profile with more esters. It looks like it will finish with a sweet character at 1.015. I plan to add cinnamon to accent the flavors involved; if golden syrup and dark treacle add a treacle tart flavor to the beer it might mesh well. Optionally I might add a touch of port aged oak cubes for a subtle oaked/fruit wine flavor layered in, or maybe rye whiskey for a spicy oak flavor.

(read more after the jump)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hops, whole vs pellet

If you read my post on the STL brown or the Black IPA you'll notice that whole hops annoy me. Pellet hops also annoy me, but for different reasons. There is no perfect solution to this problem.

The Problems with Hops:

Whole hops: clog my siphon, absorb lots of wort, float forever, but work better for dry hopping than pellets. Allegedly they impart less grassy-ness over time.

Pellet hops:  will clog all manner of filters, are hard to remove from the wort, are difficult to clean when dried onto the inside of a better bottle, and can impart a grassy flavor when beer is over exposed to remnants of the pellets. They do have the upside of increased utilization.

(read more after the break)

Monday, September 12, 2011

American/Double Chocolate Oak Vanilla Bourbon Stout

This is recipe for a Double/American Stout. I would say that this style along with Russian Imperial Stouts are by far my favorite. I'm going to call this beer and all subsequent Double/American/Imperial Stouts 'Unconquered' until I've beaten the style.

I wanted a roasted & toasted chocolate stout, with chocolate flavors coming from adjuncts and grains, oak as a subtle layer, vanilla as an accent, and a touch of bourbon. My beer was massively inspired by a fine stout from The Bruery. Their extremely limited brewing of Chocolate Rain expanded my perception of the flavors beer could bring. My perception of the flavor was: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, roast, vanilla, and bourbon. I am sure the oaking added to the flavor I perceived as vanilla but I couldn't taste the wood tannins.

(Read more after the break)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some Reviews of Past Brews

STL Brown Town Ale:
Appearance: Brown and over carbonated. Tall billowing head, overly thin brown/reddish color

Smell: effervescent hops-bomb. The scent was one of citrus passion fruit, and citrus grape fruit. Dominant hop nose; what malts? no malt here.

Taste: the sweet malt provided a nice back bone for for the hops flavor which wasn't nearly as dominant as it was in the nose, I may back some of the additions of hops or accept a bit higher ibu and add more flavor hops.

Mouth Feel: Thin, over carbonated

Thoughts: I told Kyle what volume of sugar to use for a 5 gallon batch, we ended up with about 2.5 gallons of beer post boil, post kettle hops, and post dry hops. So it was 2x carbonated, oops. Totally my bad, but it was still a good beer. Even over carbonated once we bled off some CO2 it was better than some commercial hoppy browns I've had.

(read more after the break)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Smoked, Oaked, and Mapled, a Porter

This beer started within seconds of smelling the cherry wood smoked malt from Briess. This malt hadn't been at my local home brew store before, but this day was different. The tub of grain almost opened itself for me to reveal its hidden secret; an unbelievable aroma permeated the room as if I was standing inside of a smoker. The smells of cherry wood, and cherry smoke instantly reminded me of carpentry, grilling, and being a man; this malt was all of that. Briess recommends that this malt can comprise up to 60% of the grist in the mash for darker styles of beers. I immediately began formulating a recipe in my head. The recipe would be for a bark colored beer with a billowing head rising from the glass as a portion of crystal malts uninhibited by its modest alcohol content gives the beer body and head retention. A traditionally flavored porter with a few twists as twisted as the surprise that was waiting for me inside that tub of malt.

To cut the smoked base malt I wanted to use maris otter for a more traditional English porter flavor and nuttier base. To layer in other toasted flavors I decided to add Victory, Special Roast, Black Patent, and Crystal 120 malts to emphasize the woody nature of this beer. Oak aging is appropriate for the style and will add another dimension to the beer. I also resolved to integrate maple syrup, for the sweetness, as well as the earthy flavor. Hopping a beer like this is an interesting challenge because the sweetness from the malt could easily get out of control but certain hop flavors would be out of place among the sweet malty tones and smoke. I've selected nugget because I believe it to have smooth earthy bittering that helps malts come forward as the dominant flavor.

(read more after the break)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kegging (part 2)

What's next? Cleaning and loading a keg; duh. This could be as straight forward as cleaning a keg with hot hot water, sanitizing, and racking your beer into the keg. I don't roll like that. If I am going to be kegging I am going to make the full effort to keep oxygen out of my beer.  I am going to do everything I can to achieve that goal.

Keg cleaning
To clean the kegs I opened them and inspected them, as anticipated they'd been cleaned by Midwest. Their first time care instructions suggested rinsing them with boiling water to remove caustic residue from the cleaning agent they use to remove the soda. After that I filled each keg with PBW and 100 degree water and let them have a good soak, turning them over after a few hours to ensure all parts got cleansed. Then after pumping that through the taps I mixed up some Star San in each keg, flipping again after a few hours, and pumping the Star San out through the taps. This gave me a sanitized environment that was pressurized with CO2.

Keg Filling

(DISCLAIMER: Pressurizing a vessel can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening (think exploding glass carboy). Using this method should be done at your own risk, with safty glasses, and all other proper precautions.)

I didn't invent this setup, but I do use it. The idea is that you put an air lock on the gas tap for the keg, preventing air from re entering the keg, then you purge the line with CO2, and use pressure to push the beer from the carboy into the keg. This purges most of the oxygen from the whole system and hopefully preserves the hop flavor better. I couldn't find a prefabricated system so I had to make my own. I purchased 2 soft rubber carboy caps, a racking cane, 4 feet of 3/8 inch ID hosing, several hose clamps, 1 gas ball lock keg coupler, 1 liquid ball lock keg coupler, and an air lock. It assembles like the picture, The CO2 goes in through the small hole in the carboy cap, the racking cane goes in the big one, the liquid goes into the liquid connection, and the gas excapes out through the gas connect. You have to be careful not to suck up crap with the racking cane because that's all going into your keg. I ended up leaving a bit of beer I might have siphoned and figured would settle out in the bottle. This could have been avoided by secondary fermentation; with additional crap settled out it'd go even smoother. To attach 1/4 keg hardware to a 3/8 inch tube I simply slid 1/4 ID 3/8 OD tube inside of my 3/8 ID tube. (I'll amend this with real pictures after the next time I do it. I didn't have a helper so no action photos were taken.) I dialed my regularor so that it was barely on. It takes very low pressure to push the beer out of the carboy. When showing my girlfriend the concept I could do it with my lungs, so it must not be alot of psi. I would not clamp any connections on the rubber carboy cap, or clamp the cap to the carboy. The only connections I clamped were on the keg hardware and to keep the air lock in the hose.

This is my new mini fridge loaded with 1 keg. All modifications will be detailed in an upcoming post about making this fridge into a kegerator including all parts, processes, and unavoidable errors.