Monday, December 31, 2012

Sausages: A new frontier.

Sausage. It's a glorious food delivery system. Meat and spices delivered in a thin casing that holds the flavor in while cooking yet can be bitten through without much trouble. It can be a variety of meat, spices from every continent, and even fruit and vegetables. I don't know anyone who makes sausage so this is a path I must blaze alone but I think having the freedom to make anything I can imagine will pay dividends in the future. This post will detail my first experience with sausage making. I will share what I can do better next time, and what I learned as I went along.

(please read more after the break.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

American Sour Double Red (Brown)

American Sour Red/Brown
I ordered a vial of the mother of funk. Al Buck must believe in Santa because he leaves vials of Bug County for all of the good little home brewers. This is his magnum opus of sour. The vial is described thusly on his facebook, "The mother bugger for sour ales. Contains ECY01, ECY02, ECY03, ECY04, and ECY05. Also includes: Brettanomyces lambicus, bruxellensis, anomulus, clausenii, custersianus, nanus, and naardenensis. Various Lactobacilli and Pediococci were added." For those keeping score this contains, Lambic Blend, Flemish Blend, Farm House Brett, Brett Blend #1, Brett Blend #9, and various additional bugs to drive the funk up. What to make from such a crazy blend? My first thoughts were to make a lambic style beer for my future gueuze blends. After making my second lambic of the season I decided on a sour double red (brown) with american funk instead.

(Please read more after the break.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012


One of the annual traditions of my friendships with Derek and Kyle includes a weekend where we predominantly eat pork. The picture at right is of our winter rib racks. These ribs were meaty, not the thin weak stuff you get at an applebees. These ribs had thick meat from end to tip. The ribs were from mature pigs and were very flavorful. Cooking Ribs is about three things: Dry Rub, Smoke Flavor, and BBQ sauce.

(Please read more about my ribs after the break.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Sour Tasting

I broke open the beer vault for Christmas. I had my friends surrounding me and we split some bottles that I had been holding for a while waiting for an opportunity to open them. We sampled a bottle of Bio Gueuze from Cantillon, LambicKX from Vanburg & Dewolf, and finished it off with Armand'4 Oude Geuze Lente. We mixed in a few other sour beers and some not so sour beets just to keep our palates interested.

(please read my experiences after the break.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

10,000 Page Views

The next page view will be number 10,000. Thanks for reading my blog. Please recommend it to your friends so that the next 10k page views happen even faster! Don't be afraid to jump in on the comments if you have any questions, comments, or critiques.


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Grind - MM3 - 2.0

The MM3 has three rollers. Two rollers are fixed in place and the third roller is adjustable. The roller sits in a cam that is firmly in place inside the housing. The cams have a slightly off center bushing approximately three one-hundredths off center. This gives the roller some adjustment within the given range. The cams can then be set with set screws.

(read more after the break.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flanders Red, The Sequel

It's that time of year again, around 14 months after my first Flanders Red went into primary it's time to go again. I'll be sampling my sours as soon as I can get a friend in spring lake to help. (hint: Derek or Kyle time to help), but before then I'll need to brew another Flanders Red before it get's really cold. Looking back at a blog post from a year ago I realize how naive I was. I honestly thought I would be drinking a Flanders Red aged on cherries by now....hahaha DOH!

To make superior sour beers blending is a must. It's not hard to see why, souring organisms are fickle and two batches pitched at the same time, from the same vial can have differing results. The following factors can have a varrying effects on your sour beer: dissolved oxygen, ambient temperature, wort PH, and Fermentor size/shape/type. A plastic bucket and a better bottle will turn out two different beers. A glass carboy with a wooden stopper could produce radically different results than with a rubber bung.

(read more after the break.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

American Lambic - Yeast Schedule.

These things make the beer!
My first lambic of the season was a turbid mash. In the spirit of discovery, and education I am going to attempt to use a more complicated inoculation schedule. The various microorganisms used to make lambics and other sour beers thrive under different conditions during the fermentation cycle. When you pitch all of the various microorganisms at once in the 'set it and forget it' method you're leaving things up to chemistry and chance. This isn't wrong; it's not a bad way of doing things.

I like experimenting and learning. My hopes are that by using a few different techniques I can begin to figure out what works for me. I am aware that the more scientific method for doing this would be to isolate one variable at a time: mash technique, yeast strain, or inoculation schedules; then to devise a series of experiments altering only one variable to discover what is best. I've decided that this isn't the best way of home brewing. One reason is that I can't replicate laboratory conditions at home; this may seem like a trivial point but each wort I produce is unique, the boil times are precise but not meticulous, my measurements are close but not exact, etc., etc.. If I could produce uniform wort, maintain exacting fermentation conditions, measure pH, dissolved oxygen, etc. it might be worth doing this a bit more carefully. I'm content making beer, and taking rough notes. Producing lambic style beers is about the art of it all, not laboratory precision.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keg Cleaning

Fact: Kegs save time over bottling.
Fact: You still have to clean kegs.

I remember listening to a podcast about sour ales with Jamil Zainachef and he said something to the effect of, "I clean my kegs every time. I take them apart, clean them, and replace the seals." This led me to ask myself? do I care enough to do that? "Yes" I answered, "at least once." So bought a set of new seals for less than five dollars and got to work on an emptied keg.

(read more about keg cleaning after the break.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Travel

Something to think about when you are debating the purchasing of kegs is travelling. This weekend for Thanksgiving I went over to be with Kyle and his family. I took my kegs and we had fresh draft beer all weekend. I enjoyed my american black ale on tap. Kyle really enjoyed the tropical flavors of the brettanomyces clustersianus pale ale. It's cool enough outside here that in the garage of their house we could keep the kegs without fear of freezing or being too warm.

Anyways I am back from my Thanksgiving festivities. I hope that you and yours had safe travels as well. I will be back to my regular blogging soon.

God Bless, Don.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Batch Fifty - Old Ale w/ Molasses & Spices

Different brewing companies support different milestones in different ways. Bells brewery in Kalamazoo, MI produces a special beer for every thousandth batch. Shorts Brewery in Bellaire, MI produces their Anniversary Ale with blood oranges each year. The Bruery does both producing milestone batches and anniversary ales.

I am brewing my fiftieth batch of beer now. This number includes both large and small batches. I want to celebrate this anniversary by making a beer that is a celebration of things which I love. I am going to be making a old stock ale with a base of maris otter, black strap molasses and Sri Lankan cinnamon. This beer is similar to one of my early failures The Cinnamon Treacle Old Ale. To improve it I am going to work with ingredients I am a bit more familiar with.

(please read more about me, and my beer after the break.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: American Black Ale

American Black Ale

Appearance: Black with amazing head and lacing. the head is rock solid and sticks around for a while leaving lacing behind when it falls.

Aroma: Even in a snifter the hoppy aroma is quite apparent. The hop aroma grows as the beer warms. This is hoppy. The roast is crushed under the hops. The aroma smells like a wet pine forest (Simcoe dry hop) with just a hint of burnt chocolate.

Flavor: The hints of chocolate and subtle roast add complexity to what would otherwise have been a very good IPA. Even with a pronounced hop dominance the dark malts are a well hidden but undeniable element of the flavor. The flavor is long lasting with roast sticking after each sip fading into a lasting bitterness.

Mouth: Crisp and prickly. Medium high carbonation lifts the hops with a smooth creamy mouth feel that hides the abv of this beer well. The large quantities of hops used here increase that sticky resinous feeling that I was hoping to achieve.

Overall: A; I can give this beer no other grade. I would order this at a bar, and order another. I would like to rotate the hops used in my home brewery to find the perfect combination. Galaxy is a great hop but the high amounts of Simcoe have left it powerless to keep up. Simcoe is a very dominant hop in my opinion.

The Future: I'll try this with other hops in the future. Good combinations have included Amarillo & Simcoe, Citra & Cascade, Centennial & Cascade, Chinook & Simcoe, and many others.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Making a Handle

So I needed a handle and I had some ideas. I went shopping and then a friend suggested that he has some ideas. Those ideas looked as good as mine so I went with them. This is the handle I constructed. It works well. If you are making a handle for your MM3- 2.0 Malt Mill please consider my designs.

The pipes on the left were my idea. The piece of stainless on the right was his idea. He used his lathe to machine the key piece of steel. He drilled a half inch hole two inches down the long axis of the piece and a quarter inch hole from the other end to meet it. This allowed the handle to be made and attach to the mill.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Equipment: Monster Mill MM3-2.0

The baddest home brew mill on the market is now in my home. The best money can buy is the Monster Mill MM3-2.0. The grand total of this baby with all parts included is 305 dollars plus shipping. That is a chunk of change for a hobby, but it gives you the flexibility to grind your own malt, and in my opinion offers the best grind on the market. I don't mean to disparage the competition at all; there are many fine products available to crush your grain.

After the break you can read about the features and specifications of the monster mill and why I think they matter. Also you can read about the competition. I will provide the comparative information where available  I am not consumer reports, I will not be doing a side by side test, and I am not unbiased.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Brettanomyces Pale Ale

100% Brettanomyces Galaxy Citra Pale Ale

Appearance(A/B): Brown-Golden, not as bright as I would have hoped. The active carbonation shows itself in the glass, and the cool temp creates a haze almost immediately. Impressive mousse like head and lacing remain in the glass.

Aroma(A): Tropical Fruit! This is the high point of this beer. The aroma is potent and lingering. The scents are truly remarkable. The next morning after drinking a glass my kitchen area still smelled like tropical fruit.

Flavor(C): Slightly disappointing. As you'd imagine in a pale ale, there isn't that delicious and inescapable hop flavor. The grain is more forward and the Brettanomyces Clustersianus doesn't quite bring out the same flavors as Wyeast 1056.

Mouthfeel(A/B): Carbonated, smooth, not biting.

Overall(B/C): If it had just tasted more like how it had smelled. I regret not using higher quality base malts. I believe for this brew I didn't use Briess organic. It was good, and if I can get this tropical flavored brettanomyces strain reliably I will continue to use it.

Brettanomyces Clusterianus ECY19 (East Coast Yeast):
This is a hit. The Brett adds so much to the aroma. Normally when I am making hoppy brews they smell and taste good, but they never smell this good. The aroma of this beer is strong and lingering and for a 30-40 IBU pale ale it really delivers in the nose. The beer fermented out reasonably well, perhaps a bit too dry but that's not a fault in an APA necessarily. The relatively small bittering addition comes through here, and while I like bitter, a novice wouldn't be as impressed as I am. The brettanomyces also plays up the grain in a big way leaving a husky grain flavor left after fermentation. Again it's not bad. But the little faults start to add up and show my inexperience with the strain.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sweet Potato Wheat Wine

Sweet Potato 
Thanksgiving will be upon the American people soon. Thanksgiving is a time for family, feasts, reflection, and appreciation. I'd like to take that feast and replicate it inside a bottle of beer. Thanksgiving food for me is about a few things: turkey that no one likes, home made rolls that are to die for, and pies with fall appropriate spices.

Last fall I made a pumpkin ale, and it was alright. I think that the pumpkin might have taken something away from the mouth-feel of the beer. This would have happened if it was highly fermentable and threw off my calculations. Kyle liked the pumpkin batch a great deal but I wanted more. To get more I am going to re-interpret my beer as a wheat win. This will allow me to work in some body increasing ingredients as part of the base of the recipe.

(read more after the break.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

White Wine Yeast Mead w/ Spicey Peppers

I've used Redstar's Pasture Champagne yeast several times, and each time I have not enjoyed the yeast flavors it contributed. I am going to give another yeast a try to bring out different flavors in my next batch of mead. Redstar's Côte des Blancs sounded like a good choice after reading that it brings out the fruity flavors when used to make white wines. This should work as I am hoping to bring out the fruity sweet flavors of the honey and fire those flavors up with a mixture of fresh store bought peppers including Serrano, Pablano, and Anaheim.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review 2011 Hard Apple Cider

2011 Cider Blend

Appearance: Thick and Yellow, active carbonation is apparent upon a closer look but not so much by looking at it. The head is nearly non existent.

Aroma: Sweet and fruity, this has a pleasant aroma of apple cider/apple juice.

Flavor: Too sweet. The sweetness was still apparent even after fermenting. I might try dry cider yeast next time. The Pasture Champagne yeast still isn't my favorite but the yeast flavor has mellowed out after a year in bottles.

Mouth-feel: Full and carbonated, not as crisp/dry as I'd like.

Overall: I am going to give this a C/D. I'd prefer basically any professional cider over my novice blend. Someday I'll own a fruit press and make my own cider. Someday like a year or two.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Black India Pale Ale, Errr What?

Is it a black India pale ale, a cascadian dark ale, an american black ale, an East India export porter, or a NW style black ale? I honestly don't know anymore and that is the most frustrating part of these beers. It's not yet a BJCP recognized style, and yet every brewery under the sun is riding the black ipa wave for giggles or glory. Some examples of this are Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Shorts Bludgeon Yer Eye PA, Hill Farmstead Jim, and Widmer Brother's Pitch Black IPA.

All of the best examples of this style have had two characteristics worth noting. The first is a clear hop forward presence. It can be Citra, Cascade, Amarillo/Simcoe, etc., but it must be clear and forward. Behind the hops is where the American Black Ale distinguishes itself from an IPA; this is where you'll find a unique maltiness. This malt flavor has notes of a subtle porter; not caramelly, but roasty; not harsh, but additive. The flavors of dark caramel malts, chocolate malts, and de-husked roasted malts are the flavors that work well with hops and add to the flavors. A beer advocate review of Hill Farmstead's Society & Solitude #2, an experimental american black ale, reads:
"A beautiful marriage of pine and roast. Additional notes of chocolate and citrus. Lovely malt body. Medium bodied and easy to drink too quickly."
I found this review spot on with my experience while drinking the beer. I enjoyed it immensely and it helped to challenge my paradigm of what this style was.

(please read more about this style and my beer after the break.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

East Coast Yeasts

A Selection of East Coast Yeasts.
I appreciate the consistency, availability, variety, and efficiency of big business. I am also a fan of the flexibility, innovation, and creativity of small business. Big Yeast (Wyeast and White Labs) makes a damn fine product and I want to pay them their due. In the world of small yeast manufacturers Al Buck is trailblazing the way forward for all of us. His company East Coast Yeast produces twenty or more varieties featuring both year round strains and seasonal strains. His small business model allows him the flexibility to release specialty blends of souring cultures, pure brettanomyces cultures, and other strains not typically available from 'big yeast' manufacturers. His souring cultures are unlike anything available from large producers. Bugfarm VI for 2012 includes a mixture of at least 5 brettanomyces strains, wild cider yeast, lacto, and pedio. His saison strain varieties come as a mixture of two strains, a single strain offering spicy notes, as well as a farmhouse brettanomyces blend which features saison yeast and brettanomyces.

I have used each of my vials of east coast yeast in a different batch of beer. I've purchased most of his line at this point and intend to post more information and detailed reviews of the strains. I know that a list like this would have been helpful to me before I dove in with both feet. Exploring East Coast's line has been fun for me and has yielded some delicious results.

(please read more after the break.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Flowery Teas

I'll be making a wit bier again. After the vanilla didn't quite show up in the STL Wit I wanted to go a different way with my second wit bier. I've decided to try out a few varieties of flower blossoms, or petals, as a tea. My inspiration for this beer has been a number of flower beers that I haven't had a chance to try, and some that I have. The original batch of Goose Island's Fluer is having a large influence over this beer.

(please read more about my flowered teas after the break.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Imperial Chocolate Porter II

I may have overdone my first imperial porter. The smell of the beer is intoxicating but the flavor is all cocoa. I'm committed to getting this style right. Once I have the base down I have big plans for my recipe.

This is basically a re-building of my original Imperial Chocolate Porter but with the recipe I intended. When I had gone to buy malt I couldn't find brown malt or pale chocolate. I ended up adding carabrown and adding more chocolate malt instead. I don't intend to add any adjuncts to the brew this time around so that I can get a better baseline for future brews.  I'll be using oak cubes as I did last time because I believe that oak adds a great deal to the finished product through depth of flavor.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Blueberry Sour Blond Ale

Batch 001 Sour Ale - Fruiting

Appearance: Deep purple; the head rises and falls quickly. There are tiny carbonation bubbles within the beer.

Aroma: Pungently sour. The funk in the nose is well elevated and their is a unique fleshy scent that gives away the fruits.

Flavor: The flavor is multifaceted. There is an intense tartness from the the blueberries, a funk note from the dregs, and the whole beer finishes with a potent lactic sourness. The additional depth of flavors come from the base malts, and the berry skins.

Mouth-feel: The whole thing is prickly and puckering. A sour lovers sour ale.

Overall: It's a touch too sour for me. The whole thing is puckering and sour forward. The blueberry flavor isn't as much as a flavor but an essence. Blueberries are not the most flavorful fruit so they don't take over the flavor of this beer, but they add an essence of fleshy fruit skins.

Jolly Pumpkin Dregs:
Holy sour beer batman! These dregs are aggressive. A tart fruit, additional fruit sugar, and a dextrinous wort combine to form a very sour beer. The sourness is more aggressive that I would have liked. It could also have been the timing and size of my pitch. I pitched the dregs first and added the regular brewers yeast after 24 hours.

Dreams do come true:
I finally turned my tap tower on and this first pour from it since it's installation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse

Appearance: The appearance is a translucent yellow ale. The head is a white mousse that dissipates over time into the beer.

Aroma: The aroma is a wheat wisp in my nose with a bit of a graininess. Some oak is present but not overpowering.

Taste: I get wheat and euro-ale yeast. The lactic zing is missing and I hope that over time it will become apparent, I will check a bottle later.

Mouth Feel: The mouth feel isn't as carbonated as I'd like.

Overall: C- a very poor man's saison, not sour enough to be to style.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Batch 002 Sour

This is my kitchen
during brewing
Batch 001 Sour Ale is finished. The blueberry sour blond ale turned out as well as I could have hoped. I was initially torn between re-brewing Batch 001 for bottling or trying something new, and something new won out. So in the spirit of something new while building on  Batch 001 I started with that base recipe and built. I want to emulate some of the great sour browns I have had, while preserving an essence of my original recipe. I also wanted to try to emulate more of a lactic sourness. I believe this lactic sourness to be the key to creating the flavors I want.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Culturing Dregs

Sour Starter
You can culture up dregs into a usable pitch of critters. I did this to great success in Batch 001 Sour Ale. I will do it again in Batch 002 Sour Ale with the dregs of a Cascade sour ale (Sang Noir). I have chosen a Cascade sour ale because it has a sharp lactic sourness from some very aggressive lactic bugs. This can also be done to clone a brettanomyces character as in Orval or The Bruery's Grand Funk Aleroad. This can be done to clone a funk character such as Russian River's Beatification or most Belgian Lambics. Whatever you're after where there is a will there is a way.

(please read more after the break.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I am not dead!

I'm just in a dry spell in my brewing schedule, not much is ready for review, and it's busy season part duex. I'll be back in force soon with posts on keg cleaning and maintenance, Batch 002 Sour Ale, Imperial Porter II, and my Batch 001 Blueberry Sour Blond review. So while I know you're super sad this was a bum week for postings, this next couple weeks should be dynamite.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fresh Hops Year One

This spring I ordered hop rhizomes. I ordered some fresh cuttings, and some yearling cuttings. I ordered four varieties of hops and you can read more about it here. This has given me a good cross section of hops that thrive under different conditions. My girlfriend's mother volunteered to tend the hops as a covering for a fence in their yard. This worked well for me because in my small place I don't have a garden. The yearling hops grew vigorously covering large sections of fence. While the fresh cuttings struggled to grow producing weak bines. None of my hops produced cones for a wet hopped beer this year. I am hoping that next year the two year old plants produce some cones, otherwise we're talking about 2014 for a wet hopped ale. No one wants that.

(more pictures after the break.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Quick Flanders Red

Quick Flanders Red

You might remember that this beer was inspired by the quick souring method from Mar/Apr 2011's Zymurgy Magazine. I used the quick souring method presented there to make this sour ale in about three weeks. For Three weeks time the flavors were suprising, but for the style I found the whole thing to lack some of the depth of flavor offered by traditional methods. My sour red wasn't as good as any top tier commercial example. It was good for what it was, but I am hoping that the long soured and blended American Wild Red turns out better.

Appearance: Orangish red with a thin thick white cap. Active carbonation greets me in the glass. Translucent appearance looks good.

Aroma: The aroma is jam-like. Rich bramble fruits greet my nose, no sourness or funk. Other than the Jam there isn't much going on.

Taste: The taste is fruity while cold, the sourness grows as it warms. When it gets closer to room temperature the fruit disappears into a green apple sourness.

Mouth: Prickly from the combination of sourness and carbonation, Light on the tongue. Without the sourness I don't know it would work.

Overall: This seems like an alright technique. I enjoyed the beer, and I would have drank more of it if I was in the mood to drink a sour green apple. I will have to attempt more batches in this manner to be able to issue a full report on the results.

Friday, September 7, 2012

'Rustic' Rye Saison

An Ear of Rye
What is Rye? Rye is a cereal grain similar to other cereal grains but it differentiates itself by growing more more heartily. Rye can grow in much poorer soil and grows vigorously even over the winter. Rye is mostly grown in Europe although it is cultivated on at least three other continents. Why add rye to my beers? Because it has a delicious if not elusive flavor. Straight from Briess's webpage: "Rye has a spicy rye flavor." I learned in school that if your definition for a word includes that word than it's a poor definition. Briess has told me nothing about rye. Looking at other sources yielded little to nothing else; the answer just kept coming back to 'rye is rye'. If I had to describe it I would say that it has a stronger flavor than other grains; A sharp, crisp, earthen flavor, with bark and nut spices mixed in. I think the best way to characterize rye is that you know when it's there, and you know when it's not. Nothing can replace it.

This isn't my first rye beer; there was last winter's ginger in the fields saison. It was nice and had a great flavor. It was enjoyed by all. This time rather than making another beer that focused as heavily on the ginger I wanted to make a nice saison with rye. This isn't my first saison either, but because my apartment is quite hot during the day I wanted to work with a more temperature tolerant yeast. After looking at the suggested fermentation temperatures of 75-85° for ECY 08 Saison Brasserie I believe that I will be okay.

(please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Color of Your Beer

SRM chart
In reference to cooking I have often heard it said that presentation is 25% of a meal. At first I thought that flavor was 100% of the experience. As my ideas have matured I have realized the importance of presentation, and how the overall experience of a meal is shaped by plating. Flavor is still king but we first eat with our eyes before tasting with our mouths. This is no different for beers, girly drinks, or sodas.

(please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cranberry Blossom Mead Review

Cranberry Blossom Mead

Appearance - Almost clear with just the lightest yellow hues. Wonderful white head. Some lacing. Absolutely beautiful.

Aroma - Champagne yeast, and light fruitiness.

Flavor - Light sweetness and some yeast. Floral, Sweet, Honey is lightly there, but is diluted by the mead making. Enough residual sugar is left over to keep it sweet and light. There is just a touch of breadiness I can only associate with yeast.

Mouth-feel - Light mouth-feel. High carbonation. Easy drinking.

Overall - Refreshing and light. A nice drink. Would I seek it out? no. Would I drink it again? yes. If I make it again I might try a dry white wine yeast. For a rating I am going to give this a C as my mead baseline. I hope any mead I make is this good or better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Treatise On Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is one of my absolute favorite meals. The pork is slow smoked, cooked through, and drenched in BBQ sauce. It is a great meal because it is flavorful, easy, and it's simple to add variety through sauces, preparation and adornments. In the south there is controversy on what type of sauce is right, which cut of meat is correct, and if pulling or slicing offers more taste. I am here to tell you that there is no wrong answer.

After you make it for yourself one time you'll see how indispensable it is. It is an easy way to add depth to your BBQ menu past the standard hot dogs, hamburgers, and bratwurst. You already should have the tools, sauces, and buns you'll need on hand, all you need to do is a little planning and you'll look like a pit master in no time.

(please read more about the pulled pork and this recipe after the break.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Vanilla Brown Porter

You might remember this experiment from the way-back machine. I used the two kinds of vanilla beans that I purchased from beanilla. Both beers came from the same primary fermentation. As you can see the one on the right looks better. I don't know why but the one with the Tahitian beans smelled, looked, tasted, and felt better. Again they aged for the same amount of time, on beans prepared in the same way, but the results were drastically different.

(please read more after the break.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Soft Pretzels, Cooking Temps

Batch four of the soft pretzels is in the books. People are getting sick of pretzels so I'll go back to pizza or popcorn or something different for a while after this batch. This batch is a double batch of pretzels. I didn't alter the recipe from the last time. The only alteration was that I tried less kneading. Closer to the no knead method. It worked itself out after two days in the fridge.

For this I wanted to try different cooking temps and toppings. This time I've made four pretzels like normal, and four were cooked at 425. I've egg washed them and baked them as usual. One half were made with poppy seeds, and the other half with coarse sea salt.

(please read the results after the break.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Experiment: White Peach Golden Sour

I racked my Sanctification/Temptation clone from my 6.5 gallon glass carboy into a 3 gallon glass carboy to free the primary for my 100% Brettanomyces Pale Ale. When I did there was about a gallon or so left over. So I cleaned up a 1 gallon glass jug from my small batch exploits and racked the gallon of leftover beer into the new carboy. I like situations like this, It requires very little extra work, and almost no additional money to try something new. I had just finished reading TMF's post on his white nectarine sour blond and had that on my mind.

(please read more after the break.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: White Peppercorn, Orange Peel, Vanilla & Orange Blossom Honey Saison

Saison w/ White Peppercorn, Orange Peel, Vanilla & Orange Blossom Honey

Appearance: Orangish, the prefect hew. The beer is slightly hazy with a wonderful billowy head.

Aroma: Slight citra hop from the pour, and a vague sweetness remains after in the aroma. The spices are lost. The orange peel may have added to the citra hop.

Taste: Spicey; pepper and vanilla bean pod. The hops keep the sweetness in check and the honey increases the whole thing.

Mouth feel: Full and rich. The saison yeast really adds to the mouth feel.

Overview: This beer is a nice blend of spice and hops. Overall I think that it loses some of the saisoness by overdoing it. I should have tried this beer sooner, I am not sure what was lost over time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Re-education Series: Citra/Galaxy Wild Pale Ale

After only an hour the
klaussen was growing.
As a connoisseur of beer nothing else grates on me like untrue statements about beers. Some of my favorites are: "I don't like craft beer, it's bitter." "I don't like dark beers, they're so heavy.""All beer tastes the same why why are you buying that craft shit." "I like craft beer,...Corona is my favorite." "Are you too good for American Beer" says the guy drinking a Budweiser.

What is to be done? I'll tell you! The answer is Reeducation. A series of reeducation beers whose main goal is to offer an enhanced characteristic to your target audience. Find out what I started with after the break!

(please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Bramble Fruit Berliner Weisse

Bramble Fruit Berliner Weisse

Appearance - Beautiful red, with a stark white head. The head rises out of the highly carbonated berliner weisse but fades into nothingness just as fast. The lacing on the glass is acceptable for a beer with as little foam as this.

Aroma - Bramble fruit, jammy, and a bit of grain.

Flavor - Berry seeds, slight sourness, light jam, and grain.

Mouth-feel - Light mouth-feel, high carbonation, slides right back in the mouth. Easy drinking.

Overall - Refreshing and light. A nice beer, the lactic bacteria stripped all of the sweetness from the berry addition, I would have liked a touch of that but I understand why it isn't present. Looked great. B effort, could re-appear later.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Freaking Out Man

I strive to be honest in my everyday life, and my blog should be no compromise.

Confession: I freak out all the time.

So it was a regular Sunday night, I was accustomed to a lack of activity from the airlock on my Batch 001 sour ale. Then as quickly as could be, white dots had formed, I was sure this was mold, how could it be anything but disaster?! I checked, airlock in place firmly, liquid topped off, but there it was, something new on top of my fermentor long after I thought things were done. I was freaking out. I did what any sane person would do, I consulted Michael Tonsmeire (TMF) an expert in the field of sour ales.

(Please read more after the break.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: Orange Pepper Saison

Orange Pepper Saison - as reviewed by Derek

Aroma - bubblegum and bananas.

Look - amber with great head retention (the picture was probably over a minute from an aggressive pour).

Flavor - bananas and cloves up front, hints of pepper in the finish. There are hints of bitter citrus that come through, but they don't blend as well as I'd like.

Mouth-feel - I cranked up the C02 a little bit, so it has a little bit of a bite, but it is fairly light on the tongue.

Overall - I'm pretty happy with it, I have the peppery finish I wanted, but the orange bitters seem to not have blended in well. One suggestion was that the glycerine on the bitters might have affected the taste. Overall I'd give it a 3.5 / 5.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Iron Brewer Wrap-up

I didn't win.

Two people picked my beer first overall, but not enough. It was what I wanted it to be: Dry, crisp finish, well carbonated, and refreshing. I have nothing to be ashamed of with my beer. No hard feelings about not winning. I liked the winner's beer the best, so he was a worthy champion.

Podcast reviewing the beers.

Definitely worth doing, batch 4 here I come.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Iron Brewer Saison Review

Iron Brewer Saison

Tonight somewhere there is a man reviewing my beer. Not reviewing it myself didn't seem right. So I popped the top off a bottle. Surprisingly a bit of foam peaked from the bottle to greet me. I poured the bottle into my Belgian Tulip and it was spritzy. I like the flavor and as I review it I think I have a shot.

Appearance(6/10): The head rises and falls quickly with large billowing bubbles. The beer is a thick golden yellow. Marks down because it lacks lacing.

Aroma(8/10): Rosemary & Beer; the melding of the two is nice, the rosemary comes through as a subtle aroma without punching you right in the face, a bit of leafy hops continues in my nose,

Taste(17/20): The taste is just as I intended it to be. I am met with a bready nose and a bit of spice. The lemon is there but it's not a dominant overall flavor.

Mouth-feel(9/10): Prickly with a thick and coating mouth-feel. The high carbonation lifts this beer right into your taste buds.

Overall (40/50): that means it's a B/C on the western grading scale. It's a good beer though, on a less critical day it might have been a B/A but I'm trying to be harsh in case I don't win so that I'm not let down.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Imperial Doppelweizenbock

So in my goals at the end of 2011 I decided I wanted to brew a beer with lager yeast to see if I could do it and to explore more of what it was like. A recent article in Brew Your Own Magazine (March/April 2012) informed me more about the history and origins of lager yeasts. It's an interesting happenstance that we even have lager yeast because it's not naturally occurring. It was probably created as the result of a happy accident in Europe in the 16th century. It was the hybrid of ale yeast from Europe and wild yeast from Patagonia.

One of the first beers I fell for as a beer novice was Celebrator Doppelbock. The beer has rich toffee, chocolate, and coffee notes. If you've never treated yourself to some I would say that it is well worth the ten dollars per four pack. As my knowledge of beers grew I began to realize that I lacked the equipment to make a lager, and probably couldn't clone celebrator even if I wanted to. I have found even more hybridized yeasts that ferment at temps between lager and ale and have a more lager like profile. See which strain I've selected after the break.

(please read more after the break.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

More Soft Pretzels

This Pretzel is my Goal.
I am improving my method of the soft pretzels and I wanted to pass it along. After evaluating the local baker's pretzels I noticed a few things: low salt on the surface, sweet dough, brown crust, very soft, and a twisted crust. My pretzels in comparison were light brown, a bit more dense, salty, and the dough wasn't as sweet.

I improved my previous batch by allowing the dough a bit more time to rest, making larger pretzels, twisting the dough and lightening my salt. I have also decided that the egg wash is right for me.

(please see my pictures after the break.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making a Starter

Starters are essential for making beers with an original gravity higher than 1.060 for a 5g batch. A good calculator for deciding if you need a starter and what size starter you need can be found at Jamil Zainasheff's site I normally just use the calculator that is built into beer-smith.

After resolving to make a starter should gather your equipment. You'll need a sanitary container, preferably glass (it's harder to scratch so it's less likely that micro scratches will contain bugs, plastic sucks imho). I use an Erlenmeyer Flask made from borosilicate glass so my instructions will be tailored to this vessel; the use of other vessels is possible but you should do your own research into sanitation and procedure.

(Please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: STL Witbier

Saint Louis Witbier

Appearance: Dull yellow thick with wheat and no carbonation, Kyle said he primed it and it has some carbonation but I think the bottle had too much head space.

Aroma: Huge fruits and bread. This yeast strain is great, I am a big fan.

Flavor: Grainy and Belgian with lots of esters adding what almost seems like a tart fruit flavor. I'd wonder if I didn't know.

Mouth feel: Under carbonated but not terribly so. Could have more carbonation.

Overall: A miss because of carbonation issues; a hit on the flavors. I think the recipe was great, the yeast was great, I might force carb a batch soon. This will be a good base for my next wit with flowers.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Soft Pretzels 2.0

So I might be a touch obsessed with soft pretzels right now. This happened with Garlic Potato Bread, and then with Artisan Pizza. I like making bread. There is something about it that feels good. When you're kneading the dough, and pressing it out over and over by hand it just feels good.

For batches 2-3 I did the overnight rise in the fridge, I believe that it improved the dough. I also tried one batch with a soda bath, the other with an egg wash, changed the process, and increased the sugar. See the details after the break.

(please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bottling with an Italian Champagne Corker

In the spring after tax season I purchased an Italian Wine Corker. This is an amazing machine and the premium model with all the bells and whistles is worth the money. Why is it worth the price tag? almost all metal. Everywhere you want metal there is metal. The only plastic I have found is on the nonskid red base, and the red plastic grip. The cork reducer is all metal construction. Because of the persistence of souring bugs I thought this was important. Any place beer can touch and the bottle touches should be sanitized. This is easier with metal than plastic. Starsan and Idophore are great but all plastic sucks the same when it comes to scratching and bacteria.

(read more after the break.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brew Food: Soft Pretzels

One things goes together better than beer and pizza: beer and pretzels. American pretzels are dry, heavy, salty, and bland. You see them at the grocery, and you can find them on bars everywhere. Why is this what we call a pretzel? because these pretzels are tailor made for mass production.

A good soft pretzel is a rare treat. I'm not talking about the bland leavened things you might get with a cup of cheese at the movie theater. To me a pretzel is leavened bread, it's rich and salty, the crust is doughy and rubbery and the crumb is soft and flavorful. This type of pretzel is more than a simple snack. A good pretzel begs to be dipped in cheese or spicey mustard and it holds up on it's own when added to those bold flavors.

(read more about great pretzels after the break.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Maple Triple

Maple Triple

Appearance: brown with a tall white head. The head disappears into the beer rather quickly. The body is brown, and thin. It gets dark in the middle and light golden at the edges.

Aroma: Belgian! The aroma is of bubblegum and bananas. Sadly the maple syrup is missing. I knew this could happen when I added it to the boil, secondary or bottling are the times to add maple flavor.

Flavor: Rich yeast and cloves. The spiciness beer is all in the flavor. The alcohol is a bit too prevalent. This should improve over time.

Mouthfeel: Properly Carbonated. Absolutly glad I went with high carbonation for this beer. It's great.

Overall: It's a great beer, however the maple adds little. I would have used Belgian candi sugar if I had this beer to do over. I may make it again and add the sugary maple to secondary. Everyone agreed this was my best beer ever at our tasting so I have no choice but to give it an A. Go Me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

American Lambic - Turbid Mash

This year's ECY01 blend Bugfarm VI has "three wild yeast strains from northeast cider makers, brett from a well known brewery and from a well known lambic producer. Pedio from a lambic producer, and lacto delbreuckii." I have two vials of this and I plan to use one for an American made lambic. Year two is all about improving my craft and experimenting. I'll be brewing one lambic using the same method that I did last year. The other lambic will be made using a traditional recipe and a turbid mash.

I have been thinking lately about this whole lambic experiment. I am as committed as ever but I've learned a few things. The first rewards are slow to happen; I am 12 months in and I haven't had a single sip of home made lambic. It's hard to wait, and it's even harder to wait for 2-3 years before you have enough lambic to make a gueze. I'm still 24 months away. The good news is eventually I'll have a house, barrels, fruit trees, and friends who I can share the waiting with.

(read more after the break.)