Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Citra Red Saison

Red & White; The perfect balance.
Citra Red Saison

Appearance: Redish Yellow, Deep Copper, with a resonably sized whitish head.

Aroma: Citra hops without the punch in the face from dry hopping, not too yeasty, but still phenolic typical of a saison.

Flavor: Ahh saisony but with american hops, this is the perfect blending of america and belgium.

Mouth: Refreshing and dry. the high carbonation lifts the body, and the high attenuating saison yeast leaves the whole thing dry.

Overall: This is in my top teir of brews. If I could make this part of a rotating saison on tap in my home brew pub I would be happy. Every part of this beer is deceptive: the color of the body gives the impression of a richness that is attenuated out by the saison yeast, the aroma hides the true nature of this beer, the flavor reminds you of where the heart of this beer lies, and the overall impression is dry and saisony.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hibiscus Soda & Orange Soda

Big brews doesn't have to be about beer, It can be about brewing up a soda too.

To that end while I was working on my Hibiscus Pale Ale as inspired by The Mad Fermentationist I made some batches of hibiscus tea in my brand new french press. After enjoying the tea I began to wonder how it would taste as a slightly sweetened soda. This gave way to me trying it as a slightly sweetened soda. In addition I wanted to take my vanilla almond cream soda and make it an orange cream soda. I've always enjoyed sodas but I find them overly sweet, and the idea of filling my body with uneccesary fake coloring is off putting. I wouldn't dye my beef red, why would I dye my soda red?

(read more after the break)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Home Grown Sour Ale

Gross? No, Delicious.
One of the perks of the American Homebrewers Association membership (Thanks Roo) is an online backlog of Zymurgy Magazines. The month before I bought my first copy of Zymurgy they had an article about making sour beers at home with home grown sour starter. Matt Lange writes a great article where he describes how he is less than impressed with other short cuts. The method in question is to grow a home made sour starter to give your beer a lacto and pedio feel without exposing the beer to any nasty bugs like E. Coli or Salmonella. This is done by growing your own sour starter and adding it to another beer.

To grow a Sour Starter:
Take a vessel, such as a mason jar, and add a few table spoons of pale malt to your jar. Mix in enough sugar, honey, or malt extract to get the the gravity of the starter jar to 1.030. To coax the starter to start place it in a warm place, 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, to get started. The article suggest that a time frame of three days is appropriated to make this. The real scientific key is to get the starter below a PH of 4.3 to kill the nasty bacteria and above 3.8 to protect the Lacto which you presumably want in your beer. You could get a Pedio only sample by letting it descend to 3.8 but not below 3.4.

My Sour Starter:
I took a mason jar and put in 3 tsp of Maris Otter (hoping to get the bacteria I want). I mixed in malt extract until the gravity was 1.030. I set the starter on top of my fridge and waited 2.5 days. I took a reading saturday evening and it wasn't quite ready, by sunday afternoon it might have been just past perfect. Alas I am not going to put this on hold though, I need to see if this is an idiot proof method or if I should just use bottle dregs.

The Brew:
The article suggests a Berliner Weiss or a Oude Bruin as being appropriate styles to try with the starter. I am going to make a Flanders Red Ale (happy compromise). My big batch of Flanders Red is the perfect color, so I'm rebrewing it.

(read more after the break.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vanilla Brown Porter

This is a recipe I've designed for my vanilla experiment. I chose a brown porter to showcase the vanilla bean flavor because I couldn't think of a better style of beer to pair with vanilla. While I like American stouts I don't think they make a good low alcohol session beer and I find them best when they aren't understated. Porters are often better as an understated beer. By understated I mean light, soft flavors, offering a complex, but easy to drink beer. A brown porter can have a light to moderate chocolate and nutty flavor while maintaining that smoothness charicteristic of session beers. Strong roasted flavors are out of place in this style; they are better left to robust porters, Baltic porters, and stouts of all kinds. For me the distinguishing factor between the spectrum of porters and stouts is roasted flavors. I would rate them like this: Brown Porter < Robust Porter < Sweet Stout < Oatmeal Stout < Dry Stout < Foreign Export Stout < American Stout < Baltic Porter < Russian Imperial Stout. Other factors include mouth feel, alcohol, and intensity. Because it's a style of English origin I'm using Maris Otter because it's a premium English pale malt I want to increase the body and head retention, to this end I am using a generous portion of flaked barley. To round out the malt bill I've included Crystal 120 is to create a dark fruity flavor; pale chocolate and brown malt are for a moderate nutty-chocolate flavor; Chocolate malt and black patent are for a light roasted flavor and color.

(read more after the break.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vanilla Beans

In my post on the American Double Chocolate/Oak/Vanilla Stout I made I briefly touched on vanilla and the it's complexities. This post is meant to expound on the information I shared there as well as to show the process for preparing and adding vanilla beans.  In my next post I will detail my recipe and process for the beer I'm adding these too after a lengthy extraction time.

Types of Beans

Vanilla beans are the fruit of Vanilla Orchids (Vanilla Planfolia, and Vanilla Tehenis) and are grown all around the world. The flavor characteristic of the region is known as terrior. Many fruits, spices, and herbs carry the terrior which is a combination of growing conditions such as temperature, humidity, air quality, and soil chemistry.

Vanilla Planfolia are the variety of bean that would be most associated with the idea of vanilla flavor. It is a long slender bean with the rich, buttery, bourbon, vanilla flavors that most people would associate with common vanilla flavored items. Tehenis is a shorter fatter bean with more flowery, sweet, even fruit like vanilla flavors.

(read more after the break.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pliny the Younger Release - Beercation 2

In year 2 of the beer-cation Derek and I went after Pliny the Younger. We flew into San Fransisco and drove north arriving just after one PST. We were in line within view of Russian River but the line moved slowly. They were allowing one person in for every one person who left, and the people inside were in no hurry to leave. After 3-4 hours in line we got in, there was plenty of Pliny. We each enjoyed 2 glasses and a sampler of the 21 beers Russian River had on tap. We sampled the food as well; who knew pizza and beer worked so well together? We were seated with two gentlemen from San Fransisco who were also enthusiasts. We talked about what sours were the best, which IPAs we should try, what local breweries were worth a look, and what we should do in San Fransisco . The whole experience was memorable, not just the beer.

Beer flights are a great way to get a feel for a brewery. Anyone can make a single good beer; many can make a single great beer; very few can make an entire flight of unique drinkable beers. When I attack a flight like the one from Russian River I try to go after them by style with the most nuetral ones first. In the case of Russian River this meant their non IPA ales first followed by their legendary sours. All of the sours are amazing on tap but consecration stands out among them and sanctification is a wonderful showcase of 100% Brett fermentation. Finally I finished up with the IPAs: Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger. All are world class beers in their own right

The show was Pliny the Younger because it's rated as the number one beer on Beer Advocate. It is a triple IPA that is 4 times dry hopped for a unique flavor and resiny feeling. I've reviewed it on beer advocate and I agree with other reviewers that it is world class. It was certainly an experience and I think the tasting of more versions of the style will help my development of my own recipes. My general thoughts of the beer were bitter, resinous, and thick. The triple nature of this IPA prevented it from drying out too much and the thick bitterness was carried in each sip.

It's not every day you stumble into a good situation but that's precisely what happened to us on day two of our trip. Dimitri told us about a anniversary party at Beer Revolution in Oakland and it did not disappoint.  On tap were Cantillion's Fou Fonne, Kriek, and Iris. Iris was unique in that it was a heavily hopped sour that carried both bitterness and extreme funk across my palate. The Fou Fonne was my favorite of the three because it held onto the fruit flavor the best among all the Cantillions I've had so far. It had substantial funk like any Cantillion lambic but the fleshly fruit flavor from the peaches remained even after the sweetness from the fruit had gone. The Kriek was what it was; Sour with hints of cherry, under even more sourness.

While at Beer Revolution we heard about a triple IPA release at Drake's Barrel House a mere 15 minutes away. Drake's Barrel house had a number of beers on tap, among them a variety of barrel aged beers. Their triple IPA was also outstanding, but the winner for me was the blended Russian Imperial stout. It had a tartness and a dryness which I found pleasant. I would compare it to the infected bottles of Abyss, or the Boulevard RIS which was tainted with Brett. Having those additional flavors in such a complex beer just continues to add to it. The dark fruit flavors of the grain mixed with the tart fruity flavors of the brettanomyces to create harmonious results. It surpassed the Blackberry RIS in both tartness and fruitiness.

We finished the trip with a trip to The Bruery in orange to pick up 51 bottles of reserve society beer. This ended a long day of driving from San Fran to Orange on HWY 1. Worn out by a hard day of driving and sitting we sat back and enjoyed a Black Tuesday while watching National Treasure 2. The Beer was much better than the movie. We flew back to reality the next morning after packing our halu to be checked under the plane.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Belgian Triple

Belgian Triple

Pale yellow with a rising head. The lacing on this beer was superb.

Ardennes yeast, plain and simple. If you had a favorite belgian yeast this style will showcase it. Spices like cloves and pepper dominated my nose; the fruity esters were more subtle and came through as white fleshy fruits(apples, pears).

Belgian Yeast, spicy phenols rush forward. An interesting triple in my opinion. A tripel like La Fin Du Monde is balanced better between spice and fruit, my interpretation was more spice forward fermented at ambient 73-5ish degrees.

The residual sugar and mouth feel were just right. The carbonation was prickly but could have been a touch higher to lift the flavor even more. the beer was appropriately dry.

I like this but I don't love it. I am going to rate this a B+.

I think it's to style but I am not familiar enough with the style in my own opinion to accurately judge that. I can't help but think that I would have enjoyed this as a maple triple.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bottling a Beer with Fruits and Spice

I am by no means a professional brewer but I've made a half dozen fruit/spice beers and I have gleened a little insight from it. Aging a beer on whole fruit can add a nice zip to an otherwise nice beer. If your beer isn't any good to start with don't waste your money on fruit.

The first fruit beer I made is a beer I made with Derek when visiting him in the early summer, there was still a chill in the air(which persisted into july this year), so we made a chocolate porter. We spiced it up with raspberries, and vanilla beans, and chocolate. Mistakes were surely made: the seeds from the raspberries made it into the beer as well as raspberry floaties. In my blackberry pale ale I limited most of the floaties but there are still a few, it's sad, but at least there are no seeds.

What I needed to solve the problem of seeds and the problem of floaties was a syphon filter. My solution  to this was to make a very narrow bag for my  my syphon. This worked brilliantly both times that I have used it thus far. It took no sewing acumen to craft. I barely used maybe 8 stitches along the length of the bag and a running stitch along the bottom. In the top picture you can see the sleeve. It fits the length of the syphon and is held up by being tight. It also stretches out from the top of the carboy and the tightness prevents it from slipping in. The stitch in the bottom picture is just putting the needle through and making a knot 2-3 times. then I would run the thread for an inch and make a few more knots. You could cut the thread each time but I find that unnecessary. After it is stitched turning the bag inside out will put the seem on the inside. This prevents getting crap stuck in the stitching. The porus material I used is the same material I used for my 'brew in a bag' bag.

So with the sleeve in hand I set about bottling my Belgian Quad aged on tart cherries and my Ginger Rye Munich Saison aged on fresh ginger. Both beers had tons of stuff floating around in them, ginger shavings and cherries. For whatever reason some cherries floated and some sank, and most of the ginger sank. you can see the ginger saison mid siphon(right) with clear beer in the syphon tube and the syphon resting on the ginger, a picture of the clear Belgian Quad(left) and the leftover cherries(right) which I syphoned the majority of the beer from.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hibiscus Pale Ale

With winter in full swing I wanted something a bit more that women would still drink, enter a malty pale ale. I wanted this to appeal to my girlfriend in flavor, and also in visual appeal. After reading about a gruit in which hibiscus was the main flavor/color component I began to think about that gruit re-imagined as a pale ale with hops.

Flowers in beer seems to be exploding at the moment; for SAVOR Dogfish & Sam Adams collaborated on an extremely exclusive beer called flowers. It was made with rose water and an experimental hops called 369. South Hampton Publik House brews a beer with flowers called Cuvee Des Fleurs. Arcadia here in Michigan had their summer seasonal on cask at Hopcat recently with Hibiscus added. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel also makes a brew with hibiscus called Rosee D'hibiscus. There are many more examples of this phenomenon.

After purchased a few ounces of dried hibiscus at a Whole Foods in Chicago I tried chewing on the dried petals. I found myself deeply enjoying the pungent tart-cranberry taste as just one dried leaf filled my mouth with flavor. I immediately decided that this was a beer I had to brew. I wanted a hop that had a reputation for being floral in nature; enter Palisade. Palisade has been described as "perfumey" "rosey" "floral and aromatic" with "subtle bittering". That sounds perfect for this beer.

As with any endeavor I began by researching my chosen ingredients. Hibiscus has long been served as a tea everywhere it naturally grows, and the people of these regions have combine natural local flavors into drinks characteristic of their region. In Jamaica it is called 'Agua de Flor de Jamaica' and is made as a tea with hibiscus, ginger, then sweetened with sugar. It can be served in water or rum. In Panama they make a Christmas tea flavored with hibiscus, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. In other parts of the world they drink the tea with lemon juice, or lime juice. The drinks can be served sparkling or still depending on the mixer.

(read more after the break)