Saturday, September 26, 2009

Xocolatl - The fermented food of the Gods

I recently was able to try another one of Dogfish Head's crazy releases, Theobroma. Like most of their one time releases, it sounds extremely interesting, especially when you hear about what is in the beer. However, like all of the other single releases that I have tried this one failed to deliver. I really think the idea is there, I just don't think that they were able to pull it off.

In my opinion most of the releases are just too over the top and almost all have a certain mead-like quality to them. Considering mead isn't really my one of my favorite drinks, and that the mead-like trait these beers display reminds me of my first mead attempt with cheap honey (it just didn't taste good), you can understand my feelings about their beers. Now I don't want this to be a long diatribe about the quality of Dogfish Head releases (IMO hugely lacking anything but marketing), instead I want to focus on the idea of theobroma.

According to the bottle, Theobroma is based off a forensic analysis of pottery fragments, similar to how they crafted Midas' Touch. The idea sounds pretty cool, but the ingredients sound even more intriguing; cacao, annatto, chili and honey. However uncharacteristically of their beers, none of the flavors really come to the forefront. Usually the problem I have with them is that everything is far too bold, here the flavors are far too subtle, well, except for the honey.

As far as the ingredients list goes, I don't think they really needed to rely on a forensic analysis of pottery fragments (but its great for marketing). In fact in 1631, the first recipe for a chocolate drink was published in book titled "Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate" (A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate) - hard to find but an interesting read. The recipe included: cacao beans, chilies, anise, vanilla, cinnamon, almonds, hazelnut, annatto and sugar. Supposedly this recipe was an authentic version of the Aztec drink xocolatl or cacahuatl, but I'm pretty sure that sugar was not something the natives had access to before the arrival of Europeans, and the hazelnut and almond are also suspect. That aside, the recipe actually sounds very good. To me, this sounds like a bitter hot chocolate with a very round flavor thanks to cinnamon, vanilla and annatto.

Now tastes change,we are influenced by the things we have grown up with, and I'm converting this to beer form so somethings had to be tweaked a bit. So when thinking about this recipe, I decided to adjust it a bit to get it to work in a more beer-like form. For one, I think a nice malty backbone could balance the bitterness of the cocoa and the heat of the chilies. To accomplish this I did a very long boil as you would with a wee heavy, and boiled the beer down to a thick syrup before adding water back to it. This darkened the wort, heavily caramelizing it and deepening the malty flavors. The next change surrounded the use of the  nuts. Using nuts in a beer causes head retention problems and will introduce fats into the wort, so I avoided using actual nuts and instead chose to use extracts. (In this recipe I was going for proof of concept so I used commercial extracts, however fat washing your own roasted nuts is a much better alternative) I also decided to skip hops, instead I am relying on the cocoa powder to provide a nice bitterness to balance the beer. I'm hoping these changes will translate into a very tasty "beer"

Xocolatl - The fermented Food of the Gods

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
1.0White Wheat
0.125Extra Light DME
1 tbspCocoa15min
0.5 tbspCocoa5min
6 gmRoasted Hatch Chile5min
0.5 tbspCocoaKO
1/16 tspCinnamonKO
1/8 tspAnise2ndary
1/8 tspAnnatto2ndary
To TasteVanilla ExtractBottling
To TasteHazelnut ExtractBottling
Yeast - Nottingham
120min Boil1064 OG:1gal75% Eff

Notes: Wort was boiled until it became a very thick sugar syrup and very noticeably darkened. Spices were added whole and uncrushed except for the annatto. Beer will be carbonated to a varied range of CO2 (1.5-3vol). Wort was actually additional runoff from another beer that was brewed
Review 12-19-2009
Friday, September 18, 2009

Fermented Pickles

Well pickles are a bit off topic on a beer blog, but I love a good fermented pickle. And if you are anything like me, you really like doing things for yourself and enjoying quality food. It can really be amazing to see how high a quality a product you can make yourself compared to whats out there.

Its funny actually, when I was making my pickles it actually made me start thinking about Gose. Think about it, fermenting vegetables in brine was used for centuries to preserve food. What is gose other than a very dilute brine with a bit of alcohol? I wonder if the first Gosebiers were an accident involving a mixup of a pickling barrel and a beer barrel? I know that when I make a new batch of pickles I use a bit of the active culture from a previous batch, a pickle krausening if you will, to speed things along. What if one time some of the brine in the bottom of a pickle barrel was accidentally added to a fermenting wheat beer, or better yet on purpose? Pickle brine is usually a 5-10% salt solution so it wouldn't take much to get a nice bit of salt into a beer, and the lactic cultures would probably acidify things pretty well. I think I might actually give this a try in a one gal batch soon. Who knows it might turn out something pretty good.

Anyway lets get back to the subject at hand...Pickles. If you've ever had the pleasure of eating a really good fermented pickle you know how delicious they are. Most pickles available now are unfortunately made with vinegar. Going this route is very fast and cheap, something food producers love but it doesn't turn out the best product. Now I have had some pretty good vinegar pickles but they really aren't even the same thing as a fermented pickle, its like comparing a "balsamic" vinegar at a local grocery to a true traditional 3 or 4 leaf balsamic. I have been lucky enough to come across Bubbies pickles in the last year or so, and they are really delicious but 8$ a jar gets pretty pricey for pickles. I'm hoping I can make something that resembles bubbies but at a fraction of the cost (gonna use cucumbers I'm growing).
Fermented Pickles
  1. To start this process I first made a 5% brine solution. This ends up being about 100grams of non-iodized salt in 2L of water.

  2. Boil this up and allow to cool completely

  3. Cut the ends off of the pickling cucumbers and soak in cold water (the blossom end contains enzymes that will soften the pickle)

  4. Fill jars with spices of your choice (I used 5-6 Peppercorns, 2 cloves of garlic, 1tsp dill seed, 1/2 tsp dill weed, 4-5 coriander seeds, 1 dried pepper and 1 bay leaf per 32 oz jar)

  5. Stuff cucumbers in jars and pack tight, you don't want the cucumbers poking above the brine

  6. Pour cooled brine over the cucumbers, I left a bit of space because I used some of the bubbies brine to jump start things, after you develop a culture this is the preferred way to start a new batch. It will really speed things along and provide consistent results.

  7. Cover with cheesecloth and put in a cool corner of you house for a couple weeks, checking every so often after the first week or so. You should see a pronounced color change in the pickles.

  8. Taste after 1-2wks, refrigerate when they have become softer, a darker green and the flavor throughout the pickle is to your liking

Remember just about anything can be pickled. In fact my girlfriend really loves pickled green beans and carrots so making up a batch of those as well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cascade Malt Soda

So this was an idea I had tossed around for awhile. I know that there are other malt sodas out there, but I didn't know until recently that malta goya is actually hopped, must be triple hopped ;) The idea originally occurred to me when I forgot to add a bit of an unfermented PA to the carboy. The wort had sat out for ~1hr and I had already pitched the yeast, so I drank a bit of it and thought it was pretty damn good. I didn't have a carbonator cap then so I didn't have the chance to carb it up and drink it properly.

This time as well, it was pretty much a last second thing. In the gose/wit I just brewed it rained all day and I didn't quite get the boil off rate I had hoped for so I ended up with an extra gallon or so of wort. I decided, partially because I over bought cascades last year, that a good way to burn some hops would be to throw as much as I could at that 1gal and boil for 15min. I also topped the wort off with a bit of DME to raise the gravity a bit - when I tried the unfermented PA it was a bit thin bodied and wasn't as sweet as I would've liked. In the end this is what I came up with

Cascade Malt Soda

~0.5gal: ~54IBU: OG 1058

0.4 lbs Pils
0.4 lbs Wheat Malt
4.0 oz Light DME

0.75 oz Cascade (7.2%) - 15min
0.50 oz Cascade (7.2%) - KO

Notes - I scaled down the original beer malt bill to 0.5gallon to show what the recipe was, I took ~0.5gal of wort that was boiled with hops to ~17IBU and used that as a base for the soda. This is why the IBU is ~17IBU higher than you would get just by entering in the cascades I list. A 15min boil was used to finish the beer, and it was bottled while still very hot to preserve all that hoppy goodness. The pot I boiled this in was pita to clean, there was soo much hop resin on the sided that I was able to scraped off and rolled up a little ball the size of a pea of resin!


Appearance - A very very hazy greenish golden tan, reminds me of a very yeasty looking hefe. Very thin head that quickly dissipates to a thin lacing

Aroma - Oh man, when I popped the bottle open it was amazing! At first you get a huge blast of cascade hops, it smells like you just opened a bag of hops and stuck your head in, the finish has an amazing grainy sweetness to it, it smells just like the first runnings of a mash. As the carbonation dies down a bit the malty/bready aroma becomes much stronger.

Taste - As the first sip hits your palate there is a very nice bready sweetness that is perfectly complimented by a strong bitterness. The hop flavor screams grapefruit, its almost like I'm drinking sweetened grapefruit juice. While it is sweet it isn't cloying, and the bitterness lingers on the tongue until your next sip.

Mouthfeel - A very full body, with med-low carbonation (50psi) It has a very velvety feel to it, almost shake-like.

Drinkability - This surprised me, I thought it would be good but in a very different way. As it stands now its almost like drinking a non-alcholic IPA. It really is an amazing drink. I think this one is definitely going to be something I do with late runnings quite often.

Notes/Thoughts - I'm digging this malt "soda: a lot, and I think it could be a really good way to understand the flavor/aroma of a hop very quickly. Its also pretty easy to drink of a hot dehydrating day in the desert with out getting a headache! This is definitely something to try out for yourself, there's little to lose, I mean its only a gallon of late runnings after all.
Friday, September 4, 2009

Soured Wit/Gose with Cherries

Recently, I was de-stemming ~20lbs of sweet red cherries and getting ready to toss them in the freezer. I started thinking the extra 5-6lbs of cherries that I have and that I could use in an experimental beer (the rest are going in a kriek) When an idea occured to me that I posted on BA and Burgundian Babblebelt awhile back, but didnt get many responses. I was hoping to get a few insightful comments because at that time what the idea hadnt quite congealed in my head yet.

After a bit more thought, I decided I wanted....

1. A med-low gravity wit style grain bill ~1040-1050
2. Low hop rate ~15IBU
3. A small batch 2.5-3gal
4. to add ~6lbs of sweet cherries to the secondary, this one gets the sour from bugs!
5. to get it nice and tart from the dregs of calabaza blanca
6. to use a bit of indian coriander for the fruity pebble flavor it adds
7. to add some salt, Ive really been thinking about this since all the gose talk recently, and I think it will add a nice savoriness

Even looking at it now that seems like quite a few dimensions. It might be tricky to balance all those different flavors, but Ive played around with other complex beers like this before so I think I can pull it off. Only time will tell if thats just cockiness, but when I envision this beer I see a nicely tart fruity cherry wit. I want the sourness and the cherries to really shine, with the wit yeast and corriander playing a slightly more subdued role. I really think that sounds like an astounding beer. I think I will hold the salt until late in the game, and only do it if it tastes good in a small amount of beer.

Soured Cherry Wit/Gose
Malt Bill
All GrainExtract Equiv
Amt (lbs)TypeAmt (lbs)Type
2.25Pilsner3.25Wheat DME (Late Extract Addition)
2.25White Wheat5.0Black Cherries
5.0Black Cherries--
Amt (oz)TypeTimeAmt (oz)TypeTime
0.40Cascade (7.2%)600.3Cascade (7.2%)60
Mash Schedule
170F2qt/lb15min - vorlauf---
YeastBelgian Witbier WY3944 (frozen stock)
Calabaza blanca Dregs
85% effIBU16NAIBU16
5gal BoilFG-4gal Late ExtractFG-

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