Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Malt Cider - Sweetish Hombrew Cider with Body?

I really enjoy a nice glass of hard cider on a cool fall day, but I have to admit that as it gets cooler I really crave something a bit sweeter and richer. For quite some time Ive been tossing around ideas about how to really add a round flavor and richness to a cider for drinking during the winter, but it wasn't till recently that I came across something that I thought could really hit the spot for me.

I was baking some bread and as usual I have a bag of malt powder out, well it just so happened that a bunch of the powder found its way into a glass of juice I had poured for myself. Like usual I thought what the hell lets see what this tastes like, it cant be that bad (I really like malt powder in shakes) Well, it was actually really really good! The rich maltiness of the extract really accentuated the apple flavor and gave it a really thick mouthfeel. Now I cant be too excited yet, this was unfermented juice after all and fermentation has a way of changing things quite substantially. I do think though that using a small bit of malt powder and some crystal malt to really accentuate the sweetness and body could turn out a very flavor apple cider very quickly. I'm also hoping that because I'm using malt instead of sugar, the acidity of the juice will be tamed a bit and it wont fight so much with the alcohol making the cider drinkable much more quickly. Whatever happens its only a 2.5 gal batch so I wont be out too much if its horrible........

Malt Cider

2gal Apple Juice
1.0 # Extra Light DME
0.5# 80L

Nottingham Yeast

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Athos - A Biére de Garde fermented with Sherry Flor

So I've been slowly tinkering away with a couple recipes to continue in my series of Dumas inspired beers. And luckily with the holiday I've finally been able to start catching up on a good deal of my brewing and doing some of those odds and ends like racking/bottling/etc, so I thought it might be a good idea to actually getting around to using the sherry flor I tracked down.

When I started thinking about what beer I wanted to brew it didn't take very long until I knew I really wanted to brew a biére de garde for Athos. Something that was simple yet extremely elegant, and became more refined with age. I really dont think you could find something that fits that description better than a well aged biere de garde with its earthy cellar qualities. To be honest though, I wasnt really sure how to get that really earthy cellar quality that a very good biere de gardes has. It doesnt really taste like brett to me, or at least not any strain Im familiar with, so I wasnt really sure how I would get that type of flavor in there at first. Then a discussion about some of the various bugs in a lambic blend really piqued my interest in sherry flor.

Sherry flor is known to give off a nougat, almond or green apple flavors and I really think that could suit this type of beer, especially since I decided to add some dark muscovado to bump up the gravity a bit and round out the flavor. If you've never tried that type of sugar I really suggest you get your hands on some (its great for cookies), it has an amazingly rich rum flavor, and I really see that blending well with nougat and almond (hopefully)

There is one thing that worries me a bit though, sherry flor is generally added to the secondary where it oxidizes the wine it is fermenting, and it is extremely alcohol tolerant. So I'm not really sure how to deal with it. Is it like brett when its a solo fermentor? or will it still manage to munch through every last sugar in this beer? I guess Ill really have to keep an eye on the gravity of this one as fermentation slows.

It was quite a PITA to find the flor, Redstar used to make a dry version but it was discontinued a couple years back, and the only other version (Vierka) isn't sold at any store I know of in the US. After too much time on the internet searching I was about ready to give up and find something else to do in this beer, but then I came across a reference to White Labs offering sherry flor year round! Unfortunately again I had next to no luck finding someone who actually had it, although a few offered to special order it, they usually wanted 15-20$ for it...a bit more than I feel is fair for a tube of white labs yeast and roughly the cost of ordering it myself directly from white labs. Luckily though I was over visiting my parents on the other side of town when my dad mentioned a new homebrew store that had just opened up down the road. So without any expectations I stopped by to see what they had, I dunno why or how but they had a brand new fresh tube of the flor that they had just gotten in the day before! I scooped it up and in my fridge it has sat for at least a month before I finally got around to putting it to a good use............

Athos - A Biére de Garde
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
4.0Dark Munich (Global 12L)
0.5Dark Muscovado Sugar
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.5Crystal (3.3%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.7qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastSherry Flor - White Labs WLP700
2.625gal (half batch)OG1074
84% effIBU30
3.5gal BoilFG-
Notes: Munich was added to bump up the grain flavor a bit (Pils is a tad bland on its own to me) Mash temp was slightly higher than if I hadnt included the sugar, Im hoping to have a moderate amount of body to the beer; sugar was added at KO; Sherry flor took awhile to get going (>24hrs) for a whole tube in ~2.5gal, I think if I did it again Id build up a decent size starter

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Huge Hop Aroma and Flavor

Am I a hophead? Yah, Id like to think I am, although I tend to shy away from very bitter beers. Trouble is that it can be difficult to make something with a really in your face hop aroma and flavor without all the bitterness you get from boiling all those hops. To get a fix for hoppy goodness without all the bitterness Ive even gone so far as to make a what was essentially a Cascade Hop Soda!

One way to try and combat this is by loading up the end of the boil with a TON of hops and getting all of you bitterness and flavor from say the 20min and less additions. However this can still produce a very bitter beer, and I tend to like things about 50-55IBU's and less. Call me greedy, but I want even more aroma and flavor than that.

When I first thought about trying this method out, I had been reading quite a bit about different breweries techniques for adding lots of hops to a beer. A common method that I had come across was adding hops to the whirlpool, which is essentially the same as adding at KO for us homebrewers. There were some though that were adding the hops in-line during the cooling process, and this really piqued my interest.

Hop oils are fairly volatile and can be easily driven off during a boil, or even as water evaporates after you turn the flame off. This is why hops added at the beginning of the boil impart much less hop character to a beer than say hops added just before you finish boiling. Digging around trying to find the boiling point of hop oils I came across pure extracts that indicated as pure compounds the boiling point was variable but around 160F or a bit higher. So, I thought why not begin chilling the wort, and after Ive brought it down to around 170F, then add huge addition of hops. (I went with 170F as it gives a bit of time to get the hops mixed in before the temp falls too much below 160F) After about 10min or so I begin chilling, albeit pretty slowly.  From 160F it generally takes me about 30-45min to get to 80F.  This is partially on purpose, as the extended time with the hops sort of replicates what breweries are doing when they chill.  Think about it, how fast do you think you could chill 200+gallons of hot wort?

Well, I first tried this technique out last fall when I had a glut of hops from the previous year. Now looking at the recipe you might think that it could be hard to discern how much character came from the 170F additions. I have since tried this method on several other beers and all displayed the same in your face hop aroma and flavor that I'm attributing to the "whirlpool" additions

Huge Hop Flavor and Aroma - one method

1. Formulate recipe as you would normally - however reserve at least 1oz (min) of hops to add after boil
2. After you turn off the flame, immediately begin chilling the wort
3. When the wort is approximately 170F, stop chilling and mix in the hops
4. Allow the hops to sit in wort a minute or two (pasteurize everything (15sec @ 160F) + absorb flavor)
5. Immediately chill wort to pitch temps and ferment as usual

Note - There are many other ways to get huge hop flavor and aroma into a beer (oils, etc) however none that I have tried seem to replicate the intense flavors that you can get in a beer with this method. Does this technique work? yes, extremely well, however it is not the end-all be-all for making a really hoppy beer. Rather its just another way to get a very intense hoppiness into a beer

I a highly recommend adding more than 1oz of hops in this manner, to really accentuate the hops (I do still advocate at least a bit in the 15-20min range for depth of flavor)

It also pays to dry hop, although not till half or so the the keg is gone for a couple reasons, one is because dry hopping at this point will not be very noticeable due to the huge hop character from the 170F addition. The other reason is, that with hoppy beers, the aroma seems to fade as the beer is drank, personally I believe this is due to the volatility of the flavor and aroma compounds. They tend to prefer to be in the gas, rather than in the liquid, and as you drink the beer, there is more headspace in the keg resulting in more hop flavor/aroma compounds transferring into the CO2 in the headspace. By dry hopping you are adding more of those compounds back into the beer slowing the process down a bit

Beers that Used the Technique

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sweet Pineapple Cider - A Second Try

Not too long ago I popped and drank the last bottle of my homebrewed pineapple cider I brewed up last year. It was amazing what a bit more time had done to it.. Finally the fruit flavor was shining through and the acid and alcohol were very smooth together. I really regretted popping the other bottles for a taste here and there only to be disappointed and dump them. Well, lesson learned. 

I've really begun to be a lot more interested in ciders. Ive began to notice that when you add sugar to the cider it takes a long time for all the flavors to meld together before it becomes something really good. I'm starting to think this is due to the high acidity of most the juices I use and the alcohol. Really dry and acidic isn't really the best thing in a cider. It comes off harsh, especially with the bite of the carbonation. Now that's not to say I'm going to stop making my yearly apple cider or trying other higher gravity ciders, just that in general I plan on forgetting about those brews for a year or two.

 I think a big reason that the previous pineapple cider I made was so blah until recently was due to the the high acidity and alcohol as well. I realized nearly immediately after I made the batch that I added waaaay too much sugar, and I'm not really sure why I ever thought that level was a good idea. I did really like what the Lalvin 71B did for it though, it really helped to soften the acid profile and accentuated the fruit flavors. This time around I'm skipping all the sugar additions, using 71B and even contemplating adding some xylitol to sweeten some of the cider and provide a bit of body, but lets not get ahead of ourselves

 Sweet Pineapple Cider 2.0

1.90 gal Pineapple Juice
0.25 tsp Fermaid K
Xylitol - To taste

 Lalvin 71B-1122 Narbonne

Pineapple Cider - The original
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Color without Roast Flavor

So, going back through some of my earliest posts I came across a technique first used on a schwarzbier back in Jan '09. Many schwarzbiers that Ive tried, either homebrewed or craft, seem to be far too roasty, almost porter-like in their flavor. When I was brewing up mine I really wanted to limit the roast flavors in the beer. Even using dehusked carafa, it can be tricky to keep the roast flavor to a minimum if you really want a black beer.

Now you could try using Sinamar (essentially extract from Carafa) but to my palate it seems to leave an unpleasant taste in the finished beer. So to avoid going that route I decided to try capping the mash with finely ground Carafa Special. I gave this a shot because Ive done a few parti-gyle brew sessions and the ones that I cap the mash with dark grains always seemed to be quite a bit more reserved in the roast department than I would have expected. So I thought what the hell, why not try it out on a schwarzbier, the worst thing that happens is I have a lager porter!

Well it worked amazingly well, the beer turned out absolutely black and gorgeous. In the picture to the left you can see the difference in the color of the runnings before and after the carafa cap. There was barely a hint of roast flavors, the beer tasted like a pilsner but was black! This is a great way to get lots of color into a Black IPA without the roasted flavors. Anyone brewing up any beer that they want a lot of color in without any roast flavors should give it a shot I think you'll be surprised with the results.

Black Color without the Roast Flavor

  1. Formulate your recipe as usual - However, use only Carafa Special as a color malt (make sure you buy the Special, regular Carafa has a much stronger roast character)
  2. Grind the Carafa Special very finely using a coffee grinder (milled grain doesn't impart as much color)
  3. Mash and recirculate as you would normally.
  4. Sprinkel the finely ground carafa on top of the grain bed and sparge as you would normally

Note - Recently it has come to my attention that some people are also trying out cold mashing of the roasted grains to bring out the color without the roast flavors. I've yet to try this method myself, although it does seem it could work well. However, it also requires another step and piece of equipment to clean, whereas capping the mash requires very little extra time or mess (no separate straining of roasted grains is needed)

Beers that Used the Technique

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Techniques and Crazy Ideas

Every so often during a brew session I seem to try out a new technique or idea that I have been thinking about. Sometimes they work very well, others not so much. However, one thing that always seems to happen is that those techniques and ideas seem to get lost as the post I used them in gets a bit older. Even I forget about them occasionally! Which is too bad, because some work really well.

So, I thought I would rehash some of the techniques and ideas that I have done in the past that have produced interesting results. This way I can have a single post just for that idea or technique that wont get lost in the shuffle of things. I'm also hoping that it will be easier for people looking for new techniques or ideas to find. I also plan on linking to all the recipes I try the technique/idea in so that there is some review of how it worked on different beers.

Some of the older techniques will probably only have a short blurb on what/why I did what I did and will heavily reference the original posts. Eventually I hope to give a bit more detail and insight on the post of each technique itself. This first post here is to kinda get the idea out there while I work on a couple short posts about techniques and ideas Ive used in the past. I'm also putting a new link in the menu for techniques that will bring you here.

There's also quite a bit of off the wall, hairbrained, just plain crazy ideas out there as well, so if you have something youve tried that worked out well let me know Id love to link to it!
Monday, November 15, 2010

D'Artagnan - An Oak Aged Homebrew Perry

A lot of things have been conspiring against me doing much in the way of brewing or posting the past two months or so. Somehow I managed to get a stomach parasite, drinking too much water and not enough beer I guess, it really knocked me for a loop and I haven't been able to be lifting and moving full kegs and kettles. So, I decided to finally get on brewing up the first in a line of theme beers/ciders.

A couple months back I came across a couple beers that were brewed by someone over on HB Talk. I really like the idea of the beers, named the The Muse, The Minstrel and The Bard. Now Ive never been one to get too much into naming my beers, but Ive also started having problems keeping straight all the long aging sours/wild beers I make. The simple to the point names can be a bit too close to one another for easy distinction a year or two down the road. So Ive decided to try naming some of my longer aging brews.

Besides being lazy about naming, another reason I never put much effort into coming up with names is that I always felt a bit uninspired. However, I just recently finished reading the entire catalog of one of my favorite authors (Alexandre Dumas) and thought I could do something in tribute to that. For my beginning names, I plan on sticking with relatively well known characters (D'artagnan series) but there are a lot of much better books he wrote as well and I really suggest checking them out.

Anyway, I sat thinking about what I could make for each character for quite awhile. D'artagnan, was actually quite hard, he really didn't like beer.... However he was actually quite fond of an Anjou wine, and while it might be a stretch to take this to a Perry the first thing I think of when someone says Anjou is D'anjou pears, and then perry! To top it off Ive been thinking of making a perry for quite some time now, and Ive become more interested in ciders in general.

The first problem to making a perry is locating the basic ingredients. It took quite awhile to find a source for pear juice, its really not all the common of a thing. The first place I came across it was actually in the infant section of the grocery store. Gerber makes a 100% Pear juice that they sell by the quart, unfortunately there is absolutely no flavor to the juice. Essentially its a slightly sweeter less flavorful apple juice, and can do a number on your stomach if you drink too much ;) Luckily I came across a company called Natures Flavors. They make a wide assortment of natural juices, flavorings and other necessities for cooking/baking. Ive tried a couple of their juices and concentrates now and have been nothing but pleased with them. I will say that they can be a bit slow with getting the juice out to you, but from what Ive gleaned from talking with them its because a lot of what you order is made only when its ordered.

After all my searching I ended up ordering their pear juice concentrate (they also have a pear juice concentrate with added pear extract but I avoided it) After it arrived I added a small bit to a glass and tried it out, I was actually quite surprised with how strong the pear flavor was! In fact it made me a bit unsure of my original yeast choice. Originally I decided to use a yeast that would complement as well as produce its own pear flavor (WY 1388) In the end I just ran with it (starter was already made)

The juice ended up being a lot more concentrated than they indicated. They suggest diluting at a ratio of 3:1, well this ends up with a OG of 1092! (17.4 Brix), so I diluted down with another 1.5gal of RO water to get to a more reasonable 1067, I tend not to enjoy higher gravity ciders as they take too long to smooth out due to the high alc and acidity. However from what I read pear juice contains quite a bit more unfermentable sugar than apple juice does, so I'm hoping that it finishes out somewhere around 1015-1020 (6.8-6.1%abv)

D'Artagnan - An Oak Aged Parry - pun intended
Malt Bill
1 galNatures Flavors Pear Juice Concentrate
4.5 galRO Water
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.5Dark Toast Oak ChipsTBD
0.5Light Toast Oak ChipsTBD
2 tspFermaid K-
YeastBelgian Strong Ale WY1388 (1.5L starter)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Witbier Part Deux - Review

Appearance - A light golden color, moderate head that dissipates leaving significant lacing on the glass; beer is only slightly hazy at this point (a bit aged) but when young had quite a bit of suspended yeast

Aroma - Subdued spiciness, strong malt/bread aroma, hints of orange and coriander in the finish

Taste - Stronger spicy wit esters/phenols than in my previous wit (warmer ferment), nicely malty and bready, sweetish finish with a nice hint of orange lingering on the palate

Mouthfeel - Thick and luxurious, for how thick and velvety the mouthfeel is the beer is deceiving light, lower carbonation, but Ive found I really prefer the style this way, it really lets the flavors shine more than the carbonation

Drinkability - Quick to go down, a tad sweeter than previous attempts, but it seems to fit the stronger yeast profile. The only reason the keg has lasted as long as it has is because Ive been out of town most of the summer.

Notes/Thoughts - Between the two attempts at witbiers Ive posted, its hard to pick a winner; Both had pros and cons, and neither seems better than the other, just a different take on the same style; One thing I did prefer on this version though was the stronger orange aroma and flavor, its still subtle but quite a bit stronger than last time

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hoppy Witbier - An IPA crossed with a Wit

So, after tasting a sample of the fermented wort of my most recent witbier, I knew that 5gal wasn't going to be enough. Yet Ive really been craving something hoppy and bitter lately, but I really haven't had much time to brew full batches recently. For the most part I tend to shy away from hoppy/bitter Belgian beers, and haven't found a Belgian IPA that really hit the spot for me (most are too phenolic for my tastes) And actually this is a large reason that Im hesitant to call this a belgian IPA.

Witbier yeast tends to be a bit less aggressive producers of spicy phenolic compounds compared to some other Belgian yeasts, so I thought this combination might make something that better suits my tastes. I also really wanted to make sure that the base beer wasn't masked by all the hops. Most importantly I wanted the traditional witbier character to be fairly evident. So, I took my go-to wit malt bill and ramped it up to IPA levels. I then decided to have a fairly light hand with bitterness so as not to overpower the yeast, so I decided to hopburst the beer.

The IBU's are a tad on the low side for an IPA, but this isn't really to any style in particular. I really just wanted to take what I feel are the best parts of either style and mash them together hopefully to produce something tasty. I also almost forgot, I did add some coriander to the boil to help keep it more wit-like. This beer will also most likely get dry hopped with at least another 2-3 ounces of hops. Im not really sure what to use yet though, I used up all my citra in the boil as well as my amarillo, maybe some simcoe?

Hop Wit

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
3.0Flaked Wheat
1.0Flaked Oats
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0Citra (11%)15min
1.5Amarillo (9.3%)15min
1.0Amarillo (9.3%)5min
1.4Amarillo (9.3%)<170f
1.0Citra (11%)<170f
Mash Schedule
170F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Witbier WY3944 (Slurry)
86% effIBU38
7gal BoilFG-
Notes: ~0.5oz of coriander was added at KO to help keep the beer very wit-like; beer was feremented at ~70-74F

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gosebier - Fermented with a Sauerkraut Culture?

So awhile back I was writing up a post about fermented pickles, when a something popped into my head. Gosebier. Well at first thought you might think that was kind of a weird connection, but the more you ponder the connection the more it seems to grow.

Gosebier is a very old German style beer that is a bit out of the ordinary. Its a sour beer, which there is another German example (Berliner Weiss) but this beer has additions of both coriander and salt, and sometime oats! None of which was allowed under reinheitsgebot, but Gose developed outside Bavaria, so the law wasn't an issue until the unification of Germany in the late 1800's. It was even bottled with an extremely long think neck which allowed for a natural plug of yeast and bacteria to stopper the bottle allowing for a soft carbonation! If you ask me this is quite an interesting beer.

Ok, so fast forward back to pickle making. When I make pickles to speed the process and keep things more consistent I use some of the juice from an old batch to kick start the fermentation of a new batch. Sort of like pitching a yeast cake into some new wort. That process got me thinking about both pickles and gosebier, both of which were made in the same parts of Germany. Would it have been possible that a mix up occurred and some of the lees from a pickle or sauerkraut fermentation found their way into a beer barrel by accident? If they did it might explain how both coriander and salt are used in brewing gosebier (both are common pickling spices)

Well I really liked this idea and have been planning on trying it out for quite some time. The more I thought about it though, the more it seemed that sauerkraut brine would more likely be a better source of bugs for the gose. The juice in sauerkraut doesn't have all the additional spices like dill and garlic that wouldn't taste right in a gosebier, so I waited until I had eaten several jars of sauerkraut I had made. I then poured off much of the juice leaving a layer of bacteria and yeast in the bottom to add to my wort.

Well that's pretty much where I'm at right now. I brewed up a ~1gal batch using wheat DME, coriander, and a small amount of hops. I added the and within 24hrs its happily bubbling away. I keep sneaking sniffs of the fermenting beer and it has a similar smell to a B-weiss I brewed last year with yeast from Al on BBB, so I'm really hoping this turns out, at the very least it will be interesting.......

Gosebier - Fermented with Sauerkraut sauerkraut dregs culture
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
0.75Wheat DME
Amt TypeTime
4 conesWillamette (4.5%)20
1 pinchSaltKO
YeastFermented Sauerkraut Culture
0.85gal boilIBU<5?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bitter Brown Ale - Review

Appearance: A beautiful amber brown with some burnt orange highlights when held up to to the light, a very dense tan head that lingers till half the glass is gone leaving sticky lacing up and down the glass

Aroma: Subdued aroma at this point, when it was younger an earthy hoppiness was a bit more pronounced, as it stands now a strong caramel aroma is rounded out by a sweet yet subtle breadiness

Taste: When the beer first hits your tongue it is very malt forward, there are layers or caramel, bread, toffee, and an amazing tanginess hits your just before the bitter finish; for how malt oriented it seems initially it is soundly bitter in the finish, and the bitterness lingers on the tongue until the next sip; I'm a bit surprised how much I enjoy the tangy sourdough like character this beer has, definitely from the special roast; chocolatey flavors are subdued but add an interesting layer to the beer overall

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium high body from using Marris Otter and special roast, a lower amount of carbonation definitely suits this beer best (over carbed a bit to start with), the lower carbonation gives the beer a nice chewy yet not over the top mouthfeel, something like if you blended a pale ale with an oatmeal stout

Drinkability: A pretty good beer, its a pretty easy drinker although I think it would be a bit more suited towards the cooler months of the year and not August! In the future Ill have this one ready for Thanksgiving time....

Notes/Thoughts: I definitely like the tangy sourdough character of the beer, it adds a very unique and flavorful dimension and it offsets some of the sweetness of the Marris otter; the pale chocolate malt lent a very soft chocolate/roast character that tied all the other elements together, I definitely think that malt has a place in softer less roasty beers and lends a much smoother character than regular chocolate malt; Again the Mt Rainier was a bit disappointing in the aroma department, yet it lends a very smooth bitterness to the beer, in the future I think Ill limit its role to bittering

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lambic Update

Well, I thought I'd do a bit of an update on the lambic I made last summer. It has come along very nicely, and about ~4mos ago or so, I split the batch into 3 x 3gal carboys. In one I added about 4# or so of blackberries, in another 5-6# of cherries to another, and decided on leaving the last portion for additional aging. I hope to use it to blend a gueuze in the next few months.

Its been awhile now since I last tasted the batch, but last time the acidity was showing yet it was still fairly soft and the funk was very subdued. Overall the batch was very bright and citrus-like. This was a big reason I decided to blend it with 2 different fruits, as I thought the developing flavor profile could accentuate the flavor and aroma of the fruit. Well, I decided to take a sample the other day (I am hoping to bottle to open up the fermenters for other batches) and I was surprised by the two fruited portions

The flavor has changed considerably on both. The blackberry actually had become a bit too tart for my liking (I prefer a softer character with fruit), but otherwise the flavor was great. So to cut the sourness a bit, I decided to blend in about 1.5L of a blonde ale that I brewed up earlier this summer (recipe to come) that I thought would blend in well, and wouldn't offer too much for the bugs to eat. I would have added some of another lambic, but I really didn't feel like having to do all the work siphoning from a carboy, and after all I had the blond on tap. Fermentation did kick up slightly which is a good sign, hopefully Ill be able to bottle this up in the next month or so.

The other fruited portion, didn't have quite as strong of an acid bite, so I didn't blend anything in...yet. But it displayed that graininess in the finish that Ive come to find in lots of my sours. I really don't like the flavor, luckily it usually fades with time, unfortunately its usually lots of time. I was also a bit disappointed with the cherry flavor, and decided to add a bit of black cherry juice to top off the batch and add a bit more flavor.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Collaborative Sin - A Robust Porter BA Group Brew

So a couple weeks ago I was contacted along with a small group of other BA'ers about possibly doing a group brew. The plan was to all brew up a particular style of beer, which would then be traded and a group tasting set up. A couple emails flew back and forth about the style, and honestly I wasn't that thrilled when we set on a robust porter.

However, as I drew up the recipe and after I brewed it I have since really come to like the idea of having this beer around and in trying the groups take on the style as well. Now I don't normally like big beers, so I kept to the lower end of the style for OG. I decided that I wanted to avoid using any black malt and would instead go about getting my color in a different route. There was a time when porters used something called essentia bina to get most of their color and a lot of their flavor. Essentia bina is made by taking the first runnings and heavily caramelizing the wort to the point it carbonizes and may catch fire. Now I didn't take it quite to this extreme but I did go pretty far.

I took the first ~1gal of runnings and reduced it to a volume of ~800mL (~260z). It was thick black gooey and formed a hard chunk when it cooled. I added a pic of the goo pre and post boil, as you can see it looks like oil after it was boiled down! It was amazingly sugary and added 2brix, roughly 70gravity points, to the wort when I added it back in. The flavor was a mix of chocolate, coffee, burnt sugar and butterscotch it was amazing! Ive boiled down a bit of the first runnings before, but I haven't ever took it to such a reduced volume.

I wasn't actually able to reduce the volume much after about 1hr boiling (checked several times) and steam had nearly ceased to come from the pot when I decided to quit. Hopefully this added an interesting dimension to the beer.

The rest of the recipe was basically a bigger version of a brown porter that I like to do in the fall. And in keeping with my trend of large amounts of hops, I used the lowest AA hop I had (crystal) to make sure I could get a ton of hops in the boil. Ive found that I really prefer the bitterness as its a bit smoother, and the head formation and retention is amazing! I did decide on one totally unknown, and that was using Wyeast London Ale 1028. Ive never used the yeast before, I love 1968 too much, but that that it might be a good fit. I think a minerally profile could work very well in this otherwise malty beer.

Collaborative Sin - aka Little Dark Cloud

Malt Bill
All GrainExtract Equiv
Amt (lbs)TypeAmt (lbs)Type
10.0Pilsner6.0X-Light DME (Late Extract Addition)
1.0Special Roast1.02-Row
0.5Chocolate Malt1.0Special Roast
0.25Carafa III Special0.5Chocolate Malt
--0.25Carafa III Special
Amt (oz)TypeTimeAmt (oz)TypeTime
4.0Crystal (3.3%)601.25Sterling (8.7%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.6qt/lb15min - vorlauf---
YeastLondon Ale WY1028 (1.2L Starter)
86% effIBU3775%IBU34
7gal BoilFG-3gal Late Extract--

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Ive been doing quite a lot of pickling lately due to the large harvest of cabbage and cucumbers from my garden. This however is my first attempt at making sauerkraut.

I scoured the internet, ok I barely glanced, and found a few things to read but nothing really caught my eye as a definitive source. It was kind of like pickling, there's too many recipes out there with follow up or a rhyme or reason for doing what they do. So I followed my gut and made the entire thing up - its worked in the past, hopefully it doesn't let me down this time!

Sauerkraut 1.0

  • 1 Head Cabbage
  • Non-iodized salt (iodized inhibits bacteria)
  • Misc spices (garlic, chili's, fennel, etc)
  • Quart size jars + lids
  • Boil and chill enough water to fill 3 or 4 quart jars
  • Chop the cabbage into thin strips
  • Dice up any desired spices
  • Place any small or crushed spices into the bottom of the jar (stops them from floating to top)
  • Layer cabbage and any larger spices (garlic, chili's) until jar is full
  • Add ~0.5tbsp of non-iodized salt to each jar (I used 1tbsp and it was a tad salty for me)
  • Push down to compact cabbage and fill to top
  • Fill with cooled water (can be slightly warm as it gets the bacteria going and helps dissolve salt and spices)
  • Place a weight on the cabbage to keep from floating to top - Ive found a glass shotglass works perfectly
  • Let sit in a cool location for ~1-2wks until desired level of sourness is achieved, then chill and eat

Notes: You can also ferment in a big bowl to make it easier to weigh down the cabbage, Ive found the 1gal ice cream buckets work really well for this. You can take the edge off of the lid, poke a few holes in it and use it to hold down the cabbage. It is also a really good idea to keep whatever is used as a fermentor in a larger container to capture any liquid that spills over

In my jars I used different combinations of spices, I found that everyone really enjoyed the garlic and chili pod version. I added ~3-4cloves of garlic and ~4-5 japanese chili pods, it really adds a nice kick to a brat. The least favorite was the most traditional with fennel seeds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Smoke Sticke - A Cherry Smoked Malt Beer

Ive been both terribly busy with work and then horribly lazy when I get home. So I haven't really kept up with all the small things Ive been doing/brewing the past couple months, as little as it has been. I did manage to brew up a couple beers, make some more pickles, sauerkraut and review a few things so I'm planning (forcing) myself to get off but and get to work.

I brewed this beer quite awhile back now, so I'm not 100% sure of the influences or what I was thinking at the time. Last summer I had brewed up a Smoked Ale (peat smoked malt) and it would really hit the spot with a hamburger, ribs, etc... Basically anything grilled, the smoke flavor really accentuated the flavor of the meats and veges. So last fall when I started hearing about a relatively newish smoked malt from Briess I was very interested.

Many people strongly profess to not like peat malt. It seems to be one of the very polarizing malts. Sometimes though, I wonder how many have actually tried it vs just repeating someone else's bad experience. That thought has actually made me temper my vitriol for melanoidin and aromatic a bit. Ah but that's another post/rant. Anyway, the cherry malt was supposed to lend a very smooth, sweeter smoke flavor than the other two available (Bamberg, Peat). I thought what the heck lets give it a try. When it showed up all I could smell was an amazing smoke aroma, yet it hinted at sweetness; almost like baked beans. Unfortunately the bag of malt sat around for some months till I had time to brew with it (~5), and the smell greatly diminished. It did so much in fact that until I racked the beer into a keg to carb about 2-3wks ago I was worried it wouldn't be smokey at all. Boy was I wrong there!

Originally I had planned on a making a smoked doppelsticke. The idea had really interested me, and after tasting both the Madfermentationist's and the City Brewer's versions I was just about set on doing one myself. The only thing that I was hesitant about was the highish gravity, I really tend to not enjoy bigger beers. This was probably the reason it took as long as it did to finally brew the beer, but when I did I decided to cut back a bit and just brew up a Sticke. For those that don't know, a Sticke is a special version of a Dusseldorf Alt. Basically its just a bit bigger, nicely balanced and brewed once a year.

When it came time to build the recipe I used last year's Smoked Ale as a starting point. This time around because the cherry malt is supposed to lend a sweet character I skipped the crystal malt in the beer, and I probably could have last year as well. I also decided against using any dark grains in the beer, I really just wanted to see what the cherry malt would bring to the table. I did however want something a bit breadier and maltier than last year and to keep better in style with a sticke, I used dark munich as the base for the beer. Finally I threw a healthy portion (2oz) of a noble-type hop at the beer to finish it off.

Smoke(d) Sticke

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
5.0Cherry Smoked Malt
5.0Dark Munich (Global - 12L)
Amt (oz)TypeTime
2.0Crystal (3.7%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.65qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastSafale German Ale - K97
75% effIBU25
7gal BoilFG

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hot Wing Beer - A review

Appearance - Very hazy, small specks of red from hot sauce dot the top of the "beer" no head whatsoever

Aroma - Very butter, with a slight vinegary bite and a finish of peppers, not really anything else to say.....

Taste - kind of sweet, but in a way that's very hard to define, strong butter flavor the entire time you drink it, vinegar really accentuates the pepper heat and flavor in the "beer" I actually forgot to add the vinegar prior to bottling so I added to the glass, very different beer with and without the vinegar, much sweeter and more pepper flavor without, the pepper heat seems to be accentuated by the vinegar

Drinkability - Its definitely a different kind of drink, its not horrible, but isn't something I would ever drink an entire batch of, or even a bottle of myself. I think the ingredients by themselves (butter, hot sauce, vinegar) could possibly add something to a beer, although at this point I'm not sure I would know what to use them in.

Notes/Thoughts - Well I definitely have quite a bit of ideas after this one. I think if I did do it again for some reason or another, I would try to actually incorporate chicken into the beer, maybe another fat extraction?? The fat washing of the butter worked very well, the flavor is very strong and there is no oil that I can see in the finished beer, I really think this could be useful to try in other beers and other flavorful oils. I tried it with sesame oil, but didn't add it to a beer, and the flavor was great, It may be a way to get the coconut flavor that people seem to want in porters, you could fat wash some really good coconut oil and use that. Overall it was a fun experience, it was definitely a novelty beer and that's all it could ever be. Best part was watching peoples expressions after drinking it!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

100% Oat Malt & Mt Rainier Hops - SMaSH Beer Review

I have been meaning to do a review of my Oat malt SMaSH beer for sometime, but I have been second guessing my ability to describe the flavors of the beer. As a result I have been getting every one I know to taste it and tell me what they think. Most have agreed with my assessment although my father, whose beer palate isn't very refined, said it tasted like old Milwaukee!! I laughed, I don't think I would offer the same take of the beer

Appearance: Golden color, great clarity, 1-2 finger head that dissipates leaving tight lacing

Aroma: The smell of the beer is like taking a big whiff of freshly cracked oats, I have a really hard time finding the hops behind all that smell

Taste: The flavor is a bit different than the smell suggests, it is oaty but it is also very very grainy. It is also a bit thinner bodied than you would expect, the grainy flavor is a bit more rustic than most anything else Ive tried, in fact it slightly reminds me of what an all 6-row beer hints at. The hops are really in the background, and the bitterness is a bit low, it could easily be bumped up quite a bit.

Mouthfeel: The beer is actually quite light bodied for an all Oat beer. More than likely due to the extremely long mash I had to do to get conversion. Ive varied the carbonation and a medium-high level suits it best, it really helps the oat smell to jump out a bit more

Drinkability: Its not a bad beer, but is unlike anything else Ive tasted. Ive actually found two really good uses for it. 1) boiling down to make a beer glaze, awesome on brats and really good on chicken. 2) I mix up a shandy using lime juice and soda water, this cuts the graininess down a bit and the lime really rounds out the flavor

Notes/Thoughts: For styles to use it in, I think anywhere you want a strong oat smell and grainy flavor it would work well, but in smaller doses (lighter flavored beers), a bit more heavy handed in darker styles. It does provide an interesting flavor and body to the beer, however by no means does i taste bad or weird, in fact I do like it, its just a bit light for me.

I could see using oat malt in smallish percentage in a saison, as it would probably add an oaty/earthiness to the beer. I would avoid styles with high hoppiness as I think if you used too much the graininess of the oat malt would clash with the hops. In general anywhere you want a rough around the edges taste/smell I think it could work very well.

if you decide to do a 100% oat malt beer, i would suggest having some amylase on hand to make things a bit easier

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Belgian Table Beer - Review

Appearance: A pale golden color (much lighter than pictures shows) with a 1½ finger head that slowly dissipates leaving substantial lacing in the glass; very clear at this point, early on there was much more yeast in suspension giving it a slightly hazy appearance

Aroma: Bready with a hint of sweetness, nice amount of spice and a hint of bubblegum that rounds out the smell, hop aroma was quite strong and very earthy when it was young, but has since faded a bit leaving the ester profile to really shine.

Taste: Sweetness from the pils malt hits you upfront followed by an intense creaminess from the wheat. Spice and fruit dance on your tongue followed by a whisper or bubblegum in the finish. The beer is nicely bitter leaving just the right amount of dryness and bitterness on the tongue after you finish a drink.

Mouthfeel: the beer is extremely creamy from the flaked wheat, a nice medium carbonation really accentuates the body, yet it is and easy drinker on a hot summer day

Drinkability: I had to restrain myself when I first tapped the keg, I really like this beer, and have enjoyed the way its changed over the past month or so. I hit the nail on the head with this one, it accentuates the flavors of just about any food you eat it with, especially with barbeque or seafood where it really shines. I don't think Ive found a better combo than this beer and some cod, lobster, or shrimp and scallops.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Witbier Part Deux

Its that time of year again, the temps are rapidly rising and oranges are season around here. Well towards the very very end of the season. Last years wit was a big hit around my place, and the keg was finished in less than a week. I did think the recipe could use a slight tweaking to make it a bit better though, so I cut back on the oats a bit and used slightly more spices (this part was to appease others), I also decided to ferment it a bit warmer (74F) than I did last year to hopefully accentuate some of the phenolics from the yeast.

As with last year, I was able to score a few fresh off the tree sour oranges for zesting. They are kinda gnarly looking things, but they are extremely fragrant when zested. In fact when I strained the wort it smelled of strongly of oranges, and I have to admit that it was actually kind of nice.

Witbier Part Deux
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
3.0Flaked Wheat
0.85 (~14oz)Flaked Oats
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.85Willamette (4.5%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.6qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBelgian Witbier WY3944 - 500mL starter
80% effIBU13
7gal BoilFG
Notes: 0.75oz of coriander was added at KO; 110g of fresh sour (seville) orange zest was added with 1min left in the boil, and allowed to steep for ~5min before chilling

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rhubarb Berliner Weiss - Review

Appearance - Very pale golden, similar in color to watered down apple juice, a bit of sediment in the bottle that was a bit fluffy so I had to be careful when pouring, Next to no head formation, although due to the high amount of carbonation there is a small but persistent amount of bubbles that ring the glass,

Aroma - It has a fairly strong wheaty smell, which something I actually kind of dislike in it (Ive recently developed a dislike of wheat malt) Luckily it is quickly covered up by a strong lactic sourness

Taste - Surprisingly sour, before I added the rhubarb there was no pucker to the beer at all, I guess the rhubarb really fed the lacto more than the sacch, which is always a good thing in a sour beer, it still has a strong wheaty flavor, something that Ive come to expect to dissipate with age. Very light on the malt flavor, mostly a strong sourness, definitely goes well with a bit of a strongly flavored fruit sans sugar

Mouthfeel - a very light body, but with the high carbonation it feels much fuller, similar to the way a soda although not as heavy, its very prickly on the tongue

Drinkability - probably one of my better berliners yet, very sour and light, I do like it with a bit of fruit "syrup" I make, although I don't use any sugar in it, so its more of thickened fruit juice, the acidity of the beer really makes the fruit flavors pop out at you, with how low the alc is when you add the fruit its almost like an Italian soda. I am a bit disappointed the rhubarb didn't show through at all, although I guess some of the acidity could be actually from the rhubarb rather than the lacto, although the beer became extremely turbid after adding it so I wanna believe it was the bacteria. I know Ill definitely do another B Weiss, but I may hold back on the rhubarb because it was kind of a mess to rack off off, although it may be useful to add to a B weiss that's not sour enough.....

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sour Beer Haul

So its been quite a while since my last post. I have been brewing, but Ive been horribly busy at work for the last couple weeks and I haven't had much time to post. Luckily that's coming to an end and I should have a bit more free time to cross some thing off of my to do list. I hope to have a recipe or two up by the end of the weekend, but in the meantime I thought Id share a pic of my sour beer order that I'm pretty excited to break into.

I have for a long time been very interested in using muscat grapes in a lambic. I really love the flavors of the grapes and I think they could work very well with the sour and funk of a lambic, I hadn't really every come across anyone using them in a beer, but I guess I wasn't really looking either. Turns out one of my favorite lambic brewers Cantillon produces two beers using grapes each year. They are just very limited in production. One, St Lamvinus, uses red wine grapes, and the other, the one I cant wait to try, Vigneronne, which just happens to be made with muscat grapes! I ended up getting a bottle of each (I am growing Merlot grapes) so I could see how either type of grape melds with a great lambic.

I also ordered a couple other bottles of lambic from Cantillon, including Grand Cru Bruocsella, which is an unblended lambic, so no real carbonation in this one. I cant say Ive ever tried an unblended lambic other than my own, so this should be interesting as well. I was looking at my "cellar" after this purchase and I was quite happy to realize that I have 2 of everything produced by Cantillon, except Fou'Foune which Ive never come across even on the Internet. Some I'm hesitant to drink until I can either brew up another lambic or get a hold of another bottle - Don't wanna ever be out!!

Along the way, I picked up a couple bottles of Rodenbach Vintage 2007. Which is an unblended red, from a single foudre. I was misguidedly hoping that it was unpasteurized like their last special release vin de cereale. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed and its devoid of any bugs. Another beer I found interesting was Abbaye de St Bon-Chien Grand Cru aged in Trouseau Oak Barrels, quite a mouthful there. I have to admit I have never heard of Brasserie de Franches-Montagnes before. I'm not 100% what style the beer is, as BeerAdvocate lists it as a biere de garde while rate beer says its a sour ale, close I guess, but while Ive had many funky biere de gardes, I cant say that any of them have been particularly sour. At any rate its rated pretty highly, and its bottle conditioned which is always a plus. And it doesn't hurt that its a one time brew, I usually like trying them out, I guess I'm particularly susceptible to that type of marketing.

The last thing I picked up was a traditional Basque cider. The style tends to be a bit funky, which is sold as a cellar quality, and they are bottled still. I'm hoping that there will be a bit of the yeast/brett left in the bottle when we open it up to culture as well. I couldn't find much about this particular cider, but if its good, and there is yeast, this is how my next cider batch will be fermented.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention where I bought all the beer. I came across two great sites for imported beers. Both had great customer service and extremely fast shipping, The first was The Wine and Cheese Place, and the other was Anconas Wine. The wine and cheese place has a huge selection, and a bit better sour selection than Anconas, but Anconas had a couple that the wine and cheese store didn't, in particular the Rodenbach. I would highly recommend either.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bitter Brown Ale

I was sitting there the other day thinking about what style I should brew next and I really couldn't decide. I wanted something that had a nice bitter edge, that at the same time would be balanced nicely by the malt, BUT I really didn't want a bitter.

Now I am not normally a big fan of brown ales, there's something about small amounts of chocolate malt that doesn't sit right with my palate. For some reason though I wanted something that was nice and brown (too many light beers in kegs right now). So I thought I would use a malt that a lot of people have enthusiastically recommended, pale chocolate. Ive used it in a recipe before, but there was far too much other roasted grains for me to be able to pick out any contribution from the pale chocolate, I'm hoping this time around I can really learn what this malt has to offer.

In hoping to learn about the pale chocolate, I decided to use a relatively simple base of Marris Otter, supplemented with a healthy portion of special roast. I really love the great toffee flavors that special roast brings to any beer. I'm hoping that it will blend really well with what I'm told are very smooth toasty and chocolaty flavors that the pale chocolate malt brings to the table.

As to the hopping, Ive kegged and tasted the Oat Malt SMaSH beer (review coming soon), but I'm having a hard time picking out the contribution of the Mt Rainier hops. I don't know if that's a function of how strong the oat presence is, or if the hop is very subtle to begin with (I'm leaning towards the latter). So, I decided to hop exclusively with Mt Rainier yet again. I'm really hoping that I can tease out the flavors/aromas of the Mt Rainier in this beer. I went with a pretty large late addition to hopefully really bring out the aroma in the beer. Which if the hops are anything like they are advertised, there will be a nice licorice flavor with a hint of spice that I think will really complement the toffee and chocolate of the malts.

Bitter Brown
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
8.0Marris Otter
0.75Special Roast
0.5Pale Chocolate
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0Mt Rainier (6.8%)60
2.0Mt Rainier (6.8%)10
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastLondon ESB 1968 (500mL Starter)
89% effIBU36
7gal BoilFG
Notes: I fermented this one on the warm side (~72F) to really accentuate the English esters

Friday, April 2, 2010

Belgian Table Beer (Homebrew)

I brewed this one up about 2 weeks ago now, and somehow I'm just getting around to writing it up. I guess the great spring weather around here has made me too lazy, all I do is lay around soaking up the sun.

Since it was awhile ago that I brewed this I forgot some of the small nuances of why I brewed it like I did, but I have a fairly good idea what and why I did it. A recent pattern to my brewing is lower gravity refreshing beers that will quench your thirst on a hot summer day, and this beer is no exception. A problem I have with a lot of commercial Belgian beers is that they tend to be a bit higher alcohol, and I don't really wanna headache on a hot day. This is kind of an unfortunate trend with homebrewed Belgians as well. This was something I really wanted to avoid at all costs.

A lot of lower OG beers tend to be a bit lighter on the flavor as well as the alcohol, by using a Belgian yeast Im hoping to make something that not only is packed with flavor but will really accentuate all the BBQ food Ill be eating in the next couple months. When dreaming up the recipe I really liked the idea of a light bodied, but very earthy bready beer with a nice amount of Belgian phenolics and esters mid-palate. I didn't however, want it to be anything like a witbier, I wanted something with its own identity. To be honest I had never had anything that I would consider a Belgian Table Beer before today (2wk after brewing) and what I'm drinking as I type is a decent beer but a bit different that I hope to make. (BTW I'm drinking Avril from Dupont) I don't think the beer is bready enough, and it reminds me far too much of a Saison Dupont on a diet, which isn't a bad thing, just not what I want in my beer.

I decided to keep the malt bill simple (as usual) but wanted to add a bit of unmalted wheat to lighten the graininess of a pils base. I wasn't sure what yeast to use, so I went with a strain that I hadn't yet used (Ardennes) it wasn't until a bit of convincing though from some BA'ers that this would be a strain that would work well in the beer. Lastly I threw a lot of late additions of Fuggles and plan to dry hop with them as well to really drive home the earthy flavors.

Belgian Table Beer 
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
1.5Flaked Wheat
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.85Mt Rainier (6.8%)60
1.0Fuggles (4.7%)10
1.0Fuggles (4.7%)KO<170F
- --
Mash Schedule
170F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastArdennes WY3522
85% effIBU26
7gal BoilFG-

Review - 6/19/10

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