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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