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

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