Saturday, December 24, 2011

Arizona Homestead Apple Cider

Ive really been diving into cider recently, and in my hunt for interesting flavors and apples I was able to source some very interesting local Arizona apples. Even though I'm very close to downtown, the part of Phoenix I live in is actually fairly rural, and horse ranches, cotton fields, and the mountains surround me on all sides. It wasn't until recently though that I realized what a boon that could be for me.

I have been endlessly hunting apple varieties to use in the cider experiment. Essentially what I am trying to do is get a handle on the flavors of many different types of fermented apple juices. I figure that when you understand each component it makes blending much easier. Strangely I really haven't been able to find anything in the way of detailed descriptions of flavors and aromas of different apple varieties once they are fermented.

Anyway, in my hunt for apples I came across a horse ranch less than 4blocks from my house that was selling local apples. These weren't just any apples though. They were from an old homestead in the mountains in eastern Arizona dating back to the late 1800's!  Talking with the owners, they believed the apples were golden delicious, and I must say that they do bear a strong resemblance to that type of apple. However the dates just didn't match up. Golden delicious apples didn't become a commercially developed variety until around 1915-1920. Grimes golden on the other hand was very prominent in the late 1800's and into the early 1920's. The strong resemblance for these apples to Golden Delicious is no coincidence either, as Grimes golden is a parent of golden delicious.

The final nail in the coffin that really makes me think that these are Grimes is the flavor. These apples are richer and have a hint of spiciness that Ive never tasted in Golden Delicious.

A couple more great things about these apples are that they are completely organic and no fertilizers were used on them. When apples are grown without any type of fertilizers the resulting juice is very low in nitrogen. The low nitrogen in the juice leads to a very long, very slow fermentation which helps to preserve apple flavors. This can also lead to a cider that ends up slightly sweet. If your careful about your process you can also bottle the cider in a way perfected by the French to produce a naturally sweet, carbonated cider. Some of my favorite examples of cider come from Normandy and use low N apples or a process called keeving that achieve the same results.

Now I'm not going to go that route, and I wont probably rack very often either (soon I will attempt that though) For now I'll be happy with just the normally fermented juice.

Arizona Homestead Cider
Amt (lbs)Type
52Grimes Golden? Apples (Haldi Farms)
5/8tspSodium Metabisulfate
YeastWLP775 English Cider (2L starter)
Notes: Yeast was added ~24hrs after sulfiting, fermentation took off rather slowly and has continued very slowly, a small nutrient addition ~1/2tsp was added 2days into fermentation.  Its been happily bubbling away at about 60F

Review - 2/3/2013 - Comparison with Gravenstein and Granny Smith Varietals

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kottbusser - Review

Appearance - A very hazy golden yellow, with a dense slightly off-white head (at first) that dissipates to nice lacing in the glass.

Aroma - Cloves! hints of banana, and a floral honey quality, not too much treacle in the nose unless your really really looking for it. Hops are very restrained as they should be

Taste - Just like a hefeweizen, with hints of oats and treacle, and a nice sweet honey-like finish. The cloves are definitely dominating in this beer, and I really like it that way. The treacle and honey provide additional layers of complexity to the beer and really round out the flavors. Its really great with a twist of lemon or orange in the glass, as the acidity really makes all of the flavors pop

Mouthfeel - This one has some legs on it. It is very milk-shake like due to the grain bill essentially being that of a witbier. Medium carbonation

Notes/Thoughts - This time I think I made something much better than my first attempt at a kotbusser. The change in yeast strain and different fermentation temps (cooler) really helped to blend the malt and phenolics better. I ended up adding the treacle and honey just before I kegged, and at first they seemed to clash with the beer. A few weeks in the keg and everything melded quite a bit.

Its not everyday you taste a hefeweizen with a substantial milk shake like body, but it really fits the cooler days in the fall/winter. Basically this is a heartier version of what you like to have during the hot summer months.

Brewday - Recipe & Notes - 11/5/2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brown Porter Brewed with Korean Roasted Barley Tea

I should start with the fact that this beer ended up entirely different than I had originally intended. I was planning to squeeze in a nice brown porter over the weekend and really wanted to make something along the lines of the Toasty English Pale I brewed up a month or so ago. I really liked the subtle roasty notes that the coffee malt lent to the beer and thought that a slightly darker and maltier base would work well in a porter. However when I finally got around to digging through all of my specialty grains I realized that I didn't have any coffee malt or special roast, so I was a bit limited with what I could do.

Luckily though, earlier in the summer during one of my trips to a large ethnic grocery store here in town, I picked up something I had planned on using in a beer. A common summer and winter drink in Korea and other parts of Asia is roasted barley tea, or Boricha. To me Boricha is a very nice, nutty coffee alternative for cold days during the winter, or chilled during the summer. Essentially it's roasted barley, but it's not quite as dark as you would typically think. Boricha is probably somewhere around, and I'm purely guessing here, 165L. This is from eye-balling it and thinking about the recent coffee malt I used, which is roughly the same lovibond.

My options were now, use the Boricha in a porter-ish beer or just not brew. I think we all know the route I took. I had really wanted to try using this in a beer anyway, and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity. To balance out the flavor I added a bit of crystal malt, which I generally shy away from. I was worried though that the boricha might need a bit of sweetness to round out its nutty and coffee like flavors when it is in beer form. Finally to make sure that I had a beer that would actually be dark enough to be considered a porter I tossed in a tiny bit of Carafa III to get it dark enough.

Boricha Brown Porter #2
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
8.0Marris Otter (Muntons)
0.75Boricha Roasted Barley Tea
0.75Crystal 10L
3.0 ozCarafa III
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.00Sterling (7.9%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastThames Valley WY1275
81% effIBU26
6.5gal BoilFG

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Toasty English Pale - Review

Appearance - Opaque light brown, very cloudy even after some time in the kegerator, 2 finger head that leaves very sticky lacing down the glass

Aroma - Like you would expect from any EPA, bready, slightly sweetish malty nose with a bit of caramel. Subtle earthy hoppiness rounds out the nose

Taste - Very balanced between the malt and hops with a lingering bitter finish. The beer has the great flavors you expect from a hefty portion of Marris otter, but the normal sweet malty taste is cut by a nice roasty flavor (the coffee malt). It doesn't taste at all like coffee malt though, it reminds me a lot of special roast, with out the tangy sour bread flavor. The roast flavor blends perfectly with the sweet bready flavors and balances them very well.

Mouthfeel - Silky and smooth, with medium-low carbonation

Drinkability - A very good EPA, and fairly distinctive from the hint of roast. The roasted edge cuts the sweetness every so slightly and makes it very easy to drink a lot of these.

Notes/Thoughts - I was unsure of what I'd get from the coffee malt in this beer when I put together the malt bill. Now that I've tried it I am very happy with the results. In many of my EPA's I like to use Special roast for its hint of roast, and the tangy sourbread flavors, coffee malt IMO is a slightly stronger special roast without the sourbread taste. I think its going to get a lot of use in the future....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Granny Smith and Fuji Hard Cider

I put together my DIY apple press a couple weeks ago now, and I just this past weekend finally got around to putting it to a good use. Ive been on the lookout for all types of apples lately for pressing into cider, and I managed to get my hands on a bushel of both Granny Smith and Fuji Apples. (I will be posting a small blurb with some pics of my DIY apple grinder soon as well)

I was mainly interested in the Granny Smiths for their tartness, and I picked up the Fuji's on a whim. From the tidbits Ive picked up searching the web Fuji's don't hold up well to fermentation. However no one seems to give specific details about how varietal juices taste, they just repeat over and over again that blending is the key. Well to me without knowing what the individual juices taste like when they are fermented on their own its seems strange to mix a bunch of apple varieties together an hope.

Now I'm not saying that I think blending is bad, far from it actually. I always advocate blending, I think that's one of the most under utilized techniques in a brewers arsenal. In this case though I think that understanding the finished flavors of each variety could lend some much needed insight into getting a blend right to start with.

That is why I am pressing and fermenting each of these juices without blending. I then plan on posting tasting notes for each of the finished varietal hard ciders, and a suggested blend. To make sure that the flavors of each variety aren't significantly different once carbonated I also plan on bottling a case or so of each varietal juice for tasting down the road. I will as they come available to me, also press other juices and ferment the same way. Eventually I would like to build finished hard cider profiles for as many apple varieties as I can, so that I can easily tweak a blend to begin with.

Why even attempt this? Why not just always ferment varietal juices and blend post-fermentation? Im not totally against this method, especially as apples will vary from year to year, and yeast tend to not always produce the same flavors, both of which would make blending after the fact easier to produce a perfect product every time. However, I am tying up quite a few carboys in the process, and will most likely have some varieties that I use very little of. Now if that variety is great bottled on its own, then that is wonderful, but I'm guessing that will be the exception rather than the rule.

Blending pre-fermentation allows me to conserve carboys, and adjust how much of each variety I have to purchase. Saving me space and keeping $$ in my pocket. Eventually I hope to be able to taste un-fermented juice and be able to envision what it will be like as hard cider, and I'm guessing there are people who can do this, but for now and for all the other cider newbies like myself out there I think this will be a good way to understand how to make a quality homebrewed cider from scratch

For yeast I chose to go with White Labs 775 English Cider yeast, after having tasted an aged mead made with the yeast. The description also mentions that it preserves apple flavors in finished ciders! I also spent some time searching the web, and found little on the yeast except one post on the greenboard. Most of the references to cider yeast seemed to be talking about Wyeast's version, which is thoroughly disliked. That greenboard post though made me feel good about the yeast choice, as there were two tastings with a variety of yeasts. In the first round relatively quick after fermentation 775 scored pretty low, however, with a year aging it blew all the others out of the water.

Apple Cider 2011
Granny Smith CiderFuji Cider
42lbsGranny Smith Apples40lbsFuji Apples
3/8tspSodium Metabisulfate5/16tspSodium Metabisulfate
Yeast - WLP775 English CiderYeast - WLP775 English Cider
Notes: Yeast was added 24hrs after sulfiting, however fermentation did not take off very quickly (likely too much sulfites in solution from low pH) so I added more yeast about 48hrs after initial yeast pitch. Fermentation then proceeded moderately quicklyNotes: Yeast was added 24hrs after sulfiting, and fermentation has proceeded fairly slowly, which I hope helps to retain a lot of apple flavor. No nutrients were added to either juice.

From the top left clockwise.
1 - Granny Smith apples prepped for grinding (halved, stems and bad spots removed.)
2 - Fuji's Prepped and sitting on the grinder, a dowel was used to push them down in.
3 - An apple "cheese" being made using a cut down 5gal pail and some cotton cloth.
4 - Apple pomace left after pressing, nice and dry. Great for dog treats or in the compost pile

Review - 2/3/2013 - Comparison with Gravenstein and Haldi Varietals

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Black Currant Melomel - Recipe & Tasting

Appearance - Dark Burgundy some ruby highlights when held to the light, extremely clear but should be after 3yrs in the bottle

Aroma - Dark Fruit, hints of leather, currant and blackberry, with a honey-like sweetness lingers

Taste - Tart, bursting with the flavor of black currants, slight bit of alcohol like you get in most red wines, and a very dry tannic finish that lingers on the tongue. Slight warming feeling as you drink more

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and velvety

Drinkability - Nice dry red wine that pairs well with a rich meal, and I typically don't like dry red wines.

Notes & Thoughts - I actually like this now that it has aged quite a bit. Early on it reminded me of acidic tomato juice, and I was always on the lookout for ways to use it up (cooking/vinegar/etc). I'm glad that a couple bottles survived and I got another chance at tasting this. I think this is something I might do again in small batches, so that I can forget about it and occasionally pull out a bottle. I really think that a smaller amount of juice in the batch could make this one age a bit faster and soften the acidity which would improve the taste. So If I were to brew it I would halve the amount of currant juice.

Ombres Tombent Melomel

Amt (lbs)Type
6.0Wild Flower Honey
32 oz*Black Currant Juice (Knudsens)
YeastLalvin K1V116
~13% abvFG1013
Notes: * - I would suggest using half this amount of juice, as I feel that the currant is a bit too strong in the batch as it was made

Friday, November 11, 2011

DIY Apple Cider Press

Ive recently been becoming more and more interested in cider making. In most of my past experiences Ive used store bought juice like TreeTop or Cider from WholeFoods or Trader Joes. While the ciders come out OK they have always sort of lacked the punch I hope for.

I have always wanted to use fresh pressed juice, but there really aren't any orchards nearby me that press juice. Contrary to what you might think though, there actually are quite a few apple orchards in Arizona, and a few located within metro-Phoenix area. I actually have a fairly heavy bearing apple tree in my backyard, I just have always seemed to be out of town when harvest time comes around. And when I get back the birds have decimated my crop.

All of this aside, I recently picked up quite a few apples from orchards in and around Arizona, and I needed a way to press them. Ive always been a do it yourself kinda guy, many times the build is more fun for me than using it....

Googling around there are some good ideas out there for easy to build apple presses. So by no means is this an original design, but I thought Id do a post anyway to show just how easy it is to put on together.

For my press I decide to go the hydraulic jack route for both ease of construction and efficiency. The whole press is pretty simple to put together and required less than an hour of my time once I gathered all the materials. In the end I think it totaled somewhere in the range of $70-80 for everything so quite a bit cheaper than many commercial presses out there.

DIY Apple Cider Press
  • 4"x8" x 6ft
  • 2"x4 "x 20ft
  • 2"x6 x" 6ft
  • 1/2" x 12" x2 Hex Head Bolts + nuts
  • 1/2" x 8" x2 Hex Head Bolts + nuts
  • 1/2" x8 fender washers
  • Bottle Jack 2tons+
  • HDPE catch basin
  • Followers (I used scrap plexi-glass)
  • Scrap Steel plate
  • Plastic Tray for Catching Juice - I used a grout mixing tray
The dimensions on my press were worked out after I determined how far my jack could extend (~13"), and taking into account the wood followers and how thick I might make the apple cheese's. So if you decide to build on of these you have to take that into account as well.

Essentially What I did was cut all of the wood to length using my table top miter and when that was finished I laid all the pieces on top of each other and clamped them together. I was then able to stand all this up and check if it was level, and finally drill holes through the supports that would take the 1/2" hex head bolts. I found it much easier to start by tapping a screwdriver into the wood where I wanted to drill, and using a 1/2" paddle bit to drill through the wood. After I drilled the holes I fed through the bolts and tightened the whole thing down. I placed a couple steel plates on the pieces of wood that would be in contact with the hydraulic jack. I did this so the jack wouldn't tear up the wood much. Eventually I also found a thick piece of aluminum in my garage that I used for this same purpose as well.

The overall dimensions of my press are 36" side to side. It is 42" tall and the press opening is 30".

To make the apple "cheese's" I cut a 5gal pail so that it had about 4-5" of the sidewall left. I then place a square pieced of cotton cloth (40x40") into the bucket, dump the ground apple in and tied the top together.

For the followers (what goes between "cheese's" instead of going with hardwood, I instead used some scrap plexi-glass I had lying around. It was 3/4" thick so it held up well and has worked like a charm in the press. It was also much much cheaper than buying several pieces of solid white oak! I also used this for the top of the press where they hydraulic jack sits, however I added some wood on top of it to spread the force a bit. A picture can describe what I did much better than I ever could and I attached one below.
Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kottbusser - German/Polish White Beer with Treacle and Honey

With the holidays coming up soon I decided that I need to get brewing something that would mesh well with all the food I'm planning on absolutely stuffing myself with. A couple years ago, I brewed up a batch of a historical beer style called Kotbusser. At the time I had been reading Radical Brewing, and Mosher's description of the style really got me interested. I googled around at that time and there really wasnt any other references to it. Even now, there still isn't much out there about the style either. It really makes me wonder a bit where he dug up the info on it to begin with..

At any rate Kotbusser is a German/Polish white beer that relies heavily on wheat and oats, with a small addition of both molasses and honey. To me that combination sounds wonderful! A Witbier-esque grain bill with a hefe yeast, and a pinch of molasses and honey for flavor. To me at least that combo of flavors and aromas instantly makes the think of Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie!

During my first attempt with the style, for the most part I went with Mosher's recipe (with a few grain bill tweaks). After everything was said and done, the beer was interesting but the flavors didn't mesh well at all. Looking back at the recipe, I think the biggest issue was the suggested hopping schedule. There were quite a bit of flavor and aroma hops, and I think that the IBU's were a bit too high. For my tastes, the combination of too many IBU's, the molasses twang and yeasty phenolics was quite harsh on the palate. Eventually the keg I kicked the keg, but it stuck around for quite some time, and made me very hesitant to rebrew the style.

I have become a much better brewer since the last time I made this beer and I'm at a point where I think I could go back and fairly easily fix the problems that I had the first time around. One of the biggest improvements to the beer I hope to make is giving it a sweeter base.Im betting that a hint of sweetness could really help blend and accentuate the molasses and clove from the yeast. Tying those flavors together would really help make the all of the other flavors in the beer a bit more harmonious. I also think that a moderately high mash temp will help to really thicken the beer and leave it velvety smooth, and will compliment the honey and molasses.

I also decided after some further experiences with molasses that I really don't ever want to use it in beer again. Once fermented out it has an extremely metallic taste that really ruins a beer for me. However tasting and playing around with treacle has me much more optimistic about getting that molassesy flavor in a beer. Some have argued with me that Treacle is simply molasses with cane syrup, and for some brands that could be the case. However, I don't think I will ever be persuaded, as the flavor difference between the two once fermented is immense. I have even gone as far as mixing cane syrup into molasses in an attempt to recreate the flavors of black treacle and it doesn't come close. There are tons of discussions about the difference on discussion boards across all types of hobbies, and even wikipedia articles on both treacle and molasses.

There is a lot of dissension about this topic, and while I will admit the flavor of the two are similar, especially when not fermented, there are distinctly different in a finished beer. Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it, but fermented molasses has a strongly metallic edge and black treacle does not. Ive never used or tasted the Ragus Treacles linked above, but I'm guessing that its not quite the same as Tate & Lyles. In the end though I will never be convinced that they are the same, and I probably wont ever use molasses or the Ragus treacle in a beer, to me its just not worth ruing a batch.

Kotbusser the Guzzler (Name for some reason made me think of the Ghost Busters)
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
2.75White Wheat
1.0Flaked Oats
0.25Honey Malt
7.5 ozMesquite Honey (after primary Ferm)
2.0 ozBlack Treacle (after primary Ferm)
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.75Fuggles (6.0%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.75qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastHefeweizen IV WLP380 (1L Starter)
6.0galOG1043 - 1047(sugar additions)
85% effIBU14
7gal BoilFG---

Review - 12/20/2011 - Notes & Thoughts
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fermented Smoked Jalapeños

Its been chili time around the desert SW for the past month or so and we have been inundated with Hatch Chiles, jalapenos and all kinds of other peppers that are being harvested. In my own garden I'm picking the third or fourth harvest of jalapenos, serranos, and Cayenne peppers. Normally I just dry them and save for grinding into fresh chili powder throughout the year, but I was feeling a bit inspired when prepping them this year.

Ive long been really interested in smoked meats, but I'm usually so busy with my other three hundred hobbies that Ive never really given it a try. I do a lot of grilling, but nothing low and slow. Well I recently came into a lot of pecan and hickory wood and really needed to find a good use for it. Honesty after thinking about it I couldn't find a better one than smoking a pork shoulder! I grabbed a few tips from one of my favorite BBQ blogs, and stole the great idea of a using a sour beer for the mop!

Well how does all that tie into fermented peppers?

So all day long I'm picking and prepping chilies, and the amazing aroma hickory smoke and slow cooking pork was making me salivate. Then an idea occurred to me, why not smoke my chilies? and ferment them? The thought of tangy smokey jalapeno slices on top of tacos, nachos and everything else sounded far too good to pass up. So I grabbed about 4lbs of jalapenos (2lb whole, 2 sliced)and tossed them in the barbecue along with another couple pieces of hickory. I'm betting that the jalapenos will add some of their flavor to the shoulder as it smokes as well.

Now these wont quite be chipotle peppers, as those are typically cold smoked or over very low heat (140-160F) and I'm smoking them around 250F. Chipotles are also typically mature jalapenos (red) and are smoked for 12+ hours to dry them out, which I wont even try coming close to. I want some moisture left in the peppers so that they hopefully hold their shape, if not I will blend them and make a sauce.

After smoking for about 1hr, I pulled the peppers out and let them cool on a tray. I then added them to a jar and topped up with a weak brine solution. I didn't expect really any natural bacteria to be left on the peppers after smoking at 250F, so I added the lees of some fermented pickles I had on hand. The peppers will ferment for about a week or so before I lid them up and toss in the fridge.

Pickled and Smoked Jalapeños
  • 4lbs Green Jalapenos - chopped
  • 2.5% Salt brine - ~25grams of salt per quart of water
  1. Chop jalapenos
  2. Smoke over a hickory fire for ~1hr
  3. Allow to cool to room temp
  4. Add to quart sized jars and top up with brine
  5. Add lees from another fermented vegetable
  6. Place a heavy weight on the jalapenos so that none are within 1" of the top
  7. Cover with a zip lock baggie to protect from fruit flies etc
  8. Ferment at room temp (<80F) for 1 to 2 weeks
  9. Refrigerate and Enjoy
Saturday, October 22, 2011

English IPA with Tapioca Starch

I don't brew many super hoppy beers like most homebrewers do, but from time to time I really crave a nice fresh homebrewed IPA. This time around I decided, somewhat last minute, to brew up an English IPA. Since the batch was sort of spur of the moment and I was feeling a bit lazy, I didn't want to run to the homebrew store. So this batch was limited to what I had on-hand.

I just recently grabbed another sack of Marris Otter, and Ive been using MO quite extensively as of late. This time around though I thought it would be nicer to have something that was a bit lighter bodied than your typical MO or MO + crystal beer. Ive just tapped the keg of the Toasty English Pale I brewed up a month or so ago, which was MO + crystal, so I was especially motivated to try and change up the malt profile a bit. I wanted something a bit lighter bodied and a bit less malt punch, something that would be tipped toward the hops and and easy drinker.

As I said I was feeling extremely lazy so I scrounged around my kitchen for miscellaneous ingredients to thin the beer a bit. I did have some flaked corn laying around, but I'm saving that for another attempt at a Kentucky Common, so that was out. What I did have though, was a full bag of Tapioca Starch that had been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find it a good use. (I buy lots of random ingredients from Ethnic stores, and they tend to sit around waiting for me to be inspired). Immediately I knew I wanted to use this in the beer.

I jumped on my computer and googled up tapioca starch in homebrew. Somehow it only came up with single hit. It was a thread on HBtalk and frankly it really didn't have any information on using tapioca starch. The entire thread most people were trying to talk the OP out of using it in a beer! I never was able to find out if the guy actually tried it or not, but going blind has never been something to stop me.

I'm really not sure why everyone was so hesitant to use the tapioca starch, but many times things or ideas that are new or unheard of make people nervous. Well, Ive never been skittish to try something new, so in the mash it went! I did google around a bit to find the gelatinization temp of tapioca starch, and luckily it is in the normal range of mash temps 65-70C aka 149-158F, so no crazy step mashes or pre-gelatinization needed. I don't think I could have lucked out any better!

I'm expecting the starch to be completely converted to fermentable sugars and provide next to no flavor, but only time will tell. It could very well be extremely potent flavor-wise and dominate the beer, which could be pretty interesting in its own right.

I'm wasn't really sure what to make of it for potential gravity, but I assumed it was roughly the same as sugar at 46pts/lb. The tricky thing was entering it into Beersmith. I'm pretty sure that conversion of the starch is 100% so its essentially like adding sugar. So, if its entirely converted to glucose mash efficiency should really affect the extractable sugars, which means you really cant enter it as a malt. Unfortunately entering it as a sugar in Beersmith omits it from mash calculations. So I estimated the gravity by entering it as sugar and entered it as a malt for mash calcs.

Now your saying why not just add some sugar to the kettle to accomplish the same thing? Well Ive really never liked adding sugar to beers, except in the case of a very flavorful sugar, and using Tapioca starch is something that it seems no one has really tried. Tapioca starch is also extremely cheap, I bought the roughly 1# bag for 40¢ which is a quite a bit cheaper than sugar around me. For these reasons it seemed a great choice for adding fermentables to a beer when its only purpose was lightening the flavor and body.

When adding the starch to the mash I mixed it in thoroughly to the grain before adding water. I think you could probably also make a thin slurry of starch and water as well to add to the mash. Mixing everything together gave me a few more dough-balls than normal and was a bit thicker but it wasn't much of a problem. Within 15min the mash had thinned considerably and looked more like normal. Within 30minutes it was negative for starch, buy I still waited 60min (laziness). Tasting the runoff it was extremely sweet, much more so than usual.

Tapioca English IPA

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
8.5Marris Otter (Muntons)
0.5Tapioca Starch
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.25Simcoe (12.7%)60
1.00Amarillo (9.3%)15
2.00Simcoe (12.7%)10
1.00Amarillo (9.3%)<170F
1.75Simcoe (12.7%)<170F
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastThames Valley WY1275 (Slurry)
85% effIBU51
6.5gal BoilFG

Review - 1/7/12 - Notes & Thoughts
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fat Washing - Using Fatty or Oily Foods in Homebrew

So, I've been meaning on writing up a post about fat washing for sometime now, but I just haven't had a batch of beer recently that needed to use the technique. While I was traveling last week for work though I had a bit of a brainstorming session on beers I hope to brew up in the next few months and one I really wanted to use sweet almonds in.

Ive never been one to use extracts, however I do from time to time like to make something myself that can be used in a beer. I feel that there is quite a bit of a difference in making it yourself versus buying something off the shelf. Too many of the extracts that Ive bought in the past have a very artificial taste to me, and adding that to a carefully crafted homebrew never really sat well with me. So using store bought bitter almond extract in this beer just didn't seem right.

Fat washing is a technique that allows you to extract the strong flavors and aromas from any type of fat that you wish. If you frequent any homebrew boards you'll most likely come across at least a few posts that want to be able to use nuts, oils, or even bacon in a brew! Very rarely though does someone suggest trying to fat wash the ingredient, and instead it is ground up and tossed in the mash or in the secondary. The problem is that with this approach you almost always have a very thin layer of oil to deal with post-fermentation, and as well all should know oil kills head retention and can make a beer go rancid fairly quickly.

Instead of dealing with the oil post-fermentation when it is a very thin layer and covers all your fermentation equipment, it is much easier to deal with before the ingredient is ever added to the beer/wine/mead. Fat washing is a very simple technique that can extract all of the flavor and none of the headaches from any of these flavorful oily ingredients.

To begin fat washing an ingredient it is necessary to have a strong neutral alcohol (I prefer Everclear), a mason jar - preferably one tall and narrow, and if the ingredient isn't an oil and is something like almonds or walnuts you should have a stack of coffee filters, and a way to grind the ingredient up as well.

Fat Washing
  1. Your first step to extracting all the great flavors is to prepare the ingredient that you wish to use. So if you want to use bacon you should fry it up and drain the fat off to use, if your using nuts, roast them if you wish and grind them up. Oils are the most simple and require no additional processing.

  2. Take the oil (bacon fat, butter, sesame oil, etc) or nuts/etc and place them in the mason jar.

  3. Cover the oil, nuts, or whatever your using up with the everclear or vodka. I prefer everclear in that it is cleaner tasting than a cheap vodka , I will then dilute it with distilled water to make an extract with roughly the same alcohol content as vodka. Its best to use no less more than a 50:50 mix of alcohol to ingredient. So if your using something like bacon fat the more fat that is used versus the alcohol the stronger the flavor can be.

  4. Wait......How long is up to you. In general things like sesame oil or butter require much less time than nuts or other larger ingredients. Ive done butter and sesame oil in about 1-2days but nuts can take a few weeks. You should swirl the jar whenever you can to keep the ingredients mixed up, or better yet toss it on your stir plate!

  5. After you feel enough time has past, strain out any large ingredients like nuts and allow the ingredients to settle. Slowly a layer of oil will separate itself from the alcohol and float on top.

  6. Once you have a layer of oil on top place the jar into the freezer with a straw placed into the jar. This should freeze the oil layer and allow you to extract the alcohol underneath. Pull the straw out and a hole will remain in the oil, you can now pour the alcohol out through the hole. This process may need to be repeated 2-3times before there is no fat layer left. This step becomes much much easier with a tall narrow jar, as it helps to concentrate the fat into a thicker layer allowing for easier separation.

  7. I like to give one pass through a coffee filter for any extract before I use it. In my experience it has the tendency to catch any last little amounts of oil left in the extract and removes any small bits as well

  8. Use your Extract!

Ive used this on many different types of ingredients. I have included a list below that I will update as I try more ingredients. One thing that I have noticed about using these extracts is that some like bacon fade considerably with time, while others like sesame oil or butter never loose their punch.
  • Sweet Almonds - TBD?
  • Grapefruit peel - Tends to be very sharp and the extract actually makes my tongue numb
  • Orange Peel - Sweeter and softer than grapefruit
  • Lemon Peel - floral like lemon flavor
  • Bacon Fat - Strong bacon flavor very little needed, but does fade with aging
  • Butter - Strong buttery flavor, never fades. I used this in the Hot Wing beer
  • Walnuts - Nutty flavor, great for adding to porters!
  • Sesame Oil - Intense sesame flavor that does not fade
  • Walnut Oil - Stronger than using just walnuts, but not quite as aromatic
  • Soon! - Cocoa Butter - Hopefully will give me a great dark chocolate flavor!

Almond Extract/Liqueur Recipe

4oz Raw, unsalted Almonds
1.5C Vodka or equivalent Everclear + Water

Now I'm actually doing two versions of this extract for additional flavor. One will use the raw almonds as is, the other I am home-roasting the almonds. To roast the almonds I am layering them on a baking sheet and roasting three times at 400F for about 12min. After each roasting I remove the almonds from the oven and place on paper towels to cool and remove some of the oil (something Ive picked up from DIY nut liquer recipes)

After Both sets of almonds were ready (2 x 4oz) I ground them to a fine powder using a coffee grinder.

The almonds are then placed into separate jars (I'm making 2 separate extracts) and covered with the vodka or everclear mix.

I am planning on leaving the nuts in the alcohol for about 3-4wks at which time I will filter and extract the alcohol from the oil layer. When it is finished I will post updated pictures of the final extract along with a small review of the taste of each. After I use these extracts in an upcoming brew, whatever remains will get a small addition of simple syrup to make these into (hopefully) a delicious aperitif.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sauerkraut Gose - First Batch Review

So I've finally gotten around to opening and reviewing my experimental Gose. Tasting this beer I don't think anyone would even come close to guessing it was fermented with a yeast/bacteria culture from sauerkraut!

Appearance - Hazy golden yellow, very clear pour for the first half of the bottle, all of the haziness came from the bottom half (left lees in bottle though). Next to no head formation though there is light amounts of lacing.

Aroma - Sour nose mostly lactic, though there is a small hint of acetic acid. Maybe slightly lemony, but overall not too strong/complex of an aroma.

Taste - Very wheaty, berliner weisse-esque. Nearly perfect amount of lactic sourness, salt is present and maybe slightly stronger than would be ideal, but it fits the overall taste well. Nice lemony finish.

Mouthfeel - Very slick and luxurious mouthfeel, I'm guessing this has to be bacteria/yeast derived as my berliners never have this mouthfeel and while salt may help Ive never experienced it doing so in this way. Carbonation is moderate and while at first I was worried about it, now I'm quite pleased with the CO2 level. In my b-weiss beers I always feel that the prickliness and Co2 bite take away from the light flavors.

Drinkability - Very high, salt level does knock it down a notch, but that's easy enough to fix in a future batch, and actually when I did the full batch trial I did just that, although maybe not as much as I should have?

Overall - I'm very pleased with this beer! Without a doubt this is going to MY GO TO METHOD for light sour beers like gosebier or b-weiss. The flavor is great, nicely tart and otherwise very clean, honestly its not something I expected and I'll get to see if it will be repeatable with the pickle dregs I used in the full batch.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dark Belgian Table Beer - Review

Appearance - Dark brown, slightly hazy with reddish highlights when held up to light. Off-white 1 finger head that lingers with only small amounts of lacing. Slightly lighter color than I had hoped for, but still good looking

Aroma - Mild spice and pear, maybe a hint of the chocolatiness of the D2. Not really any hop aroma

Taste - Its kind of a difficult beer to describe. The yeast character is definitely restrained, there is noticeable Belgian yeast character in the finish though. The D2 syrup really drives most of the flavor profile, there is a bit of chocolatiness that lingers throughout the flavor. It has a finish that is sort of Coca-Cola-like. The bitterness balances it fairly well, although I definitely think that a bit more residual sweetness would really help the flavor of the beer overall.

Mouthfeel - Medium to medium-light body, somehow I manged to over-carbonate the beer a bit (for my tastes at least) to about 2.8vol. I'm slowly lowering this but to compensate I have been swishing the beer quite a bit to lower it down to what I'm guessing is around 1.2-1.5vols. At this level it meshes a bit better with the flavor

Drinkability - I'd actually have to say that this is one of the easiest beers to drink that Ive ever made. I'm owing a majority of this to all the sugar in the beer lowering the FG and making it something that you can drink a lot of without getting filled up. Which was sort of a reason for doing it, and is the hallmark of many bigger Belgian Beers

Overall - Probably the least favorite of mine of the three versions of Belgian Table beers Ive brewed. I do think that it deserves another look though, as I mashed a bit lower than I think I should have and I believe a touch of residual sugar (maybe from a crystal malt?) would really round out the flavors. All in all its a great way to really understand the flavor impacts of D2 syrup.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Toasty English Pale - Fall Restocking

There isn't too much of a why or how I'm brewing up this beer, basically I need to replenish my stocks for the fall and winter. For the first time in a long time I almost, didn't have a keg ready for each of my taps! So I thought what is a quick turn around very drinkable beer? Well I'd be hard pressed to think of something that hits the spot better this time of year than a nicely balanced English Pale.

I took a couple slightly different approaches this yeas versus what Ive done in the past. I left out the dark crystal malts, well sort of, and changed up my yeast selection. I also decided to eliminate any late flavor hopping and go solely for bitterness and aroma, I may also dry hop in the keg. I also purposely kept the OG fairly low and mashed high. I did this to keep the alcohol down a bit so this can be a sessionable beer to enjoy as the weather cools.

In many of my EPA's I like to use C120, its hard to beat the nice way it meshes with earthy hops and English yeast. This year though I decided I wanted to make it a tad darker and use a new malt for me. Coffee Malt. It supposedly adds a nice coffee flavor, although from reading experiences from it, Id bet that its not so much coffee like and more toasty. I mean really how many people can pick out 1/4lb of a toasted malt in a stout? Tasting the wort after the brewday I'm thinking its really more of a toasted flavor. I did add special roast to this beer as well, I really like the bit of toffee and sourdough that it adds to any beer.

For whatever reason I also decided to switch up my yeast selection on this beer as well. I decided that I didn't really want the Fuller's character in this beer and was going back and forth between a couple yeasts before deciding on Thames Valley. I'm hoping to use this one a couple times in the near future so I hope I chose well.

Toasty English Pale

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
7.0Marris Otter
0.5Coffee Kiln Malt
0.5Special Roast
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0Fuggles (6.0%)60
1.0Fuggles (6.0%)5
1.0Fuggles (6.0%)KO <170F
Mash Schedule
170F1.9qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastThames Valley WY1275
86% effIBU22
7gal BoilFG

Review - 12/3/2011 - Notes & Thoughts

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Corn Kolsch - Review

Appearance - Pale Golden yellow, extremely clear (pic doesn't do it justice, I was shuffling around kegs and stirred up the lees before I pulled the pint) One to two finger head that dissipates to leave nice amounts of lacing.

Aroma - There are hints of corn in the nose, but strangely the hops dominate the aroma!?! Which is weird given I didn't add any late hops, only a bittering addition. Some mild fruity esters round out the aroma.

Taste - Nice sweetness from the corn along with that bready sweetnes that pilsner malt is great for. Slightly more bitter than I would like a Kolsch to be, and a bit less fruity than I would like. Unfortunately its more lager-like than Kolsch like.

Drinkablilty - Well, I had a couple people over the day I tapped the keg and I'm about to pull the last pint off it soon, so its pretty drinkable. Very smooth, corn sweetness up front with a lingering hoppy bite leaves you wanting more.

Overall - A good beer, not very Kolsch-like, but very much like a lager. I guess that bodes well for the lager version of the beer! Its strange to me how much the hops came through in the beer even with just a bittering addition.

Monday, September 12, 2011

D'Artagnan Perry - Oaked Version Review

Appearance - Dark Gold, superb clarity. No head formation

Aroma - Hints at its sweetness, an appley/pear aroma that really hits you in the face, with a wisp of oakiness in the finish

Taste - Moderately sweet, fairly strong apple/pear flavor. I could easily pass it off as either. A bit of acid in the finish along with subtle oak tannins cutting the sweetness. It seems to have a very low level cellar-like quality that makes me think there may be a brett presence in the cider.

Mouthfeel - Moderately full, even with next to no carbonation. This is from all those unfermentable sugars in pears and it really makes the mouthfeel quite silky.

Drinkability - Great first attempt at a perry. Both versions are quite different from one another (other one is very fizzy) Each definitely has a different time and place. This version is great with a nice dinner or as a sipper on its own

Overall - Somehow this perry could be considered the best apple cider Ive ever brewed! I really like the sweetness of the pears and how the subtle oak perfectly balances. The low carbonation fits the flavor profile very well, and I'm very interested in seeing how this one progress, provided there is really brett in there

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wandering, Translating, and Drinking.......

The posts have been few and far between this summer. Somehow I think it's gotten hotter here in the Desert this year, and it can be tricky to brew when your tap water is pushing 85F! Let alone wanting to deal with standing around a propane burner when its 115F. Luckily I was traveling a lot for work and pleasure this summer AND had managed to stock up on beer during the spring.

Unfortunately I'm running really low on homebrew (well at least on tap!) and I need to get out and brew. In all my wanderings this summer I had a chance to try a myriad of different brewpubs and interesting takes on different styles. All in all it was a good experience and all the different brewpubs I tried really help to get the creative juices flowing again. I cant recall all the names any longer but there were quite a few (Chicago, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Pinedale WY, Salt Lake City, Lihue HI, Flagstaff, Cheyenne, Daytona Beach, Waimea HI, Los Angeles, Layton) . What can I say I'm a sucker for a brewpub!

While I may not have done much brewing, or drinking of my own stuff (yet it all disappeared) I was somewhat busy with brewing related activities. Ive been working on a translation of a brewing text from the late 1700's. Admittedly its going a tad slow. But I'm hoping to step up the translation processes a bit in the next month or two. Its a dissertation on the method of brewing a type of sour beer style that seems to have died out or been absorbed into other styles, however it does have a few very interesting and unique properties. I will give a teaser below, eventually I will offer a full download of the translated text for anyone interested.

I'm hoping to brew up at least one new beer in the next week or so. I will be traveling a bit again in the near future so I'm guessing that lots of beer reviews will be popping up soon (Sauerkraut Gose, Corn Kölsch, Dark Table Beer, Smoke Sticke, Kriek, Unblended lambic)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hoppy Fragrant Wheat - Review

Appearance - Hazy golden color, with a 1 finger head that lingers. Only small amounts of lacing as you drink

Aroma - Woody, slightly sweetish malty aroma and maybe some sort of dark berry?

Taste - A subtle wheatiness, although the woody, earthy hoppiness is the "strongest" of the flavors present. There is a very light sweetness to the beer, but it is definitely balanced toward the IBU's which linger in the mouth for a couple seconds after drinking. There is a dark berry flavor in the finish as well. None of the flavors are very strong though.

Mouthfeel - Medium to Medium-low body, carbonation moderately high (for me anyway) and it balances out the beer well

Drinkability - First beer Ive ever brewed that SWMBO actually drank most of herself and killed the keg! Its and easy drinker, nothing really jumps out at you so its something that you can drink a lot of without palate fatigue.

Overall - A beer I'll basically be required to brew again.... I thought it was an OK beer, nothing about it really distinguishes itself and I feel the beer is about middle of the road for flavor/etc. I'm guessing this in-distinctiveness is why SWMBO likes it, as nothing really dominates and its easy on the palate.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kentucky Common ........Update

I had really high hopes for this beer when I first brewed it, and I still think that the style is something I would really like to master. However, as with all my other experiences in sour mashing or sour worting this one turned out terribly.

I'm starting to think that the storage and shipping of grain down to the desert significantly impacts the microflora available on the grains and not in a good way. No matter what Ive done beers where I use these techniques on always turn out, well, a bit like hot garbage and vomit stew.....

This one was really nasty when I drained the keg for boiling, and the smell coming off the boil were terrible. Still I filled the carboy up and pitched in a packet of Nottingham. Within hours the yeast began to take off and the airlock was happily bubbling away..... That is until I noticed the smell......

The burping airlock was purging some of the terrible vomit/garbage smells from the wort! This made me fairly optimistic, maybe most of the smell would dissipate with the CO2 coming from the fermentation? To keep everyone happy, and my dog from being too curious I had to stash the carboy in an old fridge in the garage, and remove everything else from it...

Fast forward a couple months, and I decide to taste the beer to see how its coming along. Pouring the sample into my glass and the color is beautiful, clarity is great, but then the smell hits me. Not as strong as before, but still terrible. I think, eh its not that bad, lets see how it tastes. Taking a sip it tastes wonderfully grainy, slightly sweetish with notes of corn and a really nice subtle twang of acidity, but just as I'm feeling good it hits me. The smell of baby vomit.

Its on my lips and I cant get rid of it. Its in the glass and is filling the room. I was both with soap, I scrub and scrub nothing works. So for the next hour or so I really begin to understand the saying "It's your upper lip"

Not being able to stand the looks of disgust as SWMBO comes near me after I drank the beer, and not enjoying needing to rub deodorant under my nose I decide to do something I haven't in a long time.


I wish it ended there, but unfortunately it just rubbed salt into the wound....My backyard stunk for 2 days like an old hobo

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Malt Cider - A Review

Appearance - A dark caramel color, with ruby highlights. Slightly hazy, no head formation at all, champagne-like bubbling

Aroma - Caramelly, hints of fermented apple juice with a slight yeasty aroma

Taste - Very dry, hints of caramel in the finish. Slightly yeasty flavor, and a bit tart. Apple flavor is very subdued, tastes more like beer than cider.

Mouthfeel - Light body with a low finishing gravity. Highly carbonated, after each sip it leaves a prickly feeling from the CO2 bite.

Drinkability - A decent drinker, I think the taste is a bit bland and I'm attributing that to the juice I used. For whatever reason I just grabbed the cheapest stuff I saw at the store. When Ive fermented the cheap juice by itself in the past its usually pretty low on apple flavor and kinda tart, just like this one is. To spruce it up a bit I ended up adding 2 cans of concentrate to boost the flavor and sweetness a bit and its great like that. I think in the future what I might do is brew up a really caramelly low gravity beer and add some apple juice concentrate to the keg for flavor and sweetness.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Amaranth Table Beer - Review

Appearance - Golden Yellow, slightly hazy at this point as its had time in the kegerator to clear a bit, dense 1 finger head that leaves sticky lacing all the way to the bottom of the glass

Aroma - Bready, hints of spice and banana and a fruitiness that's unique to 3522 and an ever so slight hint of bubblegum; when it was a bit younger it had a very interesting nutty/herbal aroma that was quite nice

Taste - Spicy but subdued, as usual the malt flavors really shine with 3522, and there is a hint of sweetness, mid-palate there is a very distinct herbal flavor that I'm attributing to the amaranth, at first it was a tad strong but it has since mingled very well with the other flavors

Mouthfeel - Surprisingly creamy still, which I am starting to attribute to 3522, and possibly my low carbonation (2vols) It is a bit thinner and drier than previous versions, but relative to an all pils base I think using the amaranth didn't do much to the body

Drinkability - As usual with this type of beer (low grav, Belgian + lots of aroma hops) its undeniably easy to drink. A beer that really complements food, and BBQ in particular, although that may just be a function of the time of year

Notes/Thoughts - Nice beer, I really think that the Amaranth was an interesting addition adding a nice herbal/spiciness of its own that meshed very well with the other flavors in the beer; I'm not sure how well it would go with a "clean" yeast but could see it working if noble/herbally type of hops were used. As for the body impacts to the beer, it still made a nicely creamy beer, but I'm not 100% if that can be attributed to the Amaranth, as I'm starting to think that 3522 is responsible, hopefully after I taste the Dark Table Beer I'll be better informed

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aramis - An Oud Bruin

Well Ive been sitting on this recipe for a while now. This being another one of my Dumas inspired beers, I started first with the character and worked backwards to get a style and finally a recipe. This one though didn't take much time, but the recipe did....

Aramis is definitely a dark, complex, and somewhat sour character. After today's brewing session I think I'm pretty sour and dark too! Just like Aramis, this beer had quite a disasters along the road, and things ended up being a bit different than he or I expected. I originally intended this beer to have a grist of entirely Dark Munich with a pound of Caramunich and an ounce of Carafa for color. Somehow though I seem to have misplaced/used 2lbs more of my Dark Munich than I thought. So I had to supplement the malt bill with what I had on hand, Marris Otter. Not a big deal, and it should help the maltiness of the beer a bit.

The big problem came though as I'm outside in the middle of the mash with my dog. I was around the corner when I heard a CRASH! Slush slush slush.......Somehow Zoey (my dog) had tipped over my mashtun and it was pouring out onto my patio. Luckily I save nearly all of the grain, but a good deal of my mash liquor drained out. Crap! To make up for all the lost sugars I ran inside and milled another 1.5lbs of Marris Otter to supplement the mash.

Now for yeast selection I had been thinking along time about brewing up another Brett L beer. Especially since I recently did a formal review of one I brewed a couple years back. But I also really wanted a nice level of acidity in the final beer, something that would really accentuate the fruitiness of the Brett L and the cherry nose. Originally I had intended to use some Jolly Pumpkin dregs, but all I could find was an overcarbonated bottle of Oro de Calabaza. After the bottle foamed up like a bottle of coke with mentos in it I threw in the towel on that front. Luckily though I recently came across a couple bottles of a lambic from Odell (Friek). Its a fruit lambic with raspberries and cherries, it was pretty good although the acidity was a bit too soft for me. None the less, it was a really good source of souring bugs! I built up a starter over a week or so, and its nicely sour (much more than the beer itself) and very clean! Both things I was really looking for.

I'm planning on adding in the Brett L by itself for a day or so, so it can really take hold and eat up some of the sugars before I add the Friek culture. I want this beer to be sour, but like Aramis not too sour.

In the end, even though there were a lot of problems along the way for Aramis, and things didn't turn out exactly the way he or I hoped, everything worked out for the better in the end....

Aramis - An Oud Bruin
Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
8.0Dark Munich 10L (Global)
3.5Marris Otter
1.0ozCarafa III
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0Mt Rainier (6.8%)60
Mash Schedule
170F1.7qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastBrett Lambicus - 4L Starter + 2days
Odell Friek Culture - 2L Starter
73% eff??IBU20
7gal BoilFG-
Notes: Brett Lambicus was cultured up from a bottle of Brett L Malty Brown and was grown using a stirplate ~2.5wks: Friek Culture was started ~10days prior to brewing and did not use a stirplate: I added the Brett L 2days before the Friek culture to let the L get a crack at most of the sugars to limit the sourness a bit

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