Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gravenstein Cider 2012

Recently I've been brewing quite a bit of cider. However, if you exclude the last two months or so it actually has been quite a while since I did a cider.  I'm guessing it was probably a year or so ago that I brewed a cider that's currenlty ready f and that batch as with all the previous ones used regular apple juice from my supermarket. Those batches were pretty good, but lacked the strong appley flavor I really like in an English Scrumpy or a Normandy Cidre. Now this is unfortunately due to the complete lack of cider apples in my part of the US. I do have access to great fresh local Gala, Red Delicious, and I actually have Anna and Dorsett Golden in my yard, but while many of these are great eating apples they really lack punch once fermented.

To brew up a truly great hard cider (English style) you really need a balance of bittersweet, sweet, and sharp apples. I hope to one day be lucky enough to live somewhere that I can easily source fresh juice or grow cider apples myself, however until that happens I'm hoping that Ive come up with a good short term fix (cider experiment - as many varietal ciders as I can make)

One of my all-time favorite eating apples are Gravenstein. They are truly an amazing apple! They are to apples what Royal Blenheim are to apricots. Gravensteins unfortunately don't keep particularly well, so you don't see them very often as whole fruit in the market. To add insult to injury much of the acreage of this variety has been torn up over the years and replaced with things like Gala, Golden Delicious, etc, just because they look nicer and keep longer. Which from a commercial standpoint is great, but as far as my taste buds are concerned its a tragedy. Lucky for me though, much of the Gravenstein crop finds its way (especially in the last few years) into a varietal juice available at places like Trader Joes or Whole Foods.

This year I decided to clear out my local Trader Joes of all of the Gravenstein Juice and (hopefully) make a great appley cider, or at least something that will blend well with my other cider endeavors recently (Fuji, Granny Smith, Grimes Golden)

For yeast I decided, mostly because I have copious amounts of it around right now, but party because Ive heard/tasted good things about it, to use White Labs English Cider Yeast. I'm hoping the yeast, as White Labs claims, will accentuate the apple flavors in cider. Another addition that I'm up in the air about is whether or not I will add malolactic bacteria. Ive read bits and pieces about using it in ciders but no one seems to have done a side by side comparison to see how much it impacts the final cider. So if anyone knows of any good info about this I'm all ears!

Gravenstein Cider 2012
Amt Type
3galGravenstein Juice
3/8tspWyeast Yeast Nutrient
YeastWLP775 English Cider (Slurry)
Notes:  Its happily bubbling away at about 60F; Nutrient was boiled in a small amount of water and added to the juice prior to adding yeast.  I did this because I've noticed lots of hydrogen sulfide production in my last few ciders, and none in my starters.

Granny Smith Varietal CiderHaldi Farms Varietal Cider

Review - 2/3/2013 - Comparison w Granny Smith and Haldi Varietals

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Old Fuzz - Fortified Version Review

Appearance - Deep golden with orange highlights, perfect clarity, no head or carbonation

Aroma - Leathery, very sweet nose, over-ripe bananas and buckwheat honey, finishes with hints of bretty phenolics

Taste - Malty and strong honey sweetness initially, they fade to over-ripe banana nut muffins and a lingering horsey/leathery finish. Some oxidation with mostly butterscotch and sherry notes that fit the sweetness.  Alcohol is very well hidden,  but there is a slight warming of the belly with each sip

Mouthfeel - Very smooth and full bodied, this one really has some legs on it!  With all that residual sugar from the honey though it should.  No carbonation, but it really shouldn't have any

Drinkability - Definitely a sipper, something to drink as a cordial before or after a meal. Since its very sweet I prefer afterwards.  Not something I could drink a lot of, but that's mostly due to the extremely high alcohol content (17%abv+)

Notes/Thoughts - An interesting beer and one of my earlier attempts with brett.  It has blended fairly well together, it is slightly too sweet for my tastes, but then I like to have a full pint when I can, and with this one a full pint would put you out.  The beer reminds me of an an extremely over-ripe banana nut muffin with a bit of funk, and a sweet finish

Brewday - Recipe & Notes - 2/23/2009
Fortified Version Update - 3/22/2009
Monday, January 16, 2012

Sweet Pineapple Cider - Review

Appearance - Golden yellow, just like you'd expect pineapple juice to be.  Extremely clear, no head what so ever, and only trace amounts of carbonation showing

Aroma - Pineapple mixed with a very meaty yeast autolysis smell, the smell is slightly off putting

Taste - Loads of pineapple up front, which the sweetness from the xylitol really helps to round out. There is however, a flavor from the autolysis that lingers and really distracts from the pineapple flavors

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, very slick on the tongue which is quite nice.  A moderately high level of carbonation that prickles the tongue as you drink

Drinkability - Its OK at best, the pineapple flavor is much better paired with the slight sweetness of the xylitol, but the flavors/aromas from the yeast autolyzing as a HUGE distraction.  If this cider didn't have any of the meaty-yeasty flavors it would be outstanding, as it is its OK at best

Notes/Thoughts - This cider has the potential to be outstanding, provided that I can get rid of the autolysis flavors that are completely ruining the cider.  Its still drinkable but isn't something I crave.  In my first attempts at pineapple cider I detected a hint of the autolysis in the flavor, but just a hint, this one is full blown.  I'm not sure if this time has to do with the xylitol, which can kill yeast/bacteria, or if I let it sit on the lees too long.  I will have to do another quick experiment with and without the xylitol and see if that is the culprit.

Brewday - Recipe & Notes - 12/5/2010

Pineapple Cider 1.0 - 1/18/2009
Monday, January 9, 2012

Cochise Stronghold - Cider & Malt

With all my interest recently in cider, I purchased far too many apples and have a ton sitting around.  I had about 80-100lbs of the local apples I used to press the Arizona Homestead cider, and I really wanted to use them for something other than apple sauce.  However, I knew that I really didn't want any more cider.

Then I remembered an idea that I had come up with during the middle of the summer, malt cider!  Now, it wasn't a new idea at all, in fact I've already attempted this before. Unfortunately the results were middling at best, but I didn't really put the same level of effort into that beer.  I used DME and only did a half-hearted steeping of the crystal malt.  I also used an ale yeast, something that Ive began to shy away from in many beers recently but that's another topic altogether.  

With this beer/cider I really wanted to do something a bit different.  One of the techniques Ive always advocated is boiling down the first runnings to a thick syrup.  When you boil down the first runnings, you increase the malt depths immensely.  This approach also retains more of the sweetness of the malt, as caramelization and maillard reactions result in compounds that aren't fermentable by sacch.  So not only do you get more malt depth, but you retain a hint of sweetness as well, both things I really think were lacking in my first attempt at malt cider

What I wanted was a cider/beer that retained a lot of sweetness along with the apple flavor.  I think many fruits once fermented just don't taste quite right without a hint of sweetness to round out the flavor.  To do this I did two things, 1 - I boiled down ALL of my runnings into a thick syrup, 2 - I used a generous portion of crystal malt in the grain bill, 3 - I used Maris Otter.

When I brewed the beer I took all of the runnings, that's right ALL of the runnings and boiled them down to ~1gal. I did this not only to increase the malt depth and sweetness, but because I wanted to make sure my OG was sufficiently high.  Doing this allowed me to use a lot of malt to balance the acidity of the apple juice, and I was able to dilute the syrup with the apple juice to get to my desired batch size.  I didn't run off a lot of wort prior to boiling down (wanted to minimize boil time) but I ended up with ~4gal of wort that I boiled down to 1gal.  I don't recall exactly how long that took but it took quite a while! As a result of pulling so little wort I ended up with a terrible efficiency for the batch (58%), but I figure you win some and you lose some.

One last thing I decided to add to the brew was a bit of Dark muscovado sugar.  Ive used this stuff before in a a couple other beers, and I really love the dark/chocolatey rummy flavor it provides and thought it would be a good addition to this beer.  I also liked the idea of drying out the beer ever so slightly, I do have a TON of crystal malt in there after all.

One final thing I did was split the batch between two different yeasts, WL English Cider and D47.  I'm hoping to retain a good deal of apple flavor/aroma with the cider yeast, and the D47 I'm hoping to retain a bit more of the malt sweetness.(wine yeasts cannot ferment maltotriose).  In a nod to where these apples came from I decided to name the beer after the dragoon mountains, which were the hideout of a famous Apache chief named Cochise.

Chochise Stronghold
Malt-Juice Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
7.0Maris Otter
1.5Crystal 60L
1.0Crystal 10L
0.5Dark Muscovado Sugar
3.25galGrimes Golden Juice
0.75galGranny Smith Juice
Amt (oz)TypeTime
1.0Sterling (7.9%)120
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastEnglish Cider WL775 (2.5gal)
Lalvin D47 (2.5gal)
58% effIBU11?
4gal BoilFG
Notes: Thinking about it now, I'm a bit worried I mashed too high - Going totally blind I think I would drop the mash temp to 150F if I could do it over again

Review - 5/20/2013 - Notes, Thoughts and Yeast Comparison

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tapioca EIPA - Review

Appearance -  Slightly hazy golden color with some copper highlights when held to the light.  A nice two finger head to start out that dissipates to a fine layer above the beer and leaving significant lacing all over the glass

Aroma - Tangerine and other miscellaneous citrus mixed with a earthy fruitiness from the yeast, with hints of toast/biscuits

Taste - Perfectly balanced between the malt and the hops.  Great estery/fruity yeast flavors hit your tongue first  , followed by the sweetness and breadiness of the maris otter barley, a very smooth bitterness finishes off each sip.

Mouthfeel -  Medium bodied, all that MO really provides a great mouthfeel to the beer, moderately low carbonation to really allow the flavors to shine

Drinkability - I picked this beer as my favorite of the year, so the drinkability is very high.  Its very easy to session or have with just about any dinner.

Notes/Thoughts - Really great beer, but its hard to beat Maris Otter, amarillo, or simcoe hops in just about any beer.  Tapioca starch did a good job thinning the body slightly (even with the moderately high mash temp 154), and it converted just fine, its definitely an adjunct I plan on using again (sooo much cheaper than sugar)

Brewday - 10/22/11 - Recipe & Notes
Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year in Review - Brews and Favorites

Another year has completely flew by, and just now I realized I really didn't brew a whole lot this year! I saw on another blog I frequent from time to time a little recap of what he did and didn't accomplish throughout the year and I really like the idea.  I think a little reflection on what I have or have not accomplish this past year is definitely worthwhile. But for now lets stick with the good....


Write ups Coming Soon 
  • Mazarin - Sour Cherries, Mahleb and Sherry Flor
  • Chochise Stronghold - 4hr+ boil, apple juice and muscovado sugar
  • Ashley's Sour Peach - wild fermented pale with ripe peaches

Favorite Brews for the Year

Well since many of my beers from last year are still fermenting! I don't have a whole lot to chose from, so I think I will include anything I reviewed in the past year. That's when it was drank after all

1. Tapioca EIPA - This beer was just so smooth and fragrant the keg kicked in record time.  We had a Christmas Party and even though I had 4 beers on tap, and this was the only full keg. This is the only one that kicked! The malt depth from the MO and the light body (the tapioca) really make this my favorite beer of the year (hopefully its not just because of how recent I was drinking it!)

2. Schwarzbier Redux - Another favorite, although this one was from quite awhile ago.  The malt depth and the hints of chocolate were great in this beer. I definitely think I need to brew another up

3. D'Artagnan a Parry - I like both versions of this perry (unoaked, oaked) but I by far prefer the oaked portion. There isn't much oakiness in the cider, but it has a nice vanilla note and a hint of astringency that balances the other flavors and gives it great depth.  Definitely something that will be brewed again

Its strange that I don't have any sours in the top 3 this year, but unfortunately my pipeline was dry this year.  Although I brewed up a couple I really didn't have any new batches ready for drinking this year.  Next year should definitely be much more productive in that respect

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