Thursday, April 17, 2014

#38 - American Rye

With the warm weather finally setting in here in the Mid-Atlantic I've turned my mind towards warm weather, quaffable beers and this low alcohol, hoppy, American style beer using both wheat and rye seems as summery as I'm going to get.  The goal here is to have a highly hop flavored, but only lightly bitter, light beer that can quench my thirst through the next few months as the area turns from a beautiful, cherry blossom filled oasis to an unbearably hot and humid swamp.

While the recipe has been changed a number of times one of the main ideas were to use wheat and rye and to retry Citra after less than stellar results a few years back.  The final iteration also uses the experimental HBC342 hop varietal and a little Palisade. Rubbing and smelling each hop separately is an eye opening experience, especially considering their somewhat similar descriptors.  HBC342 has a strong damp, decaying leaves, earthy, woody, canteloupe, black pepper and black currant smell that reminds me of Styrian Goldings more than any American hops.  Citra has a strong fruit salad smell with mango being the most obvious and pineapple, guava, papaya, grapefruit and aggressive, bitter citrus peel all in the mix.  Palisade, as displayed in my Belgian American Pale Ale, is floral and perfumey with light apple, pear and cedar notes in the rubbed smell.  Some of the reports I have read of HBC342 have stated that the aroma doesn't come through very strongly, also a common complaint with Palisade, that might make them more backing parts to the Citra.

The brewday went long due to having to run errands in the middle, single infusion mash began at 150 and lasted nearly 2 hours falling to 144 before mashing out at 168 and batch sparging at 175.  Hour long boil was mostly quiet since I only added all the hops at the same time that I cut the temperature.  With this many hops and the amount of alpha acids pulled during the post boil not super accurate it should be interesting to see just how bitter (or not) this one turns out.  OG is just 1.040...once again well below my already low projections.  (Note: reviewing the recipe again I see this isn't as far below as I had originally thought but is still only about 60%).  In this case I'm almost certain it is due to the milling since all the grains, and the rye and malted wheat especially, seemed to have a large number of unthreshed pieces.  This might be the batch that finally prompts me to buy a mill.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#34b - Sage Honey Golden Strong Ale Tasting

I've been really enjoying this modified version of my #34 - Tripel which used a sage tincture and an extra 12 oz. of honey on 2.5 gallons of beer.  A beautiful day in Arlington in the middle of a brew session seems like a nice time to do an official tasting.

A- Medium copper, hazy, with a very nice bright white 1 finger head of small bubbles that's sustained by constant, but not overly strong, carbonation bubbles.

S- Floral, herbal, grainy, honey sweet, fruity, yeasty.  Golden grahams cereal, fresh bread, pizza (from both the herbal sage and the yeastyness), bubble gum.  The sage and honey come on stronger as it warms, giving off more of the sweet, savory, herbal and floral characteristics.

T- Again, a melange of primarily sweet flavors with some savory notes sprinkled in.  Up front it is crisp and fruity with honey and sage showing in the middle and a finish that is medium dry, off-sweet, slightly bitter and moderately warming from the high alcohol.  The sage seems a bit more noticeable with every sip, though always in a refreshing and not overpowering way.

M- Carbonation is right where I would like, medium/medium-high, with a fairly dry body despite the high gravity and moderately sweet taste.

O- Of all the Belgians I recently brewed this may turn out to be the best.  The alcohol is warming but only just so.  While far off from a true Duvel style Belgian Golden Strong Ale it certainly has a similar ability to sneak in the alcohol.  The honey and sage play together very nicely with the underlying beer and I would have to say that the sage tincture was very well done.  This seems like a great beer for a beautiful, warm, spring day like today.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

White Dragons Tasting

Here Be Dragons! Was just the 7th batch of beer I brewed. A mix of a Winter Warmer/ Strong Ale and Scotch Ale the beer was split several ways at bottling. Today I found one of these, thought to be fully depleted brews, an decided to give it a try. Remembering it as having noticeable off flavors and being over carbonated even by my early, extract brewing standards, I didn't expect much.

A - as expected this one shot out of the bottle with some force giving a hazy chestnut brown beer with a yeasty, tan head.

S- this actually smells like a Scotch ale should: toffee, wood, lots of sweet bready malt and an ester/phenol profile I only detect in beers made with Scottish style yeast.

T- I don't pick up anything definitively orange or coriander (the spices added to the WD version). Taste is similar to nose, sweet, bready, estery. Finishes in an unpleasant jumble of phenols, dryness and sweet esters.  Likely fermented much too warm for this yeast. Starting to show some signs of age and oxidation but not overly so.

M- way over carbonated which seems to lead to the dryness in the finish despite relatively high body.

O- this beer is probably at least as good today as it was 2 years ago when first tasted. It's not a great beer by any means but my original tasting seemed to nail the defects and understand the parts which did work. I've not had luck with the Scottish ale blend but am wondering whether I just don't like the style, fermented too high or a combination of the two. I would like to try brewing a similar malty Strong Ale with a more neutral yeast as the malt body is very pleasant.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#35 - 6° Dubbel

This is the first of a series of the beers (and second of the posts) in the same theme of Belgian Trappist styles.  The first beer brewed in the series was this  6° Dubbel with an 8° Tripel and 10° Quad coming later.  I designed each of these recipes attempting to be fairly to-style.

In addition to the 3 to-style recipes I also plan to make a 7° spiced dark ale mimicking speculoos cookies, a blend of the Dubbel and Quad with a spice tincture made from ginger, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, white pepper, black pepper and cinnamon, and a 9° Golden Strong by adding honey and sage to the Tripel.

This Dubbel is designed to showcase the complex raisin and caramel flavors from Special B malt, Candi Syrup Inc.'s D-90 and D-180 and the estery and phenolic flavors from Wyeast 3787.

My first tasting gave a less than desirable perception of clean and bitter.  When tasting again at racking to secondary the yeast and sugar elements came through much more clearly giving the impression that this will be a nice Belgian ale that ranks up there with commercial examples of the style.
Racked to secondary after 3 weeks of vigorous fermentation.  Fairly dark but still within style guidelines.

3 tinctures: Sage (for the Golden Strong), cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, white pepper, cardamom ginger (for the Speculoos influenced dubbel/quad blend) and a separate ginger/cardamom/clove one (that might be used to balance the heavy levels of nutmeg an cinnamon or might find use elsewhere).  The sage is extremely pleasant, herbal and sweet with the cinnamon slightly dominating its tincture and giving a "fireball" impression, and the third has a very different sort of sweet and hot ginger character that I go back and forth on my opinion of.

Monday, February 17, 2014

#34 - 8° Tripel

Continuing my themed set of trappist style ales I brewed an 8° Tripel. Like the 6° Dubbel (brewed prior to the tripel but aging longer, post to come) this beer uses primarily Belgian Pilsner and a little Munich malt with some sugar additions, Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast and a simple continental European hop bill featuring Styrian Goldings and Hallertau (and in the Tripel's case a little Strisselspalt as well).  The Tripel however should turn out quite different with less dark malts, a much higher hop bitterness, flavor and aroma and the sugar additions being white sugar and honey rather than the complex dark candi syrups leading to hop/yeast balance rather than malt/sugar/yeast.  As the name suggests this beer will also start with a slightly higher gravity (1.080) for an added alcohol oomph.

Trying to work in the same kitchen that my girlfriend was using to make bread led to some issues with tight space and a few spills.  In the end I lost about half a pound of the pilsner malt trying to add it to the mash tun and lost about half an ounce of hersbrucker hops when trying to vacuum seal.  I made up for the pilsner malt with more white sugar.  Pitched 12 oz. of slurry harvested from my Belgian Session IPA on December 26th (about a 50% over-pitch according to Mr. Malty).

In addition to wanting to brew to-style Trappist beers in each of the 3 major varieties (dubbel, tripel, quad) there was an additional goal to this themed series to experiment with tinctures and blending.  Unlike the Dubbel which will be blended with the Quad to create my 7° beer, this beer will have additional sugars (largely honey) added to bump up the equivalent starting gravity just 1 Belgian degree (up to the equivalent of a 1.090 OG) to create a Belgian Golden Strong ale.  Similar to the 7° beer which will be spiced with a number of warming festive spices this beer will have a simpler tincture of sage added to lend some floral, sweet and savory characteristics.

Extremely vigorous fermentation led to me replacing the airlock with a blow off tube.

Gravity down all the way to 1.006 after getting to 1.008 at moving to secondary.  Bottled just under 2 gallons with 1.5 oz of sugar. (as brew #34 despite the Dubbel actually having been brewed before it).  ~2.5 gallons were mixed with 12 oz. of honey for what will be the Sage Golden Strong.  Taste is surprisingly high in bitterness with some noticeable alcohol, fruity yeast derived flavors and a touch of honey like sweetness.

Bottled the Golden Strong with most of the sage tincture (roughly 1/2 cup worth of extract from 2/3 cup vodka, 1/4 cup sage mixture).  Taste is sweet and estery up front but dry and bitter in the finish with the sage giving a citrusy, herbal character that I might have liked to see even more of.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#33 and #33B - Belgian Session IPA Double Tasting

I brewed this Belgian Session IPA/Belgian-American Pale Ale just over 6 weeks ago.  Tasting it during the time since, I have found it to be one of the best beers I have made to this point.  At a recent brewclub meeting it received rave reviews from all who tasted it including Michael Tonsmeire.  Unfortunately, it was so popular that it was gone by the time Charlie Papazian unexpectedly showed up to the meeting.  Getting such positive feedback felt great and made me want to review the half of the batch which had a green tea tincture added.  Today I'm doing a side-by-side tasting of each.

#33 - Straight

A- Slightly hazy coppery orange with a one finger bright white head.  Pretty perfect looking for a dry hopped beer in my opinion.

S- Hops dominate with tropical fruit (pineapple, mango) and light citrus (tangerine).  There is also a light fruity cherry character in the mix which appears to be from the Westmalle yeast strain.

T- Like the nose hops again dominates with the yeast seemingly lending a hand as pineapple, mango, peach and nectarine lead the way before a moderately bitter, lightly tannic, finish.

M- Relatively light but still mouthfeeling and moderately carbonated.  Like the color I would say this is exactly where I wanted it.

O- A very pleasant beer that nicely showcases Mosaic hops (most members at the homebrew meeting were able to pick this out without being told any other details).  Still, there are enough other elements to keep this complex and the low starting and finishing gravities and moderate bitterness makes this very drinkable and enjoyable.

#33B - Green Tea Version

A- Identical to the straight version.

S- This version comes off less fruity with the green tea coming into the mix as a lemon-tea character that seems to round out the other flavors nicely.

T- Like the nose, the flavors seem rounded off a bit with the tea.  Up front the flavor is again tropical fruit with light citrus, though not as pronounced as in the other version.  In the finish the tea character seems to round out the bitterness so that the finish is smoother.  The tea doesn't seem to dominate and I wonder whether someone who didn't know about it would guess it, but with the knowledge that it is there, and the immediate comparison to the straight version, it shines through.

M- Again, fairly dry but right where I would like it.

O-  Having only had one bottle of the tea version and not noticing the tea strongly at that time, this tasting really surprised me.  The tea is far from dominating, but shows through just enough to affect all the flavors around it.  While I might have liked a more assertive character from it, the experimental half came out nicely without being identical, a success by any measure.  In the end, I arrived at 2 similar, but equally good, beers.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

#32 - Best Bitter Recipe and Tasting

This is a replacement post for one that disappeared while I was creating it and will probably be a little short on detail.

I brewed this Special/Best/Premium Bitter in the Fall when my desires turned to beers which were fairly light in alcohol but had both moderate malt and hop characteristics, as displayed by the previous brewed Altbier.

The base of this beer was primarily English Pale Malt.  I had originally planned to use Maris Otter but they were almost out at the LHBS so I augmented with equal parts Golden Promise and a non-specified Maltster's British Pale Ale malt.  Part of this recipe design came from tasting a wort sample made with Victory malt and the craving for a traditional pint of bitter as I experienced in London, leading me to use .5 lbs of crystal 60 malt.  Hops were entirely East Kent Goldings to have a very traditional flare and Bedford British yeast was used after being unable to find the intended strain and reading rave reviews on The Perfect Pint.  Below is a tasting now more than 3 months after bottling.

A- Slightly hazy copper.  Pours with a thick off-white head that recedes to a half finger layer and leaves good lacing.  It certainly looks the part of a bitter.

S- Malts predominate on the nose giving toffee, cookie and fresh bread with the EKG aroma having fallen to just a touch of woodiness if you really search for it.  Hop aroma was certainly better when fresh, but it never exactly leaped out of the glass.

T- While malts again dominate up front with a toffee and biscuit character, the EKG hops shine through much more here with the characteristic flavors of light citrus, savory herbs and wood.  There's also the slightest peppery character that I don't recall being there when fresh.

M- One of the biggest changes in this beer over time is that it has unfortunately grown increasingly carbonated.  I had envisioned this beer having a very low carbonation to mimic the traditional cask ale.  While the beer was great at this level after a few weeks it slowly rose beyond that point to upper levels of carbonation that would be more fitting for a Belgian style than British.  The mouthfeel in the end comes out a bit overly spritzy and dry instead of the full bodied but sessionable body expected for the style.

O- This beer came out alright but not phenomenal.  When I first tasted it I thought I might have a contest entry, but over time the aroma and taste went down and the carbonation went up, leaving this one just an ok beer and not a strong representation of the style.  That said, it is nice to have a nicely balanced beer that I can have a few of without feeling the effects and to that end, its a fairly good beer.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Country Wines (Wines #1+2)

After purchasing the quad pack of 1 gallon jugs wine seemed like an even more inevitable creation to work on. Finally having a partially free weekend without enough time to brew and nothing to bottle I decided to get to work. My first two wines are very similar with only minor tweaks between them to test a few small things. Both wines are peach and nectarine with other juices added. The recipes and processes for each are listed below. 

Both wines were made with fresh chopped fruit which was boiled to sterilize due to time limitations not allowing for the more normal Camden tablet process.  In addition to time limitations I found myself out of sugar as I went to increase the gravity of the second wine and instead used a mixture of a small amount brown sugar, a few tablespoons corn syrup and a mix of grape and apple juice in place of water to reach a similar gravity.

These will likely age for 6-12 months prior to bottling and at least another 6-12 months of bottle aging. A long wait for such a small amount but minimal work and a fun experiment all around.

Finally racked off the fruit and lees after about a month, only keeping about 2/3rd of a gallon of each wine. Both were topped off with about a glass of wine (Apex Chardonnay, just because it was what we were already drinking) and a quarter gallon of apple juice.  Plan is to rack again in about a month then either rack again or bottle 1-2 months later before another 6-12 months of aging.
Racked again and topped off with just a little apple juice.

Final racking, topped off with apple cider.

Monday, January 13, 2014

#33 - Belgian Session IPA Version 2

One of my first very successful beers was a Belgian Session IPA.  Today I decided to play on a similar riff but with different hops and a tweaked malt profile.  This includes Belgian Pilsner malt (in order to test get a sense of it's character) and Baird's Carastan and Simpson's Golden Naked Oats (both of which I found were excellent in a previous IPA).  Another twist is that I will be making a green tea tincture alongside the beer which, if it tastes good, will be blended with some fraction of the beer.  Part of the goal of today's brewing session was to build up enough Wyeast 3787 to be able to make a few batches of much stronger beers (dubbel, tripel, quad) in the next few months.  The hop choices were inspired by recent tastes of Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin beers and a long desire to want to try out Palisades.

There were a number of difficulties due to lack of equipment and due to coming down with a cold the night before I planned to brew.  Having just moved to a new apartment, I used Arlington, VA water for the first time and am also using half a campden tablet to remove chloramine for the first time, as I am currently without a water filter.  1.75 tsp of gypsum were added to the 3 gallons of mash water being heated in my new stainless steel pot and strike temperature was brought up to 165.  In addition to not having a water filter, I had no scale to measure out my hops or grains.  While approximating half a bag of oats isn't too difficult and the difference will be minor approximating 1/32 of a pound of Palisades is much more difficult and the magnitude of error will be much more compounded since there is only a single first wort hop addition contributing the vast majority of IBU's to this beer.  On top of this I was way off on my mash/sparge water calculations and ended up with just 4 gallons of 1.058 wort.  I added one gallon of distilled water I had sitting around to bring it down to 1.048.  Initial tasting is sweet with a floral and berry character with a moderate bitterness and some citrus character also in the mix.  Should be interesting to see how this one comes out.

Brewing while I have a cold, in a new location, with new water, a new stove, a new pot, new varieties of hops and not measuring the exact weight of the hops leaves a lot of question marks for this batch, but with how cheap this beer is (under 25 bucks if you don't count the yeast), and with how much healthy yeast it will produce I am not as worried about the quality of the end result and am more worried about dialing in the new system. Getting a good beer out of it would certainly be nice though.

Checked on the beer today to see it had erupted. Perfumey floral beer smell and all the walls are covered in krausen and hop goop. Cleaned up and reattached the now slowly bubbling airlock.

Checked gravity, down to 1.009 and still fermenting.  Taste is floral with subtle citrus and a pungent, vegetal finish. Still green, not carbonated and not even done fermenting but the bitterness seems too low.
Lots of hops and candi syrup from Farmhouse brewing supplies.  The large 1 lb bag is the Palisades.

Monday, December 9, 2013

#28 - American Saison Tasting

While this beer was intended to be a summer drinker, and most of it disappeared in August, there's still a few hanging around for a tasting.  I will likely use several of the elements of this beer: Wyeast 3724 yeast, ginger and Amarillo hops, in future beers even if not all together again.

A- light cloudy gold, much lighter in color than the picture. A touch darker than the average hefeweizen. The large "belgian" head pops way out of the glass and fades slowly to a small lump with spots of lace.  The beer was poured very slowly as it was a bit over carbonated.

S- tropical fruit (papaya and mango), citrus (lemongrass, lemon) and spice (black pepper) aromas. The ginger is noticeable also but seems to blend well with the other characters to the point it's hard to pick out what is from the yeast/ginger/hops.

T- up front the flavor mirrors the aroma with increased lemongrass and ginger character. On the backed is a mild bite which seems to be both a combination of moderate bitterness and carbonation.

M- medium in body with extremely high carbonation.  I definitely won't be buying the carbonation caps again and will just aim for lower levels by adding less sugar.

O- a nice summery beer but I'd like to see some of the components on their own and with less carbonation. All in all it comes off similar to Boulevard's Tank 7 though I wouldn't call it a clone. A good beer that makes me want to make another saison soon.