Saturday, December 3, 2011

Updates and 2012 plans

Been a long time since I've posted. A large part of that is that I haven't had a lot of time to dedicate to brewing between starting a new job, and having a month long business trip (another post on that to come soon).

As my schedule has started to become a little more steady I finally had a chance to brew my Belgian Strong recipe.  This one should turn out very similar to my Belgian Blonde/ Abbey Apricot beer (which taste great if not fully carbonated yet) but should be higher in alcohol.  The beer was brewed exactly to the recipe and brew day went very smoothly.

All I can do now is wait a month for it to finish up fermentation before I move onto a few other planned brews including my Licorice Imperial Stout that I am really looking forward to and a Wit that my girlfriend continues to request.

As for 2012 I've laid out an ambitious brewing schedule which includes:

  • Brewing a sour
  • Making a wine or mead and a cider
  • Brewing at least 60 gallons of beer
  • Brewing at least one of my very experimental beer ideas (smoked fruit beer, caraway spiced rye beer, herb beer, etc...)
  • Brewing an all grain batch 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apricot Abbey Ale

After bottling my Here Be Dragons! series of winter warmers I moved back to a belgian beer, but again with some experimentation involved. In this brew I plan to rack to secondary (a first for me) on to apricot preserves. 

Adding jam/jelly/preserves is not a common way to make fruit beer, but in this case the apricot preserves were free and sound delicious to me. I plan to follow the instructions for making wine from jelly, namely boiling the jelly and adding pectic enzyme ahead of fermentation to break down the thick preserves. Only half the batch will be added to the 14 oz. of apricot preserves with the other half bottled straight.  The recipe is as follows.

6 lbs. Northern Brewer Gold LME
1 lb. Briess Pilsen DME
1 lb. Belgian Candi Sugar (the weight is approximate as this was just the remainder of candi sugar from my previous batch)

.4 oz. Nugget hops (60 minute bittering)
.1 oz. Nugget hops (15 minute flavoring)
.25 oz. Sweet Orange Peel (for a bit of citrus)

Wyeast Belgian Abbey II yeast (1 quart starter)

I forgot to add irish moss to this recipe so I expect it to be a bit less clear but should otherwise come out tasty.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Honey Brown First Tasting

I brewed a brown ale with a small amount (less than half a pound) of honey on May 28th and here, fully 2.5 months later, (1.5 months after bottling) I am doing a recorded tasting.

Let me start by noting that this beer does not really fit the category of brown ales, instead it is really a sweeter lighter porter.  That being said this one seems to have come out pretty disappointing but I felt I should at least record my thoughts to have as a reminder.

Aroma- Dark brown with light tan and ruby highlights.  Extremely small head fades immediately into light carbonation bubbles on the surface.  Not too impressive looking.

Smell- A lot comes off here but nothing too good.  Slight waxiness (maybe the honey?), light fruitiness (too high ferment temp?) some astringent roast and a bit of sweetness.  Not what I was going for but the nose can be deceptive sometimes.

Taste- A bit of astringency and a flat, one-dimensional sweetness with a bit of a thin alcohol bite at the finish.  This is nothing like a brown ale with no part really coming together the way I would like.

Mouthfeel- Thin with just a small carbonation prick, much thinner than I would have liked.

Drinkability- This beer is light years from what I had hoped.  I fear the one month in primary may have been a touch too long for a beer this small and a bit of autolysis has touched this. Additionally the honey seems to have only worked to thin this beer out more than I had hoped.  While this is not a terrible beer (it is drinkable without forcing it down) it is not very good and definitely not something I would pay for.  All in all I feel that this beer could have used a drop in the chocolate malt and some serious increases in lighter caramels to give it a more rounded character.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Session Belgian IPA

I brewed this beer in honor of my father's birthday and styled it largely after one of his favorites: Flying Dog's Raging Bitch.  As my father is (quite) a lightweight but also enjoys to have a few beers regardless of strength I wanted to knock down the ABV on this from the normal belgian IPA strength and, due to the decrease in OG, also knocked down the BU's somewhat.

Appearance - A very clear amber with a bit of a reddish tint that almost appears violet.  A small head of about one finger fades quickly into a thin white film. Pretty good in terms of looks, wasn't going for anything in particular in this category but it seems to be my clearest beer so far.

Smell - Wow, right up front there is a ton of fruit. Some is yeast derived ( cherries, plums, apricots) and a lot is from the American hops (orange) with a bit of sweet candy malt also present.  When I first tasted this prior to carbonation I feared the dry hopping and overall hop presence may have entirely outshined the yeast, the aroma now seems to favor more towards the Belgian side than the hops.

Taste- Like the aroma the hop taste seems to have faded very quickly.  Part of the problem is the under attenuation and residual sugars which I blame likely being due to the extract.  This puts the beer far from the level of bitterness desired and adds sugars which detract from the hoppiness all around.  That said the belgian yeast components do come through with a bit of fruit and spice and the hops make their presence with the nugget definitely apparent.  A bit of bitterness at the very end alludes to the 40 IBU's estimated.

Mouthfeel - Fairly full bodied, again likely due to underattenuation, but also highly carbonated.  The carbonation does allow the bitterness and hops to coat the mouth somewhat but again the residual sugars shine a bit more than I would have hoped for.

Drinkability/Overall - This beer met some expectations (my dad does seem to enjoy it) but it did not work quite right. I blame the low attenuation (about 72%) on low fermenting temperatures (around 68) and extract which is generally not mashed at low temps.  While I do enjoy this beer quite a bit and love where the aroma is I think more flavor hop additions should have been used, and with this high amount of residual sugars a bit more bittering as well.  One of the most important things about this beer to me is how much better it got as it warmed, I pulled it straight from the fridge and everything was much stronger and simply better by the end.  I'm not a huge hophead but this is definitely one I will make again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Northern California

So this is very much a backpost but I feel it is important.  In early June I visited one of my older brothers who fortunately happens to live in Napa.  The trip was great and loaded with lots of camping, poker, a concert, some games of Madden and lots of tastings of all natures.  Sparing the details here are a few highlights of breweries and beers:

  • Silverado Brewing Company - For some sort of "completeness" to my Napa beer tastings my brother decided we would stop in here despite having placing them on his "worst of napa" list.  We did a sampler and got the garlic fries.  The fries were AWESOME, as ubiquitous as they are in this region my brother claimed they were the best he had ever tasted.  Served with Rice Bran Oil and a healthy amount of parmesan and garlic they were great.  The beers were nothing amazing with most being somewhat boring, but the coffee stout was near the top of my list as far as coffee beers go and the others were passable if nothing special.
  • Calistoga Inn and Brewery - This was near the end of my trip but is a nice little brewpub with good, but not great (at least not nearly as good as Silverado's), garlic fries and the best red ale I have ever tried. The caramel and citrus components played very well and didn't come off with any "cardboard" or "stale bread" flavors that I have noticed in other red/ambers (e.g. Fat Tire).  It's also a nice little place in a quaint little town not too far from a nice little hike where Robert Louis Stevenson honeymooned at a silver mine.
  • North Coast Brewing Co. - Having seen this brewery's beers offered in Maryland I had some expectations.  I tried an '08 old ale with my brother that he had been saving for a special occasion.  It was delicious with a nice blend of light hoppiness, moderate bitterness, alcohol warmth and some warm sweet cherry character that made it all around great, and according to my brother more rounded than when it was fresh.  We then hit up the brewery and, while I was a bit disappointed by some of the fair (Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Brother Thelonious Dark Belgian) their take on a Saison (Le Merle) is the best I have had to date.  I left with a corked bottle under my arm to cellar.
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Co. - This "solar powered brewery" is a really cool spot to hit with some great drinks.  Me and Matt got most, but not all, of the items as samplers and we were both blown away by the Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema.  While other beers here were decent, the Summer Solstice was super creamy, had hints of vanilla and other spice and was just the thing for a hot California day. I bought a 6-pack (in cans, sweet!) and only one made it back to Maryland, which has since been consumed. This wasn't meant to be a long keeper but seems to be a beer that anyone would enjoy.
  • Russian River Brewing Company - To say I had high expectations for this brewery may be an understatement.  Looking solely at ratings for their beers this would easily be the highest rated brewery in the country, and likely the world.  Their Pliny the Elder (and Pliny the Younger) are amazingly well received IIPA's and their whole line of sour/belgian styles is very popular with those who enjoy that style.  Having had only one or two lambics I didn't know what to expect.  The sampler featured almost every beer they brew including a great hoppy brown and a tasty American IPA.  Many of the Belgians were quite different from what I'd had before but were for the most part enjoyable and I ended up buying a full pint of Supplication to go with my pizza.  Supplication is quite different, the best I could explain it would be that it tastes a bit like a Belgian Strong Dark with cherry yogurt character.
As for wineries here is a (very short) list of the ones I felt worth stopping at again and worth remembering:

  • Prager Port Works - Their "Aria" is an interesting white port with notes of vanilla and hazelnut.
  • Breggo  - Though I didn't buy any of the wines here they were all quite tasty and well worth the visit.
  • Yorkville - Bought they're Sweet Malbec, I like Malbec's and I like dessert wines, this one really stuck with me.
  • Girard - Make a lot of nice wines including one Cab that was great (if pricey) and a 2010 Cabernet Blanc that I couldn't resist purchasing.
  • Indian Creek - Liked all their wines but especially enjoyed the slight smoke on the 08 Syrah.
There were many others that had good wine but were overpriced or simply didn't seem exceptional enough to buy.

All in all it was a great trip with lots of experiences (both related to and entirely separate from the alcohol)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mixed Drinks #1

So let's face it, there are more potent potables out there than just our beloved B. E. E. R. I myself like most versions of alcohol when treated correctly, served in a nice way and not overindulged. While I'm not big on shots and personally detest most "brown liquors" when consumed straight I do enjoy mixing drinks up and either trying out classic cocktails or coming up with my own.  Tonight I found in my fridge Amarula Cream, Kahlua and some Spiced Rum and little else.  Well naturally I got to thinking whether these might go together so I looked it up and actually found a drink called Blesbok made with Amarula and Kahlua (and with the addition of milk becomes a brown elephant #2) I tried the drink (with 1 part of each of the liqueurs and 1 part milk) and it was quite tasty.  I then tried a similar creation but replaced the 1 part of milk with 1 part spiced rum and placed it "on the rocks." This drink is quite strong but pretty tasty. I call it a Somalian Pirate for now as it is essentially an African drink (Blesbok) mixed with a little spiced rum which seems pretty piratey to me.  For those who don't know Amarula is a cream spirit and is a bit like a Bailey's Irish cream and goes down easy. Enjoy responsibly.  Back to posts on beer (and probably some on wine, cider and or mead) very soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Second Pumpkin Pie Coffee Spice Tasting

Since this beer has changed a lot in just a few months I felt it worth doing a retasting and showing what it has become.

Aroma - Very small layer of head which quickly fades.  Light amber decent clarity and a light orange hue.

Smell - Big spice nose of cinnamon with a little nutmeg and a bit of sweet maltiness underneath.  Pretty good really.

Taste - Sweet up front followed by a big middle of spice and a bit of bitterness on the back end.

Mouthfeel - Fairly thin and high in carbonation but overall nicely rounded and very fitting for the taste.

Drinkability and notes - This is really a nice beer.  Originally this beer had an off-putting bitterness but that has rounded out quite nicely after 6 months.  The spice is still quite high but seems to have gone down a notch and while still a bit high, it is pretty tasty none the less.  Overall I'm quite content with where this beer has gone and hope that it ages as well for another 6 months.

Monday, July 11, 2011

So many updates...

So rather than actually make all the postings I would like to in this post I am just going to give a quick overview of the few to come soon.

1. My trip to Napa Valley and the northern California region.  Complete with wine tastings, beer tastings, transvestites, Madden and even a skunk.
2. My brown ale. It was bottled a little over a week ago, it has been a little disappointing but hopefully a few more weeks should mellow it out some. Much more on that to come.
3. My sessionable Belgian IPA. Just brewed and not even dryhopped yet.
4. Tastings: Re-Tasting one or more of my older homebrews to see how flavors have changed over half a year or so and maybe throwing in a few prime tastings of commercial beers I have particularly liked (e.g. my two new summer favorites: Anderson Valley Summer Solstice and Heavy Seas Summer Ale).
5. Probably lots of other things I haven't gotten to but hopefully good stories and a pic or two to make them worthy of this blog.

Additionally I will simply post here my next planned brew (following the finish of the Belgian IPA). It is titled Here Be Dragons! and is intended to have some characters of an Old Ale, Winter Warmer and a Strong Scotch Ale.  I am additionally contemplating on breaking off part of the batch to turn into other "Dragons". A few ideas so far have been.

  • Here Be White Dragons: Bottled with a spice tea of coriander and bitter orange
  • Here Be Red Dragons: Bottled with a spice tea of cinnamon and sweet orange
  • Here Be Black Dragons: Bottled with coffee and/or black pepper
  • Here Be Green Dragons: Bottled with herbs, likely heather tips.
These are all very preliminary ideas which I will be working on as the brew date, and bottling date, get closer though I plan on fermenting this for quite some time and expect to brew it in August to be done sometime next winter or early spring.

edits: After looking more into these ideas I am still very excited about them. I tried a mix of coffee, vanilla and pepper tonight and it worked surprisingly well (like Kahlua with a bit of a bite).  That coupled with the description of Belhaven Brewery's Wee Heavy as having "Gentle, fresh cracked pepper spiciness" by Draft magazine and alternatively Old Curmudgeon (an Old Ale) having this review: "The big bursting bubbles above this deep golden brew exude intense black pepper spice, cinnamon and cedarlike hops."  These sere to make Black Dragons much more tempting. Additionally the realization that Jacobite Ale is spiced with coriander makes the White Dragons seem much more appropriate. I'm thinking now that these 4 sets of ingredients will certainly be tried at bottling time, potentially with one or two additional variants.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Batch #4, English Porter Tasting

I brewed the Old Horse and Jockey porter about a month and a half ago and am finally getting around to a proper tasting.  Sorry for the bad photo, girlfriend took the camera memory card to Asia with her so I had to use a webcam.

Appearance-  Very dark but quite brown under the light with deep garnet highlights. Pretty much what I was going for on this one, but might be a little more opaque than I had hoped.  A very thin head which fades slowly into a thin film (as seen in the picture, took me a few minutes to get the computer situated).  The lack of head may be due to low carbonation.

Smell- Roasty flavors like cooked meat with some definite coffee and candy sweet aromas as well.

Taste- Light roast with some cocoa and coffee but with the sweetness coming through more upfront. Finish is bitter roast with hints of hops.

Mouthfeel- A bit thin and undercarbonated.  I had expected the body on this to be a little bit higher but had aimed for low carbonation so its around what was expected.  If there is one aspect I would change it is the lack of body, which may be accentuated by the lack of carbonation.

Drinkability- Not the best porter ever by any measure but very drinkable and flavorful.  My favorite beer I've brewed yet and all around seems to hit what I was aiming for, if not blowing away.  The mouthfeel is the worst part of this beer but it isn't enough to hurt it too badly.  My grandmother who is from England and grew up in her grandparent's pub ("The Old Horse and Jockey" which I named the beer after) said "It tastes like beer should taste." I have to agree.

Honey Brown Ale

Currently brewing my brown ale recipe:

Should have a little chocolatey bitterness but mainly caramel sweetness and a bit of honey.  In many ways it is the weaker cousin of my porter, using smaller amounts of most of the same ingredients.

Will update further as this one progresses.

Brewing went off without too many problems.
  •  The thermometer appears to be off (boiling began at 220F rather than 212)
  • Some of the honey got stuck in the container and was thrown out (probably less than an ounce of honey, and this had been expected to some extent)
  • I forgot the Irish Moss so this one might not clear up as others have, but otherwise went according to plan.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saison Tasting

Over a month after bottling and 2 months after first brewing I'm finally getting around to doing a tasting of my Saison.

Appearance: Not surprisingly similar to the pumpkin spice ale with their similar malt bills with a light brown/amber with some orange notes on the sides.  A 1/2 inch off white head appears initially but fades very quickly (wasn't the cleanest glass).

Smell: Wow that is enjoyable. A nice citrusy blend that feels like part hops, part yeast character and part orange peel inspired with a lot of depth and complexity.  Its followed by caramelly sweetness.

Taste:  Just like the nose but with more complexity.  Not overly strong in any direction but the hops are the star up front with a fair amount of sweetness and hints of Belgian spicy character.

Mouthfeel: Lots of carbonation and fairly thin in body this one is an easy drinker but the carbonation is a bit higher than I intended with TONS of bubbles flowing up from the bottom consistently.

Drinkability: Fairly enjoyable I could have a few more gladly.  The hop level of this beer and the subdued yeast character for the style (probably due to low fermentation temps) make this a bit more like an american pale or amber than the classic saison (the lack of attenuation to dry out the beer doesn't help either) but this is still a tasty beer with a moderate orangey character.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Tasting

This pumpkin spice beer was brewed over two months ago, and today I am finally getting around to reviewing it.  The beer is much better than the coffee version of the batch and deserved a separate tasting.

Appearance:  Inch of just off white head of tiny bubbles sitting on top of an amber orange body with yellow highlights.  Tons of little bubbles continuously flow up through the beer and the head never seems to fade.  This beer looks exactly how I had hoped, brown but with a bit of orange like a pumpkin and just great overall.

Smell: Lots of spice: cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla with just a bit of maltiness shining through.  Theres a bit of peppery spiciness in the back end, all spice maybe?

Taste:  Similar to the nose but more varied.  First comes the strong spices, reminiscent of pumpkin pie and the holiday season, followed by a nice munich and caramel malt sweetness which fades in the finish to a slightly bitter spiciness.  All around theres a lot of good flavors, the spice could be turned down (this one went to 11, would've liked to have seen it in the 8-9 range).

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a high carbonation, this one flows past the mouth without overstaying its welcome.  Maybe a touch more carbonation than I was going for but pretty good overall.

Drinkability: Really easy to drink with refreshing flavors and the high carbonation.  I wish the spice was turned back just a touch so that it would be more balanced and less strongly pumpkin spice.

Overall this is a beer I could easily have a few of in a sitting, but would probably not buy it over other beers because of the balance. It's a fun drink in a fun style that was cheap to make but there isn't much complexity beyond the nose and a complete lack of balance toward the spices.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Partial Mash

Looking forward to this coming Friday when I plan to try my hand at doing a partial mash for the first time.  The beer I will be making is a black porter.  With the high levels of caramel and roasted grains I decided to utilize them fully by doing a partial mash.

Turn of the Century Robust Porter

55%60Northern Brewer Amber Malt Syrup3610
18%20American Two-row Pale371
9%10Simpsons Medium Crystal3455
5%08Crisp Brown3575
5%08Simpsons Chocolate27412
5%08Wheat Dry Extract435
5%08Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal34160

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffee Pumpkin Spice Tasting

Having just opened my Saison and having it erupt on me (guess it needs another week or two to finish carbonating) this seems as good a time as any to review my Coffee Pumpkin Spice Ale.  The pumpkin ales were made with traditional coffee spice flavors, but this half of the batch had cold brewed coffee added at boiling time for an extra kick.

Appearance-  The beer pours a hazy orange brown with a thin but lasting head.  Looks about what I expected, but seems to have a high carbonation already with lots of little bubblings showing through

Smell- Whoo is the coffee there. It overpowers almost everything else with only traces of the pumpkin pie spice and a little hint of sweetness peaking through.

Taste- While that smell is a kicker, and not overly enjoyable.  The taste is actually an agreeable balance of spice and coffee with only a moderate amount of bitterness.

Mouthfeel- The best part of this beer appears to be the medium body and high carbonation which make this one bite at the mouth a bit but also seem to dance around after and fill every taste bud.

Drinkability- Pretty low really.  Its become the beer I go to if I just want one more or am trying to give someone else the better homebrews to sample.  While this is definitely drinkable, I would not buy it or try to make it again with all the spice and coffee being WAY too strong and affronting.

Overall- Not sure why I made this one.  I do love pumpkin pie and have tasted a few in the style I enjoyed, and I think the main reason I made a pumpkin ale was to show up another homebrewer who a friend had raved about (and seemed to enjoy my version better) but honestly that was not a good reason.  All of that being said the coffee version came out of experimentation and curiosity and I don't hate the fact that I tried it the way I did.  The pumpkin spice one actually came out much better without the coffee and I'll review that soon.  Hopefully these will lose some of the coffee and spice strengths with a little age and will be more enjoyable in a years time.  In the end at most there isn't a big loss as the real cost of this was probably near $20.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Baltimore / D.C. Beer Scene

So let's face it, when one thinks of great beer spots and famous breweries few are going to name Baltimore MD or Washington D.C. on that list.  That said in the latest issue of Draft magazine there is a LOT of love for the brewers and beer selections of Maryland and D.C.  I thought I would give a quick talk about the local happenings and the magazines articles.

In the "Pubs We Love" section the highlight is on 3 DC belgian cafes (gastropubs) with great selections.  I've been meaning to try one of these for some time now but have not gotten around to it, maybe the next time I go to a show at the rock and roll hotel I will stop by the nearby and highly rated Granville Moore's to sample their mussels and awesome selection of belgians.

Moving on through the magazine we find "American Beer Overkill" an article about the upscale swing of the craft beer scene, with expensive bottles seeming to dominate the market.  While, for the most part, I don't agree with the author I see some validity as there are many overpriced and overpraised beers on the market and I would love to see a few more of the midrange ($6-$10 six pack) beers available.  One of the most intriguing parts of the the article was the emphasis on D.C. and Baltimore.  There is first a talk about Churchkey in D.C. with its wide selection and pricey beers, and the downstairs restaurant with its beer pairings.  The author then met with Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales the brewer of Stateside Saison, a $12 bomber I can't seem to justify purchasing, and the 2011#2 top new brewer in the world who he met at The Brewer's Art in Baltimore, a brewpub I have visited and didn't enjoy much, but they get high reviews and I intend to give it another try one day.  In fact, just several pages later in this same magazine their beer gets the highest review (a 96) in the biere de garde category.

There isn't much more about the area in the magazine but a mention of a farmhouse brewery in Mt. Airy MD and the event listing of a Beer, Bourbon and BBQ fest (sounds pretty awesome) and a reference to the impact of flying dog on english ales. There's also an add for Savor, one of the biggest beer events in the country which occurs in D.C.

Its clear to see that the area is an up and coming site for both brewing and, probably to a greater degree, high grade drinking.  In many ways this doesn't overly surprise me, the area has a large amount of the wealthy 30 and 40 somethings with money to spend on beer and a strong belgian food scene which encourages both imoported delicacies and new local takes on the styles.  For now I'll just enjoy a mild, but refreshing and lightly hoppy Heavy Seas Gold Ale from Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Co.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hefeweizen Salad Dressing

With lots of leftover lettuce from my birthday dinner my girlfriend and I decided to have a nice salad tonight.  She asked me to make the dressing...which meant that I had free will to experiment on this one.  I took some similarities to a recipe we made for the salad we made for my birthday but made a bit of a modification in adding beer.  The recipe below is an approximation of the recipe I made as I just eyeballed amounts which looked good:

1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup bavarian hefeweizen
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp mixture parsley and basil (or italian seasoning)
1 tbsp. grated parmesan

This then went on a salad of romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, olives and pepperoncini.  One thing is for sure: pepperoncini and hefeweizen go extremely well together.  There was enough dressing for several salads, and I even put it onto a sandwich the next day, delicious.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hefeweizen #1 Tasting

I brewed this Hefe in late December and am getting down to my last 12 pack but just now decided to write a review. (I apologize for the bad view on the pic, the camera was dying and I was in a rush when I took it)

Appearance- Pours a muddy tan.  Clearly way too dark in color for a true hefeweizen. This is almost certainly due to the extract darkening a little during the boil.  It still looks enjoyable with hints of light pale on the sides.  The head is huge and fades at a moderate rate leaving tons of lacing.

Smell- Yum, smells like banana bread and clove.  The smell is enticing and right about what you would expect. I might ferment a bit higher next time to increase those phenols but I'm happy with it.

Taste- The taste is like the smell but a little bit muted.  The banana and clove are there but are weak and theres a little more complexity going on that I find enjoyable but seems less to style.  When comparing mine side by side to a commercial hefe I found mine to smell and taste a little stronger but more muddled with the commercial (Stone Cat Hefeweizen) being clearer and less wide a range of flavors, even if lighter in taste

Mouthfeel- Just right, feels wheaty and goes down super easy.  The carbonation and body seem to be perfect for the style

Drinkability- Very high, but I would like a little more flavor to keep me interested.  I would certainly be willing to pay for this beer but probably wouldn't grab a six pack (although at the cost of this homebrew I'd pick up the two cases I made and more) I'll definitely try to make this style again as I enjoyed it as much or better than most commercial hefeweizens I've had and its an easy drinking style.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Amber Saison Brewday

On Friday I spontaneously decided to use my saison ingredients and go for it.  I had been planning on making a saison since I began brewing and had been slowly working on a recipe the entire time.  The bill for the 5 gallon batch is listed below:

6 lb Northern Brewer Amber LME
1.5 lb Briess Wheat DME
7 oz. Turbinado Sugar
8 oz. Caravienne
1 oz. Glacier (60 minutes)
.25 oz. Citra (40 minutes)
.25 oz. Citra (20 minutes)
.25 oz. Citra (10 minutes)
.25 oz. Citra (flameout)
.5 tsp irish moss (15 minutes)
.25 oz. Bitter Orange Peel (15 minutes)
.25 oz. Sweet Orange Peel (15 minutes)
Wyeast 3711 yeast (French Saison)

I have more than a few worries about this one: the orange peel floated and, because I didn't think to strain it, much of it ended up transferring to the fermenter.  Also the 1 oz. of citra hops looks like a small amount in hindsight when split as much as it was, depending on taste I may choose to use twice as much, with most coming at flameout, next time.  Due to lack of heating control the beer is also fermenting away at temperatures much lower than are typical of a saison, probably closer to 60 than the 70 or 80 typical of the style.  Lastly I have not had an amber saison and I fear that the sweet/malty character could overpower the yeast, hop, and orange flavors.  All of these might be unfounded since I haven't tasted the beer yet.  Of course forgetting to take the OG was a beginner mistake I regret but I assume it to be right around 1.062.

I'm really excited for this beer but also more nervous than with my others because I have higher expectations and seemingly more room for errors.  If it does not live up to my expectations when I taste it in a few days and do a gravity reading I may have to dry hop and/or crank up the temperature with a space heater in order to get the flavor profile I intended.  Either way I will brew a similar beer to this again with some modifications. I also plan on farming the yeast and doing a big biere de garde.

I should have up a tasting athe pumpkin ale soon as well as the beer of the month club beers, and eventually this saison.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brewery Names

While getting excited today over preparations for bottling my Pumpkin and Coffee Pumpkin Ales tomorrow I began thinking about beer names and recipes.  Before long I found that while I enjoy a wide range of styles the types of names I would give to beers I made in these styles typically reference American culture (especially for American style beers), or history/imperialism/mythology for most European styles.

Based on these types of names (and the images I could put on the bottles) I came up with a brewery name  "The New World Brewing Co." an homage to the past and the sense of adventure and Americanism I want my beers to embody. Unfortunately there is already a New World Brewery which is actually a bar that does not brew its own beer (lame), and New World Brewing used by a couple of homebrewers like scratch that idea.  That being said it seems many of my ideas for brewery names either already exist as real breweries or are used by homebrewers, like myself, to describe their beers.  For example continuing with the New World idea I found that Old World Brewery already exists, as do Manifest Destiny and Destiny breweries (at least in some respect), New American Brewing, New Century Brewing Co., etc...  Are there truly this many craft and homebrewers with similar minds or am I just less creative than I had thought? While clearly I will never run a real brewery it would be nice to have some sort of name for the beers I give people.

Edit: So I think I have found a name which is neither taken and fits one I'm looking for:
New Frontier Brewing

While this name isn't set I've been looking into labels which would incorporate it using sites like Beerlabelizer and have been thinking about what a label would look like...maybe a globe? One idea is a globe with a bar through it similar to the Transport for London logo.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dogfish Head

A friend of mine owns a house in Delaware somewhat close to the beach and the two of us decided to drive up on Thursday night as we didn't have classes on Friday.  It was a bit of a last minute plan so we were unable to get tickets for the tour but we decided to go to the Dogfish Head brewery located about 20 minutes away in Milton, DE for a tasting.

At the tasting we sampled 4 of DFH's brews, here's a short synopsis of each:

Pangaea: A ginger spiced beer which is said to include ingredients from each of the 7 continents.  At the tasting the beer was really refreshing, the ginger was there but not overpowering and the malts added nice levels of complexity with sweet and malty.
Red and White: A orange flavored wit beer (white) which they then place in a barrel with pinot noir juices (red) to give complexity.  The beer has strong smells of wit but this flavor is largely lost on the palette with the pinot noir flavor dominating over the orange and coriander.  A refreshing beer especially at this ABV (I believe it was 10%)  with a strong wine similarity.
Palo Santo Marron: An almost stout like dark beer aged in a huge wooden tank which imparts caramel and vanilla notes along with a slight warming though not burn of alcohol.  A pleasant slow sipper that I enjoyed but would probably not look for again.
World Wide Stout: An 18% ABV extra strong stout (the strongest in the world according to DFH) this monster is well balanced for how strong the alcohol is masking it with bitter roasted barley, black and chocolate malts and mild hops.  Took me a while to drink it but it was one of the more enjoyable imperial stouts I've had without the bitterness of the roasted barley coming through too strongly.

Overall impression: my impression of all 4 of these beers is pretty much the same as all dogfish head beers I've had in the past.  There seems to be a great and inspiring emphasis on the ingredients, both the grains and the spices, but a surprising lack of care taken on mouthfeel and yeast.  I can't say that I've ever noticed a pleasant yeast character coming from a DFH brew and usually feel that they are a little thinner than I would enjoy.  This thinness probably comes from the fact that every DFH seems to want to have more alcohol than should really be appropriate. Thinking now about this lack of body and high alcohol, as well as the over presence of spices, I think it could come from DFH employing a low mash temp leading to higher fermentables but less of the larger sugars which give sweetness, body and character to ales.  The lack of yeast character is probably due to using some neutral house ale yeast in everything.
Those things said Greg and I picked up a bomber (1 pint. 9.6 oz) of the Pangaea and a 6 pack of their Indian Brown Ale (we wanted lighter options as our friend Charles was meeting us later and can't handle too much.)

Later in the day we ended up deciding to do more DFH as we went to the brewpub in Reheboth Beach, DE. To put things short, this place was way overcrowded for what it was, my roast beef sandwich was hard, without a ton of flavor and both the chive-horseradish and au jus seemed weak and under impressive.  The fries were tasty but not great.  I ordered a snifter of Noble Rot, a brewpub exclusive which said it was a saison style ale with viognier and pinot gris grapes added.  The end result is not something I would ever call a saison with no yeast character showing through but, like the red and white, was a quite enjoyable and extremely drinkable wine tinged beer.  With the food being below mediocre at best the drink was at least enjoyable enough to validate the visit.

Coming home the three of us began to watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (a great movie, I strongly recommend it) and enjoyed the ales we picked up earlier in the day.  The Pangaea from a bottle felt MUCH more gingery, still enjoyable but not nearly as in balance as it had been on draft, a bit of a disappointment but not bad.  The Indian Brown Ale (which I had not had before) seemed to be oddly named to me. While I haven't had any other American Brown ale this was way darker than the English versions I have had and, while the Indian name implies, there was a lot of bitterness, it felt much more like a porter of sorts to me, especially at the 7.2% abv mark.  Enjoyable with some roast barley and other dark malt flavors of chocolate and coffee coming through too the point that this is probably the most enjoyable DFH I've had.  While the beer isn't exactly what I'd had in mind I think it may have been more balanced than I'd expected out of this company.

Overall it was a fun day of Dogfish Head even with the above mentioned complaints factored in.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Brewday

So I finally picked up the ingredients and decided to have my brewday (or should I say brew night as it went from around 10 pm - 2 am) yesterday with the pumpkin pie spice beer (I ended up not using any canned pumpkin).  In order to steep the grains I bought a cheese cloth and frying thermometer which both seemed to work great.

Steeped the 1/2 lb caravienne for 30 minutes between 170-150 f.

6 lbs. amber lme, 1 oz. mt hood hops (5.2 AA, 60 minutes), 1 lb wheat dme and used .5 tsp irish moss

.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice, .5 tsp cinnamon, .25 tsp nutmeg and .25 tsp vanilla extract (not pictured)

Me stirring in the LME, I added half at initial boil with the 1 lb of DME then added the rest at the 15 minute mark.

Bubbling away this morning, looks like the right color hopefully the irish moss gives good clarity. Might have let too much of the hops and other unfermentables come out of the brew pot but hopefully this doesn't cause any problems.  May have gone a little under the 5 gallon line but that shouldn't be a huge problem.

Plan on bottling February 18th, with half of the batch having cold steeped pumpkin spice coffee added  in order to give more complexity and have the Coffee Pumpkin Ale.  I may also add a spice tea to the full batch if the flavor seems to fall short of expectations when it finishes fermentation.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Upcoming Beers

So I told myself over and over I would not post a recipe to this blog until it was 100% set and I had either brewed it or was just about to. Well this seems close enough so here it goes.
I recently ordered the ingredients for two batches of beer I plan on making and will brew one this weekend (or during the week depending on when it shows up) and the other sometime in the next month:

  1. Saison Nouvelle: This is intended to be an amber colored Saison style beer with light orange flavor from orange peel additions, lemony and tropical fruit flavor from citra hops and spicy character  from the hops.
  2. Pumpkin Beer: Like the saison this recipe also uses 6 lbs of amber lme, 1.5 lbs wheat dme and .5 lbs caravienne but will utilize much lower amount of hops (1 oz. Mt. Hood for 60 minutes) and a fairly neutral yeast character (Nottingham). The main flavors here come from the 2 lbs of roasted canned pumpkin and pumpkin spices (1 tsp pumpkin pie spice + .5 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp nutmeg).  Half of the batch will have cold brewed pumpkin spice coffee added at bottling time to make a Coffee Pumpkin Ale which, as far as I can tell from my web searches, has not been done before? Doesn't seem possible with the wildly imaginative brewers out there but maybe theres a good reason for it, we shall see.
I'm not sure what order these will be brewed in...the Saison Nouvelle will likely require greater time in carboy (~1 month) and higher temps (>70) which would seemingly make it more fit to be done second.  It however is a recipe I REALLY want to do so we'll see on brewday which I decide to go with.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rating Beer, #1

What started out as simply a blog post with reviews of a few beers I recently received  has become something entirely different. Instead I am going to talk a little about rating and reviewing beers and how it should be done.  Looking at popular beer rating websites (ratebeerBeer Advocate), not to mention actual competitions and professional tastings of craft and homebrews, it is very obvious that there is a wide range of rating beers.

Well, while I originally had planned to create my own rating system, etc... etc..., I finally just decided that BA had a pretty good system and I could post my reviews there. If you would like to see my reviews beyond those posted on this blog check out my profile here

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bottle Bomb

I thought it only happened to people who didn't carbonate correctly and use WAY too much priming sugar. Well today I went and checked on the closet full of homebrews and noticed something: the smell of beer.  Uh-oh.  Looked under the towel covering the cases of bottles and sure enough one bottle was shattered. 

Now the good news about this bottle bomb:
  1. This means that the bottles are carbonating, thats a plus
  2. Only one bottle broke so it doesn't seem that they're all overcarbed
  3. The one that broke was a clear bottle, likely to skunk and
  4. It was a Strongbow Cider bottle, hence: I now know only to use beer bottles
Due to #4 I grabbed the other Strongbow bottle which hadn't broken and decided to crack it open before it cracked itself.  Didn't pour into the best glass for the style but here is how it looks and lets just say, I'm happy with it.  Has the correct color and a BIG head.  Smell is strongly of cloves as is the taste.  Might still be a little green still but tasted more like beer than when straight from the fermenter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Franklin's Brewpub and Island Style

Franklin's Restaurant and Brewery is a great brewpub (with an attached general store) featuring some great food and even better beers. Located in Hyattsville, MD its just a short ride down rte. 1 from College Park and the University of Maryland.  Inside you're welcomed with great smells and a nice bright restaurant.  The food is excellent with every selection I've made (from the burger to the wings to the carolina style pork bbq) being fantastic.  To complement these great offerings the beer list features around 10 brews made on premise with rotational styles and sometimes a guest beer from another instate brewpub.  Of the three beers I have had all were to style, beautiful in appearance, paired well with food and most of all were delicious.  The scotch ale was strong and malty (yum!), the belgian style beer (don't remember the name) was perky and tasteful and the "miami weiss" wheat beer was interesting and pleasent with some honey character. I can't wait to go back to try more delicious styles and was happy to see that they have several more new styles soon to come out.  The general store also offers a fantastic but pricey selection of beer.  While there might be a bit wider choices than local liquor stores the prices for belgians and big beers also come in at a few dollars more. The store also offers a wide range of games and knick-knacks and is an entertaining post-meal stop.

Just a short jump over to Mt. Ranier Maryland and you can find an excellent dessert to complement this fine dinner and beer experience (if you choose to skip on Franklin's delicious bread pudding).  Island Style is an organic caribbean ice cream shop inconspicuously located in a small house like shop.  The main event for beer lovers is the Stout ice cream.  Alternating chewy and icy the stout ice cream suffers from the usual beer ice cream problem of increased water but does so sparingly and the icy parts are almost a special treat rather than the annoyance of some Guinness flavored freezes I've had.  While the cones seemed rather stale (perhaps a low turnover during the winter) the ice cream itself (at least the Stout I chose and the Chocolate and Butter Pecan of my girlfriend and her sister) where excellent and very reasonably priced.  It takes a lot to keep a restaurant open 6 years and get rave reviews in the Washington Post but this place knows what its doing with Ice Cream (and in the case of the Stout, beer).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bottling Beer #1 Pics

My last post was an over encompassing, strangely technical and frankly boring little journal entry of my first brewing experience.  I thought I'd add some pics of myself and friends (girlfriend and her roommate Addison) figuring things out on bottling day.

 Me and Addison trying to figure out how to attach the bottle filler...trick was we were using the wrong hose.
 First time using the bottle capper, we were all a little afraid the bottles would break.

I'm very happy with the color of this one in a clear bottle.  I think thats one of the Strongbow bottles I kept, biggest pain in the ass to clean the label off of any bottle I tried.
 All that bottling sure made me thirsty...

As my girlfriend put it before we even started bottling "why would anyone want to do this much work for something that you can just buy?" well I had a good time with it and hopefully they enjoyed it enough to give me the help again on the next batch. Speaking of which I should really figure out what thats going to be...

Bavarian Hefeweizen, beer #1

I have recently brewed my first beer: Northern Brewer's Bavarian Hefeweizen.  The recipe is only very slightly modified from the kit instructions but is listed below:

3 lb Northern Brewer Wheat Malt Extract (Liquid)
3 lb Northern Brewer Wheat Malt Extract (Liquid, 15 min)
1 lb Briess Wheat Extract (Dry)
.75 oz. Tettnang hops (60 min)
.15 oz. Tettnang hops (45 min)
~5 gallons filtered tap water

Other Notes:
Cleanser used was OneStep
Temp. appeared to be in lower 60's.
Brewed 12/26/10
Bottled 1/8/11
Should Open on: 1/22/10

The brewing process took several hours as it was my first.  Several improvements which I have noted prior to even tasting the beer:

  • Cooling time was too long, next time I will buy a bag of ice to have an ice bath rather than just water and the few cubes I had laying around
  • Boiling time was also very long, this might not be avoidable (without purchasing a burner which I'm not ready for) but top off water could be boiled at the same time as wort rather than separately.
  • Not all liquid malt extract came out of bottle, next time I will be sure to soak in hot water first
  • Slightly overfilled carboy, making possibly an extra 1/5th of a  gallon and weakening the beer
  • Did not measure OG (this may have been inaccurate if I had and I was informed to use manufacturers OG)
  • dropped and broke thermometer before ever using it

After pitching yeast I headed out for the night and, many hours later, found it rapidly fermenting when I came home.  A healthy foamy krausen and bubbling through (jack daniel's filled) airlock continued for several days and began to slow.  The beer was fermented in a basement closet and wrapped in towel to avoid light access, and maintain a temperature in the low to mid 60's.  After vacationing for several days I returned to find fermentation had all but ended.  Several days later FG was measured to be 1.012 (close to expected) and beer was racked to bottles along with 5 oz. of priming sugar (dextrose) dissolved in 2 cups of boiling water.

  • During bottling I realized how much easier and better for the beer the task is when using a bottle filler over pouring straight from spigot of bucket
  • Beer was bottled into primarily brown bottles, with several clear and green bottles for visual effect.
  • 54 beers (several more than expected, but not surprising due to over top up water) were bottled

A quick run down of equipment used:
-5 gallon stainless steel brewpot
-6 gallon glass carboy (Primary fermenter)
-Northern Brewer bottling bucket w/ spigot attached to tube and bottle filler
-54 glass, non-screw top, 12 oz. bottles capped by black beauty capper
-3 piece airlock filled with jack daniel's whiskey

Tasted some of the beer while bottling and a few notes on the (flat) beer:

  • Smell is weak, might have somewhat to due with lack of carbonation, but with light fruity notes and just a touch of spice
  • Taste is fairly fruity with banana and a slight clove shining through but overall a cider like impression, might be due to low carbonation or "greenness" of the beer (acetalaldehyde).
  • A little watered down tasting, again hoping this is more due to flatness than anything else, but excessive top off water may have slightly diluted the taste and strength of the brews.
  • Looks beautiful, a little like a cloudy cream soda, seems to be just right for the style, just lacking that nice head

Bottles should be ready to drink in two weeks, here's to hoping it turns out well and I've made a good beer. I'm currently humbly optimistic and will be happy with a drinkable beverage.

First and Foremost

As my first post I feel I should introduce this blog.  I am Dan, and I brew beer.  I also enjoy beer greatly and wanted to have a place I could post on topics related to the beverage and creating it.

The primary reason behind making this blog is for keeping a personal journal on my adventures in homebrewing. This includes posting what recipes I have used (or intend to use) and what processes were used to carry them out, as well as how these ingredients and processes turn out.  The hope is that by saving this information I will have a greater ability to improve the beverages I make.

There are three secondary reasons behind this blog:

  1. to inform others of my homebrewing experiences so they may gain from them
  2. to place and store reviews of beers and related topics for my self and others to read
  3. to place and store information on any topic I seem fitting of this blog
And be it made by myself or others the end goal of this site is: GOOD BEER!