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!