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.