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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#21b - Blackberry Brett Beer tasting

I finally got around to doing a tasting of the half batch of my brett beer with blackberries added.  For my first all brett beer this one turned out decent if a bit underwhelming.

A- beautifully clear pink tinged amber with a very small but sticky white head.

S- the fruity Brett arrives with strawberry and a bit of barnyard and the fruit arrives with berry and earthy aromas which is just a bit lemon and yogurt tinged.  The beer turns to more fruit as it warms.

T- fruity and tart berry swirls around the mouth, with just a bit of earth and funk. Very tame compared to the nose, with a sweet/sour blackberry flavor dominating but not overpowering. The slightest bit of funk shows up in the finish.

M- dry with medium to low carbonation. This is right where I wanted it to turn out and allows the beer to play in the mouth a bit like a wine or straight lambic.

O- a bit vinous in quality with nice berry flavors. The sourness is high enough that I could see this passing as a Flanders red despite the lack of bacteria. On one hand I'm very happy with this beer but on the other it doesn't draw me back for seconds the way some of my best have; perhaps I just don't want more than one sour/funky beer in a sitting. A good beer overall and I look forward to reusing this yeast.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#31 - Altbier recipe and tasting

I brewed a fairly traditional Dusseldorf Altbier in September in hopes to both use my leftover Spalter Select hops and make a nicely balanced beer for the Fall (a trend I followed in developing my next beer, a Better Bitter).  The hope for this beer was to have a solid, complex, crusty, malt beer that has enough bitterness, flavor and aroma from the hops to compliment and enhance, all in a sessionable German style.  All of that said, I have not had any true German Altbiers so it will be hard to know if any perceived flaws are due to the recipe, due to the brewing process or are actually true to style.

Appearance- lighter in color than I had expected, a coppery orange with decent clarity and a small sticky head.  Probably should be a touch darker and quite a bit clearer to be "to style".

Smell- grainy: baked biscuits, cookies, graham crackers with a pungent, vegetal, earthy hop character in the mix.

Taste- again the grains lead the way with biscuity and lightly roasted flavors quickly giving way to a vegetal, moderate, long lasting hoppy bitterness.

Mouthfeel- medium bodied with low carbonation. This one might carbonate more with a little more time but its enjoyable where it is.

Overall- very drinkable. The lingering bitterness isn't abrasive but begs for another sip. The hop flavor/aroma isn't terrific and using a better hop variety and less taste/aroma hops would probably make the malt and bitterness shine more.  This was my first attempt at using the German Ale/Kolsch yeast and I have to say I think it worked terrifically despite being pushed to slightly higher temps than recommended.  While I would love to be able to have cold crashed/lagered this beer for an extended time to get it a little cleaner and closer to style it works well where it is and I'm finding myself craving this even with commercial beers in the fridge.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Raspberry Blonde Tasting

A- pinkish brown with a small quickly fading head. Initial pour is slightly cloudy but due to over carbonation it becomes very cloudy with more beer.

S- earthy, fruity, acidic. The raspberry definitely shows through. A bit muddled.

T- lightly acidic and very fruity. Raspberry is noticeable with the acidity and earthiness lingering long after the finish.

M- highly carbonated with a light body. Over carbonation is probably due to a small amount of raspberry material making it to the bottle.

O- an alright beer. Very fruity and the raspberry comes through very strong. A bit muddled but similar to other raspberry beers I've had.  I will probably rack to tertiary off of the fruit next time to help the carbonation as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#24 Belgian Single Tasting

A- deep orange to amber hue with a one inch white head of tiny bubbles
S- spice up front, big clove and a little cardamom, some fruity banana and coconut
T- similar to the nose, cloves and allspice with overripe fruit
M- thin and highly carbonated. A touch too highly carbonated.
O- not terrible considering this was an unplanned second rubbings beer. That said the yeast was clearly stressed and gave very less than ideal flavors. Drinkable but not super appealing. Looks pretty at least.

Friday, October 11, 2013

#23 - Belgian Quad Tasting

Appearance- deep orange to rose in color with a large fluffy white head that fades to a half inch leaving splotchy lacing.

Smell- huge nose of cherries, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, tobacco, figs, vanilla and a bit of bourbon barrel booziness. It reminds me a bit of the smell of La Trappe's Quad but with bigger, spicier aromas.

Taste- the spice dominates the mouth with some sweetness and the booze quickly following. Warm clove and all spice flavors quickly subside to a lingering warmth and a slightly tingling balance of spice, bitterness and carbonation.

Mouthfeel- feels a bit syrupy and thick which fills the mouth with lots of carbonation.

Overall- this one still comes off pretty hot and boozy and could probably use another year or three to fully develop. While the nose is there and the overall drink isn't bad the depth of flavor is not up to par for a Trappist quad.  A nice try but I will probably not use homemade candi syrup next time and spend a little more effort on the yeast starter size. To reduce the hotness and finishing gravity.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

#27 - Scottish Export tasting

I don't go back often enough and write down my beer results, especially with flawed batches, so I thought I would make sure to record this one.  I brewed my 27th beer, a Scottish 80 shilling over 4 months ago and have been slowly trying them out.  I often experiment in beers, trying new techniques or ingredients and rarely going "to style".  In some of those cases it doesn't turn out well, whether this is due to the new technique/ingredient or not paying close enough attention to the basics.  While it can sometimes be hard to determine the exact cause of off flavors, in this case it seems to be a combination of the malt (specifically the kiln-coffee and maybe the pale chocolate) and the yeast (likely too high a fermentation temperature for the Scottish yeast).

A- A fairly clear medium brown with a small head that never fades.
S- Aromas of chocolate, biscuit, coffee and over ripe cherries.  While not bad the fruit is a little stronger than I would have liked and seems to clash with the light roast and coffee.
T- Like the nose the fruitiness seems to stand out with a sweet biscuity coffee character also showing up.  Finishes long and slightly puckering with a lingering sweet and stale effect.
M- Medium-low in body with moderate carbonation.  This aspect is at least right on target.
O/D- While this beer is clearly flawed it really is hard to pinpoint the cause.  Maybe the coffee malt just doesn't belong, maybe fermented at a lower temperature the fruitiness wouldn't muddle the mix, maybe the pale chocolate malt was a little too old and stale, in any case this is my second time having poor results with Wyeast's Scottish Ale yeast and will likely keep me from using it again for quite some time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Northern California Round 2

After visiting Northern California several years ago I went again this summer. I wanted to finally give a quick summary of the experience.

I visited 4 breweries, 2 large nationally known ones and 2 small brewpubs.

In retuning to Russian River it was obvious that craft beer is alive and well in this country, maybe even too alive and well. People were streaming out of the place carrying full cases of Pliny the Elder and the wait to be seated was over an hour, even middle of the day on a Friday! When we were finally seated we were told it would be another hour wait if we wanted to do a tasting so we passed on the flight and each grabbed a Belgian beer.

With two sour beers and two non-sour strong Belgians it was a nice mix of what RR offers, minus the hoppy Americans. As always great stuff, maybe too great.

Rather than sit around for the hour while we waited to be seated at RR we decided to walk a few blocks to Third Street Aleworks for lunch and a tasting. While the food was excellent (I had a wild boar sausage) the beers were lackluster with all seeming to be an American variant (amber, blond, IPA, pale ale, steam beer, etc) while none were awful some seemed to miss the mark with the others being mainly boring examples of the style. At least we were able to get a seat, food and tasting flight in no time.

Continuing our Sonoma brewery journey we visited the very large (and again very crowded) Lagunitas. Here we ordered 4 more beers, none of which I have seen available and with styles ranging from Brandy barrel stout to a farmhouse ale. All were interesting and enjoyable but, similar to RR, the overcrowded space and uncaring service staff didn't make for as enjoyable experience as it could have been.

One unexpected stop was Magnolia in San Francisco. This brewpub was, like most of these places, super packed and provided pretty good beer. Beers here were fairly expensive however, especially compared to most brewpubs in my area which have cheaper pints than bars. Overall, alright but not good enough to merit a return.

The only bars worth mentioning which we visited are The Monks Kettle and La Trappe. The Monks Kettle continued the theme of small, cramped and pricy. We shuffled into tiny spaces at the bar enjoyed our beers and split. La Trappe on the other hand had plenty of space and we enjoyed several beers from their great menu and some nice Belgian food as well. Only downsides were that the service was quite slow and not very knowledgable. Would happily go again.

I drank too many wines to remember (to the point that I slept through the 4th of July fireworks). I enjoyed the "castle" tour and tastings. Despite how touristy, cheesy and pretentious the location is, the wines are reasonably priced and fairly good. We also did an excellent food and wine tasting/pairing session at Raymond after Castello. I highly recommend both as fun introductions to wine and the wine/tourist industry that is Napa. The trip certainly added a new spark to my desire to make a wine.

While there were many other drinks consumed and hundreds of other activities enjoyed I'll keep it to these for now...and throw in a picture from one of my hikes in Yosemite.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#29 - Simple Lambic (Funky Kast #4)

Not sure what took me so long to post this but I'll finally publish...

After bottling half of my sour brown I was ready to crank out another sour. Taking half of the yeast/bacteria cake from the sour brown and adding it to an extract lambic seemed a simple, effective method.  I used just under an ounce of saaz hops for 35 minutes to keep the ibus down and also boiled half a pound each of flaked wheat and Maltodextrin combined with 6 lbs of Wheat LME. In addition to the sour blend I also added American ale yeast to ensure full fermentation and 1 oz of Hungarian medium toast oak for the full barrel flavor of a classic lambic. I plan to add dregs of various sours as this one progresses.

A little over a month in the carboy and this beer is already down to 1.002.  Light sourness but also pretty young and sweet.  Added dregs of Cantillon Geuze.

A very bad outhouse smell began to develop.  Pulled a sample and it doesn't seem to be the beer, maybe mold around the top of the carboy?  Beer smells and tastes about the same as a month ago, light lemony sourness and some grainy sweetness despite the extremely low gravity.

Wasn't able to taste/test gravity but the outhouse smell is gone. This beer might be ready for at least some to be bottled. I will have to taste in about a month and make some determinations but it is beginning to smell fairly sour and funky and I don't want this to go nearly as sour/acetic as the Flanders red.

Gravity down to 1.000. Taste is tart and refreshing. It might be about time to bottle at least some of this.

Racked 3 gallons onto .5 oz of previously used oak and bottled the rest. Still moderately sour but not overly complex.

Received some positive comments on this beer from a brother and his friends.  Might be time to do a full tasting write up.

Beer is over 2 years old with half the batch kegged.  Decent flavors, moderate acidity, no noticeable acetic acid or other off flavors.

14.5 oz. Oregon Fruit Red Tart Cherries pitted in water added to the keg with about 2 gallons beer remaining. Sweet Cherry puree and juice reserved for a later addition.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

#30 - Amarillo IPA

Finding myself with 3 oz. of Amarillo hops, an open fermentor and no hoppy beers sitting around I decided it was time to brew another American IPA.  While my #28 American Saison features Amarillo and was designed to have a mild hoppiness this beer was intended to be much more bitter and hop forward without yeast character.  In order to up the bitter hop character I used a much different water chemistry profile than I had and added quite a bit of gypsum with just a touch of calcium carbonate.  The simple mash (2-row with just a touch of Vienna and Carastan) made for a fairly easy brewday, though I once again missed my target gravity.  I brought a few bottles of this beer to the beach with me and they were finished fairly quickly.  It's a very pleasant beer but not one that wouldl stand out in a crowd.

Wanted to do a tasting of this IPA...unfortunately (fortunately?) it appears my dad really enjoyed it and there aren't any bottles remaining. Probably for the best with a beer this hoppy which deserves to be enjoyed fresh. Only wish I'd taken a little more notes to have a better sense of how to tweak it next time around. Also wish I had taken a picture since that's really all this post has been waiting on since brew day in July. As the saying goes, only the good die young, and this was a good beer.

A Brief Brew Like a Monk Book Review

I've been holding off on writing this review both because I had other things to write about an because I wasn't entirely sure how I felt. Stan Hieronymus' Brew Like a Monk can be a really interesting and fun read at times with beer and monastery histories and descriptions flowing off the page. At other times it feels as though things are a jumble, processes and facts get repeated or thrown out at strange times. While I like the way the author goes about making each brewery and its beer into a story, it sometimes feels as though there's nothing to tell.

On the actual recipe formulation side of the book some of the recipes given seem a bit off and he often utilizes brewers to come up with recipes for styles they don't brew or at the least don't specialize in. Why not ask them about something they actually know?  While I'm sure Ron Jeffries (Jolly Pumpkin) or Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River) respective recipes for a Blonde and a Golden strong are nice, I would much rather they gave ideas for sours which they specialize in, or at least Orval clone ideas.

All around I found the book a worthwhile straight through read which I may come back to next time I brew a Trappist inspired beer and which helped in formulating my recent quad recipe. Far from the worst but also not among the best as far as beer books go.  I look forward to reading the author's other work including For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops but hope it is better edited and less scatterbrain.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quad Pack

An update on my brewery status: I just added 4 new fermentors.  To be fair each of these is a 1 gallon jug so my brewing output will probably not be increasing along with the number of openings.  I do have some exciting ideas for these small jugs including beer experiments, other types of fermentation and more sour and brett beer blends.  A few items that are high on the list:

  • Blending sour beers - A blend of my very sour brown with my young lambic or other future sours
  • Bretted Saisons - Creating a basic Saison and bottling 1 gallon straight with the other 4 split onto different secondary yeasts/blends including a sour blend, BKYeast C2 and the dregs of a Saison de Lente bottle, and another might receive a different Saison yeast or a culture of lactobacillus)
  • Wine - I am still yet to have made a wine and a recent return trip to Napa has me wishing to experiment, perhaps with a fruit wine or small batches of grape wine
  • Mead - Similar to wine it would seem much easier to begin my experimentation with Mead in small containers, especially with the numerous ideas I have for spices/fruit/yeast/blends/oak that I would like to try
  • Cider - I've only made one to date but would like to try many of the similar additions as with mead, and would like to have the ability to blend with mead/wine/beer without having too much.
  • Spiced Beer - While my Here Be Dragons! spiced Scottish ale was largely unsuccessful spicing a beer (possibly a porter or dubbel) in secondary with a number of different flavors that I have wanted to try out seems like a much better idea with one gallon rather than a full 5 gallons.  Some flavor profiles I've been considering trying out include Speculaas (ginger, cardamom, white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), BBQ (brown sugar, cayenne, smoked paprika, black pepper), sage (maybe with sage honey as well) and caraway+honey
  • Dry hopped - Making a pretty standard recipe and dry hopping with different hops either 4 American types (e.g. Amarillo, Cascade, Citra, Warrior) or 4 non-traditional/world hops (e.g. EKG, Saaz, Sorachi Ace, Mr. Rainier) could make for a very interesting pale ale experiment
Lots of exciting ideas, some of which I'll surely attempt and others I may never get around to.  Experimentation with both classic ideas and entirely new ones is all about what this blog is about, searching for Good Beer in any way possible.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

#28 - American Saison

Saison is one of my favorite styles of beer especially on hot summer days.  It is also a very versatile style that I have experimented with a few variations over the last two years. For this variation I wanted to go with something a little more traditional than my past recipes but with a slight twist, in this case influenced by Boulevard Tank 7 by adding Amarillo hops and Ommegang Hennepin by adding ginger.
  One important aspect of this recipe was keeping the fermentation warm to keep the DuPont strain going and to elicit the classic pepper and fruit character.  In order to try to maintain this warm temperature I wrapped the fermentor in towels and blankets and places a box over top to keep this insulation in place.

Sampled a few highly regarded beers of the style on brew day and saves the yeast (Brett and Sacc) from Saison de Lente.

Update 6/2/13
Down to 1.038, fermentation seems to have at least slowed if not stopped entirely and temperature has clearly dropped closer to the ambient low 60's than the 70s/80s it had been at for the first few. I will probably add the French Saison strain if I don't see a sizeable drop in gravity in a week.

Down to 1.030, not as big a drop as I would like to see so I will purchase the French Saison yeast and add next week barring a bigger drop. Smell is black pepper, ginger and citrusy tropical hops.

After 2 weeks with the Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast the beer has plummeted down to a 1.002 gravity, time to bottle.  Taste is refreshing with some citrus characteristics and a surprising amount of candy sweetness despite the measured dryness.

Bottled using conditioning tablets (4 tabs/12 oz or 6/22 oz). Tastes strongly of citrus with some solid pit fruits and a prickliness, and a balancing but not aggressive bitterness.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

#27 Scottish Export and Water Chemistry

Looking to balance my sour and hoppy beers of recent with something a bit dark and malty but not as dark as the banana stout I decided to try my hand at a Scottish Export ale.  While I have been taking water chemistry into account for a while now I did a full water profile for this beer adding minerals to my moderately soft water to reach a bit more complex character.

Update 6/9/13
Gravity down to 1.010, seems ready to bottle. Initial impression is sweet coffee character, more than I had expected from this small amoun of kiln coffee malt.

Had waited to post this hoping it would improve over time but it still seems a bit off. This is the second time I've had issues with Wyeast1728 Scottish Ale yeast. This may be coincidental, be a factor of the yeast strain which I'm particularly sensitive to or maybe due to fermentation temperatures. While it's hard to pin this beer's off flavor on a single characteristic (it reminds me a bit of both oxidation and autolysis without sticking out as either) the yeast or the malt (old pale chocolate malt and my first time using Franco-belges kiln coffee malt) seem the most likely suspects. I'm hoping some of this character will fade or  blend into the beer over time and this will become more drinkable.

Beer hasn't really improved with time but I decided to do a more complete tasting anyway.

In Grodz We Trust, #26 Tasting

About a month back I brewed my second smoked beer, a Gratzer (or Grodziskie in Polish) and American Wheat hybrid I call in Grodz we trust.  Classically using entirely or near entirely oak smoked wheat malt, Grodziskie has disappeared and made a bit of a resurgence with American craft versions popping up every now and then.  In my attempt I wanted only a slight bit of smokiness to blend in with a dry, dry hopped wheat beer base.

A- Pours a clear pretty yellow color which I chose to add the yeast to, giving a nice Hoegaarden like Wit color with constant carbonation bubble movement throughout.  Small head fades to a thin layer and leaves some lacing.

S- Similar to many of my other dry hopped beers as the Strisselspalt really shows up with light earth, spice, vegetal and fruity black currant aroma, just a touch of smoke mixed in.

T- The smoke takes center stage with a woody chargrilled character that is followed with earthy and spicy hops and a finish that is lightly bitter and still phenol smokey.

M- Very light, dry and thin with moderate carbonation.  This one is right where I was aiming for in terms of the mouthfeel.

O- This is a strange beer that is hard to pin down.  It's impossible for me to say how close it comes to a traditional Gratzer but I could see it being a popular beer among those who like smoked beers.  That said the moderate bitterness and hop aroma combined with the moderate smoke give a strange impression.  If I were to brew again I would likely cut the smoke in half to allow the hops to be more at the front or cut the smoke entirely and add more ginger to let the spice notes really play.  A drinkable, sessionable summer beer that will probably go great with grilling but certainly won't please most.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Raspberry Blonde

I brewed a raspberry blonde beer with my girlfriend on St. Patrick's day.  The beer was her idea (she said she wanted a red beer with raspberries in it) and I had her do most of the work outside of heavy lifting/moving hot water.  This was only my second all-grain batch in my cooler setup and her first attempt at making a beer.  I designed the beer with a medium-low abv, low ibu, and medium-low body in mind to allow the raspberries to really shine.  We ended up with just over 4 gallons rather than the desired 5 but OG was only slightly high so we decided not to adjust and just let it ferment for a few weeks before adding berries and going from there.

Update 3/31/13
Gravity down to 1.006. Racked off of trub and into 3 pounds of raspberries.  Girlfriend complained that she "wanted a red beer" whereas this was more of a gold.  Hopefully all of those raspberries impart some nice color in addition to flavor.  The plan is to bottle in 2-3 weeks if the flavor seems established.

Raspberries had lost most of their color so it seemed about time to bottle. Bottled with a low amount of sugar (2.1 oz) to account for residual fruit sugars. Beer had a very strong raspberry aroma and moderately fruity and sour raspberry flavor, but just a tinge of pink in the testing tube. It will be interesting to see how it tastes (and looks) once fully carbonated.

#18 Saison Double Tasting

Today I'm doing a tasting on some of the last bottles of my 18/18B Saison batch.  Originally intended to be a sophie inspired oak aged brett saison with large amounts of wheat, the brett really never came through in this one and I added half the batch to both oak and asian pears.  I brought a bottle of this to a brew club meeting where it seemed to be fairly well received.

A- Both versions are a pretty amber color but the pear version is both darker and cloudier.  The pear version also pours with a bigger head, hold the head longer and still has a ring around the outside after a few minutes while the other has just a few bubbles throughout.

S- Straight: White grape juice, hay, orange peel, juicy fruit gum.  Pear: Much lower levels of fruitiness with some slightly tart pear character and a nice oak level that gives a faint touch of smoke and vanilla.

T- Straight: fairly light flavors compared to the nose, the Juicy Fruit and hay/wheat character come through a bit while the beer finishes lightly sweet.  Pear: Light pear character definitely shines through, I can sense the oak but it helps to bolster the light flavors from the malt/yeast/fruit more than it sticks out on its own.

M- Both beers feel both a bit underattenuated and undercarbonated.  I feel this may be due to the brett never kicking in and bringing the gravity lower as I had expected.

D- Not bad.  The asian pear/oak version is certainly better and seems to have enough fruit to be perceivable without dominating while the oak seems to enhance that fruit character.  I don't think I will use this yeast again (WLP670 White Labs American Farmhouse blend) and the overall character was a bit like Urthel Saisonierre, though more complex.  I will probably never have a chance to do an asian pear beer again but I was happy with the results here and certainly would recommend for anyone else with easy access to them.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Banana Stout tasting and brew house updates

I had not yet posted a tasting of my banana stout as I had been consistently disappointed by it. Today I came home to bottle the table Belgian I made as a side to the quad several weeks ago. I also decided to check on my other on-going projects and make some decisions on them. I'll start with the updates.

Quad: down to 10.13 this one appears done fermenting. Flavor is great with some caramel, spice and fruit mixing with a little boozy heat. I plan to move this to secondary today for two weeks before bottling.

Small Belgian: this one has a lot more off flavors than the quad and seems to have some serious chunks of protein. Nevertheless I need the Carboy and have no intention of dumping so I will bottle today.

Brett Bitter: still a touch more bitter than I would like but it seems a great base for a fruit beer otherwise. Might add blackberries in 2 weeks.

Sour Brown: awesome! This beer seems to have regained a bit of its toasty biscuity qualities while also continuing to develop acid and berry flavors. Really happy with where this is.

Now on to the tasting.

A- opaque black with a big tan head that fades to a pretty one finger layer.

S- fruity as it pours, though not a huge nose in the glass. A little coffee and fruit (I smell banana but my Dad says apricot) shines through.

T- definite overripe banana with some light spice and a little classic stout roastiness. Finishes with a dry roast bitterness.

M- over carbonated which leaves it a bit spritzy. Could definitely use a chewier body too.

D- this beer has improved over time. Still not good beer quality but an interesting experiment. The lactose doesn't seem noticeable so I would use twice as much in the next milk stout I make.

Monday, February 25, 2013

#23 and New Mash Tun

I haven't been super active with this blog recently and there are a few things on backlog (especially tastings of 4 or 5 beers and a few book reviews) but today I brewed a new beer and used a new system recently so that moved to the top of the list.  My #23 is named in honor of both my 23rd batch and myself being 23 years old for less than another month.  Since batch 24 will probably be the only other batch that is equal to my age I decided to do this one right by doing a big Belgian quad with 23 pounds of fermentables.
My new 10 gallon mash tun with over 20 pounds of grain in it

One of my favorite styles for a long time with beers like Westvleteren 12 and St. Bernardus 12 being particular favorites and having recently finished "Brew Like a Monk" it seemed time to go for it.  In an attempt to emulate those beers I am using the Wyeast Trappist High Gravity yeast.  Due to Midwest Supplies leaving out a pound of aromatic I modified my recipe to use 20 lbs of Pilsner, 1 pound of special b, .5 pounds of biscuit malt and 1.5 pounds of a variety of sugars (including corn syrup, white table sugar and brown sugar).  Aiming for a near 1.100 OG could lead to some difficulties with attenuation but I am excited to truly try to make a beer of this style.

To go along with this huge batch I also am doing my first non-biab all-grain brew with my new 10 gallon mash tun!  While brew day was annoying in a few days (yeast had been left out since arriving, 1 lb of aromatic grain was missing, the brew tun was slightly messed up, didn't have enough water and the water filters were going slow) I managed to finally hit my mash temp (151 F) after a prolonged period between 120 and 130 while I went to purchase and then boil distilled water.  So far I'm liking the all-grain set-up much more than BIAB but I will have to see how the final product comes out to make a real determination.
This one had a very active hot break

Note: I also ran a second mash on the malt to make a table beer with some old Abbey Ale II yeast I made a starter for.

Cooled to 63F, transferred to 6 gallon better bottle, aerated by shaking for 5 minutes and pitched two swollen smack packs of Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity.  OG came in at a disappointingly low 1.080 (the small beer however did come in at a gravity of 1.055).

This thing took off over night to the point where it blew out the blow off tube!  The most active fermentation I have ever seen.  Made a huge mess but at least I was able to top crop some of the krausen from it.

Fermentation is not nearly as strong as it was for the first few days but still going fairly strong.  Small beer is also still fairly active and giving off strong bubblegum notes.

Fermentation still seems to be going slowly. Sample was at 1.021 gravity, much higher than expected. Color was light and flavor was sweet, boozy, lightly fruity and somewhat bitter. Decided to make another couple pounds of candi sugar to get this closer to where I want it.
Small beer is down to 1.013, probably still has a ways to go. Extremely hazy with protein chunks, I think I grabbed too much of the krausen when sampling. Flavor is a bit fruitier but again too bitter.

Gravity on big beer, #23, down to 1.016. Bottled with 3.3 oz of sugar. Small beer, #24, is finally carbed. Fairly light and tasty with definite Belgian aromas, will need to do a full tasting soon.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

#22 - IPA Tasting

If there is one hard rule about homebrew it's that the best batches are gone too soon and the worst stay around too long. This beer, fortunately, has flown by. Down to the last bottle of a 5 gallon bath after just over a month. Time for a tasting.

A- solid off white head that fades to one finger. Very clear bright orange color. Leaves beautiful lace on the way down, as seen in the second picture. Right where I wanted it.

S- luscious fruit and citrus hops with a bit of honey. Melon, lavender, rose, lemon. Lots going on in the hop forest.

T- bright warm lightly toasty malt on the from with a bitingly bitter finish. The hop flavor has already faded a bit, still a nice lemony fruity flavor there but surprisingly faded much quicker than the beautiful aroma.

M- medium in body and carbonation. Very enjoyable with a bit of creaminess from the oats counteracting the otherwise dry body.

O- one of, if not the, best beers I have made to this point. I would gladly serve this or order it from a professional brewery, a bit different than the standard but I'm glad. This is good beer.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012 Year in Re-brew and Brewing Goals

Looking back at my goals from 2012 I have the following:

  • 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
Of these goals I certainly accomplished 2: brewing a sour (the sour brown is still in secondary) and brewing an all grain batch (I in fact brewed multiple all grain batches).  I partially satisfied two goals as I brewed a cider and made a somewhat experimental beer in my peated porter, but didn't make anything too experimental and didn't make a mead or wine.  I also came up short in the number of gallons I brewed with just 10 batches at 5 gallons each, plus 1 gallon of cider.  All-in-all it was a mixed bag year for brewing with a few very good beers coming out of it and some techniques learned.  On the other hand there were some bad batches and my brew in a bag ability still lacks.  Rather than set specific one year goals for 2013 I decided to simply list some short (hopefully next few months), medium (hopefully within a year), and long (hopefully at some point) term goals.

Short Term Goals
  • Attend a brew club meeting.  I've been meaning to do this for a while and the timing has never worked out.
  • Enter a competition.  I need to have a beer I feel is competition worthy or a competition I'm not embarrassed to enter with an "okay" beer.  Hopefully one of the two will happen soon.
  • Obtain a new all grain system.  I've been disappointed with the limitations and the quality I have gotten from my brew in a bag setup and decided that I should move to a cooler system.
  • Rebrew a beer.  I am yet to have done a "rebrew" of a beer.  While I might not use the exact same ingredients I plan to remake my black saison again with a very similar recipe, hopefully with just as much success.
Medium Term Goals
  • Make a mead.  I've been wanting to make a mead for a long time and my brother beginning to make mead and wine (living in Napa Valley certainly helps with that) has made me even more intrigued.
  • Make a wine.  Again, this is something I've wanted to do for a while and just haven't gotten around to.
  • Brew a DCambic or Marylambic more appropriately. Essentially the plan is to use the wild yeasts I caught in November and brew a full beer with them.
  • Brew another sour.  When my current sour finishes I hope to brew a second one using the yeast cake, in addition to my local wild ale.
  • Host a tasting.  I've been planning this for a while but haven't figure out exactly how I would do it.  This could be a simple tasting and reviewing session or a pairing with cheese or full courses.  Regardless of how its done it would be fun to get some honest opinions on my beers and share them with friends.
Long Term Goals
  • Attend the National Homebrewers Conference and/or Great American Beer Festival.
  • Win a competition. I would like to make beer of quality high enough to at least win a category.
  • Have a blending session.  With the current sour beer I am making, and the others I plan to make in the future, it could be interesting to blend some of these together.  In addition to blending the beers on my own, it could be fun to have a few friends over to join in and make their own blend.
  • Set up a yeast lab.  This isn't something I could do now but having read other blogs and recently getting the book: Yeast, my interest has piqued.
  • Begin kegging/build a kegerator.  While I don't mind bottling it might be nice to be able to have at least some beers on tap, especially having some stouts or porters on nitro could be fun.
  • Brew a lager.  Again, something I don't currently have the capacity for but would be fun to try if and when I have my own setup where I could control temperatures.
  • Take another beer influenced trip.  Maybe a return to Belgium or actually making it to Cologne and Dusseldorf?
With these goals I don't feel the need to brew certain styles at certain times but have some idea of what I would like to do moving forward.  Hopefully 2013 will have some more great beers.