Friday, May 29, 2009

Beer Quest Shoots Brooklyn

Craig & Steve at the helm

This past Memorial Day weekend, my friends Jon And Kieran from Beer Quest did some filming both at Sixpoint and in Ray's backyard. I was pretty stoked for this not because I'm a media whore (which I am), but because I think a little web-available video footage would be a great addition to my brewing resume, especially when it comes to sending that resume out to breweries that are out of town. I already got a little press coverage in a really swanky beverage magazine called Imbibe Magazine this past January, and let me just say that I was the only guy featured that was wearing flip-flops and a T-shirt. Mostly Imbibe features columns about $15 mixed drinks with names that I can't pronounce, so homebrewing seemed to be an interesting and off-kilter feature for them, but I thought it was a well written article that fit the magazine pretty well.

The film crew at Sixpoint along with Kieran, Steve, myself, and Jon.

Anyway, Jon and Kieran, their crew, and their host Steve have been concentrating on the Brooklyn craft brewing scene for their pilot episode of Beer Quest. The show is going to feature a different city or region for each episode, and try to really delve into the brewing culture of each city, not just hit a few of the big breweries and call it a wrap. I wasn't filmed in the Sixpoint segment, which would have been cool even if it was just for a few seconds just to show that I was both homebrewing and doing an internship. However, when they came over to Ray's on Sunday we really got to cut loose, show them some homebrewing, and have a lot of fun. Most of the footage we shot will probably end up on the cutting room floor, or in extras because it's pretty much a bunch of dick and ass jokes interspersed with some brewing tech-talk and a little beer philosophy, and for some reason they have to keep the show pretty mellow in order to appeal to a wide range of potential channels.

Here's a short sample from the video: You can't see much homebrewing in this part, but we are sparging out the grainbed as we are cracking into our first homebrew. Shortly after the clip, I explained the importance of having a good "panty dropper" recipe in your repertoire, i.e. a beer that is around 8% and has a sweet or fruity profile that will appeal to the ladies. Then we had a little discussion on the use of corn, rice, and other adjuncts in beer, how these ingredients are being accepted by craft brewers and not the maligned substances they used to be, and also the general concept of what effect macrobrewers have had on our concept of beer as a culture. Personally I think that artisanal and local are the buzzwords of American food, and the beer scene is slightly behind the food movement in this regard but catching up quickly. Macrobrewed lagers are the Velveeta cheese of the beer world, and I'm glad to see we are stepping out of the TV dinner and canned lawnmower beer astetic that has reigned supreme for too long in this country. That being said, I did swill a tallboy of PBR at a local dive bar after my last Sixpoint shift, so it's not like they don't have their place...sometimes.

The interesting thing about filming homebrewers is that I think we really got to show them a side of brewing that would not have been available from a commercial brewery. I think because the batch size is smaller, people can relate to it more. It's not that far off from the scale of cooking a large meal. Also, instead of all our processes being inside of large stainless steel vessels and moved around by pumps, they are in coolers, carboys, and things you can look into to see what's happening inside. Everything is moved around by hand and by gravity. And because it involves drinking, having fun, and joking around, it's kind of a mix between a party and a work day. I hope in the end we got to add something to their beer experience and that it makes a great segment for their show.

Viva La Homebrew...
Senior Wonton

By the way, here's the recipe That Ray, Vlad, and I brewed on Sunday:

"BQ" IPA: Recipe is for 14 gallons pre-boil, 12.75 gallons post-boil

O.G. 1.068 F.G. 1.014 ABV 7.2% IBU's 75

27 lb. 6 oz. Glen Eagle Marris Otter malt
(Once again, this is a very dark malt at 5-6 Lovibond, almost like mixing a portion of crystal and munich into a base pale malt)

Hops: All whole hops were added in bags because we did not have a way to filter them out.

43 gr. Horizon 10.9% pellets 60 min.
36 gr. Chinook 13% whole 60 min.
56 gr. Columbus 12.3% pellets 15 in
65 gr. Amarillo 8.2% pellets 10 min.
112 gr. Centennial 8.5% whole 0 min.

Dry Hops: 38 gr. each Amarillo, Centennial, and Columbus pellets.  Added loose in the primary after 12 days and left in for 1 week before racking to keg.

Mash: 8.5 gallons H2O + 3 tsp. gypsum. 150 degrees for 1 hour.
Sparge with 170 degree H2O to collect 13.5 gallons at 1.066. This was way over our expected efficiency so we added 2 quarts of water.

Boil 1 hour with hops as noted, whirlfoc at 15 min, yeast nutrient at 10 min.

Chill to 68 degrees, whilpool, and rack to 2 carboys.
Aeration: 90 seconds of pure O2 per carboy.
Yeast: Slurry of Wyeast 1056 from a previous pale ale batch. Pitched entire slurry from a 5 gallon batch.
Ferment at 68 degrees.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Petit Saison Tasting

It was a pretty big brewing weekend both at Sixpoint and with Ray & Vlad this past memorial day weekend. Both days involved a film crew shooting for Beer Quest, a pilot show that my friends Jon and Kieran are putting together. And I promise, I'll get to that and try to post as soon as I can with some photos. Quite frankly the last 2 days at the office monkey job have sucked hard. My boss and the other assistant were out of town, and I've been working at a double pace, which means no blog posting from work. Speaking of work, I've been looking into Portland Oregon as a potential place to move to sometime in the next year or so. While I was perusing information on this beer mecca city, I came across this. If you ever want to feel even shittier about your wanky office job in New York, just check to see what your wages would equate to in a normally priced city! That's right, I could probably earn an equivalent wage bagging groceries at a Safeway in Portland as I do at my job here. But enough bitching, at least I have the Sixpoint gig on Saturdays to keep my soul alive until I find a real brewing job. For now I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Here's a quick tasting of my Petit Saison, which since I used American hops, I thought I'd just call "Little Season". This was tasted from a Beergun-filled bottle off the keg.

Appearance: Extremely clear, dark gold color with a burnt-orange hue. Med-high carbonation, nice head stand that dissipates somewhat with time.

Aroma: Light tartness, earthy, pear and strawberry-like esters. Slight vanilla malt character and some CO2 harshness. Very classic saison aroma, just less of it.

Flavor: Earthy, somewhat grainy flavor with subdued esters for style. Some low juicy-fruit type esters with a substantial Goldings hop flavor. Finish is very dry, with a light tartness and a light lingering bitterness. No alcohol percieved.

Mouthfeel: Dry, med-high carbonation, no alcohol heat. Very clean.

Overall: Extremely quaffable, almost had me going into the next sip before the first one was swallowed. Subdued esters and almost lager-like malt qualities. Needs more saison character. I'd definitely raise the fermentation temp to increase yeast character, since the low amount of ingredients already tends towards a very subtle flavor. Tasted better off the keg than from the bottle. It didn't have the harsh CO2 bite that the bottled beer had.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hoppy Robust Porter

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a sad state of affairs here at the homebrewery. That's right, I've officially (almost) run out of beer in the kegerator. It hurts my heart to say it, but the only thing I've got kegged up right now is a tasty, but not quite sessionable, oak-aged barleywine. This is partially due to the fact that my roommate likes to "share" things of mine a little too liberally. He "shared" quite a bit of my highly-drinkable low-gravity saison with himself and his friends, and I was caught unawares with no back-up brew ready! So I had to have the "kegerator is off limits" talk with him, and maybe I won't have to go so far as to install faucet locks to enforce that. Hopefully.

In the mean time I'm trying to crank out some tasty ales that will not take too long to get into the keg and on tap. I know it's not really porter season (although it was colder than a witch's tit here in NYC today), but I've had this brew in mind for quite a while. The last time I brewed a Hoppy Robust Porter was over a year ago, but it scored really well in competition, and took first in porters at Homebrew Alley 2.
This time the recipe bears only minor changes: a slight increase in chocolate malt, cutting out the half pound of munich which couldn't have been even tastable in a beer this malty, and a little water adjustment. Oh yeah, and an English yeast instead of Cali ale yeast. And I used an oxygen stone setup to aerate. So much for changing only one variable at a time!

If you try to brew this recipe, you should either look for Glen Eagle brand marris otter malt, or increase the specialty grains just a smidge. My experience with this malt is that it is significantly darker than most marris otter (5 Lovibond as compared to 3 Lovibond), and I lower my crystal malts because it seems to be less fermentable too. So If you use a regular marris otter malt, or an American 2-row, you should probably increase the crystal 40 and maybe add some munich malt.

Anyway, here's the freakin' recipe. I don't have a name for this beer yet. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Recipe is for 5.9 gallons (post boil), all grain. Mash Efficiency 83%
O.G 1.064 IBU's 58

10 lb. Glenn Eagle Marris Otter malt
10 oz. Chocolate malt
.5 lb. Breiss special roast malt
.5 lb. Crystal 40
.5 lb. black patent malt
.25 lb. Special B malt

31 gr. Chinook whole hops 13% AA, 60 min
28 gr. Cascade pellets 6% AA, 15 min
28 gr. Cascade pellets 6% AA 0 min

Mash: 3.75 gallons water at 150 for 60 min
(Checked pH at 30 min, 4.9. Added 1 tsp Calcium Carbonate to increase pH to 5.3)
Mash out to 170 over 15 min

Sparge: 5 gallons at 170
Collected only 6.2 gallons at 1.057. Added 2 quarts of top-up water.

Boil 60 min, hop additions as noted.
Whirlfoc at 15 min
1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 10 min

Chilled to 66, racked to carboy, and oxygenated for 1 minute.
Pitched 1/2 cup slurry of fresh Sixpoint ale yeast (WLP 007 Dry English Ale Yeast)
Fermenting at 67, will raise temp to 70 towards the end.
The fermentation looked awesome after 20 hours, I think this beer is going to ferment hard and fast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brewery picture of the week

Jasmine, the Sixpoint kitty

Not much going on here of notable interest. We brewed another double batch of Bengali Tiger on Saturday. I feel like I'm actually picking up some skills at Sixpoint, so that I can jump in on certain projects and do them on my own. For instance on Saturday I cleaned and ran the sanitation cycle on a conditioning tank with only a little supervision, shoveled out grain from the 1st mash, stirred in the 2nd mash, and washed 5 pallets of kegs (among other things).

On Saturday evening we had a San Diego beer tasting at my place, and a lot of the beers were truly excellent. Doug brought over some Stone and Lost Abbey beers to implement what I had already brought. There was only one stinker in the batch, an infected or stale Left Coast Torrey Pines IPA. It smelled like rotten feet & cheese. The Left coast Hop Juice double IPA was in pretty good shape though.

Looking forward to brewing up a batch next Sunday, possibly a pale ale to grow up some Cali yeast and use the homegrown hops that Chillindamos gave me.

Cheers, Happy brewing to you all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brett Brux brewday, and a Brett homebrew tasting

This lovely pic is the Oak-aged brett beer I brewed with Ray over a year ago. It was my last bottle and damn, it was really tasting good. I decided to crack it open today as inspiration for the all-brett ale I was brewing.

  • Aroma: Light sweetness, apricotty esters, low tartness, some oak. Very little classic brett aroma, just a little hint of something wild.
  • Appearance: Great head, clear copper color. Head recedes but lacing is good.
  • Flavor: Bubblegum / fruity, soft malts, light spice from hops. Bitterness is very low due to age. Well blended & subtle oak finish. Very complex. Not much of the classic brett horseyness or sourness that I would have expected.
  • Mouthfeel: Soft and velvety up front with expanding bubbles, high carbonation and a very dry finish. Light tannins, spice, alcohol warmth.
  • Overall: Incredible beer, but the brett is not really noticeable, at least not in a classic brett sense. My theory is that the brett was not "stressed" enough during fermentation, and it fermented very clean during the secondary. This may have been from making a starter from the pack of brett to split it into 2 beers. Maybe we pitched too much?

The idea for this 100% Brett beer today started with an urge to make some tasty, tart session beer for the summer drinking season. I was gung-ho for making some Berlinner Weisse, but I got a little daunted when I found out Wyeast was not releasing their seasonal Berlinner Weisse yeast blend this year. Yeah, I know I could have bought a tube of lacto and a tube of ale yeast, but then I remembered the tube of brettanomyces I had in the fridge. So I decided I'd do something in-between a B-wiesse and a historical saison. Something, low-gravity, funky, light, and kind of hoppy.

I've only done one all brett beer before, and I ended up dumping it down the drain because it tasted like a hairy Band-aid. So I did a little more research this time, on sights like the Burgundian Babble Belt, The Mad Fermentationist blog, and I even pestered Chad Yakobson via email for some information. Fermentation is the key with all-brett beers, probably even more-so than for standard ales and lagers. Brewers report a wide variance of fermentation profiles, even using the same strain of yeast in different conditions. I was looking for tart, fruity, and clean with low levels of funk.

Here is the recipe. The name comes from the fact that I spent all day listening to the Beatles Abbey Road, The White Album, and then the JZ / Beatles "Grey Album", which I highly suggest taking a listen to if you haven't already.

Helter Skelter ale:
All-grain, 6 gallons post boil, 5.25 in the fermenter
O.G. 1.039 F.G. 1.012 ABV 3.9% (including priming sugar) IBU's 13

3 lb. American Pale malt
3 lb. German Wheat malt
1 lb. Munich malt 8L
4 oz. Sauer malt
3 oz. rice hulls

56 gr. Sterling pellets 6%AA 15 minutes

Mash: 3.5 gallons H2O + 1tsp gypsum
150 for 60 minutes, raise to 170 over 15 minutes.
Checked pH, a surprisingly low 4.7 due to the use of sauer malt. But I did an iodine check for conversion and it was complete.

Sparge: 4 gallons at 170
Collect 6.3 gallons at 1.037 = 86% efficiency

Boil 20 minutes, hops at 15 minutes, 1/2 tsp. Wyeast nutrient at 5 min. No Whirlfloc.

Aerated by shaking for 7 minutes. Pitched yeast when wort was at 66 degrees. Planning to ferment at 72 degrees.

1 tube of WLP 650 (Best By April 30th) in 1 qt. wort on a stirplate.
Fermented vigorously within 16 hours.
Stepped up with an additional quart of wort, and let it settle out at room temp for a week.
Starter wort tasted very tart, like a slightly funky sweet-tart. There was some sulfur smell from the airlock, but I did not detect sulfur in the wort. Only a little horseyness.

This is a little close up detail of my fermentation-guarding piggy. He actually serves a purpose which is to keep the cooling unit of the fridge off the top of the airlock, which would otherwise block up the airlock holes. He started hanging out there because he was just the right size, but now he is a bit of a good luck charm. Jamil had the Celebrator goat,
but to my knowledge I'm the only one with a pig.

5/5/09: The first 36 hours showed almost no signs of fermentation. Only an airlock bubble every minute. No krausen. When I came home on Tuesday evening after a full 48 hours, it was churning away at 72 degrees. The krausen was still very low and it appears to be a bottom fermenting yeast! I turned up the thermostat to allow it to reach 74 in the primary.

6/29/09 Racked to a keg with 4 oz. of priming sugar to keg condition. I also racked .5 gallons to a swing-top growler with a half ounce of sugar. the gravity is still only at 1.012 and the brett flavor is light and unimpressive at this point. I hope it drops a few more points! I did not purge the keg of oxygen, because I'd like to encourage a little more brett character and I think a bit of O2 will help. I did purge the head space after it was filled. I did not secondary this beer, due to lack of time. I did not detect any autolysis flavors. The keg is at room temp, which is pretty warm right now, but there's not much I can do about it except RDWHAH.