Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Kegerator, The search for a brewing job goes on, and a new beer is born.

Today I took a taste of the 2 wild ales I brought all the way across the country in cornelius kegs. Above, on the left is the all B. Bruxellensis session ale. I'm letting the sample de-gas to take the F.G., but it's very dry! The flavor is not incredibly brett-like or horsey, but it does taste like a good session beer. I'll do a full tasting later once it's fully carbonated.

On the right is me & Ray's Flanders Red, which is tasting good, and is has developed a moderate level of sourness, while retaining some sweetness and caramel flavors. I might take this keg back out and let it sour up for another 6 months.

In the middle is a mix of the 2 that came out of the beer line on my new kegerator. It tasted really good! Maybe better than either of the 2 beers separately.

Speaking of new kegerator:

I just finished up installing the gas and liquid lines on this baby yesterday. I went a little over budget on it, but thanks to a generous friend who shall remain nameless, I got a great deal on the faucets and all the liquid & gas hookups. So I went for a 3rd tap, couldn't help myself!

So I can now fit 8 kegs in at once, or 4 kegs and some fermenting lagers, plus some additional space for competition beers. Cool!

I also racked my first Portland (saison) brew to a keg, which is kind of perfumey, incredibly dry (1.004), and hoppy. I'm not sure what I think of it yet, but I am drinking it uncarbonated & at room temp. I think it leaves a somewhat cardboardy finish, which is not from oxidation, but maybe the extreme dryness is making the hops seem harsh? There is also the issue of Portland water, which contains some chloromines, and I haven't found time to by a water filter yet. It would be a nice thing to rule out, more than anything.

This week also marks 1 month that I have been in Portland. Although I haven't written anything on this blog about my job search out here, I am looking for brewing work, and believe me, it's not as easy as it might seem. So far my efforts have included going door to door to breweries and brewpubs to introduce myself, ask about work and give them a resume and a few homebrews, which I brought out specifically for that purpose. So far, only one or two breweries of maybe 12 has said that they were even hiring, and my main hope ended up hiring someone who has about 14 years experience as a brewer.

Instead of getting bummed, I have tried to keep my focus positive, and just do my best to truly immerse myself in the brewing scene here. That includes the work I have done making connections at breweries, as well as homebrewing a lot to give out more samples, and joining both the Oregon Brew Crew and the PDX brewers clubs. I'm also planning on entering as many local homebrew competitions as I can, and start stocking up beers to enter in the National Homebrew Competition.

This week I helped 2 breweries with their bottling days. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera. Upright Brewery initially really impressed me with "Flora Rustica", a saison brewed with some kind of flowers (it was an awesome saison, but I'm not sure what type of flowers were used or what they were supposed to smell like). They also have many other beers using Wyeast 3711 as a primary fermenter, and if you haven't tried them out, you should, because many of these beers are outstanding. I was particularly impressed with the "4", a session saison, and "Reggae Junky Gruit" which is spiced with lemongrass, szechuan peppers, and uses no hops at all. Yes, the name is a Ween reference. Upright uses a custom built bottling line for bottle conditioning 750 ml bottles. It is completely hand operated, and fills 6 bottles at a time. It's not an extremely fast setup, but with 4 people, we were able to prep, bottle 6 barrels of beer, and clean up in about 6 hours. Not bad!

New Old Lompoc 5th Quadrant brewpub produces a number of tasty beer styles, and has a fairly extensive barrel collection going on right now. They use a roving bottle filling business called Green Bottling. It's basically 2 guys running a labelling machine and a filling machine, which are unloaded from a truck into the brewery. I helped clean and pack the bottles into cases, and we got through 24 barrels of beer in about 4 hours! There were a lot of cool folks to get to know, and they sent me away with a backpack full of bombers.

So, the search for brewing work goes on. I'm just trying to stay positive, work hard, and brew strong! In the mean time, here's a beer I brewed up for the upcoming AHA club-only competition for Belgian Strong Ales. I brewed it up to be a Belgian Blond ale, but we'll see how it tastes once it's bottled and decide which category to enter it in. It bares a striking resemblance to Mr. T's 30 Pound Necklace, which did well as a tripel. I will probably not have time to bottle condition this one though. I'm planning on using the Beergun.

I used 2 different yeasts on this beer, because I had a starter of Wyeast 1214 (Chimay) yeast going, but I didn't see any activity in the starter after 8 hours! Wassup, Wyeast? I bought an additional tube of Whitelabs 530 (Westmalle) and pitched that in as insurance. It took awhile, but 24 hours later is was going strong. I think it will be just fine.

Blackeyed Blonde
Recipe is for 6 gallons post boil volume.
O.G. 1.068 F.G. 1.011 ABV 7.7% IBU's 27

9.5 lb. Pils malt
1 lb. wheat malt
4 oz. aromatic malt
2 oz. melanoidin malt
1 lb. corn sugar
8 oz. unrefined cane sugar

24 gr. Perle pellets 7.1%AA 60 min
14 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.5% 30 min
14 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.5% 0 min

3.5 gallons mash water +1 tsp gypsum + 1 tsp Bruton salts
Mash in to 151, keep between 149-151 for 60 min
pH was 4.9 on the ColorpHast strips, 5.2 on the cheap strips.
After 60 minutes, raised to mash out 170 degrees

Sparge: 5 gallons at 165-170
Collect 6.9 gallons at 1.049 = 82% efficiency
Boil 90 minutes, sugar at start of boil
Hop additions as noted, Wyeast nutrient whirlfloc at 10 min
Chilled to 70, whirlpooled, and racked to carboy.
Oxygen for 70 seconds.
Pitched 1 qt. starter of Wyeast 1214
Also pitched 1 tube WLP 530
Fermentation did not take off for almost 24 hours, but then it was vigorous.
Ferment at 68 for 3 days, then let rise to 70 degrees.
Racked to keg on 10/2/09, I thought I picked up a bit of residual sulphur at this point.
I left the keg out for a few days, occasionally venting the headspace to let any sulphur out, and refilling it with CO2.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Clarissa's "Sweet Meat" Saison

Clarissa and I picked up this beautiful Sweet Meat squash at our first Portland farmer's market a couple of weeks ago. As soon as I saw it I knew it was destined to go in her birthday beer. I've done a couple of saisons with squash in the past years, but not since I have been a more skillful brewer. The last ones had way too much spicing added, to the point where it was like, "Oh, nice ginger beer!" (Also pictured: our strawberry freezer jam, which is awesome and incredibly easy to make.)

I've played with different spicing, but the previous versions never relied on the classic pumpkin pie spice mix. For this one I was just looking for low levels of complimentary spice that would let the saison yeast take the main stage, and hopefully the squash will make a subtle appearance in the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of the final beer.

First I cut it in half with my big chinese clever. It only gets used for big ridiculous tasks like this.

I cored out the seeds, then I roasted it for about 90 minutes at 400 degrees, until the meat was soft. I added about an eighth of an inch of water to each pan to help it steam. After I took it out of the oven it collapsed a bit.

The skin was pretty thin on this squash, so I got a pretty good yield. A 9.5 pound squash yielded 6+ pounds of roasted meat. I kept the squash in the refrigerator overnight until the brewday.

I added the squash, mashed up fairly well, to the mash water before I added the grains. I did this so I could calculate it in with my water volume and hit my mash temp correctly. Even though I used a half pound of rice hulls, I still got a SERIOUSLY STUCK MASH! It took another half pound of rice hulls, adding more water, and repeatedly re-stirring and recirculating wort to eventually get the sparge going properly.

During the mash, I also went down to the local hardware store to pick up the fittings for a kettle diverter tube, which I have been lacking until now. Below is a pic of the diverter tube, which I use when no whole hops are being used, and the bazooka filter, which I use when brewing with whole hops (or a mix of pellets and whole).

This beer only received one hop addition at 60 minutes. I used some 2007 East Kent Goldings, which were still sealed in a nitrogen barrier bag. They still smelled awesome, actually, but I calculated the Alpha Acids down for age (4% to 3%).

At the last 2 minutes of the boil, I used a mix of chamomile, coriander, and ginger for what I hope will be a subtle spicing effect.

Clarissa's Sweet Meat Saison
All Grain, recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 6 gallons post boil volume.
O.G. 1.061 F.G. 1.004 ABV 7.5% IBU's 24

10 lb. Weyermann Pilsner Malt
6 lb. roasted winter squash
1 lb. Munich malt
5 oz. Victory malt
8 oz. rice hulls (more added when mash got stuck)

56 gr. East Kent Goldings Pellets 3% AA 60 min
7 gr. dried chamomile 2 min
1/2 tsp (less than 1 gr.) dried ginger 2 min
3 gr. coriander, cracked 2 min

Mash: 3.75 gallons water + 2 tsp Burton salts
Heat with squash, Mash in to 148
Hold at 145-148 for 90 minutes
pH was 5.4 on the cheap strips, 5.0 on the colorpHast strips.
Raised to 170 over ten minutes.

Sparge with 5 gallons water at 165
Collect 7 gallons at 1.052
Boil 90 minutes, additions as noted
Wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes, no whirlfloc
Chill to 72, Whirlpool, and collect 5.25 gallons
Oxygen for 60 seconds
Pitch half the yeast cake of Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast form previous saison.
Fermenting at 76 currently, topped out at 78
Racked to keg on 10/1/09. F.G. 1.004

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hop Madness! 2009

This is my first attempt at a "Vlog". I had never actually opened iMovie on my Mac, but I had to rotate some video that I took this weekend at Hop Madness. Then I just started piecing this together and did the voiceover today.

Here's the recipe for the black "saison" I did. I write saison in quotation marks because I am not expecting a very dry beer. This was supposed to be around 1.065 O.G. including a 1 pound sugar addition. Due to collecting more wort in the boil kettle, I got a huge 89% efficiency. So this beer clocked in at 1.069 O.G even when I left the sugar out, and even though it was mashed low, I figure it will probably end up around 1.013 - 1.015 F.G. The residual body might be nice, since this also has healthy dose of IBU's. I think it should be around 60 IBU's, but it's impossible to calculate with unknown moisture content and alpha acids of the fresh hops.

Recipe is for 8.5 gallons pre boil, all grain. Boiled down to 7 gallons, collected 6 in the fermenter.
O.G. 1.069 F.G. 1.006 ABV 8.1% IBU's 60?

11.5 lb. Weyermann pilsner malt
2 lb. Munich malt
.75 lb. Caramunich 60
.5 lb. Carafa special III (600L)

All hops are fresh! and whole of course
6 oz. Nugget 60 min
6 oz. Willamette 30 min
6 oz. Willamette 20 min
6 oz. Willamette 10 min
4 oz. Willamette 0 min (was supposed to be 6 but I ran out.)

Mash: 4.5 gallons + 1 tsp gypsum
Mash in to 149, keep between 145-149 for 60 min.
pH was about 5.3-5.4 at room temp
Raise to 154 for 15 minutes
No mash-out due to time restrictions

Sparge with 5 gallons of 180 degree water

Collect 8.5 gallons at 1.058 = 89% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes, with whirfloc & yeast nutrient at 10 minutes
Chill to 76 (would have liked to get lower, but hell, it's a saison!)
60 seconds pure oxygen
Pitched half of the yeast cake of Wyeast 3711 from the last batch of saison
Fermenting at 78 degrees.
Racked to keg straight from primary on 10/1/09 F.G. 1.007. Damn, this yeast is unstoppable!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Brew in Portland, Oregon

I kicked off our first week in Portland with an inaugural saison brew. It was a good brew day, but it's hard to get used to brewing in a new environment! Everything was out of place and I was running around a bit looking for equipment that I had packed away for the move. I brewed on our new back porch, which is very large indeed! Quite a change from my indoor New York setup (well, pretty much everything out here is very different from New York).

What can I say about Portland to do it justice? If you are a fan of craft beer, enjoy nature, riding your bike, and going to farmer's markets, you should definitely visit at the very least. And as an added bonus, I hear that there are some excellent establishments that combine American cuisine, craft beer, and exotic dancers into an irresistible menage a trois. Not that I know firsthand (yet).

This saison recipe is pretty straight-forward, and I'm planning on using it to get a feel for the flavor characteristics of the Wyeast 3711 French saison yeast. Then I'm off to more experimental ground with the same yeast. Next week Clarissa and I will be attending Hop Madness in Salem Oregon, which is a homebrew celebration of fresh hop brewing. I figured while most people are brewing fresh hop pale ales and IPA's, I might as well brew a black, fresh hopped saison. I mean, how much can I expect to control the temperature while we are camping anyway? The third beer will be a birthday beer for Clarissa, and I'm planning on going back to an old beer idea which is a lightly spiced saison brewed up to 7-8% ABV and using orange winter squash in the mash.

Here's the recipe for the current saison, which is kind of a cross between me and Ray's "session saison" using 3711 and the "petit saison" I brewed up about 5 months ago. The water out here tastes excellent, and it appears to be low in calcium like NYC water, so I added a little gypsum. I toasted the new brew with the last saison I brewed with Ray, which I think is good, but extremely dry, which makes the high bitterness too much to blend in with the other components of the beer.

Portland Inaugural Saison
6 gallons all grain, post boil volume
O.G. 1.055 F.G. 1.004 ABV 6.7% IBU's 28

8 lb. Pilsner malt
1 lb. flaked triticale (I don't know what the hell it is either! Look it up in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing)
1 lb. wheat malt
4 oz. aromatic malt
2 oz. melanoidin malt
1 oz. carafa special II

29 gr. Sterling pellets 5.9% 60 min
28 gr. U.S. Goldings pellets 4.2% 10 min
27 gr. Sterlling pellets 5.9% 0 min

Step Mash: 90 minutes total
3.75 gallons + 1 tsp gypsum to 148, kept between 145-149 for 60 min.
Raised to 154, rest 15 min
Raised to mash out, 170 degrees

Sparge: 5 gallons at 168
Collect 7 gallons at 1.048 = 86% efficiency
Boil 90 minutes, whirlfloc and wyeast nutrient at 10 min
Chilled to 74 (best I could reasonably get), racked and collected 5+ gallons
Oxygen for 1 minute
Pitched a 1 qt. starter from a stirplate of Wyeast 3711
Fermenting at 76
Racked to secondary in order to harvest yeast after 1 week
Racked to keg on 9/29/09

Lastly (I'd better add this in before I forget), We had some fantastic organic beers and pizza at Hopworks Urban Brewery last Saturday I was especially fond of this beer. I stopped in to Hopworks yesterday to introduce myself and see if they might need some brewery help. I met the owner/brewmaster, Christian, and 3 of his brewers. They were all great and generous guys, and while they don't need any brewers right now, I was glad to get to know them. I shared a couple of homebrews with them, and they seemed so be well received. So that only leaves 29 or so other breweries within city limits that I need to drop a resume off at. I'd better not spend all my time homebrewing!

10/14/09: I'm not digging this beer! I originally thought it had a strange dryness on the tongue, almost like the inside of a shipping container might taste with all the cardboard and styrofoam. This isn't a huge flavor, but it lingers in the finish in a truly annoying way. My first suspicion was that this was somehow coming from the water (chloramines that I did not remove causing phenols). But while I am now taking steps to remove chloramines in my water, I think the flavor is really more like a slight ashiness and dry grainy aftertaste. Originally I had planned on adding only a half ounce of carafa to this recipe, but I accidentally used 1 oz. because I am not used to measuring in less than 1 oz. quantities. I think that, combined with the other specialty grains, gives it a slight "cigarrette ash" bitterness. Maybe there is some contribution from the water too, who knows, but I'm pretty sure this is mainly due to grain choice. Also, since the 3711 yeast really ferments this beer to dryness, there is no sweetness for the dry grainy flavors to blend with.