Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Staycation IPA

What do you do when you have the week off from work and not enough dough to fly home for the holidays? Brew! That's not all I've been up to, I've also been finding time to socialize, get out on some nice hikes, and clean up around the house. But on Christmas morning, it was all about throwing on some good tunes and brewing. After coffee of course.

This recipe is really the batch two of the "Wonton-amo Bay IPA" that I did in July. The first batch was one of the only beers I have ever made that had a diacetyl problem, and sadly I didn't recognize it in time to fix it. So this time around, I aim to make damn sure it's fully fermented before I crash it, but other than that it's fairly identical. Exact same malt bill, although it's lower O.G. due to slightly less efficiency an intentionally bigger final volume (I was aiming for 1.062ish so I was only a bit below target). Slightly higher mash temp. Very similar hop schedule, but some minor adjustments were made based on what I had in the freezer. I'm adding some Chinook and Citra to the dry hops in addition to what was added last time. Should be an all-out hop bomb, but also very clean, dry and drinkable. I've got high hopes that this one will redeem me from my last flawed attempt at IPA greatness.

Wonton-amo Bay IPA - Batch 2
Brewed on 12/25/10
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 5.9 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.060 F.G. 1.014 ABV 6.1% IBU's 87

10.5 lb. 2-row pale malt (Great Western Organic)
1 lb. wheat malt
.5 lb. Crystal 60
.5 lb. Carapils

19 gr. Warrior pellet 15.8%AA 60 min
20 gr. Summit whole 18%AA 30 min
36 gr. Amarillo whole 8.7%AA 10 min
14 gr. Citra whole 11%AA 10 min
6 gr. Chinook whole 14.2% 10 min
28 gr. Simcoe pellet 12.2% 0 min
28 gr. Centennial whole 7.8% 0 min
14 gr. Simcoe pellets dry hopped in the primary
14 gr. each: Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, whole hops, dry hopped in the keg in a "sock".

Mash: 4.5 gallons water plus 3 tsp. Burton Salts
Mash in to 153 for 60 minutes, fell to 150.
Sparge with 5 gallons at 170
Collect 7 gallons at 1.050 = 79% efficiency
Boil 60 minutes, with hop additions as noted.
Added 1 tsp. Burton salts to kettle.
Wyeast nutrient and whirlfloc at 10 minutes.
Whirlpool, rest 10 minutes while setting up plate chiller.
Chill/transfer thru plate chiller over 10 minutes
Collect 5.5 gallons at 68 degrees.
Oxygen 60 seconds
Pitched 2 packages Wyeast 1056 Cali Ale Yeast
Ferment at 69
1/6/10 Primary dry hops added
1/18/10 Kegged, 1.014. Tastes and smells so freakin' good, not sure if it needs any extra hops but they were already in the keg. 2nd dry hop.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

American Session Stout - for lack of a better name

Wyeast West Yorkshire ale yeast. It's a new seasonal strain that I think was put out this year or last year for the first time. Jamil Zainacheff has said he really likes the way it works and the flavors produced by it. And I got a pack for free a few months ago from Owen at Wyeast (thanks again). It's still available through the end of December if you are interested in brewing with it. Here's some data from their website:

Wyeast 1469 PC West Yorkshire Ale
This strain produces ales with a full chewy malt flavor and character, but finishes dry, producing famously balanced beers. Expect moderate nutty and stone-fruit esters. Best used for the production of cask-conditioned bitters, ESB and mild ales. Reliably flocculent, producing bright beer without filtration.Attenuation 67-71%
Alc. Tolerance 9%
Flocculation highTemperature Range 64-72°F (18-22°C)

I used it for the first time in the Dark Mild I brewed with the second runnings from our Baltic Porter. It's a solid little beer. I would like to have some more malty sweetness, but that is more recipe based than anything. It's good to drink. The esters are clean, the yeast flocced out hard and cleaned up the beer nicely, both in flavor and clarity.

The yeast is said to have been sourced from Timothy Taylor brewery in West Yorkshire. I haven't tried their beers, but apparently they make some fantastic full-flavored bitters and dark milds. Not one of the beers listed on their website comes in at over 4.3% ABV, so to see beer geeks go gaga over their beers is saying something special. And according to their reviews on Beeradvocate, they are making some phenomenal beers. Not that all this can be attributed to the yeast, in fact I'd argue that's mostly to the brewers' credit.

Judging from the flavor of the dark mild, I would say the West Yorkshire strain is similar to the Wyeast London Ale III in performance and flavor, which supposedly comes from Bodddington's. I have used that in a previous mild, and it's a strain that one of the local breweries uses to make some fantastic hoppy beers. So its uses shouldn't be limited to English style ales, although that is probably what it is best at.

Thinking along the lines of session beer, and something full-flavored enough to stand up to the cold rainy weather we have been dealing with here, I decided to come up with another recipe using the West Yorkshire yeast. I wanted to keep it cheap by using only ingredients I already had. A session stout perhaps, based on the historical stout grists that you can read about on Ron Pattinson's "Shut Up About Barclay Perkins" blog. That sounded good. Maybe some woody, piney hops though. But not over-the-top hoppy. I tried to exercise constraint here with all the ingredients, to find a balance of flavors that would be complex yet drinkable. The brown malt should add some toasted bread dryness, as this malt tastes exactly like almost burnt artisan bread crusts. Some roast / coffee / espresso flavors, but not as much as Guinness or a really roasty stout. I left out the crystal, which is a leap of faith, but I want it to be a stout, not a porter.

I am really excited about this beer, but I don't really have an idea of what the final balance of flavors will be. It could be more hoppy or more stouty, or more portery. It's tempting to give it some sarcastic name like "Cascadian dark pale ale" or what have you. But it's not supposed to be Cascadian. It's supposed to be a session historical stout with an American hop twist. I'm fairly certain it will be darn tasty, but only time will tell how if the flavor comes close to my original intention.

Dilation Stout*
Brewed on 12/20/10
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 5.7 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.050 F.G. ABV IBU's 41

6.5 lb. Great Western Organic Pale
1 lb. Munton's Marris Otter
1 lb. Flaked Barley
14 oz. British roasted barley 600L
8 oz. Belgian aromatic malt 25 L
8 oz. British brown malt 70L

21 gr. Chinook whole 14.1% AA 60 min
14 gr. Chinook whole 14.1% AA 0 min
30 gr. Cascade whole 7 % AA 0 min

Mash, 153 for 50 minutes, fell to 149
Sparge with 5 gallons at 170
the only water adjustment was chlorine removal with campden

Collect 7 gallons at 1.041 = 79% efficiency
Boil 90 minutes
Whirlfloc & yeast nutrient at 10 min
Whirlpool/rest 10 minutes after flame off
Chill thru plate chiller over 10 minutes to 60
Oxygen 1 minute
Pitch West Yorkshire 2nd generation
Ferment at 68-69 degrees
1/6/11 Racked to keg, tastes phenomenal but couldn't believe it was still at 1.024!!! WTF, that yeast dropped out super early. I'm going to take another taste, gravity, and decide whether to krausen with more yeast. I need some zwickels on my carboys to take regular gravity samples!

* I brewed this beer right after coming back from the optometrist for my yearly perscription check. The doctor dilated my pupils, to the point where I could hardly see! Check out the picture below. For the most part I had to work without my glasses and squint to see anything. Also if I went to far away from a piece of equipment I had to walk around squinting to find it again. The garden hose, which is white, looked like a glowing electric ghost-line against the ground. Despite visuals worse than any I have ever experienced with drug "experimentation" in my youth, I felt no fun side effects. Gradually the eye dilation drops wore off over 6 hours or so and I could see again. The fur hat I'm wearing in the photo was because it was a really cold day for brewing.

On Deck: Christmas Stay-cation IPA

Monday, December 20, 2010

HUGE Baltic Porter & small beer - with Sean Burke

I had been kicking around some "collaboration brewing" ideas with my friend Sean Burke, and we both knew that we didn't want to do something normal. It was our first time brewing together, and we wanted to do something with some gusto. We were both enthused by the idea of a Baltic Porter, and we toyed with the idea of doing some home-smoked malt in it, before ditching that idea because neither of us has a smoker. We finally settled on trying for a huge Baltic Porter and a small beer from the second runnings. We might mess with half the batch by adding oak and/or spirits.

Neither of us knew just quite how huge the Baltic Porter would really be, and we were pretty shocked to see it is one of the highest O.G. beers that either of us have ever brewed, and a lager at that.
The brewday really maxed out my "brewhouse's" capabilities, and because of this we ran into a few classic homebrew-y snags. I found myself apologizing quite a few times for the unforeseen problems, not to mention wishing that we had Sean's march pump on hand for the end of the boil.
For starters, we mashed in a keggle with an EZ-masher, but not only did we slightly scorch the grain bed when trying to raise the temp a bit, but we also knocked loose the EZ-masher screen in the process somehow, and the result was a completely stuck mash. Luckily we had an extra cooler mash-tun on hand, or we would have been totally, completely screwed!
After transfering the entire mash to the cooler, things went pretty smooth until the end of the boil, when we found ourselves losing the siphon, losing flow through the heat exchanger! That was fixable by getting the pot higher and having someone stand up there stirring the kettle to free up any hops from the kettle screen, so it could run freely to the fermenter. This was somewhat exacerbated, I'm sure, by the incredibly viscous 1.117 O.G. wort.

Despite all the setbacks, we had a fun time and didn't get too stressed out about the little snafu's. We also managed to get a pretty decent small beer out of the process which came in at 1.030 O.G. I fermented mine as a "dark mild", pitching the Wyeast West Yorkshire ale yeast. It is already drinking pretty well after only 8 days and comes in at a sessionable 2.5%. It's a decent beer, but it could use some more caramel sweetness, without which it comes off as slightly roasty and harsh. Still, it's hard not to like a sessionable, easy to drink ale that was fast and basically free to make.

Sean pitched his portion with a lager yeast which he plans to use as a giant starter wort for another lager. It will be interesting to try the small beers side by side.
The huge Baltic Porter got a full (5 gallon batch) yeast cake pitch of 3rd generation Bohemian Lager yeast, from the just-transferred rauchbier that is tasting really nice. I did not post that recipe here, so here it is: Jamil's rauchbier from Brewing Classic Styles, brewed with 70% Rauchmalt. That's the recipe. I obviously haven't tried it fully lagered yet, but all I can say is, try brewing it. It's great. We drank a full pint of green lager that had been held aside for a flavor/gravity sample, and it already tasted super fine. 70% is not too much smoke, and seems quite gentle so far.

Our cat "Chk Chk Chk" also hung out for the brewday, but she was pretty lazy. She mostly sat around and whined, occasionally entertaining herself by jumping onto the kegerator, which I try to keep as a sanitary work surface, and leaving muddy paw prints all over it. Damned good-for-nothing cats.

A couple things about the recipe:
1) The pre-boil/post boil gravities on the baltic porter don't work out. So I'm not sure what went wrong there but the O.G. was 1.117. Possible a combination of inaccurate pre-boil reading and post-boil volume measurement?
2) As you will see with the grainbill and hop timings, we weren't really concerned with stylistic accuracy here, just making what sounded great.

Main Mash:
27 lb. Weyermann Pils
10 lb. Briess Munich 10 L
1 lb. C-60
2 lb. C-77
1 lb. C-120
1 lb. pale chocolate
1 lb. chocolate
1 lb. Carafa special II

Mash: 11 gallons at 152ish, for almost 2 hours by the time we actually got it transferred to the cooler.
Sparge: 21 gallons at 170
Continuous fly-sparge, switching over to second kettle once first kettle was full.

Beer 1: Baltic Porter
13.5 gallons pre-boil 1.090 (???Doesn't add up)
Boil 90 min:

25 gr. Magnum pellet 11.5% AA 90 min
44 gr. Warrior pellet 15.8% AA 90 min
yeast nutrient & whirlfloc 10 min
56 gr. Sterling whole 7% AA 0 min
11.5 gallons post-boil
oxygen for 2.5 minutes
pitch full yeast cake of Wyeast 2124 at 54 degrees
1.117 O.G., 68 IBUs
Fermented at 50 for 8 days, then raised to 56 when bubbles slowed down.
1/2/11 Racked to secondary fermenter, tastes very promising but still at 1.050. Looks like the primary yeast shit the bed right at 9% ABV. Looking into pitching more yeast, hoping to get it down to 1.035.

Beer 2: "small beer / dark mild"
10.5 gallons pre-boil at 1.022
Boil 90 min
8 oz. Belgian amber candi sugar rocks 90 min
28 gr. Northern Brewer whole 7.8% 35 min
O.G. 1.030
15 IBU
Fermented my half with Wyeast West Yorkshire at 68-70
F.G. 1.011, ABV 2.5%

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's on tap - Tastings

Again, I am so bad about going back to do tastings of the recipes I've posted here. Sorry. I hope these are worth reading... the beers are tasting good! I pulled some samples yesterday while planning out what's going into kegs next, what's getting funk-dafied, and what's going on fruit. Later in the evening, Clarissa and I went up to the soft opening of Grain & Gristle, a new bar/restaurant in NE Portland that is a collaboration between Alex Ganum, owner of Upright Brewing, and a few other partners. The tap selection was great and the moules et frites was great too. So check it out if you're in Portland. Now for some tastings:

Color is like a hazy pilsner, on the light side for a saison, with a thick standing head with good retention. Aroma is very "saison-like" with a good balance of fruity esters, hops, and peppery phenols, and a background grainyness from the pils malt. A little more bubblegum/clove than I usually get when using only Dupont yeast, which I attribute to the secondary addition of the DeRanke yeast. Flavor is complex, starting with a medium-full body impression from high carbonation, some sweetness from the pils malt and esters, and hop flavor that it sort of earthy. It is dry and leaves the palate with a hoppy bite that encourages another drink. Alcohol is moderate but slightly warming with no "hotness". Overall, I think it's actually one of the best saisons I have made. It is not an over the top saison, but very drinkable while still remaining complex.

Clear copper in color with a thin, wispy white head. Hoppy, slightly lemon tea-like aroma, some grapefruit, and slight caramel/biscuit flavors from malt. Clean esters and alcohol. Medium-full bodied pale ale flavor with a fairly good balance of malt and hops. Creamy mouthfeel from the rye and fairly high final gravity. Overall, I like this beer and it's very drinkable, but I would like it to be a little drier, and I would like to mix up the hops a little bit more to get a better complexity. Very drinkable, but not astounding.

Big frothy pink head that dies quickly, on top of a cherry-red ale with a slight haze. Aroma is full of cherries and there is a spicy quality from both the brett and the innate spicyness of sour cherries. The acidity is noticable and very clean, as in lactic acid, not acetic. It does not smell exceedingly sour, but it is noticable. A little caramel malt background, no hops, low alcohol. Flavor is clean and lactic-sour, with a subtle maltiness. Maltiness could be higher to give the cherries and sourness more foundation. Nice carbonation, nice cherry flavor that blends with a touch of burnt sugar. The brett comes through well, as well as a hint of almond flavor from cherry pits. Overall, it's great, one of the best sours I've ever made. It could still use a touch more maltyness and maybe a touch more acidity, but I am very happy with this beer. It's not up there with the best commercial krieks, but it's very good and I'm proud of it. Its clean flavor and modrate sourness almost make it a session beer. I could drink 2 pints of it, whereas I would like it to be a slightly more intense beer that you would want to drink a small glass or two of.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Yeast Fairy came to Alameda today!

A friend from Wyeast came by Alameda today to drop off a ton of free yeast packets. I picked up one of each of a lot of stuff: Trappist, West Yorkshire, Cali, some other American ale, 2 lagers, steam yeast, and I must be forgetting a few.

Sean Burke and I have a big-ass Baltic Porter brew planned out for next week. I could easily see pulling a second-runnings beer and pitching a yeast pack in that for a fun small beer. Maybe a dark mild with the West Yorkshire? Jamil Zainacheff really likes this strain, so I would like to try it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey and Beer Hoedown

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, but when you don't have the money or time to travel back to family, sometimes you just have to have a "Friendsgiving". Clarissa and I spent the day with some good friends, and I will brag a little bit by saying we cooked up a spectacular meal together. Clarissa and I covered the turkey, gravy, and dressing, and our friends helped with side dishes and dessert.
The latest Beeradvocate Magazine had an recipe by Sean Paxton on beer-brined turkey with Moroccan spices. I took this as a jumping-off point for my own cooking, but I left out the Moroccan spices, concentrating on traditional Thanksgiving savory herbs. I also changed out the beer. Instead of throwing down $12 on 3 bottles of Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale (which I would rather drink than soak a turkey in), I used some good but not exceptional homebrew. I used my Alt, which is less robust than the Ninkasi, so I used a little more of it. What I did use was Paxton's basic brine proportions, which are the most important part.

Here's what I came up with:

3/4 gallon water
1 cup pickling salt (cuz we were out of kosher)
3/4 cup sugar
bay leaves
black pepper corns
1 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
6 smashed garlic cloves
- Simmer all that stuff together for 10 minutes, then cool it to refrigerator temp.
- Add 3/4 gallon beer, in this case Alt.
- Remove the innards from a 17-pound turkey, rinse, and dunk it in the brine, keeping it at fridge temp for 2 full days.
** You could probably scale the brine down and use less, if you soak the turkey in a plastic bag.
- Day of: Remove turkey, drain and pat dry inside and out. Bring to room temp over a couple hours, then roast in a 350 degree oven to 160 degrees internal temp. Roast it on a rack, or some sticks of celery if you don't have one, to keep it off the juices. This took a little under 3 hours.
- Remove from oven, rest under tin foil, while making the dressing and gravy (vague recipe provided below by Clarissa's mom is their family recipe). Carve, dowse in gravy, and eat the moistest, best-seasoned turkey you've ever eaten.

Recipes provided by Ann Hitchon:

Mama Lowe's Cornbread Dressing
1 cup celery
1 cup onion Slighty boiled ( I have also added more than this never less)
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 Turkey drippings (save the other half for gravy)
sage or poultry seasoning
salt and Watkins pepper to taste
milk to moisten
dry bread crumbs (left over bread of almost any kind--toasted)
pan of cornbread
Mix together and place in a greased pan
Bake at 400 till done (golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle)
Mother ALWAYS used a large cast iron skillet, but I have never been that brave.

Giblet Gravy

cook all giblets in enough water to cover DO NOT DRAIN
2 or 3 boiled eggs sliced
thickening/ flour or starch
drippings from turkey
salt and Watkins pepper to taste
Cook the giblets and leave them in the water. When cool enough to touch, slice all giblets and clean all you can off the neck too.
Return them to the water and add sliced eggs
Return to a boil and add drippings and then starch and/or flour
All this together with some from-scratch creamed corn, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beens, and a zucchini dish made for an awesome feast.

As for the turkey, here is my opinion on the brining process: It produced by far, the best turkey I have ever had a part in. It was juicy, perfectly done, and perfectly seasoned. Even the leftovers stayed moist for days. No one was actually able to taste any beer flavors in the turkey. Since I have never done any other brines, I can't say if I think the beer contributed anything that a regular brine wouldn't have, but it was damn good. I guess this is one of my issues with cooking with beer. A lot of times I am skeptical about the actual flavor contribution of the beer. Certainly it can add flavor in certain applications, but would this turkey have been just as good with a regular-old brine?

Well, in any case, it was a great opportunity to pair a food with the beer it was made from, since I also brought a growler of the Alt to drink. However, the best beers to drink with dinner were the saison and the rye-amarillo pale ale I made recently, which reminds me I need to put up some tastings on the blog soon about those beers.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and if you had a chance to cook with beer, or found a great beer and food pairing, please feel free to share in the comments!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

E-Z Lambic

I brewed up my first ever batch of lambic yesterday, unless you are one of those people who doesn't consider it a real "Lambeek" unless you do a turbid mash and live in the Sienne valley, in which case I guess I did a pLambic. Close enough for me, all I know is I'm not going to spend my day off from brewing by brewing an even more time-consuming homebrew. I kept this as simple as I could! Not sure what my future plans will be for this beer, other than I want to bottle-condition it straight or blended, but not with fruit, and that I would like to pitch in some commercial dregs later on down the line.

It was a fun brewday, Ryan and a friend came over to check it out and keep me company. We had some great sour ale on tap (the kriek) and also the Rye pale ale, which is a good, very drinkable beer, but it doesn't have the flavor impact I would like (need to add a bunch more hops).

I don't see why it would be necessary to even do a protein rest when brewing a lambic this way. I didn't, because the pilsner malt has plenty of diastatic power to convert the wheat flakes. Any cloudyness or starchyess is going to be taken care of by the bugs in the next year or so.

E-Z Lambic
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 5.8 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.058 F.G. ABV IBU's ???-low.

6.5 lb. Weremann pils
5 lb. flaked wheat
.5 lb. rice hulls

72 gr. homegrown Cascade hops (aged 2 years at room temp in a paper bag) 90 minutes

Mash: 4 gallons + 3 gr. CaCl + 1 gr. Gypsum
158 for 1 hour, fell to 154
Sparge 5.25 gallons, same water additions as mash
83% efficiency
Boil 90 minutes

chill to 60, aerate by shaking and pitch:

1 pack Wyeast Lambic blend
1 pack Scottish ale yeast
(Thanks Owen who works for Wyeast for the yeast packs! Both these packs were 3 months old by the time I pitched them which is why I used a clean ale yeast too.)

Primary ferment at 68ish

12/14/10 Racked to secondary (corny keg). 1.019. Already developing some sourness and wonderful funk/barnyard/goat sweat character.

See? E-Z brewday. Just what you want for a beer where all the important stuff happens during the year-plus fermentation.

Any suggestions from lambic brewers for commercial dregs to throw in? My obvious choices would be Drie Fonteinen & Cantillon. Others?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lager season opens! Golden Dortmunder-ish lager

What would these guys drink? Probably not what I just brewed yesterday. It is probably too "heavy", and you might not be able to read a newspaper through it. Never the less, lager season is officially open at Chez Wonton and I felt a hunting image would do it the most justice.

Fredo! Wait, I mean, Stan, you are so melancholy and tragic, I want to dedicate a beer to you. Here it goes: A maltier than usual Dortmunder-ish beer, or whatever. A style free lager that is golden and bready, but balanced with a bitter bite. Let's forget style for a minute, brew a beer, and see how it comes out.

Check it out. I made an insulating jacket for my stainless mash tun, so I can keep it warm outside without constantly reheating it. Maybe a little overkill, but I set it on a heating blanket after I mashed in and it only lost 1-2 degrees over 60 minutes. I'll take that. This is made out of 3 layers of Reflectix and heat resistant tape, and yes, it was more labor than I thought it would be, but it's done! And seemingly working very well.

I wanted to get the Ayinger lager strain for this one (Whitelabs WLP830), but it would have taken 3 weeks just to get through the homebrew store. (Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen is probably in my top 10 favorite beers. I just can't get over that soft, bready and wonderful melanoidin character.) I didn't want to wait, so I went with the Wyeast 2124 Bohemian lager strain. I used the same yeast last year and had some sulfur or DMS issues in the first 2 beers. This yeast seems to kick off a butt-load of sulfur, so I will be monitoring that more closely and making sure it has plenty of time to off-gas and ferment out before capping it. I am also chilling the beers more rapidly to prevent DMS formation after the boil

Here's the recipe. Water is adjusted to emphasize the malts, hopefully giving it a softer overall profile. The bittering hops were 2008 Magnum, which were sealed in mylar. I adjusted the AA% down from 13.6% to 11.5% for age, but in reality this beer might taste like more IBU's than the recipe calculates. I'm still not sure if it is ever really necessary to adjust AA% down for time, if the hops are treated right.

Cazale Lager - Brewed 11/3/10
Recipe is for 6.9 gallons pre-boil, 5.3 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.052 F.G. 1.013 ABV 5.2% IBU's 28

All malt is from Weyermann:
4.5 lb. Pils
4 lb. Munich
1 lb. Carahell

10 gr. Magnum pellets (2008, adjusted down to 11.5%) 65 min
28 gr. Sterling whole 7.9% 15 min

Mash: 4 gallons + 3 gr. CaCl + 1 gr. Gypsum
151 for 60 minutes
Sparge: 5 gallons + 3 gr. CaCl + 1 gr. Gypsum
Collect 6.9 gallons at 1.040 = 77% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes
Wyeast nutrient & Whirlfloc at 15 min
Chill to 59 through heat exchanger
oxygen 90 seconds
Pitch 3 liter stirplate starter of Wyeast 2124 (decanted)
chilled to 50 over 12 hours
Ferment at 50 for primary
Seemed to be nearly done after only 7 days!
11/10/10 Moved inside for a D-rest at ambient temp.
11/15/10 Racked to secondary to collect yeast. VERY bready! A good deal of yeast in suspension adds to the breadyness. Some sulfur and acetaldehyde still there. Maybe a week more before I keg and crash it.
12/14/10 Racked to keg. Tastes pretty good so far. Clean lager.

Soon up, a really smokey Rauchbier al la Schlenkerla

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tasting objectively: Harder than it might seem at times

Wow, I had a bit of a humbling, but very interesting experience today that I want to share. I was out in the garage, brewing my first lager of the season. I pulled a couple of tasters of some beers I have on tap: The Rye-Amarillo pale ale, and the Wontonamo Bay IPA. I was planning on doing a tasting of the IPA for the blog, which in a way this will be.

There has been a flavor to the IPA that a couple of my beer geek friends have noticed, but no one put their finger on until now, including me. It is an annoying flavor, and it's probably the reason I haven't posted a taste evaluation of it yet. I don't really like it, to be quite honest.

So this flavor was there, that my 2 beer geek friends and myself have been picking up, was being described by all of us as an overly sweet or caramelly. Even though the beer was heavily hopped, low on the crystal malt, and well attenuated to 1.012. So where was that sweet flavor coming from? I was chalking it up as an unknown, possibly a combination slight alcohol sweetness (it was fairly high in alcohol, at 7.3%), and possibly some esters (I had let the temp rise towards the end to about 72).

It took me trying it next to another hoppy beer to figure it out, and then it hit me over the head like an oversized wooden mallet. Diacetyl! Big time. Why did I not pick this out before? I know what diacetyl tastes like (artificial butter, basically), but I was not picking it out in my own beer. I have been able to pick it out in other commercial IPA's, so why not mine? Possibly, at least a little bit, because it was being overpowered to a degree by the heavy dose of hops. Possibly because I was dealing with a new hop (Citra), and I thought it might be coming from there. But more likely, most importantly, was that I have never really had a problem with diacetyl. I consider myself a pretty skilled brewer, so it never really crossed my mind! Cali ale yeast is usually a clean, hardy yeast that is not known for diacetyl production. It's not something I have had a problem with in the past. Yet, there it was, clear as day once I finally recognized it. Doubtless someone else could have picked out the problem on the first sip, which is what brings me to the important point: Sometimes the brewer is just too close to the beer to realize what is wrong with it.

It's a tough lesson. No brewer is ever good enough not to, sometimes, make a rookie mistake. I think the problem with my beer was just not pitching quite enough yeast (only a 1 quart stirplate starter) for the high gravity/ alcohol level, and not letting it finish out a little longer, which probably would have cleaned it up eventually. Also, the alcohol is just a bit too noticable, which again points to not pitching enough yeast.

I have always tried to give my beers an honest and clear evaluation. If anything, I think I err on the side of being too critical. In this case, I guess I just had my blinders on. It's something to try to look out for in the future, and I think it leads to the conclusion that now matter how good of a brewer you think you are, honest and critical outside opinion is of the utmost importance. I tend to be a little tough on other brewer's beers too, even though it is always in an effort to be helpful. For instance, when tasting any of my my friends' homebrews, I try to always be encouraging and focus on the positive, but also try to give a straightforward critique of what I am tasting. If I didn't do that, I think it would be a disservice to them as a brewer.

If I could try to evaluate the flavor of this IPA otherwise, I would say the hop flavor/aroma would be magnificent if not muddled up by a bunch of fake butter. I would have brewed it to a lower O.G., but I'm not sure that I would change anything else. Maybe this recipe deserves another shot with thsoe 2 easy fixes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2 year old Kriek finally kegged and ready to drink!

I was hoping to get a chance to homebrew this week, but alas, it wasn't in the cards. I did however get a lager yeast started on a stirplate, and next week I'll brew the first of a series of lagers that I am very excited about.

Since Clarissa's birthday is coming up on Saturday, I decided to take some samples of various things that I've had going so we could decide what to serve for her birthday beer. The first beer I sampled was the amber farmhouse ale we brewed together for her birthday, but it was obvious that it was still not ready. The brett C hasn't done much, and I'm sure it will be good, but it needs a few more months. And it might get some cherries since I still have an ass-pile in the freezer taking up room. The trippel was also pretty good, but what was really, really good was the Flanders red-kriek. So that's what we decided to put on, and when her real birthday beer is done, maybe we will just bottle it.

The kriek started off as a Flanders Red, which I brewed in Brooklyn with Ray in August of 2008. I kegged it before we moved to Portland, and even served some before deciding that it was just a little too lackluster and needed some extra souring. I still had about 4 gallons of beer, which I topped off with a little Belgian Dark Strong and some of the new Flanders red brewed with Al B's bug blend. I added a bunch of fresh cherries and some oak chips almost 3 months ago, and I am finally happy with the flavor.

Once it's carbonated I'll be sure to do a full tasting. I feel like it could use a little more malt background and a touch more sourness, but overall I am very happy with it, and the cherry flavor couldn't be better. The color is amazing, such a bright, clear cherry-red! It is probably the best sour beer I have done so far.

I also kegged up the Rye beer I did 3 weeks ago, and I honestly don't know what I think about it. It only dropped to 1.016, and i was hoping to get it at least 3 points lower. Also the hops were not that pronounced, and there was a tannic tea flavor to the beer, but I usually find that drops out after a week in the keg. So we'll see, I will try to get a tasting of that up in the next week too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

First brew in the new "man-cave": Rye-Amarillo Pale Ale

My friend Ryan came over the other day to check out my new digs and help out with a batch of homebrew. He has a few batches of homebrew under his belt, but he had never seen an all-grain brewday or brewed with anyone else, so I hope he had a good time and learned a bit (and remembers it after all that drinking, man that guy is a lush!)

I'm still in the process of getting moved in and set up at the new house, but in the mean time I thought I would kick things off with a nice, simple beer that will hopefully be very tasty and drinkable. It's a recipe that, if it turns out well, I would like to pitch to Carston and Eric as something we could brew at Alameda. Even though this recipe is pretty straightforward, I just figured my best shot at getting it brewed would be to come to them with a finished product that we could scale up, and make improvements if we think there should be any.

So, this is the new man-cave. It is not attached to the house which unfortunately means that you can't gab a beer in your socks. It is also very uninsulated, and I fear that the kegerator will be quite cold during the coldest winter months, and brewing during that time might be a hand-numbing bitch. But my ultimate goal is to make it into a place where homebrewing can be a fun, relaxing hobby I do on my off days, instead of the labor-intensive brewdays I have done in the past. Including the homebrew, I have gotten in 4 brewdays this week, so when you brew for work you don't really want to be coming home to something that just ends up being a labor-some chore.

I need to put in some kind of basic sink or wash tub, and insulate my small stainless mash tun which used to fit in the oven to stay warm. After that, I might invest a small amount of cash to get my 10 gallon system a little more workable.

Here's Ryan tenderly measuring out some hops...

Rye-Amarillo Pale ale
Brewed on 10/6/10
Recipe is for 6.5 gallons pre-boil, 5.8 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.056 F.G. 1.016 ABV 5.3% IBU's 41

9 lb. organic pale malt
10 oz. Munich
10 oz. C-60
1.25 lb. Rye malt

All hops are Amarillo pellets 8.2% AA
24 gr. at 60 min
28 gr. at 15 min
28 gr. at 0 min
34 gr. dry hopped, loose in primary, on 10/11/10

Mash in 4 gallons water + 3 tsp burton salts to 152 for one hour
Efficiency 77%
Boil 60 minutes
Rest 15 minutes after flame out
transfer thru plate chiller over 20 min
pitch Alameda (Scottish ale yeast) at 70 degrees and ferment at 68

Racked to keg on 10/25/10. Initial flavor is OK, but with an annoying tea-like hop flavor. In my experience this usually goes away with a little time. F.G. was definitely higher than I like my pale ales, but I am more used to fermenting with the dryer Cali ale yeast. Let's see in a week when it's carbonated, I'll bet the flavor will be better.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moving again: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU$#($*&K!

Sometimes I really think I am dumb for being a homebrewer. Not just an average beer-obsessed homebrewer, but one that does not own an home and insists on brewing multiple beers that take over a year to age.

All the beers above, except for one carboy, were down in the crawlspace of our home, which meant I had to crawl down to a soot-covered, uneven dirt floor where I can barely crouch, and lift them over my head through a 2x3 foot hole above me. Luckily none of them broke and all my major arteries are still intact.

That was just the stuff in the crawlspace. There was also a large deep-freeze kegerator, a dorm fridge, various bottles both empty and full, and 9 cornies which all had beer in them. And a metro-shelf. And 3 keggles. And the propane burner, and lots of little stuff.

This is my last move in Portland, unless we for some reason buy a house. I'm seriously thinking about pairing down the homebrewing equipment to a single 10 gallon system, and brewing less often. It would seem to fit in better with the fact that I am brewing at work now.

Don't even let me get started on moving out the 3 garden beds and laying down sod! Damn, I need a beer. Right now. Cheers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Alameda's Hop Harvest brew 2010

Due to being busy with brewing at Alameda and preparing for a move to Northeast Portland, among other things, I haven't really found a lot of time to homebrew recently. I thought I'd snap a few photos on my cell phone of our fresh-hop brew at Alameda and do a quick post about that. Please excuse the low-quality photos. If you can't tell here, the hops were actually a quite vibrant green color.

Our head brewer, Carston Haney, has a bunch of hop vines growing in his front yard, with an assortment of varieties. The easiest way for us to deal with fresh whole hops at the brewery is to turn the mash tun into an insanely oversized hop-back, since we don't have a trub dam in the boil kettle to keep them from clogging up our heat exchanger. Below is Eric, dumping about 20 pounds of fresh hops into the mash/lauter tun.

Here's what they looked like before the wort went in: Very nice looking cones.

After a short whirlpool, we pumped the wort over onto the fresh hop bed. The transfer took about 15 minutes and then we sent it right to the fermenter (through the heat exchanger of course).

We also used quite a bit of pelletized hops in the boil: Columbus for bittering and Perle for flavor & aroma. According to my crude math skills, the 20 pounds of fresh hops we used in 5.5 barrels of beer would be about the same as a 9.7 ounce addition in 5 gallons of homebrew. That's pretty good, but obviously it wasn't enough to provide the full IBU contribution for this beer, even if we could have used them in the boil kettle.

The beer came in at 1.065 O.G., and the simple grainbill of Golden Promise and a smidge of flaked oats should give the hops a ton of room to shine. I'm pretty excited to try this beer as soon as humanly possible, most likely straight off the side of the fermenter after 6-7 days of fermentation.

As far as my own progess at Alameda, I have been feeling really good about getting the brewdays down. I brewed a double batch of pale ale this weekend with no help, and I feel pretty confident with my technique. Mashing in to the proper temperature was one of the more daunting parts of the learning process, but I have that locked down now. I have had some screw ups too of course, for instance one day I accidentally left the cold water valve open during mash in, and by the time I caught it, the best I could get the mash up to was about 140 (we normally mash in at 154). I'm not sure how that mash managed to convert properly, but it did. Luckily this brew was half of a double batch of IPA, so it was blended with another beer and it only came in a few points lower in final gravity than it normally does.

I could tell you about more near fuck-ups that I have done, but it might be more fun just to let you use your imagination. It can be tough; there are so many things to keep your mind on at once, and so many things that could possibly go wrong. It's just part of the learning process to make some mistakes here and there. Of course I want to be perfect all the time but that's just how it goes. The beers are turning out great, I'm learning a ton from some great teachers, and my sanitation regime has been impeccable! That's about the best anyone can ask for.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Post 100! Collaborator lab results

I just noticed as I was logging in that this is going to be post 100 of my blog! That means, more or less, I've posted about 100 recipes on here too. A lot of posts do not have a recipe, but some have multiple. So let's call it just shy of 100 recipes, give or take a few (I'm not going back to count, are you?).

Anyway, I finally pleaded and begged and bugged the OBC enough to release the Widmer Collaborator lab results which should have been out a long time ago. I think the competition was in May, and the lab testing was done on May 27th. I was really excited to see the lab results come in, since I have never had any scientific QC testing on my beers, and I was curious to see if my measurements would jive with the lab-ometers. Most of them did, gladly. And there was a ton of other stuff which I was hoping they would measure, but unfortunately that did not come with the testing. I was hoping to see dissolved oxygen levels, bacterial count, and carbonation level measurements also. Well, it was all free anyway. Thanks again Widmer.

On to the results. First the Baltic Porter that Paul and I brewed, which was a finalist, but did not get picked as a Collaborator beer. I don't think I ever did a tasting of this for the blog, and I should soon. It was pretty good but not quite malty enough. But still, quite tasty.
Beer Analysis - BALTIC PORTER


SpecificGravity 1.01431.015
Alcohol(%v/v) 8.608.06
(%w/w) 6.706.28
Original Gravity in Percent Plato 19.0918.4
Real Degree of Fermentation 67.766.2
Calories 260.1
pH 4.83
Color (in Lovibond) 103.037.1 (SRM)
Bitterness Units (International Method) 31.930.2

Evaluating the results: The measurements were all quite close here, except for the color. I don't really understand that one honestly. For one thing, from what I quickly read online, SRM is the same as Lovibond. If so, then I'm way off, but color is such an obvious thing in brewing that I don't really care about ever having it checked by a lab.

On to the Saison, which was not a finalist and therefore also not picked as a winner. This was a pretty good beer, but as I mentioned it just didn't have a great aroma profile. It was just a bit subdued and not outstanding.

Beer Analysis - SAISON Results MY MEASUREMENTS:
SpecificGravity 1.0035 1.007
Alcohol (%v/v) 6.33 6.2
(%w/w) 4.99 4.9
Original Gravity in Percent Plato 12.79 12.6
Real Degree of Fermentation 76.5 71
Calories 166.2
pH 4.29
Color (in Lovibond) 3.1 3 (SRM)
Bitterness Units (International Method)
28.3 28.3

Evaluating the results: It looks like I was really dead-on most of my numbers for this beer, except for the final gravity. This could have been a bad measurement by me, but more likely it was from continued fermentation in the bottle. We all know how saison yeasts go slowly but surely through their final stages of fermentation. But if that's the case, I would have expected carbonation levels that were pushing bottle bombs, and I didn't have that problem. The beer tasted as if it were carbed to about 3.5 volumes I'd guess, and that was with a pretty substantial dose of priming sugar that would have equaled 6+ oz. per 5 gallons.

All in all, I'm very happy to see I've hit my numbers on these beers. At least at the 30 IBU range, my IBU calculations are pretty close to the actuals. I would guess that they start to skew quite a bit as the IBU's go up though.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clarissa's 30th Birthday beer: quick-sour amber farmhouse ale

Clarissa and I were talking about what to brew for her 30th birthday beer recently. I really wanted to include her more on the beer recipe formulation than in past years, so we started by just talking about what kind of beer she would like. She likes sour beers a lot. They don't have to be extremely sour, but beers with less hops, a slight tartness, and high drinkability are really what she prefers. I have to be honest and say that I really wasn't that big on either of the last two beers I have brewed for her birthday. One was an imperial wit, and the other was a squash saison. Both were interesting beers, but not really beers that I was terribly proud of. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed on this year, and I think it will be at least a very interesting beer, and hopefully very complex and tasty.

We started with the idea of an amber colored beer, to evoke the feeling of fall, since her birthday is on Halloween. We quickly ruled out the idea of using squash, since I did that last year and it was a real pain in the ass to mash (and it's kind of cliche). The idea of a slightly sour farmhouse ale quickly came up, so I had to start thinking about how to get that sourness in a short amount of time. She also mentioned wanting a lemony quality to the beer, and that she really liked the spices I used in the Belgian summer ale recently.

So, I had to take all this info and figure out a recipe and technique. I hope it ends up with a flavor that is very evocative of a Fantome Automne farmhouse ale. I don't even know if I've ever even tried Fantome Automne before, but I would like to get close to the house flavor they have, with a nice tinge of lactobacillus sourness and some brett. Also, I have to credit Paul for a bit of inspiration with the technique, he had a phenomenal funky saison with lacto and brett C, so I used some of his ideas for this beer.

One more thing: Thanks for the help on the brewday Clarissa!

(Nameless beer for now...any thoughts?)
Recipe is for 6.7 gallons pre-boil, 5.6 gallons, post boil, all grain
O.G. 1.054 F.G. ABV IBU's 23

3 lb. 2-row organic pale malt (1 lb. is used in the sour mash)
3 lb. Weyermann Pilsner malt
1 lb. Munich malt
1 lb. Caramunich 60 L
1 lb. aromatic malt
1 lb. wheat malt
4 oz. Munton's crystal 180-200 L

12 gr. Magnum pellets (2008) 13.6% AA 70 min
16 gr. Styrian Golding pellets 3.5% AA 0 min
11 gr. Sterling pellets 7% AA 0 min
6 gr. Amarillo pellets 8.6% AA 0 min
3 gr. fresh lemon verbena, sliced thin 0 min
2 gr. grains of paradise, crushed 0 min

Sour Mash:
24 hours before brewday, mash 1 lb. pale malt in 1 qt. water to 105 degrees in a small pot.
covered grain surface in plastic wrap, and let sit out warm overnight. By 24 hours it was VERY sour, but not too funky or garbagy. The layer of plastic wrap really helps keep the fink down!

Main Mash:
4 gallons water, mash in to 153, rest 30 minutes
Add sour mash to main mash after 30 minutes
Heat entire mash to 158 over 10 minutes, rest 20 minutes

Sparge with 4.75 gallons at 170 over 30 minutes
Collect 6.8 gallons at 1.044 = 80% efficiency

Boil 85 minutes, hops/spices as noted
whirlfloc & wyeast nutrient at 10 minutes

Whirlpool and rest for 15 minutes before chilling
Chill with plate chiller to 68 over 20 minutes
Oxygen for 60 seconds

Pitched 1 liter stirplate starter of Wyeast 1010 American Wheat yeast
(I know this is probably not an obvious choice, but I had a few packs of free yeast laying around and since we're using a sour mash & brett, the primary yeast strain is almost a non-issue. I was looking for a subtle yeast.)
Ferment at 68 for the bulk of fermentation, then let rise to ambient (72+).
Racked to a keg on 9/13/10. 1.016. Tastes very good already, has a nice amber ale body & flavor, with a very slight tartness and lemony, fruity, peppery finish. Very nice balance on the spices. Pitched 1 pack of Wyeast Brett Clausenni to funk it up.

12/14/10. This beer has not progressed much in the brett flavor, and the Brett C has not even dropped the gravity by a point! It's still at 1.016. There is a nice little pineapple aroma though. So here's what I did: rack it back into a 5 gallon carboy, along with about a quart of the young "E-Z Lambic" for extra funk, and 3/4 ounce medium toast French oaks chips. That should funk it up and give it some of that sour farmhouse character I'm looking for. Obviously this wasn't ready for Clarissa's birthday. Maybe we will bottle condition it and serve some on her birthday in 2011!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Saison De Duas Notas So

Saison season has opened! That's right, we are in the middle of Oregon's mild excuse for a summer (it's currently 63 degrees at 2:30 pm). This would typically warrant only saison homebrewing in many other cities, but here the only difference is the groundwater temp goes up a bit and it's a littler harder to chill the wort properly with your heat exchanger. I was planning on doing another Saison Dupont clone attempt, but when I went to the homebrew store, all they had was $2 an ounce, 2008 crop American Goldings sitting in a refrigerator. No way I am gonna get jacked like that, so I had to come up with a different idea.

Luckily, I had an idea earlier that week to try some Northern Brewer hops in a saison, and they had a good selection of NB from 2009. This is a hop I have hardly used at all, and I want to isolate it by using it as the only hop to try and get a feel for the flavor and aroma potential. I decided to leave everything else very predictable and clean, to really let those hops shine through. So, I went with 100% Pilsner malt and 100% Northern Brewer, and Dupont yeast. If the Northern Brewer proves to be a good hop for this, I might try to substitute some American malts next time to get a real "American" saison.

The name of this recipe comes from a play off an old Samba song called "Samba De Uma Nota So", or "One Note Samba". This is my 2-note saison.

Above: THE MAN, Joao Gilberto!

Saison De Duas Notas So
Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-booil, 6.2 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.055 F.G. 1.007 ABV 6.4% IBU's 32

10 lb. Weyermann Pilsner malt

14 gr. Northern Brewer whole 7.8% AA (First Wort Hop)
12 gr. Northern Brewer pellet 9.8% AA 90 min
45 gr. Northern Brewer whole 7.8% AA 0 min

Mash: 4 gallons H2O + 4 gr. gypsum + 4 gr. calcium chloride
Mash in to 128, hold 15 min
Heat to 147 over 10 min, hold 35 min
Heat to 158 over 10 min, hold 10 min
Heat to 170 over 10 min, hold 5 minutes and begin sparging.

Add First Wort Hops to kettle before sparging.
Sparge with 5 gallons H2O at 170, over 40 minutes
Collect 7 gallons at 1.049 = 90% efficiency
(I checked my last runnings which were at about 1.014)

Boil 90 minutes, additions as noted
Wyeast nutrient & Whirlfloc at 10 min
"Topped off" the kettle with some water to 6.2 gallons at the end of the boil.

Whirlpool & rest 15 minutes while setting up heat exchanger.
Ran through plate chiller over 10 minutes, to 76 degrees
oxygen for 60 seconds
Pitched a 1 liter, stirplate starter of Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison yeast.
Fermentation rose on it's own to 81 over the first 24 hours
Raised to 88 degrees by day 3, left there until day 5, when I lowered the thermostat to 84.

***Racked to secondary after about a week so I could collect the yeast. Kept at above 80 for 6 weeks total, the damn beer was still at 1.020!!!***

Alex from Upright hooked me up with a krausening wort from his fresh hop beer. I pitched about a quart of this into the beer which helped get it going. This was the De Ranke isolate.

Racked to keg on 11/8/10. The sample tastes freakin' awesome. 1.007. I also filled a growler and I am going to bottle condition it. Can't wait to do a tasting of this beer and maybe do a side-by side with keg & the bottle conditioned growler.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sour Cherries!

Today I brewed what I hope will be a very interesting beer: a saison with 100% Pilsner malt and 100% Northern Brewer hops. I have never tried these hops exclusively in a beer, in fact I've hardly used them at all. But more on that beer later when I get time to post the recipe. For now I'd like to catch up on a couple things that I've been doing to other beers.

I'm pretty proud to say that I brewed Alameda's second batch of Black IPA [Cascadian Dark Ale for those Cascadians with fragile egos ; ) ] with just a little help from Eric. It's probably my 4th or 5th batch I've brewed there with a little backup support, and I think pretty soon I'll be ready to brew on my own. In fact that's the plan, during the GABF I'll be the one sticking around to care for the brewery while Carston and Eric are gone. As for the beer itself, I think it's going to be a big improvement over batch one. We undershot our target gravity on the 1st batch, leaving an extremely hop-forward beer with a really spicy Zeus profile, but lacking in malt to back it up. It kind of tastes like a dry robust porter with a shitload of bitterness and pungent/spicy hops. Not bad actually, but not really what we wanted.

Batch 2 was pretty much completely reformulated. The base is Rahr 2-row malt, and we added to that small portions of Munich, Crisp C-77, Carafa, chocolate, roasted barley, and flaked oats. We got the O.G. up to a solid 1.072. The hops were Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo with a pretty large flameout addition, and we are going to dry hop it. Flavor samples of the fermenting beer are promising!

On the homebrew front, I picked up 25 lbs. of pitted Montmorency sour pie cherries from a processing place in Yamhill for $50. It's called Fruihill Inc, if anyone is looking for sour pie cherries. It's a pretty good deal, and although I really like the flavor my last sour cherry beer got from the pits, it would have actually cost more to get them with pits.

I pulled a flavor / gravity sample of the Flanders Red that Ray and I brewed 2 years ago, and it tastes like it is begging for some cherries. I also opened a bottle of Upright "Six" for inspiration, which has been sitting in my garage, not even refrigerated, since at least December. I wasn't sure what to expect but it actually tastes incredible with that amount of age on it, even when not handled ideally. It's good fresh, but it really comes into its own after 6 months with a very dry spicy mouthfeel, huge carbonation, and some Belgian esters blending with caramel malt and cherry-like flavors. Go try it and grab a bottle to age while you're at it.

I added 7 lbs. of the sour pie cherries, plus 2 lbs. of sweet dark cherries with pits, to my already almost 2 year old flanders red. It really seems to have improved over the last 6 months, about the time that I added AlB's bugs to the keg and topped it off with some Belgian Dark Strong, and a bit of our latest batch of Flanders. The beer itself tastes good but it could actually be a little maltier. It may turn out less of a flanders and more of a generic sour kriek cherry-bomb, which I can't really say I would be sad about. I also added a bit of French oak to the secondary, and maybe this will all get bottled in 2-3 months time.

The remainder of the cherries were frozen in quart bags. They also make great desserts. Clarissa cooked up a great cobbler last week with them. They have a really nice sourness and also a spicy cinnamon-like flavor.

Here are a couple of cocktails Clarissa and I made recently: This is just "for fun" stuff.

Googly-eyed bloody mary made with home-pickled asparagus (awesome), and some of a hot sauce that Paul made with Chiles de Arbol (in the Red Rocket bottle). We also tried some Mazi's Piri-Piri in one of them, which is a great hot sauce, but I'm not sure if you can get it out here. We got it at Murray's Cheese on a recommendation from one of the Sixpoint brewers.

This is simply fresh, super sweet seedless watermelon, crushed up with ice, mint, and Knob Creek bourbon. Might be nice to try it with Thai Basil in the future instead of mint.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Wonton-amo Bay" IPA

Thanks to Angelo for the politically incorrect the name. Looking for a really, really hop forward, light colored IPA that is not as strong in alcohol as an imperial IPA. First time using Citra and only the second time using Simcoe.

Wonton-amo Bay IPA
Brewed on 7/14/10
Recipe is for 6.6 gallons pre-boil, 5.6 gallons post-boil, all grain
O.G. 1.067 F.G. 1.012 ABV 7.3% IBU's 85

10.5 lb. 2-row pale malt (Great Western Organic)
1 lb. wheat malt
.5 lb. Crystal 60
.5 lb. Carapils

19 gr. Warrior pellet 15.8%AA 60 min
20 gr. Summit whole 18%AA 30 min
28 gr. Amarillo pellet 8.2%AA 10 min
28 gr. Citra whole 11%AA 10 min
28 gr. Simcoe pellet 12.2% 0 min
28 gr. Centennial whole 7.8% 0 min
17 gr. Amarillo pellet 82% dry hop, loose in primary
14 gr. Simcoe pellet 12.2% dry hop loose in primary
14 gr. Centennial pellet 9.7% dry hop loose in primary

Mash: 4 gallons water plus 3 tsp. Burton Salts
Mash in to 149 for 40 minutes, fell to 146.
Heat to 158 over 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes
Heat to 170 over 10 minutes, rest 15 minutes

Sparge with 5 gallons at 170
Collect 6.6 gallons at 1.057 = 84% efficiency
NOTE: Should have used a bit more sparge water to collect 7 gallons, especially since there is quite a bit of beer loss due to hop mass.

Boil 60 minutes, with hop additions as noted.
Added 1 tsp. Burton salts to kettle.
Wyeast nutrient and whirlfloc at 10 minutes.
Whirlpool, rest 10 minutes while setting up plate chiller.
NOTE: Long run off time due to hop strainer getting a bit clogged up. Took 25 minutes to run off! I think this will be good for the beer though, letting those last hop additions really soak into the beer flavor and increase the IBU's a bit.
Collect 5 gallons at 68 degrees.
Oxygen for 75 seconds
Pitched a 1 liter stirplate starter of WLP 001 Cali Ale Yeast
Ferment at 69
7/21/10 Added dry hops straight to primary on day 7, still fermenting slowly with visible krausen. Let warm to 72.
8/6/10 Crashed-cooled in the primary.
8/9/10 Racked to a keg

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wesvleteren 8 tasting

My good friend Forrest told me that he was sending a few beers my way from his last trip to the Netherlands. I was expecting something cool from a Dutch brewery, but he blew my mind by sending some Westvleteren (8, 12) and Drie Fonteinen (Oude Geuze Vintage 2005) bottles! After an exhausting 13 hour day at Alameda, washing kegs and doing a beer tasting at a local grocery market, I figured I owed myself a treat, so I broke out the bottle of Westy 8.

Aroma: Lactic acid and some barnyard, dark fruit aromas like plum and prune. Light bubblegum and floral esters, some pineapple. No hops, alcohol is very subdued. Some light oxidation coming through as coconut.

Appearance: Big frothy tan head and a murky auburn to brown color. High carbonation. Some chunks made it into the glass, probably kicked up by the high carbonation.

Flavor: Rich fruity plum / caramel flavor, very deep. Some banana, some acetone flavor from higher alcohols. Significant bitterness and actually finishes fairly aggressively, but not much hop aroma or flavor.

Mouthfeel: Prickly high carbonation, medium body, warming finish.

Overall: I think this is probably not the beer in its best condition unfortunately. I would guess it has been "warm aged" in a bottle shop, because it is still displaying a fair amount of acetone and higher alcohols that would probably dissipate with time if properly cellared. There is definitely some lactic acid, most likely from a little brett sneaking in and taking over and adding a funky note that isn't bad, but probably isn't supposed to be there. Still after all that, this beer is enjoyable and it is a delight to get to try it firsthand!

Thanks again Forrest! I'm looking forward to trying the other 2 beers, and I'm hopeful that the Westy 12 and the Geuze made it in better condition!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tastings and catching up with some random crap

In a feeble attempt to make it look like I keep this blog up to date, here are a bunch of photos taken over the last few weeks, accompanied by some coffee-fueled gibberish.

Above is a sampling of all the sour beers I have in carboys right now. From left to right: Berlinner Weisse, Flanders Gold, Flanders Red, and Deliverance. The Berlinner has a lot of brett going on as well as a fairly sharp lactic twang, and also a funky menthol flavor. I'm not really sure where the menthol flavor is coming from. Maybe hop choice or one of the random bugs that made it in from the un-boiled grains. I think I'm going to keg it soon, let it cold condition for a few weeks or so and see if it gets any better. I don't think it's going to improve.

The gold is tasting really nice, quite hoppy and on it's way to becoming a nice sour in a year or so. The red is pretty clean still with lots of caramel malt, toastyness, and a little lactic zing. The Deliverance was my favorite to drink right now, having some funk and also some roasty coffee notes from the dark grains. I think this comes off as slightly metallic early on but the last batch seemed to aged this flavor out, so I'm not worried. I should probably stick them all except the B-weisse in the crawlspace soon to weather out the hot months.

Here's some pickled asparagus Clarissa and I made. It's a great garnish for bloody mary's. I wish we would have thought of it sooner as we just got the tail end of the season and just enough asparagus for 3 jars. We basically used the recipe from this site.

This is some wonderful raspberry jam we made, using some really nice farmers market berries and the recipe inside a packet of Sure-jell. It was pretty easy to make and it is probably better than the Bon-Maman stuff we usually buy, and half the cost. We need to get a pair of canning tongs, I kept burning my hands trying to get the jars out of the hot water bath! Very frustrating.

Here's a tasting of the strong brett saison I brewed in December and bottled in late March. It's come a long way in the bottle and I think it has not peaked in flavor yet.

Aroma: Brett, acidity, lemon & pineapple esters, barnyard, hop-spice, and some malt sweetness.
Appearance: Dark gold, hazy glow, nice frothy head and high carbonation. Unfortunately, it may have been a slightly dirty glass but the head fell rather quickly. Will see if that is the same in future tastings.
Flavor: Dry, spicy, hoppy with a middle candy-like sweetness that transitions into a dry, sourish finish. Hops again but well integrated into a very dry, crisp finish with some horse-hair flavor from brett. Noticable alcohol from strength but not hot.
Mouthfeel: Very carbonated, with some acidity on the sides of tongue, just a slight touch of astringency due to extreme dryness of the beer and carbonation. Some alcohol warmth.
Overall: I'm very impressed with this this beer, it seems to have a lot going on for it and it's incredibly close to what I imagined it would be. We'll see if there is a foam-stand issue on the next sampling. For now I assume it was the glass.

On a non-brewing theme, we went down to the Eureka California area for my friend Lou's wedding. After the wedding we got a day of rock climbing in with another good friend, Eli, and his girlfriend Carla.
Above is Eli leading a 5.10C sport climb. I taught Eli to climb but he has kept up with it whereas I haven't! So he is way better than me now. This is a crag out near the Trinity river about 45 minutes east of Aracata.

I followed the 5.10C, it was a good climb with a slightly tricky crux. I also lead a 5.8 which was pretty scary for be because 1) this was my first roped climbing day in about 9 years and 2) it was off vertical, on sharp rock so I really didn't want to fall!
Clarissa and Carla also did some climbing but unfortunately I did not get pictures of that. It was C's first day on a rope and I thought she did great once she got used to taking falls and trusting the rope / belay.
On the way back to Oregon we stopped in the Redwoosds and got a day of swimming / cliff jumping in on a pristine river. It really felt like vacation! When we got back to Oregon it was shitty out still, but now it seems we are breaking into our first heat wave of the summer and it is sunny, finally!