Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hazelnut. Extra. Special. Bitter.

Looking back at some of my recent blog posts, it appears the last time I brewed was late February, about a 2 month hiatus from homebrewing! That's a lot for me, but I've been busy. I was working 6 days a week for a while, brewing and cellaring for Alameda and Cascade, and believe me, when you do that, the last thing you want to do is spend your only day off huddling over a propane burner in a cold garage while it's raining outside.

Before I get on to posting a recipe, I should get this out of the way: This month, I made the full transition to brewing full-time for Cascade Brewing. It's a bittersweet change for me, because I have really loved my time brewing for Alameda. Working with Carston, Eric, and the rest of the crew has been great, and it will always have a special place in my heart as my first job as a professional brewer. But as a 3/4 time employee, and with Cascade offering a full-time position, I had on opportunity that I just couldn't pass up. I am very excited to work with the Cascade crew, and learn in a production environment that regularly works with barrel-aged sour beers. I feel this will really make me into a strong and confident brewer who is ready to start their own brewery some day in the not-too-distant future.

This recipe that I'm about to post comes about from a few influences: First, I think I will be concentrating more on making 10 gallon batches, less frequently, of beers that are more sessionable in nature. I'm not painting myself into a corner on that one, but I feel like this is more the kind of beer I want to have on tap. I'm not into bottling or creating a lot of extra work for myself, and I can still play with variations on batches after the primary fermentation is complete. Second: I found what I think will be a really cool product that may be available to homebrewers soon. It's a hazelnut product, and I actually want to keep the nature of the product a bit of a secret for now while I am playing with methods of infusing the beer, but rest assured, it's not a bottle of hazelnut extract. It's real nuts. Of course, the problem with nuts is mainly the fact that they have a high oil content, which destroys beer head and can have an effect on flavor and mouthfeel too. This product should provide a way around the oil content problem.

So, half of this batch of a slightly maltier/less hoppy E.S.B. will get a hazelnut infusion post-fermentation, and I will reveal the product & process, whether it works well or not, when I post a recipe tasting in about a month. Since it's something that I think has potential on a pro level, it's important that I try a process that will work on a pro scale. It can't be something that, say, clogs up or detroys a heat exchanger with hazelnut bits, or requires 25 gallons of vodka to extract the flavor and aroma.

This recipe is truly based off what I already had on hand, and I wouldn't necessarily formulate a recipe for an E.S.B. like this if I were to buy everything at a homebrew shop. It's a new yeast for me too, I don't think I have used the Wyeast 1968 (Fuller's) yeast since my early days of homebrewing, if ever. Anyway, enough blabbering, here's the recipe.

Base Beer: Extra Special Bitter
Brewed on 4/20/11
12.9 gallons pre-boil, 11.6 gallons post-boil
O.G. 1.051 F.G. 1.016 ABV 4.7% IBU's 30

7.5 lb. Hugh Baird Marris Otter malt
6 lb. Great Western 2-row organic pale malt
3 lb. Crisp Crystal 35
1 lb. Munich
.5 lb. Aromatic
.25 lb. Pale chocolate

35 gr. Perle pellets 8.5% AA 60 min
24 gr. Perle pellets 8.5% AA 15 min
18 gr. Northern Brewer pellets 7.8% AA 15 min
14 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.4% AA 15 min
56 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.4% AA 0 min

Mash in 5 gallons H2O + 3 tsp "Burton salts", 151 degrees for 60 minutes
Add 2 gallons 200 degree water to bring up to 157
Recirc immediately and sparge with 7.5 gallons H2O + 1 tsp "Burton salts" at 170
Collect 12.9 gallons at 1.046 = 89% efficiency
Boil 65 minutes
Wyeast nutrient and Whirlfloc at 10 min
whirlpool, rest 10 min
chill to 70 with plate chiller over 15 minutes
oxygen 2 minutes
pitch 2.5 liter stirplate starter of Wyeast 1968
Ferment at 68
Clean half was racked straight to keg after primary. For details on the hazelnut process, go here.

Also, I can't remember if I've talked about my new fermenter on the blog yet? Check it out. This was actually an old yeast brink that had been sitting unused at Alameda for quite a while. It's exactly what it looks like: A full-sized keg that has been converted with a corny lid, a gas-in post, liquid-out dip tube, and a manual pressure relief. I cut off the dip tube to leave a gallon of liquid underneath. We'll see how it goes for racking the beer to secondary/keg through the dip tube this time, and if I got the height right to not pull too much yeast through and not leave too much precious beer behind. In the photo, it's sitting in our cold back room with a heating pad strapped on the outside to keep it up to 68 degrees. It's wired in through a Ranco digital thermostat to keep it right at temp.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tired of beer, time for a big change.

This may come as a bit of a shock for some people, because I haven't really voiced these feelings here before, but I have been grappling with some very odd feelings over the last 6 months or so. I think with this last year of working a lot (sometimes too much) with brewing and going to all these beer events, yadda yadda, that beer is just getting a little...old. There, I said it. It's just like, how many IPA's or imperial stouts or even complex farmhouse ales or sours can you really drink before it all starts to taste the same?

I've been drinking a lot of nice local wines lately, and learning about different varieties, and it's been really refreshing just to taste and learn about something that's not beer for a while! I may get some flack for this, but I have always been one to speak my mind: wine just really is more complex than beer. I realized when we started the Flanders barrel project that I do want to work with barrels, it's just not beer that I want to put in them anymore.

It feels weird. It feels like I am breaking up with a girlfriend of 9 years. Will I even know how to live my life without her? Of course, but it will take a while. It's time to see other people. I'll still see her around at parties from time to time and we will have our awkward conversations, and maybe even be friends some day, but I need some time apart before that can happen.

I have been speaking with a local winemaker, a guy I met during my search for wine barrels, who says he might need some help in the fields this summer. It's a small mom & pop operation in Yamhill. Don't want to give away the name of the winery yet, but I'l fill you in with details when the time is right.

I still wish all you guys the best in your beer brewing adventures. If you're interested in reading a winemaking blog, stay tuned for future posts!
Chin Chin!