Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just Bought Tickets for NHC 2009

I just squeezed in for early registration tickets for NHC 2009! I'm very excited to be going out to "Frisco" for the weekend of June18th-20th. As an added bonus, the Brewing Network 4th anniversary party is on the Wednesday before that! Should be a great time! I'll try not to get alcohol poisoning, but I'm not promising anything.

If you haven't bought tickets yet, it's the last day for early registration discounts.

Lastly, Ray and I have to get off our asses to enter the Dirty 30 in the 1st round of NHC competition. It's excellent! BJCP-wise, I think it's the best beer I've ever brewed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tasting: Mr. T's 30 lb. Necklace, and Brooklyn Local 2

I'm proud to announce that I went with the crowd favorite for naming my Golden Strong Ale (well, Tripel really). Mr. T's 30 lb. Necklace was bottled and brought to realization with the help of my friend and photoshop dilletante Matt Huard. This beer was bottled for Christmas and embellished with a golden wax cap, which is a bitch to get off, but quite fancy to look at, and it went so perfectly with the gold theme. I was so proud of how these bottles turned out, I was tempted to send a bottle to the man himself, but I didn't want to get my cracker ass sued or beat to a pulp.

This is what the left text says:
Sit down and shut up Fool! I ain't got no time fo' the Jibba-Jabba! What you is drinkin' here is a Belgian ale that's strong, like me, It's gonna hit yo ass hard! Sucka! So you betta run back to yo' mommy right now, and not even drink this! - Mr. T

I entered this beer as a Belgian Tripel in 2 competitions with incredibly bi-polar results. At the Bruery Batch 50 competition in California, it score a 36 average and took 1st place in Belgian Strong ale. At Homebrew Alley 3 in NYC, it scored a 21 average. On one of the judge sheets you could see it had been marked up from a 19 to a 20! 19 is a very bad score, if you don't know.

Well, it's easy to theorize about a wild scoring swing like this (I think bottle inconsistency was not a factor), but the fact is they were different competitions, with different judges of different experience levels, and even in different areas of the country. Really, I think this was a low 30's beer, maybe 29 at least. The recipe and brewing could certainly be improved on.

Here's a quick overview of the finished product:

Aroma: Sharp, floral, lemony with soft malts, light caramel, esters leaning toward banana, low alcohol aroma.

Appearance: Hazy gold with initially a nice head, but fades quickly. medium-high carbonation, some "sea monkey" floaties towards the end of the pour.

Flavor: Light sweetness, neutral malt, banana esters, some clove, and spicy hops. Light tartness, light alcohol sweetness, slightly hoppy aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, med-high carbonation, with some expansion in mouth. medium dry finish, some alcohol warming.

Overall: Needs better head-stand, more complexity from a different yeast choice. There was a slightly harsh, sharp edge to the beer which I think was from the addition of lactic acid to the mash. I don't think I needed this lactic acid to achieve the proper pH so next time I will probably leave it out, go with the WLP 530, and leave everything else the same.

On another note, I found a grocery store in Park Slope with an impressive bottle selection, fresh bottles, and good prices. So if you are near 5th ave. and Sterling, check out the Key Foods. You won't be disappointed.

I picked up a bottle of Brooklyn's Local 2, a recently released companion beer to the Local 1. Both are Belgian inspired ales brewed to 9% ABV and bottle conditioned in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The 1 is lighter, in the tripel/golden strong range for flavor. The 2 is dark, brewed with dark candi sugar and citrus peel. Clarissa and I served it with a grilled ribeye, roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes, and sauteed shitakes and spinach. The Local 2 was a great compliment to this meal.

My overall impression of this beer is that it is fantastically crafted, but maybe a bit understated in flavor. I appreciate subtlety, but I had to get the beer up to about 60 degrees before getting any real malt complexity or yeasty esters. I think it could use some more yeast fruitiness/spiciness, and maybe a touch more malt depth. Still, it was very enjoyable and I am glad to see Brooklyn really delving in to the Belgian beer tradition and bottle conditioning some unique ales. I would like to try it again some time to see if my opinion remains the same.

On that note, I'm sad to have missed tonight's NYC Homebrewers Guild meeting, where Brooklyn brewmaster (and former NYCHG Prez) Garret Oliver spoke. I just couldn't make it. I have a pretty bad cold. Bummer...

Monday, March 16, 2009

1st Day at Sixpoint

As I've told friends and stated on this blog, I'm trying to slowly edge my way into professional brewing. I'm going to be blogging on this, and I think it will be interesting to look back on my experiences in a few years and see where it's taken me. In January I lined up an internship with Sixpoint Craft Ales, and although there were some setbacks in the schedule, I'm finally in there and I should be helping out on most Saturdays. As far as my specific goals, I would love to be offered a job there, but even if that doesn't happen, I'm sure learning experience will be crucial, and can only help me get a job at a brewery somewhere else.
On Saturday I went to Sixpoint to help Craig and Evan keg up some Bengali Tiger IPA. They weren't brewing, which meant we would have a fairly easy day and finish up by around 1:00. I arrived at a shockingly early 7:00 a.m. The sun was just rising in the industrial harbor neighborhood of Red Hook. While waiting for Craig and Evan to arrive, I sat outside and finished a delicious bacon egg and cheese bagel. A songbird sang in the morning from the deck, celebrating the incoming warmer weather. A feeling of excitement surged through me, as I contemplated the first truly exciting thing I have done in a while. I felt like I was like stepping into a new chapter of life.
I've known Craig for a little over 2 years now and he has worked his way up to head brewer at Sixpoint. Evan started as an intern and works there part time. Both these guys are outstanding dudes and they are avid homebrewers on the side. We sampled a beer made by Craig and his girlfriend using chilies that she had grown. It was spectacular. I didn't bring any beers this time, but I'm planning on bringing samples of the Deliverance Kentucky Sour, and our IIPA.
Most of the kegs were clean already. Once the keg washer was warmed up, we got set up to wash a few remaining kegs. Evan showed me how to do this, and it's a multi-staged cleaning with about 6 unmarked valves to memorize. As we were doing this, Craig brought the double batch of Bengali Tiger to the proper carbonation and set up the keg filler, which is a homemade sci-fi looking contraption which hangs from the ceiling with 8 fill lines coming down to sanke taps. From this we filled 6 and 1/2 pallets of kegs, and a 7 gallon keg of beer.

What was really interesting for me was that even though kegging is not really a romanticized brewing practise, this is totally new ground for me, using new equipment that I have never used! As a homebrewer, this was incredibly rewarding. Quite frankly my homebrewing system doesn't change much, and there is a certain repetitiveness to that. I'm sure part of it was the good company, but I really had a lot of fun cleaning and filling kegs, getting a little dirty and getting some IPA sprayed on my jeans. And I can say without a doubt, the Bengali was tasting great off the conditioning tank. It was rewarding to drink a beer that I had just helped keg.

At around 11:00 Shane, the owner & brewmaster stopped by just to check in. Then Ray and Mary stopped by for ingredients, so at one point it was kind of like a social hour. After that we finished up moving the pallets of beer out and cleaned up. Next week should be a double brewday. As I understand it, this will be done in 2 shifts of 2 workers, with a little overlap in the middle.

Can't wait to see what the future holds!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Petit Saison - and a rant about my job.

Free Range Monkey

Office Monkey

Once again, I was supposed to start interning at Sixpoint this weekend, but they recently had to take a break from brewing due to some renovations. So they brewed like crazy this week. Now they have all 4 fermenters full, and no beer ready to keg! Nothing to do, so the brewery was once again closed on Saturday. Looks like my first brewday with them will be on March 14th, which kind of sucks, but it also means I'll have my birthday weekend free and clear to set up the party and make sure all the bees are ready.

The 1 month lag wouldn't be a big deal, but I am just so ready to leave my current job that every delayed week feels like an eternity! Sixpoint may or may not turn into a real job, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Today there's a snowstorm, and there is jack shit to do here at my office-monkey job, so at least I have time to update my blog. I was talking to my friend Zeke the other day, telling him the best thing that could happen to me would be to get laid off, but I know that's not going to happen, because I'm too good of a worker, and I can't sabotage myself. So here I remain, glued to my chair until further notice.

I wanted to at least get a brew in this weekend. I feel like I'm sort of stocking up for when I'll be at the brewery every Saturday and I won't have much time to homebrew. So I had a packet of Wyeast 3724 Saison yeast and I really just made this beer for myself to drink, not really to style, but hopefully very much to my taste. I'm happy to announce that I'm off some of what I considered to be inferior saison yeasts (White Labs 566: Saison II, and Wyeast 3726: Farmhouse), and back to the classic Dupont strain.

This beer is designed to be a low alcohol drinker, and a base to grow yeast, with the next recipe being a re-do of the Saison 566 recipe that did OK in competition, but really just needed a better yeast. Then if the yeast is still clean and in good condition, I might do a black saison, which technically is not a new recipe because I brewed one way back in 2005 which was not really that good. This brew was done with all American hops, but not the classic "4 C's" varieties that are very citrusy. I used a high-alpha Magnum for bittering, and an American grown Goldings for flavor/aroma, to sort of get in line with a classic saison hop, but grown in the states. It is more piney than English Kent Goldings, but there is a similar floral aroma there too. The finish hop additions are pretty big for a saison, which is what I was going for.

The shittiest part of brewing on Saturday was, I set myself up with a LONG brewwday. I had to rack the IPA to get a carboy free, then I decided I might as well rack the "Saison Sans Pantalons" that got infected with the Berlinner Weisse yeast, and has been sitting on my shelf for like 7 months. I think the infected saison was probably a waste of time and should have gone down the drain, but the IPA tasted fantastic! The kegs took forever to clean. One was completely filthy, having recently been acquired from some hillbilly's garage. I had to wash off the spiders and dirt outside and dump out the remaining 4 year old Pepsi inside, break it apart and scrub the hell out of it.

I mashed in at 2:00 p.m. and took a break before boiling to eat at a local bar (accompanied by a Racer 5 IPA). I finished cleaning after 10:00! Christ...this is supposed to be fun!

Recipe is for 7 gallons pre-boil, 6 gallons post boil, 5.25 in the fermenter
O.G. 1.048 F.G. 1.008 5% ABV IBU's 26

8 lb. Durst Pils Malt
1 lb. Wheat Malt
8 oz. Raw Spelt
4 oz. Aromatic Malt
2 oz. Melanoidin Malt
1/2 oz. carafa special II (for color and "pH balance" - wasn't that a shampoo commercial?)

All whole hops:
12 gr. US Magnum 14% 60 min
28 gr. US Goldings 5% 10 min
35 gr. US Golings 5% 0 min

Wyeast 3724

Mash: 3.75 gallons + 1 tsp gypsum. Total time 105 min.
130 for 15 min, raised to 150 over 10 min
150 for 60 minutes, fell to 145. Raised to 160 over 10 min
160 for 10 min, raised to 170 over 5 min

Sparge: 4.5 gallons at 170. Collected 6.75 gallons at 1.042 = 82% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes, adding 3 cups of top-up water during the boil
Whirlfoc at 15 min
1/2 tsp Wyeast nutrient at 10 min

Chilled to 66, whirlpooled 20 minutes, and racked to a carboy.
Aerated by hand for 8 min.
Pitched 1 quart starter (with liquid) made on a stirplate at 68 degrees.
Fermentation peaked at 76 degrees, and then fell back to 72. I am not rushing this one so I'm just letting it hang out there.

Racked to keg on 3/30/09. Amazingly (or unamazingly) this beer is still at 1.010! The yeast is still working but it seems like the low ferment temp was just making it limp along. I attached a heating pad to the outside of the keg to push it through the final fermentation. I think it may help with the flavor/aroma too.

5/14/09 This beer turned out really fantastic as a session saison, and it was incredibly clear. The only recipe adjustment I might make is to ferment a little higher for more yeast complexity. I'll try to post an official tasting soon.