Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Back on 2007

Looking back on 2007, it has been a productive year. I've brewed a total of 74 gallons. That's about a 54% increase over 2006. Not totally sure what to expect for 2008. I know I'll have some interesting work to do in relation to Half Acre Beer Co. And I'll be brewing at least a couple beers for my brother's wedding in October. On top of that, I really want to experiment with some very funky intentions.

Not knowing if I'd ever keep up with it, I started this blog in January. It's been a lot of fun compiling information, designing the layout of posts and the look of the blog, learning about HTML coding, taking & importing photos, and more. I'll admit my writing style is...well...a bit dry, so that is something I'll try to let loose on. One thing I like about it is that each beer entry contains evolving/updating content and photos. I also try to include as much information about each beer as possible. So when you read a new post, be sure to revisit them for updates on progress, and final tasting notes.

I've met many online brewers, and reading their blogs has been fun and informative. I've subscribed to just about all of them. There sure is a lot of great information among the double handful of us writing about what we're doing with recipes, equipment, processes, and more. I feel good about being a part of this virtual community and it's fuller experience.

I don't enter my beer in many competitions, but this year my Hop Blend IPA won 2nd place at the Schooner Homebrew Championships in Racine, WI. Up against the most entrants for a beer style, and a fairly cut-throat category, I'm honored to say the least.

Teaming up with Half Acre Beer Company has to be the biggest thrill this year. What a great team of people they are, and totally motivated to putting out the best beer possible. I get to brew small batches as a way to explore new beer offerings. I really look forward to what 2008 has in store for the continuation of my relationship and involvement with the growth of this fun beer company.

I can honestly say that I love brewing beer more than I do drinking it. Maybe it is because of my age? Maybe because I've had my fair share of it over the years? Maybe because of all the technical attributes in the whole process? Maybe because I do things for the skill and perfection of it? This past year has brought many understandings...how ingredients work together, how to decrease off-flavors at many stages in the process, how to increase mash efficiency, how to lay off on bittering hops for maltier styles, how to brew better test batches, and how patience really pays when aging beers that need it. By following solid recommendations for each beer style, and having a simple and dialed-in kitchen brew house, my beer usually comes out at a level that is close to commercial in quality. That is what makes this hobby even more rewarding.

I look forward to what 2008 has to offer. It should be another big one. One major area of change, is figuring out how sustainable this hobby can get. I also want to learn how to take quality photos of the finished beer. Sarah already has great cameras and lenses. Now I just have to tap into her knowledge and experience.

Well, thanks for visiting and returning to my site. I appreciate and value all of your comments and dialog. Lastly, I'll just wish a BIG Happy New Year to everyone! Cheers!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Brewing One Gallon Batches

I've brewed a good number of one gallon batches (view the list...here) in my day, and I'd like to share some things to consider while trying it for yourself. Overall, its a great way to experiment, to get in a small batch of something simple, to brew a batch as a yeast starter, or to use the vessels for tertiary aging with added flavors.

Both my Mother and Grandma drink cheap bulk Carlo Rossi wines by the 3 & 4 liter jug. Not really sure why, nor how they get through the whole thing before it gets even nastier. But, somehow it makes them happy, and I get as many jugs as I need.

I outfit these jugs with a #6 drilled stopper with a 3-4 inch piece of used plastic racking cane, and a section of hose for blow-off (view it...here). Then as kraeusen subsides an airlock goes in. For bottling, I simply drilled another small hole into a drilled #6 stopper, so a racking cane and a breather hose are inserted. Just snug in the jug, I blow to get the siphon going, and then lower the cane tip into the bottom corner as the beer nears the end.

The simplest way to make a one gallon batch is the extract way. I've had good results inputing all the ingredients into a recipe calculator. Everything is pretty much proportional to a full batch, and you can easily run a full-wort boil. Using a quality yeast is essential. Just cause its a small batch, or its a simple recipe for a quick brew, I recommend NOT using cheap dry yeast. Unless you are testing out yeast strains, go with the liquid yeast strain that is recommended for the style of beer you are going for.

I've brewed all-grain one gallon batches before using my "mini-masher," and the results haven't been all that great. Recently, I brewed four 1-gallon herbal beers, but the wort came from one 6 gallon mash. This is the preferred method, cause there is standardization, great quality is assured, and I get four experimental beers going in one brewday. In this case, with a measuring cup, I stir and pour equal portions from a 1 pint starter.

I usually will decant larger yeast starters before pitching into a full batch wort. Stepping it up, and letting it settle sometimes takes as long as fermenting a full batch. So, why not make this a productive use of time? I brewed the Official NBA this way, and it turned out pretty darn good, plus it revealed many broader qualities of Northern Brewer hops.

Though I haven't gone totally nuts with my experimental 1-gallons, in time I will. I have plans to make the most sour of sours, biggest of barleywines, and funkiest of funky beers. These jugs are great for doing this sort of stuff.

Lastly, these vessels work extremely well as tertiary aging vessels for a 3-4 liter portion of full batches. Use them to add oak to a sweet stout or hoppy pale ale. Add some fruit/spices/herbs to ambers, wheats and old ales. If you want to make something taste even older or funkier, add a packet of Brett, Lambic and/or Belgian yeasts. You can also make a portion of a full batch stronger by adding more fermentables and more yeast. Also, a 3-4 liter jug can be used to hold onto a bold beer for blending with batches in the future.

In the end, I think of brewing these batches as a way to try something different. I measure everything proportionally, as if I were brewing a full batch. At this proportionate level, it is important to weigh everything carefully using an accurate scale. I don't use a secondary with these beers. One downside, is that in the end, I only get about ¾ gallon of beer. But very recently, I found a primary vessel that can handle 1.5-2 gallons, and after transferring to a Carlo Rossi jug, the end product will end up at a full 128 ounces.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A List of One Gallon Batches

Here's a list of one gallon experimental/test batches. It gets updated as new ones are made. Some of them have been very useful, and informed future full batches. Others were complete flops. Some of them were flavored secondaries. Some are specially brewed as one gallon yeast starters, to build up a big yeast slurry, leading up to full batches. I invite you to read about brewing one gallon batches. You can also see an updated listing of all my beers at...a brief history of Ted's brews.

1. Honey Toasted Red Ale
2 gallons, repitched Scottish Ale yeast, 7.75%, 1 lb home toasted & honey glazed 2-row malt, Overall it was pretty bad, Sweet and uncarbonated.

2. Sour Corn Ale
Repitched Thames Valley Wyeast, 1lb. frozen corn in secondary, unexpected and very unique, favorable sour taste resulted from what I believe is wild yeast/bacteria on the corn. Hops and ground pepper give it a "mysterious" mild spice. I'll probably do this again sometime. One year later, it was absolutely great, with a pleasant oxidized scent and a "Belgian-like," "aged" quality. Very smooth.

3. Blueberry Ale 1
Repitched Thames Valley Wyeast, 20oz. frozen wild blueberries in secondary, nice purple hue, hops a little assertive, overall it was pretty good. Now I see why fruit ales are mildly hopped. The addition of wheat or malted barley might be good. There was also a strange metallic taste. One year later, it was unbelievably smooth!

4. Buckwheat Honey Mead
Dry Mead Wyeast, came out tasting like candy...not so good. Perhaps age will change its character, so I have a little hope. A full 16oz. of buckwheat honey with 32oz. of clover, juice from 1 lemon and 4oz. of strong earl grey tea...it came out very strange. Too much buckwheat honey.

5. Downer Brown Ale
Safbrew-S33, what I thought would be an interesting brown ale ended up tasting sweet with no character. I blame it on Munton's dry malt extract.

6. Cyser Mead
Sweet Mead Wyeast, made with raw honey, 64 oz. organic "clear" apple juice, and water with a squeeze of lemon juice, a clear & soft honey wine...very simple and tasty.

7. Munich Dunkel's "all-grain" yeast-starter
Though I don't recall tasting this, its my first all-grain tiny batch. The mash was done in my "mini-masher." The gravity came out perfect...1.040. It was brewed just like a regular batch, but the whole thing was pitched into the full batch of Dunkel.

8. Mild Brown Ale
Muntons dry yeast, all grain base with DME added for gravity, everything in this beer is MILD. There's really not a whole lot of flavor or aroma to write about...

9a. Copper Lager
Repitched Bavarian Wyeast, base lager for the following three flavored lagers... This base lager has a moderate bitterness, and is much like a pilsener...just darker and fuller tasting, It was a throw it together beer and ironically resulted as one of my finest.

9b. Ginger Peach Lager
Repitched Bavarian Wyeast, 2 lbs. frozen peaches & 1 ounce gandied ginger. Because of the added fruit sugars, this one wasn't finished fermenting, and resulted in a batch of gushers. The taste is too assertive, with moderate bitterness and a sharpness from the ginger. The peach is very subtle.

9c. Citrus Lager
Repitched Bavarian Wyeast, rind of half organic Navel & half organic Mandarin oranges, rind of eighth of a organic Rio Star grapefruit. Very interesting beer. It has a wonderful citrus aroma, and initial taste. The citrus qualities fade away with every sip and gradually decrease as the beer is consumed. Aside from a hint of "citrus astringency" after-aftertaste, overall it is a unique and refreshing beer. There wasn't an option at boil time, but I get the sense that orange flavors may come out better with boiled rinds.

9d. Dry Hopped Lager
Repitched Bavarian Wyeast, .25 oz. Hallertau pellets. WOW! Thats about it. Nothing is "off" about this flavored beer, but you'd either love it or hate it. It's BOLD. I like it, and that's all that matters. Plus I've gotten good feedback on it.

10. Dandelion Wine
Raw honey, White grape juice, Steeped Dandelions, Lemon and orange juice and rinds, Dry mead yeast, the citrus and other flavors do not allow the delicate dandelion to come through.

11. Cranberry Champagne
Belgian Ardennes yeast, 64 oz. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, 32 oz. Organic white grape juice. Nice and dry, cider tartness, bubbly. Yeast flavor was present while young, but faded away as it aged over a couple months. Very nice for something literally tossed together into the fermenter. Great for any celebration throughout the year.

12. Official N.B.A
London Ale yeast, Partial mash with Amber DME and Mini-mash (pale malt, crystal 60, carafoam, chocolate malt), All Northern Brewer hops at 62 IBUs, Very fruity, Full hop flavor and aroma but had significant oxidation.

13a. Cardamom Ginger Beer
British Ale yeast, All-grain malt base, Ginger, cardamom

13b. Fennel Nettle Ale
British Ale yeast, All-grain malt base, Nettle, Fennel

13c. Burdock Beer
British Ale yeast, All-grain malt base, Burdock, Mugwort, Coriander, 16oz. Smoked Wort

13d. Fresh Sage Ale
British Ale yeast, All-grain malt base, Fresh Sage, Licorice Root. 8oz. Smoked Wort

14. Raisin Toast Stout
Whitbread Ale yeast, Pale DME base, steeped specialty grains and oats, assertive hopping with flavor and aroma additions, few bottles spiked with freshly pulled espresso, overall the aroma and flavors (roast, sweetness, hops & espresso) are balanced, full bodied and satisfying

15. Mint Stout
American Ale yeast, Pale DME and Amber all-grain wort base, steeped specialty malts and Carapils, moderate bittering and flavor hops, fresh Spearmint and dried Peppermint at knockout. Based from recipe in Radical Brewing, and everyone likes this beer

16. Silly Trappist
Trappist High Gravity ale yeast, a blend of left-over worts, DME, Sugar, Molassas, Hops, an experimental yeast starter batch, to see what a little molassas would do. Surprisingly, this beer turned out simply good.

17a. Honey Sage Beer
17b. Honey Basil Beer
17c. Raspberry Mint Beer
17d. Orange Ginger Mint Beer
17e. Hot Pepper Beer

18. Mint Stout 2

19. Royal Ryeness Brown Ale

20. Peppercorn Belgian Ale

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Half Acre Draught Release Party


Sheffield's 7-9pm

The Small Bar 9-11pm

Visit Half Acre Beer Company for more info.

My friend Erik and I had a wonderful time hanging out at this event. We got to talk with some really great people, and the beer...well...this Lager is great in the bottle, but even better on tap. It feels and tastes a bit smoother. And after a couple pints, we were feeling quite satisfied. To those who couldn't make it, do yourselves a favor, and grab a pint. In the near future, you will also find it a bit closer to your neighborhood at the Village Tap on Roscoe Ave.

Monday, December 3, 2007

4 Herbal Beers

David and I brewed our second, third, forth and fifth herbal/medicinal beers today. From one mash, we boiled and prepared 4 separate 1-gallon batches. The first two were "stagger" boiled, pots were cleaned, then the second two beers were also stagger boiled. This made for a longer day, but we're hoping its all worth it. Each one smelled wonderful as they boiled down from 1.5 gallons to 1. Much like hops loose their fragrance in a long boil, some of these herbs lost it too. Our first herbal beer was a Dandelion Mead made in the Spring.


Originally I had a Heather Beer in mind, but heather tips were T.O.S. So we decided to go with Nettle instead. Also, I wasn't able to locate any roasted Chicory, so we went with Mugwort. This is fine, because we plan on brewing all sorts of herbal beers, and there will come a time to brew with Heather and Chicory later.

I guess I shouldn't have waited to the last moment (and during Chicago's first snow and freezing rain storm) to get the ingredients. Not to mention I went out early evening Saturday, on a busy shopping weekend.

Inspiration for these recipes came from the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. It's an indispensable resource as I enter the realm of herbal/medicinal beers. I look forward to trying many of the recipes in the book. Along with the help of some herbal professional friends, I also look forward to increasing my knowledge about how to most effectively utilize herbal potential in my fermented beverages...similarly to the way we maximize utilization of hop resins in 1-2 hour boils.

So with some on-the-fly improvisation, we came up with four recipes...


1. Cardamom Ginger Beer
1.1 oz. ginger root
8 cardamom pods

2. Fennel Nettle Ale
.6 oz. nettle
1 tsp. fennel

3. Burdock Beer
½ oz. burdock root
¼ oz. mugwort
½ tsp. cracked coriander
16 oz. smoked wort

4. Fresh Sage Ale
1 oz. fresh sage
¼ oz. licorice root
8 oz. smoked wort


All-grain malt base recipe...

Grains (OG 1.048)
5.0 lbs. Organic Pale 2-row
1.0 lbs. Vienna Malt
.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
.25 lbs. Crystal 20L
.25 lbs. Biscuit Malt
.25 lbs. CaraPils

Yeast
Wyeast 1098 British Ale: 1 pint starter divided into four

Monday, November 26, 2007

Smoked Scottish 2

Though my experience with them is fairly limited, still I absolutely love smoked beers. Doesn't matter if there's only a hint, or its completely dominated by smoke. As I sit bundled up on the porch in the crisp Autumn wind, with closed eyes and clear senses, I take a deep sniff and a sip. Then, the distinctive whiff and woodsy flavor transports my mind, to a far off place in medieval European history. I love when culinary delights have the power do this. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to time travel.

I first brewed a peat smoked Scottish ale in the Spring of 2006. The Scottish yeast enjoyed a long consistent ferment in the low 60's. It came out a little lighter than expected, but at the same time, it tasted very clean and was extremely drinkable.

In my second attempt, I'm going for a bigger version. The list of grains may appear complicated for a traditional Scottish Ale, but I wanted to balance a larger percentage of smoked malt with some dark sweet malts and unfermentables. At the same time, it doesn't stray too far from recommendations in Designing Great Beers. Also, this is a perfect malty opportunity for using up some left-over ingredients (CaraMunich, Special B and Org. Crystal 60).

Smoked Scottish 2

Grains
8.75 lb. Golden Promise 2-Row Pale
1.00 lb. Torrified Wheat
0.60 lb. Peated Malt
0.50 lb. Org. Crystal 60L
0.35 lb. Amber Malt
0.26 lb. CaraMunich & Special B (split 50/50)
0.25 lb. UK Chocolate Malt
0.13 lb. UK Black Patent


Hops
1.00 oz. Target, 8%, whole, 90min.

Yeast
Wyeast 1728: Scottish Ale (.5-.75 cup slurry)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 11/26/07
Racked: 12/11/07
Bottled: 1/4/08

Water Adjustment:
.49 tsp B.Soda, .86 tsp CaCl & 1.2 tsp Gypsum

H2O/1lb. Grain Ratio: 1.3qt/lb
Mash Ph: ---
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: +/-159°F/1 hour
Mash Out Temp/Time: 170°F/15min w/vorlauf

2nd Batch Sparge Rest Temp/Vol: 170°F/4 gal

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.048
Boil Time: 2 hours
Caramelized Reduction: 30 oz down-to 8 oz.
Post-Boil Vol: 5.75 gal

OG: 1.064
IBU: 29
Color/SRM: Deep Brown/16-20
Mash Efficiency: approx. 83.9%
FG: 1.020
ABW: 4.62%
ABV: 5.78%

Fermentation Temp: 58°F
Cost: $28.40, .53¢/12oz., 3.20/6-pack

Tasting Notes
check back in 2-3 months

Appearance:
Aroma:
Taste:
Mouthfeel:
Aftertaste:
Drinkability:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Smoked Beers

My first experience with smoked beer came when brewing my own. To this day, I consider that peat-smoked Scottish Ale one of my favorite home brews. It was very clean, and had an assertive, yet smooth smoke flavor and aroma. One bottle was set aside, and after a year's passing, it tasted even better.

I truly love the smoke flavor in beer...could really go on and on about it, but I wont. I'll just leave it at that.

My brother (in Seattle) was brewing extract based beers at the time (Spring 2006). We were going to brew the same beer (his steeped/extract; mine all-grain), and then make a trade. But at the same time, he wasn't brewing as often, and didn't have time to brew in unison. Oh well.

After brewing this one, I researched what commercial smoked beers were available in the stores. Among only a couple others was the finest example Schlenkerla. They are very good, and I think it is their Urbock I liked the most. If you enjoy smoked beers, and live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend a visit to the Map Room. They serve Schlenkerla smoked lagers on tap.

To learn more about them, I've read the book called Smoked Beers, by Ray Daniels and Geoffrey Larson. Also there's an excellent BYO article about tips with smoked beers by Scott Russel.

Ever since savoring my first smoked ale, I've been anticipating brewing more of them. Finally, the time has come. Up next is...Smoked Scottish 2. It will be bigger, fuller, darker and full of smoke.

A long awaited Rauchbier is finally in the works. It's brew day is planned for the beginning of January. It will be a tad bigger than the classic style, and may delve in the realm of a Bock. At around 56% RauchMalt, it will definitely be assertive, but hopefully smoother than silk.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Hops...Well Then... No Hops!

What? No more hops? Well then, maybe I just won't put any in my beer.

It's true, I can't order most of the hops I prefer...like Hallertau, Tetnanger, Saaz, Cascade, Centennial, etc. For a lot of German style lagers coming up, I've had to buy alternatives to ideal German varieties. I'm not too concerned because my curiosity of hybrids is high. In fact, my last order of ingredients from Northern Brewer (NB)included enough alternative hops to get me through the winter lager season, and into the beginning of springtime ales. But, when it comes time to make an American Pale Ale with aggressive Cascade and Centennial hops, well, I'm out of luck. Again, I'm very interested in new blends of hops that wouldn't normally be thought of as a good mix for aromatic pale ales.

We are definitely in the midst of a serious situation. At the time of writing this, the only hop varieties currently available through NB are Admiral, Ahtanum, Boadicea, Crystal, Galena, Marynka, Newport, Pride of Ringwood, Progress, Sladek, Spalt, and Tradition. Most of these I've never heard of before, nor considered in any of my brews so far. I also wonder how much of these are available. It almost looks like availability is more of a concern than price hikes. Tough times indeed, and sort-of scary.

What can we do? Wait? It has been told by Northern Brewer that they have not yet received shipments from the 2007 hop harvest. When that rolls in, we may be able to resume our hop-headed impulses for the most intensely hopped IPA's. At the very least we can brew some more traditional styles.

Perhaps this shortage is trying to tell us something about our American ideals. Are we using too much hops? Sure hop-heavy Barleywines, American IPA's and Imperials taste great, but are they completely necessary? I'm starting to think they aren't.

I don't have too much to say about this shortage. I am a bit concerned, but at the same time, I am looking forward to using different/unusual hop varieties and perhaps hop alternatives. I am interested in growing my own, and harvesting some from "herbal" friends of mine who have some pretty old and massive hop vines.

On a positive note, this shortage has caused my brother and I to get started with our deeper interest in herbal/healing beers. We've had herbal beer ideas for almost a year now. If you are also thinking about shifting towards hop alternatives, I highly recommend getting started with this book...Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

As for non-hopped ideas, I'm looking forward to using bittering alternatives. Among others, herbs such as alecost, betony, dandelion, horehound, milk thistle, nettle, sage and yarrow can be used. Aside from providing bittering properties, many herbs, roots and barks also provide additional health benefits. I have concerns about the cost of some of these herbs as well, but I intend on growing substantial herb plantings for brewing and cooking.

Undoubtedly, alternative bittering/flavor/aroma ingredients will cause beer to taste very different. Personally speaking, I've come to a point in brewing where my beer tastes as good as any commercially sold ale or lager. So I'm very interested in giving my beer a new twist by working into the recipes any good combo of herbs, roots and barks.

We are home brewers. We brew beers the way we like them. We have the ability to be as inventive with our beer as we want. This means that any truly creative or inventive beer style comes from new ideas and innovation, and ultimately from personal taste. Using hops with moderation and including alternative bittering/flavor/aromas can prove to be just as appealing as solely hopped beers.

I'm looking forward to posting about my first herbal beer experiments in the coming month.

The following list of links are blogs/articles related to the world wide hop shortage: I'll be adding to it as more are published

An article about the hop shortage by Gregory McLaw...
Will homebrewer’s get hopping mad or smile over the brew kettle

Beervana wrote about Northwest hop prices and the craft beer dilemma...
This Hop Shortage Thing May Be Serious

Leah Beth Ward of the Yakima Herold writes about how...
Hop Shortage Hits Home

Stonch writes...
Spruce up your ale

Travis writes...
Hops of Wrath

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cheapest Batch

This is a geeky-fun post detailing the cost of 3 methods for producing 5 gallons of home brewed beer. In this demonstration, by "simple beer," I mean a beer that falls between the Mild Ales, and the more expensive hoppy beers like pale ales/IPA or higher gravity beers. A simple beer to me is a mildly hopped Scottish, Irish Red Ale, Dry Stout, etc. For this analysis, I use a beer with an OG of 1.040. The cost of yeast, hops and bottle caps is constant at $10, and an 8% sales tax is included in all calculations.

A. Extract Based
After assembling a basic brew kit, home brewed beer is already cheaper than buying quality commercial beer. At its very basic and introductory level, malt extracts are used for the bulk of fermentables. Specialty grains and hops will provide distinctive color and enticing flavors and aromas. This method of brewing a simple beer can cost s around $26.50 ($2.95/6-pack).

B. All-Grain (pre-crushed)
After building onto the basic system, to allow for an all-grain procedure, the cost per batch goes down a little bit. The easiest way to get started with ingredients is to purchase "pre-crushed" grains. The overall efficiency of a mash with pre-crushed grains can be quite low, so more malt is required to obtain the correct gravity. I've experienced efficiencies in the range of 60-70%. Also, having malts crushed for you adds about 10-20¢/pound. But at this point a batch of simple beer costs less, at around $24.12 (/6-pack).

C. All-Grain (whole kernel)
Ordering whole grain malts simply costs less (about $1.31/batch). Yeah...it takes a little while to hand crush the grains, but it's much fresher, and a much better crush. Using my LHBS mill, I've recorded efficiencies as high as 78%. An adjustable mill is preferable. After crushing at home with a new Barley Crusher, I've hit an all new high of 85%! Going from 62% to 78%, reduces the malt poundage by 1.7lbs/20%, and cuts about $2.72. Going from 62% to 85%, reduces malt poundage by 2.25lbs/26%, and cuts about $3.60. So with a home-crushed, whole-kernel, all-grain method, a batch of simple beer costs around $20.60 ($2.32/6-pack).

Further Reductions

1. Knock off $6 by reusing yeast
2. Swing top bottles cancel the need for bottle caps (about $1.16/batch)
3. Buying lower quality domestic base malts at $1.15/lb. ($2.27/batch)
4. Buying in bulk with flat rate shipping (marginal savings)

After applying these reductions...

Method A...$17.07 ($1.92/6-pack)
Method B...$14.69 ($1.65/6-pack)
Method C...$11.17 ($1.26/6-pack)

At an annual production of 12 batches/year (60 gal/106 6-packs), on average, each method would cost...

Method A...$261
Method B...$231
Method C...$190

In the end it, there are many ways to reduce the cost of brewing. At the same time, not only does the price go down, progressing from method A to C also greatly improves the quality of the beer.

With the current downward turn in the availability of quality/traditional barley and hops, and a serious increase in their price, we are inevitably facing challenging times. Decreasing the cost on the side of production, can help buffer the increased price of ingredients.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sterling Pearl

For Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day, I decided to invite a handful of friends and some new folks I've met recently. I had a great time sharing this experience with them. Everyone had great questions, perused the brewing literature, and had a small hand in the process.

Sterling Pearl is intended to be an easy drinking session style beer, with a pleasant burst of hop flavors and aroma. It'll be nice to chug down a couple of these in-between sips of heftier brews made for the cold season.

Malts are kept light yet medium sweet in flavor. Though mild, its medium body should help support brisk hopping. Hop presence will come from an aggressive "late-hopping" strategy. Hop flavor and aroma should be intense, and the bittering, smooth and mild. I became aware of late-hopping through Mr. Malty, and it appeals to me for a few reasons. 1. Minimal oxidation by an absence of dry hops. 2. No need for secondary fermenting or extended aging with dry hops. 3. Also, I'm very interested in better ways of gaining much more "floral/spicy" aroma.

I've had a late hopped beer before, and the body was way too thin. So I'm hoping to get enough body into this lighter style. A higher temp for the saccharification rest will provide more unfermentables. Suspended proteins from flaked barley should help too.

Originally, the sharp/minty qualities of Perle hops were in my mind for this ale. But after getting some Sterling in the mail, I prefer their fresher/brighter aroma. In addition, I've only read good things about Sterling, so they will provide the largest contribution to the hop presence. Kept a little Perle for its herbal accents.

Sterling Pearl

Grains
7.0 lb. Organic 2-Row
.60 lb. Amer. Crystal 20L
.30 lb. Organic Crystal 60L
.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.30 lb. Flaked Barley


Hops
0.75 oz. Sterling pellets, 5.3%, 20min
0.25 oz. Perle pellets, 7.7%, 20min
1.50 oz. Sterling pellets, 5.3%, 10min
0.30 oz. Perle pellets, 7.7%, 10min
1.75 oz. Sterling pellets, 5.3%, KO
0.35 oz. Perle pellets, 7.7%, KO


Yeast
Wyeast 1332: Northwest Ale (Sediment from 2 step 1.5qt yeast starter)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 11/11/07
Racked: 11/23/07
Bottled: 12/4/07

Water Adjustment: ¼tsp Gypsum & ¼tsp CaCl in strike & sparge

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.4 qt/gal
Mash Ph: ---
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 154°F/1 hour
Mash Out Temp/Vol: 211°F/1.3 gal
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/10min w/vorlauf

2nd Batch Sparge Temp/Vol: 176°F/3.25gal

Pre-Boil Vol: 6.25 gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.041
Boil Time: 1.5-2 hours
Post-Boil Vol: 4.75 gal

OG: 1.055
Plato: 13.63°
IBU: 37
Color/SRM: Pale-Golden/5-7
Mash Efficiency: approx. 85% (same value from tastybrew & promash)
FG: 1.014
ABW: 4.3%
ABV: 5.38%

Fermentation Temp: 12 days @ 62°F;5 days @ 70°F;7 days @ 55°F
Cost: $25.50, .50¢/12oz., $3.00/6-pack

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Bright & pale golden color with a touch of copper/orange, hazy, a strong white head forms and hangs around a while till it falls into good lacing patterns
Aroma: Fresh, vibrant, citrus blend, floral, sweetness like soft honey
Taste: Bright, very hoppy upfront, soft bittering allows sweet and light malts to balance the fuller fresh hop flavors
Mouthfeel: Sweet residuals and full carbonation give this beer a moderately full and rich mouthfeel
Aftertaste: Balanced beer with a clean aftertaste, perhaps some citrus
Drinkability: Very drinkable and nearly everyone at my New Years chili party wanted much more than one, its just too bad there was only a very limited supply.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tasters Union - Local 13




My friends from the Brew&Grow are providing some of their specialty brews for the Tasters Union Local 13 event hosted by the Small Bar in Wicker Park.

Dave's very good at making Belgian style beers, so I'm looking forward to trying his Honey Tripel.

Hope to see you there.

Making Friends

My brewing friends, the Monday Night Brewery, down in Atlanta, GA, are doing great things. Hosting brewing nights every Monday evening. Developing creative and unique branding. Perfecting, what I would imagine, are great tasting beers. And they are reaching out to the public by running an active and fun blog. You can also win a free MNB pint glass just by singing signing their mailing list!

They are also reaching out to communicate with other professional brewers through a series of interviews. They recently posted a nice interview with Half Acre Beer Company. Check it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Teach a Friend to Home Brew Day - 2007

The American Homebrewer's Association (AHA) sponsors the annual Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. Last year I registered with the AHA, and a bunch of friends came stopped by to see how I make beer. We all had a great time. There was a lot going on that day...brewing, active fermentation, and we almost bottled a batch too.

The beer we brewed was an Old Ale. It was kind-of unfair, but... you see...I just didn't know it would progress the way that it has. At the this time last year, I thought this beer would have been bottled in about 3-6 months. This beer is...well...still fermenting! After racking it onto a blend of Lambic yeasts, brettanomyces and lactic bacteria, it is turning out to be a very distinctive beer. But it's still going, and if any of them show up again this year, they can observe the thin white slimy skin-like layer of yeast colonies (pellicle) formed on the surface. It's starting to develop its sour taste as of late. So far the plans will be to rack 2 gallons into a couple 4 liter jugs for more aging and for blending with future beers, and then bottle the remaining 3 gallons.

This year we will be brewing a quickie. A session style beer called Sterling Pearl. I'm really excited about this one because the hopping strategy is like no other beer I've made before. I guarantee participants will get to try it in as short as a month.

Sunday, Nov. 4th, my kitchen brewery is open to anyone who is interested in learning about the brewing process and participating in various steps. I brew just about all of my beer from scratch. We will run through malts, milling, basic water chemistry, mashing, lautering, boiling, hops/utilization, chilling, sterilizing, yeast handling, wort aeration, and temperature control. The whole process lasts about 6 hours. Water and grain prep will begin at about 9am, and we will "mash-in" at about 10am.

All of my brewing books and magazines will be available to page through, and some of my most frequented websites will be up for viewing. I will provide coffee, tea and pastries in the morning, and Jimmy John subs for lunch, plus various home brewed beers for tasting. If you are interested in participating, please contact me through my registered residential-site #83 on the AHA website.

I think this is the first brewday I've had to cancel. It's just being postponed till next Sunday 11/11. Cadence has been sick since Monday, then Sarah and I have become quite ill over the past day and a half. Hopefully we will be ready to go by the eleventh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cocoa Porter

My black ales in the past have turned out quite strong in roasted flavor. Though I do enjoy a stout/porter with a deep rich flavor and solid bittering, I tend to also like a black beer that isn't totally opaque. So with this beer, I'm going for a dark beer that should be very smooth and full of dry cocoa flavor.

It's taken me a long time to settle on a recipe, and it's been influenced by a handful of other recipes and sources of info. There is a lot going into it, but I think everything will blend together for a full flavored seasonal brew. British Mild malt will lend a sweeter backbone, and a hint of nuttiness. The Cara-Munich & Melanoidin malts will add caramel sweetness. Two types of Oats will aid in building a smooth body and fine head retention. Chocolate & Black malts will add cocoa, roast and bitterness. Brown Sugar should balance the malts and add an overall sweetness. In the very end, roasted Cacao Nibs and Bourbon Vanilla Beans will steep in the clearing tank to add a final kiss of sweetness.

The alcohol content will be high so that there are enough residual sugars lending to a sweeter and fuller mouth-feel. The hopping rate will be kept low to allow the malts to come through and give the roast malts and cocoa nibs room to do their bittering.

Cocoa Porter

Grains
8.25 lb. British Mild Malt
1.65 lb. Belgian CaraMunich
0.85 lb. German Melanoidin
0.85 lb. "Naked" Oats
0.50 lb. Oat Malt
0.45 lb. British Chocolate Malt
0.15 lb. British Black Patent
0.85 lb. Brown Sugar


Hops and Spice
.95 oz. East Kent Goldings, 6.9%, whole, 50min
1.0 oz. Yakima Goldings, 4.6%, whole, 15min
6 oz. Roasted Cacao Nibs, secondary 2 weeks
2 oz. Roasted Cacao Nibs, Secondary 1 week
2 whole Bourbon Vanilla Beans, 1st in vodka, then secondary, 1 week


Yeast
Wyeast 1088 - British Ale (yeast cake)

Brewday Stats

Brewed: 10/15/07
Racked: 10/30/07
Bottled: 11/16/07

Water Adjustment: .75 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp sea salt in boil

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.35 qt/lb
Mash Temp: 153*F
Mash Ph: inaccurate
Mash Out Temp: 166*F
2nd Batch Water: 2.85 gal/176*F
2nd Batch Temp: 165*F
Pre-Boil Volume: 7.25 gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.050 (w/o brown sugar)
Boil Time: 1.4 hrs
Post Boil Volume: 6.1 gal

OG: 1.064 (on target)
IBU's: approx. 23
SRM/Color: 21-26
FG: 1.016
ABW: 5.04%
ABV: 6.3%

Calculated Mash Efficiency: approx. 78%
Cost: $48.64, .83¢, $4.97/6-pack


Progress

1. The house never smelled so malty! Absolutely wonderful!
2. This time I'm not taking the carboy out of the chilled water bath inside the mashtun. I want the temp to stay low.
3. Blow-off foam next morning before 10am.
4. The taste at racking is fairly rich with sweetness and chocolate.
5. The taste after 1 week with Nibs is more like a chocolate amaretto.
6. Adding 2 more ounces of nibs and the vodka steeped vanilla beans for 1 week.
7. At bottling, it has a very full chocolate aroma, and rich taste, and clear.

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Pours clear & very dark but super deep ruby red in front of light, 1 inch rocky head fades quickly to a ring of foam around the edge till the end.
Aroma: Sweet, clean, chocolaty, light scents of malt and roast.
Taste: Very smooth and clean malt sweetness, a rich chocolate flavor with support from well-rounded malty sweetness and roast bitterness, fairly complex.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, velvety smooth, with good moderate carbonation.
Aftertaste: Bitterness towards the back of the tongue coming from several sources (mild hops, roast malts and cacao nibs) is not too much at all, because there is also a lingering sweetness (much like dark dopplebocks or wee heavys).
Overall: Easy drinking for its very rich flavor profile, alcohol isn't noticeable until later when its effect is full and pleasant, great with a piece of pecan pie or a chunk of fair trade organic chocolate, and though I could have more, it makes for a great "one beer after dinner" beverage.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Small Batch Brewing with Half Acre Beer Company

I am delighted to announce that my brewing program will incorporate small batches in line with the goals of Half Acre Beer Company. It is a relationship that began as a direct result of what my wife had to say. She emailed me about a tasting for their Lager at a liquor store near Logan Square. Half Acre Beer Company is new in Chicago, so she thought it would be a good idea to drop in and say hello. It was a trek to get down there, so I figured I'd pick up my brother on the way.

We checked out their beer, and it was quite good. A bold flavored, deep colored, refreshing lager with a unique citrus bittering like no other. Gabriel was very generous with samples and we had a good conversation about his business, and what I have been up to.

After meeting up and talking more about the both of our interests, a natural progression set in. I think we both saw in each other possibilities and a beneficial relationship through the combination of our present state of affairs. I am brewing more and more, with great results. He is starting a great beer company with a vision centered around a fresh line of beer offerings.

That's about it. I am eager to build upon my skills and keep coming out with great beers that are new and interesting. Gabriel and I are both very excited to see how things progress. We both have ambitious goals for ourselves and our beer. It will be cool to see how they merge, and how things evolve.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hard Cider 2007

I got some pals of mine to go in on a large batch of hard cider. Originally I was only gonna make 1 gallon of the stuff, but enough requests rolled in.

This was gonna be more of a communal thing, and I was going to have them bring by "their" jug of juice to toss in the carboy. But since I've got a busy season of brewing this Fall and Winter, I couldn't delay.

To simulate the combination of different juices coming from different people, I simply grabbed 3 different jugs of pure unfiltered apple juice. One organic apple blend and one organic gravenstien from Whole Foods, and 1.5 gallons of fresh apple cider from Trader Joe's. I've heard that blending apples for hard cider makes it come out better, so I hope this blend works well.

I had some Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast laying around for about 2 months just waiting for an opportunity like this. My friends over at the Brew & Grow also highly recommend using this yeast for ciders. A half gallon start was made, and the yeast took off right away.

I added some brown and white sugar to lend a fuller flavor. Adding the juice from one lemon will add some acidity for fermentation and aid in the final product. I was also thinking of adding a little ginger for an interesting tang, and some spice for spiciness, but since this is my first, I'll keep it simple.

All I did was dissolve about 2 cups of brown sugar and about 2 cups of white sugar into 1 gallon of TJ's Apple Cider and rose it to about 160 for about 30 minutes or so. Then cooled it. Then poured it into the carboy along with two more gallons of organic apple juice.

Brewed on 9/28/07
Winding down but still fizzing on 10/8
Racked: Just primary
Bottled: 10/23/07

Monday, October 1, 2007

T&C Nut Brown Ale

Why does it have to be an absolutely beautiful day outside when we're stuck inside brewing another batch of beer? Just why couldn't it have been nasty weather like today...drizzly, chilly and damp. But with an open door, we invited the good weather in and got a good breeze pushing through the kitchen.

The planning of this beer goes back a good couple months. I asked my next door neighbor, Chad, what kind of beer he liked, and what beer he'd like to brew. He used to brew extract batches many years ago, and was interested in seeing the all-grain process. He talked about some styles that were fairly simple, balanced and easy to put down. So we came up with tentative plans to brew a batch of Nut Brown Ale.

The most difficult part about this beer was setting a date. Finally we chose the 30th of September. As for the brew day, it couldn't have went smoother. It only took 5 hours from dough-in to pitching the yeast.

The yeast showed signs of digestion within a couple hours, and was happy chowing down on all that maltose only a few hours after that. They're having a ball in there, swirling all around at about 72+ degrees. Its on the high side of the temp spectrum, and I've read that this style comes out better from a lower fermentation temp. But it smells very malty, toasty and chocolaty, so I'm not worried. Actually the scent pluming from it's carbonic exhalations actually remind me of one of those very first beers I made. I'm sure this one will taste so much better.

I looked all around for tips on Nut Browns, and there isn't a whole lot out there. In this recipe, I'm using two new malts. Victory, which is very close to Biscuit malt. One pound should lend a toasted character that, when mixed with the chocolate malt, will hopefully result in a "nutty" aroma and taste. Then I picked up a new Organic 2-Row base malt that's offered at the Brew & Grow. It crushes very well with minimal dust, and has a light aroma with a very mild taste...now we can call this beer 79.6% ORGANIC!

T&C Nut Brown Ale
5.9 Gallons

Grains
8.00 lb. Organic 2-row
1.00 lb. Victory
0.50 lb. UK Crystal 60L
0.25 lb. Crystal 80L
0.30 lb. UK Chocolate


Hops
.60 oz. East Kent Goldings, 6.9%, whole, 60min
.60 oz. Fuggle, 4.0%, whole, 60min
.25 oz. East Kent Goldings, 6.5%, whole, 10min
.25 oz. Fuggle, 4.0%, whole, 10min


Yeast
Wyeast 1088 British Ale (1.5 qt. Starter)

Brew Day Stats

Brew Day: 9/30/07
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 10/15/07

Water Adjustment: none...just filtered Chicago water

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.4 qt/lb
Mash Ph: Ph strips may be worn out/stale
Sacch. Rest Time: 1 hour
Sacch. Rest Temp: 154°F
Mash Out Time: 10 min
Mash Out Temp: 166°F

2nd Batch Sparge: 3.75 gallons of 180°F rose mash to 168°F

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.0417
Boil Time: 1.5 hrs
Post-Boil Vol: 5.9 gallons

OG: 1.0488
IBU: 23
Color/SRM: 15-18 - reddish brown
Mash Efficiency: Approx. 78.7%
FG: 1.013
ABW: 3.76%
ABV: 4.7%

Fermentation Temp: 70 on up to about 78*F
Cost: $26.58, .45¢/12oz., $2.72/6-pack


Click here for Nut Brown Ale 2


Tasting Notes & Photo

Appearance: Clear, rich brown w/ shade of amber, medium-low carbonation w/ lingering ring of bubbles
Aroma: Clean, soft malts, nuts, toast, sweet
Taste: Smooth, crystal malt sweentess with good toasted/nut flavor, light cocoa, clean & light hop bitterness
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body
Aftertaste: Light hop bitterness lingers, slightly sweet, cocoa
Drinkability: Balanced, very drinkable, session style

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Second Place at Schooner

The Schooner Homebrew Championship is an AHA sanctioned competition held in conjunction with the Great Lakes Brew Fest. Last year I entered one English Style IPA called Swamp Rat Super IPA that was...well, to put it shortly...strange. It didn't come close to placing, received average scores and the judges critiques were totally fair and accurate.

This year I submitted 4 beers...

Boldface Bohemian Pilsner (2A)
Belgian Summer Pale Ale (16B)
Matrimony Ale (10A)
Hop Blend IPA (14B)

Within the parenthesis is the official Beer Judge Certification Program "BJCP" style category. Click on this BJCP link to look up and read more about the specifics of each style.

Unfortunately...

I was really hoping that the Boldface Bohemian Pilsner (previously named...Czech Pilsner) would grab the attention of the judges. There were elements that I thought were spot on. Like its perfect golden appearance with a thick frothy white head and superb lacing. The carbonation was full yet very soft and easy to put down. It's malt flavor was very clean and neither fruity, nor dry. The bittering was clearly evident, perhaps a little undefined, but also not overbearing nor sharp. It was given the name "Boldface" for a reason, and that's because of its bold hop flavor and aroma. Perhaps a bit much for the Bohemian category, but I really liked how clean and smooth it turned out. Also, if the ABV was a few points higher, this would definitely make a fantastic Imperial Pilsner

I noticed in this competition that 2 styles were combined (1 & 2). So that means that my Continental lager was being judged among American light lagers. In my opinion, and in an obvious geographical observation, these styles are a world apart. But I suppose there needs to be a minimum number of entrants to make a good competition. I'm curious how many entrants there were in the #2 category? Also, I am very interested in what the judges had to say about it. (The score sheets came back, and one judge said that if it wasn't as carbonated, then it likely could have taken best of flight)

To my surprise...

The Hop Blend IPA received a 2nd place! While I feel it is a very good beer, I am also quite surprised! I was explaining to my brewing comrades that this beer was going to have a tough time because it is within such a popular style. It's often brewed during the warmer months, so I new there would be a lot of entries. This year there were 19 entries in the IPA category. So, for mine to receive 2nd place...well...I'm very happy and honored. You can read all about this beer by clicking the link.

The best part about competing is getting the score sheets back from all the judges. Its fun to read what they have to say about the beer we brewed. Even though there's a natural tendency for bias, they do give a fairly objective critique. I'm really looking forward to reading what they had to say about all of our beers in the competition, and sharing them with David and Brian. Lastly, I have to say thank you once again to David and Brian for helping out on most brew days, and to Sarah and Cadence for their support.

Monday, September 17, 2007

All We Could Drink

It was a beautiful, cool afternoon on the lake shore in Racine, WI. I took David to the annual Great Lakes Brew Fest for his birthday. Neither of us had ever been to one before, so we didn't know what to expect. On one hand I knew we would get the chance to try some really great beer. There was a nice long list of very small breweries from Wisconsin and the Midwest. I'd probably never get the chance to try beers from most of them. On the other hand, I was also expecting to have to wait very long for a tiny sample. The line getting into the place was a bit intimidating. With only 3 hours to peruse, I didn't think it was enough time to get even the least bit tipsy. So, I'm happy to say that this fest totally surpassed my expectations. There weren't really any lines, and with 4 cups between the both of us, we could sample everything a brewery had to offer. Among 100 breweries, about 5 hundred different beer offerings, and a few thousand beer lovers, we easily drank all we could drink with a nice deep buzz on top of it all.

In no particular order, and of the beers we sampled, here's a list of the ones we found to be quite good...

Barley Island Brewing Co.: Black Majic Java Stout, Dirty Helen Brown Ale

Rogue Ales: Chocolate Stout

Mickey Finn's Brewery: Imperial Stout, Brown Ale and Belgian Blonde

Furthermore: Peat Smoked Stout & APA

Upland Brewing Co.: Saison & Bad Elmer's Porter

Dogfish Head: Festina Peche & Punkin Ale

Babble Homebrew Club: Raisin Mead, and a split batch IPA...one with American & one with English yeast

Society of Oshkosh Brewers (SOB): Blackberry Stout, Amarillo Hopinator IPA

After looking over the long list of brewers today, I realize how many good ones we missed. I guess we'll have to go again next year!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Northern Brewer Hops

The Official NBA was an attempt to get to know the Northern Brewer hop. I used it aggressively in this one gallon batch/yeast starter. Two bottles were even jammed with hop cones. There are some pros and cons.

Pros...

1. Northern Brewer hops are much more delicate in flavor than I assumed.
2. The bittering qualities are solid and quite acceptable.
3. The flavoring qualities are fruity and grassy/straw-like with hints of "orange" citrus and spice.
4. Aromas lean towards a mild or very soft citrus and fruity quality.
5. Bottle hopping rounded out the flavor and aroma with more orange citrus & apricot fruity notes.
6. Definitely a candidate for hop blending to attain subtleties in flavor and aroma.

Cons...

1. Severe oxidized aroma and flavor caused by whole cone dry hops.
2. Bottle hopping (I did use a LOT!) cause gushing, but a better overall beer and less oxidized flavor...kind-of strange but true. The oxidized flavor seemed to diminish greatly as the glass was swirled and warmed...20+ minutes.
3. High bittering rate caused a slightly harsh lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.
4. Lacks complexity/interest as a stand alone aroma hop.

I would be very interested in hearing about anyone's experiences using Northern Brewer hops. I've only really seen them being used as bittering hops. I think they have a lot of unseen flavor and aroma potential. Just gotta unlock some secrets. Perhaps a unique malt profile, hop blending, yeast choice and very mild dried fruit additions.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Barley Wine

I will confess, this was an impulsive batch of beer...my first barley wine. I blame it on two brewers who have sparked my interest...or I guess I would say thanks to Brian and Travis. With all your recent talk and brewing of wine-like barley beer, I've decided to follow along. It would be really great to have a tasting of these in 6 months or so. But, what an adventure it was.

On Friday, I was planning on racking the Simcoe 100 to its secondary/dry-hop tank, but instead found myself having lunch with my brother, Becki & Cadence over at Goose Island. I noticed they had a barley wine at over 10% ABV. So I tried my first sip of barley wine. Pretty good. So at that moment, I asked David if he would like to brew one. I told him I already had a huge yeast cake of Wyeast London Ale.

Next thing I know, we're over at the Brew & Grow picking up ingredients for a 3 gallon batch. I formulated the recipe right then and there. We tried to keep with as much British ingredients as possible. After getting home and plugging the ingredients into a calculator, I found out I had just bought enough malts and hops. A close call.

I told David to get here at 8am cause it was going to be a long day. We started the mash at about 8:30am and finished at around 4pm. The boil lasted 4 hours! After 2 hours of boiling, we poured one pot into the larger. At the point where we knew we only had about an hour left, in went the bittering hops.

I was surprised to see that the yeast was having difficulty getting going. Probably because I cooled the wort down in a cool water bath to about 65°F. So later in the day on Monday I took it out, and it started to show signs of digestion. But then the wort rose up to the high side...74-78°F. Bummer. But it will probably turn out just fine. Since fermentation slowed down fairly dramatically by mid day Wednesday, I started a tipping regiment. A couple times a day I angled the 6-gal carboy and turned it to get most of the yeast into solution. Bubbling picks up nicely after tipping.

Barley Wine

Grains
10.5 lb. Maris Otter Pale Malt
1.0 lb. Munich Malt 10L
1.0 lb. UK Crystal 60L
.75 lb. Flaked Barley
.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.125 lb. Crystal 80L
.125 lb. Special B


Hops
3.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 5%, pellets, 75min
0.25 oz. Chinook, 12%, pellets, 60min
1.00 oz. Kent Godlings, 6.5%, whole, 20min
1.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 6.5%, whole, 10min
1.00 oz. Kent Goldings, 5%, pellets, 5min


Yeast
Wyeast 1028 London Ale, yeast cake from previous batch

Brewday Stats

Brewed: 8/26/07
Racked: around 9/20/07
Bottled: around 10/18/07

Strike Water: 4.83 gal/163.4°F
Mash Temp: 152°F
Mash Ph: Acidic
Mash Out: No
2nd Batch Water: 3gal/192°F
2nd Batch Temp: 168-169°F Perfect!

Pre-Boil Volume: 6 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.061
Total Boil Time: 4:17 hours
Post-Boil Volume: 3.5 gallons

OG: 1.107 (2 points below target)
IBU's: Approx. 123
SRM/Color: 13-18/Amber
FG: 1.027
ABW: 8.4%
ABV: 10.5%

Estimated Mash Efficiency: 73.5%
Cost: $31.50, $0.85/12oz. bottle, $5.10/6-pack


Progress

1. Lag time for fermentation was long because I cooled the wort and kept the carboy in a cool water bath at about 64*F
2. Took carboy out of bath, and yeast showed signs of digestion
3. Tuesday it is fermenting well, but on the high side of temperature range. Only about 1-1.5 inch of kraeusen foam
4. Kraeusen fell away by mid-day Wednesday. Since it didn't appear to be as active, and ended sooner than later, I'm a little weary of the gravity at this point. I've been "tipping" the carboy (3.5 gallons wort in a 6 gallon carboy) to break up the whole yeast cake into suspension, and it definitely gets the airlock bubbling again. Did this a couple times a day for a few days.
5. 9/10/07 - After 15 days in primary, and totally quiet, racked to a new 3 gallon secondary fermenter. Specific Gravity (SG) = 1.0267 & ABV = 10.54%. Overall it tastes quite good. Malt sweetness, sweet cherries among other medium-dark fruits. Solid hop bittering & flavor balance which will both age/mellow nicely and benefit from an addition of dry hops during the last month of bulk aging. It has a moderate-strong body and lends to a full mouth-feel. Though I like its texture, I wonder if this will lessen a little with age and after its chilled and carbonated. So far...so good!
6. After hearing Basic Brewing's podcast about blending beers, I am making plans to blend portions of the Old Ale with other beers. I'll definitely blend it with a portion of this Barleywine.
7. At bottling, and after stirring in the priming solution to the carboy, I noticed a layer/pad that was resting on the bottom, broke up and was suspended in the beer. It look very much like a layer of mold. Not knowing what it was, I proceeded to bottle after it settled to the bottom.
8. Didn't add any yeast at bottling and it didn't carbonate. Will add yeast and see if that works. Otherwise, I'm impressed, it smells and tastes great, and is crystal clear.
9. After about 5 weeks, added yeast to all the bottles and they've been sitting in the furnace room above 70°F

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toast to Erik

Yesterday, my friend Erik had a final exam in French. Its a class he's been studying throughout the summer. Later that evening I decided to make a toast to congratulate his achievement. I thought it would only be proper to celebrate with some good champagne. So I opened a 12oz bottle of homemade bubbly.


It turned out to be a fun evening of chatting. Erik arrived in Chicago Monday evening, and Erik's Jeanie flew in that evening. It was nice to play a little catch-up, after our baby fell fast asleep. Here you can see Erik is deep in thought but totally relaxed and free, and Jeannie admiring it's lovely color.

This was an impulsive batch of fermented juice. After racking the Belgian Strong Ale, I simply could not let all that great performing yeast go to waste. So I looked around for something to ferment. In the pantry was a 64oz. bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, and in the refrigerator was about 32 ounces of TJ's Organic White Grape Juice.

After sterilizing a 4 liter flask fermenter, I just poured everything in and gave it a good swish. It started to ferment in good time, and fizzed for a few weeks. After about a month I transferred it to secondary for clearing.

What started out as a vibrant pinkish-red colo
red must, transformed into a medium yellow with a slight blush in the round of the glass. It seems like the yeast somehow absorbed all the pigment from the juice because it was pink sludge in the end. This was a total experiment. I am very pleased to find it was a total success. It tastes very tart and dry, and very much like a robust champagne. I gave it some priming sugar to build up bubbly in the bottle. In the end I got a couple 22oz and a number of 12oz bottles. It's exciting to know that I have some good homemade champagne to use in celebratory occasions like this one.

Felicitations Erik!

Merci de lire ce blog.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

5 Label Designs

For a wedding gift to Lauren & Doug, David and I designed and framed a label/poster for the Matrimony Ale. We kept with the theme and font they used in the invitation. After playing around with an initial design, utilizing a fabric pinstripe from the invitation, David finally came up with something quite good. I like finding old frames from thrift stores to put art and beer labels into. So when I found this simple wooden frame, I knew it would be perfect. We even utilized the border from the picture that was in the frame for matting. Here is an image file and photo of Lauren holding the actual piece.




Recently, I design my own label for the Simcoe 100 Amber Ale. I did it in a Word document. And then Sarah helped me get it into a GIF form. It's a simple concept, and something to work off of. I like oval shapes for labels.



In order to write this post, I asked David if he kept the designs for a few ales made a couple years ago. He actually found one that goes way back to 2002. A beer that was supposedly called Old Amber Ale. I have a feeling this was what I referred to as "Fermented Water" in an past post . It's too bad such a great label was made for such a sissy beer. Maybe we can use this label design for the Ancient Ale/Old Ale, or for a Scottish Ale in the future.



For our first all-grain batch, and in honer of Nomeansno/John Wright, we brewed Johnny's Rockin' Ale. We simply made a dog-tag for this one. I love it's textured lettering, and simple looks.



For a x-mas gift in 2005, we brewed up a bold beer called Holiday Spiced Ale. I was in charge of building the malt profile that would be strong and sweet to balance the assertive spiciness we were going for. I also chose hops that lean towards spiciness. Since he was becoming well versed with various spices while making home-made chai teas, David was in charge of building up a spice blend. In the end the gravity made it into the 60's and 2 baseball sized tea-infusers were packed with freshly diced ginger and a long list of spices. To my surprise, my parents still have their bottle sitting in the frig...see photo. I'm very happy they didn't drink it, cause I think it will definitely mellow even more and be simply amazing in another year or two. Maybe I can coax them into giving me that bottle for X-mas this year. It was a great beer. The label design for this one was a ribbon collar with an oval paper label glued at the crossing point.



Thanks for taking a look at my beer labels. Can you tell, David is a professional graphic designer. I really appreciate all the effort he put into them. And I had a great time helping out with ideas. Don't they look fantastic?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Simcoe 100

I've heard good things about Simcoe hops. Its a varietal I've never used before. Thanks to a exceedingly successful IPA (Hop Blend IPA), and a good APA (Matrimony Ale), I'm going through a hop kick this summer. I figure now is as good as any to become familiar with a handful of hops that can be used heavily in beer styles that showcase them.

"Simcoe 100" will be a deep colored, BIG amber ale in the realm of 8%. Exclusively hopped with Simcoe, it will reach a level of 100 IBU's. That's a BU-GU ratio of about 1.22, and with a high Alpha Acid percentage, the flavor and aroma should come out bold and beautiful.

In comparison to the Hop Blend IPA, I expect this beer to be bigger in all areas. Bigger malt sweetness, bigger body, more residual sugars, strong head retention, fuller hop bitterness, huge hop flavor and aroma, and a deeper amber color.

The OG came out 10 points higher than expected. This also happened with the yeast starter brewed for this batch. I'm not really experienced with how malt extract effects the gravity of a wort. I suppose there is a rating for various malt extracts. Strange how all-grain brewing is much easier in this department.

Its out of the ordinary for me to get creative and design labels for my beers. Something about this one mysteriously propelled me to do so. Now I have to figure out a way to get it from...don't laugh...a word document, onto the web. David...can you help me? Well, Sarah was able to do it. Thank you dear. The ABV in on the label isn't correct, cause I didn't know it at the time of designing it. Just mentally input 8.6% in that little white oval.

Simcoe 100

Malts
4 lbs. Alexander's Pale Liquid Malt Extract
5 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
.25 lb. Crystal 40L
.5 lb. Crystal 60L
.25 lb. Special B
.25 lb. CaraPils


Hops
1.4 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 105min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 20min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 5min
.90 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, KO
2.0 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, DRY


Yeast
Wyeast 1028: London Ale, slurry from 1 gallon batch

Brew Day Stats

Brew Day: 8/14/07
Secondary: 8/26/07
Bottled: 9/18/07

Water Adjustment: 1 gallon distilled, .75 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp CaCl, pinch of salt

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.45 qts/lb
Mash Ph: acidic (ph papers didn't change color)
Sacch Rest Time: 1 hour
Sacch Rest Temp: 153°F
Mash Out Temp: 162°F - low again

2nd Batch Sparge: 2.5 gallons at 182°F
2nd Batch Temp: 166°F- low again

Pre-Boil Vol: 5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG w/o extract: 1.038
Boil Time: 1:30 hours
Post Boil Vol: 4.25 gallons

OG: 1.084
IBU: 100
Color/SRM: 15-18
Mash Efficiency: Approx. 94.2% (Gravity from extract may influence)
FG: 1.0184
ABW: 6.88%
ABV: 8.61%

Fermentation Temp: 74°F
Cost: $31.61, $.71/12oz., $4.26/6-pack


Progress

1. Showed activity, and layer of early foam by night fall
2. Progressed activity next morning
3. Great activity with very thick foam later in the day Wednesday
4. Scent from airlock is a wonderful myriad of fruits, flowers, pine
5. One week later, fermentation has slowed way down. There are still bubbles rising, so I'll let it go some more.
6. 8/26/07 - Transfered to secondary over 2 ounces of Simcoe pellets with an SG of around 1.023 (approx.8%)
7. Tasting at racking revealed a a sweet fruity taste. Sort-of an unbalanced flavor.
8. Bottled 9/18/07 and was delayed a few days because the carboy still look a tad bit active
9. 2 Bottles got a small dose of Cascade cones
10. On 10/4/07 the CO2 level is still a little low, so I'm continuing to turn the bottles.
11. At 2 weeks this beer is FULL of flavor, quite complex, very fruity, good mouthfeel, aromatic, and with a masked alcoholic strength. The deep amber/red color is simply beautiful.