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

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

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


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 we can call this beer 79.6% ORGANIC!

T&C Nut Brown Ale
5.9 Gallons

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

.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

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