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

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

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

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


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 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). 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

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

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

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.