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