Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back on 2008

There sure is a lot to write about in this final post for 2008. Going into it, I knew 2008 would be a big brewing year. With my building relationship with Half Acre Beer Co., to trying out many styles I've always been curious about, there was lots to look forward to and good challenges along the way. In comparison to last year's 75 gallons, production in 2008 rose a whopping 127% to just over 170 gallons. With batch sizes ranging from 1 gallon to 9, most were in the 5 to 6 range, and 39 brews (beer & soda) have been made. See the list in a continually updated post... A Brief History of Ted's Brews.

2008 has proven to be deeply rewarding on many levels. I was happy with every beer, and with a better understanding of ingredients and yeast behavior, I was able to predict the turnout of some uniquely "Ted" styles (Yvonne's Sterling Moon, Robust Porter, Rhino Rye). Just getting better balance with all the tasting elements in various styles of beer (bitterness, malts, sweetness, hop flavor & aroma, yeast, alcohols, etc) has been great. The results from this year's Schooner Homebrew Championships were awesome having 2 beers placing 1st (Brett aged Old Ale) and 2nd (Rauch Bock). I've also enjoyed swapping homebrews with brewers Travis and the Bearded Brewer, both of which are making excellent beer.

Like many other technical hobbies, brewing offers many areas to learn about and improve on. One area that seems to plague the finished beer is a lack of body. Slowly I'm learning that on the homebrew level, more dextrins are needed to help this, and adding plenty of Carapils to the mash will definitely help it out. Being one of the lightest crystal malts, Carapils is light enough that a lot will not contribute any outstanding flavors. This in combination with a higher mash temp and additional proteins (flaked grains), some good body is achieved. Acidity/Ph in the mash is also something I've figured out yearly in the year, and by using enough acid blend, I'm able to adjust the other salt levels to benefit any regional style. I've gotten some very rich, yet balanced beers this year, and will definitely go back to their stats as a benchmark.

Kegging is new for me. They have been both fun and a hassle. To remedy some problems they were causing with my neighbors, I had to find them a home, or discontinue using them. They have a home now, and it has become a super cool kegerator project. My Dad and I spent many hours building an attractive wooden collar for the taps. Not completely finished yet, but it is functional. Documenting the progress with posts and photos was also fun, and I invite you to take a look here at Finding a Home for Kegs.

The most rewarding part of 2008 has to be my involvement with Half Acre Beer Company. I was able to develop the second beer on their current product line...the Over Ale. It was very tricky to do, given that I didn't know what hops were eventually going into it. Then, it would also need to be scaled up to the 20bbL level. Overall, it has come out fairly close to my original recipe, and I'm happy to say it's selling pretty well. Overall, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to contribute to the beginnings of the newest brewery in town. As they have taken a considerable step forward, building their new/used brewery here in Chicago, my relationship has changed to what we both call the Ambassador of Homebrew.

This year I've gotten a few others involved by teaching the art and science of brewing. They came in to brew their own batches of beer in what ever style they wanted. They also got to go through the full all-grain experience, because there really is nothing like brewing from raw materials and creating a truly remarkable beverage. I love how everyone really gets into it, both scientifically and in the culinary sense. We're all crammed in a very small kitchen where the aromas tend to concentrate. When anyone leaves to catch a breathe of fresh air, they are once again greeted by all the scents in the kitchen...it's simply amazing! Yvonne's Sterling Moon was a kegged batch created for my good friend Yvonne, a very lager-like pale ale that was perfect for her parties on the lakefront. This has been lots of fun, and I hope to get even more people hooked in 2009.

Chi-Town Northside Homebrewer's Connection, is a club I've initiated with the intent to bring local homebrewers together to share stories, techniques, equipment, ingredients and beer. For now, the meetings will meet at my place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, but the location may begin to change/rotate to some really great spots like local restaurants and our very own Half Acre Beer Co.

Looking forward, I'd like to get better at posting the results of the beers being created out of my tiny kitchen. Writing reviews for beers is sometimes the most difficult part. Maybe this is why I don't get into writing reviews of commercial beers. Regardless, it's very important in terms of using this info in the future when my memory has failed me.

I haven't really decreased my impact on the environment as much as I would have liked to. Since I have gotten into kegging, I think carbon dioxide harvesting and reuse in dispensing beer could work well. I've also had the largest yeast cakes this year (4-5th generation), and I'd like to know how best to dispose of it.

Keeping up with this journal is a lot of fun. Tracking viewership over the whole year has been interesting and informative. The average number of daily viewers has gone up gradually, and more significantly during the last trimester. I'm happy to see the level of absolute new viewers remain constant throughout the year at about 72%.

Finally, in ending this mega-post, I'd like to thank each and every one who has been to my site over the past 2 years. I enjoy writing about this stuff, and will continue to do so. I find comments add greatly to the hobby of brew/blogging and welcome all comments, questions & suggestions. I always look forward to giving a good reply.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kegerator Collar - part 4

Upon putting the lid in position, I noticed a mistake. The entire inside flanged edge of the seal isn't sitting on the top trim piece. For some reason I measured the seal's thickness (½inch) as the dimension for it's width (7/8inch). It forms a partial seal, but I plan to put on another layer of trim to create a full seal.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, I won two vintage faucets on Ebay, and being the second person to bid, I scored them for a steal...only $23.50 each. I've been searching on Ebay for vintage faucets for most of the year, and saw some nice ones early on. When these popped up, I knew I had to have them, and was willing to pay for it. They look brilliant & weigh a ton.

However, a big downside is they leak in 3 places, and their seal mechanism is a mystery to anyone who looks at it. I figure it will take a while before the are fully functional. They are quite large overall, pretty wide, stick out more, and the bottom of the spout is set lower. I took all of this into consideration when drilling the first two shank holes. If they don't work out, the spacing is for three regular faucets so another one could easily be installed in-between.

These temporary chrome faucets are loaners from a friend who once had a kegerator for commercial beers back in Arizona. He's in the process of getting another one, so I can use these until then. Thanks Isaac, I appreciate your generosity.

What you see here is a functional kegerator, and assembled just in time for our annual New Year's party. The lid was mounted with only 2 screws per hinge because I'll have to drill new ones when the top trim is fixed. The temperature control probe hole was drilled inside the hing cutout. And you can see an unfinished tap handle made by my good friend Erik, which will be sanded smooth and painted.

I have some final decorative elements to put on like a special bottom trim, and a unique home made drip tray. Perhaps some tap handles too. This will be written in the Finale post.

Other posts about this project...

Finding a Home for Kegs
Kegerator Collar - part 1
Kegerator Collar - part 2
Kegerator Collar - part 3
Kegerator Finale

Friday, December 19, 2008

Copper Lager 3

It's a pretty bad ice & snow storm passing straight through Chicago today. Last night Doplar radar showed the storm spanning from Lake Michigan all the way to the eastern boarder of Colorado. Yikes!

But when its freezing outside, lager season once again begins. To start it out right, I'll be brewing my 3rd annual Copper Lager. Years prior, this beer was made up from left over grains, and it was really a great beer no matter what hops were thrown in. This year however, the recipe is created special and with a few twists.

It's orange-copper color will come from Belgian CaraMunich 57L malt. It looks pretty dark and should be a nice replacement for the usual American Crystal. The hops should be a bit more focused with Sterling as bittering, and Perle as flavor/aroma. Also, I decide to throw the bittering hops in at 45 minutes till the end. I'm curious what a touch more hops at that time might do instead of the usual 60 minute addition.

The biggest difference is a change in yeast strain. Because I'll be brewing an Octoberfest lager with this yeast cake, I wanted to try out Wyeast's Octoberfest Lager Blend. I have a feeling it will be similar to the Bavarian strain.

This beer is really a fun one to make, and it has only gotten better every year. I hope these changes will make an even better brew. I may regret not making 9 gallons.

Please read about the others...
Copper Lager 2
Copper Lager 1


Copper Lager 3

Grains
8.0 lbs. Organic American 2-Row
2.0 lbs. German Munich
1.0 lbs. Belgian Wheat
.75 lbs. Belgian CaraMunich 57L


Hops
.80 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 45min
.40 oz. Perle, 5.7%, pellet, 45min
.45 oz. Perle, 5.7%, pellet, 30min
.30 oz. Perle, 5.7%, pellet, 15min
.40 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 15min


Yeast
Wyeast 2633: Octoberfest Lager Blend decanted 24oz. starter

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 12/19/08
Racked: 1/4/09
Kegged: 1/29/09

Water Adjustment:
Strike: .5 tsp Gypsum, .5 tsp CaCl, .75 tsp Acid Blend
2nd Sparge: .5 tsp Gypsum, .5 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp Epsom, .25 Kosher Salt

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.1
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 3.85/1.061

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 183°F/172°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 3.65/1.026

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.044
Boil Time: 90+min
Post-Boil Vol: 6 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 75%

OG: 1.054
IBU: approx. 30
Color/SRM: Copper-Orange/9-11
Ferment Temp: 50°F

FG: 1.018
ABW: 3.8%
ABV: 4.7%


Progress

1. Brewing went well. Hit the OG on the mark @ 1.054.
2. I recall the scent of this wort from previous years. Overall, it didn't smell as sweet. Perhaps the Crystal and Melanoidin/Aromatic malts are sweeter than the CarMunich.
3. Made changes to the hops after opening and smelling them. The Perle didn't smell bright and fresh enough, so I put more into bittering and moved some Sterling to the 15 minute position. Either my scale is broke or there was more hops in each 1 ounce package. I measured more than 2 ounces...it might be a tad more hoppy this time around.
4. There usually is a fairly long lag time before fermentation with this size of yeast starter.
5. After 24 hours, it's a still wort. Just the very smallest sign that something is happening in there...when I swirl the carboy, the airlock bubbles pretty good. The temp is held at about 52°F, and it should pick up in the next 12 hours or so. Not too worried.
6. It's been super cold the past few days, and had to set the thermostat controlled heater up to 60°F just to maintain a temp near 40°F. But today the temp has risen into the 20's outside, and rose up in the porch, and as a result the fermentation temperature rose close to 54°F. Not so critical, and it's going back down slowly.
7. The smell of the fermenting beer is pretty good. A little sulfur notes coming out, and it seems like it'll be a pretty clean beer...not as sweet as the previous Copper Lagers. Pretty exiting to use a new lager yeast!
8. Tasting a carbonated bottle from primary, and a sample at kegging (which has a very subtle amount of carbonation), it does taste remarkably like the first two Copper Lagers. The FG is higher here, and the maltiness is a bit more accentuated, so in a sense it does have a level of sweetness. I thought this yeast would attenuate better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rhino Rye and the Zen Porter

Both the Rhino Rye and Zen Porter had very similar hopping, and I finally did a side-by-side tasting with new brew friend Devon. As you can see in the photo, they're both drastically different in color, which effectively displays the difference in the malts that made them. There are definite differences, but there's a hoppy element that brings them together.

First of all, the Rhino Rye beer was an experiment that went right. Never did a rye beer like this before, and while pushing the flaked rye to 30%, I also wanted to push the hopping to a point where solid bittering and a fairly full flavor and aroma came through. I like the hoppy rye beers out there, like Two Brother's Cane & Ebel.

I like how the Rhino Rye had everything going on, while being a very light colored beer. The rye came through nicely and the sweetness was smooth without that caramel quality on other pale ales. The choice of hops were both cutting and soft/floral...Cluster and Mt. Hood. A nice combo! And the amount of dry hopping was perfect.

The Zen Porter (robust & dry-hopped), is a full flavored, rich tasting black porter with great body. It's well balanced, sweet and dry qualities are nice. The roast comes mostly from a generous helping of Brown Malt and a more understated portion of black patent and chocolate malts. It's not "roasted" like a stout.

Since the Zen Porter was rich, and I envisioned it being smooth yet sharp in taste, I thought the hopping should be somewhat aggressive. Then the Rhino Rye came to mind. The hop varieties are different, so they come off being a bit more intense. Target and Glacier for bitterness, moving into Cascade and Columbus for flavor and aroma. Overall, the hopping works very well. The bitterness is solid and compliments the black malt, and combined it sets up this beer with a clear hop focus. The first word that comes to mind for both the aroma and flavor is...green...perhaps...dark green! A unique and robust hop aroma bursts out of the glass and it sort-of takes a bit of getting used to. But after a few tastings, I became hooked and started to crave my unique tasting beer.

Both these beers surprisingly, and quite delightfully, have become two of my favorites this year. Unique in both malts and hops. A hopping strategy that's assertive, yet not overbearing in beers that have interesting/complex malt characters and at a higher level 6% abv.

Please below for more info on each beer.
Rhino Rye
Zen Porter

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nut Brown Ale 3

I received a message from a friend asking about the possibility of having a beer made for her Dad's 50th birthday bash. He enjoys a quality brew, and a freshly kegged beer will be the perfect addition to a memorable party.

I asked Jenny about what styles he might like, and also gave her some suggestions around the limited selection of hops. Perhaps a hoppy fresh Sterling pale ale, or a rich and dark nut brown ale? Nut brown was her choice, and luckily I had all the ingredients to make a good one.

This version will be very similar to the Nut Brown 2. There are differences in hops, crystal malts, and a touch of Brown malt. The hops here are a bit German, but Tradition hops could possibly pass as Fuggle, and they will go in as the flavor/aroma additions. Sterling should bitter nice and clean. I'm getting ready to brew some kick butt lagers and bought too much CaraMunich malt, so this brew got Belgian and German CaraMunich for caramel sweetness. The brown malt should give this beer a subtle roast complexity.

Overall, we hit the stats pretty close and missed our target OG by 2 points. Not too bad. The higher mash temp could create some sweetness with unfermentables, and a full pound of Carapils should add some body.

Nut Brown Ale 3

Grains
9.0 lbs. Organic 2-Row
.75 lbs. Belgian CaraMunich 45L
.25 lbs. German CaraMunich 57L
.50 lbs. Biscuit
.50 lbs. Victory
.24 lbs. Special Roast
.16 lbs. Brown Malt
.50 lbs. UK Chocolate Malt
1.0 lbs. CaraPils


Hops
1.0 oz. Sterling, 5.3%, pellet, 60+min
.55 oz. Tradition, 4.6%, pellet, 60+min
.75 oz. Tradition, 4.6%, pellet, 10min
.45 oz. Tradition, 4.6%, pellet, KO


Yeast
White Labs 005: British Ale

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 12/14/08
Kegged: 1/6/09

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1.25 tsp Gypsum, .75 tsp Acid Blend, .5 tsp Chalk
2nd Sparge: .5 tsp Gypsum, .5 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp Kosher Salt, .5 tsp Chalk

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.2
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 155°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 3.8gal/1.060

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 184°F/169°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 3.45gal/1.028

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.041
Boil Time: 90+min
Post-Boil Vol: 6 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 73%

OG: 1.056
IBU: 30
Color/SRM: Brown/20-24
Ferment Temp: 68°F

FG: 1.021
ABW: 3.7%
ABV: 4.6%


Progress

1. This White Labs British ale yeast strain produces a fairly sweet beer with high residual sugars. The FG on both the Spiced Pumpkin Ale and this Nut Brown were both in the 1.020's. It also flocculates very well (like ESB)

2. This wort was poured over the yeast cake from the Spiced Pumpkin Ale. The cake was very thick with some pumpkin mush. There must have been some spiciness in the cake, because this brown ale has a hint of spice in it. Hopefully when its carbonated, the combination of nut brown scents and flavors will blend well with a hint of spice.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kegerator Collar - part 3

This project has become much more involved and challenging than we both originally planned. But it has been well worth it, even the the one hour drive out to my parents house. I would first take my daughter to her tap dance class, then leave straight from there. She was always excited to go because Grandma was ready to play, bake, make supper, watch a movie, play with sand in a tiny tea set, or just hang out while Grandpa and I were cutting wood.

Well, onto the collar developments. The side exterior panels were first put into loose position with one small finishing nail. They don't have to be fully glued and clamped to the core. Then the front panel was glued, clamped and nailed into position. The mitered corners came together beautifully, and what a relief this was. Having an additional 1/32 of an inch on each end allows these corners to adjust a bit, and they press together tighter when the middle of the panel gets clamped and nailed.

The back panel was then installed in the same way with the lid hinge cutouts positioned towards the top edge. The side panels simply got one nail to hold them on while the mitered corners were glued and clamped. These corners, plus the top trim piece should hold the sides on sufficiently, especially because it isn't a load bearing side.

At this point everything is still coming together nicely, and I can hardly believe we're almost finished. The top trim piece was cut to visually fix what will be an off-centered lid. Since the lid is mounted to the core piece, and the outside wall of the core is about 1/8 inch beyond the wall of the freezer, it will sit back about 1/8th inch. Again, after a few pints, no one would ever notice it. But, we did cut the top trim pieces so that the overhang in the front is 1/8 inch less than the 1/4 inch overhang in the back and sides. That should create enough optical illusion to remedy the problem. Cutting the mitered corners for these pieces was also a little tricky, and we got them looking pretty tight, and a couple rows of caulk and a couple finishing nails will seal and hold it down for good.

With this design (as seen on many collar projects on the web), the collar looks much wider than the freezer. I knew this going in, and decided to accentuate this peculiarity by adding to it. The top trim piece will overhang to create a tiny bit of crown style molding. I think this will look really nice in addition to a decorative leaf carved trim piece along the bottom edge. As with the hinge cutouts in the back panel, we also made these cutouts in the top trim, but this time they were cut much smaller, because the hinge at that point is narrow and doesn't have the flanged bolt anchors.

My Dad went ahead to finish some stain touch-ups, and varnished it in time to take it home after a quiet and relaxing Thankgsgiving feast. It really looks AMAZING! I'm so happy & proud of us, and give thanks that we had this time together, to bond a bit, and to build something that should last a very long time.

In the next post I will talk about mounting the collar and minimizing rocking movements. Some new and old faucets, the spacing, and drilling their shank holes. A final decorative touch. And then onto to the project finale, and New Years party debut.

Other posts about this project...

Finding a Home for Kegs
Kegerator Collar - part 1
Kegerator Collar - part 2
Kegerator Collar - part 4
Kegerator Finale

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blackstrap Root Beer 3

For my third root beer, I decided to stay with the original Blackstrap Root Beer and the Blackstrap Root Beer 2 recipes, but once again lightened the sugars and molassas while taking up the spices a another notch. This batch is brewed for the Seeds of Change Fair Trade Market hosted by Berry United Methodist Church in Lincoln Square. It is a wonderful time & place for buying handmade local & fair trade goods, enjoying homemade foods and treats, being entertained by entertaining entertainers, and mingling with the very best people around town.


The boiling spices smelled fantastic and a bit more intense, but I think it will be really good in the finished sweet soda. I also added a very small amount of vanilla extract to round out the spices. The true test of its goodness will be whether visitors at the Seeds of Change will like it. It will be served on draft and available for sale along side homemade chili, breads, cakes, cookies and treats.

Blackstrap Root Beer 3
Brewed 12/1/08
3 gallons

2.75 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar
2.00 cup Light Brown Sugar
0.20 cup Organic Blackstrap Molassas
5.00 Tbs Malto Dextrin

2.5 Cinnamon Stick, cracked, 30min
.30 oz Licorice Root, 30min
.50 tsp Grains of Paradise, crushed, 30min

1.0 tsp Cassia Buds, crushed, 10min

3.0 Tbs Root Beer Extract
.25 tsp Vanilla Extract

Spices boiled in 1 gallon water for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Add sugars and extract. Chill in cold water bath in sink. Add to keg. Top off with chilled bottled or filtered water. Force carbonate. That's it.

Tasting Notes

This is it. It tastes very good. Scaling down the sugar was the right thing to do. Its not too sweet anymore, and the molassas isn't overpowering, but builds the complexity of the sugar taste. It seems like the level of sugar can go down while the richness of the molassas slides in for support. The level of spices has come out more, but I like it a lot because there's a good balance between the spice and the sarsaparilla flavor. I have a good feeling it will be tapped out by the end of the day at the Seeds of Change Market.

Now that this is a solid base for a solid root beer, now I can start to fiddle around with additional flavorings like orange, cocoa, herbs, other spices and perhaps dark fruits.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Ale

My friend Michael has come back to brew another batch of beer with me. His interest in brewing has really grown, and while in the process of buying equipment with his friend Christian, he's getting the feel for it in the meantime. For this one, he wanted a more malty sweet brew, and after reading an article in Zymurgy (Nov.-Dec. 08) about brewing pumpkin ales, he wanted to go with the all-grain recipe published there.

I ordered all the malts, and stuck with the recipe for the most part. Since he already had Hallertau hops, he simply substituted them for the Fuggle. I put him in charge of roasting the pumpkin with a sugar glaze. With freshly grated ginger and spices, and a super rich malt base, this beer should turn out super smooth with a fresh pumpkin pie spiciness that should warm the soul during the coldest time of year.

Two things will be firsts for me brewing this beer. First, I've never used White Labs yeast before, but the scents from it's starter were very much like Wyeast British Ale, and it has super dense flocculation (the ability for yeast to settle out in a soft to hard layer after fermentation). Second, I've never used a vegetable as a key ingredient before. In fact, I was telling Michael how much I looked forward to brewing this, especially because I've wanted to make a true pumpkin ale for three years now. This looks like a solid recipe, and I can't wait to taste the results.

Just like the article suggests, it was a real pain straining through the funnel filter screen. Pour after pour, topping off the funnel, we had to take turns stirring, scraping and squeezing the pumpkin mush at the screen, preventing hand cramps. We literally had to do this for the whole batch.

During the beginning of an all-grain full wort boil, there is a lot of foam that builds up. It's generally good to let it boil for 10-20min before adding the bittering hops. Some worts foam up more than others. This pumpkin wort had the most foam I've ever seen, and it took a while before it subsided. I have a feeling it's due to starches in the pumpkin. It became a mess at times, but it smelled fantastic...sweet pumpkin and rich malts...Mmmm!

In the end, the wort smelled very good...sweet with a soft pumpkin pie spice. We added a couple more spices to the mix, but at a level that isn't overbearing.

Please read about other beers Michael & Christian have made...

Smoked Amber Ale & Cascade IPA

Spiced Pumpkin Ale

Grains & Sugar
8.0 lbs. UK Maris Otter Pale
4.0 lbs. German Munich
2.0 lbs. Belgian Aromatic
.63 lbs. Belgian CaraMunich II
.50 lbs. Org. Brown Sugar


Pumpkin
4.3 lbs. Organic Pie Pumpkin, roasted w/sugar, in boil

Hops
2 oz. Hallertau, 3.6%, pellet, 45+min

Spices
3 tsp. Cinnamon, ground, 5min boil + 5min steep
<1 tsp. Nutmeg, grated, 5min boil + 5min steep
1 tsp. Coriander, crushed, 5min boil + 5min steep
>1 Tbl. Ginger, grated, 5min boil + 5min steep
1 Bud Clove, whole, 5min boil + 5min steep

Vanilla extract and possibly spices added to secondary.

Yeast
White Labs 005: British Ale

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 11/30/08
Racked: 12/14/08
Bottled: 12/30/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1 tsp Gypsum, .5 tsp Acid Blend, .5 tsp Chalk in mash
2nd Sparge: 1 tsp CaCl, .25 tsp Kosher Salt, .5 tsp Chalk in mash

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.15 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 158 down to 154°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 167°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 4.1 gal/1.075

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 182°F/168°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 3.15 gal/1.038

Pre-Boil Vol: 1.5 gallons with mashed pumpkin
Pre-Boil SG: 1.060
Boil Time: 2 hours
Post-Boil Vol: 5.5 a lot stuck in pulp
Mash Efficiency: about 75% pumpkin skewing the math

OG: 1.078
IBU: 20
Color/SRM: amber-brown/12-14
Ferment Temp: 65°F

FG: 1.029
ABW: 5.15
ABV: 6.43

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Final 2 Bearded Brews

The Bearded Brewer makes fantastic beer. He definitely has a sense of balance. I get the sense that he knows how to pull back on the hops enough to allow the right amount of malt character to come through.

The final two beers were the sweetest and most bitter of the bunch. Though it was very cold yesterday, the sun was shining bright, so I took advantage of the light and sampled these beers while getting good snap shots. The Erie Stout is quite sweet and has a wonderful appearance. Green Beard IPA is really a well balanced American IPA style.

This has been a fun trade, and I feel fortunate having the opportunity to try out these beers. After tasting all six, it has been a valuable lesson in terms of malt profile and overall balance. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

Read about the first two here, and the second two here.

Onto the final 2 reviews...

Irie Stout
Imperial Caribbean Stout

Appearance: A deep saturated ruby red color that appears amolst black in a wide glass, light tan dense head hangs around with some light and lacing
Aroma: A rich aroma of currants and plum, its sweet much like a very dark bock or Baltic porter, clean, some cocoa as it warms
Taste: Sweet cherries, bock style sweetness, very subtle spice, light in hop bitterness, soft malt finish, some cocoa as it warms
Mouthfeel: Medium body, good moderate level of carbonation
Aftertaste: Clean, slightly tart
Drinkability: Good, clean
Overall A sweet style that fits nicely with the current season and would compliment most cold season foods. A bit sweet for my taste, and from the label, I'd expect more complexity than it has, mostly the areas of spice and roast malts.


Green Beard Organic IPA

Appearance: Very attractive pale ale, clear, not much of a head but does show off a good ring of fine bubbles around the glass edge, with little lacing
Aroma: Solid citrus hop aroma, not too pungent nor sharp, but softer with some fruit (apricot, mango, pineapple) and sweetness coming through
Taste: Hops are the focus here with a good balance between bitterness & flavorhops, citrus with some pine notes, not overdone so that malt sweetness comes through to balance the beer even further
Mouthfeel: medium body, nice medium-low carbonation
Aftertaste: Bitterness like you want in a good American IPA, and definitely not too sharp or dominating, minimal oxidized flavors
Drinkability: Great!
Overall High quality IPA, especially cause its ORGANIC! Slight oxidation possibly from dry hopping, but doesn't detract from overall great taste. I'd definitely buy 6-packs of these, and go through them in an evening. Good job!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kegerator Collar - part 2

To begin cutting the outer face panel boards for this collar, we had to set up the radial saw perfectly square. After that, we needed a blade that cuts wood like butter. I'm so glad we waited to cut these 11 inch miter joins after the equipment was adjusted and blade sharpened. The joints are square, very sharp to the touch and clean with no burrs.

This photo shows what it will look like from the inside when it's all assembled. Notice the outer face boards are about twice the height of the core.





To mount the lid properly, two notches were cut into the back paneling. This allows the lid's hinge to mount directly on the inner core board. The outer side of the core board falls about 1/8inch beyond the freezer wall, so the lid will be displaced by that amount towards the rear. It's significant enough for my Dad and I to notice, but for the untrained eye (especially after a pint or two), its hardly noticeable. I'll revisit this "off-center" lid dilemma in the next post when installing the top trim piece.



We've come to mounting the first outer face panels, and it was just as tricky as I thought. But we managed to get them close to perfect. I'll wait until the following post to talk about it with more pictures.


Other posts about this project...

Finding a Home for Kegs
Kegerator Collar - part 1
Kegerator Collar - part 3
Kegerator Collar - part 4
Kegerator Finale

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

12 Beers & Food Pairings

A week ago, my friend Whitney hosted a special night for home made foods complimenting home made beers. Though freezing outside, and a bit chilly inside, we soon warmed up as the tasting moved along. There were 9 of us all together, and most everyone contributed something to the table. It was a wonderful and relaxing evening, one that I hope to have time and time again.

I brought 11 of my own beers, plus Sierra Nevada's seasonal "Wet Hop" ale. Having so many different types of food at the table made beer pairings fun. We had sweet rice stuffed acorn squash, collard greens, slaw style beet salad with creamy dressing, home made crackers, cheeses, truffles, corn bread, gingerbread, and more.

I took a shot of Yvonne's tasting sheet, and below you can see the lineup of beers. I debuted the 5 flavored beers, which were all well received. Everyone liked the Mint Stout. But then we moved onto the right column of heavy hitters, and about the time the Belgian Tripel came around, a nice robust chatter among the group was an obvious indication of steadily rising intoxication. Much happiness at that point.

Anyways...overall it was a great time. Everyone had their favorites, and surprisingly they were all so random. I especially enjoy sharing my beers with good folks like these and plan to host many more in the near future. Cheers!


Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Couple More Bearded Brews

A couple more bodacious brews by the Bearded Brewer. I found some time here and there to enjoy them without any obstructions of urgency or priority. Sitting quietly and alone with these beers was very nice in deed.

Belgian beers have a lot of character. The aromas usually bursts right out of the glass, and their flavors are quite complex. The Burning Beard Belgian ale exemplifies this, and has a mysteriously unique quality that could be coming from some late hops. Sometimes a special Belgian Wit is more delicate, and the Bangy Tangy seems to offer that.

It's very easy to get carried away when compiling ingredients to make a solid recipe. Often times home brewed beers have outstanding flavors, and sometimes flaws, reaching out of bounds in balance and perfection. The Bearded Brewer doesn't do this, and seems to have attained great self control to the point of pure balance.

I'm under the impression that his water supply also aids in an overall soft profile in what have been very delicate tasting beers so far. Four out of six beers have been very satisfying. With only two more to go, I'm partly excited to try them, and saddened it'll be the end of the 6-pack.

Please read about the 1st two here.

Bangy Tangy

Appearance: A cloudy pale orange copper color with a full and dense white head that lasts and leaves traces of lace down the glass
Aroma: Citrus, fruity (orange, apricot), yeasty, some spiciness (coriander), and overall smells more tart than sweet.
Taste: The taste is more subtle than the aroma, just enough ingredients to support a beer on the brink of uni-dimensionalism
Mouthfeel: Light bodied, good carbonation
Aftertaste: Some lager-like pils/6-row malt flavor comes through in the finish is interesting and adds depth, mild tartness
Drinkability: Light refreshing sweet taste that makes a very drinkable beer
Overall: Surprising its 6.3%, cause it doesn't taste or feel like it.


Burning Beard

Appearance: Pours a lightly hazed deep burnt orange color with a strong and full tightly knit head that's white with a touch of pink
Aroma: Big fruity aroma that's completely inviting, some noble/floral hops (perhaps marmalade) present a hint of citrus, a warming vanilla tone and very mild spice, some yeasty scents and some alcohol especially when swirled
Taste: I get 3 layers of taste...Spicy & alcohol flavors upfront lends to fruits like currants, apricot, mango and vanilla with a big and clean malt finish, very full flavored that's balanced nicely by bittering hops
Mouthfeel: Long lasting malt finish that's somewhat uncommon in my experience of home brewed ales (it's fantastic to know it's possible...I hope I can learn your secret!), a tartness in the very end
Aftertaste: Medium-full, full carbonation
Drinkability: Carbonation and alcohol perception on top of a full flavored ale makes it a good sipping style beer, it's "savory" and I could see it served before and then again at dinner pairing well with fuller flavored meat dishes and even creamy dishes
Overall: Exceptionally bold and full flavored while perfectly balanced. Well done!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Kegerator Collar - part 1

I didn't have solid plans drawn, so we were forced into a state of creative imagination, especially given the limited wood stock. Each store we went to didn't have everything I needed. It took driving beyond the point we wanted to go, but finally found the right oak paneling for the vision I had in my mind. We hit four major home improvement mega department stores, and settled on stock from the two farthest...and its really far out in the burbs. When my Dad and I are together, there's some serious brainstorming going on, and luckily I was able to keep with my original plan.

The collar is made up of three vertical pieces of wood. A core, inner face, and outer face. The core was assembled first, as square as humanly possible, and with wood glue and nails at rabbet jointed corners. Both the inner face and core boards were cut straight and identical in width. After forgetting to cut a special notch in the bottom edge of the core for an inserted all-weather seal, we decided to cut it into the inner face. Then the inner face boards were glued and clamped to the core while fixing a slight outer bowing in the long sides...see photo.


I chose a pretty dark brown stain for this piece, and it should look super with a satin finish. The inside, top and bottom will get a more durable gloss finish to help protect against condensation, spills and cleaning.

Cutting the outside paneling is really tricky. It's a little under 12 inches wide, and the margin of error is big while cutting miter joints with a radial saw.
Getting them to fit tightly around the core piece isn't easy, so we're cutting them a tiny bit longer to compensate for any error. This part of the project has been delayed because my Dad wanted to get the saw blade sharpened before we run the final cuts.

Other posts about this project...

Finding a Home for Kegs
Kegerator Collar - part 2
Kegerator Collar - part 3
Kegerator Collar - part 4
Kegerator Finale

Friday, October 31, 2008

2 Beers by Bearded Brewing


I've had the pleasure to taste 6 beers created by Bearded Brewing in Minneapolis, MN. We've been talking about swapping for several weeks...if not a month or two. He's definitely an experimental brewer putting signature ingredients into many of his creations. He also holds a consistent level of environmental responsibility in his craft as well. We both seem to share these traits, and it should be interesting to taste what we've only been reading about over the past year.

I was impressed first of all by receiving a MASSIVE box, but partly saddened to only find 6 brews in there. You could have fit lots more! After digging, and digging through a ton of packaging popcorn, I finally found them all tightly wrapped. I was impressed by the look of all the bottles, and as you can see, they all have carefully designed labels. Very attractive first impression.

The first two beers I tried are his El Muerto and El Jeffe. Quality and delicacy was brewed into these, and both were very balanced and super drinkable. My impressions are written below.

Please read about 2 more of his Belgian styles here.

El Muerto

Appearance: Softly hazed amber color, with a lasting dense off-white head
Aroma: Full yet soft scent with a perfect balance of citrusy hops, malt sweetness, spiciness
Taste: A wonderful accentuation of all the aromas, a full yet soft flavor that is balanced nicely with spices are very Belgian in character yet no spices or Belgian yeast were used (could it be the hops I'm not familiar with?), clean with smooth malt finish, slight oxidation isn't overwhelming but in there
Mouthfeel: medium-light, strong carbonation
Aftertaste: Balanced bitterness does play through into the after taste and adds to the overall experience, again a small amount of oxidation comes out with belches
Drinkability: The tastes in this beer are excellent and makes if a satisfying and session style beer, with lower carbonation it would also go down much easier, shortening the time it takes to pour another
Overall Impression: I emphasize soft and balanced because its not common to taste a home brewed ale that has so much aroma and flavor while being completely balanced in a very soft sort of way. Nothing is out of place except the level of carbonation, and I could even see this being an excellent beer served in the cask tradition.


El Jefe

Appearance: Golden, hazy, good head fades quickly
Aroma: Fruity sweet aroma with hint of spices, a bit of bubblegum, no hops, clean
Taste: Sweet soft fruity flavors supported by light spice, (cinnamon, clove, pepper, coriander), bubblegum, balanced bitterness on the sweet side but clean enough to make it extremely drinkable, no hop flavor
Mouthfeel: Light bodied, good carbonation
Aftertaste: Clean, light spice on the tongue
Drinkability: Extremely drinkable light summer style beer with a touch of spices that sway in the fields of both Belgian and Wiess in quality

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Old Rasputin Clone

Pretty much followed the recipe from the books and magazines. This being my first commercial clone, I can't wait to see if the outcome is anything like the real thing.

North Coast's Old Rasputin is a wonderful rich and creamy smooth high alcohol stout, and fantastic on draft. It's not too heavy like other imperial brews, which allows for the enjoyment of more than one...especially because it goes down like silk...or like a tall glass of chocolate milk.

There's a couple differences in my ingredients...hops and dark crystal malt. Substituting Centennial in place of Cluster for bittering shouldn't effect it much at all, but swapping Perle for Northern Brewer may be noticeable. I would guess the hop flavor and aroma may come through more with a sharper quality from Perle.

The recipe called for Crystal 120L. I ordered Simpson's Extra Dark Crystal 155-165L malt a while ago, so it'll work just fine.

Also, I'm not sure if the Chocolate and Roasted Barley are supposed to be American or British. Here, I'm going with British.

Overall, I'm very happy with the brewday. Hitting both the mash temp and OG is great, and it smelled very good and rich. not a whole lot of roasted barley in it, but I don't recall The Old Rasputin having much roasted notes anyways. Also, the yeast is happy at a solid 68°F.

Old Rasputin Clone

Grains
14. lb. Organic 2-Row
1.0 lb. British Caramalt/Carastan 30L
1.0 lb. British Crystal 160L
.50 lb. British Brown Malt
.50 lb. British Chocolate Malt
.25 lb. British Roasted Barley


Hops
1 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, 75+min
1 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, 75+min
1 oz. Perle, 5.7%, pellet, 2min
1 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, 2min


Yeast
Wyeast 1056: American Ale huge yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 10/26/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 11/9/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike: 1 tsp Gypsum, .25 Acid Blend, 1 tsp Chalk
2nd Sparge: 1 tsp CaCl, 1 tsp Chalk

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1 qt/lb
Mash Ph: acidic hard to read
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 4.15gal/1.076

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 184°F/169°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 3.1gal/1.040

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.060
Boil Time: over 120min
Post-Boil Vol: shy of 5gal
Mash Efficiency: 75%

OG: 1.095
IBU: 69
Color/SRM: black/41
Ferment Temp: 68°F

FG: 1.026
ABW: 7.25%
ABV: 9.1%

Friday, October 24, 2008

Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day @ LHBS

Two years in a row I've hosted this fun event, encouraged by the American Homebrewer's Association (AHA). I've had friends come over as well as new acquaintances. But this year, I'm gonna pass. Instead I'll try to join in the last couple hours of this event hosted by our LHBS...the Brew & Grow. It should be a fun time with the Larry, Dave and the rest of the folks over there. They have a nice tiered setup, and hopefully they'll do an all-grain batch. Anyways...hope to see you there. Details below...

Also, Larry has worked pretty hard to get some new malts for us to brew with. A bunch of English crystals malts. Some German Munich. And now some German Carafa I, II & III. What does this mean? We can now brew some more authentic English ales and German/European lagers/ales. So check it out.

What: National Teach a Friend to Home Brew Day

Where: Brew and Grow @ 1824 N. Besly Court (Off Courtland between Ashland & Elston)

When: Saturday, November 1st @ 12:00PM-5:00ish

Why: Because Home Brewing's Cool!

Who: Current Home Brewers and those who always wanted to home brew, but need a reason to start

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First Clone

Next up is the last ale of the year. It is also the first clone recipe of a commercial beer I've ever tried to brew. I've never brewed an imperial beer before, so I figure a clone could be a good way to attempt it. There's a massive yeast cake just waiting for it, so now all I gotta do is brew it.

If you've ever tried North Coast's Old Rasputin, its one of the finest imperial stouts out there. It's the best served on tap. You'd never really know it was 9% because of how smooth it is. Not a whole lot of bitterness, even though there is a good amount of hops in it. I especially like how there isn't the vanilla/coconut/oak/alcohol flavors found in many other imperial stouts. Mostly it is rich and chocolaty.

The recipe has been written in several sources. Had to order some more brown malt for it, and I'll substitute some Perle for Northern Brewer. Got the rest of the ingredients though. With batch sparging my efficiency goes down as the gravity goes up (especially this high), so I'll probably adjust the grains to accommodate for this (actually I ran off 7 gallons for a 5 gallon batch and didn't mess with the grain bill). As long as I get to an OG in the low 90's it should be fine. I'm a little worried about mouthfeel, but since it'll have so much residuals, it might be fine without any enhancers like Carapils or oats or whatever.

Finding a Home for Kegs

For the greater part of the Spring and Summer months, my kegs were kept cool in an old refrigerator in the basement. It's an "emergency frig" for temporary occupancy by any condo owner who needs it. After enough time had passed, the condo board finally gave me an ultimatum. Get those kegs out by the end of September, or pay $1 a day until they are removed! Yikes!

Without hesitation, I finally purchased a chest freezer to accommodate what has become a continuous rotation of half filled corny kegs. I wanted to find a used one, but the time and hassle of getting one through various classifieds wasn't panning out well. Since the cost of a new one, with free delivery, wasn't much more, I went ahead and ordered an 8.8 cubic foot Frigidaire.

Needing a way to easily control the temperature inside, I also ordered a Johnson digital unit, especially because the probe and chord are both the same diameter, making the hole much smaller and precise.

So, everything was delivered just in time to beat the ultimatum date, and it's all working fine so far. Not having to run to the basement for a pint is also extremely convenient, especially when pouring a few for my friends.

This is evolving into a bigger project though. With the help of my Dad and his basement wood work shop, we are building a very attractive collar and paneling in which all the holes for taps, gas and temp probe will be drilled. And for the time being, my TJ's friend is lending a couple chrome faucets and shanks till I find some for my own.

I've taken a few photos already. I look forward to posting updates on this project. It will probably take a few more visits to the shop to finish the building of the collar.

Other posts about this project...

Kegerator Collar - Part 1
Kegerator Collar - part 2
Kegerator Collar - part 3
Kegerator Collar - part 4
Kegerator Finale

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Family Lager Tasting

My siblings were in town this past weekend, and it was great to spend time again as a whole family. This is becoming a rare event for us, because we're increasingly spread out (Charles & Ali on the West coast, and Lauren & Doug in Sweden). We've taken advantage of our time with full days of eating great local food, driving around town, and late nights talking and having fun. It honestly feels like I haven't slept in a week, but its all worth it.

Friday we went on a triple date and spent the evening at Fright Fest at Six Flags. This was really fun, but unfortunately there weren't any costumed ghosts, ghouls & goblins jumping out of the bushes to scare us. We got to ride every coaster once with some smaller rides in between. I'm very impressed with their new ride The Dark Night (should be called The Joker's Subway to Hell), because it's fast and crazy with many 4-person cars on the track whizzing around at the same time! This time around, the Giant Drop wasn't so scary, and I think this is because at night, I had a difficult time sensing & feeling my fear of heights (couldn't focus on things on the ground or see the horizon and distant landscape). Still it was great!

Charles had lots of my beer the whole weekend, and freely helped himself to half pints from the kegs (Nut brown, Porter & Tripel). We also blended freshly pulled espresso into a schooner of Robust Porter, which was excellent! I value this time of sharing my homebrew with him.

Sunday night my whole family was together for an Italian beef sandwich dinner. After dinner and dessert settled, I opened some aged bottles of my Copper lagers. We had a pretty good tasting, even though they lost a lot of flavor and aroma over the year(s). The Citrus Lager was very citrusy while fresh, but still hung on to some of it in the nose and flavor. Out of all the old lagers, the Dry-hoppped Lager did have more flavor stability, perhaps from the preservative effects of another addition of hops? The caps indicate the beers poured that night (Golden Lager/Copper Lager 1, Citrus Lager, Dry-hopped Lager, Copper Lager 2, Raspberry Mint Ale, Hard Cider)

Ali enjoyed the Hard Cider brewed by Travis. It was very tasty. It had great apple aroma, with a dry and slightly tart taste of apple and pear. Just the way I like it. With high carbonation, it also was very champagne-like. It was a bottle I've kept around for quite some time. Thanks Travis.

That's about it for this post. Looking forward to brewing an Imperial Stout next week. And, my Dad and I have bought wood for building a chest freezer kegerator decorative collar. So stay tuned for a post with photos on that project soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gnome Autumn Red Birch Beer

Next week will be a time for the whole family to be together again. This doesn't happen very often, so I've stocked up many of my tasty brews for the occasion. I can't wait to pour some of my freshly kegged brews (Nut Brown, Porter & Tripel). Before now, they have only had my beers from a bottle.

Among the group are a handful who do not drink alcohol, or prefer drinks other than beer. To remedy this situation, and provide a beverage they will enjoy, I brewed a 2 gallon batch of red birch beer. I don't recall what one tastes like, but figured it might be tasty. Apparently, those who live in the Northwest grow up on this stuff.

I wanted to boil some spices or herbs to create a more complex flavor. After smelling and tasting the Gnome extract, it really reminded me of spearmint toothpaste. So I chose spices that might go well. Cinnamon, cassia buds, grains of paradise and dried orange peel were boiled for about 20 minutes.

Then a mix of sugars were dissolved in the hot spice tea. Organic cane sugar, a little brown sugar, and a touch of molassas. This should deepen the color, and provide a fuller sweet flavor. Some malto dextrin was also added for some mouthfeel and foamy head.

Gnome Autumn Red Birch Beer

Brewed: 10/3/08
Batch Size: 2 gallons


Extract & Sugars
3.2 Tbs. Extract
1.7 lb. Organic Cane Sugar
4.0 oz. Brown Sugar
1.0 oz. Black Molassas
3.0 Tbs. Malto Dextrin


Spices
2 tsp. Dried Sweet Orange Peel
1 tsp. Cassia Buds
1.5 tsp. Grains of Paradise
2 Cinnamon Sticks


This batch was kegged and forced carbonated. If it comes out a bit too strong, we can easily add some carbonated water to thin it out. Or some water can be added to the keg. I'll let you know what they think about it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Golden Nugget "Wet Hop" Harvest Ale

Only 14 hours old, a healthy addition of wet nugget hops were tossed into the boil of this golden harvest ale for flavor and aroma. Nance's hop vines literally drape the whole length of her wrought iron fence along the entire back end of the Chicago lot. Massive and impressive to say the least, and obviously, it's been coming back for many years.

Nance has a deep appreciation for plants and animals, and has dedicated her life to their preservation and spreading of knowledge. I'm extremely appreciative for the opportunity to use her organic hops in my mostly organic pale ale. Thank you Nance.

With the hop shortage effecting choice and cost within the homebrewing front, it seems that more and more brewers have started to grow their own vines. I even had a friend try to grow a few rhizomes for me. The thing is, they take several years to put out a healthy bounty. I told Nance that her vine is like the end of the rainbow for me, and that I know I could make a really great harvest style ale with them. I can't wait to taste the final product. If we brew another one in 2009, this year's brew will definitely inform us on how best to utilize these hops.

Mr. Wizard at BYO came in handy when formulating the wet hop additions. I'll be going with three wet hop additions, but there are other hops going into this beer for bittering and supporting flavor. Cluster, with a touch of Simcoe, for solid bittering. Simcoe will also support the wet hop flavor with a 30 & 15 minute addition. I hope to get a full wet hop flavor and aroma, but don't want it to be the only hop in there. About half the beer will also get "wet" hopped in secondary. Nugget hops get played down as a strictly bittering variety, but since they're green, I hope these will provide a unique hoppiness. For the most part, these fresh hops smell quite "green," and have a sort-of musty scent. The tighter/greener cones smelled more like hops (citrus/pine), but the cones that have opened more and are a bit yellow/green smell good but strange/off.

I'm going with a pale ale recipe that has a lot in it, but will remain pretty light in complexion. 20L Crystal and Honey malt will definitely add some big sweetness. A blend of toasted malts will add dryness, and well...some toasted notes. Overall, these malts should provide enough complexity for a rich and hoppy harvest ale.

Golden Nugget "Wet Hop" Harvest Ale

Grains
8.5 lbs. Organic 2-Row
1.0 lbs. Crystal 20L
1.0 lbs. Belgian Wheat Malt
.50 lbs. Can. Honey Malt
.35 lbs. Victory Malt
.35 lbs. Special Roast


Hops
1.0 oz. Cluster, 7.9%, pellet, 60min
.15 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 60min
.35 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 30min
.50 oz. Simcoe, 11.9%, pellet, 15min
3.0 oz. Nugget, aa%?, wet, 5min
3.0 oz. Nugget, aa%?, wet, KO

.75 oz. Nugget, aa%?, wet, Dry 1 gallon- bottled
6.0 oz. Nugget, aa%?, wet, Keg


Yeast
Wyeast 1056: American Ale (huge yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 10/2/08
Kegged: 10/26/08
Racked: 1 gallon dry hopped for about 2 weeks


Water Adjustment:
Strike: 2 tsp gypsum, .75 tsp epsom, .5 tsp acid blend
2nd Sparge: 1 tsp gypsum, 1 tsp cacl, .75 tsp epsom
Boil: .25 tsp Kosher Salt

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/60min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 165°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 3.75gal/1.057

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 3gal/184°F/169°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 3gal/1.027

Pre-Boil Vol/SG: 6.75gal/1.044
Boil Time: 75min
Post-Boil Vol: 5.75gal
Mash Efficiency: approx. 73%

OG: 1.054
IBU: approx. 60
Color/SRM: Golden/9
Ferment Temp: 66°F

FG: 1.013
ABW: 4.3%
ABV: 5.4%


Updates

1. A slow start on fermentation, but the temp is pretty low
2. Scent from from fermenter is quite hoppy and clean
3. So far, so good
4. This beer should be good w/o dry hops and will be fun to compare
5. Though they look very healthy, the hops come complete with red spider mites, aphids among other bugs, with unseen webs, bug dung and airborne pollutants. If they present any sort of bacterial problem with the beer, I don't want to infect the whole batch
6. Bottling the 1 gallon dry hopped batch resulted in a surprising taste. The beer, with its honey malt sweetness and these soft fruity/citrus hops resulted in a taste that is very much peach...like a few drops of grapefruit squeezed onto a soft ripe peach. Can't wait to smell and taste the fully carbonated beer.


Tasting Notes dry hopped bottle

Appearance: Crystal clear golden color with some orange highlights, dense white head falls slowly to a layer of bubbles on surface
Aroma: Fresh ripe peaches! Touch of grapefruit and overall fruity sweet, faint alcohol
Taste: Some fine layers of flavor, peach, touch of grapefruit, honey, slight biscuit, bitterness
Mouthfeel: medium-light, good carbonation
Aftertaste: Dry bitterness remains with a slightest touch of dry hop oxidation, subtle sweet malt rides into the aftertaste
Drinkability: Very satisfying & refreshing taste!
Overall: Pretty assertive for its otherwise soft peach flavor and aroma. The bitterness is clean and sharp and perhaps a bit too much for the subtleties in malts. I think the malts are sweet and unique and go well with the fresh nugget hops. These hops definitely give off a pretty smooth peachy fruit quality that's much lighter than I expected. They remind me of Northern Brewer dry hopping, and in this brew the Simcoe is definitely playing a role. I could easily imagine a summer style American wheat beer with loads of these fresh hops, and perhaps a tiny addition of dried apricots.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old Rat Bite - tasting

Old Rat Bite is the name of a blended beer I made with my aging Blended Old Ale/Stock Ale, and the Rat Bite IPA. Since this stock ale is quite flavorful, not much is needed to enhance the flavor of other beers as blended versions. Tonight I tried a blend that is about half and half. And since both beers are bold, it's a fairly balanced profile. Really interesting.

There is still a good hop aroma, but the hop flavor is much more subdued. I like that there is a slight brett scent in there too. The old ale has cut out some bittering as well, and there is a definite presence of soft oxidation, which isn't unwelcome.

Overall, it's a potent beer, but has a lightness to it. As for malts, it is not as sweet, more dry and has a very English Bitter quality with some biscuit aftertaste. It tastes old, almost stale. There is a slight metallic after-taste as well.

I like it. Very unique. It's interesting how both beers sort of cancel out each others highlights, and the beer is left with less complexities. This stock ale is coming in handy. I hope to always have some on hand for blends like this.

After racking some out, there is a larger head-space in the stock ale fermenter. My suspicion is that it will get more and more oxidized, but hopefully not to the point where it's undrinkable.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Couple Wins at Schooner

This year I entered a handful of beers into the Schooner Homebrew Championships put on in conjunction with the Great Lakes Beer Fest in Racine, WI. While dropping off these entries at Perfect Brewing homebrew supply shop in Libertyville, another man dropped off eight of his own. This used to be a pretty small competition, but overnight, well I guess over one year, it has doubled in size with 504 entries. This either means there are more people brewing beer, or North Mid-Western homebrewers are becoming more competitive. I think that as each brewer brews another year, they should be getting better at it. As a result, these competitions grow and become more competitive with higher quality ales and lagers.

Though my Rat Bite IPA this year was pretty good, I didn't think it would do as well as last year's Hop Blend IPA. It was aggressively hopped, and may not have the malt sweetness to back it up.

Two others I felt were pretty darn good didn't' place. Perhaps they didn't fall nicely into the categories I designated. The Nut Brown 2 was very dark, and maybe the judges felt it was like a "brown porter." And the Robust Porter, though it has no roasted barley, could have felt more like a thick and rich stout.

The two winners were definitely better, and perhaps more accurate in taste. First, the Rauch Bock took second place in the Rauchbier/Smoked Beer category. It's a beer that came out very balanced with enough smoked malt to mix with the residual dark malt sweetness.

Second, the Blended Old Ale (I called Vintage Stock Ale) took first place in the Specialty Beer category. This is a beer that has aged very long and nicely, mostly in bulk, with Lambic Blend yeasts and bacteria. The quality of this ale is definitely more refined and quite flavorful and aromatic. Since the Brett yeast and acidic character is fairly pronounced, it would have fallen way out of the old ale category. Straight-up old ales are sweet and rich tasting, and most commercial examples don;t really have any "wild" yeast/bacteria flavors. So that's why it ended up as a specialty beer. It's also a coincidence that, like last year's win, this one fell in the category with the most entries (21).

I am very surprised. I knew these beers were good, but to get these wins is really fantastic. It feels good to know that people with a good sense of quality rated my beers so well. I look forward to see what they said as the results soon come in the mail.

Also, it's great to see a fellow brewing friend place again in this competition with a second place win for his Premium American Lager. A very difficult style to get right. Congratulations Russ!

Too Many Good Beers

I'd love to list every beer I tried while visiting the Northwest for 10 days. I tried keeping a list, but they kept adding up faster than I could write. There were simply too many good brews to try. Most of the beers I tried tended to be hoppy pale ales, and most of them were quite good.

Didn't make it out to the Hair of the Dog brewery, but I did get to drink their Imperial IPA on tap, and it's fantastic. I also shared a bottle of "Adam" with my friends in Portland, and everyone really liked it.

Strangely, I did get out to Rogue's distillery more than once. It was the first place we ate at in Portland, and it was good. I had a flight of beers with some I've never heard of before. And of all the ones bottled here in Chicago, these tasted dramatically fresher at the source on draft. Since my brother had a birthday the next day, he received a complimentary liter with the beer of his choice, and a free t-shirt, which explains the second visit. Pretty cool. Also, their Spruce Gin rocks!

The Northwest, especially Portland, is really a great place for beer lovers. Every time I go there I'm more educated about beer styles in general, and find it to be a better experience because of this. There really are too many good beers out there, and it takes many trips to get close to knowing what the great Northwest has to offer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Visiting the Northwest

I'll be on vacation with my family out in the Northwest. We will fly into Seattle and stay with my brother and his wife for the first weekend. Then, head down to Portland for a few days while my wife attends a conference. There, we'll hang out with a couple of my closest friends. On our way back to Seattle, we'll stay in Olympic National Forestland for a couple more days. Then back to Seattle for the second weekend.

Among various family and friendly activities, I'm looking forward to tasting the best of the Northwest in food and beer.

After you've been to a number of breweries, doesn't the appeal wear off just a little bit? Some has for me. I guess it's cool to see where your favorite beers are made. Plus, there is a very slim chance you can meet the brewer or owners. But sometimes it takes a long time to get to the brewery, and then going through the tour...this doesn't make for a great family activity.

I'm much more interested in visiting the best bars for local/seasonal beers. These places sometimes have the best atmosphere, especially around the end of the work day, when regulars file in. Plus, their patrons know more about all the beer in the territory, and what's good on tap. I'm also interested in picking up brews from the better beer stores, and bringing it back to our friend's house.

There is one brewery I'd like to visit, cause it's small, bare-bones set-up is kind-of crazy looking. Hair of the Dog brewery really caught my eye on the American Beer video. I tried to try, I think it was their "Ruth," while on the road in Boston, but upon opening the bottle, it was all foam flowing out and onto the table. I look forward to an honest and true serving of their beers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bottling 30 Gallons!

Over the past couple of weeks I've bottled 30 gallons of nine different home brewed beers. It was a lot of work, but it's all done, and there will be a huge variety of beers for the fall and holidays. An ale for every meal.

Holiday Spiced Ale 2
Blueberry Stout
Belgian Tripel
Belgian Blue
Robust Porter
Orange Ginger Mint Beer
Raspberry Mint Beer
Ancho Chili Beer
Mint Stout

Monday, September 8, 2008

Columbus IPA

My favorite taste in an IPA is pine. I still don't know what hop contributes this pine flavor and aroma. Most hops give citrus, fruity, floral and green herbal flavors. Does anyone know which hop is predominantly pine-like?

I've read about how Columbus hops are good for dry hopping. I've been saving some for this IPA. Almost exclusively using Columbus hops with just a little Cascade in the flavor additions. Strangely enough, the older packages (almost a year old!) smelled more vibrant than the ones that recently came in the mail. It's not bittered to death like the Rat Bite, but there should be plenty of Columbus flavor and aroma to support the sweeter malts.

The malts are pretty light. Crystal 20L and a bit of darker English Crystal. Honey malt smells so amazing, a quarter pound should make a sweet impact on the malty flavor in this brew. I wanted a sweeter finish with a smoother hop profile, hopefully resulting in a balanced bitter ale with good body, and more substantial for Autumn & Winter meals. The mash temp slipped a bit, but I think there should still be enough body with all the carapils.

Water conditioning took a more Burton approach. I think I've noticed a smoother quality when I've used a couple teaspoons of Epsom. We'll see how this beer turns out with high Calcium, some sodium and a touch more Bi-Carbonates.

Columbus IPA

Grains
13. lbs. Organic 2-Row Malt
1.0 lbs. Crystal 20L
.50 lbs. UK Crystal 80L
.25 lbs. Honey Malt
.40 lbs. CaraPils
.37 lbs. Victory Malt


Hops
1.0 oz. Columbus, 12.2%, pellet, 75min
.50 oz. Cascade, 6.3%, pellet, 20min
.50 oz. Columbus, 12.2%, pellet, 20min
.50 oz. Cascade, 6.3%, pellet, 10min
.50 oz. Columbus, 12.2%, pellet, 10min
1.0 oz. Columbus, 12%, pellet, KO
1.0 oz. Columbus, 12%, pellet, Dry


Yeast
Wyeast 1056: American Ale

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 8/7/08
Racked: 10/2/08
Bottled: around 10/17/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike - 4 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp CaCl, .75 tsp Acid Blend
Mash - .5 tsp Baking Soda
Mash out - 1 tsp Epsom
2nd Sparge - 3 tsp Gypsum, 1 tsp Epsom, .25 CaCl

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.1 qt/lb
Mash Ph: quite acidic
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 153->149°F/70min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 163°F/10min
1st Batch Vol/SG: 4.4gal/1.065

2nd Batch Sparge H2OTemp/MashTemp: 185°F/172°F
2nd Batch Vol/SG: 2.85gal/1.036

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25
Pre-Boil SG: 1.052
Boil Time: 90min
Post-Boil Vol: 5.8gal
Mash Efficiency: approx. 68%

OG: 1.066
IBU: 63
Color/SRM: Golden/9-11
Ferment Temp: 70's

FG: 1.015
ABW: 5.3%
ABV: 6.7%


Tasting Notes
Served on draft

Appearance: Bright and clear deep golden orange color with a dense creamy white head, great lacing
Aroma: Complex yet smooth hop scents of citrus, pine, floral that has a strong support from the malts that bring a sweetness rounding out the overall aroma
Taste: A nice assertive bitterness greets the tongue at the start and fades gradually as a fairly rich malt and soft honey-like sweetness comes in to sooth the taste, some hop flavors are there but sort-of hide inside the malt base
Mouthfeel: Velvety and rich medium body with a smooth carbonation even at a slightly higher level, a little higher alcohols some through
Aftertaste: Some bitterness remains, and has a slightly aggressive tone
Drinkability: Its a higher quality strong ale that reminds me of some Southern Tier offerings, a lot of bang for the pint which calls for a more conscientious session of brew
Aging: While young it was a bit sharp and harsh. After three months it has mellowed wonderfully. Very smooth.
Overall: I'd take down the bittering hops a notch, and put it into the KO addition. An Imperial version of this would totally rock! With even more residual malt sweetness, this beer would be perfect. I think the water salt additions make a very good IPA.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Farm Fresh Honey

Making connections that extend the path of fermentation exploration are always welcome. Recently, I made such a connection with a fellow co-worker. We were talking about an alcoholic beverage I've only dabbled in a few times. Mead.

Mead is a wonderful thing. Sweet, delicate, alcoholic, and easy to make. Sometimes it can get quite expensive depending on the quality of honey used. I think I've shied away from making it because of the expense, and because I only really like 1 out of 3. But, I was telling Nora, that I really want to get better at it, and was looking forward to making more soon.

After we talked for only a short while, she mentioned that her brother is currently working at a honey farm in Michigan. Its called Windmill Hill Farm. She was heading out there to visit him in the following week, and offered to bring some honey back.

After she called with all the details on quality, quantity and pricing, I couldn't refuse. I went ahead and bought 3 gallons/36 pounds of raw & unfiltered wildflower honey. At the wholesale price, it only cost about 60 bucks. It's enough to make around 15 gallons of mead at various levels of strength and flavorings.

My experience brewing mead is limited, but I feel like I'm ready to ferment some with better quality. I know I'd like to brew a lighter braggot, and a very strong sack style, with perhaps a sweet melomel in between. There are a lot of winning recipes published in Zymurgy, so I may use that as a main resource.

All-in-all, I'm excited to have a great product in which to start brewing some good mead. Not sure when I'll get around to it, but it's definitely on the radar.

If anyone has special recommendations (especially with water treatment, acidity, nutrients, tannins and wine yeast strain...I guess everything but the honey!) I'd be grateful for your comments.