Monday, January 28, 2008

Munich Dunkel's Fine Farewell

This past weekend I said farewell to a very good beer that hung around for a very long time. A Munich Dunkel made using an all-grain, double decoction mash schedule. Three 1-liter swing-top bottles cellared for 1 year. My original intention was to drink them in a 1 liter mass krug with an old friend, but somehow, time kept slipping by and we never did. Each one changed in it's own way. One tasted stale, but not overwhelmingly so, and held much of the original flavors. Another one was a mild gusher, but also tasted fine.

Below is a copy of the notes from a tasting in June'06. Then I follow up with how it has changed over the long haul. Also, on this past brewday, Sarah managed to take this beautiful photo of it, poured into .5-liter mugs, and held up to indirect afternoon sunlight.

Munich Dunkel
4% - brewed 12/3/06
Appearance: Reddish brown & clear as day...sunset perhaps, light/white head lingers
Aroma: Clean, light yet rich aroma, malty, nutty, biscuit, hint of cherry, grains, wine perhaps?
Taste/Mouthfeel: Super mellow & smooth maltiness, clean, nutty, cocoa powder, grainy, grape, and hint of smoke, velvety mouthfeel
Aftertaste: Clean & light, earthy, more "cocoa" dryness towards back of tongue, slight charred wood and hint of smoke
Overall/Drinkability: Very easy to drink, smooth & mellow, great lager, nice solid Dunkel

One Year Old
Appearance: Reddish brown & clear as day...sunset perhaps, light/white head lingers
Aroma: Very clean, light malt
Taste/Mouthfeel: Super mellow & smooth maltiness, sweetness maybe from bitter hops mellowing, clean, cocoa powder & distinctive grainy taste vanished, lighter mouthfeel
Aftertaste: Clean & simple, not as dry
Overall/Drinkability: Very easy to drink, smooth & mellow, great lager, definitely not a young beer, but not lacking anything, and without any undesirable characteristics

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rauch Bock

Now for a beer style I've been longing one year to make. As you may already know, I love a deep smoke flavor in certain beers. Originally this was going to be a pale smoked lager with almost 50% rauchmalt. Then I massaged the recipe several times, and it became much bigger, and much darker. I had a good recipe going, and it was dipping into the bock category. While re-assuring myself with some recipes in Smoked Beers, I noticed it wasn't far from one listed in the book. So for this one, I've decided to simplify, and stay close to their recipe.

The all-grain mash will be a stepped infusion, with a protein rest to break up some proteins in the dark wheat. This rest, and the CaraFoam addition should provide the beer with a striking dense foam head. The saccharification rest will be held at 153°F. Unfortunately, we used the sacch-water (1.825 gal) at the beginning for the first protein rest infusion, and ended up with a thick dough-like ball. So we added hot liquor to finally end up with a thinner consistency at the high end of the protein rest range. In the end, we attained adequate temps for both rests. As you can see, in the picture we're raising our glasses (last bottle of 1 year Munich Dunkel) to celebrate the mash's end, and progression to a full wort boil. Thank you Matt for all your help.

With just one a ounce, 90min addition, the hop bitterness in the Smoked Scottish Ale 2 is just about perfect. It balanced the malts and higher FG, but it doesn't linger anywhere in the aftertaste. So for this smoky bock, I'll stick with a similar IBU level, and just give it a kiss of hop flavor in the finish. Vanguard is a US cross breed similar to Hallertau Mittlefruh.

Rauch Bock

6.50 lbs. German Pilsner Malt
3.75 lbs. German Dark Wheat 7.5L
3.00 lbs. German Rauchmalt
1.50 lbs. German CaraFoam
0.75 lbs. German CaraMunich 57L
0.31 lbs. German Roasted Wheat 413L

1.8 oz. Vanguard, 4.8%aa, pellet, 90min
.20 oz. Vanguard, 4.8%aa, pellet, 15min

Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager: Yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 1/27/08
Racked: 2/15/08
Bottled: 3/6/08

Water Adjustment: 1 tsp CaCl to mash waters

Protein Rest Temp/Time: 130°F/20min

H2O/Grain Ratio: approx. 1.27
Mash Ph: 5.6
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 151°F/1hr
Mash Out Temp/Time: 160°F/10min
1st Batch SG: 1.074

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/Temp: 3.75gal/198°F
2nd Batch Temp/Time: 171°F/15min
2nd Batch SG: n/a

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.5 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.066
Boil Time: 1.5 hours
Post-Boil Vol: 5.85
Mash Efficiency: approx. 77%

OG: approx. 1.077
IBU: 28
Color/SRM: Rich Brown & Orange/21-25
Ferment Temp: 50°F

FG: 1.021
ABW: 5.9%
ABV: 7.35%

Cost: $34, .64¢/12oz., $3.84/6-pack

Tasting Notes & Photo
check back 2-3 months from post date

Appearance: Ruby brown, off white head, slight lacing
Aroma: Soft smoke aroma that mingles well with a rich malt sweetness, some brown sugar, hint of higher alcohol
Taste: Well balanced smokiness to malt ratio, sweet, just enough bitterness, some yeast quality almost doughy
Mouthfeel: Medium, good carbonation
Aftertaste: Clean
Drinkability: Very smooth and rich dark smoked bock style, goes well with most foods, very enjoyable and satisfying.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pretzels & Sauerkraut

There are two foods that are virtually naked without a half liter of home brewed lager beer by their side. Perhaps it's the other way around. Home made pretzels and home made sauerkraut, just doesn't taste right, without a half liter of home brewed lager chasing them down.

A few nights ago I made my first soft pretzels. I used a recipe from, and they came out pretty good, soft and chewy. It may be more challenging, but I'm planning to make a hard and shiny sourdough pretzel. The lagers will take a while, so there's time to work on it.

The next day I prepared my first sauerkraut. It's made with one red and one green head of cabbage sliced very thin, 4 tbs Kosher salt, ½ tsp caraways seeds, ¼ tsp whole peppercorns, and a few squeezes of grapefruit. Since there was too much, I added another ingredient to the additional 1 quart...halved juniper berries. I love a good kraut, so I hope this turns out to be very crunchy, tangy and tasty. It will ferment in the coolest corner of our home, so it should take about 4 weeks.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Clearer Wort

Batch sparging is really the simplest method to get the wort out. If you haven't already learned about it, I highly encourage reading from the source that spells it out so well...Denny Conn's article. If you haven't tried it yet, then I highly recommend you do.

Only after a few attempts, I've become a total convert to this method. But I have noticed the pre-boil wort was more cloudy than previous fly sparged worts. Denny says to lauter/drain as quickly as your system will allow. With the flow full blast, towards the end of both sparges, I noticed the line getting very cloudy.

Once I had a thick mash with lots of wheat. The flow was at least half it's full potential. So I sat there, waiting, for a long time. But then I noticed that the wort stayed crystal clear. I assume that the finer particles vorlaufed on top of the grain mass were not "pulled" into the middle and lower layers of grain. These tiny particles never found there way to the exit holes below the false bottom.

Then I applied this theory to a wort that was flowing unrestricted and strong. After about half the volume exited full blast, I crimped the hose to about half strength. Lo and behold, the wort remained clear towards the very end.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Copper Lager 2

Lets kick start the new year with a batch of beer...shall we? Not just any beer, but the first lager this winter season. Not just any old lager, it's Copper Lager 2. Last year's was a throw-it-together beer that turned out to be one of my all time bests. This time I'm brewing a full batch, and keeping it copper and true, without any secondary flavor additions.

I think it will become an annual tradition, where I use up old ingredients to make my special "Copper Lager." The main goal is to keep it a deep golden color with orange highlights that make it look copper or slightly amber. Along side color, the other goal is to make it totally balanced with malt sweetness and a perfect hop bitterness. I really like 2-row pale malt as the base, and wheat to increase texture and head retention. Other than that, I think any sweet/color malts can easily be altered, given what is left over at year's end.

Hops are chosen by what is left over. The hops used in last year's batch was literally remnant pellets from various batches (Tettnanger, Challenger, Willamette, Hallertau). This year a blend of Yakima Goldings and Sterling may give it a brighter taste.

Copper Lager 2

8.0 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
2.0 lbs. Munich 10L
.65 lbs. Torrified Wheat
.45 lbs. Crystal 60L
.20 lbs. Melanoidin Malt

.90 oz. Sterling, 5.3%aa, pellet, 60+min
.20 oz. Sterling, 5.3%aa, pellet, 30min
.15 oz. Yakima Goldings, 4.6%aa, whole, 30min
.25 oz. Sterling, 5.3%aa, pellet, 15min
.15 oz. Yakima Goldings, 4.6%aa, whole, 15min

Wyeast 2208: Bavarian Lager (decanted, 2 step, 1.5qt starter)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 1/9/08
Racked: 1/27/08
Bottled: around end of Feb.

Water Adjustment: 1 tsp CaCl & ¾ tsp Gypsum in strike water

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.6
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152-153°F/50min
Mash Out Water Vol/Temp: 1.53gal/212°F
Mash Out Temp/Time: 165°F/10min
1st Batch SG: 1.064

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/Temp: 3.625gal/182°F
2nd Batch Mash Temp: 170°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.034

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25 gallons
Pre-Boil SG: 1.046
Boil Time: Kettle-A 90min & Kettle-B 120min.
Post-Boil Vol: 5.8 gallons
Mash Efficiency: 78%

OG: 1.056 on target
IBU: approx. 27
Color/SRM: Deep gold/Orange/8-10
Ferment Temp: 50°F

FG: Around 1.014
ABW: 4.4%
ABV: 5.5%

Cost: $25.25, .43¢/12oz., $2.58/6-pack

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Pours beautiful deep golden and clear with a good white head.
Aroma: Clean, with minimal scent, a faint malt sweetness, and hops present but embedded in the flavor regions without much fragrance
Taste: Very balanced all the way through, upfront hop bitterness and a malt smoothness, then some hop flavor, then some toasted malt flavor, clean
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation
Aftertaste: Some bitterness, and finishes pretty dry
Drinkability: Superb, definitely has continental lager written all over it, will stand up to most meals light to heavy
Alterations: Wouldn't change much at all. It's become an annual tradition, with a somewhat flexible recipe. It uses up old ingredients, but I think Tettnanger hops throughout might be nice.

I wanted to enter this into the AHA competition, but held out because I wasn't quite sure what category to put it into. It reminds me of the Bavarian Lager put out by Capital Brewery in WI.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Inspiration at the Get-Go

I had to get myself a beer related gift this year. A $5 gift certificate, helped pay for a fun and inspiring beer book called Microbrewed Adventures, by Charlie Papazian. It has a similar motivational effect as Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. I enjoy reading about these start-up and success stories, and the recipes look fantastic.

I especially like what Peter Bouckaert (New Belgium Brewing Company) said to Charlie about the use of herbs, spices and fruit. He said, "It all depends on the chemical nature of the flavor and character you are trying to finally end up with in your beer." He goes on to talk about how each herb, spice and fruit have different reactions (chemical decompositions), "but at each stage, the flavor & aroma effect can be either increased or decrease dramatically."

At the start of the year, I'm anticipating a great year of brewing. I'm already inspired to make some of the most balanced beers possible. I also want to improve greatly on my herbal explorations. I also find great satisfaction sipping on sour beers, so I've got plans to make the most mouth puckering beer possible.

Two nights ago, Mikey and I went out for our first commercial pints of the year. I introduced him to the Half Acre Lager. I'm quite pleased to hear such a good response from him. He liked how much flavor came from a beer of that color. I'm happy to hear good responses from many others too.

We also had Lagunitas Farmhouse Hop Stupid Ale, which was very bright and floral with solid bittering. And North Coast Old #38 Stout, which was super smooth, toasty, rich and delicious. Inspiring ales to say the least.