Friday, June 27, 2008

On Tour w/ Tim Lowly Ensemble

I'm currently on tour with the Tim Lowly Ensemble and headed for the East Coast. It feels good to be playing with great musicians in a bunch of cities across the upper East end of the country, in cities I've toured before. Our music is fairly mellow and simple, yet there are some really great musicians backing Tim with really amazing arrangements. Kind-of a fusion of folk and classical, but then classify it into a particular genre, is like trying to pick a BJCP beer style for one of your homebrews...ya know?

This time around, there are some differences to the punk rock tours of the past. Since there's a handful of artists with us, we'll be visiting some art museums as well. I have a much bigger interest in finding indigenous brews from Eastern breweries. I hope to hook up with a couple blogging brewers. I also look forward to connecting with people who come out to our shows.

For those reading this, and living in and around the cities/venues we're playing, I invite you and your friends out for a night of good music in a relaxed setting. I'd also like to meet other brewers across the country. At the same time, I'd love to get feedback on the best pubs for local beer (especially close to a venue), and would love some local brewer company. So, please let me know if you will be coming out, and if you have any recommendations for the good beer bars/pubs & maybe even brewpubs...773.655.34.63. Thanks.

The itinerary...

Fri, Jun 27/8:00P/Allegheny UUC (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
1110 Resaca Place/Cost: Donation

Sat, Jun 28/6:00P/Art Center/Warren, Pennsylvania

Sun, Jun 29/2:00P/Kirkland Art Center (Clinton, New York)
Power of Prog Festival/9.5 East Park Row

Sun, Jun 29/7:00P/The Miller Family Home
West Monroe, New York

Mon, Jun 30/8:00P/The Advent (Boston, Massachusetts)
30 Brimmer Street/Boston, Massachusetts 02108/Cost: Donation

Tues, Jul 1/8:00P/Pianos Upstairs Lounge (New York, New York)
158 Ludlow Street/New York, New York 10002/Cost: FREE

Wed, Jul 2/8:00P/St. Andrews Summer Series (Block Island, RI)
Chapel Street (there's only like 5 streets on the island)

Thur, Jul 3/8:00P/St. Stephen and the Incarnation (Washington, DC)
1525 Newton St NW/Washington, DC 20010/Cost: Donation

Fri, Jul 4/7:30P/Westminster Canterbury (Lynchburg, Virginia)

Sat, Jul 5/8:00P/The Good Cherry (Forest, Virginia)
14805 Forest Rd, Ste 234/Cost: $3

Sun, Jul 6/1:15P/Bedford CC (Bedford, Virginia)
1928 Moneta Road (Rt. 122 S. from Bedford)/Cost: Donation

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Silly Trappist

I'm excited about brewing two Belgian ales soon. As a yeast starter, a one gallon batch was made using the Trappist High Gravity Ale yeast strain. I thought I'd try something different. It's pretty much a hodge-podge of ingredients, some unconventional, and some that might cause this beer to be a silly attempt at something new. So it's named the Silly Trappist.

I collect "wort loss" from the mashtun by tipping it on it's side and letting it trickle out very slowly. At the end of the brewday, I'll boil it and bottle hot. Fill bottles to the brim, cap, and throw them in the frig. This is the perfect starter wort. But in this case, I used up most of my supply in this recipe. Four independent mashes contributed to the maltose in this ale. And one shot of dark/black molassas, I thought would add some interesting flavors.

From all my calculations, I thought the original gravity would be around 1.063. But it ended up quite low at 1.047. Not a bad thing, but it may end up tasting too bitter. It's better for the yeast anyways, and it may turn out to be very drinkable, and maybe kind-of dry. We'll see.

Silly Trappist

Worts & Fermentables
40 oz. Yvonne's Sterling Moon
43 oz. Main Mash for Cascade IPA/Smoked Amber
21 oz. Sterling Pale Ale
16 oz. Rat Bite IPA

.25 lb. Cane Sugar
.25 lb. Light DME
1.0 oz. Black Mollassas

.25 oz. Kent Goldings, 4.8%, pellet, 90+min
.15 oz. Kent Goldings, 4.8%, pellet, 20min
.15 oz. Styrian Goldings, 4.8%, whole, 20min
.15 oz. Styrian Goldings, 4.8%, whole, KO

Wyeast 3787: Trappist High Gravity

Brewed: 6/23/08
Bottled: 7/15/08

OG: 1.047
IBU: approx. 46
Color/SRM: Amber-Brown/11-15
Ferment Temp: 75-80°F

FG: approx. 1.010
ABW: 3.9%
ABV: 4.9%

Tasting Notes & Photo

Appearance: Deep golden color with a touch of copper & brown, some haze, dense head that full carbonation causes to diminishes slowly
Aroma: Yeasty, fruity, some spice, and quite aromatic overall
Taste: Much fuller taste than assumed, good Belgian yeasty flavor, a fruitiness that isn't sweet but more like a brisk tartness, bitterness is just fine with a hint in the flavor (it would need much more hops to show through the yeast's showy character)
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, with medium-full carbonation
Aftertaste: Finishes fairly dry with an overall clean and neutral aftertaste, a very understated yet undesirable "apple" taste coming through, but it is still quite young (tasted on 7/28)
Drinkability: Having many qualities of a stronger Belgian at only 4.9%, it has good aroma and flavor with decent body for a drier beer, with little "off" flavors and no intense alcohols/phenols, it's got a high level of drinkability

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rat Bite IPA

Here in Chicago there are lots and lots of mangy rats running around. Most of them are really big and scary looking. I saw a bunch the other day, and luckily not in our neighborhood. It occurred to me that if one of those suckers were to bite, it would probably feel awful. Bitter, in fact. Almost as bitter as this IPA. So... Either this ale will remind of what that might feel like, or could easily be the sedative pain-killing remedy if such a city rat were to bite my leg.

I've been itching to brew this beer ever since last year's successful Hop Blend IPA. The Simcoe 100 is a little bit of influence here too. The differences in the Rat Bite are British Crystal malts, more assertive hops, and a higher alcohol point.

Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops will come together very nicely at just about every stage. I don't have much Centennial, so these additions were reserved for flavor and aroma. Chinook is the foundation of bittering, and gets thrown in at the end too. Cascade is most abundant, and will play a supportive role, especially in the middle 30 & 15 minute additions.

While writing this recipe, I found a beer at the store with similar ingredients. Southern Tier's Unearthly Imperial IPA (11% with Chinook, Cascade & Centennial). I had to give it a try, and it was of their better brews. Strangely though, the website displays a different set of hops. In any event, it was a big IPA with lots of alcohol and full flavored hops. After trying it, I knew I could push the hopping in mine a notch further, and it helped me decide on raising the ABV.

Rat Bite IPA

12. lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale
1.0 lbs. Faucett Crystal 20L
.45 lbs. Faucett Crystal 65L
.75 lbs. Belgian Wheat

1.00 oz. Chinook, 12.9%, whole, 60min
0.75 oz. Cascade, 7.4%, whole, 60min
0.75 oz. Cascade, 7.4%, whole, 30min
1.00 oz. Cascade, 7.4%, whole, 15min
1.25 oz. Cascade, 7.4%, whole, 8min
0.25 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, 8min
0.25 oz. Chinook, 12.9, whole, 8min
0.75 oz. Cascade, 5.1%, pellet, 0min
0.25 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, 0min
0.25 oz. Chinook, 12.9, whole, 0min
0.50 oz. Cascade, 5.1%, pellet, Dry
0.50 oz. Centennial, 9.5%, pellet, Dry
0.50 oz. Chinook, 12.9, whole, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (Collected yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 6/23/08
Racked: 7/10/08
Bottled: 8/5/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike...1.25 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp Epsom, .75 tsp Acid Blend
2nd Sparge...1 tsp Gypsum, .25 Epsom, .25 tsp CaCl

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 72°F/1hr
Mash Out Temp/Time: 168°F/15min
1st Batch SG: 1.058

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 2.55gal/182°F/171°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.027

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.25
Pre-Boil SG: 1.051
Boil Time: 75min.
Post-Boil Vol: 5.8gal
Mash Efficiency: 70% perhaps from low 2nd sparge vol.

OG: 1.062
IBU: 85
Color/SRM: Gloaming Gold/9-11
Ferment Temp: 75-80°F

FG: 1.010
ABW: 5.46%
ABV: 6.8%

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Draft Party for the Crew

A draft party for the crew, that Holly hosted, was a great success. Everyone really enjoyed the Sterling Pale Ale, and 4 gallons were polished off with no problem. It really is a beer that gets better and better as you drink it. Partly because as it warms up some, the flavors and aromas build.

There were a couple technical difficulties. First of all, I forgot my bag of gear. And with that I didn't have a 4th line-out ball-lock connector. This was a pain, because borrowing a party tap from the other two leaking kegs resulted in a continuous dribble of beer. And 5 gallons of Ordinary Bitter was completely plugged up by some loose keg hops.

My friends over at TJ's, don't get many opportunities to try my beers, so it was cool brewing and offering up a special brew to them. It was so darn good, the Sterling Pale Ale may become an annual Springtime/Summertime ale.

Lastly I want to say thanks to Holly for hosting this keg tapping event. Her private courtyard is a perfect place for this kind of gathering. Thanks to Sarah for taking awesome photos. And thanks to everyone who made it out on such a busy day for events in the Windy City.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blackstrap Root Beer

I play drums and percussion for the Tim Lowly Ensemble, a group of very fine musicians backing up a true artist of the brush and of musical soundscapes. Tim has been writing songs for more than 25 years, and just put out an album that is quite impressive. Rehearsal evenings are fun because we're all crammed in his tiny dining room (piano, 2 violins, two guitars, bass, drums, 7 humans, chairs and a dining room table), running through songs and it's generally quite relaxing. Sometimes I bring some homebrewed beer (bottles or keg on occasion), and everyone but Tim gets to taste all the malty and hoppy goodness. He doesn't drink alcoholic beverages.

Well last night, I surprised Tim with one of his favorite beverages of all time. ROOT BEER! A beer I can brew that he will drink! That he will love! That he will begin to crave! I tricked him into thinking it was the best beer I ever made. And Matt said that if he ever were to sip a beer, this is the only one...the best. I handed him a full portion, and he said right away that it was too much! But upon the first whiff of full sarsaparilla essence, he was on to us. He was happy, and it was perfect. He liked it very much and would put it on the same shelf as any other root beer he's had.

My brother Charles (Seattle), used to brew beer, but has given that up for the most part. Now he brews an occasional root beer or ginger ale. I consulted him first before brewing this one because he knows a lot about it. In the end though, he sounded just a little bit envious of my kegging setup. I was explaining that all I had to do is brew, pour it in the keg, and force carbonate. And if it comes out too sweet, or needing more malto dextrin or whatever, I could simply fix it and turn back on the CO2 pressure.

Blackstrap Root Beer
Brewed 6/3/08
3 gallons

3.0 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar
3.5 cup Organic Turbinado & Brown Sugar
1.0 cup Organic Blackstrap Molassas
5.0 Tbs Malto Dextrin

1.0 Cinnamon Stick
.25 oz Licorice Root
.25 tsp Grains of Paradise (crushed)

3 oz Root Beer Extract

Spices boiled in 2 gallons water for 45 minutes. Turn off heat. Add sugars. Chill in cold water bath in sink. Stir in extract while still hot. Chill a little more. Add to 3 gallon keg. Top off with chilled bottled/distilled water. Force carbonate. I couldn't have done it without the help of my excited little helper!

Tasting Notes

For my first root beer, I am thoroughly impressed. It pours a very dark brown and almost opaque brew. A dense tan/light-brown head forms and sticks around for a long time around the glass edge. A very rich and creamy mouthfeel is noticed with the first sip. It is fairly sweet but there are is a 3 dimensional flavor to it. First, a carbonation backed licorice spice is carried by the full bodied texture. Then the sarsaparilla flavor comes in strong. And this is followed by a wonderful molassas taste in the finish, which also adds to the creaminess. A thoroughly enjoyable, rich tasting root beer, that was so easy to make. I think I'm hooked! Plus, who needs Witbeers and IPA's when a home-made root beer float never tasted better in the summer time? Wow, I can't believe I just said that!

Because the flavors are on the rich side, I didn't notice much cinnamon or grains of paradise. Tim also said it could use a little less suger an a touch more spice. Was going to add more cinnamon in the boil, but the jar of sticks mysteriously vanished...oh well.

For a lighter version, yet still quite rich,
sweet and flavorful with a nice level of
cinnamon spice, check out Blackstrap Root Beer 2.
Tim says it could even be lighter,
but tasting it against commercial examples,
I very much prefer this one.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Smoked Amber Ale

While Michael was settling on a hoppy pale ale, Christian was really thinking about brewing a smoked ale. I had both of them over to talk about homebrewing and poured a couple of my own, one of which was the Smoked Scottish 2. Even though it was his first taste of a smoke flavored beer, Christian really liked it's distinguished character. That sounded good to me, cause I love smoked beers, and was itching to brew a pale/amber version.

This beer was a little more complicated than the Cascade IPA. It received 5 gallons from the main mash. We also mini-mashed the smoked & dark crystal malts. I was contemplating getting this mini-mash done ahead of time, but didn't have cheese cloth until morning. So we fit it in right after pouring the mashout infusion for the main mash. The smoked mash went well with a decent conversion after about 30-45 minutes. We then sparged by pouring preheated water (in thermos & coffee carafe) over each grain sack to get another 1.75 gallons.

This portion boiled on its own for about an hour, and while the color really deepened, the concentrated smoke aroma was fantastic. Also, since we couldn't clarify the smoked wort, a very dark brown foamy sediment formed in the boil (I always skim that stuff out during hot break), and you can see more of it on the kraeusen in the fermenter.

Hopping this beer is dramatically different to pale ales. I used my Scottish Ale 2 and Nut Brown Ale as references. When I looked at the Hallertau hops Christian supplied, the package read a different alpha acid percent, so I quickly plugged them into the tastybrew program. Originally, I wrote in a fair amount of aroma hops, but since the smoked aromas didn't seem to be very strong, we thought it was better to take them out. This should be a nice deep colored, sweet and bitter smokey amber ale. I'm looking forward to the end result.

Smoked Amber Ale

6.25 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
0.35 lbs. American & Faucett Crystal 40L
0.35 lbs. Faucett Crystal 60L
0.35 lbs. CaraPils
0.18 lbs. Belgian Biscuit
2.00 lbs. German Smoked Malt
0.50 lbs. Faucett Crystal 80L
0.25 lbs. Peat Smoked Malt
2.00 lbs. Breiss Pale DME, 30min

2.5 oz. Hallertau, 3.6%, pellet, 60+min
.50 oz. Hallertau, 3.6%, pellet, 25min

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (about 6 Tbs of collected yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 6/8/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 6/24/08

OG: 1.067
IBU: 35
Color/SRM: Amber/14-16
Ferment Temp: 75°F->Low 80's

FG: 1.020
ABW: 4.9%
ABV: 6.2%

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1qt/lb
Mash Ph: n/a
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: avg 155°F/45min
Mash Out: .5 gal hot water
Sparge: .75 gal hot water through grain sacks

Pre-Boil Vol: 1.75 gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.040
Boil Time: 1hr
Added to main wort w/ 15min

Cascade IPA

This is a beer brewed by a couple new friends with my help. Since they already had one pound of Cascade pellet hops, all I had to do was come up with a good malt base for a rockin' pale ale. And until we cut open the vacuum sealed hop package and caught a powerful citrus whisp, to be honest, I was a little weary as to their quality. It turned out to be the absolute freshest Cascade hops I've ever smelled! Truly unbelievable! As we poured the wort into the fermenter, it smelled as good as any high-end IPA in the commercial craft beer arena.

This is one of two beers that resulted from 11 gallons of wort from one main mash. The other beer is a smoked amber ale. The recipe below is adjusted to the 6.25 gallons of run-off used to make a 5 gallon IPA. Combining 3.125 gallons from the first sparge, and 3.125 gallons from the second sparge gave us the pre-boil SG 1.044 and volume.

Not a whole lot of blow-off foam pushed out, but notice the large, crystal clear bubbles in the collection cup. Most of the time, blow-off foam is more cloudy with smaller bubbles. Interesting!

Cascade IPA

7.75 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
0.45 lbs. American & Faucett Crystal 40L
0.45 lbs. Faucett Crystal 60L
0.45 lbs. CaraPils
0.22 lbs. Belgian Biscuit

2.50 oz. Cascade, 4.9%, pellet, 60min
1.25 oz. Cascade, 4.9%, pellet, 20min
1.25 oz. Cascade, 4.9%, pellet, 8min
1.50 oz. Cascade, 4.9%, pellet, KO
1to2 oz. Cascade, 4.9%, pellet, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (about 6 Tbs of collected yeast cake)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 6/8/08
Racked: 6/24/08
Bottled: 7/15/08

OG: 1.053
IBU: approx. 72
Color/SRM: Deep Gold & Copper/9-11
Ferment Temp: mid 70's-80°F

FG: 1.010
ABW: 4.5%
ABV: 5.6%

The Double Batch Mash

Yesterday may have been one of the most intensive brew days yet. A couple of new friends wanted to brew a double batch to cut down on the time and cost of brewing two batches on different days.

Recently, I met Michael as he was serving pints of great beer (Alpha King, Half Acre Lager, Red Seal, etc...) at the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park. We talked about beer, and about homebrewing. Turns out a friend tried his hand at brewing with a simple extract kit. Both of them were interested in trying out an all-grain batch. So once again, I had the mashtun working at full capacity to produce enough wort for two full batches.

One of the beers was an IPA, and 6.25 gallons of wort was collect from the main mash to make a 5 gallon batch. It was boiled in an eight gallon pot by itself. This beer was brought to a boil first, and hop additions were added on schedule. The hops were provided by Christian. They came in a tightly vacuum sealed, one pound package. The freshest Cascade hops I've ever smelled. Absolutely wonderful! He bought them through
Hops Direct, last year when they were only $38/lb. I'll have to check them out when they have more that just Perle for $57/lb.

The second batch was a smoked amber ale. This batch only received 5 gallons from the main mash Another 1.75 gallons came from a mini-mash with German smoked malt, dark crystal, and a little peat smoked malt. These smoked malts were strung up in two cheese cloth bags with a decent conversion in about 30 minutes. The mini-mash wort was allowed to boil by itself, so we could smell the smokiness on its own, and ended up boiling off a gallon to concentrate the smoke flavors and color. This beer was hopped much more conservatively with Hallertau, again provided by Christian.

The amber ale wasn't coming to a good boil because almost half a pot was hanging off the stove's edge. Yes, a little dangerous, but the whole volume wouldn't fit in the other 6 gallon kettle. This resulted in a staggered finish close to one hour.

It was a challenging brewday, and both Michael & Christian did extremely well. They learned about the entire process of brewing beer from scratch. Christian's hops were superior in quality, and I'm sure these beers will turn out great. Thanks guys, it was a lot of fun!

Below is the recipe for the main mash grain bill. Please click on these links to read about both beers. Cascade IPA & Smoked Amber Ale

The Double Batch Main Mash

14 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
.8 lbs. Crystal 40L (5oz. Faucett Crystal 40)
.8 lbs. Faucett Crystal 60L
.8 lbs. CaraPils
.4 lbs. Belgian Biscuit

Main Mash Stats

Brewed: 6/8/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike...1.75 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp CaCl, 1.5 tsp Acid Blend
2nd Sparge...1.75 tsp Gypsum, .25 tsp CaCl

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25
Mash Ph: 5.2
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 154°F/1hr
Mash Out Temp: 171°F
1st Batch SG: 1.060

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 5.5gal/174°F/167°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.030

Mash Efficiency: approx. 76%
Color/SRM: Deep Gold/9-11

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sandy Jaywalker IPA

Here is another batch of beer, brewed with friends for them to enjoy when they return home from touring the Western states. It wasn't difficult for them to come up with a favorite style...IPA. And right into the mashing of this one, they came up with a fun name for it...Sandy Jaywalker IPA.

Very recently our LHBS got in some new British crystal malts by Faucett. They have a wonderful rounder shape, deep copper color, and a sheen on the husks that is really quite attractive compared to American crystal malts by Briess. Originally, a full pound of 40 & 60 Lovibond crystals were going into this beer, but after smelling and tasting the Faucett, I decided to go with half Briess and half Faucett. The Faucett kernel has a more dry, toasted and almost roasted scent and tastes sharp with slight chocolate notes, so balancing that with some sweet American crystal will be nice.

As for hops, well, there's a generous portion of hops throughout. Warrior for a nice bitter kick, and some Mount hood to soften the flavor and enhance some of the floral notes. The bright citrus notes of Cascade hops are the showcase here, and a healthy 1 ounce is reserved for dry hopping.

This beer should be pleasantly bitter with ample hop flavor and aroma. A malt base thats clean and sweet, will balance the 74 units of bitterness nicely, with a deep golden color to compliment the glorious gloaming sun beaming down on friends enjoying an early evening, home-cooked, summer meal.

By the look of things in these photos, you can probably tell they had a great time spending the day brewing their own batch of delicious India Pale Ale!

Sandy Jaywalker IPA

8.75 lbs. Organic 2-Row Pale Malt
0.50 lbs. Faucett Crystal 42-48L
0.50 lbs. Briess Crystal 40L
0.40 lbs. Belgian Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs. Belgian Biscuit

.75 oz. Warrior, 16.9%, pellet, 60min
.50 oz. Cascade, 7.8%, whole, 60min
.25 oz. Mount Hood, 5.2%, pellet, 15min
.75 oz. Cascade, 7.8%, whole, 15min
.25 oz. Mount Hood, 5.2%, pellet, 5min
.75 oz. Cascade, 7.8%, whole, 5min
.25 oz. Warrior, 16.9%, pellet, KO
1.0 oz. Cascade, 5.1%, pellet, KO
1.0 oz. Cascade, 5.1%, pellet, Dry

Wyeast 1056: American Ale (decanted, 2 step, .5qt starter)

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 6/5/08
Racked: 6/13/08
Bottled: 6/24/08

Water Adjustment:
Strike: .75 tsp acid blend, 1 tsp gypsum
Mashout: distilled
2nd Sparge: 1 tsp gypsum

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25
Mash Ph: 5.3
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 152°F/1 hour
Mash Out Temp/Time: 166°F/
1st Batch SG: 1.061

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 3gal/184°F/171°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.032

Pre-Boil Vol: 6.93 gal
Pre-Boil SG: approx 1.045
Boil Time: 75min
Post-Boil Vol: 5.5 gal
Mash Efficiency: 80%

OG: 1.055
IBU: 74
Color/SRM: Deep Gold/9-10
Ferment Temp: 70->75°F

FG: 1.010
ABW: 4.73%
ABV: 5.9%