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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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%


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 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.