Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Too much Day Job lately and not enough Brewing. Got the T-day weekend off, so I'll brew Friday. 5gal batch of something strongish and dark for the Holidays. I'm thinking 12# pale (half Marris Otter - half Great Western 2-row), pound or so of 80L Crystal, 8ozs Chocolate malt, and a couple pounds Brown Sugar. Moderate bitterness (British) and a finish of fresh orange peel and Cascade. Zipped up with some 1056. Passed a similar recipe for an extract beer to Julian two weeks ago. They've just started their adventure in Homebrewing and wanted to put something strongish and dark together. So I rattled this little ditty off. They're gonna be in town for Christmas and they'll bring some of their brew to share. I haven't put my holiday beer together yet so I thought I'd brew one of these so we can compare batches. Should be fun.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Imperial Stout!

11/7: Transferred the Imperial Stout. Gravity is still about 9P. Pretty stiff, I'll check it in a couple weeks. If we haven't got at least 5.5P or 6P I'll put it onto some more yeast. Should be a quite a glass of beer when all is said and done. Still too early to call but it should hang onto the oily, bitter finish it has now. We'll wait on the finished beer before I get down to a more complete description of the flavor profile.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Heah Come de Judge

11/4: Judged at Novembeerfest. This competition is hosted by the Impaling Alers, a club based out of Larrys Brewing Supply in Kent. I've shopped at Larrys a few times over the years but this was the first time I've been in the back (where the judging was staged). Overall the competition was well organized and business-like. There was a series of flights in the morning, lunch and then the Best of Show panel in the afternoon. In total I think there were 8 or so panels with 10-14 beers per flight. With each flight pretty well split up covering a few different styles of beer excepting the American Ale and IPA entries. These seem to be popular enough that they usually have enough entries to make up a solid flight. The 1st panel I sat was with another judge and a steward. Good guys. The other judge admitted to being Novice but I was well impressed by his understanding of the process, how to relate to Styles and willingness to listen to a more "experienced" judge (me - ha, ha, ha). Our steward had no judging experience at all, I made sure to pour for him as well so he could follow along. So, our panel was broken out into entries for 8b Special Bitter (x2), 8c Extra Special Bitter (x2), 9c Scottish Export 80/- (x3), 11a Mild (x1), 11c Northern English Brown Ale (x1), a Common CIder, and a Sweet Mead. The first 3 entries judged seemed to be scoring almost too well. I'm always concerned, almost to the point of apprehension, about whether or not I'm scoring accurately. I'd like to be able to do more judging at competition sitting at a table with other more experienced judges, just to get a better sense of scoring "accurately". Anyway, that 3rd beer I scored a 38 and was pretty confident that is was worth it. It scored the highest out of the flight and we advanced it to Best of Show. The rest of the scoring was pretty strong too, not so much in the sense that all the beers scored high but that the scores reflected the quality of the beer. I think we did a pretty good job. The challenging part was to make accurate and helpful comments. Beer quality was pretty good overall and the entries that came up short seemed to have characteristics that were easily explained. So we cleared the panel, had lunch and I was asked to sit the Best of Show panel. Now, this whole Best of Show thing is kinda weird. I've only judged 5 competitions, including this one. I took the BJCP exam in Spring 2005. I scored National but haven't got the points for the pin. So there are either more experienced judges who don't care to sit the BoS, don't have the rank for BoS or there is actual respect for my judging ability. Scary thought. Anyway, 13 beers advanced to BoS with a widely diverse range of styles. Eliminating the 1st seven wasn't too tough. All the beers were very good but a few really stood out. Ranking the remaining beers took a little more attention and debate. The Best of Show winner was the ESB that we advanced out of our 1st panel. Kinda nice to have that counter my scoring "neuroses" or whatever it is. 2nd place was a German-style Wheat beer and 3rd was an American Barley Wine. All were good but the ESB was really nice. Nice malt complexity, firm yeast/fruit flavor, nice bitter backbone with a huge, intense hop flavor and aroma and very nicely made, no real faults present. Very nice indeed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Into the Keg

10/26: Kegged 5gals of the Pac Man Pale Ale. Dryhopped it with .5oz each Amarillo, Columbus and Simcoe. The beer isn't too far off from what's noted in a previous post. Dropped completely bright leaving a nice golden hue. The flavor cleaned up a bit. I think I'm still picking up some phenolic though. I can't decide if it's a function of some aspect of the fermentation or a result of using such a large amount of hops of questionable condition. Or even simply that there is so much Simcoe used. I'm beginning to understand how strongly Simcoe contributes to flavor. There's a very intense cedar resin note that hits right at the end of the first third of the palate and keeps going and going (ha! how's that for geek). Maybe I'm attributing some aspect of the resin note to the phenol I'm tasting. The bitterness and that resinous thing fade a bit at swallow but then kind of come back a bit, think of waves lapping at the seashore. Waves of hop character. Even though the beer is so hop forward there is a real nice chewy, nutty malt character to back it up. There's some chocolate too, like what you get from a chocolate mint plant. We'll see how it all plays once it's gassed.

Judging Novembeerfest next weekend. Should be interesting.

Will pick up some canning supplies today. Thinking about putting up a couple cases of yeast starter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Imperial Stout Eruption...

has ceased. Swapped out the S-bubbler and rubber stopper for a clean musting cap and 3-piece airlock. The yeasty sludge caked down the side of the carboy and out around it looks like what's left in the bottom of the french press after the coffee's gone. Yeesh. Smells good though.

Monday, October 23, 2006

So Much For 28P

10/21: Imperial Stout!

10# Great Western 2-row
10# Hugh Baird Marris Otter
8# Munich
2# Black Patent
1/2#'s each:
20L & 120L Crystal
Chocolate malt

Gave me 5 gals. 25P wort for the Imperial Stout and 5-ish gals. 10P wort for a small beer.

The Imperial Sout took 1.5oz 15.8% alpha Magnum, 1oz 16.8% alpha Columbus and 1oz 13.3% alpha at 60 and 30 then 1oz each Amarillo, Columbus and Simcoe at end of boil for a bit of a steep.

The small beer took .5oz of the Magnum and 1oz of 3.5% alpha domestic Tettnanger at 60.

Pitched the Pac Man yeast I'd saved into the Impster. A good 2qts or so. Smelled sweet and yeasty, so it appears to have held up well enough. I was doubtful at first. Check it out:

Pitch + 6 hrs = No Action.
Pitch + 12 hours = No Action.
Pitch + 18 hours = One quarter sized flocc on the surface, no gas.
Pitch + 24 hours = Thin head up on 2/3s of the surface, no gas.
Pitch + 30 Hours = Modest Head, no gas.
Pitch + 36 Hours = Glad I have this sitting in the shower in the downstairs bathroom. If we were filming in black and white you'd swear someone got chopped up, blood everywhere. Wish I'd set this up for blow-off. At least the shower will be easy to clean up.

I pitched a dose of Wyeast California Lager yeast into the small beer.

The Impster should end up a pretty intense glass of beer. We'll have to wait for the finished beer, of course, but tasting the gravity sample was interesting. The beer is solid opaque, inky black, intensely bitter/hoppy, huge black malt presence with the ash in the finish. And sweet, duh.

The small beer should end up a Mild Porter or so. After tasting that gravity sample I get the sense that once the beer finishes it'll need something to boost the body and add some sweetness. It'll definitely need something to add some dimension and balance to a very intense malt character. I believe I'll be adding some lactose when this goes into the tank. That should do the trick.

I'll plan the Barley Wine for 28P. It'll require the big mash, running off extract for the one beer and a long enough boil to get down to the brew length. Yeah, that's the ticket. Hmmm, Marris Otter with a touch of Honey malt, hopped just to balance with British Kent Goldings and fermentated with the 1098. Yummy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

O-Fest v. BdG Update

Robust signs of fermentation! Huzzah. I shoulda gone for propane tonight, I'll need it. I believe I'll plan on the Imperial Stout brew for Saturday. As part of that I need to decide what I want to do with the small beer made from the second runnings. I'm leaning towards something along the lines of a Schwarzbier. Hm.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Oktoberfest vs. Biere de Garde

Just finished transferring the two beers made from the Fest wort. The O-fest is down around 5.5P. The BdG is still up at 10P. Either may seem a little high but I'm not worried. At this point in the program the O-fest will come out of the chillbox into the mid 60Fs for a diacetyl rest through the weekend or so. I'm pretty confident I can expect a drop of at least 1.5P. Top end of the range for Terminal Gravity but I'm fine with that. I like a firm sweetness in a finished beer as long as it's clean and attenuated. There's a big difference between a well attenuated beer with a higher TG and a less well attenuated beer with a higher TG. The former can be full bodied, luscious and smooth. The later can be oversweet and taste like canned fruit. Now the BdG on the other hand is interesting. Gravity is still quite high but the beer is sound. Except for some flavor compounds I expect to clean up as the ferment progresses there are no significant off-flavors. The very slightest hint of both green apple and diacetyl but no spoilage apparent. The ferment so far has been on the cool side but stable, I'll warm it up a little and see how it progresses. One thing I've thought of though; this is an authentic French BdG strain. The other yeast strain from the Farmhouse beer region that I've used (the Wyeast Saison) takes a looong time to reach TG. I wonder if this strain will end up sharing that characteristic. I'll zap it in two weeks with the 'thief and check the gravity. We'll have a better idea then. I'll need to make an effort for the lowest TG possible with this beer maybe pitching more yeast. Since it'll be bottle conditioning I'd like to avoid any untoward complications (like exploding bottles or geysers of finished beer).

Monday, October 16, 2006

... And the Cask Beer Festival You Rode In On!

10/14: Washington Brewers Guild Cask Beer Festival. Shitty. We're an hour late, walk in with our tickets and they're out of festival cups. We'll have to make do with these creepy little hard plastic drinking cups (I'll end up going through three of them as they like to simply split in two). And they're out of the programs that list the breweries and the beers they're pouring. So much for tasting notes.

NOTE TO WBG: Procure a laptop. Format festival documents on laptop. Procure a suitable, portable laserprinter. Bring laptop and suitable, portable laserprinter to festival. Setup laptop and laserprinter at the check-in table of the festival. Print out programs for handout on demand. Festival program documents are available for last minute editing if necessary. Your paying customers have up to the minute information at hand, you're not running out of any handouts, and you're saving paper. About the cups, X number of tickets sold requires X number of festival cups (maybe 10% over for good measure) to be available. The festival cups may not be pretty but they are flavor neutral and sturdy. If you're selling us out to save a few bucks, how 'bout getting a shitload of generic Washington Brewers Guild cups all at once. Long production runs are cheaper than short production runs. I think we can get by without festival specific glassware. Better yet, offer festival goers a premium to encourage reusing last years festival cup. Check it out, I've just saved you worlds of paper, plastic fucking cups, time and money. Asshole.


More fresh-hop beers this year, which is kinda cool and a more judicious use of wood in others, which is even cooler. Rogue Issaquahs' fresh hop beer was good and Anacortes' was really good. I think their standard IPAs with the fresh hop twist. I was eagerly anticipating the Maritime XPA. Total bongwater, I loved it. I think the Double Whoop Pass from Silver City might have been fresh hopped too. Their "X Anniversary Ale" was nice. Right between a pitchy, full bodied Foreign Style Stout and a firm, oaky Stock Ale with chocolate toffee flavors and some ash in the finish. Diamond Knot XXX IPA, fresh hops and "Ported Oak". Real nice, tons of hops all across the palate with a firm, elegant finish from the Port and oak. Bourbon Barrel Stout with dried cherries from the Rock Bottom in Bellevue. Fine stout with the bourbon more mild and warming than some more "bourbon forward" beers I've had. The dried cherries came in with some tartness. Reminded me of those cherry cordials. The Waterstreet sent down a monster! A mixture of their Coffee Stout, Imperial Red and India Pale ales aged in a Chardonnay barrell. Tons of wine and barrel. Heads Up Brewings' "Bipolar" a butterscotchy strong ale was nice, just like a Butterscotch Nip. Fish Brewings' "Winterfish" was real nice, liquor filled hard candy (think rum and Sugar Daddy) with hops. Great stuff.

I was particularly curious about the Saison from Ram Brewery Puyallup. Dave brewed a straightforward Saison but primed a couple kegs with Brettanomyces. Brett is a wild yeast that creates all sorts of funky and wonderful flavors and aromas. Sweat, musty earth, horse blanket, cheese, feet and lactic acid for starters. Neat stuff. The Saison at the festival was just too young for the Brett to have developed its full flavor potential. A fine beer but just a manner of time before it's mind blowing.

We went down to Brouwers for "Afters". Real busy but we managed to get a table pretty quickly. I was in the mood for sour beer, especially after all the hoppy beer at the festival. Had both the Hanssens and Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze. Hanssens was excellent, firm and elegant. Drie Fonteinen was just a powerhouse of sour. Sweat, sour cream, some green apple and spritzy as hell. Definitely what I was in the mood for. Others at the table had; Scaldis, a Belgian Strong Pale ale with flavors similar to the two toffee-ish strong ales at the festival. North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout; bitter chocolate, resinous hops served on nitro and incredible as always. And a wee dram of Laphroig. Yummy!

At this point the evening or rather early morning devolved into madness. Grown men and women behaving like animals, howling and beating their chests. That was my cue to head home.

Cider House Blues

10/13: No cider. Bruce from Lopez Island Farms hit town with 325 gallons of juice in a poly tank in the back of his pickup. The tank came loose from its lashings, the load shifted, pop goes the tailgate and out slips the tank off down the hill. Boom! No survivors. Many deeply disapointed cider fans at Bobs'.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pac Man Pale and Imperial Stout Daydreams

Transfered the Pac Man Pale. Got it down to a respectable 2.5P. Big aromatics; orange juice and roses. I think the primary was a little hot as I'm picking up a bit of perfume up front and a touch of phenol through the middle of the palate. Otherwise; deep golden amber with a distinct red hue, firm slightly chewy malt, the bitterness is quite forward with flavors reminding me of lemon grass and cedar. Very resinous, which I like. I put it into carboys as I don't have any kegs ready for fresh beer. I'll dryhop the beer in the keg, a mix of Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe. This'll bring one of the bittering varieties and both late addition varieties forward into the tank. Full circle, in a sense.

I've been meditating on the Imperial Stout I want to brew. I'm thinking OG 27.5P or so, a hop routine similar to what went into the Pac Man Pale and, of course, the Pac Man yeast. Tons of Black Patent malt, a bunch of Crystal 120, a little Chocolate malt, and some Caramunich. Inky black, kinda oily with intense bitter chocolate and ashy notes. This should show well against the residual sweetness I expect and the firm bitterness I'll put into it. I've got oak cubes resting in some Dickel, maybe I'll season some of the Imperial Stout with a little wood n' whiskey.

I'll go out to Bob's tomorrow and get my apple juice. The yearly delivery of cider juice from Lopez Island Farms is coming in. Yay! Bruce (Lopez Island Farms Mainman) has orchards made up of varieties of apples specifically for "cidering". Juice shows up sulfited and ready to pitch. I'm in for 10 gallons this year. I've done this previous years and have ended up with some pretty good stuff. Usually ferments out quite dry and conditioned with a lot of very tiny bubbles is real nice.

Washington Brewers Guild Cask Beer Fest is Saturday. We've got passes for the evening session. Should be a good time, I look forward to this one because it's less a marketing event and more a real celebration of local beer. Looking forward to Maritime Brewings' XPA and the Saison from the Puyallup Ram/BIg Horn Brewery.

Anyone know where to get good fresh pork belly in Seattle? I've got Pancetta on the To Do List. Thanks.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


10/07: Brewed 10 gallons of 16.5P wort.

Everything is bubbling nicely this morning.

20# Weyerman Munich
5# Weyerman Vienna

German Hallertau and Domestic Saaz for 25 IBU

5 gallons pitched 2206 for an Oktoberfest-style beer.
5 gallons pitched 3275 for Biere de Garde.

Wort smelled and tasted real nice. Big toasty malt character, some smoke. I would associate the smoky note with mash scorching but there was none. Curious to see how that aspect plays out as we ferment and condition.

The BdG will go into heavy Belgian-style brown glass bottles (recycled Ommegang), get corked and bottle conditioned. Looking forward to that, now to get some bottles cleaned up.

Pulled a sample of the Flanders Brown. After 5 months on the Wyeast Roeselare it lacks the acid and character I was expecting. Maybe not enough gas exchange. I'll transfer out of the carboy into a plastic bucket and see what develops.

So far...

Finally had a chance to get back into the homebrewery after a summer of way too many hours at the Day Job. Spent a few hours on Saturday cleaning and getting organized to brew again.

09/30: Brewed 10 gals. of 13P wort for Saison

15# Belgian Pils malt
1.5# Aromatic
1.5# table sugar in the kettle

Warrior for 40 IBU
Domestic Saaz for steep at KO

Pitched 3724

I expect a long and cantankerous ferment. Then bottle conditioning. Hmmm, bottle conditioning.

10/01: Brewed 10 gals. of 11P wort for Pale Ale

16# Great Western 2-row
.5# Caramunich
.5# Crystal 80
1 oz. Chocolate malt

1 oz. each 17% alpha Columbus, 10% alpha Centennial & 12% alpha Chinook at 60 and 20.
1.5 ozs. each Amarillo and Simcoe at 5 or so.

Split the wort into two 6.5 gal. carboys and pitched Wyeast Rogue Pac Man yeast. These in turn will get used as starter batches for a Russian Imperial Stout and a Barley Wine.

These all went into the downstairs bathroom with the heater tuned for 70F (the heater will burn out later in the week - ha, ha, ha).