Man, I just flew in from Denver and boy, are my arms tired! Ha, ha! I can't resist. So the brewery closed down for a long weekend and sent us out to the Great American Beer Festival. Thank you Al and Noelle, truly! Our first time at GABF and a great experience. A great chance to tour the US via beer. Two things: 1) tons of breweries from smaller markets all offering the same f*cking thing (pale, porter, IPA, stout, and some cheeky attempt at something "cuh-razy"!, 2) The best part of GABF is having the chance to try beers from breweries that you'll read about but have no chance of ever getting to. Ballast Point, Russian River, Cambridge Brewing, New Glarus, Jolly Pumpkin, Southhampton Publick House, and Marin Brewing; all worthy, all there right in front of you thank you very much. Thursday afternoon session; started in on the Southeast section with a sample of each brewery. That lasted about six tastes before we figured out that we were sure to get sick from either stale beer or tons of diacetyl. So we held off for stuff that just looked good, waaay better strategy and much happier with the result. Friday spent away from Denver touring New Belgium and beers at Odell's, Oskar Blues, and Avery. Loved the Lychee Tart at NB, the 90 Shilling at Odell's, and Moloch at Avery (blend of their Samael and Old Jubilation). Saturday afternoon was spent cleaning up at all the places we didn't get to on Thursday. Interestingly, the crowd seemed a bit thinner which was nice. Maybe everyone standing around at the far end of the venue for the award announcements had something to do with it? Anyway, lot's of Californian strong n' hoppy beer went down, thank you very much. Kinda funny though, for all the plans we made for extra-beericular activities, we pretty much festivaled, napped, ate, and slept. Didn't really make it out to anything else, which was fine with us. Relaxing weekend catting around drinking beer? Count us in anytime.
I am an Artist; a Poet, a Musician, a Cook, and a Brewer. This last year and a half, I haven't been paying close enough attention to some of the things that are most important to me. Living less than paycheck to paycheck is a shitty excuse for not pursuing my Art, so fuck it. Time to get back to rattlin' the kettles, playing with fire, and searching for those peak experiences.
Got 10 gals. of Dunkle-Weisse and 5 gals. of Kitchen Sink bubbling away after brewing yesterday. The Dunkle wort smelled and tasted great; 7# each dark malted wheat, dark munich, and german pils. Had to settle for the pils malt because Vienna malt wasn't available. I brought the color up with 2 ozs. Carafa II that I ground to dust in the spice grinder, more color than simply cracking it. Very nice, deep amber brown. Perking away nicely with the Wyeast 3068. The Kitchen Sink is the goods for a Wit and a Dark Strong that's been siting around, hopped with all the odds and ends that I needed to get rid of, and steeped with a pound of wet Cascades. OG 1074 and the dankest batch of beer I've ever gotten close to. Pitched the 1056 and there's still 2 ozs. of '07 Amarillo to go into the keg for dryhopping. Intensely hoppy wort; kinda moderate bitterness but huge hop resin and flavor. Really won't get a true sense of this one until the yeast flocs. It'll be interesting in any case.
3/21: Hard Liver Barley Wine Festival at Brouwer's Cafe. Got to sit at the Best of Show table this year. Great time! Finally got to sit at the table with the adults; a couple of high profile beer writers, the owner of a well known Philadelphia Belgian-style cafe, a couple of the organizer's cronies, a BJCP Master Judge, and me. A couple of photos here, scroll down a bit for the group shot. I'm in the upper left looking red faced and sassy under the flat cap. Interesting process; the wood aged beers were dismissed out of hand, the good hop forward beer didn't seem to get much respect, and I wasn't finding much depth of complexity in many of the beers where some other judges were. Did the usual "Brouwer's Cafe/Hard Liver Find a Place to Sit Boogaloo" afterwards. My sweetie showed up and I pulled some strings to get her in ahead of a bunch of people who had been waiting in line awhile. Very Rock Star, ha, HA! We went through a good 18 or so. Overall quality this year was really good (even the Redhook BW was impressive). Standouts were the '07 Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws and the '06/'08 Lagunitas Gnarleywine. Doggie Claws; real firm sweetroll malt flavors with moderate bitterness and big resinous hop flavors (still!). Really good stuff. 'Claws always makes me think of shopping for Christmas trees with it's piney/minty resin-like qualities. Gnarleywines were both big and alcoholic; all the best qualities of Barley Wine right up front. The '06 seemed just a bit more refined. These things age really well. Comparing the beers on the Best of Show panel against what we were having at table was a bit of a head scratcher. I liked some of the beers we had better than what we had to judge. Even on strict style considerations. Oh well.
Spent the afternoon with some of my favorite people, putting down some good beer and snacking a bit. The Citra Pale being part of it, ended up very nice. Something to consider is that the 5 OUNCES of steam hop extract in 5 GALLONS of beer really doesn't show very strongly. Altogether the beer is really good; firm malt with strong bitterness and lots of herbal/fruit character over a really firm bitterness. Going forward I think that using the steam extract method for adding some edge to the overall hop profile will require ALOT more hops. Oh well...
Racked the McChief down to one carboy. Gravity is a firm 10P. The beer is strongly sweet with nice banana/plum esters and a ton of sweet alcohol. According to my measurements the alcohol content is around 11% which at this point is a nice counter point to the sweetness. The beer isn't worty sweet but more like eating a caramel hard candy when you start getting it to melt across the palate. Actually pretty nice. I'll see if I can get another percent or so alcohol out of it before I call terminal. I have half a mind to simply bottle it as is without primings just to see what happens. So far it's fuller bodied and sweeter than McChouffe but not quite as intense as Scotch Silly. Shaping up to be a really nice beer. Definitely one to put down.
That 1.200 OG starting gravity wasn't that hard to pull off. Got me thinking about planning a whole 1200 series. October Ale, Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, a more straight forward Belgian-style Quad, Dopplebock, hmm, what else...
Just finished kegging the Citra Pale. Was a bit concerned with the gravity sample right off the bat; picked up a bit of papery tang. Thought it might be a bit of spoilage, the initial primary ferment climbed up and out the airlock and maybe we picked something up in my effort to clean up(?). But coming back to it later with the hydrometer a lot of the nasty stuff had volatilized away. What's left is simply some stale hop notes. Not fatal. Other than that the beer is nice; firm bitterness with peppery herbal, light candied orange, and catty flavors over a nice light malt flavor.
I dosed the keg with 5 ozs. of Citra Steam Extract. Which leads to two things: 1) A correction and 2) A statement. The correction; the counter top espresso machine I have is a Braun, not a Krups. The statement; Holy Fuck! Steam extract through pellets appears to be way more intense than the same volume of whole leaf hops. The result is just simply intense. Intensely bitter, intensely aromatic, and intensely flavorful. The Citra extract is orange blossom herbal perfume, lightly sweaty, and leaves a sticky film across the palate. Imagine a dog working peanut butter off the roof of their mouth and you'll have the right idea. Steam extract won't replace dry hopping here in the home brewery but it's definitely part of the playbook. I'm anticipating some over the top hop character out of this beer. Stay tuned.
Somewhere between a Quad and McChouffe is McChief! Marris Otter, a little Aromatic, a little Special B, a pinch of Roast Barley, and 2# Brown Sugar. Goldings just a little short of balance. And a ton of the Chouffe-style yeast. Colin racked 10 gals. Belgian-style Blonde and brought his carboys over. I split my five gallons between the two, each with a substantial yeast cake. Signs of fermentation were nearly immediate. Over pitched for sure, we'll see if by forgoing oxygenating, some kind of yeast character was forced out. If it's too clean or comes up short in some other manner, I'll brew it again and blend it out.
2/8: 5 gals. OG 1060 SNPA-style Pale Ale with Citra hops.
The Citra are an experimental variety that some of the WAHA kids each got 3 ounces of. High alpha Hallertau-type with a real firm grapey citrus Cascade thing happening. We're supposedly brewing our own batches of beer with this hop and planning a tasting to get a feel for it's character. For a 60 minute boil, I added ounces at 60 & 40 and .5 at 20. Beer Tools Pro called out 109 IBU, which I'll take with a grain of salt. I'll pull the last .5 ounce through the Krups and add the resulting hop extract straight to the keg. This method of steam extraction is good for at least 4 fluid ounces of the sickest bitter bong water goodness you could imagine. Way beyond a simple hop tea, you get bitterness along with the flavor and aroma. All part of an effort to get the most out of what few Citra hops I had on hand. I'm shooting for the one beer out of the group that shows what you get when you over bitter. We'll see.
Just started a batch of Mead. Five pounds Clover honey in 4 gals. water. Sulfited. I'll run out for some 1056 tomorrow, dose it with some DAP, and pitch. I've been working on the idea of making mead by starting at a low OG with less expensive honey, maintain a high krausen with careful doses of a nice varietal, pushing the alcohol content up, and finishing with a real firm honey flavor and aroma. Plus it's New Years Day and getting some Mead going seemed like the right thing to do.