Sunday, November 21, 2010

15 Points of Satisfaction

Sitting down with a pint of the Robopo after spending most of the day out shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner. We're hosting, so that means collecting lots of turkeys and mass fixin's. Got the scoresheets back from Novembeerfest last week. I entered McChief (first place, Belgian-style Specialty), Fled (3rd place, Belgian-style Sour), the Bride's Ale (meh, too clovey), the Witch (meh, too anise-y), and the Robust Porter which scored (on average) 15 points. That made me laugh out loud! Now I'm not proud and I think that at the very least it's a 28 point beer (ha, ha, ha), but these "judges" blew it. Harumph! I'll take it to the next North Seattle Homebrew Drinker's meet and see what Russell and the Joy's think of it. Anyway, I'm enjoying it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Schönweisse and Bonus Kettles

10/10 - Brewed a 5gal batch of my German-style Wheat Beer, Schönweisse. Got a pitch of the Wyeast Weihenstephan yeast from my Doctor and I want a Weizenbock for Christmas this year, so I figured a batch of my weissbier was necessary. I really like this style of beer; really, really like it. I'm partial to Fransiskaner but I like the Schneider biers best. Schneider Original has a great balance of yeast character; nice spicy phenols just edged by banana esters & great balance of grain character; the texture of malted wheat combined with a rich malt flavor for an excellent toasted bread-like quality. I've brewed my Weiss over the years with varying amounts of malted wheat trying to find the sweet spot; always figuring more was better anywhere from 50% to 100% of the grain bill. Pretty decent results, but as I got closer to the high end of malted wheat I liked the beers less and less because of a heavy milkshake-like texture. The current version is 30%-35% wheat with the balance made up of equal parts Vienna and Dark Munich malt; great for nice deep toasted bread flavors and just a bit more color than most commercial versions. I schedule for 18 or so IBU and ferment at standard ale temps for a relatively mild yeast character. My preference is for a more refined flavored Weissbier, yeast flavor should be just moderate for a well balanced flavor profile and drinkability. I had just finished Stan Hieronymous' new "Brewing with Wheat" book; I mashed in at 90F to hydrate and the first rest was at 113F for a ferulic acid rest in order to promote clove phenol production during fermentation & I split the 5 gal brew length into two 5 gallon carboys thinking that a shallower fermentation would promote ester production. The gravity sample wort was very tasty but I haven't been into the beer since. I had planned on brewing the Weizenbock this weekend but couldn't get it together, oh well, another week in the tank isn't fatal. The Weizenbock is just a bit short of being a Double Schönweiss; same base grain bill but with the addition of Cara-Munich, Chocolate malt, and Special-B. The Wyeast 3068 yeast flavors compliment the rich dried plum & chocolate malt flavors of those specialty grains very nicely. Alcohol just a bit on the high side for style and a robust terminal gravity will make for a very festive bier indeed.

So, I couldn't get a brew in this weekend but there was an interesting development in the home brewery. An old North Seattle Homebrew Club-mate posted to the list that he was selling his setup. Boom! I'm all over that and now I'm the proud owner of 2 converted keg brewing vessels (work done by Bob at Bob's Homebrew Supply; killer, high quality work), the goods for HERMS-style brewing (March pump, copper manifold, copper coil, hoses, etc.), a high efficiency copper counter-flow chiller (with the convoluted interior for acres of surface area), another 20# CO2 tank, another burner, and another 6.5 gal carboy. Yay! This will all come in handy for plans I've been mulling over to get equipped for two 10gal batches at a time. We'll see, if I'm feeling frisky next weekend I'll roll two batches at the same time. Really need to get on the ball with the rest of the Christmas beers.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fives A Crowd

9/22 - Marathon kegging session. Put away the Czech Plz, Bride's Ale, and Robopo from the latest brewings & the McChief and Fled from the cellar. The Czech Plz went into the tank with an ounce of Saaz dryhops, the Bride's ale blended the Wyeast Wit & Trappist High Gravity splits, and the Robopo was showing way too much sulfur. McChief is a Belgian-style Strong Scotch from earlier (dig the archive) and I think the Flanders-style Red predates this blog.

McChief is a piece of work, TG at 1.044 but just boozy and flavorful enough to balance. I really like the Scotch Silly, lots of sweet malt, tropical fruit ester, and rummy booze. My little friend the 'Chief is close enough to that to satisfy. And how. Now Fled on the other hand is simply beautiful; deep malty red, still just a tad sweet, with a wonderfully well balanced sourness. A touch of vinegar, broad lactic sweetness, and a soft pineapple-like Brett note through the finish.

Czech Plz is showing moderate bitterness, a moderately strong earthy-herbal hop flavor (which keeps coming on stronger), and a bit of estery sweetness that I'm not sure about. I pitched just a bit warm because the ground water temp was still high and the finished Czech is just a bit fruity. Not fatal but just short of "crisp & clean". I'll still pitch it forward into a "proper" Czech Pils and then a Pale Bock. The Bride's Ale is super nice; lots of spice, just a bit of bitterness from the citrus peel and a firm milkshakey body from the raw grains. A good start on a beer I'll brew again for the wedding party later. The Robopo at packaging was showing a LOT of sulfur, I was sure that getting some CO2 in there would push that out. And yes! We have a palatable Robust Porter! That touch of sweetness and sulfur (*touch*, not "Ew, who farted!?") that I was looking for from previous experience along with a nice coffee with cream & sugar and minty herbal hop flavor. Thank you very much!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Robopo Three

Just got 5gal of my Robust Porter put to bed. A recipe that I'm well pleased with that I wanted to go back to. My version is inspired in part by Anchor Porter; terminal gravity a bit on the high side, firm chocolatey malt flavors, moderate bitterness, and moderately strong hop aroma & flavor. I think the commercial version uses the same yeast that they use for the Liberty Ale; top fermenting, clean tasting, and to my palate very lightly mineraly. I go in a different direction, I like to use the Wyeast California Lager strain; yes, the supposed Anchor Steam yeast. With a not quite 1.080 OG terminal gravity should finish off in the low 20's, leaving a fair amount of sweetness that compliments distinctive and complex chocolatey malt flavors. As I'm thinking of it, maybe Nutella would be a good comparison. Another aspect of the Cali Lager yeast that I enjoy, is that bit of sulfur that this yeast strain produces. Adds a pleasantly appetizing touch in the finished beer. Bittered with Columbus & Magnum, finished with Amarillo & Cascade for firm bitterness and a lightly citrus-like hop character. Nice balance of flavors along with the chocolatey malt. Hmm, Robopo!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


are gone! Just finished a long day in the home brewery. Spent an hour and a half cleaning, organizing, and battling cobwebs before I cracked the kettles. Two of my favorite people in the world are getting married next year and Homebrew Club has decided to hijack the beverage concession for all the festivities. I'm going to contribute a batch of Bride's Ale (among other things) and wanted to get a test batch going to tweak a previously brewed recipe. The first Bride's Ale was a pretty straightforward Belgian-style Wit flavored with coriander in the mash & kettle, dried lemon & orange peel, and chamomile. This batch starts with that recipe, adds just a bit more grain, some honey in the kettle, and a more ambitious approach to spicing with coriander in the mash & kettle, fresh lemon & grapefruit rind, sliced fresh ginger, cloves and twice the chamomile as last time. In tasting the gravity sample, everything is way overdone. Not fatal, but just too much. Mostly what I expected though, this batch will give me an excellent starting point for the next one. The first batch was fermented with the Wyeast Wit strain. For this batch I got curious about mixing two strains, the Wyeast Wit strain and the Wyeast Trappist High Gravity (Westmalle) strain. I'd initially thought that I would mix them both into one fermenter and roll with that. But in a slight "Aha!" moment I decided to split the wort, pitch for primary seperately (both splits will get mixed together later), and then keep each type of yeast on hand for repitching later.

Second batch that got put up was 5gal of roughly Czech-style wort that'll ferment with the Wyeast Czech Pils strain for repitching into a few more carefully considered batches of Czech-style beer. Bohemian Pils, nice soft Dunkle, and some pale Bock for Christmas time.

Oh and just a bit of that Czech-style wort was kept aside for a starter of the Wyeast California Lager strain. That will go into a batch of my Robust Porter and repitch from there into some Baltic Porter. Yum. Mee.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Darrel the Feral Barrel

Say hello to my little friend! Meet Darrel, as soon as I get him in shape he's going to get filled up with delicious sour red wort. I'll introduce him to Roeselare Blend and they'll get nice and friendly too.

A bunch of the lads scored a half dozen spirit barrels from Lost Abbey. This one is a former Heaven Hill bourbon barrel that the Abbey used for spicing up some Angels Share. We got these in pretty rough shape, bone dry with the stave bands falling off. I got Darrel home, jammed the hoops further up the barrel a bit to secure them, and popped the bung out. Took a whiff, nothing. I expected something from it's previous life, a bit of whiskey or rich strong ale aroma. No dice. Oh well, not too disappointed really, I want the real estate for sour beer not necessarily for ze bourbon.

First step: Rehydration! Standing on end and hosing down, water just leaked through between the barrel head and the stave ends. Bummer. Nice sieve though. Layed him down and did the best I could to fill him up. Which was the routine for the next week, each day gaining a little ground on tightening up. The picture here is Darrel at the end of the first week after holding water down to about 4" from the bung. Good enough to get on him on end to get the heads soaking from the inside. Maybe a couple days on each end and then I can get him cleaned and sulfured in preparation for a marathon brewing session.

Interestingly though, when I siphoned the water out so I could tip him up, I found the bourbon. Smells like a tanker of whiskey crashed in my backyard. May end up with a bourbon barrel red after all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Honorary Irishman '10

This year's batch of the annual Honorary Irishman Irish-style Dry Stout went into a keg over the weekend and into my belly last night. I really enjoy cooking up a big dinner for St. Patrick's Day and this year was no exception. Cured my own corned beef, house smoked trout, pan roasted cabbage, boiled potatoes & carrots, and home made soda bread. All washed down with lashings of me home brewed stout. This years version came a little closer American Stout than a strictly considered Irish Stout, I'm no Style Queen, so it's fine with me. 7 1/2 #'s Gambrinus ESB, 1 # flaked barley, and 1 # Black Barley; single infusion for just a bit under 5 gallons of 13.5P wort. In pounds; 7:1:1 of pale, flaked barley, and roasted barley is the standard grist bill. My preference is for Marris Otter & a British Roasted Barley, this year I used Gambrinus ESB and the Briess Black Barley, both for the first time. The Gambrinus is OK, I guess, maybe not the same fine, juicy quality of flavor that I like in the the MO. I'm feeling stronger about the Briess Black Malt though; "No thank you!" Likely a matter of perception, but I think the British roasted malts are of a better quality and quite a bit smoother. Very slightly higher gravity this year with the addition of 3/4# brown sugar in the kettle, just thought "Why not" & 15 more BU's, bittered with Cluster and Domestic Goldings. My first use of Cluster in any beer, I like it, with a pleasant evergreen-like resin with citrus character. Reminds me a bit of Northern Brewer. Increased hop flavor, the 60 BU & a firm 5.5% abv are where I get the American Stout aspect. I rushed this batch to service just a bit, but it drinks very nicely; smoothish, very dark chocolate roast malt flavor, firm lingering bitterness, warming a bit after the finish. I get an interesting very light tang through the finish too, like the acidity in coffee, perhaps a bit of a cidery character from the brown sugar contributes also. I "powderized" the black malt in this years batch, maybe it's a flavor effect of that. I imagine that right as the flavor profile comes together, it'll run out.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mic Check

QC'd the Milds the middle of last week. The beer is drawing a bit clearer. Volume of CO2 is juuust a bit too high, made a correction for that & we're real close to a nice creamy pint already so it didn't take much. I think there's just a bit too much Sulfate showing too, low gravity beers finishing relatively dry leaves a bit of space in the flavor profile so water quality stands out. We'll see how they hold up to "judging".

One thing I'd failed to post earlier is getting 10 gals. of cider from Fox Island Farms last October. So, got the goods at the end of last October, pitched some Safbrew s-33 (looks like this is turning into the house dried yeast), and just let it go. The 10 gals. went into two 5 gal. carboys with one getting a fair amount of apple gunk. Thiefed a bit of each to taste and I'm well pleased with the result. One carboy was showing a bit more sulfur than the other, not sure if it's the apple gunk or not, but in any case the sulfur will clear during conditioning. Really nice, dry and tart cider. I had thought to bottle condition and try for a very tight effervescence but I believe I'll keg it, maybe push the CO2 to the high side, and just serve it on draft. It really needs to get to drinking.

Thiefed a bit of the McChief too. Oh man! This is sooo good! Malty sweet, big dark dried fruit flavors and sweet warming alcohol. This one will need to go under corks and cages, I'm thinking I'll prime with some fresh yeast only and let it go. I'd rather have this without enough gas than with too much gas. I'm looking forward to deep goblets of this one.

Update: So I put this post up and then spent the rest of my evening having a few of the Milds. There's been some nice changes going on in the last week or so since the initial sampling. The all-malt Mild still seems to show too much Sulfate, but both adjunct versions are tasting better balanced. The AK in particular is very nice; toasted malt flavors, very fine fruity esters, and finishes with a lingering nuttiness that ends crisply. A very nicely drinking beer. The Dark Mild seems a bit rough still, maybe a bit more time will help the flavors round out better; lots of bitter cold coffee and dark chocolate, nice but a little at odds with the water quality. The Ruby is quite a bit brighter than the other two and is tasting cleaner for it; very light "juicy" malt flavors, moderately strong dark dried fruit flavors compliments a subtle fruity yeast character. That pound of Crystal 120 really stands out. The finish is just a bit tooth coating and slightly over bitter, which I'd attribute the calcium sulfate levels that I've been complaining about. Still pretty nice but not quite that amazing soft pint either.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Born To Be Mild

Brewed three 5 gal. batches of Mild last Sunday and just got done puttin' them to bed in some kegs. Impaling Alers are hosting the AHA Club Only Competition for February, "The Session Challenge" featuring English Brown Ale which includes Northern & Southern English Brown Ale and Mild. I had planned on brewing a Ruby and a Dark mild. I broke out my copy of "Brew Your Own British Real Ale", a good reference featuring recipes based on commercial beers. I surveyed the Dark Mild lists and came up with a recipe based on the average amounts of grains used, which I tweaked a bit with an addition of brown malt. Love the brown malt. Then onto Brewing Classic Styles "Mild" for something ruby-ish. Decided on the AK, more a light tawny brown in color than ruby which was fine. The Dark and the AK use a fair amount of adjunct, both with brown sugar in the kettle and the AK with a bit of flaked maize in the mash. Mark made a comment calling the quality of adjunct Milds into question, saying that a low-gravity style like this will thin out too much. Perfectly reasonable observation. So what the hey, I'll brew an all-malt version too, and we'll see what's what. So the Ruby Mild is all-malt; 5 1/2 pounds Marris Otter and 1 pound Crystal 120 in five gallons for 8.5P. Ruby, Tawny, and Dark. Boom, boom, and boom.

So after racking into kegs; the Ruby terminal gravity is just a bit higher than the beers with adjunct as expected, and shows that nice juicy Marris Otter malt character very nicely. The AK and the Dark are nice but definitely drier, interesting combination of higher kilned/roasted malt flavors and low terminal gravity. All three are still a bit dusty, I'll have a better idea of the final result after we drop bright and condition.

The AK
5 gallons 8.5P wort

5 pounds Marris Otter
1 1/4 ounces Chocolate Malt (Powderized )
1/2 pound flaked maize
1/2 brown sugar (at end of boil)

The Dark
5 gallons 9P wort

5 pounds Marris Otter
6 oz Crystal 120
4 oz Brown Malt
3 oz Chocolate Malt
1 oz Black Patent Malt
8 oz brown sugar (at end of boil)

All three were bittered with East Kent Goldings for 22-24 IBU's and pitched with the Safbrew S-33 (Edme-style) dried yeast.