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.