Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blog Resurrection Once Again

So it's been a fairly infinitesimal amount of time since I last posted. Without temperature control (and free time!) brewing is pretty difficult in this part of the country during the summer. Since opening our second restaurant, I've been really busy with work and haven't had time to either brew or take care of my aging sours. Today, I finally bottled my Oud Bruin which I brewed back in May of last year. It is an exceptionally old tasting beer with a considerable amount of oxidation coming through (hopefully not detrimental, but will see with carbonation and additional age). My fermentation basement is getting into the lower 70's and hopefully I'll have time to bust open my still unopened sack of Weyermann Pils Malt to get some brews moving.
Failing that, I have ventured a bit more into the molecular gastronomy world. It's been a huge passion of mine (albeit mostly just reading and not so much doing). Chemicals are on the way to experiment at home and I have a group of folks coming for dinner next week anticipating a 4 Star dinner. Hopefully I'll find time to take notes and take some photos of the dishes to share here in the void of beer posts. For those of you who come into the "brewing vacations", I really appreciate it. Here's to hopefully some new brewings, and new experiments!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wedding Belgian Single Test #1

As I talked about in my previous post, I'm working on nailing down a recipe to serve at my wedding next year. I think Belgian style ales are the best for celebrations being they're relatively dry, highly carbonated, and fruity/spicy. Granted not all Belgians fall under that description, but the pale styles generally do. I initially wanted to make something pretty high in abv (a la a tripel), but was convinced to go lower. The other suggestion I had was to use some honey and flowers. I really wanted to use pink peppercorns since I love the flavor and their fruitiness. In addition, I thought lemongrass would be a great complement. However, this morning I tried two grocery stores and found no lemongrass. I did find both hibiscus and chamomille. I thought, why not; and they'll both work well with the peppercorns. (their freshness is a bit suspect though)
The recipe itself is very simple. Pilsner malt, flaked wheat, couple hop additions (just what I had on hand), and 3787, my favorite Belgian yeast from Westmalle. The honey I have decided to add after primary has slowed down to ensure good florals are saved. I'll likely add this at about day 3. I also decided to order some Five Star 5.2 pH Stabilizer. I am hoping it helps my efficiency just a bit and if not, it's just a couple bucks. This should hopefully turn out well, but I'm happy to do another rebrew if necessary; it has to be a perfect beer!
Batch Size: 5.40 gal
Boil Size: 6.34 gal
Estimated OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated Color: 3.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 19.9 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
6.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 66.67 %
2.00 lb Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 22.22 %
1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] (75 min) Hops 15.6 IBU
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [3.50 %] (10 min) Hops 4.7 IBU
1.00 lb Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 11.11 %
1 Pkgs Trappist High Gravity (Wyeast Labs #3787) Yeast-Wheat

Brewed on a sunny, muggy morning. No wind to deal with. At flameout, I added 6gm chamomile, 10gm hibiscus and 12gm pink peppercorns. Excited to see my numbers when I pulled my sample; 76% efficiency! Granted I used to get this consistently a year ago, but it's been a while since I've touched it. The effective number is 1.041 now, but with the addition of 1# of honey in a couple days will push it to 1.047 which I think is perfect. Flavor of wort was very strong on the chamomile, while the rest quite subdued. I'll see how things go fermentation wise, and adjust if necessary. I made a .5L starter this morning with a very happy pack of fresh 3787. Ferment will start at about 66 and will be raised to the 70s in a couple days.
6/5/10: Pulled first sample about ready to keg. All signs of fermentation are definitely over and ambient temp has gotten up to about 73. Gravity reached 1.010, at 78% attenuation and 4.8% abv. Not as dry as I was looking forward to, but that can be tweaked in the next batch. Flavors are really nice and the spicing is subtle and balanced. Can't wait to see how this is once chilled and carbonated.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beer and non Beer news

Just a quick post to talk about some upcoming brews. I'm still really excited to get all the carboys filled! This week I actually have a full vacation; however nothing really going on since my employers basically forced my remaining time from the year. With that said, I scrambled to get together a couple brews while I had plenty of time. I ordered everything I needed for my fruited Berliner a couple weeks ago but lo and behold, I ended up ordering Brett L instead of Lacto! Doh! Now I've started building up the pack and I may still do a Blackberry, all Brett L wheat, but probably another week or so away.
The other big news is I got engaged! I'm super excited about getting married, and we've roughly set the date at June 2011 in Asheville, NC. Both Madeline and I are (vaguely) from NC and Asheville is a city we both love. My good friend and brew buddy in Lawrence, KS, Mikey, had brewed all the beer for his wedding. He spent an insane amount of time getting roughly 50 gal of beer (5 varieties) ready for his reception. I'm no way going to go that far, but I will make a celebratory beer to serve at the reception. I initially thought of doing simply a tripel, but was urged by friends to go a little lower gravity for more consumption. With that said, I decided on a Belgian single lightly spiced with pink peppercorns and lemongrass. I'll be doing a test batch tomorrow and post preliminary the recipe tomorrow (will post recipe then).
Other than that, I have some plans to knock out a Americanized mild this week and a Belgian Barleywine with the cake from the "Saison". Looking forward to taking advantage of all the cooler temps before it gets too hot. I also want to get one of my sours bottled here in a week or so. Either the Table Sour or Oud Bruin, I'll see which seems more ready.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Funky Saison

That time again to get another sour/funky beer in the works. This one ended up being a result of purchasing some Sorachi Ace hops several months back. S. Ace hops can be really divisive; some folks claim it produces a nasty, fake, lemon pine-sol type of flavor/aroma. Other say it gives a nice balanced, bitter citrus note. I was inspired by Brooklyn's Saison which is made exclusively with Sorachi Ace (all throughout from bittering to dry hopping). I had it on tap in town and really enjoyed the balance of Belgianesque phenolics with the light lemon notes. I also wanted to try a couple other techniques; using T-58, a dried yeast from Safale that is supposed to produce light clove and banana flavors, and pitching in some cultured bottle dregs. It started with simply a bottle of Saison de Lente from the Bruery, a fantastic, dry fruity saison finished with Brett. I ended up supplementing with some dregs from the bourbon barrel wee heavy and the Flander's Red. The result was a pretty hoppy, mid gravity saison (if you will) with some funk in the finish. I don't have plans to give it tons of time before kegging, so the funk should be pretty subdued.
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 5.87 gal
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated Color: 5.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.5 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
7.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 66.67 %
3.00 lb Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 28.57 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 4.76 %
0.50 oz Chinook [12.50 %] (75 min) Hops 23.2 IBU
1.00 oz Sorachi Ace [11.10 %] (Dry Hop 14 days) Hops -
1.00 oz Sorachi Ace [11.10 %] (10 min) Hops 14.3 IBU
1.00 oz Sorachi Ace [11.10 %] (0 min) Hops -
1 Pkgs SafBrew Specialty Ale (DCL Yeast #T-58) Yeast-Ale

04/19/10: Brewed this morning. Efficiency didn't seem to take too much of a hit. Mashed at 150 to control yeast and residual sugars for Brett. Beer took off very quickly and temps started out in the mid 60s quickly got around 80. Moved carboy to the basement where it was in the mid to upper 60s to finish out before kegging. Hope to get this guy kegged within a month or so.
05/10/10: Just pulled the first sample and it's remarkably at 1.003. No funk is noticeable but the spice profile is really nice. Certainly not along the lines of a saison but some solid Belgian flavors.
05/24/10: This guy is starting to get a nice fluffy white pellicle, one of this thickest I've had of any sour. Hopefully one of my kegs kicks soon and I can get it tapped.

NHC 2010 Results

So this year, I was a bit bummed not to make it back to Philly to judge again in the NE region of the NHC. However, I did enter three beers. I thought these would be my three best I've made in the passed year. I entered: Christmas Saison, Funky Belgian Stout (tasting to follow in a few days, recipe unfortunately lost), and my Oat Wine.
I thought the saison would do the best, but it only managed a 33 overall. Judges said it was a bit over spiced (entered in 16E, Belgian Specialty) and too alcoholic. I had novice and recognized judges, so nothing too special there. Other notes; there was a 4 point differential between the two, looks like the novice had to come down from a 37 if I can read it correctly. He seemed to really enjoy it despite saying he's partial against spiced beers. He didn't pick up much of the ester profile even though I think it's pretty prominent, just the spices. The other judge hopes things will mellow with age, so if I have anymore, perhaps I'll enter in another contest.
The Oat Wine did the worst, managing a 31.5. I was forced to enter it into OA/Smoked beer category because there's a limit of one entry per category. Both judges said the alcohol was too dominant and the oak wasn't prominent enough. Why I didn't manage full points for appearance is strange (should be a given unless high cloudiness/poor head retention which neither was present). The judges just seemed confused about the beer since there was some "different" things going on with no comparison. I hoped it would do better since both 1st and 2nd in the same category last year (in NE) were sours.
Fortunately, the Funky Belgian Stout did the best. It got a 41, though frustratingly did not move on to the Nationals. The judges seemed to really enjoy the range of funk and acid coming through with a light roasty background. One called it a black gueuze! Said the roast was lacking but the wild yeast was great. The other said "don't change anything!". It went to mini best of show, but didn't make it past. The one problem I remember from NHC first round last year is you only have 1 sample per beer. It get's really difficult to ration all of the samples especially if it goes to BOS. I wish it was a 2 bottle entry, but I understand with upwards of 800 entries per region, that would be a ton of beer (and what to do with entries that don't need the second bottle for judging).
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the results, though I wish I had an entry move on. The feedback was good, and certainly things I agree with the judges on. As other friends have told me, it's really a crapshoot to do well with beers that are so different, and are not traditional styles (however, the opposite could be just as true). I'm hoping to enter a couple into Spirit of Free Beer this year, though I'm not sure which since it requires a 3 bottle limit per entry.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Long Aged Homebrews

As I'm finishing up chilling my cream ale wort, I found my last bottle of amber saison I made about 1.5 years ago. It's actually pretty high in abv (7-8% IIRC), so it's certainly age worthy. I used 3724 (Dupont) for yeast, which is known to be very finicky though I did get very good attenuation (recipe is lost however due to my previous pc crashing). The beer is definitely showing some oxidation, and the rich thick maltiness is coming out. Near sherry like notes dominate while the spicy, earthy saison yeast has subsided. I can't say it's in an improved state, but it's an interesting one to taste; obviously better than how the Pliny clone aged though! Anyone else have good/bad results with an aged beer, hopefully something over a year or so?
(as an aside to photog snobs, I know the white balance is off, but I really like the strong blue tint I got to this shot)

Cream Ale V3.0

I'm really digging getting back into brewing since so long of a break. I had just not made time for myself to enjoy a nice relaxing brew day, and certainly enjoying the results. Now that I'm quickly filling up all my fermenters and draining my kegs, it feels good.
This week I'm brewing my third rendition of a cream ale. The first was basically straight out of Jamil's book, with a slight hop substitution. The second I switched up the yeast, hops and grain base (while still using some corn and sugar). This time, it's not a huge change-up, just a way to utilize some hops I have (one variety I don't believe I've ever used). It should follow the Schwartzbier on tap once it's kicked. Looking forward to this one when the warmer weather hits.
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 6.30 gal
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 3.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
10.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 81.63 %
1.00 lb Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM) Grain 8.16 %
1.00 oz Williamette [4.50 %] (75 min) Hops 14.3 IBU
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (10 min) Hops 4.9 IBU
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (0 min) Hops -
1 Pkgs Ale (DCL Yeast #US05) Yeast-Ale

04/14/2010: Brewed on a gorgeous, warming morning. Mashed at 150-149 for 60min on this one for high fermentability. Meant to add .75# of cane sugar but totally forgot. Gravity at 1.051 is still good, and I'm happy to have my efficiency back up to 70%.
05/10/2010: After really neglecting this beer, I pulled a sample and it's sitting at 1.005. Flavor is extremely mild with really nothing dominating. Basically, what I'm looking for. Hopefully I'll get it kegged up within a week or so.