Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poll Results and Barrel Bottling

Well I just got over a severly hectic week at work and haven't had time to either brew or update the blog. I also have discovered my desktop has crashed (HP with common error Err2Err3 if anyone has any advice), so I'm on my little netbook. Hopefully I'll be able to get my files back, especially my lengthy beer sheet on excel that I didn't backup (like everything else on the computer). Anyway, back to the beer.
My chilling process poll turned out much like I imagined. The bulk of you use immersion chillers (58%) while the rest either use a ice bath or counterflow (4% each). Surprisingly, there was someone else out there who no-chills like myself! Each method certainly has its merits and problems, but I've been happy with the no-chill so far. I just kegged the Westmalle Extra clone today; it had the most beautiful clarity and color. It certainly needs a couple more weeks to condition and carbonate but I think it will turn out really well. Aside from that in the brewery, not much is going on. The Cuvee has started to slow down and I exchanged the blow-off for an airlock, but I'm going to give it a few more weeks before racking to both get the bugs going and let my oak soak a bit longer in rum. I just placed a massive hop order to do a scaled down Pliny clone, or more just an over hopped regular IPA to replace the American bitter on tap. From there, I have plans to do a Sour Cherry Baltic Porter, my first lager of the season. I'll be using the Bavarian lager strain and the barrel dregs for souring. Speaking of which, I'm sure everyone reading this blog reads Mike's as well. He just posted about our barrel bottling, so check there for more specifics. I haven't opened any of my bottles, but a few in the group have, and some have had it force carbonated already. Everyone is just gushing over how well it turned out, but I'll give my feeble patience another week before I crack a bottle. From here I'm just going to post some pictures from the day, enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cuvee de Dan

Time for another semi-clone. It's culminated in the collection of both Wyeast 3787 and the Drie Fonteinen cakes, and what to do with them. Cuvee de Tomme, brewed by The Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur, is a strong, Belgian funky ale with sour cherries added and aged on bourbon barrels. I've had the fortune of trying it twice; once at Mike's place and the second this passed weekend on tap. It produces a flurry of oaky, sour, funky, fruity flavors with plenty of alcohol heft. A real delicious, complex beer. Since I've done a few beers that are really clones of the original, and since this one is a Cuvee of the brewer, I figured I had to do a twist all my own. Again, digging through The Flavor Bible and catalogs of fruit purees, I devised the combination of figs and rum. I've had some really tasty, oaky rums that I'm hoping to pick up to soak oak cubes (1.5oz French) and 1-2K of fig puree for this brew. The recipe is a mixture of Jeff Sparrow's Donkere Geneeskunde and Mike's Cherry Bourbon Quad. My recipe is pretty much in the middle of the two with less sugar overall and a lower OG.











Boil Volume

7.5 gallons

Batch Size

5.5 gallons


88% AA

Wyeast 3787

Drie Fonteinen


% Weight

Weight (lbs)


Gravity Points


56.3 %


Briess Two-row Pale



16.9 %


American Munich (Light)



11.3 %


American Soft White Wheat



4.2 %


Belgian CaraMunich



2.8 %


Belgian Aromatic



1.4 %


Belgian Special B



1.4 %


American Chocolate



5.6 %


Cane sugar






% Wt

Weight (oz)





Boil Time



100.0 %











10/20/09: Brewed on a lazy morning. Had tons of problems with my Barley Crusher and its continued slipping roller. Ended up hitting my gravity really well at 1.079 and volume, so no problems with efficiency. Mashed at 154 for 60min and a 75min boil. No chill and pitched some leftover slurry from the Belgian single and Drie Fonteinen beer.
11/04/09: Primary looks nearly done. Beer is down to 1.011, a bit higher than I was hoping. No pellicle, no real funk to the flavor. I'm a bit worried I'm not going to get any acid out of this thing, but I'm hoping adding the fig puree will kick it in. In addition, I'll likely add some dregs from the Flanders' barrel when I rack. Right now, it basically tastes like a weak dubbel with a touch of barnyard funk in the nose.
11/12/09: Racked to secondary on top of 1.5oz French Med Toast oak cubes that soaked in a cup of Meyer's Rum for 3 weeks. The whole thing went in, rum and all. I'm also pitching some slurry from the barrel as well to get the bugs going.
4/14/10: Added nearly 1K of Boiron Fig puree. Had to slap on a blow off tube since the carboy is now nearly full. Will give this one several more months before bottling.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Night of The Funk

When I first heard about this fest, a prelude to the Belgian Beer Fest sponsored by Beer Advocate (among others), I was giddy as hell. These are the types of beers that get me the most excited. To see a collection of wild/spontaneous/whatchamacallit beers from the US and around the world was something I couldn't miss. I bought two tickets months ago in hopes that my girlfriend would join me, but it looked like she couldn't as she was too busy with work (the catering business is a bitch). Fortunately, I found a good buddy who was willing to buy my ticket and help get a hotel room to share in Boston. Off we went to what looked like an amazing list of American sours. This was my first time really going to any beer fest outside of SAVOR in DC. The Bros. as Beer Advocate were responsible for it (with what looked like a hefty sponsorship of Duvel/Moortgat).
As you can hopefully see from the list, it looked like some really exciting, experimental brews from some really small craft brewers who weren't previously known for producing wild ales. What we tasted, for the most part, was quite the opposite. I don't want to be a complete Debby downer, but, we both poured out almost as much as we drank. So many of the up and coming brewers brought sours that were just above drinkable if not well below. The worst of the bunch was Ithaca's Le Bleu, an absolute abysmal conglomeration of beer, blueberries and what seemed like an overt pedioccoccus infection. It was buttery in the aroma followed by a sickly, oozy thick mouthfeel and a forgetable flavor. Aside from that, there were some other failures. Up and coming White Birch Brewery founded by a really nice guy whom I was able to converse with (and have to opportunity to try his pre-brewery beers) produced an overly phenolic, band-aid filled Belgian pale that was well above my threshold of tolerance. Even Sam Adams brought some really exciting beers like a 6 year old lambic and a Flander's style red. Both were pretty good with balanced acid, but with a strange dominating apple flavor, which I'm not sure is attributed to the use of a Calvados/apple-jack barrel, or faults in the brewing.
However, amongst the faults of the fest, both The Lost Abbey and Allagash brought their A-game. The former, the formidable Yellow Bus which is an American sour made with peaches (incredible rich, sour aroma filled with the stone fruit, sulfur, and orchard like flavors), and the latter, Vagabond, a bourbon barrel aged sour with (I believe) cherries added which was really boozy, slightly sour and fruity all at once. These were certianly the exceptions to an otherwise mediocre presence by some other big name microbreweries. The Bruery brought a couple solid brews (White Zin and a Sour Rye) along with some interesting Cisco brews (The Stoned Sour especially). But overall, it was a two sided fest with Lost Abbey and Allagash to pull the fest goers attention.
I'm trying to figure out the reason for this. Is it that many of these brewers are so new to the sour beer world that they don't know what they're doing, or unfortunately, they know their beers aren't that great by they can't afford to dump them. I'd love to see the trend of wild and sour brews expand into the micro brew scene of America, but I'd also like to see the brewers know what they're doing before they sell them. To use the common analogy of Top Chef (one of my favorite shows): if you can't stand behind your dish (beer) 100%, it's not worth serving (pouring).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beer Tasting Nights

Since moving here to DC I've made many new friends who are either avid beer geeks and/or very talented homebrewers. We all get together pretty frequently to share some amazing commercial beer and home brew. A few of us are (rabid) beer traders and travel a bit to pick up some rare and special beer. It's always great to share it amongst a crowd who is equally appreciative and critical of these beers. We also try to rotate who hosts and what we eat with all the beer. Sometimes there are themes, other times we just have a small handful of really special brews that we're excited to try. Last night, Nathan was nice enough to have our small group over and, since the cooler season is upon us, we decided to focus on only high alcohol brews. I had the Bruery Papier to contribute along with my Oat Wine. Besides those, we had: Old Viscosity, Older Viscosity, East End Toaster, Bourbon County Stout, Salvation and Berkshire Bourbon Scotch Ale among many, many others. And, because we were all together at Nathan's, that means it's barrel sampling time! The Flanders will be bottled in a couple weeks, but the Scotch ale in the Bourbon barrel is still evolving ever so deliciously. I decided to take many pictures at the tasting, so enjoy. And, I hope you all get a chance to get together to sample some beers (or any other beverage), talk about them and have a great time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tasting: American Bitter

Well, I'd been aiming for a really quaffable, low alcohol, hoppy brew, and I think I nailed it. Despite some early anxiety on how this beer was going to turn out, I'm quite happy with how it is. Having not brewed too many traditional British style beers, I think this one, despite its American hops, is well within the guidelines. Here's the first tasting, just over 2 weeks after kegging.
Aroma: Grapefruit, grass, caramel, grapy fruitiness, slight mineral notes. Overall, it's a very balanced malt:hop driven aroma with plenty of bready, caramel notes mixing with the citrusy hops.
Appearance: Deep copper, caramel color with excellent clarity. Well supported, just off white head forms with beautiful tracing.
Flavor: On the palate, this beer really is a delicate balance of lightly toasted white bread, sweet caramel, and orange like bitter hops. The yeast character gives it a biting mineral note that accentuates the hops. The finish is quite dry and nearly chalky.
Mouthfeel: I've dialed this one in to be pretty middle of the road for carbonation, about 2-2.25 vols. It has a pretty medium low body making it quite drinkable. The bitterness really gets the palate working, and it's low alcohol has little to no warming.
Overall: After the first week of having this beer on tap, it's really come into its own. The keg hops have mellowed considerably, and the deep maltiness has become better integrated. If I had to do anything differently, I'd increase the amount of aroma hop additions, and use fresher hops. The concept was to be an APA with a British yeast and malt bill, and I think I succeeded in that part. I'm happy to finish off this keg and look forward to brewing another uber hopped beer to replace it.
Recipe and notes