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Labor Day Weekend lived up to its name

Brewing-wise, I had a very busy Labor Day weekend.

Maureen came by on Sunday, and we brewed a batch of Mocktoberfest.  I call it so because we use ale yeast as opposed to lager yeast.  I don’t have lagering capabilities, so we use a clean ale yeast in hopes of making it as lager-like as we can.  Unfortunately I’m worried it may be a bit estery.  In the last few days the weather had cooled down, to the point that I was comfortable not putting the fermenter in the swamp cooler.  After brewing the ‘fest on Sunday, I woke up to a nicely bubbling airlock.  For the most part it was relatively cool in the room, and I was pleased.  We went to the in-laws for dinner, and like clockwork the temps rose outside.  When we got home the room was pretty warm.Who knows what the heck this brew is going to taste like now.  I HATE SUMMER! 

While the ‘fest was fermenting nicely yesterday morning, I brewed a second beer, this one for Erin’s birthday.  We’re going upstate with some friends, and I was commissioned to brew some beer.  We’re going to have two batches.  One is an IPA that I’m basing off the wheat IPA that I brewed over the summer.  This time I’m going nil on the crystal malts.  One pound of Munich, then the rest two-row.  The hops are going to be very similar to what the wheat version had.

The second beer (which is the one I brewed yesterday), was a special request from Erin.  She recently tried Ommegang’s BPA, and fell in love with it.  Of course she wants me to brew something along similar lines.  So I took a pale ale recipe that we both like, toned down the bittering hops just slightly to bring it within the guidelines of a Belgian pale ale, and fermenting it with Saison yeast.  I also plan to dry-hop it with some cascades.  It looked and smelled nice going into the fermenter. We’ll see what happens with it….

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Homebrewing

 

Vacation Brews Results

Vacation is finally here!  Erin and I came up with our two batches of experimental brew, and we’re loving it.  A few friends came up, and gave me good constructive criticism. Here’s the final evals on them:

Honey Wheat IPA – This is a hop bomb.  The hop flavor is good, but the malt backbone doesn’t compliment it well.  The wheat lends a creaminess that goes well in the old Honey Wheat, but doesn’t go well in a beer this hoppy.  It’s OK, but not something I’d keep as is.  I’ll re-use the hop schedule, because I think it can work in the right beer, but it will be a traditional barley brew next time.  I’m still going to drink this one, though.  🙂

Red Rye – Make no bones about it, I love this beer!  I received lots of compliments for this one.  It’s medium-bodied, and the spiciness of the rye and Mt. Hood hops come through.  There’s also a plum note that’s quite enjoyable, which I’m sure came from the Special B malt.  The only adjustment I’d make is to reduce the roasted barley to lighten the color.  It’s slightly darker in color than I wanted.  Other than that, this beer is a keeper!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Vacation Brews Update

I kegged the two batches of beer that I brewed for vacation next week.  Both are new recipes.  One is a Honey Wheat IPA that I based off of our Honey Wheat brew.  The other is a Red Rye that is based off of our Red/Amber.

First let’s get to the IPA.  I removed the bung to the bright tank, and the aroma that came wafting out was absolutely spectacular.  I think I need to profess my new-found love for Citra hops.  The beer is honey-colored (appropriate for a honey wheat beer), and tasted really nice.  Although the honey and wheat weren’t very evident.  The hops really took over this one, which is fine with me.  We’ll see what happens when it’s cold and carbonated, but so far the beer tastes awesome. I might try this one in the future as an all-barley beer, just to see what difference it makes.  But I’m keeping that hop schedule because it rocks.

The second brew was the Red Rye.  Our normal red is an extract beer, using 50/50 Amber/Light extract and some steeping grains.  First thing I had to do was convert the recipe to a mash.  Converting amber extract is difficult to do because you don’t know what percentages of each grain the manufacturer uses. Instead of trying to figure out what percentage of Munich, Pale and Crystal they used, I simply added two pounds of Vienna malt. In extract recipes, amber extract is often used to simulate the flavor profile of Munich or Vienna malt, so that’s the approach I went with. I then subbed two pounds of two-row with rye malt, and used the same specialty grains as the extract version.  I also subbed the Cascade and Centennial hops for Chinook and Mt. Hood hops to accentuate the spiciness of the rye.  The sample I took while kegging looked beautiful!  A deep reddish-amber color.  It’s going to be impressive-looking carbed up in a pint glass!  The flavor was great as well!  It was malty, and the spicy rye flavor was definitely evident.  I’m thrilled about this beer!

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Homebrewing

 

New Brew: Pub Ale

Yesterday I brewed something new.  I’m not really sure what I’d classify it as because it doesn’t neatly fit into a BJCP category.  For now I’m just calling it a pub ale.  Here’s the specs for it:

CTB Pub Ale
OG: 1.048
Color: 8.5 SRM
IBU: 29

As you can see it’s a low to moderately hopped golden amber session beer.  I based it on Ken Lenard’s Memory Lapse Pale Ale (he admits it doesn’t fit the pale ale category perfectly.)  This isn’t my first time playing around with one of Ken’s recipes.  I unsuccessfully brewed a version of his Home Run Red a while back, but I deviated so much from his recipe that mine surely tasted nothing like his does.  I did make changes this time, but it’s much closer to the original.  I subbed the two-row he uses for pilsner malt.  I had a lot of pilsner malt on hand, so I used it.  I’ve used a pilsner malt base for a lot of beers.  In my opinion it lends a crispness that I think goes well in my more sessionable recipes.  Ken’s version also uses a little bit of wheat malt for body and head retention.  I used flaked barley instead.  Where we deviate the most (although not by much) is in the hopping schedule.  His uses a lone 60 minute addition of Mt Hood hops to get his beer to 25 IBUs.  I used a 60, 15, and 5 minute schedule to get it to 29 IBUs.  I’m also going to dry hop this with half an ounce of Mt Hoods, something he doesn’t do.  I love Mt Hood hops, and want a little more hop flavor in there.  Plus Mt. Hood hops are pretty mild, so my changes shouldn’t be overwhelming.

The brew session went pretty smoothly and the beer already had a nice clarity as I transferred it from the brewpot to the fermenter.

Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have something nice on tap!

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Homebrewing

 

Summer Schedule

For many homebrewers, the summer is often a time when they take a break from the hobby.  If you don’t have a means to keep the temperatures down for fermentation, your beer can end up being an estery mess (unless you’re brewing a Belgian beer, in which case an estery mess is wanted 😉 )  I’m usually not one of those homebrewers.  I don’t have a fridge for precise temp control.  Instead I go the swamp cooler route, which is a crude method, but hey it works.  The other key is to use cleaner yeast strains to minimize the esters.  For the most part it has worked well for me.

Last summer was an insane time.  The hobby practically turned into a job.  I was asked to brew beer for several events.  A few parties, BBQ’s, and most importantly, a friend’s wedding.  It was pretty crazy.  I had to keep a very tight schedule; brew a hefeweizen this day, move a batch of mocktoberfest to a bright tank that day, keg another beer the next day, etc, etc, etc.  By the time October came along, I was relieved to be done!

This summer is way more relaxing.  No obligations.  That said I have several brews planned for the next couple of weeks.  In early August, Erin and I are taking our annual week-plus long trip to the mountains.  Some friends (including Mosie) are meeting us there for a few days.  This year I want to have some homebrew up there.

The problem has been finding time to brew.  Every weekend has been jam-packed with things to do.  We honestly haven’t had a free minute.  Finally it got to the point where if we didn’t brew something, we weren’t going to have homebrew for Andes.  I wasn’t going to allow that, so I MADE time.

The problem was at that point the ingredients for the two beers I originally wanted to brew hadn’t come in.  I was planning to brew Handsome Pale Ale, and an experimental Red Rye ale (More on this later).  What I did have was some Wheat liquid malt extract that I was originally going to use to brew my honey wheat beer.  The problem is I’ve become a major hop-head lately, and the honey wheat seemed a little tame for my hop-craving tastebuds.

I decided that I want an IPA.  So in the end I took the honey wheat recipe and turned it into one.  A honey wheat IPA!

I steeped some honey malt, as I do in the regular honey wheat.  I then added the 6lbs of wheat LME, 1lb of extra light DME, 1.5lbs of honey, and hopped it with Columbus, Citra, and Centennial hops.  I plan on dry-hopping it with a Citra/Centennial combination.

The boil smelled awesome.  Considering how quickly it was thrown together, I’ll be real proud if this one works out.  And if it does I’ll probably keep it as a regular in rotation.  Keep your fingers crossed.

The day after brewing it, the other ingredients came in.  I’ll hold off on Handsome Pale Ale for now.  An IPA and a pale ale may be a bit much to some (not all though).  So for now we’ll go with the Red Rye.  Now this is a risk because along with the Honey Wheat IPA, this is an experiment.  That said it had more planning behind it, and I am dying to see how this turns out.  I recently stopped over by Blue Point Brewing’s tasting room and had their Rastfa-Rye, and loved it.  Since then I’ve been wanting to brew a beer along similar lines.  I decided to base it off of my red ale recipe.  Using a base of Two-Row, Rye, and Vienna malts, I paired it with the same specialty malts as in the red.  The hops are totally different from what I typically use in the red ale.  For this rye version I went with Chinook and Mt Hood hops.  Both should compliment the spiciness of the rye.  I brewed this beer two days after I brewed the honey wheat IPA.  It went pretty smoothly.

And that’s that.  I took two of my standard recipes and tried to turn them into something a little more extraordinary.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Homebrewing

 

Brown update

Tasted the carbonated brown this weekend.  After such promising tastings from my hydrometer samples, I have to say I’m a little disappointed.  There is an ester flavor that I’m not crazy about.  I used Wyeast 1099 on this, and it added the same flavor that S-04 gives (S-04 is the dry version of 1099, which is England’s famous Whitbread strain).  It ruined a stout that I brewed last December, and I am afraid it may have ruined this brown.

I think it’s safe to say that I just don’t like this yeast, and won’t be using it again.  I’m going to let the beer age a little longer.  Maybe it will improve.  But as of now I’m not happy with this beer.

Oh well.  Can’t win ’em all…….

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Homebrewing

 

Brown Ale

One of my favorite styles of beer are brown ales.  There’s something about that malty/nutty/bitter chocolate flavor that I just love. They’re flavorful, sessionable, and satisfying….everything that’s great about beer.

And yet I’ve only brewed one once in my time as a brewer! How could a style so beloved to me be so neglected?

Because I am always trying to appease the palates of others. This person likes weizens, that person likes hoppy beer, and this other person loves spiced beers.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of those beers as well. But now it’s time to brew something for ME.

If no one else likes it, even better. 5 whole gallons of brown for me.  😛

So I went about coming up with a recipe.  I decided not to go with a recipe kit, or a recipe from HomeBrewTalk. A style this dear to my heart has to be 100% mine. But I still needed a starting point. Something to aspire to be as good as, or (hopefully) better than.

Do I go with an English version? Maybe. The two English browns that I’ve had and enjoyed are Newcastle and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown. Some people turn up their nose to Newcastle.  Supposedly it’s a shadow of its former self. A victim of the macro-brewers’ desire to cut costs by using cheaper ingredients as it mass-produces a popular beer. Personally I still think Newcastle is a solid everyday beer. It’s not the best brown ale, but still an enjoyable one.  Samuel Smith’s on the other hand, is right up there with the best of them. It’s possibly the Gold Standard for the Northern English style brown ale.

And then there’s the brown ales from this side of the pond. While there are quite a few out there, the two that immediately come to my mind are Sierra Nevada Tumbler, and Brooklyn Brewery Brown. I love the Tumbler. Great malty flavor, with a very solid American hop presence. I’ve even learned that Sierra Nevada uses a bit of smoked malt in it, which is surprising to me because I typically don’t care for beers with smoked malt in them. Brooklyn Brown is one of my favorite beers ever. It’s one of the beers that got me into craft beer to begin with, so it has a special place in my heart. It also tastes fantastic. I’ve always respected Brooklyn Brewery’s beers. Garret Oliver (Brooklyn’s Brewmaster) is one of the best in the business.

So anyway I decided to stay away from the Tumbler. While this would be a great brew to aim for, it’s “too American” for what I am trying to create. I want more of a English/American hybrid. I read up on the brown ale style in Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers, and put together my recipe. It fits the BJCP guidelines for an American Brown, with a gravity of 1.053 and bittered at 33 IBUs. But it definitely has a strong English slant to it. I used Victory, Munich (I used a little Munich/Vienna in everything these days), Chocolate, and Crystal 80L malts.  I bittered with Northern Brewer hops (a common hop for American versions, including Brooklyn’s), and used Fuggles for flavor and aroma (as Samuel Smith’s version has). At flameout I added some cascade hops (again Brooklyn uses them late). Finally I fermented with the Wyeast 1098 Whitbread strain, which accentuates the malt flavors and produces slight esters.

I brewed this nearly 3 weeks ago.

A few days ago I racked it to the bright tank and took a sample to taste. Very nice!  Even flat and warm this beer tasted great. The cascades weren’t noticeable, but the fuggles certainly were.  The malt flavor was excellent.  I’d definitely say this tasted more English than American, which is fine with me. I can’t really say what I’d change until I try this chilled and carbonated, but I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy this beer.

I’ll post an update in a few days when she’s on tap.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Beer Profiles