Monday, February 28, 2011

100% Brett Brux Sour Brown

Last summer I brewed an Oud Bruin that I soured half of pre-boil with a starter made from the microbes living on a handful of pale malt.  Most of the soured wort was boiled and then blended with the clean half that was already fermenting with a neutral ale yeast.  The resulting beer was fine, but not one of my favorite batches (after sitting on tap for a few months I took it off and added some blackberries and black raspberries and blended it with another traditionally souring batch).

Back in July when I was blending the soured and clean portions I ended up with an extra two quarts of the soured wort.  Not wanting to waste the "free" beer I racked it into a growler and pitched some of the White Labs Brett B starter I had on hand.  This wort was already quite sour, and it was unhopped, so I had no idea how it would turn out.  The other 100% Brett beers I've brewed were fermented with B. clausenii and B. anomalus (milder strains), and at most some of them had a hint of tartness from an addition of acid malt. 

After a few months in primary I bottled the Brett B portion, but at that point the flavor wasn't great (a bit too funky with a strong worty flavor).  After a few months in the bottle though and the flavor really turned around, with a solid acidity, lots of cherry funk, and just a bit of that grainy flavor (maybe a longer boil would have helped?).  This combination of souring the wort pre-boil and doing a 100% Brett fermentation seems like a legitimate way to turn out a relatively "authentic" tasting sour beer in less than half the time it takes to do the souring and funking simultaneously.  I'll certainly be giving a full batch done with way a shot sometime soon (once I get a few other experiments out of the way).

Brett Brux Sour Brown

This method may be quick for a sour ale, but still much slower than most other beers.Appearance – Nearly crystal-clear amberish brown body with a moderate white head. The foam retention is alright, but it doesn't leave much lacing.

Smell – Funky tart cherry aroma, with good intensity. It has more grain/toast character than most “standard” sour beers I've brewed, fresher flavor. There is just a hint of vinegar in the aroma as it warms.

Taste – The lactic acidity isn't aggressive but it seems to coat the entire surface of my mouth. There is some sweetness, but nothing like a sweet and sour Flemish Red. The balance most reminds me of Ithaca Brute, although their production method (acid malt for sourness, Brett in the barrel) is much different.

Mouthfeel – Still has a bit of body, but there is a lingering tannic roughness on the tongue. The medium-high carbonation works well with this beer helping to lift the sweetness.

Drinkability & Notes – A pleasant beer that has gone over well with the people who have sampled it. Turned out great for an experiment, worth a repeat with a lower mash temp and a longer boil.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Site Look

When I posted my blog-year-in-review I asked if anyone had suggestions on ways to improve The Mad Fermentationist.  A fellow beer blogger, Joel, contacted me with some ideas on how to improve the visuals of the blog.  He designed a few new banners and gave me a link to some html code that makes a random one appear at the top of each page.  Joel also suggested a wider post area (up to 1000 pixels), and a new dark wood grain background.  After implementing the updates last night I'm really happy with the way it turned out (I've already got a box of homebrewed sour beers headed his way as a thank you).

Hopefully no one was too attached to the old 1970s wallpaper background.  If you have any other suggestions, let me know. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

American Bitter Gravity Cask

Low-carbonated, naturally-conditioned "real" ales served from a cask are now strongly associated with English ales (thanks to CAMRA), but up until the invention of kegs and pressurized CO2 cylinders this is how beer all over the world was served on draft.  As much as I enjoy having a pint of bitter or a mild on cask, I wish more breweries/bars would serve other styles this way.  The soft carbonation and warmer serving temperature really helps to enhance the body and character of most low gravity beers.

Many people associate casks with hand pumps that use air pressure to draw the beer up from the cellar and into the glass.  The simpler way to serve cask beer is with a spigot at the bottom of the cask, allowing gravity to dispense the beer.  I took a keg and shortened the dip tube to serve my American Bitter; it isn't quite as pretty as a pin or firkin, but it  gets the job done.

After the yeast produced enough carbon dioxide to carbonate the beer I added the cask hops and let it sit for a few weeks at wintertime basement temperatures.  A few days before I wanted to start drinking it I moved it upstairs and onto its side to give the yeast time to settle to the bottom (side) of the keg.  If I wanted to ensure a clear beer I would have added a fining such as gelatin or isinglass, but I don't mind a slight haze in a dry hopped ale.

To prevent oxidation I'm still pouring samples without venting the head space, I'll do that for a party where hopefully there are enough thirsty friends to go through the rest of the keg.  At that point I'll also place some ice packs on the keg to drop the temperature a few degrees lower than the ~63 F that I keep my house at.

American Bitter

Cask conditioned American Bitter.Appearance – Slightly hazy gold body with a thick clinging head. The lacing is terrifically coating. One of the prettier beers I've brewed.

Smell – The hops are citrusy (orange, grapefruit), resiny, and floral. Hint of toasty grain, accentuated by the warm/cask serving.

Taste – I get more tropical fruitiness from the hops on the palate than in the nose. Clean firm bitterness on the back end that lingers into the finish. Not much sweetness, but the bitterness isn't unbalanced.

Mouthfeel – Low carbonation with a slightly thin body, but it has a creaminess to it. The carbonation is just about right for a cask.

Drinkability & Notes – Really easy to drink, the carbonation is perfect allowing the hop flavor to linger on the tongue. A light west coast IPA.  I'm really happy with how this turned out, big hop aromatics without unnecessary booze. I'll have to find more excuses to do low gravity cask conditioned beers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tart Heather Gruit Recipe

Gruit on the right, cherry-sour-porter on the left.
I've always had a luke-warm opinion of gruits (in the general sense gruits are beers that are bittered with herbs other than hops).  In particular the bottle of 13th Centurary Grut Bier I tried came off as a muddled mess of spices and herbs.  I did enjoy an aged-out bottle of Two Druids Gruit a couple years after Heavyweight Brewing folded; more recently I've had a couple interesting samples from Thornbridge Brewery (Merrie), and Williams Brothers (Grozet) both on cask, but none of those was something I wanted more than a few ounces of.

While I was up in Boston for Night of the Funk in November I sampled a lot of weird/unique/intereting beers, but there were only a handful that I would call inspiring.  Cambridge Brewing's 2006 Heather Ale was one of those, it had a nice tartness (from time spent in a Chardonnay barrel with Lactobacillus) and a soft honey/hay aroma from the fresh heather tips (as well as lavender and sweet gale).  CBC does a couple of other gruits, but this is the only one I've tried with a sour character.

I have enough long aged sour beers already aging so I wanted to brew something for quicker consumption, to accomplish that I borrowed a few moves from my Berliner Weisse method.  I did a quick mash with Marris Otter and wheat malt, followed by brief a 15 minute boil (just enough to ensure the wort was sanitary).  I didn't add any herbs to the boil because I'm planning to split the batch, half with lavender and heather, and rest with other flowers (hibiscus, jasmine, and chrysanthemum).  I'll make teas with each of the flowers and then dose the beer(s) to taste, allowing me to fine tune the extraction time and flavor contribution for each one (more on that later). 

With the "plain" wort cooled I pitched a cup of yeast slurry harvested from the 90 Shilling Stout I brewed two weeks earlier along with some of the multi-strain Lacto culture I keep going.  A quarter ounce of boiled/drained oak went into the primary to impart a slightly rustic woodsy character.  Hopefully this beer will have lots of subtle complexity, something I can drink an entire bottle of without waiting years for the herbal flavors to mellow.

Experimental Tart Gruit

Recipe Specifics
---------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.75
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.00
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 5.8
Anticipated IBU: 0.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 15 Minutes

Grain
------
75.0% - 6.00 lbs. Maris Otter
25.0% - 2.00 lbs. Wheat Malt

Water Profile
-----------------
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
-------------------
Sacch I 30 min @ 155
Sacch II 10 min @ 162

Extras
-------
0.25 Oz Medium Toast French Oak Cubes

Yeast
-------
East Coast ECY07 Scottish Heavy
White Labs WLP677 Lactobacillus

Notes
-------
Brewed 1/29/11

Collected 5 gallons of wort

Pitched 1.5 cups of surry from Scottish Stout plus a cup of lacto starter. .25 oz of french oak boiled for 3 minutes, then drained and added as well to primary. Primary ~63 Fambient. Good fermentation after 12 hours.

3/5/11 Blended with teas made from flowers. 2.75 gallons bottled with 2.5 cups of strong heather tea (made with ~2 oz of heather flowers steeped for 6 minutes), a 1 tbls of lavender tea (made with 2 tbls of English lavander). 1 5/8 oz of cane sugar added for carbonation.

2 gallons bottled with 1.5 cups of hibiscus tea and 1.5 cups of jasmine tea, both with about 1 oz of flowers.  1 1/8 oz of cane sugar added for carbonation.  FG 1.011

3/30/11 The heather half of the batch turned out well.  Nice balance, good heather flavor, not too sweet.

3/31/11 The jasmine-hibiscus half is really quenching, light, and bright.  The flavors work well together, should be perfect for summertime.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gose Tasting

Gose, almost clear after 5 weeks in the bottle.Audrey and I brewed a Gose when she came down to DC over Columbus Day last fall, and we bottled it when she was here over her Christmas break.  I tend to make a lot of aggressively sour beers, so it was a nice break to brew something with a bit more restraint (and a quicker turn around).  Sadly I violated my own rule and added 10 IBUs of hops; even with a head start the Lactobacillus didn't produce much sourness (too many IBUs and Lacto can't do its job).

The result is actually pretty close to the only German version I've tried, but it isn't as sour as the Summer Gose that caught our attention at Raccoon Lodge while we were out in Portland last summer.


What Gose Round

Appearance – Nearly clear, honeyed-yellow with just a bit of haze. The simple white head initially pours one inch thick, but quickly falls to a ¼ inch.

Smell – Fruity coriander in the nose with some fresh yeasty bread. It doesn't smell sour per se, but it does have that faintly-off Lacto nose (not sure how else to describe it any better).  I think it may just need another month or two to smooth out, the bottles still have tiny oily pellicles.

Taste – Fresh, clean flavor with wheaty malt and some coriander. The spice is at the right level for me, present, but not enough to obscure the other flavors. The sourness isn't as forceful as we wanted, but it has a slight tartness. The finish is ever so slightly briney, pretty close to what I experience from the Bahnhof version (the sourness is comparable as well).

Mouthfeel – Solid medium body with bubbly carbonation. The CO2 is about halfway between a regular American ale and a German wheat beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Turned out well even though it isn't exactly what we were aiming for. I'm still hoping the sourness might increase a bit as it sits warm in the bottle, but after more than four months since brewing it seems unlikely.  This is a sour that would sell very well in the summertime.  If you want to taste the salt I would probably double the addition.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Strong Golden Apple Brandy Solera

Apple brandy barrel filled with our golden sour beer.
Our wine barrel solera is a week short of its first birthday (with a solid sourness and some woody complexities) so it seemed like a good time to start a second solera.  What is a solera? Will Meyers, the brewer at CBC, wrote an excellent article for New Brewer about his multi-barrel solera project that gives the background and history of the technique better than I can. 

Nathan and I had been looking to procure something different than the red wine and bourbon barrels that we already have beers aging in.  Luckily, we were able to pick up a unique American oak barrel while we were in Pennsylvania visiting McKenzie's Brew House.  The barrel had already lived a long/rough life by the time we got it.  It was originally coopered and charred to be a bourbon barrel (I'm not sure which distillery since the name was painted over).  Bourbon is legally required to be aged in first use barrels, so after it was emptied it was sold to Laird and Company to age apple brandy (which they do for a minimum of 7.5 years).  Keystone Homebrew buys barrels in bulk from Laird's, so that is where the brewers at McKenzie's picked it up for ~$125 dollars.

Boiling hops in Nathan's keggle.Spirit barrel impart an intense flavor onto beers compared to wine barrels. I have been disappointed by some apple brandy barrel beers like Captain Lawrence's Golden Delicious, which came across as hot/boozy with too much barrel character for its light frame.  On the other hand, I've tried some spectacular ones like Le Trou Du Diable La Buteuse Brassin Sp├ęcial, which is also based on a tripel (like Golden Delicious), but has a milder barrel character and some glorious funk. We wanted a sturdy base beer, so we opted for two sacks of pilsner, some Munich for bready malt character, and a bit of CaraMunich for aromatics (and some color).  We aimed for a substantial 1.075 original gravity, and a piddly 13 IBUs.  Hopefully the fact that McKenzie's had already aged a brown ale in this barrel will help to soften the booze character.

The cracked stave turned out to be less of a problem than we thought.When we picked up the barrel we couldn't fill it immediately (holidays), I even failed to rinse it out.  When I did get around to cleaning it a few weeks later the gallon of beer left in the bottom smelled intensely vinegary.  Luckily a few rinses with cold water and a few days with 10 gallons of Star-San cleaned up the aroma completely.

Near the end of the brew day I noticed a large crack in one of the staves near the bottom of the barrel.  We didn't think that we had caused it, but we couldn't be sure. Luckily we had 5 empty six-gallon fermenters to hold the first batch while we contemplated our options (finding a new barrel?).  I applied some keg lube to the crack and put a few gallons of water into the barrel, it didn't leak so I added more every day until we trusted that the wood had swelled and could support 400+ lbs of beer.  We emptied the sanitizer and filled it half way with the first weekend's brew.  A few days later it was still holding, so we brewed/racked the second half of the wort in.  I was still a bit nervous, so we placed some wood boards under the barrel to help take some weight off the stave.

Filling the alternative fermenters.
After the second brew the barrel was about 5 gallons short of being filled, so after primary fermentation was completed we topped off with 5 lbs of honey dissolved in water.  We haven't topped off our other barrels as evaporation and samples slowly drain them (and we probably won't here either), but we wanted to start it as full as possible to reduce the oxygen available to any acetic acid producing microbes still in the wood.

Hopefully next winter we'll be able to blend some of the two solera barrels together for a special cuvee. I did some updates on the solera aging spreadsheet I created last year if anyone is thinking of starting a batch of their own.

Honeygold Solera

Recipe Specifics
---------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 53.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 163.00
Anticipated OG: 1.075
Anticipated SRM: 9.8
Anticipated IBU: 12.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
---------------
67.5% - 110.00 lbs. German Pilsener
27.0% - 44.00 lbs. German Munich Malt
3.1% - 5.00 lbs. Honey
2.5% - 4.00 lbs. CaraMunich

Hops
-------
4.00 oz. Willamette (Whole 4.50% AA) @ 60 min.
4.00 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet 4.75% AA) @ 70 min.
2.00 oz. Aged Willamette (Whole 1.00% AA) @ 50 min.

Extras
--------
2.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

Yeast
-------
White Labs WLP566 Belgian Saison II
East Coast Yeast Bugfarm IV

Water Profile
-----------------
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
-------------------
Sacch Rest I 75 min @ 153
Sacch II 5 min @ 157

Notes
-------
Started 2 qrts of bugfarm IV 36 hours in advance.

1/23/11 Brewed with Nathan.  Collected 14 gallons of first runnings @1.095 and 14 gallons of second runnings @ 1.054.

All of the Styrian Goldings added to the first runnings boil.

The 3 year old Willammettes were added to 5 gallons of final runnings and boiled for about an hour.

Discovered a crack in one of the staves of our Laird's Apple Brandy barrel from McKenzie's.

Pitched 2 gallons plus the yeast cake from the beer we brewed with McKenzie's along with the Bugfarm starter. Shook to aerate. Left to ferment at ~60 ambient in 4 carboys and a bucket. Gravity of first portion 1.077. Good fermentation after 18 hours.

10/27/11 Barrel seemed to be holding the 10 gallons of sanitizer, so we racked the first 25 gallons into it. The barrel smelled much fresher/cleaner than it had before.

1/30/11 Brewed the second half

Smooth brew except a boil over with the first runnings, lost ~1/2 gallon of wort. Added whirlfloc (which we hadn't added to the first half.)

Added 4 oz fresh Willamettes to the first runnings for the boil.

1.096 first runnings (~13 gallons), second runnings 1.064 (7.5 gallons), third runnings 1.044 (6.5 gallons). Added directly to the barrel once cooled to ~80 F. Left in basement ~60 F to ferment. 27 gallons of 1.075 wort.

Ended up a couple gallons short of filling the barrel.

video

2/6/11 Added 1 gallon of final runnings from the Rye Saison.


2/11/11 Added 4 lbs of honey along with 4 gallons of water. Nearly at the top, but I'll wait to see how violent fermentation is before adding the last of the water.

12/11/11 Bottled 5 gallons with 5 oz of corn sugar, and 1/3 pack of champagne yeast. 5 gallons on 4 oz of Amarillo pellets. 5 gallons on ~6 lbs of blackberries, and 1 lb of mulberries. 5 gallons on 4 lbs of acorn squash (seeded skinned), and 4 g cinnamon and 2 g freshly grated nutmeg (although we pushed some of that out since it smelled so spicy). Full details on the pull and refill.

1/17/12 Bottled the dry hopped and squash/spiced portions with 5 oz of corn sugar and some rehydrated champagne yeast. Dry hopped smelled great, but I think we still over did the spicing.

4/11/12 Tasting of the dry hopped version, really happy with the combination of pineapple-lemon hops and sourness.

4/25/12 Tasting of the plain version. Every time I try this beer I like it a bit more. Similar balance to a good Flemish red, sharp acid, just a bit of sweetness, great barrel flavor.

10/4/12 Tasting of the spiced version. Pretty good, but it would be nice to get a hint of the squash. Next time age on the squash first, then add spices for the last couple weeks.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bohemian Ale Tasting

Sometimes (despite your best efforts) a batch goes wrong, but being prepared you can still salvage it.  My Bohemian Pilsner failed to start fermenting after two yeast starters failed.  US-05 to the rescue, fermented cool, the result is surprisingly lager-like (it even needed a diacetyl rest).  I'll certainly try this recipe again in a few months with a few minor modification (and some healthier lager yeast).

Bohemian Ale

Beautiful head on my Bohemian Ale.
Appearance – The gold-yellow body is not quite crystal clean, but it is getting pretty damn close. The white head is sticky, tight, and long lasting.  The head is thick enough to stand up above the rim of the glass, perfect.

Smell – The aroma isn't as powerful as I expected, but what is there is right. Bready malt, slight sulfur, and a touch of spicy hops. It smells surprisingly clean and lager-like despite the ale yeast.

Taste – The smooth, rounded bitterness meshes well with the fresh maltiness (not biscuity or intense). Nice balance between bitter and sweetness, more in line with the Czech examples compared to some of the hoppier American craft pilsners. I'd actually take a bit more of the hop volitiles, although the hop character isn't too far off something like Pilsner Urquell.

Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, but not quite as high as the style often has (I've had it off gas for a couple days while another beer is carbing...). The body is almost creamy, a great match for the flavors.

Drinkability & Notes – Despite the problems I had initially with the fermentation this beer turned out really well. Certainly the sort of beer I would have no trouble drinking in quantity, especially if it was a bit warmer out. Next time I would use the floor malted Weyermann BoPils malt, and go with an additional ounce of Saaz at the end of the boil.

Monday, February 7, 2011

90 Shilling Scottish Stout Recipe

Reducing the first runnings from the Scottish Stout on the stove.
There are some style kinks that seem obvious, but are overlooked by craft brewers and homebrewers alike.  One of the "in" wrinkles the last few years has been making dark beers that don't fall in the standard porter/stout sub-categories; new styles (recognized or not) have emerged like Black IPA, and Belgian Stout.  A few months ago I had a bottle of Belhaven Scottish Stout and wondered, "Why didn't I think of that?"  The combination of a rich caramelly Scotch ale with additional roast seems so natural (compared to dark wits anyway), the roasty bitterness helping to counter the sweetness of a modestly hopped wee heavy and adding a smooth roast coffee complexity.

The result of the long boil was a syrup pretty close in appearance to Dark LME.
I've made Scottish ales (at both session and wee heavy strengths) always following the "modern" recipe scheme, getting the caramelized sugar flavor by adding crystal/caramel malts to the mash.  For this batch I wanted to take a more "traditional" route, using only pale malt (Maris Otter) and roasted barley, and relying on boiling down the first runnings to provide the caramel notes and residual sweetness.  My procedure was to take the first gallon of wort I collected and boil it on my stove while I continued to run off the rest of the wort for the main boil.  By the time the 75 minute main boil was completed the first runnings had reduced to three cups of thick sugary syrup (I had read the runnings should be boiled down to one cup, but at three cups the bottom of the pot was starting to char). 

In true Scottish style the small dose of bittering hops will provide some balance, but allow the malt sweetness to take the lead.  I got slightly better efficiency than I anticipated due to the extra gallon of wort I collected to compensate for the two boils, the result was a starting gravity .010 higher than I had planned.  I pitched the Scottish Heavy strain from East Coast Yeast, but I'd suspect the White Labs or Wyeast  Scottish strains would be equally good choices.  The strain I used is supposed to be more attenuative (77-80%) compared to the other two (WLP028: 70-75% and WY1728: 69-73%), so you might want to reduce the mash temp by a few degrees to compensate if you use another yeast.

90 Shilling Stout

With the syrup added back to the rest of the wort I racked to the fermenter.Recipe Specifics
---------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.63
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated SRM: 29.9
Anticipated IBU: 23.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 79 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain
------
94.6% - 11.00 lbs. Maris Otter
5.4% - 0.63 lbs. English Roasted Barley

Hops
------
1.38 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet, 4.75% AA) @ 60 min.

Extras
-------
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

Yeast
------
East Coast Yeast ECY07 Scottish Heavy

Water Profile
--------------
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
----------------
Sacch 60 min @ 155

Notes
-----
Brewed 1/17/11 with Devin

Mash pH 5.5 at room temp without any water adjustments.

Year old hops adjusted down from 5.2% AA.

Caramelized 1 gallon of 1.080 first runnings down to 3 cups or so. Slightly burned onto the bottom of the pot.

Collected 6.75 gallon of 1.043 runnings. A bit more gravity than expected considering that doesn't include the caramelized gallon.

Weak boil since I was low on gas. Added the caramelized runnings right at the end of the boil.  Chilled to 64 F. ~1/2 gallon left over in the bucket that didn't make it to the fermenter. Pitched the yeast straight from the vial, 2 weeks since production, and left at 63 F ambient to get fermenting.

1/28/11 Racked to a keg with 2.5 oz of cane sugar. Gravity down to 1.018, (72% AA) might drop a few more points. There was a bit of thick krausen still hanging around.

4/20/11 Smooth roast, and a complex woody yeast character, happy with how this one turned out.

---------------------
Belhaven Scottish Stout: "The Stout is brewed using crystal malt (1%), chocolate malt (5%), roast barley (4%) and white malt (90%)."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bourbon Wheat Triplebock Tasting

Sometimes a beer falls through the cracks.

My friend Stefin dropped by tonight to sample a few beers and pick up a culture of Brett Brux to brew something along the lines of my Session Brett Pale Ale.  He has a barrel of Lambic in his basement, but he's also a fan of bigger sweeter beers (brews a killer wee heavy), so I cracked open a bottle of the Wheat Triplebock I brewed in November 2008.  This particular bottle was from the gallon that was aged on .5 oz of bourbon soaked oak cubes.  When I looked up the recipe to see the specifics, I realized that I had never written a review of this chunk of the batch (and it's one of my favorite)s.  The oak tannins really help to cut through the big residual sweetness (FG 1.030), without getting in the way of the malt complexity.

Sorry for the delay.

Bourbon Wheat Triplebock

Bourbon Oak Triplebock Tasting - Sorry for the crazy picture, but for some reason I really like the look.Appearance – Dark brown, with burnt orange highlights when held to the light. Tan head holds up for a bit, before falling to a thin wispy covering.  It is probably darker than most doppelbocks, but not too far off.

Smell – Plums, molasses, hints of alcohol, clean, but with a faint pleasant sherry oxidation starting to develop.  The aroma is really potent, with lots of complexity.

Taste – Sweet, without being sticky. Nice roast, slight espresso in the tail. Minimal hop bitterness. The flavor is very different than the aroma with not nearly as much dark fruit.  Expressive bready malt, a showcase for grain.

Mouthfeel – Not much contribution from the wood except some tannic roughness on the tongue. Moderate-low carbonation helps to accentuate the thick/rich body.

Drinkability & Notes – Somewhere between an English barleywine and a doppelbock, lots of complexity but still drinkable. The oak may not be obvious, but it helps to hold the sweetness in check.  Thanks to the Steve Berthel the brewer/owner of The Livery for spilling the recipe details on this one.  I'll have to brew it again soon since I'm down to my last three bottles.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How much of an average batch do you personally consume?

A bunch of people drinking homebrew.100% - 2%
90% - 13%
80% - 18%
70% - 23%
60% - 12%
50% - 12%
40% - 5%
30% - 6%
20% - 3%
10% - 1%
0% - 0% (2 votes)

Looks like most people fall north of 50%, at an average of 61.9% consumed (about where I'd put myself). I'm not surprised to see so few people saying they drink all of the beer they brew, since it seems like most homebrewers are excited to share their result with others (although depending on where you live that might not be such a regular event). I know I always enjoy sharing my beers with another homebrewer, or pretty much anyone who shows the slightest interest in beer/brewing.

Does anyone else tend to drink more of the batches they are less pleased with (sharing the better batches with other people)?  My real issue is that too many of my friends know good beer, and have no problem telling me when I serve them one of my less successful batches.

There are quite a few really popular people down there below 50% (not shocking), but I was surprised to see two people vote 0%.  Were those votes from brewers with celiacs or pro-brewers rounding down?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

State of the Blog 2011

I can't believe another year - my fourth - of blogging is complete.  It seems like a long time ago that I moved down to DC and started this blog as an outlet for my homebrewing. I'd like to thank everyone who commented, emailed, linked, tweeted, facebooked, or just read the blog over the last 12 months.   

Here is a review of 2010 with some interesting trends that Google Analytics lets me tease out of the data. 

Posts: 135 (3rd year: 103, 2nd year: 84, 1st year: 80)
Posts about beer 124 (3rd: 95, 2nd 53, 1st 53)

Total Visits: 170,523 - 467/day (3rd: 80,516 - 224/day, 2nd: 39,861 - 109/day, 1st: 11,712 - 32/day)



Page Views: 374,601 (3rd: 141,229, 2nd: 71,63, 1st: 22,435)
Unique Visitors: 65,443 (3rd: 34,538, 2nd: 21,219, 1st: 6,110)
Average Time on Site: 3:02 (3rd: 2:11, 2nd: 2:10, 1st: 2:19)

So taking the average time on the site multiplied by the number of visits, it turns out that people spent a total of 359 days reading the blog this year (coincidentally nearly a year). That underestimates the true amount though because it doesn't include the last page of each visit (for example if you only visit one page on the blog it counts the visit as 0 min).

Traffic Sources:
Direct Traffic (2:14 average visit time): 39,256 (3rd: 18,233, 2nd: 9,042, 1st: 2,908)

Search Engines (3:18 average visit time): 74,425 (3rd: 38,020, 2nd: 16,030, 1st: 3,373)
12,205 of the searches that ended up at my blog were for "mad fermentationist" or "the mad fermentationist" only two of the 21,943 different search terms used, but they accounted for 16.4% of the traffic.

Interestingly the average number of page views for readers who came via the top three search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing were 2.34, 2.34, 2.35 pages per visit respectively (amazingly consistent).  Google accounted for 94% of all search traffic, I'm not sure if they favor their blogger platform, or if they are just the most efficient at sending users to the highest quality sites...

Referring Sites (3:29 average vist time): 43,328 (3rd: 24,605, 2nd: 14,779, 1st: 5,431)
1st Homebrew Talk (2nd, 4th, 7th)
2nd Beer Advocate (1st, 2nd, 2nd)
3rd Babble Belt (7th, 17th, NA)
With Reddit coming on strong the last 6 months.

Visitors:
From 137 (3rd: 129, 2nd: 109, 1st: 68) countries total.

1st USA (1st, 1st, 1st)
2nd Canada (2nd. 2nd, 2nd)
3rd Australia (4th, 4th, 3rd)
4th UK (3rd, 3rd, 4th)
5th Sweden (5th, 6th, 6th)
6th Italy (9th, 8th, 17th)
7th Norway (7th, 9th, 8th)
8th New Zealand (8th, 7th, 5th)
9th Iceland (21st, 17th, 13th)
10th Denmark (6th, 5th, 7th)

The top 10 countries list has become pretty settled with only Italy and Denmark making moves of more than one spot.  Not sure why Iceland had such a large jump, maybe craft beer or homebrewing is really taking off there?

States:
1st California (1st, 1st, 1st)
2nd Pennsylvania (2nd, 2nd, 3rd)
3rd New York (4th, 3rd, 6th)
4th Washington (6th, 10th, 12th)
5th Illinois (3rd, 4th, 7th)
6th Texas (8th, 6th, 13th)
7th Massachusetts (5th, 7th, 10th)
8th Virginia (7th, 6th, 4th)
9th Oregon (11th, 16th, 10th)
10th Colorado (9th, 11th, 11th)

Some minor shuffling, but most of the states with established craft/homebrewing scenes are well represented.  I'm actually a little surprised that the north-Midwestern states don't have a greater presence in the top 10 with Michigan/Wisconsin/Minnesota all hanging around just off the list.

Despite having some of the fewest readers, Wyoming and New Mexico had the longest averages visit of any states at more than 5 minutes per.

Computer:
In the browser wars Internet Explorer lost more ground down to 21% about half of what it started at my first year (3rd: 28%, 2nd: 36%,1st: 40%).  The bigger surprise was the tumble Firefox took, dropping to 43% after a couple years right around 50%, on Chrome's vault from 4.7% to 14.8%.

Operating System:
69% Windows (3rd: 72%, 2nd: 76%, 1st: 79%)
24% Mac (3rd 23%, 2nd: 19%, 1st: 17%)
3% Linux (3rd: 4%, 2nd: 4%, 1st: 5%)
2% iPhone (3rd, .2%, 2nd: .5%, 1st: .05%)
.8% Android (3rd: .11%)
.6% iPad (NA)

How are you mobile readers enjoying the new "upgraded" look of the site?

Besides the homepage, the most viewed pages/posts were my beer recipes indexsour beer guide, and Big IPA recipe.

Feed:
The number of subscribers to the feed has more than doubled over the past year, growing from 1,600 to over 3,300. The total number of feed views was 246,524 this year, compared to 148,508 last year.

I guess I should also mention that in the last year I joined Twitter and setup a Facebook page (that now has more friends than I do); just two more ways to send me questions, or hear updates on my fermentations. 

Things in the pipeline for year five of the Mad Fermentationist Blog:
More visits to interesting craft breweries (Cambridge Brewing? Jester King?)
Second solera barrel
Vinegar (wine, cider, sake)
My first batch of wine
A spontaneously fermented beer
More writing (BYO articles, maybe even a book)

Also please post a comment if you have any suggestions for something you'd like to see me ferment, or changes to the blog that would would make it better.

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