Friday, December 21, 2007

Home Grown Pale Ale - Recipe and First Tasting

In September I used the Cascades that I grew at my parents' house and then dried in the microwave in a simple American pale ale. I used Simcoe to bitter since I didn't have enough of my home grown Cascades to make that much beer, and I don't know what their alpha acid % is so it would be impossible to figure out how much I would need to use as the bittering addition.

I used Golden Promise from Scotland as the basemalt, I think it adds some mildly toasty notes without being as biscuity as some other British pale malts. CaraHell and CaraVienna are both pale crystal/cara malts which add some sweetness, body, and a mild caramel flavor. Victory contributes toastiness as well reinforcing the flavor from the Golden Promise. Melanoidin (similar to Aromatic Malt) is like a really dark Munich malt which adds a powerful "malt" flavor, melanoidins are byproducts of the Maillard reactions which add depth of flavor (they are also created in a decoction mash).


1st tasting: Homegrown Hop APA 12/18/07

Aroma – Slight caramel, with some clean citrus hops. The hops have faded pretty quickly, but are still rather nice. There is a floral complexity that I can't figure out, either hops or mild yeast esters.


Appearance – Light honey-amber, with just a bit of hoppy haze. The white head last the entire time leaving patchy lacing on the sides of the glass.


Taste – Nice and toasty, with a clean hop bitterness. The beer is nice a dry, with just enough hoppiness to give it some bite. The bitterness is not as aggressive as even a Sierra Nevada, the balance is closer to an English Pale Ale. Certainly not really complex, and there are no discernible off flavors.


Mouthfeel – Medium body with firm carbonation. This is exactly what a easy drinking pale ale should feel like.


Drinkability/Notes – A solid APA, that is a bit lacking in the hop aroma. At the least this proves that microwave drying hops is a reasonable idea. It is hard to tell if the lower than expected hop aroma can be traced to my drying method, or simply the growing conditions of my second year cascade plant.


Home Grown Pale Ale Recipe


Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 2.75
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.38
Anticipated OG: 1.053
Anticipated SRM: 8.3
Anticipated IBU: 35.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 95 Minutes

Grain
------
5.50 lbs. Golden Promise
0.25 lbs. Carahell Malt
0.25 lbs. CaraVienne Malt
0.25 lbs. Victory Malt
0.13 lbs. Melanoidin Malt

Hops
-----
0.38 oz. Whole Simcoe @ 90 min.
0.50 oz. Whole Cascade @ 9 min.
0.75 oz. Whole Cascade @ Flame Out

Extras
------
.50 Unit Whirlfloc 15 Min.(boil)
.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient 15 Min.(boil)

Yeast
-----
WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
-------------
Profile: Washington DC
Profile known for: Where I live

Calcium(Ca): 45.2 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 8.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 13.8 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 49.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 28.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 86.3 ppm

Mash Schedule
-------------
50 min @ 153

Notes
-----
Brewed 9/16/07 by myself

Added 1 gram of gypsum to the mash. 1 tsp phosphoric acid to the sparge. 1 gram gypsum to the boil. Cascades were home grown and dried in the microwave. Simcoe were about a year old, AA% adjusted down from 13%.

4.5 gallons @ 1.038 collected.

Good strong boil, added flame out hops after 1 minute of cooling. Got the beer down to around 80 before straining and putting into the temp controlled freezer.

Yeast pitched straight from the pack after the beer cooled overnight.

Fermentation chugging along nicely by 18 hours at an ambient temperature of 60 degrees.

After 48 hours fermentation seemed to be slowing so I boosted the temp to 65, that got fermentation going so strong within 24 hours that I decided to drop back to 60, after another 24 hours fermentation seemed to be about done so I raised the temp back to 65 to make sure it ferments out. Not optimal, but it should be fine.

9/23/07 Transferred to secondary, pretty good flavor, yeasty and a bit weak on the hops.

10/02/07 Bottled the 2.5 gallons with 2 1/8 oz of corn sugar, aiming for 2.5 volumes. FG = 1.010. Tastes almost tropical with a solid toasty malt backbone. I'm surprised how well attenuated it is.

10/16/07 Good carbonation, nice hop character.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

11 Differnet Sugars, 1 Great Tasting

Last weekend I got a bunch of my friends together to do a big tasting of my sugar experiments. The 1st experiment was brewed in the summer of 2006, so some of the bottles were starting to show some oxidation, but the amount of oxidation ranged significantly. I am not sure if this variation can be traced to the sugar, or if it was a result of bottle to bottle variation. The 2nd experiment was more than a year younger, certainly closer to its prime, but probably still a bit young.

We tasted the beers blind and in a random order that wasn't revealed until we finished the last beer. I asked every participant to write down three words or short phrases that they thought captured each of the beers. Here is a list of the general sentiments on each batch.

1. Homemade Candi Syrup (White Sugar held at 285 for 3 hours) (New)
-Drinkable, fruity, well balanced

2. Muscovado (Old)
-Mild Oxidation, tropical, mead-like

3. Lyle's Golden Syrup (New)
- Smoky, long finish, amber, syrupy, alcohol

4. Dark Candi Syrup (Old)
- Strong oxidation, pineapple, faint cherry

5. Homemade Caramel (Corn Syrup and DAP) (Old)
- Tart, caramel, thin, apple cider vinegar

6. Agave (New)
- Spicy, fusel, more bitterness, like Delirium, grapefruit in nose

7. Dark Soft Candi Sugar (Old)
- Cider, aromatic, strong, orange in the nose, smooth

8. White Sugar (Fermented hotter than the rest) (Old)
- Apple, flat, watery

9. Date Sugar (New)
-Very dry, bubblegum, very Belgian

10. Gur (New)
- Alcohol, fruity, smooth, a bit thick, light bubblegum

11. Amber Rock Candi (Old)
- Grape/wine , Farmhouse, dry

BBB Brett Swap Article

A very nice article by Steve Gale about a 100% Brett beer swap I participated in. It was great to have so many homebrewers experienced with Brettanomyces in addition to Tomme Arthur (Pizza Port/Lost Abbey) taste one of my beers. The range of Brett beers was really phenomenal, in fact the swap included twice as many all Brett beers as there have ever been brewed commercially. I can't describe how much my eyes were opened to the flavors that Brett can produce.

Here is the section on the beer I contributed my:

Brewer: Michael Tonsmeire, Washington D.C.
Beer: Cherry Bretta
Strain: Claussenii
Starting Gravity: 1.060
Finishing Gravity: 1.010

Mike is fairly new to brewing, having started 2.5 years ago after taking a Beer Brewing and
Appreciation class during college. Despite this, in the last year he has produced 8 batches with
brett. This one had an interesting twist, beginning life as a Mo' Betta Bretta clone. But Mike added1 lb or dried cherries that had been rehydrated in Pinot Noir to the secondary. We tasted this brew having been in the bottle only 3 months – quite an infant for a brett beer!

SteveG: Cool aroma - autumn spices. Smells like potpourri.
Mike T: It is a Mo Betta Brett clone (Brett C) with dried sour cherries and pinot noir wine.
Cisco: Big cinnamon, with cherries in the background.
Mike T: I gave this one 60 seconds of O2 and servomyces.
Sean Paxton: Very nice, cinnamon, cherry, hint of oak.
AlB: The pinot was w/ the cherries yes, no oak right?
Mike T: The cherries were rehydrated at 160 in pinot noir, drained and then pureed with about a cup of "fresh" pinot.
Cisco: How was the cinnamon added?
Mike T: No cinnamon, just the yeast I guess.
SteveG: Mike - how much of this autumn potpourri thing do you attribute to the cherries?
Mike T: Not much of it, although this was my first time using dried cherries. I think it is an interaction of the cherries and the yeast, I think the fruit/wine is covering up some of the yeast flavors making what remains taste spicy.
Sean Paxton: Almost a clove/allspice finish.
SteveG: Sean, this is like a glass of apple pie!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Have you brewed a beer with wild yeast or bacteria?

Not, bad about 50/50.

Yes 36 (47%)
- Glad to hear a good chunk of people who are already brewing sour beers are visiting the blog. Hopefully my blog was able to answer a question or inspire you to start another batch of funky beer.

No 40 (52%)
- I should have put another option for people who haven't brewed any beer. Regardless on how you stumbled upon the blog hopefully you are considering adding some funk to your beer (or your bread, vegetables etc...).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Russian River's Bugs and Critters

At this year's National Homebrew Conference Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River gave a speech about brewing sour beers at home. Sadly, I didn't attend but between Basic Brewing Radio, The Brewing Network, and the BBB I got to listen to the speech, an interview with him, and read his slides. I won't go into the details except to say that Vinnie is a generous man who is essentially willing to give away almost all his secrets for the benefit of homebrewers.

In addition to the knowledge he gave out he also handed out small baggies of oak chips:

"The oak chips were used in Batch 23 Damnation, which was a beer that we made to celebrate the 23rd bottling of Damnation. After the oak chips were removed from the Batch 23 Damnation (no bugs or critters in the beer), I soaked them in four strains of Brett, as well as Lacto & Pedio and our house "wild" culture. They stayed soaking for 3 or 4 weeks before I removed them and dried sun dried them on the roof of our building. From there I bagged them up."
- Vinnie

Needless to say I was very excited when James from Basic Brewing Radio/Video offered to send me a bag of these gems to play with. Since they were already pushing 6 months old I decided I would give them some time to perk up in a starter before adding them to a full batch of already alcoholic beer. I made a starter just like I would have for any other beer (OG of 1.040), except that 25% of the volume came from an already fermented beer that I added at flameout (I wanted a bit of alcohol to help protect against any mold spores that may have landed on the chips as they dried). I also did not aerate as Pediococcus does not do well in the presence of oxygen. After just a few days there was a short burst of strong activity, followed by continued signs of activity (formation of a small pellicle, occasional bubbles in the airlock). I have no idea what grew, but I was assured that something was still alive and ready to start fermenting.

Once the starter had worked for a week I added some medium toast French oak cubes that I had boiled in several changes of water. I plan on drying these out after they have a few weeks to soak in the starter so I can save the bug blend for future beers.

The big advantage of this blend over say just using the dregs from a few bottles of Supplication is that it contains all of the microbes that Russian River uses while a bottle might contain only a small subset. As a funky beer ages it continues to get more alcoholic and the pH continues to drop, this will kill off some of the microbes that are active early in the fermentation. In particular Russian River has a large amount of Kloeckera apiculata in their barrel aged beers. Kloeckera is active early in the fermentation as it can ferment glucose, but not maltose. According to Wild Brews while Kloeckera can produce some interesting esters, they are too volatile to survive into the finished beer. On the other hand, Vinnie claims that “Our spontaneous fermented beers have a strong fruiting, floral, & citrus character, a trait exhibited by Kloeckera apiculata.” I'm not sure which one to believe, but I have never heard any negative aspects of it, so there is really no risk.

Since then I have added some of the starter and oak to a clone of Russian River's Temptation (a Belgian blond aged in chardonnay barrels with Brett), and I am planning on adding the rest to my Cable Car Clone.

It'll be awhile before I really know how well this blend does, but what I have heard from people who pitched the fresh oak into beers 6 months ago, I should expect a rich complex sour/funky beer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cable Car Clone - Brewed

Over the last few weeks I brewed the three "treads" for my Cable Car clone. The Avant Garde clone is finished fermenting, the Saison yeast is taking its time to finish the Red Barn Clone, and the Amigo Lager clone has just started fermenting.

I have to do this a bit faster than I wanted to so all the beers are ready for secondary by the time I leave for the holidays. Ideally I would have time to lager all of the beers for a few weeks after fermentation to clean them up before I add the funky microbes.
 


3 gallons of Red Barn Clone (Brewed 12/02/07)

Pictured to the above
6.5 lbs Golden promise
10 oz Flaked wheat
4 oz Quick oats
5 oz Table sugar
Mashed at 150 for 60 min
OG 1.065 

90 min boil
3/8 oz Target @ 60 min
.5 oz Tettnanger @
27 IBUs 

Spices:
Ground in a coffee grinder and added @ 7 mins
2 g Sweet dried orange peel
1 g Black pepper
.5 g Dried ginger
.5 g Grains of paradise
Fermented around 82 with Wyeast 3724 Saison
------------

2 gallons of Avant Garde Clone (Brewed 11/27/07)
4.5 lbs Golden Promise
6 oz Home toasted malt (Toasted golden promise in a pie plate on my pizza stone @ 400 for 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes, smelled like Butterfingers when it was done)
2 oz of Honey malt
Mashed at 147 for 60 min
OG 1.058

130 minute boil
.25 oz Sterling @ 25 min
.25 oz Styrian Golding @ 25 min
.25 oz Saaz @ 15 min
19 IBUs
Fermented around 60 with Wyeast 2206 Bavarian lager
-------------

1 gallon of Amigo Lager Clone (Brewed 12/09/07)
1.75 lbs German Pils
.75 lbs Golden Promise
Mashed at 148 for 60 min
OG 1.048

75 minute boil
2 g of Magnum @ 60
1/8 oz Saaz @ 15 min
18 IBU
Fermented around 50 with Wyeast 2206 Bavarian lager
---------

After losses to sampling/transfers I hope to have about 5 gallons going into secondary. They will get a bit of time to lager and drop out any yeast/protein, I'll rack again into a 5 gallon better bottle and add a blend of souring/funky microbes. Sadly I don't have the actual microbes that Lost Abbey uses, but I do have a blend that originated at Russian River. After a year with the bugs and .75 oz of Medium toast French oak I plan on bottling.

12/29/07 Left it in MA in an inside closet, left airlock on and beer near top of the carboy.

4/25/08 Airlock filled up with a gross mold. My father cleaned it, but left it dry for a couple days.

7/21/08 Added 1 oz of the Lost Abbey Red Poppy oak cubes because the beer was tasting rather bland (not much sour, not much funk). I may feed it with some DME in a month or so if it still needs help.

8/11/08 Was getting pretty oaky, so I racked it off the oak and added 3/4 cup of light DME boiled in a bit of water.

10/02/08 Update, looks like a decent krausen/pellicle is forming on the surface as a result off the DME.

12/26/08 Bottled with 3/4 cup of table sugar and some 71B-1122 (wine yeast). Tasted pretty good, nice citrus component, but still not as sour as I would have liked.
If you want the details of how I came up with the recipe check out this.

4/15/09 First tasting, doing pretty well.

1/03/10 Second tasting, alongside an actual bottle of Cable Car.  The results were pretty close, but I would add the microbes sooner to boost the acidity and tone down the honey malt and toasted malt in the Avant Garde portion since mine was maltier.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

1st Kosher Dill Pickle Tasting

A tasting of my first attempt at Kosher Dill Pickles.

Appearance - Army green skin with a darker green interior than a commercial pickle. It is amazing how much the appearance changes, getting darker the older they get.

Aroma - A bit of sourness with some dill and garlic. Rather earthy, maybe coming from the pepper.

Taste - Lots of salt with some garlic in the finish. They are lightly tart, but certainly not as sour as many pickles. The sourness is lactic and tangy, not the sharp acetic (vinegar) character that I really dislike. They also have almost no sweetness unlike some commercial pickles.

Mouthfeel - Very crisp, great crunch and snap. I love salt, but here the salt asserts itself a bit too much, making it hard to eat these in quantity without an accompaniment.

Eatability/Notes - Pretty solid first attempt, they are getting saltier the longer they sit in the brine in the fridge. I'll definitely cut down on the salt for my next attempt and maybe even water the brine down further for storage in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Anatomy of a Clone - The Lost Abbey's Cable Car

There is always a lot of talk about cloning (copying) commercial beers in the homebrewing community. Personally I don’t care for cloning commonly available and relatively cheap craft beers (popular targets include Boston Lager, Guinness, Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, etc…). People often just take a recipe from a homebrew magazine, book, website, or homebrew shop and use it verbatim. This is all well and good, but if the beer is rare or obscure you probably won’t find a recipe for it, and even if you do, obscure clone recipes are often badly off the mark.

I enjoy the challenge of researching and designing a recipe almost as much as I enjoy the actual brewing process. I often clone beers that I have not had before, either because they are no longer produced like Courage Russian Imperial Stout, or because of their scarcity like Mo’ Betta Bretta. Trying to copy a beer that you have never had can be very tricky as you have to rely on other people’s accounts of the beer to help you develop the recipe.

So I thought I would post my method for going about researching and writing a clone recipe for a beer that I have never had. For this exercise I chose a beer that couldn’t be more complex or interesting, The Lost Abbey’s beer for the Toranado’s 20th Anniversary celebration: Cable Car. I thought it would highlight the various techniques I use when making a clone, many of which can be applied to any beer that you, the reader, are interested in developing a clone recipe for.

Finding general information on a beer:

A google search is often a good place to start. I found The Lost Abbey blog, which contains this snippet:

“Cable Car was a special blend of three oak barrels which was created for the Dave Keene and the world famous Toronado at 547 Haight Street.”

So we are dealing with 3 separately brewed and aged components which are then blended together.

I posted a question on ratebeer.com to see if anyone knew the three components, luckily someone did:

“Its an american wild ale. 3 part blend of barreled/funked beers. majority was red barn, with avante garde and amigo blended in.”

Luckily I have had Red Barn and Avant Garde, so I have personal experience with two of the three component beers.

Like many great breweries the Lost Abbey/Pizza Port isn’t afraid to publish the ingredients of their beers on their website. This is probably your greatest asset when either trying to clone a beer or just take inspiration from a craft beer recipe.

Here is the ingredient list for each of the three components and a little more info I picked up in other places:

Red Barn (Formerly SPF 45, but the recipe is much less complex):

Malts- Two Row, Flaked Wheat and Flaked Oats
Hops- Phoenix and German Tettnang
Yeast- Belgian Saison Yeast
Adjuncts- Dextrose, Ginger, Orange Peel, Black Pepper and Grains of Paradise

OG - 1.065
TG - 1.012
6.7% ABV (This abv doesn’t match the OG/TG)

Amigo Lager (I have read that Tomme keeps a barrel aged version of this that he refers to as “Mellow Yellow” around for replacing beer that evaporates from the barrels during aging.)

Malts- Pilsner and Two Row
Hops- German Magnum and Czech Saaz
Yeast- White Labs German Lager

OG - 1.048
TG - 1.010
5.0% ABV

Avant Garde (A bit of research turned up a barrel aged version called En Garde that is aged in Meritage wine barrels for 3 months. Not sure if this is what was used or not, but it is certainly a possibility.)

Malts- Two Row, Honey Malt and Port Custom Toast (we make it ourselves in our Pizza Ovens).
Hops- German Brewer’s Gold, Strissespalt Spalt and Czech Saaz.
Yeast- House Lager strain with hybrid fermentation at ale temperature.

OG - 1.060
TG - 1.008
7% ABV (Again, this doesn’t match the calculation based on the OG/TG)

Ratio:
Now that we have a good idea of the component beers we can start looking at blending, let’s get an idea of what the ratio may be.

Again from the LA blog:
“We blended exactly 100 gallons of beer”

From the RateBeer profile (another valuable resource) I see the final beer is 7% ABV, heavily funky beers around that strength tend to finish out around 1.006-1.007 in my experience, if I had a bottle of the beer I could do a hydrometer reading to know for sure. From there I used the ABV calculator in ProMash to determine that I want this beer to start around 1.060-1.061 to hit 7% abv.

Another way we can try to determine the blend would be to look at the color descriptions in reviews of the beers involved. I tend to use reviews from BeerAdvocate because they are generally more in depth and descriptive, but some RateBeer reviews certainly contain good info as well. “Gold” seems to be a frequent word used to describe both Cable Car and Red Barn; Amigo Lager generally sounds a bit lighter than that, and Avant Garde a bit darker. Due to the fact that they all sound so close in color this doesn’t help much, but it confirms that these beers are logical components (we’d be in trouble if one was a stout and the blend was pale yellow).

The blend is a mainly Red Barn, so I would guess that Tomme used an entire aged wine barrel of the Red Barn. This would be around 62 gallons (62% of the 100 gallon batch). So for my 5 gallon batch about 60% (3 gallons) will be the Red Barn clone. To pull the average OG down to 1.060 I needed to figure out how much Amigo Lager clone to add, the rest will be Avant Garde since it has an OG of 1.060 we don’t have to worry about it.

(3 gallons * 65 gravity points + X gallons * 48) / (3 gallons + X gallons) = 60 gravity points

A bit of algebra and you get X = 1.25 (that is to say that you need 1.25 gallons Amigo Lager, to dilute 3 gallons of Red Barn to 1.060)

There are a number of ways that I could approach constructing this recipe. The most accurate would be to age each portion separately then blend to taste, as it sounds like Lost Abbey did. The least accurate would be to create a single amalgamated recipe and then brew/ferment/age it together; this would compromise the optimal temperature and time constraints for each component. I decided to take the middle route, brew/ferment separately and age as one.

Recipe(s):

60% Red Barn Clone
3.5 gallons (assuming I will lose .5 gallons before blending)

A basemalt, in this case 2-row, will generally make up the majority of the malt. The flaked grains need the enzymes from the malt to convert, so they cannot make up a huge proportion of the grist. I am going with more wheat than oats since that is a more common ingredient in Saisons, too much oat and the body would make for a slicker mouthfeel than I remember. I have read that the White Labs Saison yeast can have some attenuation issues, so I assume a little dextrose is added to ensure that the beer finishes dry.

7.5 lbs American Pale malt
.75 lb flaked wheat
.25 lbs flaked oats
6 oz dextrose (corn sugar)
OG 1.065

120 min boil, to get what should be light colored runnings dark enough to match the finished beer.

27 IBU (approximate IBUs for a Saison of this gravity according to the BJCP saison style guidelines and other sources.)
.5 oz Phoenix @ 60 min (enough to hit the IBUs)
.5 oz of Tett @15 min (looking to compliment the spices and yeast, without dominating or getting lost)

Spice blend ground up and added with 7 min left in the boil:
.75 g Ginger
2 g Orange Peel
1 g Black Pepper
.75 g Grains of Paradise

The spice amounts were taken from the spice advice in Farmhouse Ales, a great book about Saisons and Bier de Gardes by Phil Markowski, the brewer at Southampton Publick House. I want a subtle spice presence, which will be blend with the yeast and hop character.

White Labs Saison (I know from previous research that Tomme is a White Labs guy) fermented at elevated temps, optimally into the mid-80s.

25% Amigo Lager Clone
Basically this beer sounds like a standard American Lager that is made without adjuncts (corn/rice). I just split the malts 50/50, this should provide a bit more malt character than just plain pils while still keeping the beer pale. For the hops I went pretty easy, but gave it enough hop flavor to make it “craft beer” worthy.

1.5 gallons (assuming I will lose .25 gallons before blending)
1.5 lbs Pilsener Malt
1.5 lbs American Pale.

15 IBU (a bit higher than a standard American/Mexican lager, but not by much.)
.06 oz Magnum @ 60 min (enough to reach the IBUs I am targeting)
.20 oz Saaz @ 15 min (should provide a subtle spiciness)

75 minute boil, this should be enough time to drive off any DMS without darkening the beer much.

White Labs German Lager fermented at lager temps for 2 weeks followed by a month or so of lagering.

15% Avant Garde
Based on the info about Bier de Gardes in Farmhouse Ales. The basemalt again dominates with some home toasted malt for complexity, and just a touch of honey malt which can easily get overpowering.

1 gallon, (assuming I will lose .25 gallons before blending)
2.25 lbs American Pale
3 oz Toasted Malt (toasted in a pie plate on a pizza stone)
1 oz Honey Malt
OG 1.060

20 IBUs (Since the OG is on the low end of the style I wanted to keep the IBUs low as well, especially because I remember this being a malt focused beer.)
.125 oz German Brewer’s Gold @ 60 min
.05 oz Strissespalt @ 15 min
.05 oz Spalt @ 15 min
.05 oz Czech Saaz @ 15 min
90 minute, “standard” boil.

White Labs German Lager fermented in the low 60s for 2 weeks followed by a month or so of lagering.

Putting it all together:
So after all three beers are done fermenting I will combine them in one 5 gallon carboy. I may also add a splash of red wine to mimic the wine barrel aging that I believe the Avant Garde (En Garde) went through before blending.

Sadly, I don’t have a sample of the microbes used in the original beer, but I do have a starter I made from oak chips that Vinnie from Russian River inoculated with his house culture and passed out at this year’s National Homebrewers Conference. I’ll add a few cups of the funky starter and attach an oak topper on and let it age for a year or so. The wood and oxygen diffusion should help to mimic barrel aging. After the beer has aged adequately I will bottle condition it, aiming for medium-high carbonation (2.8-3.0 volumes) based on reviews on BA/RB.
Hopefully I’ll be able to give the true Cable Car a try at some point to see how close I come.

Post Script:
After writing all of this, I decided to employ one of the best tactics of the clone recipe writer, contacting the brewer. I emailed Tomme to see just how close my estimates were, being the kind man that he is he gave me the blend ratio, 3:2:1. That is to say 50% Red Barn, 33% Avant Garde, and 17% Amigo Lager. Amazingly this works out to an effective OG of 1.0605, literally right where I pegged it! The combined gravity after primary should be around 1.011. Assuming the 7% ABV number is correct, it should land right around 1.006 at bottling time.

The difference between the ratio I came up with and the actual ratio is all due to the bad assumption I made that a whole barrel of Red Barn was used in the blend, apparently they blended from kegs. The lower portion of Red Barn then knocked off my percentage of Amigo Lager, with a lower amount of the relatively high gravity Saison I will not need as much Amigo Lager to lower the overall gravity. All in all though I think I came pretty close, and I believe that brewers are more likely to help you if you show that you have already put some effort into it.

I will post the full details of each of the brews when I get around to making them over the next few weeks. I will rescale the recipes using Promash above to do a 3 gallon batch of Red Barn, 2 gallon batch of Avant Garde, and a 1 gallon batch of Amigo Lager. I am also going to make some substitutions based on what ingredients that I can get locally, such as using Wyeast strains instead of White Lab and changing some of the hops around based on what is available.

Look for the results of this one sometime around the start of 2009.

In early 2010 I got the chance to taste my clone along with an actual bottle of Cable Car (Batch #2). The color was spot on, but mine didn't have quite the sourness of the original. I wish I had added the wild yeast and bacteria along with the primary yeast at the start of fermentation as I do for most of my sour beers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'd like to see more on:

Well results are in, and the joke answer wins! Come on, 90% of what I post is beer related already, what more do you people want?


Kombucha (8%)

-Glad this one did poorly. I had gotten bored of the strong acetic acid component of the flavor, so I had been going too long in-between feeding it. As a result a nice big patch of mold grew on it. I probably could have saved it, but it didn't seem worth the effort.

I had passed some of it off to a friend already, so my culture will live.


Soon I may be replacing this with some Ginger Beer Plant.


Bread/Sourdough (6%)

-I should have an update to post soon about my homemade sourdough starter. Now that it is cold enough to use the oven without making my apartment 110 degrees I'll be baking a bit more often.


Fermented Vegetables (28%)

-Hopefully I'll be producing more variations on pickles and sauerkraut now that the ambient temperature in my apartment is reasonable.


Other Fermented Beverages (22%)

-There will be info on this year's batch of cider coming soon, and possibly a description of my first batch of mead (now 18 months old).


BEEEER!!! (63%)

-It's a given, but there will be plenty more beer info coming soon. A friend and I just brewed a beer inspired by Russian River Temptation, the really great part is that we got to use the house microbes from Russian River, which Vinnie had dried onto wood chips and passed out at last year's NHC. James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio/Video got a bag and sent me some to play with. They will also be added to a beer I am basing on the Cable Car by The Lost Abbey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kosher Dill

After watching a recent episode of Good Eats called Dill-icious which describes how to make kosher dill pickles at home, I decided to try my hand at it.

On 10/26 I took 2.5 lbs of pickling cucumbers and cut off the ends, according to Alton this removes an enzyme which can damage the maturing pickles. In a 1 gallon plastic container I combined a bunch (literal) of dill, 1 tbls of black peppercorns, and 2 whole cloves of garlic (the ingredient that turns regular dill pickles into kosher dills). I then mixed 5.5 oz (by weight) of kosher salt (pickling salt would be easier because it dissolves faster, but I didn't have any) and dissolved it in about 1 gallon of water. I arranged the pickles vertically in the container and poured the brine over them. I took the excess brine and put it into a ziplock bag (so it won't dilute the brine i
f it leaks) which I placed on top of the cucumbers to keep them submerged. I used a rubber band to secure a paper towel over the top of the container just to stop bugs and dust from getting in.


Even though it looks like there are cucumbers/pickles in that ziplock, I assure you that it is an optical illusion (the water filled bag is acting as a lens).

This is a very similar procedure which will cause a very similar fermentation to sauerkraut. The only difference is that you add the salt already dissolved in water instead of counting on it to draw enough water out of the food to form its own brine.

Essentially at this level the salt will inhibit "noxious" microbes, while allowing "tasty" lactic acid bacteria to ferment. Another, simpler way to make pickles is to add acetic acid in the form of vinegar to the brine, and let the pickles soak for a few days. This way can produces good pickles, but they will have a harsher acid character that I do not enjoy as much as fermented pickles. Theoretically you could add food grade lactic acid to the solution as a short cut, but I'll leave that for someone else.

11/03/07 Tasted one of the pickles after about a week, not much sourness and the saltiness is a bit strong and there is still a bit too much "cucumber" flavor.

11/08/07 Moved into fridge a few days after a Pediococcus (?) pellicle formed (last picture). This will shut down fermentation and still let any CO2 out, nobody wants carbonated pickles.

11/12/07 Put the pickles into mason jars and then topped up with the strained pickle juice.

11/16/07 Pickles taste pretty good, and looks just like a commercial pickle. Full tasting soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Courage Russian Imperial Stout

Yet another clone of a beer that I have never had, the iconic Courage Russian Imperial Stout. The original Russian Imperial Stout, and a beer that is supposed to age gracefully for as long as 30 years.

We based the recipe on the one found in Brew Your Own British Real Ale at Home, and a brew log (below) for the Barclay Imperial Brown Stout from 1937, which evolved into Courage RIS, that was emailed to me by Ron Pattinson. I then made some changes based on other research, I used Dark Candi Syrup instead of the caramel that some recipes mention because I know it is a form of caramel and also highly fermentable. I also decided to add Some Brettanomyces and oak, both of which Michael Jackson mentions were found in the original. The Brett will hopefully provide the leather aroma that some people mention in reviews. I used Brettanomyces anomolus which Wyeast lists as originally coming from an English Stout in the 1950's (sadly this strain is now discontinued, but Brett C from white labs would be a good substitute).

This is also an interesting recipe because although it is a stout the only dark grain it has in it is Black Patent, which is generally associated with Robust Porters and a charcoal flavor. I was amazed how smooth both the wort and the uncarbonated beer tasted. I think this is in large part due to the adjustments I made to my water, adding plenty of (bi)carbonate to counteract the acidity of the BP. In fact Courage RIS is not the only stout made without Roasted Barley, both Sierra Nevada Stout and the new Imperial Oat Stout from Southern Tier get all their blackness from Black Patent.

One of the big procedural difference between this beer and my Funky Old Ale is that once it hit 1.020, I attempted to kill the Brett to prevent the wild yeast from making the beer too dry. First I chilled the beer to stop the Brett, then I fined the beer with gelatin and let it sit cool for a few days. Once the gelatin settled I transferred it to tertiary with 3 crushed up Campden Tablets (potassium metabisulfite). K-meta is often used in wine and cider making to kill wild yeast and bacteria before fermentation, but in this case I hope that it was able to kill whatever Brett was left over after the beer was fined. After waiting a few weeks for the SO2 to leave the beer I bottled with priming sugar and some rehydrated US-05 dry yeast. Hopefully the Brett is dead, or I may have some exploding bottles in a few months.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.94
Anticipated OG: 1.101
Anticipated SRM: 55.0
Anticipated IBU: 50.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 95 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
-------------
6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
4.00 lbs. Maris Otter
3.00 lbs. Amber Malt
1.50 lbs. Dark Candi Sugar Syrup
0.94 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.31 lbs. Cane Sugar
0.19 lbs. Brown Malt

Hops
-----
1.39 oz. Target @ 90 min.

Extras
-------
.65 Oz Medium Toast French Oak Beans for 60 Days

Yeast
-----
WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
-------------
Profile: Courage RIS

Calcium(Ca): 58.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 11.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 81.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 62.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 48.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 247.0 ppm

pH: 8.34

Mash Schedule
-------------
Sacc Rest 90 min @ 155
Mash Out 10 min @ 166 (pulled 1 gallon of wort, heated to a boil, then returned to the mash)

Notes
-----
Brewed 7/14/07 with James

Made a 3 pint starter the night before, probably not ideal but I've gotten by with worse, I won't be pitching until the morning after the brewday anyway.

Starting with DC tap water filtered through a Brita, 8 gallons of water with 6g Baking Soda, 1 g Chalk, 1g salt, and 1g Epsom salt.

6 gallons of 1.075 wort collected, including the sugars that were added while the sparge was going. Boiled down to about 3.5 gallons @ 1.115, with the starter and about 1 qrt of boiled and chilled water added the effective OG is 1.101.

The next morning, after a night of cooling in the freezer it was down to 65 degrees, I pitched the now mildly active starter and about a quart of boiled and chilled water.

Solid layer of krausen by 8 hours later, glad I made the starter.

Blow off tube needed by 12 hours, I needed it for about 24 hours.

Fermentation seemed to wrap up after about a week between 63-65 ambient.

Transferred to Secondary after 2 weeks, gravity around 1.030 (70% AA)

8/30/07 Added 5/8 oz of briefly boiled StaVin medium toast French oak cubes and a tablespoon of Brett A slurry (saved from my 2nd Mo' Betta clone). Left in a 5 gallon better bottle with airlock.

9/24/07 Down to about 1.025, mild Brett flavor/aroma

10/13/07 Down to 1.022, Brett seems to be very smooth.

10/28/07 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% ABV) time to kill it.

10/29/07 Dissolved 1 packet of Knox gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water, then mixed in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Added it to the beer and stirred/swirled to distribute, then chilled to 62 in the freezer to encourage precipitation of the yeast (not much did).

10/31/07 Racked to bottling bucket, cleaned/sanitized fermenter, then racked back with 3 crushed campden tablets. About 3 gallons of beer remain. No sign of the gelatin, no idea if I just don't see it or if I screwed up somehow. Slight foamy head, probably just from the campden releasing SO2. Left at room temp.

11/09/07 Bottled, yielded 3.25 gallons. Added 2 grams of US-05 rehydrated in warm water, and 2.5 oz of corn sugar. Aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2. FG still 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% abv), good sign hopefully all of the Brett really is dead.

5/01/08 Still has moderate carbonation, looks like the campden tablets did their job and killed the Brett.

1/29/08 1st Tasting

12/28/08 Christmas 2008 Tasting

1/02/10 Christmas 2009 Tasting

12/23/10 Christmas 2010 Tasting

12/27/11 Christmas 2011 Tasting

12/27/12 Tasting next to bottles of 2011 Courage RIS and 2009 A. Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout. Happy with how ours compared!

4/14/15 Delayed 2014 tasting. Really hitting its stride (caramel and dried fruit coming out), probably time to rebrew soon...

1/4/16 Christmas 2015 Tasting

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Funky Rye Mild - Tasting

The accidentally funky Dark Mild

Aroma
- Cherries in a musty cellar. It is starting to get a bit of that barnyard funk. There is also some toasty malt in the background. An interesting aroma, sort of like a minor league version of my Old Ale.

Appearance - Dark brown with an light-tan head. When held up to the light there are some nice ruby highlights.

Flavor - A smooth coffee flavor predominates, with a bit of funky cherry in the mid-palate. The toastiness from the aroma comes through as well, but it is a bit richer.

Mouthfeel - A bit thin, despite the "infection" there is surprisingly only a mild "cask level" carbonation.

Drinkability/Notes - Much easier drinking than it was in the months directly following when the infection showed up. I am starting to see that Brett goes through a "rough" stage before it smooths out. This style isn't without president, Pizza Port/Lost Abbey uses their mild as the basis for their kriek.


Rye Mild


Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 3.80
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.63
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated SRM: 23.9
Anticipated IBU: 22.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 105 Minutes

Grain
------
6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
0.75 lbs. Rye Malt
0.50 lbs. Crystal 120L
0.19 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt
0.19 lbs. Chocolate Rye Malt

Hops
-----
0.50 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 50 min.
0.25 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 min.

Extras
-------
.50 Unit(s) Whirlfloc @ 15 min
.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min

Yeast
-----
WYeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale

Mash Schedule
-------------
Sacc Rest 60 min @ 154
Mash Out 15 min @ 168

Notes
-----
Brewed 2/10/07 with James

Fox Point spring water used. Yeast pitched from swelled pack (nov 17 date makes me a bit worried).

Solid fermentation within 24 hours, so all seems to be well

2/17/07 Krausen has fallen and fermentations seems to be complete. 1.009, taste is nice and smooth, just a little yeasty. Nice bready character with just a hint of rye spice and hop bitterness.

2/25/07 Bottled 3.5 gallons with 47 g priming sugar. Aiming for low carbonation around 1.75 volumes.

2/28/07 Got impatient and opened a bottle. Already some mild carbonation although not much head. The beer is shaping up well with lots of dark caramel and toasted malt. Very smooth and drinkable.

Around the start of April a mild Brett infection appeared in every bottle I've tried (systemic, probably due to poor cleaning of the primary fermenter after an all Brett C beer), strangely the FG stuck around the same level. Not a bad beer even with the infection, but it certainly didn't end up being the session beer I intended.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Belgian Sugar Experiment: Round 2

Since I did my first split batch sugar experiment last summer I've been wanting to do it again.

I tried to keep the recipe as similar as possible, due to convenience I changed the basemalt to French Pils since I had a sack of it, Wyeast 3787 because my local homebrew shop doesn't carry White Labs (WL530 and WY3787 are both reportedly the Westmalle strain), I also used melanoidin malt instead of aromatic (very similar extra dark Munich type malts from different maltsters).

I also made a change in the procedure, last time after the boil I immediately split the batch and did the primary fermentation in separate jugs. This created a terrible mess, so this time I did the primary in a 6 gallon fermenter and then added the sugars to the individual jugs for secondary fermentation. This may increase the impact of the various sugars because they will not be subjected to the violent primary fermentation.

Sugar Experiment 2 (Dubbel)

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.125
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.84
Approximate OG: 1.063 (Including sugars)
Anticipated SRM: 5.6
Anticipated IBU: 21.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 80 Minutes

Grain/Sugar
-------------
7.00 lbs. French Pils
2.25 lbs. Belgian Pale Malt
0.25 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
0.25 lbs. Vienna Malt

Hops
-----
1.50 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 75 min.
0.50 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.3% AA) @ 12 min.

Extras
-------
.50 Unit Whirlfloc 12 Min.(boil)

Yeast
-----
WYeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Smackpack

Water Profile
-------------
Profile: Washington DC + CaCl in mash

Calcium(Ca): 45.2 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 8.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 13.8 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 49.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 28.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 86.3 ppm

Mash Schedule
-------------
Dough In 15 min @ 135
Sacc Rest 45 min @ 145
Intermediate 15 min @ 163

Notes
-----
Brewed 10/08/07 with James

Added 4 grams CaCl to 4 gallons of mash water to get the calcium up to make sure mash was around the right pH (measured around 5.4 at room temp, 5.1 at mash temp)

Collected 6.25 gallons of 1.045 runnings, 4.25 gallons post boil topped up with a jug of Poland Springs water

Placed the fermenter in 60 degree freezer for 5 hours, topped up to just under 5 gallons with 3 quarts of Poland Springs water. Gave 1 minute pure O2, then pitched a fresh, inflated smack pack of yeast. Fridge adjusted to 64 degrees.

Took about 24 hours to get going, but after that it had a vigorous fermentation.

After 48 hours of active fermentation I bumped the ambient temp up to 70 to prevent the yeast from "crashing" and to encourage the formation of esters.

10/14/07
Took 3.5 oz of each sugar and brought it to a boil with 3.5 oz of water. I then mixed each sugar with a little less than a gallon of beer in a 4 liter jug for secondary fermentation.
1. Agave (Used to make Mezcal/Tequila)
2. Lyle's Golden Syrup (Common in English baking)
3. Granulated Date Sugar (Dehydrated dates, ground up) Rehydrated it got really thick and tasted like pureed dates
4. Homemade Candi Sugar (plain white sugar with regulated temp rise)
5. Gur/Jaggery (An Indian sugar made from either Palm Sugar or Cane Sugar, not sure which mine is, but I think it is palm.)

By the next day it appeared that all of the batches were fermenting again, with the date sugar batch seeming the most active.

Bottled 10/28/07
Aiming for 2.8 volumes of CO2 about 22 grams of corn sugar per batch. Got a six pack and a bomber of most of them.

Final Gravities:
Agave - 1.006
Homemade Candi Syrup - 1.006 (It's fermentable Woohoo!!)
Gur - 1.007
Lyle's - 1.006
Date Sugar - 1.005

Full tasting in late December.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Are you afraid of brettanomyces?

Apparently not most of the people who vote for polls on my blog, the final tally was:

If you answered:

Yes (30 people, 28%)
-Brett is nothing to fear (at least as a home brewer), but you are right to be weary as it can certainly spread from one beer to another if your sanitation and cleaning are lackluster.

No (66 people, 63%)
-Good work on selecting the correct answer! Add 5 points to your score.

What??? (8 people, 7%)
-Have you been paying attention at all! Brettanomyces (Brett, Bret, Bretta) is a wild yeast used in the production of many sour and funky beers. Some people (particularly wineries and most commercial breweries) fear it as the rampant madman of the fermentation world, capable of tainting their precious "pure" strain fermented beverages. While Brett can turn a delicious beer into a thin and funky mess, good sanitation practices will prevent this from happening.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pumpkin Kegging

Inspired by recent talk of mashing and fermenting in a pumpkin I decided instead to take the easy route and serve some commercial pumpkin ale out of a pumpkin.

I took a standard pumpkin, cut the top out scraped out the "guts" like I was getting ready to carve it. I cut a small circle in one side of the pumpkin and then screwed in the spigot from my bottling bucket, it took some extra scarping to get the nut screwed on the inside. I then chilled the pumpkin for a few hours in the refrigerator. I filled the pumpkin with a selection of pumpkin beers (Post Road, Dogfish Head, Saranac, Buffalo Bills, and Smuttynose). Amazingly it worked without leaking and the blend of beers actually tasted pretty good.

I really don't think serving from the pumpkin added much flavor, but it really enhanced the appeal of the beer to the "non-beer" people at the party. The key was to get both the beer and the pumpkin as cold as possible so that the maximum amount of carbonation remained in the beer.

As a plus when the beer was finished we got to carve the pumpkin. I gouged out the eyes and nose and a more artistically gifted friend carved the mustache.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cider 2006

With fall and apple season upon us once again I felt it was time to put up a cider post. Last Fall I brewed a very simple hard cider. I threw the recipe together spur of the moment before heading off to Denver for a few weeks. I added some malt extract to the cider to give it some residual sweetness and some yeast nutrient to aid the yeast. I used a packet of dried champagne yeast which makes for a very clean cider, but one that is pretty low in character.

I have a new batch fermenting now, that is a bit less traditional, but should have a bit more interesting flavor and hopefully won't take so long to get good.

My 1st Cider


Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 2.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 16.75
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 6.9

Cider/Extract
---------------
16.50 lbs. (2 gallons) Cider
0.25 lbs. Generic DME - Light

Yeast
-----
EC-118 (Champagne yeast)

Notes
-----
Made 10/31/06 by myself

Heated a cup of juice with 1 cup DME and .5 tsp yeast nutrient.

Cider was from Whole foods, pasteurized but no preservatives. 1/2 packed of yeast added straight into fermenter.

11/18/06 transferred to two 1 gallon jugs and stuck them in the fridge. 1.010, tasted pretty good with a sour twang at the end.

11/24/06 Bottled aiming for 2.5 volumes of CO2.

1st Tasting 10/17/07

Aroma
- Sweet apples soaked in white wine. There is a hint of sulfur as well, but it is just a background note like is often present in many white wines (not sure if that is the only reason I thin.

Appearance -Nearly opaque it is so cloudy because I didn't use finings or pectic enzyme. The cider is yellow-tan with a thin white head that has surprisingly good retention. Personally I don't mind a hazy beverage, but if you do some pectic enzyme is important because it breaks up the pectin (the same stuff that is responsible for the thickening jams and jelly).

Taste - Tangy with a light apple flavor. Some apple skin as well. It still tastes pretty fresh, with no oxidation or other off-flavors apparent. It strikes a good balance between sweetness, dryness and acidity. However, the flavor is very mild to the point of being bland.

Mouthfeel - Prickly carbonation and a bit thin. There is a light tannic roughness on the tongue as well.

Drinkability/Notes - Finally getting pretty good after almost a year, but it is still rather bland. As time has passed the apple flavors have come more to the front which is nice, in fact I think this is the most I have enjoyed a bottle of this one so far. It really didn't turn out badly for a batch that I threw together on a whim and fermented while out of the state.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Homemade Candi Syrup

After talking to Brian Mercer the importer of the amazing Dark Candi Syrup and making multiple attempts to make my own at home, I think I have come up with something that will hopefully be tasty, but doesn't approach the color contribution. I have included this one in my second Belgian Sugar Experiment, so I'll have a more accurate impression of the flavor and fermentability by early November.

Steps:

1. Take 1 lb of plain white sugar and mix it with 3 cups of water in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

2. Stir to dissolve over medium heat (if the heat is too low there is a chance that the sugar will crystallize on you, so make sure you have rapid bubbling)

3. Monitor the temperature until it hits 285 degrees then add a tablespoon of water.

4. Adjust the heat until it is hot enough that you get bubbles all over the surface of the syrup, but not so hot that the bubbles build way up the pan.

5. Repeat this as needed not letting the syrup get above 285 (This will be a lot easier if you have a thermometer with an alarm). During this process you will smell an amazing range of aromas starting with butter, then moving through rummy and finally to sort of a roasted raisin thing.

6. Once the syrup takes on a nice dark color add 1/3 cup of water and let cool.

What is the point of all this?

Boiling sucrose for awhile in water causes some of the disaccharide sucrose molecules to split (invert) into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Some recipes call for the inclusion of an acid to aid the inversion process, but the importer assured me that the only ingredient in his product is refined beet sugar (sucrose).

Once some of the sugar is inverted holding it at around 285 presumably allows some of the newly created fructose to caramelize (caramelization temp of 220), while the more robust sugar molecules glucose (caramelization temp of 300) and sucrose (caramelization temp of 340) remain intact and more importantly fermentable.

The final addition of water allows the finished sugar to remain liquid at room temperature, making it much easier to add to a beer than lumps of solid sugar.

Log:
1st attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 1 tsp 10% phosphoric acid, 45 minutes @ 260-275
Result: Way too sour, apparently I used way too much acid.

2nd attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 1 gram acid blend, 150 minutes @ 260-275
Result: The syrup turned out a bit thin and the flavor just seemed flat.

3rd attempt: 1 lb sugar, 1 pint water, 180 minutes @ 260-275 (accidentally let it get up to 310 in the middle of cooking)
Result: Good flavor, but a bit too much char probably from the high temp.

4th attempt: 1 lb sugar, 3 cups water, 180 minutes @ 260-285
Result: Good flavor with less burnt notes than attempt 3, but also not as dark.

I used my 4th attempt in my second sugar experiment. I am happy to report that the portion of the experiment with the homemade candi sugar got just as dry as the other portions. The beer tasted good at bottling time, but it will be a few weeks before I can give a real report on the success or failure of this technique.

Here is a short little video of attempts two (left) and three (right) boiling. You can see just how much the sugar bubbles can build up.
video

Friday, October 5, 2007

My Homebrew Club




Recently I've had a bunch of people ask me if I'm a member of a homebrew club. As a matter of fact I've been a member of BURP for almost a year now. It is a great club with loads of members who are amazing brewers and there is at least one person who can answer any question whether it be about how to treat you water or how to use a wine barrel. Every meeting I go to I feel like I make a new friend and learn something new about brewing.


The club seems to be undergoing an infusion of new brewers, every meeting there seems to be three new people coming for their first meeting. So don't feel like everyone will know everyone else and you won't know anyone else when you show up.


If you live in the metro DC area stop by a meeting and say hello, but first send me an email so I can tell you who to look for. If you aren't local find a club near you, its the best way to meet local brewers and get to taste some amazing beer.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Blending Scandinavian Imperial Porter and Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian

Inspired by a recent Basic Brewing Radio episode about the blending that went into producing Firestone Walker 10, I decided to try some blending of my own using my sweet Scandinavian Imperial Porter and dry Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian.


Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian

Appearance
–Medium-Light tan head on top of a deep brown beer which appears ruby red when held to the light. Nice and clear when it is thin enough to see through.


Smell – Funky cherries right up front, with supporting aromas including caramel, and toasted chocolate. It is a powerful, complex aroma with hints of ethanol as the beer comes up to room temperature. Warmth also brings out occasional vanilla and oak notes as well.


Taste – Smooth, with loads of complex brown and caramelized sugar character. There is also a bit of sourness in the back of the mouth, but it is not a sour beer. The fruit, malt, sugar, and yeast characters are all well integrated with no single part dominating the others.


Mouthfeel – Medium-thin, with solid carbonation. The tannins from the wood also enhance the dryness of this beer.


Drinkability/Notes – Surprisingly easy to drink for such a big complex beer. If I do this one again I will try to get a bit more bourbon into the flavor/aroma. This one is only about a year old now, so it has nothing but potential for improvement over the next few years.


Scandinavian Imperial Porter


Appearance – Opens with a bare hiss after being stored at 50 degrees. Poured into my Stone RIS tulip it has a thin tan head which is only briefly supported by the thick dark-dark-dark brown body. You can just see though the edges when it is held at an angle.


Smell – Toasted marshmallows, roasted malts, bread, hints of booze, and vanilla. A complex aroma to be sure, a bit muted though probably because of the low carbonation.


Taste – Hints of vanilla bourbon, with a smooth chocolate roast. The roasted flavors are not as bitter, coffee, or charred as a classic Russian Imperial Stout, but probably more aggressive than a regular Baltic Porter. The supporting flavors range from toasted bread, to caramel, to hints of dried fruit (especially raisins). It is thick, and it isn't very bitter, but I think between the oak tannins and the alcohol it keeps from being too sweet.


Mouthfeel – HUGE body with just a hint of carbonation. I primed this one for low carbonation, but I guess the yeast had already hit their limit. I guess it could use a little more carbonation, but it is actually fine as is. The alcohol is buried well, I can feel the warming in my stomach, but not the mouth or throat.


Drinkability/Notes – Already tastes much older than its 6 months would imply. I can't pick up any contribution from the expensive heather honey, but maybe it is adding a depth of flavor that is hard to categorize. I also don't pick up any licorice flavors, but I have had a few people tell me they taste licorice without knowing its in there. I am so used to anise flavor being called licorice, that I may be tasting it and just not realizing what it is.
















2/3 Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian,
1/3 Scandinavian Imperial Porter


Appearance – Pretty much black even when held up to the light. Nice creamy tan head with medium retention.


Smell – Mostly cherry with just a hint of funk. Some toasty aromas and some alcohol. Very subdued.


Taste – Light cherry and milk chocolate. Good restrained Brett funk that lends a nice complexity. It tastes more layered though, the cherry and the stout taste separate with the funk overpowering the stout. Oak is rather potent, but again tastes like it was dropped on top.

Mouthfeel – Medium bodied with medium-low carbonation, best mouthfeel of the bunch.


Drinkability/Notes – Not a great mixture, taste a bit rough with the funk and stout clashing a bit.















1/3 Bourbon Brett Cherry Dark Belgian,
2/3 Scandinavian Imperial Porter


Appearance – Creamy tan head with pretty good carbonation. The beer is opaque black with just a hint of red highlights around the edge.

Smell – Big vanilla oak up front. Lots of middle of the road chocolate (not dark chocolate and not milk chocolate) along with a generic fruitiness.


Taste – Roasted marshmallows and chocolate (s'mores without the graham crackers). A hint of fruitiness, but not as much as I expected. Very smooth flavor without any rough edges. As it warms a bare hint of funk comes out.


Mouthfeel – Velvety, beautiful, some carbonation but not much.


Drinkability/Notes – This mix really tames the funk of the Brett and cuts the thickness of the porter. However, the mixture is less complex than either one was by itself. This one matches the rule I have heard that 2/3 "fresh" beer with 1/3 "stale/aged" beer is good combination.