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

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

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

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

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

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 

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.