Sunday, December 28, 2008

Off to India - No Updates for Awhile

After spending a few days visiting my parents (where I got to bottle my Cable Car Clone and Blueberry Lambic) I'm off to India for the next couple weeks to attend a friend's wedding and eat a lot of Indian food (which will make up for the lack of good beer). So don't expect any new posts or any answers to emails for the next two weeks.

I'm sure I'll come back with some good stories and some interesting insights on Indian cooking.

Hope everyone has a happy New Year.

Courage RIS Tasting - Christmas 2008

Time for my yearly Christmas tasting of the Courage Russian Imperial Stout clone that my friend James and I brewed July 2007. I've still got 11 bottles of this, so expect an update around this time every year for awhile.

Appearance - A first glance it is pitch black, but when held to the light it reveals a clear ruby red highlight at the bottom of the wine glass. The thin mocha head falls to a thin coating within a few minutes, but these wisps of foam last all the way to the bottom of the glass.

Aroma - Toasted bread and roasted malts dominate the aroma. The Brett lends some tropical coconut aspects as well as some dusty attic aromatics. There is also sort of a sugary/creamy aspect to the aroma, like a sweet stout.

Flavor - Dark chocolate, with some cappuccino notes. The tropical aromatics carry through into the mouth as well. The alcohol is well masked, but there is a light warming sensation. The bitterness is just barely perceivable. The flavor is still very fresh at 18 months, with no negative oxidation noticeable (the coconut may be the early stages of oxidation and not the Brett, but it is still pleasant).

Mouthfeel - The body is a hair thin, and the carbonation is a touch high. Neither is way off the mark, but it became a better beer as some time passed and much of the carbonation escaped.

Drinkability/Notes - Well balanced, and almost too easy to drink. The tropical/coconut aspect of the Brett is not really what I was hoping for, I wanted leather and dark fruit. Hopefully more age will bring out some of these characteristics, but with the Brett killed it may never happen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thoughts on the new logo?

Good 56 (51%)
Bad 16 (14%)
Ugly 5 (4%)
What new logo? 31 (28%)

Glad the majority (73% of people who noticed) like the new logo. That said, I may tweak it a bit if anyone wants to post some suggestions. It seemed like it was time for the site to have an actual logo instead of the little text blurb I wrote two years ago when I started the blog.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Making Goat Camembert

After a pretty successful first attempt at Camembert, I thought I would try something similar, but a bit more interesting. So I decided to use goat milk and a slightly tweaked recipe.

I picked up a gallon of whole pasteurized goat milk. The next morning I heated it up to 76 degrees on the stove, then stirred in 1/4 tsp of Flora Danica culture and 1 drop of rennet diluted in 5 tbls of filtered water. I covered the pot with plastic wrap and left it in a warm spot (~74). By the time I returned home from work that evening it had a thick yogurt-like curd with some clear whey visible.

The curd was much sturdier than my previous cheese making attempts due to the longer period of time before cutting it. Instead of putting the draining mats over plates like last time I placed them above small pots so the whey had a place to drain. I used a ladle to scoop the curds into the cleaned and sanitized molds. I flipped the molds every 12 hours for the next two days (after the first 12 hours I moved the mats on top of plates for easier moving), the result was two firm 2 inch thick disks of fresh cheese (the firmer curd resulted in thicker rounds).

I sprinkled the entire surface of each round with 1 tsp of kosher salt. After waiting 15 minutes for the salt to dissolve I used a small atomizer to spritz ~1/8 tsp of Penicillium candidum (dissolved in 1 tbls of filtered water) onto the cheese.


Ideally the cheese should be left to mature in a humid spot at around 50 degrees. Luckily I have a chest freezer which can produce those conditions pretty easily. I flipped the cheese once or twice a day for the next 10 days. Spraying the mold on as opposed to adding it to the milk at the start made for much faster growth than the first time.


After 4 days in the refrigerator the cheese has a firm, slightly dry texture. I'm not sure if it was the milk or my method, but this batch has a funkier flavor than the cow's milk Camembert. This batch needs another couple weeks to age (you can just see the mold beginning to ripen the cheese around the edges). Hopefully after 2-3 more weeks the second round will be ripe and ready to try.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Free as in Beer, Belgian Sour Blonde Tasting

Over the last few months Dan McElroy has sent me a couple emails about a Temptation Clone he brewed back in January. I was happy to lend him some advice, and very happy when he suggested that he would send me a bottle to try.

Appearance – Talk about a clear beer, nice orange/gold color. Head formation/retention is a bit weak, although that may be a result of my glass selection (I recently broke my Duvel tulip).

Smell – Classic spicy Belgian aroma upfront, with a beautiful soft floral/honey component. The funk is very subdued, but I certainly get a hint of that cherry pie Brett.

Taste – The spicy phenolics from the aroma carry through in the flavor as well. The funk is more upfront (with just a hint of barnyard), but it isn't really sour/tart. The malt and hops are very subdued, clean letting the yeast/bugs shine through.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light carbonation, a bit lower than I would aim in a pale Belgian like this. More carbonation would also help the head retention. The body is what you'd expect, pretty thin but not unpleasantly so. I get just a hint of astringency, probably from the oak and dryness.

Drinkability & Notes – A very nice attempt at a lightly funky Belgian Blonde, like my Temptation clone a tasty beer but very different from the original. It tastes very authentic (by which I mean understated and balanced), I especially like the yeast character. Drinking it on a dark/cold/wet December night I enjoy it, but this is the sort of beer that would be perfect for a warm spring afternoon.

If anyone else out there wants an honest opinion on their beer (sour or otherwise) let me know.

Sour Blonde

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.00
Anticipated OG: 1.065
Anticipated SRM: 4.1
Anticipated IBU: 31.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Grain
-----
11.00 lbs. Pilsen
1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt

Hops
----
1.00 oz. Sterling @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Styrian Goldings @ 20 min.

Yeast
-----
White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale

Mash Schedule
-------------
Sacch 60 min @ 150

Notes
-----
Pitched Wyeast Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces Bruxellensis all into secondary after 7 days fermentation with the white labs 550. Secondary lasted 7 months. The last month included about 1 oz Hungarian oak cubes - boiled and then soaked in chardonnay (paranoid about over-oaking this) Primary and secondary fermentation were at ambient basement temps which range from about 62 to 66 degrees.

Bottled 11/01/08

Note to self, try mashing at 154 next time, pull off primary after 5 days to leave more for the bugs. Not a strong sour profile, but there is some Brett there. I can't really find any chardonnay flavors or oak, so perhaps increase both for the next batch and/or skip the boiling of the cubes. Tastes more like an oro de calabaza from Jolly pumpkin, and very drinkable.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ice Cider

After really enjoying a bottle of Neige Ice Cider awhile back I decided to try my hand at making something similar this fall. Ice cider is much closer in character to an ice wine than it is to a regular hard cider (which many people liken to champagne). Ice Cider is rich, sweet, alcoholic, not to mention expensive.

Here is the designation reserved for ice cider in Quebec from Wikipedia:
« Cidre de glace » : "Cider ice" drinks produced by the fermentation of apple juice, which must have a concentration of sugar before fermentation made solely by the natural cold of at least 30 Brix and whose product has a residual sugar content of at least 130 grams per liter. Finally, the alcohol will be obtained over 7% and less than 13% alcohol by volume.

That is to say that the cider is frozen to concentrate the OG above 1.129, and the real residual extract is above .053. According to their website the bottle of Neige I had started at 1.159, has .060 of residual sugar, and 12% ABV (surprisingly similar numbers to Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout from 3 Floyds).

A word about the legality of all this, what we are talking about here is not a form of distillation (as in making a Cider Jack or Eisbock). I am condensing the natural sugars the cider contains before fermentation. This is equivalent to boiling beer wort to condense the sugars before fermentation. The idea is to get enough sugar to go above the alcohol tolerance of the yeast and still have a pleasant amount of residual sweetness. If you froze a regular batch of cider it would get strong (stronger than ice cider), but it would still be very dry.

I started with 6 gallons of regular fresh/local cider (pasteurized, but preservative free). I added 1/2 tsp of pectic enzyme to each gallon. After allowing the enzyme to work on clearing the cider for a few hours I racked the cider into my bottling bucket. I then put it into my chest freezer which I had set to 20 F. It took just 24 hours to freeze the cider into a thick icy slush. I left it there for the next few days, because the freezer cycles +/- 3 degrees I was hoping this would be enough to let the sugary portion of the cider separate from the frozen water.


I took the bucket out of the freezer and tried to open the spigot hoping that like a frozen pond the ice was simply a layer on top of the cider. Sadly a ring of ice had formed around the edge of the bucket rendering the spigot useless. However, under 1/2 inch of ice the middle column was still liquid so I poured this portion out through a metal strainer. This yielded about 1.5 gallons of 1.082 cider (a 60% increase over the original juice). Not quite as strong or as much as I was looking for, but not a bad start.

Over the next hour the frozen cider slowly melted releasing more concentrated cider before the rest of the water (you can see how clear the ice the top got). I was able to pour off another .5 gallon of cider. Sadly at this point my apartmentmate decided it would be funny to put a slice of turkey on my shoulder as I bent over the bucket... as I was removing the offending meat it fell right into the cidery slush. I decided the risk of microbial invaders was enough that it wasn't worth continuing my extraction.

I was hoping to get 3.5 gallons of 1.082 cider which I could freeze again. Assuming another 60% gravity increase I would have been right at the 1.129 "minimum" original gravity.

With only 2 gallons to work with I decided that it would be simpler to just ferment it out as is. So after letting the cider warm up to 60 degrees I gave it a shot of oxygen, some yeast nutrient, and the yeast slurry from this year's batch of normal cider (nothing but cider, pectic enzyme, and Wyeast's Cider yeast).

Hopefully next fall I'll be able to put what I learned this time to use (namely to lock the door when I am working with the slush).

Cider Slurpee

Recipe Specifics
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 2.00
Anticipated OG: 1.082
Anticipated SRM: 13.2
Wort Boil Time: 0 Minutes

Cider
-----------
6.00 Gallons Cider

Extras
---------
0.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient
3.00 Tsp Pectic Enzyme

Yeast
-----
WYeast 3766 Cider

Notes
-----
11/30/08 Bought 6 gallons of cider, added 1/2 tsp of pectic enzyme to each and set the freezer to 30. After a few hours I racked them into my bottling bucket and set the freezer to 20.

12/04/08 Tried draining it through the spigot, but just got a trickle. Sliced up the ice with a knife and poured it through a strainer. Let it sit several times to melt a bit more. Gravity was a bit short of where I wanted, but not too bad (~1.082).

Let it warm up a bit then gave each jug a 30 sec shot of O2 and 1/2 cup of yeast slurry from the standard cider.

12/09/08 Down to 1.006 (93% AA, 10% ABV)

1/24/09 Bottled with 1 7/8 oz of cane sugar plus a few grams of EC-1118 Champagne yeast. Aiming for 3 volumes of CO2, hoping for more of a Champagne feel.

9/30/09 First Tasting, really coming along nicely.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Foreign Export Stout Recipe

Well sometimes despite your best efforts a batch just doesn't come out like you planned. In this case I think I wrote (what I think is)a pretty good recipe, I hit my numbers on brew day, and it had a strong cool fermentation, but somewhere along the way some wild microbe found its way into the beer. After a few weeks in a 3 gallon secondary a thin skin began to develop on the surface of the beer, after noticing it I added a couple campden tablets to kill whatever the infection was, but I was too late.

The infection was surprising as I haven't brewed any sour beers lately and I had just replaced my tubing, bottling wand, and bottling bucket spigot. Hopefully I sanitized well after this beer as I have several more (hopefully) clean beers that were brewed after this one but before I realized it was infected.

The recipe was inspired by Pelican's Tsunami Stout. I think it is an interesting beer because it is a big stout without any crystal malt, just basemalt, dark/roasted grains, and some flaked barley for body and head retention. It is pretty bitter (50 IBUs) with some Willamette in the mid-boil for a bit or aroma. Definitely more in line with something like Deep Shaft Stout from Freeminer than the sweet "Tropical" stouts like the Guinness Foreign Export Stout brewed in the Caribbean.

With some age this beer may improve, some foreign export stouts are tinged with Brett. If it gets to an acceptable place I'll post a review. I'll eventually give this recipe another try, but if anyone else brews it in the meantime let me know.

Foreign Export Stout

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 3.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.00
Anticipated OG: 1.070
Anticipated SRM: 49.8
Anticipated IBU: 51.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 105 Min

Grain
------
8.25 lbs. Maris Otter
0.75 lbs. Flaked Barley
0.50 lbs. Roasted Barley
0.25 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.25 lbs. Black Patent Malt

Hops
-----
0.84 oz. Galena @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Willamette @ 20 min.
0.50 oz. Willamette @ 10 min.

Extras
-------
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 Min.(boil)
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 Min.(boil)

Yeast
------
WYeast 1028 London Ale

Mash Schedule
---------------
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 154

Notes
------
Brewed 10/13/08 by myself

3.75 gallons of mash water treated with 3 grams of chalk, and 3 grams of baking soda. pH was too high, so I added 2 g of CaCl and 2 g of phosphoric acid to get it down to 5.5 at room temp.

Acidified sparge water with 2 g of acid.

Collected 5.5 gallons of 1.048 runnings.

Hit gravity and volume pretty well. Chilled down to 74 and put into the chest freezer at 55 degrees.

Waited 4 hours for it to cool more, then aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2 and pitched yeast slurry from the Pale Brown Porter. Set the freezer to 61.

10/17/08 Turned temp up to 65 to help it finish.

10/26/08 Sample, 1.017 (7% ABV, 76% AA)

11/02/08 Transferred to 3 gallon secondary.

11/15/08 Seemed to be developing a thin skin on the surface. Might be nothing, but to be safe I added 3 campden tablets dissolved in water.

11/16/08 Bottled with 2.5 oz of cane sugar and some S-04.

11/30/08 Seems to be infected. A friend described it as 2 beers in one, a good chocolaty beer and a funky beer. Hopefully with some age it will improve. It reminds me more than a little of a lower gravity version of my Courage clone.

12/01/08 A bottle exploded, so I dumped the rest of the batch. A very sad Monday morning.

12/24/10 Jeff and Tom from the Lug Wrench Brewing Company Blog brewed this recipe and sent me a few bottles.  I thought it turned out very well, lots of bitter roast, worth the wait.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blending Beers with Basic Brewing Radio

On Tuesday night my friends Dan, Nathan, and Dyan and I shared an excellent tasting (via Skype) with James and the rest of the guys for an episode of Basic Brewing Radio. The idea of the episode was to try blending different beers together to come up with some unique flavors and as a way to mitigate some flaws in some of the batches. This is not only a great way to play with your beer but also a good way to give your pallet a workout.

This was the beer list for the tasting:

Scandinavian Imperial Porter - A massively sweet heather honey, licorice, cardamom, Imperial Porter

Alderwood Smoked Porter - A robust porter with 25% of the malt smoked over alderwood.

Wee Heavy - A group parti-gyle aged on cognac soaked oak cubes, vinous and sweet.

Funky Old Ale - An English Old Ale aged with wine soaked oak cubes and Brett C that ended up too dry.

Blackberry Flanders Red - My first attempt at a Flanders Red aged on 2 lbs of Blackberries per gallon.

Berliner Weiss - A low gravity sour wheat beer made with Wyeast Berliner Weisse Blend

Temptation Clone - An attempted copy of Russian River Temptation using microbes from Russian River

Flanders Pale Ale - A blend of 2 year old Lambic and 1 year old soured Belgian pale.

Smoked Sour Porter - A porter James brewed with 1 lb of hickory smoked malt, aged for a year with Wyeast Roeselare Blend.

My favorite blends of the night were:

1. Equal parts Wee Heavy, Funky Old Ale, and Berliner Weiss. This blend was somewhere between a Gale's Prize Old Ale and a Goudenband. The Wee Heavy added some sweetness that the Funky Old Ale lacked, and the Berliner Weiss added some complimentary sourness and lowered the alcohol.

2. Temptation Clone and Berliner Weiss. This was a good blend because the Temptation Clone never became as sour as I was hoping, the Berliner Weiss added the sourness without imparting too much of its own character.

3. 3 parts Alderwood Smoked Porter and 1 part Scandinavian Imperial Porter. The Imperial Porter added more richness and complexity to the smoked porter without walking all over the delicate smoked character.

While I realize that none of you will have these exact beers (or even all these styles on hand), I still hope you give blending a try. Get a couple friends together and have everyone bring a couple bottles of homebrew or commercial beer and start sampling and discussing. Just remember to take notes so you remember what worked, and what didn't. I would also suggest trying to get a real range of beers, mixing a few beers of the same style together will probably not make anything too interesting.

We capped off the night with a bottle of Firestone Walker 10, a beer that is a blend of several different beers itself. It was amazingly complex, with some hints of oxidation setting in (the good kind, leather and dark fruit), but still a bit boozy from all the liquor barrel aging. It was a great way to finish off the tasting, thanks to James for sending it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Have you made/brewed any recipes from this blog?

Yes 19 (24%)
No 58 (75%)

Not too bad, actually more than I was expecting. Glad to hear some people are trying out the recipes. If you try a recipe post a comment with your results (good or bad) to let other people know how it turned out, or any suggestions you would make.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Here is a fun little mini-mash batch I did to kill time while brewing a Foreign Export Stout (still waiting for carbonation). This is one of those ideas that I thought sounded great, but that I really did not want to end up with a case of if I was wrong.

The real challenge on this recipe was to try to balance the flavor of the base beer along with the pumpkin, spices, cocoa powder, and vanilla. I went lighter on each one than I would have if I was just making a pumpkin beer, or a chocolate beer, but I was really shooting in the dark because I had never used many of these ingredients together. I was pleased with the way it came out, maybe next year I will do a larger batch.

There is a good deal of debate in the homebrewing community over whether or not pumpkin needs to be mashed, or if it can simply be added to the boil. For my only other pumpkin beer I roasted a sugar pumpkin, took the skin off, pureed it, and added it to the mash. Not only did this get me my one and only stuck sparge but also didn't yield much pumpkin flavor in the finished beer. The disadvantage of adding the pumpkin straight to the boil is that the starch it contains will not be converted to sugars like it would be in the mash. However, Libby's Pumpkin Puree (fresh would be similar) contains about 2 oz of starch for every 3 lbs, so it isn't a huge amount.  

Tasting 11/23/08

Appearance – Nearly opaque pitch-black, but dark brown edges when held up to the light. The head is light tan and thin, but a thin ring of foam stuck around for the duration.

Smell – The spices, nutmeg and ginger, are the most prominent. There is a whiff of chocolate muffins following that up as well. After my nose gets used to the spices I also get a hint of toastiness and roastiness from the porter base, with some creaminess (similar to a milk stout).

Taste – Again the spices lead the way, but they certainly are not over the top. There is a bit of pumpkin/squash flavor as well. The chocolate is rather subdued, but I definitely get it in the finish. Pretty good balance between the different elements, but a bit more chocolate would probably work well. No hop bitterness to speak of which leaves it a bit sweet, but I think the sweetness compliments the dessert elements.

Mouthfeel – Full body with medium-low carbonation, just what I was aiming for in a fall beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Pretty tasty, and easy to drink because of the balance. I think the unfermentables in the malt extract do a good job contributing to the body and sweetness. I like it more than the “standard” amber-pumpkin ale concept.

Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 1.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 2.84
Anticipated OG: 1.060
Anticipated SRM: 33.9
Anticipated IBU: 21.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 34 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Extract
---------------
1.25 lbs. Muntons Light DME
0.50 lbs. Libby's Pumpkin Puree
0.38 lbs. German Munich Malt
0.28 lbs. Brown Malt
0.19 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.16 lbs. Special B Malt
0.09 lbs. Crystal 40L

Hops
-----
0.13 oz. Galena @ 60 min.

Extras
-------
1/2 Tsp Penzey's Pumpkin Pie Spice @ 3 min
1 oz Cocoa Powder @3 min
1 Vanilla Bean 10 days (fermenter)

Yeast
-----
WYeast 1028 London Ale

Mash Schedule
-------------
30 min @ 152

Notes
-----
Brewed 10/13/08 by myself

The base beer was based on Denny Conn's BVIP (Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter), and the concept was inspired by Midnight Sun's Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter.

Steeped the grains in cheesecloth in 1 gallon of ~155 degree water. "Sparged" the bag with the final runnings from my Foreign Export Stout (you could use water if you don't have any final runnings sitting around).
Gravity from grains 1.013 in 1.75 gallons. Added DME before boil started.

Pumpkin added to the boil at 15 min remaining.

Cocoa powder and spices rehydrated in a bit of wort and added for last 3 minutes of the boil.

Undershot gravity and overshot volume considerably.

Chilled down to 74 and put into the chest freezer at 55 degrees.

Waited 4 hours, then aerated and pitched yeast from my Pale Brown Porter.

Set freezer to 61.

10/19/08 After 1 week in the mid-low 60s dropped the temp to 58 for the hefe and added 1 split vanilla bean. Lots of trub visible.

10/29/08 Bottle with 1/2 tsp of demerara per 12 oz bottle. Tasted alright, chocolate was the most prominent flavor at bottling.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Genetics of Yeast Flocculation

A friend sent me an interesting article from Popular Science on the genetics behind yeast flocculation: http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-11/beer-brings-yeast-together

Apparently the gene and the protein responsible for yeast flocculation (clumping and dropping) have been identified. The article explains the advantage yeast cells gain by clumping together (protection from environmental threats, including the ethanol their fermentation produces), and why it is a good example of kin selection (self sacrifice for the greater genetic good). The article also explains how a similar gene could have led down the path to the evolution of the first multicellular organism.

It is certainly a solid/interesting article, but it only looks at the benefits of flocculation, and does not mention how humans have impacted the evolution of this gene.

When yeast flocculate they pretty much stop fermenting, so if the cells drop early they will miss out on fermenting more sugar and possibly more reproduction. This is why yeast strains that are more attenuative tend to be the least flocculant. If this wasn't the case yeast cells would have evolved to become more and more flocculant, eventually becoming similar to a an acetobacter mother.

Brewers often select for the more flocculant yeast cells by repitching the cells that drop to the bottom of the fermenter after fermentation is complete. As a result most professional brewers have to start a fresh culture of yeast ever 6-10 batches because the yeast can become too flocculant resulting in lower attenuation. To prevent this (before sterile culturing was invented) brewers generally fermented in open tanks and would take yeast cells off the top of the fermenting beer during high krausen. Some breweries still practice this technique, particularly brewers who specialize in German Weissbier (as a result these strains tend to form large krausens and flocculate very slowly).

This is one of the wonderful things about brewing, no matter what you are interested in beer can tie in. Science, cooking, gardening, building, socializing, writing, travel, etc...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Traditional Hefeweizen

Here is a recipe and tasting of a pretty low gravity hefeweizen I brewed a month ago. It is one of the fasted beer styles from mash tun to glass so I thought it was a good one to brew near the start of the brewing season (even though it isn't exactly a classic cold weather beer because it is so light and drinkable).

I decided to taste it very young because hefeweizens are supposed to be best as fresh as possible (because of the low alcohol and hopping). After tasting it I think it may still be a bit too young, but I will revisit it again sooner than I would for most of my big/funky beers.

The recipe is very simple just two malts (wheat and pilsener) and one hop (spalt). The main character of the beer, classically a combination of banana and clove, comes from the yeast. For this beer I lowered the fermentation temperature to 62, this is below what many people suggest, but I wanted to make sure the isoamyl acetate (an ester that not only smells like banana, but is actually found in bananas) didn't get out of control. I also added a short mash rest at 113 to free more ferulic acid which the yeast then turns into clove flavor/aroma (4-vinyl guaiacol).

The grain bill and mash were very similar to the no-boil Berliner Weiss I did about a year ago, but you can see how much darker this one is as a result of the boil. The massive flavor differences are a result of the yeast (and bacteria) selection.

Tasting 11/18/08

Appearance – Beautiful stark-white meringue head, great retention, and nice lacing. The beer itself is golden and appropriately cloudy. The higher than average level of carbonation is visible. It certainly looks the part of a German hefeweizen.

Smell – Big spicy clove aroma with a hint of overripe banana. Relatively clean with just a hint of sulfur. There are also some fresh bready background notes.

Taste – Yeasty rising bread is the first thing that comes to mind. The clove is certainly there, as is the banana, but neither is assertive as I expected. Almost no bitterness or really any hop contribution, as expected. This has only been in the bottle for 10 days, so the yeast may just need a bit more time to fully clean up.

Mouthfeel – Light spritzy body. Not much else to say except that the thick head helps trick my tongue into thinking the beer is fuller/creamier than it is.

Drinkability & Notes – Very balanced and easy to drink. I think the banana is a bit too subdued at this point though, a slightly higher fermentation temperature would not be a bad idea, but only a touch.

SessionWeizen

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.00
Anticipated OG: 1.043
Anticipated SRM: 2.9
Anticipated IBU: 12.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 115 Minutes

Grain/Extract/Sugar
----------------------
3.50 lbs. Germany Wheat Malt
3.50 lbs. Germany Pilsener

Hops
-----
1.75 oz. Spalter Spalt @ 65 min.

Extras
-------
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 20 Min.

Yeast
------
WYeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen

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

Calcium(Ca): 45.6 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 9.9 ppm
Sodium(Na): 16.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 54.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 32.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 89.9 ppm

Mash Schedule
---------------
4 vinyl guaiacol 15 min @ 113 (Infusion)
Protein 10 min @ 126 (Direct)
Sacch Rest 1 40 min @ 144 (Direct)
Sacch Rest 2 40 min @ 161 (Decoction boiled for 20 minutes)

Notes
-----
10/19/08 Brewed by myself

Based loosely on Live Oak Hefeweizen.

Direct heated to Sacch II rest, decoted about a gallon, transferred the rest of the mash from the pot to the cooler, by the time the decoction was added back the main mash had lost enough heat to keep the temp near 160.

2.5 gallons of first runnings. Batch sparged. Collected 6.25 gallons of 1.033 wort. Diluted down to 7 gallons because efficiency was better than expected.

Started a 1 pint starter the night before brewing.

Hops adjusted down from 2% AA because they are a year old.

Chilled down to 71, strained out hops, put into chest freezer at 55 at 4:30 PM. Added some of the wort from the beer to the starter to help the yeast.

At 9:00 PM I pitched the now very happy/active quart of starter.

Full krausen after 20 hours.

Very active fermentation for 72 hours.

10/23/08 Raised ambient temp to 62 to help it finish up.

10/26/08 Down to ~1.012 (hard to read through foam). Slight sulfur aroma, and overall a bit subdued.

10/31/08 Dropped temp to 45, then 38 to get it to clear up a bit.

11/07/08 Bottled with 4 oz of cane sugar aiming for 3.2 volumes of CO2.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pale Brown Porter

This was the first batch after my summer brewing hiatus came to an end. I was intending to make a beer similar to a fantastic Brown Porter I had at the BURP Real Ale Fest last fall. The beer came out fine, but I was too light handed with the dark malt to get the color and flavor I was after.

The recipe is pretty straight forward, except for the Carafa Special. I used this dehusked German malt instead of American/English Chocolate malt to make the beer extra smooth. Tasting the results though I now realize that I should have used closer to .5 lbs instead of .25 lbs.

A beer that starts at 1.045 can finish too dry pretty easily which would reduce the drinkability (which this beer is all about). To counter this the recipe was built to leave a good deal of residual sweetness with a solid amount of crystal malt and a pretty high mash temp (155).The sole dose of hops was added near middle of the boil (40 min) just to let a little more hop character come through than a standard 60 minute bittering addition.

The fermentation temperature was held pretty low (60 ambient) to make sure the yeast didn't become too estery. English beer is all about balance, no single character should dominate over any other.

Tasting 11/11/08

Appearance – Medium brown in the glass, but clear amber/red when held up to the light. Great tight off-white head, with good retention. The head leaves pretty good lacing as well.

Smell – Slight herbal hop note at first, but it soon gives way to fresh toast and a faint whiff of chocolate. As the beer warms I can really smell the Marris Otter basemalt, the aroma reminds me of grinding malt at the start of the brewday.

Taste – Lightly toasty with a slight fruity (cherry?) note in the finish. Slightly minerally character. Not much in the way of real “dark” malt character, which is fine for a brown ale, but not really what I was aiming for. It is very balanced though, although I think it could stand another 5 IBUs to balance the residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel – Slightly creamy medium body with restrained carbonation. The carbonation is just what I was aiming for, very cask like.

Drinkability & Notes – The moderate carbonation and balance make this one very quaffable. I like the yeast character of this more that my last couple dark English beers, the mineral and ester characters are there, but just as compliments to the bready malt backbone.

Pale Brown Porter


Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 3.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.69
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated SRM: 22.5
Anticipated IBU: 26.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66 %
Wort Boil Time: 100 Minutes

Grain/Extract/Sugar
------------------
5.00 lbs. Maris Otter
0.75 lbs. Brown Malt
0.34 lbs. CaraPils (20 L Munton's version)
0.34 lbs. Crystal 55L
0.25 lbs. Carafa Special

Hops
-----
1.00 oz. Willamette @ 40 min.

Extras
-------
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 Min.
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 Min.

Yeast
-----
WYeast 1028 London Ale

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

Notes
------
Brewed 10/04/08 by myself

No water adjustments (filtered DC tap water). Runoff was a bit slow due to compacting. Collected 5.5 gallons of 1.032 runnings. Did not skim wort at start of boil as usual.

Year old hops adjusted down from 5.8% AA.

Chilled to 74 degrees. Inflated yeast pack pitched after the wort spent 2 hours in 60 degree freezer. Freezer then adjusted to 63 degrees.

Fermentation took 24 hours to get started.

10/08/08 Fermentation looks about finished, boosted temp to 66 to make sure it finishes.

10/12/08 Down to 1.013 (71% AA, 4.2% ABV), good toasty flavor. Not as much chocolate as I wanted.

10/13/08 Transferred to secondary.

10/18/08 Bottled with 1 3/8 oz of cane sugar.

11/09/08 Good, but more like a brown ale than a brown porter.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Fill: Wine Barrel Flanders Red

The plan has now been executed. On Saturday Scott and I took a drive out to Middleburg Virginia to pick up our beautiful red wine barrel from Chrysalis Vineyards. The winemaker had rinsed the barrel out with hot water on Friday night and ozonated it to keep the microbes at bay (not that we really care if a bit of wild yeast is living in there).

The barrel was coopered by Saury Tonnellerie in Rutherford CA (to me it looks like the Bordeaux Chateau Ferre which is made of French oak). Other than that though we don't know much about it, the winemaker wasn't sure what sort of wine was in the barrel last, or exactly how old it is.

The aroma of the empty barrel was fantastic, deep red wine and fresh grapes (very clean), hopefully some of that aroma is endowed onto the beer. We were surprised that the barrel could fit snugly behind the rear seats in Scott's SUV.


My friend Tim had donated a homemade barrel rack (constructed from a wooden pallet). We got the rack into position in the Nathan's basement and the barrel onto the rack. Once the barrel is filled it weighs about 600 lbs, so it won't be going anywhere until we take the beer out.


Sunday afternoon everyone brought their contributions over to Nathan's. All told, six people contributed a total of 45 gallons of attenuated beer, two people gave five gallons each of sour beer, and 1 person gave 5 gallons of fresh wort. We racked all but five gallons of the sour beer into the barrel to leave some head space. The combined gravity of the 55 gallon blend was around 1.028, so there is some serious fermentation still to be done. Lucky the transfer was drama free, no leaks, and no spills.


The blowoff tube (stuck into a #10.5 stopper) was bubbling within 10 minutes of getting the last of the beer into the barrel. I'll be brewing 5 gallons of top-off beer soon as we will probably loose that much over the next year to evaporation.

We are hoping the beer will be ready to bottle in about a year, but it may take longer depending on how quickly the bacteria gets to work. Once this beer tastes ready we will all brew a new beer to fill the barrel back up again (hopefully on the same day we get together to bottle the 24 cases of Flanders Red). I like the idea of doing a big sour beer, hopefully my first attempt at the "style" will be ready to try by then.

Discussion has already started about getting a second barrel (the rack has room for two). We have a couple leads on a bourbon barrel, so we will probably make something big, dark, and clean (Imperial Porter or Stout probably).

This one was bottled a bit less than a year later.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Flanders Pale Ale - 1st Tasting

I thought it was time to give this one an official try since it was bottled almost 3 months ago. This is my first true bottled sour beer blend, 4 parts year old Flanders Pale Ale to 1 part two year old Lambic. It might be interesting to compare this tasting to the tasting of my blended Lambic, which was a blend of the same two beers in the reverse ratio.

This beer is still pretty young for a sour beer, but I like to have a baseline so I can judge how they change over time. Several of my friends have already told me that they think this is one of my better batches, I'm not sure I agree at this point, but it certainly is headed in the right direction.

Appearance – Slightly hazy golden orange. Small white head, with good retention, but not much in the way of lacing.

Smell – Aggressively funky nose with some overripe fruit (cherries and apples), and minerals. Has a similar funky character to my first first Mo' Betta Bretta clone when it was young (that is to say mildly fecal). It has certainly gotten more aggressive since the last time I had a bottle.

Taste – The flavor is much milder than the aroma. Big lemon rind character. Sour is certainly the primary flavor, but it is balanced with a touch of sweetness. Has a bit of that grainy/yeasty aftertaste that my sours seem to have when young, but it is much more mild than in most (possibly due to the wine yeast added for carbonation). Just a hint of spicy oak, but it is just a background complexity.

Mouthfeel – Zippy carbonation. The body is thicker than I expect in a beer with this low of a FG (1.004), but it is still pretty thin compared to most beers.

Drinkability & Notes – There is certainly more funk than when it was first put into the bottle. I would guess that the Lambic blend bugs are starting to work on the Flanders Pale portion of the blend. This one will probably keep getting better for a few more years, but I think it is pretty good where it is.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Group "Leftovers" Barleywine - First Tasting

I thought it was time to revisit our group parti-gyle barleywine since it is more than a year old now. I hadn't enjoyed the last bottle a few months back as part of a tasting for Basic Brewing Radio, so I didn't have high expectations for this one.

Appearance – Brilliantly clear reddish brown. Sticky off-white head, with great retention and lacing. Some age has really cleared up what was once a pretty hazy beer.

Smell – Dark fruit (plums, raisins), burnt sugar, and a whiff of alcohol. The hop aroma is almost completely gone, just a faint resiny note remains, but I think the beer is better off without it. The alcohol is a bit more than I want, but it isn't fusely, just boozy.

Taste – Still has an assertive bitterness, but it counterbalances the caramel sweetness well. I get a bit of oak in the finish, which is strange because this beer doesn't have any oak in it. As it warms up the malt complexity shows itself, lots of toasty bread and cinnamon buns (minus the cinnamon).

Mouthfeel – A bit more carbonation than I would aim for, but it isn't over the top. The body is thick, but the carbonation keeps it from being coating.

Drinkability & Notes – I had almost written this beer off a few months back, but it has really turned a corner since then. I normally don't like the oxidized character that big hoppy American beers get with age, but this one is pretty good where it is, I wonder if the fact that it wasn't dry hopped helps. It reminds me a bit of Hair of the Dog Fred, which is very aggressively hopped and ages very well.

Aged Camembert - Tasting

MOUSEBENDER: Camembert, perhaps?
WENSLEYDALE: Ah! We have Camembert, yes sir.
MOUSEBENDER: You do! Excellent.
WENSLEYDALE: Yes, sir. It's, ah ..... it's a bit runny.
MOUSEBENDER: Oh, I like it runny.
WENSLEYDALE: Well, it's very runny, actually, sir.
MOUSEBENDER: No matter. Fetch hither le fromage de la Belle France! M-mmm!

-Monty Python


My first batch of Camembert is finally ready, it has taken about 5 weeks to age. I'm just happy that it looks like Camembert, a big upgrade over my first attempt at cheesemaking. The texture is a bit on the runny side, almost like melted mozzarella (even right out of the refrigerator). The rind has a slightly dense texture, but it isn't chewy or hard.

The flavor is clean (milk/butter), lightly salty, and accented by that mold ripened cheese flavor that I can't describe in any other way. In general it is much more tame than the Brie and Camembert I have had with this much age on it.

I had the first of the two rounds after just two weeks of aging. At that point the cheese was still firm, with a texture pretty close to cream cheese. The flavor was very mild and milky with just a hint of the classic, slightly musty, Camembert aroma. At this stage I was beginning to see the cheese closest to the rind beginning to soften and become slightly runny. The mold works from the outside in, so the center is the last part of the round to ripen.

Ideally I would like to make four rounds next time and try one every week starting after the initial two weeks of aging. I would have liked to see how this cheese tasted last week when it wasn't quite so runny.

Camembert is great on its own or with some bread, duck breast prosciutto, fruit, or a glass of beer. I wouldn't try to pair it with any aggressive beers because it is so mild, something with some fruit would be nice (but nothing too sour), or something crisp and clean like a pilsener works well.

Should I post more regular recipes for food?

Yes 69 (73%)
No 11 (11%)
Don't Care 14 (14%)

This certainly isn't going to turn into a general recipe blog, but I'll try to occasionally post something interesting that I cook. I make all sorts of different things, but not much in the way of desserts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Plan: Wine Barrel Flanders Red

For a couple of years now I've been playing with oak cubes, oak chips, and oak chair legs, all in an attempt to replicated the magical flavor of commercial barrel aged beers. Well all of that seemed lame once my friend Eric suggested that we buy a used wine barrel and make a real barrel aged beer. We found a winery willing to sell us an old barrel and recruited enough friends to brew the required 60 gallons of beer.

If you have the room, a full sized barrel has several big advantages over a small (5-15 gallon) homebrew-sized barrel. The biggest is money, our barrel will cost $125 ($2.08/gal), compare that to the price of a new 5 gallon American oak barrel, $160 ($32/gal). One of the biggest problems with homebrew barrels is how quickly the wood flavor can overpower the beer, both because they are made from new oak and their high surface to volume ratio, a big used barrel avoids both of these issues.

However, using a used 60 gallon barrels is not without its difficulties. First off they are big, and once they are filled with beer it is extremely heavy (~600 lbs), you pretty much have to fill, age, and empty it in place. There is also the risk that the wood harbors bacteria or wild yeast, but that is not a big deal for a sour ale. I'm sure we will run into plenty of other issues we haven't even considered yet.

Originally we were planning to age an imperial porter in the barrel before doing a sour beer, but that plan was scrapped in the interest of avoiding the chance of 60 gallons of infected porter. A project like this can be risky as either the barrel or an infection in one person's contribution can ruin the entire batch.

We are getting the barrel (not sure of the grape type yet, but it will be a red) from Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Va. The winemaker, Curtis, was nice enough to include his services prepping the barrel right before we pick it up, so all we have to do is get the barrel in place and rack the beer into it.

My friend Nathan is going to store the barrel in his basement, where the temperature should be relatively steady over the next year. How much maintenance he will have to do while it is aging remains to be seen, but Nathan is a great brewer and we trust him to take good care of the barrel and the beer.

November 9th is the target date to get the beer into the barrel. Everyone will (hopefully) have their beer attenuated out, but many of them will still be young enough that they will not have dropped clean. We are also adding 5 gallons of unfermented wort to provide some easily fermentable sugars to get the microbes moving.

Our batch will be getting its Brett/Lacto/Pedio from 10 gallons of already aged Flanders Red. According to Wild Brews adding 10% aged beer is a common way for Flanders Red brewers to inoculate their "clean" barrels. I am contributing my most recent batch, as is my friend Scott (both batches are about 5 months old). I used the dregs from Lost Abbey Red Poppy to sour mine, Scott used Roeselare Blend for his, so we should have a healthy mix of different microbes.

The Recipe - 5 gallons:
The recipe is relatively open, giving a bit of choice to each individual brewer. We wanted to get this project moving quickly, so we decided against doing a bulk grain buy and a centralized yeast propagation, both of which we will probably consider next time.

OG 1.060
Base Malt (amount as needed to reach OG), equal parts Pils/Munich/Vienna (imported preferred, but domestic 2-row varieties are acceptable)
1 lb Wheat Malt
1 lb Medium Crystal (Crystal 60, or Caramunich)
.5 lbs Dark Crystal (Special B, CaraAroma, or Crystal 120)
Mash @ 157 for 60 min

90 minute boil with 15 IBUs of the hop of your choice to bitter (anything except citrusy American hops).

Clean yeast of your choice. We want the gravity going into the barrel to be ~1.025, so a lower attenuating strain is preferred. Most of the people I have talked to seem to be going with English or American Ale yeast.

We are looking to have a full 5 (10) gallons from each person to rack into the barrel, so that means brewing a 5.5-6 (11-12) gallon batch going into primary depending on the system. It is important to get, and keep, the barrel relatively full to hold the acetobacter to a minimum.

Assuming this batch tastes good in a year or so we will start thinking about what will go into the barrel next. Might be something similar, might be a big sour beer, might be something with some fruit, we will see. If the Flanders Red seems to be going well we may look into adding a bourbon barrel to the fleet to do something big, dark, and clean.

To read about filling the barrel read this post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BJCP Test Results

No more making fun of the BJCP and their styles guidelines for me, as I'm now an official part of it. For those who don't know, the BJCP is the main sanctioning body for homebrew competitions and beer style guidelines. Now I just need to judge in 19 more competitions and I'll be a "National" ranked judge (at my current rate of 1 per year it will take awhile). I'll be interested to see all the swag mentioned in the email (especially the wallet card).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Mike,

I am sending out your results and info tomorrow from the exam you took in Rockville, MD on 6/14/2008. You should receive this info in less than a week. If you do not please let me know. Your packet will include your Certificate, Wallet Card, Judging Record, Cover Letter and, if you are a new judge, a membership guide. If your score resulted in a promotion, your new pin is also included.

Your exam results:
Written Score: 85
Tasting Score: 81
Total Score: 84
BJCP Rank: Recognized

Congratulations on being part of the BJCP,

Susan Ruud
Assistant Exam Director

Monday, October 20, 2008

Easy No Knead Sourdough Bread

I've alluded to this technique in the past, but now with the weather cooling down I thought a full post was in order. This method was adapted from the New York Times, but they use regular packaged yeast, and I find their dough a bit too wet to work with easily. Dan, my bread nerd friend, told me that their ratio of water to flour (the weight of the water is 85% of the weight of the flour) in the original recipe is far too wet, so I scaled back to a more manageable 73%. I also upped the salt by 1/4 tsp as sourdough needs a bit more salt than a standard bread.

Sourdough starter care.
My original homemade starter always had good flavor, but it had problems rising the dough, so I decided to start over with a commercial starter. I got a San Fransisco sourdough starter from Fermented Treasures 6 months ago, and it is still going strong. That said it has changed (more sourness), and at this point probably has a good deal of microbes from my kitchen, flour, and water.


I keep my starter in the fridge at all times. When I use the starter I simply replace the volume with equal parts (by weight) flour and filtered water (chlorine is bad for microbes). If I haven't used my starter in a week or so, I'll just discard half of it and add flour and water. Changing the ratio of water to flour in a starter will favor different microbes.

The starter can occasionally survive a few weeks of neglect, but I wouldn't make a habit of it. If your starter seems to be faltering take it out of the refrigerator and feed it every 12 hours for a few days and it should perk up.

Recipe:
15 oz bread flour (about 3 cups measured with the scoop and sweep method)
1.5 tsp salt
11 oz warm filtered/bottled water (1.25 cups, plus a tablespoon)
1/2 cup sourdough starter

Mix the salt with the flour, and the sourdough with the warm water. Then combine all the ingredients and mix for 20 seconds or just until all of the flour is wet. The more you work the dough the more even the crumb structure of the finished loaf will be. If you want a rustic loaf with some air pockets (like I do) work it as little as possible.



Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a tea towel, and leave it to rise at room temperature overnight (about 18 hours). The expanding bubbles of CO2, which the yeast produce, will do the work of kneading for you. The long rise also gives the acid producing bacteria from the starter time to produce the acids that define sourdough.


The next day dust the dough with a bit more flour and fold the sides into the middle to form a round loaf, dust a towel with stone ground cornmeal (other options include wheat bran, seeds, or coarse salt) and place the loaf onto it seam side down, putting more cornmeal on top then fold the towel over. The cornmeal prevents the loaf from sticking to the towel, and helps to enhance the flavor and appearance of the crust.


Let the loaf rise until it has doubled in size again (about 3 hours for my culture). After 2 and a half hours put a cast iron dutch oven with a lid into your oven and set it for 425 degrees (it is important to put the dutch oven into a cold oven so it doesn't experience thermal shock). If you have an enamel coated dutch oven you might try setting the oven to 450-500. If the bottom crust is getting too dark try lowering the temp and visa versa if it is not getting enough color.


When the dutch oven is rocket hot, place (toss) the dough, seam side up, into the dutch oven, and put the lid back on. Bake for 25 minutes, during this time the lid will trap moisture from the dough which will allow the crust to stay stretchy as the bread continues to rise. Then take the lid off and turn the oven up to 475. Take the loaf out of the oven once it is brown and crusty, 15-20 more minutes.


Put the loaf on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it. The crust on this bread is better than on any other bread I have baked, crunchy and flavorful. The acid in the dough also helps it to stay relatively soft for 48+ hours if wrapped tightly, although the crust tends to lose its crunch after just 12.


Sometimes I sub in 50% whole wheat flour if I want something with a bit more soul, and I also do a rye variation that turns out pretty well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dark Orange Rosemary Saison

Brew days on someone else's system are always fun. I met Noah and Alex at a NOVA HomeBrew club meeting a few weeks back when I went to pickup my share of a bulk grain buy. Noah has a very nice keggle HERMS system, way more advanced than my little stove top setup. Water is heated with electric elements in the keggle and cooler (right), this hot water is pumped through the outside of the copper counterflow chiller (middle) and back into the tanks. At the same time wort from the mash tun (left) is pumped through the pipe in the center of the chiller in the opposite direction and returned to the top of the mash tun. A temperature sensor allows Noah to dial in the mash rest temperature.


The recipe we brewed was a joint effort inspired by The Lost Abbey's 10 Commandments (formerly Pizza Port SPF 8). The grain bill is mostly pilsener, with some caramel malts for flavor, and Carafa Special II for color without too much roasted flavor. The saccharification rest was a few degrees higher than I would do on my system because Noah's system takes 15 minutes to go from the protein rest to the target saccharification rest, giving the beer time in the lower end of the saccharification range.


For hops, we used a couple ounces of Amarillo pellets as a first wort hop addition. Amarillo has some pine and citrus characteristics that should compliment the spicing and yeast. We decided to skip any late boil additions in favor of letting the yeast and spices provide the aromatics.


We spiced the beer with a combination of orange and rosemary. For the orange we zested two Valencia oranges. Rosemary is very potent, so we used the leaves off of just one sprig for 11 gallons of beer. Both were added at flameout to protect as much of their aromatics as possible.


We also blackened a pound of Thompson seedless raisins in a pan. Once they had taken on some color we deglazed with the final runnings which we had been boiling down for an hour. We used a stick blender to puree the raisins and wort, the puree was added at flame out along with the spices.


Alex and I are each fermenting 4 gallons of the batch with Wyeast's VSS Biere de Garde strain (supposedly from Fantome). In addition Alex is fermenting 3 gallons that also got the dregs from a couple sour beers along with the Biere de Garde strain (hoping it will be ready in 6-9 months).

Dark Saison

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 11.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 29.50
Anticipated OG: 1.072
Anticipated SRM: 22.6
Anticipated IBU: 25.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 73 %
Wort Boil Time: 100 Minutes

Grain/Extract/Sugar
---------------------
13.00 lbs. Belgian Pilsener
13.00 lbs. German Pilsener
1.00 lbs. Carafa Special II
1.00 lbs. CaraWheat
0.50 lbs. Special B Malt
1.00 lbs. Raisins Blackened

Hops
-----
2.00 oz. Amarillo First Wort Hops

Extras
-------
Zest of 2 Valencia Oranges @ 0 Min.(boil)
1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary @ 0 Min.(boil)

Yeast
-----
WYeast 3725 Bier de Garde

Water Profile
-------------
Profile: Vienna

Calcium(Ca): 7.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 3.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 3.2 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 5.8 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 5.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 9.0 ppm

Mash Schedule
-------------
Protein Rest 20 min @ 130
Sacch Rest 90 min @ 152
Mash Out 15 @ 168

Notes
-----
10/11/08 Brewed with Alex and Noah on Noah's system

Vienna VA well water, which Noah told us is similar to Pilsen.

2 Valencia oranges zested, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary.

Seedless Thompson raisins blackened in a skillet until they took some color then deglazed with the final runnings, which we had been reducing for an hour.

Divided three ways, aerated all three with pure O2. Pitched yeast cake from one of Noah's beer into all three. One got dregs from Alex's Berliner Weisse (Wyeast Blend), Temptation Clone (RR Chips), and my Mo Betta Brett Clone 2 (Brett A). In secondary the funky version also received about .5 oz of medium toast French oak that I soaked in port for a couple weeks.

Big krausen by 24 hours at ~75 room temp. After another 24 hours I gave it some heat with the heating pad set to low to get the temperature up a bit (wort temp around 84).

10/18/08 Down to 1.010 (86% AA, 8.2% ABV), pretty good for 1 week. The krausen has fallen, but it still looks cloudy so the yeast may still drop it another few points.

10/19/08 Transferred to secondary, 3 gallons straight, ~7/8 gallon dry hopped with .5 oz of Amarillo.

11/02/08 Bottled the plain batch with 2.5 oz of white sugar (2.5 volumes CO2), and the dry hopped batch with 7/8 oz of sugar (3 volumes CO2). Both taste good, slightly resiny, with a toasty malt backbone.

2/08/09 Finally took a FG reading... 1.003 (96% AA, 9.1% ABV). It doesn't taste infected, so that is one heck of an aggressive strain.

2/09/09 1st and 2nd Tastings

5/12/09 1st tasting of the funky portion

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Duck Confit for Cassoulet

Along with four breasts of duck prosciutto my two ducks also provided me with four legs for confit (using another great recipe from Charcuterie). The legs got a quick dusting with 1 oz of kosher salt along with pieces of garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, and cloves. After two days of curing in the refrigerator they had given up a bit of moisture, but didn't look too different.


The next step was to render out some duck fat from all of the fat and skin that I had harvested from the ducks. To do this I added a cup of water and brought the mixture to a bare simmer. After 2 hours I strained out the what remained of the skin and chilled the fat.


I then cooked the duck legs submerged in the fat (along with a bit of lard) in the oven at 200 degrees for 6 hours. This low slow cooking makes for some incredibly moist and flavorful meat.

After letting the legs stay under the fat for 4 days in the refrigerator I was ready to make Cassoulet. Cassoulet is one of the big French culinary classics, up there with Beef Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin, and Bouillabaisse. I decided to go with a recipe from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.

The first step was to simmer 5 cups of white beans (which I had already soaked overnight), 2 lbs of pork (I used shoulder, but belly is preferred), a piece of pork rind/skin (I used a piece left over from making bacon), a quartered onion, thyme, peppercorns, salt, and enough water to cover. After 1 hour the beans and pork (meat and rind) were mostly cooked, I discarded everything else (reserving the cooking liquid).

To further add some Maillard reaction flavors I browned 6 sausages (I used German pork sausages) in a bit of the duck fat.


I then browned 3 sliced onions and a clove of garlic in the same pan. Once they were cooked I pureed them with the cooked piece of pork rind.


Once I had the duck, sausages, puree, beans, reserved cooking liquid, and a large pot it was time to build the cassoulet. I used my 5 qrt cast iron dutch over, but it was just barely large enough. I layered it (bottom to top) beans, duck, puree, beans, sausages, puree, beans, pork, puree, beans. I then added the reserved liquid from the beans to cover. Cooked with the lid on for 1 hour at 350 followed by another hour at 250.

After the cassoulet cooled, I put it into the refrigerator overnight. When ready to eat you could just reheat at 350 for one hour with the lid off to crisp the top. However, I didn't have 8 friends to join me for dinner so I just portioned out the cassoulet and reheated it depending on how much I needed. Here I was cooking for my roommate and a friend.


The tender meat and creamy beans were terrific. The flavor is mostly a reflection of the quality of the ingredients and your technique, not over spiced, not too heavy. The one let down was the sausages, which were a bit too dry. My friend Zach (a chef) suggested I try Andouille next time, so that's what I would suggest going with.

If you are looking for something to drink with your cassoulet I would suggest a beer with some maltiness to complement the meat, but still enough dryness to clean the pallet. I though dubbels fit the bill nicely, particularly a bottle of Westmalle Dubbel I had with it one night.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Duck Breast Prosciutto

Here is the process (adapted from Charcuterie by Polcyn and Ruhlman) that I went through to make a simple and tasty cured meat, duck breasts that taste amazingly like an aged ham. The great think about using duck breast instead of a hog's leg is that the higher surface to mass ratio means that the cure and aging take about a week instead of months. The size is also much more manageable, and duck breasts are much easier to find.

I bought two whole ducks (regular Long Island, but something more interesting would work just as well), and took off the breasts and legs. I reserved the four legs for confit (along with all the fat and skin not attached to the breasts).


The four breasts were rinsed, patted dry, and then packed in kosher salt. I put down 1/3 of the salt in the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish, laid the breasts on skin side up not touching, then covered them with the remaining salt. In all it took almost an entire 5 lb box of salt.


After 24 hours in the refrigerator I took the breasts out of the salt. They were noticeably firmer, and a darker shade of red. The salt was the consistency of wet beach sand from the moisture it had drawn out of the meat. I rinsed the breasts in cool water to remove the excess salt and then patted them dry. I gave them a light dusting with white pepper. Other spices could be used either in the cure or afterwards, but I wanted to see how the flavor of just the duck would be on my first try.

I wrapped each breast in a layer of cheesecloth, secured with some string (pink string optional). I then hung the duck breasts in my chest freezer and set it for 50 degrees. A cool basement in winter would probably work as well.

After 7 days hanging in the cool, moist spot then were firm, but not leathery or hard. They smelled meaty, but still very clean/fresh.

Sliced thin on the bias the meat tastes like a slightly gamier version of dry cured ham (Prosciutto, or Serrano). The texture is a bit chewier than cured ham, but that may just be because I am not getting it sliced as thin as a meat slicer would. The flavor is meaty and salty on its own, but also compliments cheese, bread, or fruit (apples or melon) very nicely. It also complimented the flavor of the Dock Street Illuminator Doppelbock that I am drinking while writing this.


When Scott and I were smoking the bacon we also put one of these breasts on for the first hour at 200 degrees. The result was a salty, slightly chewy piece of meat that very closely resembled a Smithfield Ham in appearance and flavor. The dry cure was probably a bit too heavy handed for this application, but a brine would have been perfect.

Beer Brewers for Obama

Speaking of obscure political buttons, my friend Noah gave this one to me the other day.


Who wants an Anheuser Busch distributor heiress as first lady anyway?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Where are you from?

Here are the results of where visitors to this site are from, always happy to see people from all over the world chiming in.

Northeast 16 (11%)
Mid-Atlantic 15 (10%)
Mid-West 30 (21%)
South 18 (12%)
Mountains 4 (2%)
West Coast 25 (17%)
Canada 7 (4%)
Other No. America 2 (1%)
South America 2 (1%)
Oceania (Is it still called that?) 3 (2%)
Asia 0 (0%)
Europe 16 (11%)
Other 4 (2%) (Feel free to chime in where you are from)

I use Google Analytics as well, and so I thought it would be interesting to compare where computers are connecting from against what people responded.

84% North America
10% Europe
4% Australia/New Zealand
1% South America
1% Asia

Seems pretty similar to me, although I wonder if those hits from Asia are people or bots.