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

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

0.13 oz. Galena @ 60 min.

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

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Mash Schedule
30 min @ 152

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:

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.


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

3.50 lbs. Germany Wheat Malt
3.50 lbs. Germany Pilsener

1.75 oz. Spalter Spalt @ 65 min.

0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 20 Min.

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)

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

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

1.00 oz. Willamette @ 40 min.

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

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Mash Schedule
60 min @ 155

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.