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

11.00 lbs. Pilsen
1.00 lbs. Wheat Malt

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

White Labs WLP550 Belgian Ale

Mash Schedule
Sacch 60 min @ 150

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

6.00 Gallons Cider

0.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient
3.00 Tsp Pectic Enzyme

WYeast 3766 Cider

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

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

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

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

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 154

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.