Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bottle: Wine Barrel Flanders Red

Saturday the DC Barrel Guys got together to bottle our first sour beer, the Wine Barrel Flanders Red we racked into the barrel last November. The year had been good to the beer, after a brief period of sickness (the pediococcus getting moving) the beer has developed a bright acidity, and huge fruit (cherry) and oak complexities (look for a full review in a couple weeks once it carbonates.) Of course I forgot to bring my camera, so I don't have any pictures from the actual event, but I am sure Dan (City Brewer) and Nathan (Des Jardin) will post some pictures and their own takes on the day soon.

We debated the amount of priming sugar for a long time. Originally we were working on the assumption that the beer would be wine flat, based on this quote from Vinnie Cilurzo (BYO Jan/Feb 2008) "Remember that if you are bottle conditioning, you'll need to add more sugar than normal, probably 1 cup of sugar per 5 gallons (19 L). This is because the beer has lost all of its CO2 during barrel aging. It is as still as wine when it comes out of the barrel." The beer tasted a bit carbonated though, so we decided to hold back on the sugar a bit, 149 g of corn sugar per 4 gallon batch was decided to be a good compromise (adding 2.45 volumes of CO2 to the beer). We also added some rehydrated champagne yeast to each bucket (20 grams total) to ensure timely bottle conditioning.

We needed to find a way to get the beer out of the bottom of the barrel without lifting it or disturbing the sediment. Noah rigged up his march pump with a 90 degree turned pickup in the barrel. It worked perfectly as we pumped 33.2 lbs of beer into bottling buckets set on Tim's postal scale (easier to divide the beer for priming purposes than volume.) This was the step I was most concerned about, but it gave us no problems.

Noah (Redcar) took a time-lapse video of the barrel emptying/filling, one shot every 15 seconds. Not that you'll be able to pick up too much of our technique, but it is a fun 1:43 (not sure who we should blame for the bucket halfway through).

Overall the day was surprisingly quick and smooth. With that many people we were able to run three bottling stations at a time. From the time we started emptying the barrels to the time all the beer was in (~350) bottles and 20 gallons in carboys and kegs it only took 2.5 hours (and that was with some delicious beer samples from our BrewLocal tour of Bullfrog Brewing and Selin's Grove, and some excellent fried eggplant pizza from Pete's Apizza in Columbia Heights where Dan works).

I took half of my 8 gallon share in bottles (everyone who took bottles got 1.5 cases of 12 oz bottles, and six 22 bombers). Not a bad return on a 5 gallon investment.

I also took a six-pack of my share and added some bottle hops. I was inspired by a bottle of El Rojo Diablo from Bullfrog (a sour red dry-hopped with Amarillo). I decided to go with a combination of Amarillo, Simcoe, and homegrown Cascade (about one hop cone of each), I thought the citrusy character would match well with the acidity (I was really right - tasting). New Belgium does something similar as well with a pale sour beer to make La Terroir.

My other 4 gallons was racked onto 2 lbs of sour cherries I bought at the local farmers market and froze back in July. In addition to boosting the cherry character of the base beer it should renew fermentation, boosting the funk and acidity. I'll probably let it age another 3-4 months before putting it into bottles.

After three hours of bottling we still had the task of racking the next beer (Sour Single) into the same barrel. We did not clean out the barrel, but we did suck out all but ~1 qrt of the slurry (for use in other batches). 20 gallons of the Single had stopped fermenting around 1.020, 10 had just been brewed in the last 36 hours, and 25 gallons had fermented out completely 1.006-1.012. The resulting blend was around 1.030, lots of residual sweetness, but that will be gone pretty quickly (the airlock was starting to bubble just a couple hours after we finished). This beer will probably stay in the barrel until this time next year.

The Barrel Aged Wee Heavy is also coming along nicely. It has a nice bold acidity, but without much funk. It has a solid barrel/oak character, but not too much bourbon character. Hopefully it will be ready to bottle in the next few months, an Imperial Porter is the leading candidate for the next beer into that barrel.

This one turned out great, first tasting.

The cherry half was infused with Sorachi Ace and lime peel and entered into the Iron Mug.

The cherry half turned out well, huge acidity, balanced cherry contribution.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weizenbock Recipe

Fermenting WeizenbockWith a yeast cake of White Labs 300, Hefeweizen Ale Yeast, left over from my Extract Hefeweizen sitting in my fridge I wanted to brew something with it. I considered doing a Dunkleweizen (Dark German Wheat) or a Roggenbier (German Rye), but with cold winter weather approaching I decided to step it up and do to my first Weizenbock. This is a rich, generally dark, wheat ale typified by Schneider Aventinus. Rather than having the big banana character of a Hefeweizen, Weizenbock has a more complex fruit character with banana mingled with dark fruit and a firm Bock-ish Munich maltiness.

I decided to go with a pretty moderate gravity for this batch (1.075), I wanted it to be big and flavorful, but not so big that I couldn't enjoy a pint on a weeknight. In general I like beers in this middle range (6.5%-8.5% ABV) sitting between session ales and the big monster alcohol bombs.

For most of the malt I went with a pretty standard mix of dark Munich, Vienna, and wheat malt. Instead of adding pilsener malt for the rest of the base I added some Marris Otter, which will add a bit more depth of maltiness that I don't get from pils in such a rich beer. I also added some Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal which added a wonderful character to the lagered Wheat Triplebock I brewed last fall. It adds a nice combination of dark fruit with just a hint of coffee, as well as some nice color. I went a bit lighter on it than I did in the Triplebock because this is a lighter beer that I want to be easier drinking.

I kept the fermentation pretty cool (58-60 ambient) to ensure that this beer turns out pretty moderate in terms of alcohol and ester character. After fermentation finished I gave the beer some time at 45 to allow the yeast to drop out and the flavors to meld.


Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.63
Anticipated OG: 1.075
Anticipated SRM: 17.2
Anticipated IBU: 20.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

6.00 lbs. German Wheat Malt
3.00 lbs. German Dark Munich Malt
1.50 lbs. Maris Otter
0.63 lbs. German Vienna Malt
0.50 lbs. Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal (~155L)

1.75 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet @ 3.10% AA) 45 min.

0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 13 Min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 13 Min.

White Labs WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 152

Yeast cake saved from extract weizen when it was racked to the keg 9/25/09

Brewed 10/03/09 By myself.

Fly sparge. Collected 6 gallons of 1.055 wort. Added 1/4 tsp of CaCl to the runoff to drop the pH and ensure a good hot break.

1 Year old hop pellets reduced from 3.5% AA.

Cooled down to ~70, put into 58 degree fridge.

Pitched after ~4 hours with 60 seconds of pure O2. Good fermentation by 8 hours.

Good hard fermentation, a bit of blowoff after 2-3 days.

10/05/09 Upped temp to 60 to help it finish.

10/14/09 Dropped temp to 45 to help clear.

10/25/09 Still pretty hazy, balanced fruit character, some caramel. Down to 1.016 (79% AA, 7.8% ABV)

10/27/09 Racked to a three gallon secondary. Took out of fridge, left at basement temp.  Extra beer racked into a growler and primed.

11/29/09 Bottled with 2 5/8 cane sugar. The growler was very tasty a few weeks back shared with a few friends, so I have high hopes for this one.

2/7/10 First tasting, turned out very well, good complex blend of flavors and aromas and solid drinkability.

4/28/10 Scored a 32.5 at the 2010 NHC.  Judges thought it was old/oxidized, a character I don't really get.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adam Clone First Tasting

With the cold weather arriving in DC early (I already saw my first snow of the year a couple days ago in Williamsport PA) I thought it was time to dip into my stash of big beers for this review. Six months ago I brewed a clone of Hair of the Dog Adam, a terrific, but uncategorizable dark ale with a kick of peat smoked malt. For more details on the recipe and beer check out my initial post on the brew.

The carbonation still hasn't shown up in this one, but it has enough residual sweetness and body to still be tasty. That is something my liquor spiked barleywine (which finished a few points lower) was not able to handle (incidentally the carbonation is finally coming along on that one).

Adam Clone - 10/19/09

Appearance – Dark, dark, dark brown... ok black. Clear when held at a steep enough angle to gaze through the otherwise opaque body. Thin, coarse, tan head. Despite the lack of carbonation it has decent head retention.

Smell – A combination of coffee and earthy peat malt take the lead. The smoked character is very well integrated into the rich caramel malt. Certainly some alcohol, but I wouldn't call it hot. Nice dark fruit character as well, prunes in particular.

Taste – Well balanced, thick maltiness balanced by bitterness from both the hops and the dark malt/smoke. The smoke and coffee/chocolate/biscuit malt notes blend perfectly. The hops are not as potent as the 65 IBUs might suggest, but that may be a result of the clean Galena and Super Styrians used for bittering. Not much hop aroma is left from the Tettnanger addition at 10 minutes. A clean ethanol bite, not too surprising from a ~10% ABV at cellar temp ~60 F.

Mouthfeel – Rich and full, honestly it has enough body to hold up without carbonation, but it still would be better with some fizz.

Drinkability & Notes – I'm really pleased with this one, but at 5 months in the bottle it will probably take some additional yeast to get any carbonation. I think the original Adam is a smokier beer, so if you are looking for a true clone I would up the amount to what was originally called for, but it is great as is. Not much I would change if I brewed it again, but the sample of Cherry Adam from the Wood I had a month back was enough to convince me that cherries (subtle) and bourbon soaked oak would be a good addition to this one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Extract Weizen and Single Tasting

After a few weeks under pressure in the kegs my first two "return to extract brewing" experiments are ready to taste. Both of them turned out well, clean (no mythical extract twang) and surprisingly pale.

If you are an all-grain brewer I'd suggest giving an extract batch a shot if you are short on time some day. You may not have quite as much control as you are used to, and it may cost a bit extract, but it can certainly produce excellent results.

Extract Hefeweizen

Appearance – Slightly hazy golden-orange body. Certainly lighter in color than most people think an extract beer can be, and certainly no darker than my decocted all-grain hefeweizen (if anything it might be a bit lighter). Nice looking creamy white head, with good retention, but not much lacing.

Smell – Pretty mellow aroma, a slight hint of banana and some spice. It is lacking the bready/yeasty character that great hefes have, but that may be more a result of the kegging (and the lack of yeast) rather than the extract. As the beer warms it begins to show a hint of sulfur, hopefully that will pass with a bit more age.

Taste – The flavor is similar to the aroma, very subdued. The ester character is only banana and a pretty restrained one at that. It is supported by some classic clove notes (not as much as I like though, the ferulic acid rest certainly seems to have boosted the clove in the all-grain compared to this). Pretty dry with just a touch of hop character to balance the slight sweetness. It has a slight carbonic bite to it from the high carbonation, which adds a touch of acidity to the beer.

Mouthfeel – Moderate-thin body with a nice firm carbonation. As it warms and the carbonation beings to wane it comes across as thin, but fresh out of the tap it is just refreshing.

Drinkability & Notes – A solid beer, but it doesn't have the complexity that my all-grain version did. I would like to try this recipe again to a bit higher gravity and with Wyeast 3068 (rather than White Labs 300) which seemed to give me a more complex ester profile.

Extract Single

Appearance – Another really great creamy head with great retention, and nice coating lacing. The body is a shade darker (probably due to the liquid extract) and a bit hazier (probably because it is a week younger than the hefe).

Smell – Great complex nose with notes of pepper, and lemon. There is even some breadiness from the malt, or maybe that is just a bit of suspended yeast.

Taste – Great complex phenol character, clove, cinnamon, and pepper. Almost saison like, but not quite that dry. There are some esters as well, pear with a light touch of banana, but the low fermentation temperature kept them moderate. Good balance with just a touch of herbal hop, not as much as I expected from an ounce of hallertau at 5 minutes. It could be a bit drier, but I wouldn't call it sweet.

Mouthfeel – A bit fuller than the hefe, with moderate carbonation. Could be a touch thinner/crisper, but it is very drinkable as is.

Drinkability & Notes – One of the better non-sour Belgian beers I have made, good balance with plenty of complexity. I'll be interested to see where this one goes with a bit more age, hopefully it doesn't clean up too much in the keg. I'll certainly be brewing this one again, although I might boost the sugar to help it finish a bit drier.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Solera Barrel Interivew with Basic Brewing

A few weeks ago James Spencer recorded an interview with my buddy Nathan and I about our experiences doing solera brewing and aging beer in oak barrels (we are bottling our first effort next weekend). It was just posted and worth a listen if you've got the 50 minutes.

I also put together a spreadsheet (download) that gives you the average age of a single barrel solera system with different pull period, rate, and time before the first pull.

Nathan and I have been talking about putting a barrel in my basement to house a two man solera operation, replacing probably 10 gallons every six months or so. We are thinking of a pale sour (lambic-ish) beer in a white wine barrel, but there will be more details to come on that as the time gets closer.

Anyone else out there have barrels or a solera going?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Extract Belgian Single

Along with my extract hefewezien I wanted to get another quick extract batch off to put on tap in my keggerator. I settled on another yeast forward style, Belgian Single (Enkel). These are beers traditionally made for the daily consumption by the monks at Trappist monasteries. They are normally pale, dry, and hard to come by outside they walls of the monastery. Some examples include Westmalle Extra, Westvleteren Blonde, and Chimay Dorée. Some are pretty hoppy like the Westvleteren and some are spiced like Dorée, but they all are fermented with the estery/phenolic house strain from their respective brewery. There are some secular versions, like Smuttynose Star Island Single, if you can't make the trip to Belgium.

The recipe I went with was modified from one posted by Homebrew42 on the BeerAdvocate forums. He called for dry pilsner extract, but I used liquid extract because that is all the homebrew store had. I also used the White Labs equivalent of the Wyeast strain he called for (both are supposedly from Chimay). I also doubled the hops because I felt that 12 IBUs was too low for the style, it also served as a good way to further differentiate this beer from the hefeweizen. Finally I switched the cane sugar to corn sugar as I had some extra on hand for an upcoming experiment (the poll will give you a clue to what I am planning).

Nothing too interesting about this batch except that it came out very pale (I did a full boil with half of the extract added late) and seems like it will be very tasty once it is fully carbonated (spicy, peppery, almost saison like now). I'm planning on doing a full tasting of both this and the weizen next week once I get back from a long weekend in Massachusetts and before I head to Pennsylvania to visit Bullfrog Brewing, Selin's Grove, and probably a few others places for BrewLocal.

Lazy Monk's Single

Recipe Specifics (Extract)
Batch Size (Gal): 4.75
Total Extract (Lbs): 7.22
Anticipated OG: 1.054
Anticipated SRM: 6.4
Anticipated IBU: 20.8
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

6.60 lbs. Briess Pils LME
0.63 lbs. Corn Sugar

2.00 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (Pellet 2.30% AA) @ 60 min.
1.00 oz. Hallertau Hersbrucker (Pellet 2.30% AA) @ 5 min.

0.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 Min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 10 Min.

White Labs WLP500 Trappist Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Distilled Water

9/12/09 Made a starter to be split with the barrel aged single.

Brewed 9/18/09 by myself

Brought 5 gallons of distilled water to a boil. Added 1 can of Briess Pilsen Light LME. Brought to a boil and added 2 ounces of Hallertau (adjusted down from 2.8% AA because they are about a year old). Boiled for 50 minutes. Added the corn sugar, yeast nutrient, and Whirlfloc. Boiled 5 minutes. Added the second can of LME. Brought back to a boil and added the last ounce of hops. Chilled to 75.

Bitterness should be slightly higher than calculated because of the lower gravity of for most of the boil (~26 IBUs).

Placed in the freezer set to 64 degrees. After several hours of cooling I gave it 60 seconds of pure oxygen and pitched the last half of the starter.

Good strong fermentation, but it never developed much of a krausen.

9/19/09 Boosted the temperature up to 68 to make sure fermentation finishes out.

9/24/09 Dropped the temperature down to 35 to help clean the beer up.

10/01/09 Racked to a keg and put under 11 psi to carbonate. Stole 1/2 gallon to top-off the barrel aged single.

10/14/09 1st tasting, great yeast character. The beer ended up around 1.012. Not too bad at 78% AA, but I would have liked to see it a few points lower.
Recipe based on this recipe from Homebrew42:

3 lbs Pilsen DME (60 min)
1 oz Hallertauer (60 min)
3 lbs Pilsen DME (5 min)
1/2 lb Table sugar (5 min)
1/2 oz Hallertauer (5 min)
Wyeast 1214 Belgian ale

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Late Summer Vegetable Soup

Aaaand... we're back with the lunch posts! Between Mike's move and my preparations for applying to grad school (GRE = thumbs down), August/September was a little hectic, though we did manage to keep up with the Sunday lunching for the most part. At this point, we've had numerous Sundays to explore the Takoma Park Farmer's Market and settle into a mindset for some cozy autumnal recipes.

A few weeks back when we made this hearty vegetable soup, the weather had just made its first chilly snap of the season ("chilly" here meaning maybe 65 degrees), which naturally put us in the mood for a hot, rich bowl of soup. In this case, we opted for vegetable, given that the summer growing season (at least a few weeks ago) still had a little time left before morphing into squashes/gourds and apples. The key, it seemed, to really kicking up the flavor in this soup was spending some extra time on the broth. Our base started with some roasted mushrooms, tomato paste, leeks and garlic, which complimented without overshadowing the handful of heartier late-summer vegetables we bought at the market.

Farmer's Market Booty
Lima Beans
Sunflower Seed Multigrain Bread (Atwater's)

Pantry Staples/From the Supermarket
Portabello Mushrooms
Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
Tomato Paste
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil
Dried Thyme

Now, sometimes you get a vegetable soup with a light, unobtrusive broth, which certainly has its time and place, depending on the season (spring to mid-summer) and available produce. We chose to make a broth with heartier substance given the cold snap of late summer. We didn't want to go through the effort of making the broth completely from scratch; so we started with a box of vegetable broth, but from there spent some time to deepen the flavor, tossing olive oil (2 tablespoons), mushrooms (half a pound), and tomato paste (1 tablespoon) together in a cast iron pan. To that, we added an entire head of garlic with the excess papery skin removed and top cut off to expose most of the cloves to the heat. This all went into the oven at a toasty 450 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the mushrooms had given up most of their moisture.

Once the mushrooms et al became all good and roasted, we added them (yes, including the head of garlic) to a cast iron dutch oven with roughly chopped leek greens (cleaned well to get all the grit out!), two quarts of low-sodium vegetable broth, a pinch of thyme and a few grinds of pepper. At this point we didn't add any salt due to the content in the broth as well as in the roasted mushroom mixture.

The broth simmered away for about 30 minutes, after which we strained it to collect all the liquidy goodness (sans mushrooms and leeks, see below). Then, it was back to the stove, ready for the vegetables.

... but not before we used tongs to squeeze the tender, sweet morsels of roasted garlic from their singed papery pods, mashed them to a paste, and added them to the broth.

Once the broth came back up to boil, it was simply a matter of adding the vegetables, which we did in steps to keep the more delicate ingredients from turning to mush. In the first round, we added the lima beans, potatoes cut into small chunks and chopped tomatoes, which then boiled for about 20 minutes. After that time passed, we added the kernels from one ear of corn, and a big bunch of roughly chopped escarole (which cooks down a great deal). Five or so minutes later, we had a delicious vegetable soup to enjoy.

And so down we sat, cozying up to brimming bowls of rich, robust, steamy vegetable soup, of course accompanied by the requisite thick slices of crusty sunflower seed multigrain bread. Now that it's soup season, Mike and I are looking forward to many more soupy Sunday lunches just like this one.

Unfortunately for those of you who read this blog for the beer, this Sunday lunch was a "beer-pairing fail." Luckily, the rest of the season should present many more tasty opportunities for pairing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Digging the farmers market lunch posts?

Yes 67%
No 8%
Don't Care 24%

Glad to see that most people are enjoying the food posts (and more importantly that very few people dislike them). Audrey and I have a couple more posts in the works at the moment (Veggie Soup and Mushroom Crepes), but Audrey is hard at work studying for the GRE and applying to Grad schools, so postings will be pretty erratic.

If you have tried any of the recipes (or if they have inspired you to get creative, which is the real goal) let us know.