Sunday, February 28, 2010

Timothy Taylor Landlord Clone Recipe

Landlord CloneBack in early 2007 when Wyeast first released 1469 West Yorkshire yeast my friend James and I brewed a bitter with it.  The yeast was from Timothy Taylor so naturally we brewed a clone of their illusive Landlord (a "Strong Pale Ale" at 4.3% ABV)  We based a recipe in Brew Your Own Real British Ales at Home which looked good to both of us, but we added a bit of extra hops at the end to up the hop aroma.

For malt we used 100% Golden Promise (a Scottish base malt), simple enough.  The hops were a blend of East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings, and Fuggles.  The water was adjusted to have a bit more sulfate, the gypsum also helped to keep the mash pH down on such a pale beer.

The yeast gave an excellent lightly fruity flavor that blended well with the earthy hops, but it was also one of the slowest strains to clear that I have ever experienced.  Despite the low 1.043 OG after more than two weeks I was forced to rack out from under an inch of krausen because the gravity was no longer moving.  As you can see it eventually cleared, but it took a couple of weeks of cold conditioning in the fridge after carbonation.

Landlord Clone

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.20
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.00
Anticipated OG: 1.043
Anticipated SRM: 4.6
Anticipated IBU: 31.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 min.

100.0% - 9.00 lbs. Golden Promise  

1.00 oz. Fuggle (Pellet 4.00% AA)  65 min.
0.63 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet 4.20% AA) 65 min.
0.25 oz. East Kent Goldings (Pellet 6.90% AA) 15 min.
0.38 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellet 4.20% AA) 0 min.

0.50 Wirlfloc @ 15 Min.(boil)

WYeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Water Profile
Profile: TT Pale Ale

Calcium(Ca): 74.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 10.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 8.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 187.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 16.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 18.0 ppm
pH: 8.23

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 151
Mash Out - 15 min @ 166

Brewed 3/15/07 with James

Collected 6.5 gallons of 1.035 wort.

No problems in the brew, but topped off with .75 gallons of water because we came in under volume and over gravity.

Pitched right from a partially inflated pack of Wyeast, after 60 seconds of oxygenation.  Room temp around 62 to start.

66 degrees and three inch krausen by 24 hours. Got a bit hotter the third day due to a sudden and unexpected March heatwave.

Back down to the mid 60s for the next few days.

3/29/07 1.010, but still has a big krausen.  Hopefully this is just about done fermenting.

4/02/07 1.008 correcting for temp.  Still has a inch of krausen, hopefully its done.

4/6/07 Transferred to secondary still at 1.008

4/08/07 Bottled with 3 oz of corn sugar for 2.15 volumes of CO2.

4/15/07  After a week the carbonation is pretty good and the flavor is smoothing out a lot.  Very fruity.

7/06/07 This one took a while in the fridge to drop bright, but the flavor just kept getting better.  I think we could have gone heavier on the hops, but for a light refreshing drinker it is just about perfect.

Commercial Description:
Available filtered and pasteurized in 500ml bottles.

Ingredients: Golden Promise malt; Styrian Goldings, Goldings and Fuggles hops; Oldham Brewery yeast.  First brewed in the 1950's.

From Brew your Own Real British Ales at Home

Timothy Taylor Landlord
1.042 OG
1.009 FG
100% golden promise
30 IBU target

151F (66C) for 90 minutes

60 min hops: 1.1 oz Styrian Goldings, 1 oz Fuggle
15 min. hops: 0.45 oz Goldings, 0.3 oz Irish moss

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dave (17.5% ABV Eis Beer) Tasting

I'd been excited to crack open the second (and final) bottle of the ice concentrated version of my Hair of the Dog Adam clone. I got the chance at a tasting at my friend Dyan's house two nights ago with a three other friends to share the boozy goodness.  We actually had a few ounces left over (due to multiple batches of Supplication and Brute, not to mention a growler of Pliny the Younger) but it gives you an idea of the drinkability of Dave. 

We drank it still and pretty close to room temperature, and it showed with a big alcohol burn.  I would have liked to let this sit longer before drinking, but with my concern over oxidation I wanted to try it before it sat in the bottle too long.  I'm going to try carbonating the last few ounce with my carbonator cap to see how it changes.

Dave Clone

Dave Clone TastingAppearance – Dark brown, but still wonderfully clear when held to the light. The beer is still (expected since it wasn't primed), but it displays some nice legs due to the alcohol and residual gravity

Smell – The oak really comes through with a big whiff of vanilla, as well as some subtler woody tones. The peat is present as well giving it a character reminiscent of Scotch, the big boozy character only helps to reinforce that impression. There is some bready/malty notes as well, but the wood and alcohol drown most of that out. Thankfully there is no oxidation.

Taste – A healthy spirit burn is the first thing I noticed, followed by a rich sticky sweetness. There are some great dark fruit notes (plum, raisin, date) that make me think of port (not that I drink port all that often).

Mouthfeel – Full, no need for carbonation. The alcohol burn is also a component of the mouthfeel, a first for me as a brewer.

Drinkability & Notes – 2 oz was plenty and the five of us didn't finish the bottle, but that is what you have to expect from a beer this big. One oak cube in a 12 oz bottle was too much, but it was close to the right level since the tannins helped to tame the massive sweetness.

I'll certainly try ice concentration again in the future, I'm thinking of doing it for my IPA and the barrel Flanders red just to see how it effects hops and acid (something this beer didn't give an impression of).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Smoked Stout - DC Homebrewers Anniversary Beer

Dave and Martin MillingThere is something really wonderful about joining an organization right when it is starting up.  I've been attending meetings of the DC Homebrewers club since it was founded in early 2008.  It has been rewarding to participate in the club as it grows and tries to find an identity in a metro-area that already has several larger/older homebrewing clubs.

A couple months back I struck upon an idea, why not get club members together to brew an anniversary beer to celebrate 2 years of DC Homebrewers?  I sent out an email to the club discussion list and got some interest.  Someone suggested that we try to brew a beer with as many local ingredients as possible.  Our definition of local was pretty loose, but we came up with barley malted/smoked by a local distillery, homegrown hops, local honey, and yeast from a local brewpub.
People were great about procuring ingredients and then bringing them over to my house early on a Sunday morning to brew.  Once most of the people (ingredients) arrived we set about trying to put together a malt bill based on what we had on hand.  For awhile it had a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen feel, but after awhile we hashed out something that I think most people were happy with.  We decided on a moderately strong stout/porter, in addition to the smoked malt we added plenty of pale malt for gravity, flaked barley for body, and a complex blend of dark malts for depth and balance. 

I contributed 1.25 oz of my own homegrown cascades (basically the whole harvest...), but luckily someone else brought some commercial cascades to supplement.  This is intended to be a beer that will age well, so we were a bit more heavy handed with the hops (50 IBUs) to ensure some bitterness remains in a year or two, and we left out late boil hops since the hop aroma is the first aspect of a beer to fade.

Rob and Brian Mashing InThe yeast slurry from District ChopHouse (20th generation Scottish yeast) was gangbusters ripping through the beer quickly despite the low wintertime temperature of my basement.  Scottish yeast is relatively mild in character and great in malty beers, but it will be interesting to see how this one is after so many repitchings.
The honey will be added to the primary fermenter after the initial fermentation dies down. This will preserve as much of its aromatics as possible because the honey will not be subjected to heat or the CO2 scrubbing of primary fermentation.  Despite adding it late in the process I'm not expecting too much character from the honey in a finished beer with so much else going on.

Hopefully the club will repeat this event every February to produce another anniversary beer. A six-pack of each of these beers will make it to the club's anniversary meeting every January, with the goal (a few years down the road) of being able to sample 5-6 different batches once a year.  We spent most of the boil discussing styles to brew in the future (possibly alternating between two different styles, tweaking them as time goes by), but it will probably be next winter by the time the format is determined.

If you want to see more pictures of the brewday take a look at the Flikr page.

DC HB Anniversary 2010 - Smoked Honey Stout

Me Recirculating the WortRecipe Specifics (All-Grain)

Batch Size (Gal):         5.25 
Total Grain (Lbs):       14.75
Anticipated OG:          1.075
Anticipated SRM:          34.0
Anticipated IBU:          49.9
Brewhouse Efficiency:    72 %
Wort Boil Time:          90 min.

61.0% - 9.00 lbs. Canadian Pale Malt     
16.9% - 2.50 lbs. Wasmund's Smoked Malt        
6.8% - 1.00 lbs. Flaked Barley         
1.7% - 0.25 lbs. Simpson's Extra Dark Crystal                       
1.7% - 0.25 lbs. Carafa Special II         
1.7% - 0.25 lbs. Belgian Chocolate Malt                 
1.7% - 0.25 lbs. English Roasted Barley
0.8% - 0.13 lbs. English Black Patent Malt
0.8% - 0.13 lbs. Coffee Malt

6.8% - 1.00 lbs. Honey (after primary fermentation)           

Stefin Adding HopsHops
3.50 oz. Cascade (Pellet 4.50% AA) 60 min.

1.00 Unit Whirlfloc @ 15 min.(boil)
0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.(boil)

White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 152

Brewed 2/21/10 With a big group from DCHB.

Bee George HoneyApple smoked malt was from Copper Fox Distillery (Wasmund's Whiskey).  Didn't look like it took a very good crush.

No water adjustments.

Hops 1.25 oz of my homegrown, 2.25 oz of year old pellets.

Yeast was a cup of slurry from District ChopHouse, 20 generations.

Shook to aerate.  Violent fermentation by 12 hours.

2/25/10 Added 1 lb of Bee George Honey (Wild Flower Honey from Takoma Park Maryland).  Considering I bought it at the COOP in Takoma Park it seemed appropriate addition to a "local" beer.  After adding the honey I gave the beer a gentle stir with my wine thief to ensure that it was mixed in.

3/13/10  Racked to secondary, should be bottling in 2-3 weeks.

5/06/10 Bottled with 2.25 oz of table sugar.  Gravity down around 1.012.  Sample tasted pretty good, not much smoke/honey character.

6/23/10 First tasting, good if a bit over-carbonated (I'll be more excited about drinking it next winter, summer is not the right season for this one).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Classic Brewing Water Profiles (rant)

Water and Water SaltsFor certain beer styles many homebrewers (and the BJCP for that matter) put a lot of emphasis on adjusting the brewing water to match the local water where each style is brewed historically.  Some of the "classic" water profiles include Burton-on-Trent (high sulfate), Pilsen (low ion), Dortmund (moderately high levels of everything), and Dublin (high carbonate).  The theory is that you can get the beer you brew closer to the commercial examples by using water that has a similar mineral content. In my experience this is a poor idea, certainly not the best way to adjust your water. 

The suggestion that these are somehow perfect or optimal waters just because they are what some breweries use is just silly. First off, the brewers in these locations often treat their water to add and remove minerals, or go through long complex mashes to overcome the issues their water causes (like Pilsners).  On top of that mimicking the absurd amount (or lack) of minerals in some cases will lead to poor tasting beer unless these additional steps are followed.  In particular the high levels of minerals called for to match some of these profiles is going to lead to a harsh minerally flavor in your finished beer.

With all that said, I think water adjustments are an important part of brewing many styles.  I think they should just be done based on personal taste and recipe, not history and tradition.  Burton-on-Trent is famous for its heavy sulfate content (most water reports put it around 800 ppm, nearly a gram per liter), I brewed an English Pale with enough salts in the mash/sparge water (2.9g gypsum, .5g chalk, and 1.8g epsom salt per gallon) to get to that level a couple years back and the results tasted a bit like licking drywall.  Through experimentation I've found that I like my hoppy English Ales closer to 250-300 ppm sulfate, which is enough to accentuate the hops and just give a soft mineral edge.

Please post a comment if you've had successes or failures adjusting your water to hit a "classic" regional supply, I'd be interested to hear if any of them produce great beer.  If you want to read more on how to calculate water adjustments read How to Brew or New Brewing Lager Beers (or my post on water adjustment from back in 2008).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

German Bitter a Hoppy Kolsch

This was a tasty beer I brewed for my flag football team.  I wanted something light and refreshing, but with enough bitterness and hop aroma that you knew you weren't drinking a macro lager.  The Munich provided a slight bready character and the wheat assisted with the head retention which was terrific. The saaz hops near the end of the boil aren't exactly traditional, but their distinct spice played well with the clean malt character. A cold fermentation with kolsch yeast did a great job giving me a clean beer with some interesting light apricot notes.  Three weeks of cold conditioning after fermentation yielded a clear golden yellow beer, perfect for tricking an unsuspecting macro drinker. 

The team was pretty happy with the beer and helped to kill a case of it in the shadow of the Washington memorial one hot September evening.  One of my co-workers summed up the general opinion "I can drink this faster than Bud." I agreed.  Planning on brewing something along these lines soon now that summer is just around the corner...

Sadly after looking through my pictures from around that time I wasn't able to find a single shot of this batch.

German Bitter

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal):         4.00   
Total Grain (Lbs):        6.50
Anticipated OG:          1.044   
Anticipated SRM:           4.2
Anticipated IBU:          30.8
Brewhouse Efficiency:    70 %
Wort Boil Time:             80 Minutes

69.2% - 4.50 lbs. French Pils
15.4% - 1.00 lbs. German Munich Malt                  
15.4% - 1.00 lbs. German Wheat Malt     

0.38 oz. Magnum (Whole 14.50% AA) @ 75 min.
1.00 oz. Czech Saaz (Whole 3.30% AA) @ 5 min.

0.50 Wirlfloc @ 15 min.

WYeast 2565 Kolsch

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 90 min @ 148

Brewed 7/29/07 with James

Added 1 gram of gypsum to the mash to keep the pH down.  Took forever to get to the boil (1 hour +).  Chilled to the mid-80s, strained and place in the freezer at 59, after 3 hours added a cold jug of Deer Park spring water, gave the carboy a 45 second shake, and pitched the smackpack of yeast.  Turned the temp down to 55 (the lowest recommended temp for the yeast).

Nice healthy krausen by 30 hours (possibly earlier, but I hadn't checked in awhile).  After another 24 hours I raised the temp to 58 to encourage a complete fermentation.

8/05/07 Down to around 1.012, good flavor with a moderate hoppiness.  Still yeasty.

8/09/07 Left in primary, dropped temp to 42 for cold conditioning.

8/26/07 Gravity down to 1.009, nice smooth flavor.

8/30/07 Bottled with 2.25 oz of corn sugar (aiming for ~2.45 volumes CO2)

9/15/07 What a great beer this is, bready and smooth with an interesting slightly apricot like aroma.  Went over well with the flag football team, a version of this should become a summertime tradition.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Administrative Fermentationist Stuff

The last few days I've been putting a bit of work than usual into The Mad Fermentationist, hopefully the wider page layout and additional tabs at the top make for an easier/cleaner reading experience.  I was getting annoyed by how little of the screen was taken up by the posts on my new wide screen monitor at work and how much stuff was starting the stack up in the column on the left.

In a couple days will start redirecting to my new custom web address: (Sadly was already claimed and redirects to South Sound Photo... damn squatters).  The old Blogspot address (as well as the RSS Feed) should continue to work, so no worries if you can't be bothered to update your bookmark when the change goes down. 

To my own shame I joined twitter a couple days ago (@madfermentation).  At this point most of the tweets are automatically generated when a new post is published here or on BrewLocal, but I have also tweeted notes about the progress of the various batches and experiments I have fermenting.

You can also follow The Mad Fermentationist on Facebook using Networked Blogs using this link.

I also still appreciate all the people who follow this blog the "old-fashion" way by subscribing to the RSS feed:

If you like the changes or if there are other changes to the blog that you'd like to see please let me know in a comment or with an email to [email protected].

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Liquor Spiked Barleywine Tasting (Finally)

Carbonator CapWhen I have a great commercial beer it often inspires me to come up with a recipe along the same lines to brew, usually with some tweaks to make the beer more to my tastes  When tried my first bottle of Lost Abbey's Angel's Share, I set out to brew something similar the result was a massive liquor infused barleywine.   My general idea was to get a relatively dry, dark barleywine that was infused with a big spirit character.  What I didn't intend was to mimic the lack of carbonation in the 2007 Brandy Barrel version of Angel's Share.  I brewed my batch nearly two years ago, but since then the high alcohol content has defeated my attempts to induce carbonation despite adding fresh yeast on several occasions (including some rehydrated champagne yeast).

Luckily I recently purchased a carbonator cap which allows me to inject CO2 from my kegging system directly into any liquid (I used the same tool to carbonate an actual Angel's Share from that batch a couple months back).  So over the course of the holiday weekend I set out to force carbonate and sample the three different versions (Plain, Brandy, and Bourbon) of my Liquor Spiked Barleywine  The only drawback was that since the yeast never kicked in all three still contained short chain sugars I added for priming, as a result each came off a bit sweeter than I would have liked.

The three versions of this beer were surprisingly different given that the only change was the presence of oak in secondary and a few tablespoons of liquor added during conditioning.  This turned out to be an interesting experiment and I think I'll be applying what I learned to brewing a massive liquor infused stout down the road.

Plain BarleywinePlain

Appearance – Dark brown, with some amber at the bottom when held to the light. Thin off-white head fades pretty quickly leaving just a small ring of bubbles around the edges of the glass.  Not the best looking beer in the world due to a bit of haze (possibly from the violence of shaking CO2 into solution).

Smell – Loads of dark fruit (dates especially), brown sugar, maybe a hint of butterscotch (caramel?), and a whiff of sherry oxidation. Very complex aroma, balanced with no component dominating.

Taste – Complex mix of dark fruit, toasted bread, and faint light roast coffee. There is a tad more sweetness than I was aiming for (most likely a result of the priming sugar that is still in there...), but still pretty well balanced by the remaining hop bitterness and the alcohol. I get a touch of leather in the finish that really adds a nice refined complexity. Very smooth for ~12.3% ABV, the year and a half of age have treated it well.

Mouthfeel – Very nice slightly carbed, with a thick mouthfeel. The quick stop with the carbonator cap at 11 psi really made a big improvement on this one. Without some carbonation it was just too thin to be taken seriously as a barleywine (double brown, whatever).

Drinkability & Notes – Good drinkability for such a big beer due to the high attenuation (83%). I only got 5 bottles from bottling this one, so I think there is only 1 left.  I think it would be interesting for Lost Abbey to release their base beer for Angel's Share, much as Goose Island recently did with Night Stalker the base for their excellent Bourbon County Stout. 

Brandy BarleywineCognac/Brandy Infused (Courvoisier VS)

Appearance – Same as the plain... brown, moderate-poor head, not a bad looking beer.

Smell – The fruit character is decidedly more grapey (brandy grape, not Welch's), but with similar brown sugar tones. The butterscotch notes seem to be absent in this one, replaced with an oakier-vanilla tinged accent. Overall a less complex, more subdued aroma. Some ethanol as it warms, but restrained for a 12.5% beer.

Taste – The grape and brown sugar from the aroma, with the addition of a bready backbone. The oak spice helps to counter some of the excess sweetness and gives this one great balance. The hop bitterness seems a bit more subdued than the plain.

Mouthfeel – Feels a bit thinner than the plain, might be a function of tannins from the oak or a lower carbonation level since I did not let it sit as long.

Drinkability & Notes – Maybe a bit less complex than the plain, but with a bit more drinkability. No where near the brandy character that Angel's Share has, but the brandy (cognac) is certainly present compared to the original. The small amount of oak and brandy really affected this one quite a bit, both positively and negatively. 

Bourbon BarleywineBourbon Infused (Maker's Mark)

Appearance – Ditto on the appearance for this one, although the head retention seemed a bit worse than the other two. 

Smell – Surprisingly I get more roast in this one (comes across almost burnt), the alcohol is also more prevalent than in the other two. There is still the same dark fruit and brown sugar character, but it is more subdued than either of the other versions of this beer.

Taste – The flavor has that distinct, bright, vanilla bourbon note. With the bourbon comes across more like a figgy-vanilla dessert rather than the more subtle savory flavors the brandy provided. The bitterness tastes much lower with some harsher alcohol notes taking its place. The brown sugar comes across as more syrupy, the balance is not as good.

Mouthfeel – A bit thicker, but the carbonation is  still just barley prickly.

Drinkability & Notes – Not as drinkable as the other two variants, more aggressive. I don't care for this one nearly as much, the balance just isn't there.  This is an odd one as I have added bourbon to several other batches in similar levels and not gotten the same flavors.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Difference Between Stout and Porter (rant)

Taddy Porter and Breakfast StoutToo often on homebrewing forums I hear the claim that all stouts should contain (unmalted) roasted barley and all porters should contain black patent.  The truth is that commercial examples of porter and stout are too varied (and the histories of the two styles and their various sub-styles too intertwined) for this to be the case; the difference between a Dry Stout and a Baltic Porter is no greater than the difference between a Sweet Stout and a Russian Imperial Stout.

First of all some great, classic beers do not follow this pattern.  For example Sierra Nevada Stout contains no roasted barley, while Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter does.  With thousands of porters and stouts produced today of course I could just cherry-pick some examples, but in Designing Great Beers Ray Daniels lists the occurrence of various dark malts in a survey of commercial stout and porter recipes.  Out of 14 stouts he surveyed 4 contained roasted barley exclusively compared to 3 that used black malt exclusively (only 1 used both).  Out of 31 porters surveyed a similar pattern emerged, 11 recipes contained solely roasted barley compared to 10 with just black malt (again only 1 used both).  It seems clear from this analysis that as far as commercial brewers are concerned roasted barley and black malt are interchangeable ingredients that accomplish very similar goals in recipe formulation.

Sure (I can hear you say), that may not be the case today, but what about the historic origins of the styles?  Ron Pattinson gives a great deal of historical detail to this difference as well in this post on Shut up about Barclay Perkins.  He comes to this conclusion after analyzing historic recipes for stouts and porters from the same brewery, "So what was the difference between Porter and Stout for Whitbread? The amount of water used." 

The BJCP Stout guidelines only specifically call for roasted barley in one stout sub-style (Dry Stout - "While most commercial versions rely primarily on roasted barley as the dark grain, others use chocolate malt, black malt or combinations of the three."), the rest of the styles simply mention something like "Dark roasted malts and grains."  Jamil's (award winning) sweet stout in Brewing Classic Styles does not have any roasted barley in it, so the BJCP judges don't think roast barley flavor is necessary for every style of stout.  At the 2009 GABF Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter (which does not contain roasted barley) won a gold medal as an Imperial Stout, apparently those judges can't taste the difference either.

The point is that the flavors created by black patent and roasted barley are very similar.  In many cases the only difference between porters and stouts is the name on the label, if it is dark and roasty a brewery (or homebrewer) can call it whatever it wants without being incorrect.

If you agree (or disagree), let me know in the comments.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Big IPA Recipe (1 lb of hops)

With a couple exceptions I have always been a bit underwhelmed by the quality of my hoppy beers.  They are generally solid, but they never taste quite as bright, clean, fresh as the top shelf commercial IPAs (and double IPAs).  With hop prices back down close to their "pre-crisis" levels, I though it was time to give another shot at brewing a really hop forward beer.

IPA Mash and SpargeThe malt-bill is loosely based on Russian River's Pliny the Elder, with a gravity walking the line between IPA and Double IPA at 1.071.  I want a base beer that will be nice and dry to accent the hop bitterness and flavor (too much crystal in a big IPA and it tastes like a barleywine to me).  I used a good ol' American pale malt, which has a neutral, less malty flavor than the English Marris Otter I tend to use for ales.  On top of the pale malt I added some carapils for head retention and body and a touch of crystal 40 (since I had a bit left over from another batch).  For added dryness I added .75 lbs of clear candi sugar to the kettle during the sparge, normally I would've just used table sugar, but I had the candi sugar left over from my white sugar experiment.  As a side note, I recently heard an Interview with Vinnie (the owner/brewer at Russian River) where he indicated that he originally added the combination of carapils and sugar (which work against each other in terms of body) to boost the gravity when his mash tun couldn't handle just doing a beer with more basemalt (but he likes the results so much he has kept on doing it even now when he could just add more basemalt).

I added 5 g of gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) to the strike/sparge water, which assuming my water report is accurate, brought it close to 150 ppm sulfate, which I have found to be a good level to accentuate hop bitterness without making the beer taste minerally.  The calcium in gypsum also helps to keep the mash pH in check for such a pale beer with minimal specialty malts. 

One of the biggest things I am working on in this batch is keeping oxidation to a minimum, now that I have a kegging system this should be a bit easier.  I left the blowoff tube on until I transferred to the keg for secondary (no samples) to ensure that no oxygen gets into the fermenter.  I flushed the keg with CO2 twice before I transfer the beer into it for dry hopping, I even flushed the auto-siphon with CO2 to make sure it doesn't add any oxygen to the situation.

12 oz of Pellet HopsI used all pellet hops in the boil to reduce the wort lost to the huge quantity of hops.  I went with Columbus for bittering with a mix of Amarillo and Simcoe after that.  Nothing terribly ground breaking, but it seems like just about ever great IPA out there uses Amarillo and/or Simcoe (see the bottom of the post).  I added the flameout additions in stages over the first few minutes post-boil, adding some after the beer had a chance to cool slightly.  The faster you can cool the wort after adding hops the fewer of those precious volatile hop aromatics will be lost.

3 oz of whole hops for dry hoppingI used the same three hop combo from the boil for dry hopping as well.  I transferred the beer to the a keg after primary fermentation was complete along with 3 oz of whole hops in a mesh bag (whole hops are easier to deal with at this stage and don't give a grassy/vegetal flavor like pellets can with extended exposure).  The beer will sit on these hops for 10-14 days at room temperature (since the hop oils are more soluble at those temps).  After that I am going to open up the keg and remove the spent hops, replacing them with an identical second dose of hops that will sit in the beer as it force carbonates.  This second dose of hops will stay in the keg allowing for a full, bright hop aroma that is fresher than if I had to wait 2 weeks for natural bottle conditioning post-dry hopping. 

Hopefully the tweaks to my recipe and technique this time around will result in the hoppy beer I've been dreaming of.

IPA FermentationDIPA Bomb

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.07
Anticipated OG: 1.071
Anticipated SRM: 4.7
Anticipated IBU: 171.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69 %
Wort Boil Time: 100 min

89.6%  13.50 lbs. American Pale Malt
5.0%    0.75 lbs. Clear Candi Sugar Rocks
5.0%    0.75 lbs. Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt
0.5%    0.07 lbs. Crystal 40L

3.00 oz.    Columbus (Pellet 11.00% AA) @ 90 min.
1.00 oz.    Columbus (Pellet 11.00% AA) @ 45 min.
1.00 oz.    Simcoe (Pellet 12.40% AA) @ 30 min.
3.00 oz.    Amarillo (Pellet 8.60% AA)  @ 0 min.
2.00 oz.    Simcoe (Pellet 12.40% AA) @ 0 min.
1st Dry Hop
1.00 oz.    Columbus (Whole 11.00% AA)
1.00 oz.    Amarillo (Whole 8.60% AA)
1.00 oz.    Simcoe (Whole 12.70% AA)
2nd Dry Hop
1.00 oz.    Columbus (Whole 11.00% AA)
1.00 oz.    Amarillo (Whole 8.60% AA)
1.00 oz.    Simcoe (Whole 12.70% AA)

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 10 Min.(boil)
0.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 Min.(boil)

WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC + 5 g gypsum

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 152

Brewed 1/30/10

Made a 1 qrt starter the night before.  Yeast was fresh , manufactured about a month earlier.

5 g of gypsum added total, 2 to mash, 3 to sparge

Candi sugar added to the kettle while the wort drained to give it time to dissolve.

Did a fly sparge until the last 1.5 gallons, then did a modified batch sparge stir/vorlauf/drain. 

Collected 7.75 gallons of 1.056 wort.

Added 1 oz of Amarillos at flame out, 1 oz each Amarillo/Simcoe right after I started the chiller, and 1 oz of each again 1 minute later.

Cooled to 66, strained, let sit for ~10 minutes to settle before transferring to carboy.  Gave 60 seconds of pure O2 and pitched the yeast starter (at full krausen).  Still plenty of hop/trub in solution.  Left at ~62 ambient.

Strong fermentation after 12 hours.  Surprisingly no blow-off needed.

2/5/10 Fermentation looks about finished, beer is moderately clear.

2/6/10 Transferred into a keg with the first 3 oz of dry hops.  The gas poppet seemed to be leaking at first, but adding more CO2 seemed to do the tick getting it to seal.

2/15/10 Moved keg to fridge at 40 degrees to help it drop a bit clearer before the second dose of hops is added.

2/16/10 Pulled the dry hops, added the 3 oz of keg hops.  Sealed it back up, flushed twice with CO2, and left it to carb at 11 PSI.

2/18/10 Pulled a sample to get rid of some of the yeast and take a gravity reading.  Down to 1.010 (86% AA, 8.1% ABV), nice lingering bitterness and a huge hop aroma despite the minimal carbonation.

3/04/10 1st tasting, turned out very well.  Big hop aroma and plenty of bitterness, all the work on this one was well worth it.
Hopping schedule info for great commercial hop bombs, a great place to start if you are looking to clone one of these beers or just try a new hop combination:

Alpine Duet - Simcoe and Amarillo

Alpine Hoppy Birthday - Pacific Jade, Centennial, Amarillo, Columbus, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, and Simcoe.

Alpine Nelson - Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross

Alpine Pure Hoppiness - Hallertau, Hersbrucker, Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial

Avery Maharaja - Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe

Ballast Point Sculpin - Mash hops: Simcoe, Boil: CTZ, Chinook, Cascade, Northern Brewer, Centennial, Galena, Amarillo, Dry Hop: Amarillo & Simcoe. For a 5 gallon batch dry hop with about 3 oz of each.

Bear Republic Racer 5 - Chinook, Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial

Bell's Hopslam - (2007) Hersbrucker, Centennial, Glacier, Vanguard, and Crystal in the kettle, and then dry hopped with Simcoe. In 2009 there is a mention of Amarillo in addition to Simcoe in the dry hop.

Bell's Two Hearted - Centennial

Boulevard Double Wide - Zeus, Bravo, Chinook, Centennial, Cascade

Brew Kettle White Raja - Citra, Centennial, and Summit

Captain Lawrence Captain's Reserve - Columbus, Chinook, and Cascade

Cigar City Jai Alai - Kettle hops: Ahtanum, Columbus, Cascade, Amarillo, and Centennial.  Dry hopped with Simcoe.

Coast The Boy King - Citra, Chinook, Nugget, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus.

DC Brau On the Wings of Armegeddon - Falconer's Flight (blend)

Fat Head's Head Hunter -  Simcoe, Columbus, and Cascade

Firestone Walker Double Jack - Bittering: Warrior, Columbus; Late Kettle: Cascade, and Centennial;
Dry Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial

Firestone Walker Union Jack - Bittering: Magnum; Late Kettle: Cascade, Centennial; Dry Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Chinook, and Simcoe

Flying Fish Exit 16 - FW: Citra, Boil: Columbus, 5 min: Centennial: 3 min: Simcoe, WP: Citra, First DH: 50% chinook, 50% Citra, Second DH: 75% Citra, 25% Columbus

Great Lakes Commodore Perry - Simcoe, Willamette, and Cascade

Green Flash Le Freak - Kettle: Summit and Nugget. Amarillo dry hop during fermentation

Green Flash West Coast IPA - Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade

Hill Farmstead Abner - Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior

Hill Farmstead Ephraim - Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior

Hill Farmstead Double Galaxy - Galaxy

Ithaca Flower Power - Kettle: Simcoe, Cascade, Ahtanum, and Centennial. Dry-Hop: Simcoe, Amarillo, and Chinook

Kern River Citra Double IPA - Nugget to bitter, Citra in the kettle, and Citra and Amarillo dry hop

Lagunitas Sucks - Chinook, Simcoe, Apollo, Summit, Nugget, and HBC342

Port Hop 15 - Kettle: Challenger, Golding, Chinook, Tettnang, Magnum, Phoenix, Sterling, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, Galena, Amarillo, Saaz, and Aurora. Dry hop: Simcoe and Centennial.

Russian River Pliny the Elder - Kettle hop extract, Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial, and Amarillo.  Dry Hop Simcoe, Columbus, and Centennial.

Russian River Pliny the Younger - Bittered with extract, Amarillo extract mid-boil, Amarillo and Simcoe (plus others?) in the boil.
Dry Hop Schedule
DH 1 Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 2 Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 3 Simcoe for one week and remove
DH 4 Simcoe, Amarillo Dry Hop in Keg

Smuttynose Big A IPA - 2008: Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Chinook, Sterling. 2006: Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Horizon, Amarillo, Ahtanum

Smuttynose "Finestkind" - Bittering: Magnum; Flavoring: Simcoe, Centennial, Santiam; Dry hops:  Amarillo

Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Kettle Hops: Chinook and Cascade, Hop Back: Styrian Golding, Dry Hopped: Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook

Stone 10th Anniversary - Bittering: Summit. Whirlpool: Chinook and Crystal. Dry hop: Simcoe and Crystal.

Stone IPA - Chinook, Columbus, Centennial

Stone Ruination - Bittering: Columbus. Whirlpool: Centennial. Dry hop: Centennial

Surly 16 Grit/Abrasive - Warrior, Citra (Previously CTZ bittering extract, Amarillo, and Columbus. Before that, kettle hopped with CTZ extract, Amarillo and Glacier hops. Twice dry-hopped with Glacier and Amarillo).

Surly Furious - Warrior, Ahtanum, Simcoe, and Amarillo

Three Floyds Dreadnaught - Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, and Cascade

Three Floyds Zombie Dust - Citra

Town Hall Masala Mama - Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Mt. Hood

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Making Frozen Yogurt

Is there anything better on a cold winter night than a creamy frozen dessert?... probably, but at least they don't melt as quickly as they do during the summer.  Recently I picked up an ice cream machine (the sort with a frozen core that you keep in the freezer until you are ready to churn) so I've been playing around with making ice cream and frozen yogurt last last few weeks.  I've made some excellent ice cream, but frozen yogurt seemed like a better fit for a blog about fermentation.

For the first batch of frozen yogurt I tried to just mix sugar and yogurt and churn it.  This method produced a frozen yogurt that was alright right out of the churn, but after a night in the freezer it froze rock solid.  The reason was that it had too much water for the fat and sugar present to prevent the formation of large ice crystals.

Draining YogurtMy solution was to remove most of the whey (inspired by a recipe from Good Eats). I drained 1 qrt of plain yogurt for four hours in a colander lined with cheese cloth set in a large bowl.  To speed up the draining process I folded the cheesecloth over the yogurt and placed a small pot with a can in it on top.  After that time I was left with about 2.5 cups of yogurt with the remaining watery liquid drained into the bowl.

I took the thick yogurt and mixed it with 1 cup of plain white sugar.  Because the yogurt had been sitting in the refrigerator as it drained it was ready to churn (the colder something is before you start churning it the smaller the ice crystals it will form and thus the smoother the results will be.)  The churning was complete within 15 minutes, with the frogurt just about the consistency as commercial frozen yogurt.

Before Churning FrogurtAt this temperature the frozen yogurt was great, really creamy with the right level of sweetness for me and plenty of tanginess.  Warmer temperatures are used to serve both frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream because they are lower in fat than regular ice cream.

After a night in the freezer the froyo was a bit firmer than ideal, but it was not icy or unpleasant.  The consistency softens considerably if you allow it to warm up for 10 minutes before eating (which can be more difficult than it sounds).

Just like ice cream you could add some flavor with vanilla or preserves (subbed for the same volume of sugar) before churning, or any chips or chunks you want during churning. You can also top it with fresh fruit, weird breakfast cereal, or standard ice cream toppings.  Me? I've been eating it plain because I enjoy the lactic tang.

Bowl Full of Frozen YogurtHopefully I'll do a batch of frozen yogurt soon with homemade yogurt if I get my yogurt-making-act together.

Hopefully everyone has been enjoying the onslaught of posts this week as a results of my snow related time off work.  I've been brewing, bottling, and cooking more than usual to kill time in between shoveling.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First Batch of Homebrew

Fermenting Brown AleOver the next few weeks I'm going to be posting some of my favorite beer recipes that for one reason or another never made it onto the blog.  In addition, a few days ago I posted a Homebrew Recipe link page that includes a list of the approximately 75 homebrew recipes that I have posted so far.  Each entry has a link to the recipe post.  My plan is to keep it up to date by adding links whenever I post a new recipe.

I thought to mark five years of homebrewing (as of February 8th) I would start by posting the recipe that started it all, Old Brown Sock (a reference to the color of the grain sock).  This was a recipe my friend Nicole and I came up with for a student taught course (Beer Brewing and Appreciation) that we were taking as seniors at CMU.  It is somewhere between an American Brown and an English Brown (American yeast and English hops).  I was surprised how well it turned out for a first batch, but who knows how it would taste to me now if I brewed it again with the same mistakes (fermented too warm, low pitching rate, tiny boil, slow chilling etc...).

I think this is a good recipe for a first batch since it is simple, and pretty middle of the road in terms of color and alcohol.  I'd be interested to hear comments about what other people brewed for their first batch and how it turned out.

The label was designed by my friend Evan, who in the last few days has become a bit of an internet mini-celebrity in his own right for his creative counter-protest signs against the bigoted Westboro Baptist Church.

Bottle of Homebrewed Brown AleOld Brown Sock

Recipe Specifics (Extract with Steeping Grains)
Batch Size (Gal):         5.00   
Wort Size (Gal):          2.50
Total Grain (Lbs):        8.00
Anticipated OG:          1.066
Anticipated SRM:        22.8
Anticipated IBU:          35.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 30 %
Wort Boil Time:            60 min

75.0% - 6.00 lbs. Light DME
12.5% - 1.00 lbs. Amber DME
6.3%   - 0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt
6.3%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L

2.00 oz. Fuggle (Pellet 4.70% AA) @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Fuggle (Pellet 4.70% AA) @  5 min.

WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
Profile: Pittsburgh    

Brewed 2/8/2005 with Nicole

Grains Steeped in 150 degree water for 30 minutes

Primed with 3/4 cup corn sugar

What can I say?  It was was my first batch.  Probably fermented too warm, but it came out tasting great, if a bit over-carbonated.  Tasted a bit like Newcastle, should repeat at some point, just a solid session beer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Making Malt/Beer Vinegar

Acetobacter is my arch-nemesis when it comes to brewing sour beers. Luckily it isn't too hard to deal with because it has a weakness, acetobacter is aerobic meaning it need oxygen to convert ethanol (alcohol) into acetic acid (which makes vinegar taste like vinegar).  I don't care for it, but there are a couple sour beer styles where a twinge of acetic acid is acceptable (Flanders Red most notably), but for the most part they are sour because they contain lactic acid produced by Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.  I can tell acetic acid from lactic because its flavor is sharper/harsher and it has the distinct aroma of vinegar.

Mother Floating in Shery VinegarA couple of months back I noticed that a vinegar mother had formed in an old bottle of sherry vinegar.  A mother is a colony of acetobacter cells that are bound together with secreted cellulose.  To free it from the bottle I simply pulled out the plastic insert from the neck of the bottle with a pair of pliers. If you don't have a mother on hand you can buy one from the internet or a homebrew store, or just add some unpasteurized store bought vinegar (even is you don't see a mother, there will be acetobacter cells).  Acetobacter is also a common enough microbe that exposure to the air should be enough to start the conversion to vinegar.

Vinegar can be made from just about any alcoholic liquid under 18% ABV (high levels of alcohol inhibit acetobacter which is why fortified wines and distilled spirits are shelf-stable even after being exposed to the air).  The most common types of vinegar are made from wine (both red and white), rice wine, and hard cider.  Distilled vinegar can be based on any alcoholic base, after the acetobacter does its work the acetic acid is distilled and then diluted with water to remove the impurities (flavor).  Malt vinegar is produced from unhopped beer, so that seemed like a good place to start for me.

Acetobacter MotherFor the "alcoholic liquid" I decided to use my Flanders Pale Ale, since it had a low hopping rate (18 IBUs, 30 months ago), and has a mild off aroma as a result of being blended with my first batch of lambic (so I didn't mind sacrificing a few bottles).  The malt character is pretty mild so it should make for a versatile vinegar.  The moderate alcohol level (~5%) means that this batch may not have as much acetic acid as commercial vinegar, as a results it may take awhile for me to figure out exactly how to swap it into recipes.

Vinegar FermentationI poured five bottles of the beer into an old Southampton growler, making sure to leave the fill low enough that there is plenty of surface area for the acetobacter to contact the head-space.  I capped the growler loosely with aluminum foil to allow some oxygen in, but prevent any insects that might want to gain access. I placed the jug in the back of one of my kitchen cabinets (where it will be warm and far away from my fermenters).  After a few minutes the mother ascended to the surface where the bacteria can begin to take in oxygen from the atmosphere.  After all of the alcohol is converted the mother will sink back down to the bottom of the fermenter, to wait for her next meal.

When this batch is complete in a few weeks I'll transfer the vinegar back into capped 12 oz bottles to await use (fish and chips etc...).  The next stop for the mother will be apple cider vinegar production, then a cheap bottle of wine, between those batches I'll probably have enough vinegar to last me the next couple years.

Update:  The initial mother didn't do much, but my friend Matt gave me a culture to add and within a few months I had vinegar.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weizenbock Tasting

This batch of Weizenbock was brewed just over four months ago using a yeast cake from a batch of hefeweizen (easy way to get enough yeast cells). I wasn't too happy with the hefe because the yeast character was too restrained, but in a big beer the same yeast strain had more character since it had more sugar to eat. The grain bill was pretty standard (malted wheat, Munich etc...), but it got its great caramel and dark fruit character from a half pound of Simpson's Extra Dark Crystal which I have fallen in love with for dark German beers.


Big Glass of Homebrewed WeizenbockAppearance – Deep reddish brown, pretty clear. Beautiful tannish head that just won't go away, some lacing. Good carbonation evident streaming through the beer.

Smell – Faint banana, caramel, dates, and light coffee. Nice complex blend of aromas, this yeast was very light on the banana, which I don't mind for a weizenbock. There is a whiff of alcohol as well, not too surprising for an 8% beer, but some more age might help as well.

Taste – Many of the same elements from the aroma, caramel, dark fruit, banana, and a faint toasty/bready roasted malt aroma. Balanced to the sweet side, due to the low IBUs, but it isn't syrupy or overly sugary. There is also some of that clove spice that is a classic part of the style, but it is restrained.  There is some alcohol in the finish, but nothing that is unpleasant.

Mouthfeel – Solid carbonation, bordering on being spritzy. The body is medium full, very nice. The finish is clean, the alcohol and carbonation help make up for the lack of bitterness.
Drinkability & Notes – Really solid, this is about perfect for my taste in Weizenbocks. I might add a bit of melanoidin malt next time just to drive home the bready malt, and back down on the crystal a hair to make way for some fresher fruit character. I would also go with the Wyeast 3068 in place of the White Labs 300 to boost the banana and clove. I'll be entering this one in a competition or two to see how it does.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beer Wars Movie Review (rant?)

Beer Wars PosterAfter my rant last spring about the yet to be released movie Beer Wars, I've been interested in actually seeing it. At that time it was released as a one night only "event" that I didn't have a chance to attend. Luckily I finally got the chance when it became available on NetFlix a few days ago, so I took the hour and a half to watch it and write up my impression.

Beer Wars is a movie that wanders, not knowing exactly what it wants to be or who it wants to cater to. Anat Baron (writer/director) does her best job playing Michael Moore in several silly bits (including a blind taste tests to show that the average beer drinker can't tell the difference between the light macros) and a failed attempt to get an interview with August Busch IV. Despite these forced antics for the most part the movie feels like a boring lecture about the tree tier system, store shelf space allocation, and the influence of beer industry lobby. Sadly the movie isn't about beer (the beverage) so much as it is about beer (the business), but then what can you expect from a movie directed by someone who is allergic to alcohol and considers Mike's Hard Lemonade to be a beer.

Other than the macros, the movie focuses on two beer brands, Dogfish Head and Moonshot. Rhonda Kallman (the founder of Moonshot) was helping to launch Sam Adams long before Sam Calagione (founder of Dogfish Head) brewed his first batch of homebrew, yet it is his brewery that is growing at 40% a year and hers that is struggling to get off the ground. The movie suggests many possible reasons for this paradox (Bud's release of B-to-the-E,a caffeinated “competitor” to Moonshot, poor shelf position, the three tier system etc...) but fails to state the most salient reason, that a caffeinated pale lager just does not appeal to the craft beer crowd. In fact the movie is so obsessed with the gimmick and marketing of beer that there is very little discussion of beer and brewing.

There are some nice cameos from the likes of Michael Jackson, Garret Oliver, and Charlie Papazian, but none of them stick around for more than a couple quick quotes. I enjoyed the segments on Yuengling as well, but the movie gives them too much credit for their brewing tradition when their "Traditional Lager" (which accounts for most of their sales) was introduced in 1987 (years after beers like Sam Adams Boston Lager, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale).

The fact that the first "artisanal" beer mentioned at the start of the movie is Blue Moon caused me to worry. Later on they do explore the faux-craft macro beer trend, but they never mention that Blue Moon is the most successful of the category; instead Anheuser Busch's Green Valley Brewing gets the focus, but the movie fails to even explore the issues surrounding the use of non-organic hops in "organic" beers.

It seemed that rather than a story about beer, the filmmaker was trying to make something more in the vein of the Omnivore's Dilemma (Michael Pollan's celebrated explorations of America's food system). As someone who loves craft beer already I wanted to see more of the small craft brewers, rather than a (frankly) boring discussion about lobbying, shelf space, three tier system, and corporate takeovers. Those same topics take on a much more important (sinister) roll when you talk about food because there really is a health difference between drinking orange juice and orange soda, while beers on the other hand (whether craft, macro, or import) are relatively equivalent in terms of nutrition. The beer industry also does not pose the same public health risk due to pathogenic bacteria because it cannot survive in beer.

I would have liked to see a more focus on the good points of the craft breweries rather than just the negatives of the brewing industrial complex. For example they could have talked about the infighting in the macro business, compared to the collaboration beer trend in craft brewing; the manipulative use of the three tier system by the macros, compared to a brewery like Stone that acts as a distributor for other great craft beers like Russian River etc... By showing the differences in the market you can begin to get a better picture that the difference between the small and large breweries is more than just the quality of the beer.

In the end I just wanted Anat to say that Rhonda can't blame Bud for all her woes (even as she tries to get them to partner with her). Despite having a talented/charismatic owner and some great beers Dogfish Head has taken more than a decade to slowly grow into a really successful brewery despite a frivolous lawsuit from AB over a couple of their beer names. The idea of a caffeinated pale lager won't be supported by the craft beer movement because it is comprised of people who either are interested in the flavor of the beer or like the natural/local nature of it.

The final image of Anat turning her nose up at a big glass of (macro?) beer was indicative of someone who has no particular interest in beer other than the story of the "beer wars." What is interesting about craft beer to me is the flavor of the beers and the passion of the brewers, not the politics (as important as they may or may not be).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If beer didn't contain any alcohol...?

If beer didn't contain any alcohol, but still tasted the same, would you still brew/drink it?

Yes - 76%
No  - 23%

With 241 responses this was one of the more popular polls I have posted to date.  The votes were divided, but a clear majority like their beer with or without the booze. 

If beer didn't contain any alcohol there are some days (and times of the day) that I would drink more and some that I would drink less, but I would certainly still be a homebrewer and a beer drinker.  I mean how great would it be to have a rich creamy alcohol free oatmeal stout for breakfast before heading off to work?  How nice would it be to go to a tasting or beer festival and not have to worry about driving home afterward?  It really is a shame that there aren't any "good" alcohol free beers out there.

Granted there are times when some alcohol adds to my enjoyment of a beer or situation, but by and large (for me) alcohol is a necessary distraction when it comes to drinking good beer.  This is especially true this time of year when the big/rich flavors of strong beers are on my mind.

It really comes down to the fact that I enjoy eating and drinking plenty of things that are non-alcoholic, so why would my love of beer change if the alcohol went away?  Of course this isn't to say I wouldn't trade out some of the beer I drink now for wine/mead/sake/liquor, but I don't enjoy any of them nearly as much as beer.

Happy to hear comments from those who agreed with me, but I'd be more interested to hear from the people who answered "No."

If you are reading the feed, visit the blog to vote in the new poll.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blending Wine and Lambic

In my three years of blogging about fermentation I've touched on a good number of fermentables including: beer, kombucha, ginger beer plant, cheese, yogurt, pickles, sourdough, mead etc... I thought I had covered just about all of the popular fermentables.  Recently I was reading the Lambic and Wild Ales blog when I came across an article that  mentioned that you can ferment grape juice into a beverage called "wine."  This blogger even had some good suggestions for wines that might appeal to people who are into sour/funky beers.

On that advice I picked up a bottle of Maison Trimbach Riesling at the local good beer store (apparently they have a whole section of wines that I hadn't noticed).  Trimbach is apparently known for their adherence to tradition and hatred of overly sweet (American) wine.  To compare to this supposedly dry/tart wine I also opened a bottle of Oud Beersel Gueuze (blending them together also seemed like a good idea).  

The Riesling is nicely fruity (grape?, lemon), with a moderately dry palette.  The flavor is minerally, and still very fresh despite being from the 2006 harvest.  The acidity is from malic acid (Trimbach does not employ malolactic bacteria to convert it to softer lactic acid), which has a sharper/shorter burst on the back of the tongue than you get in sour beers. The Riesling doesn't have much tannin presence, and the flavors are relatively reserved overall. 

The gueuze really bursts with flavors and aromas (lemons, oak, and similar mineral character) in part due to the carbonation which lifts them up to the nose.  The acidity is pretty similar (this is more balanced than many lambics), but it is dryer and smoother.  The beer also brings that big earthy funk that makes my mouth water.  For my money (about the same ounce for ounce) I'd certainly take the beer, but then that isn't much of a surprise.

A 1:1 blend the wine and beer leads to a bland, lackluster blend with the character from each seeming muted.  The fruit is mellowed, but it still serves to cover up most of the funk from the beer.  A 3:1 blend of beer to wine works much better, with the sweetness from the wine giving the gueuze a more balanced (not that I necessarily like that) and an added fruit character that enhances what it already had.  The Riesling also made a nice addition to a glass of my hoppy saison (and a chicken cacciatore that Audrey was cooking).

Trimbach and Oud Beersel produce two beverages with the same general characteristics (tart, rustic, minerally, fruity, and dry), but the flavors and aromas of the wine just doesn't speak to me in the same way the beer does.  I'm not sure if it is a lack of a wine tasting experience on my part, but I took to beer very quickly once I discovered "good" beer (wine seems like more work).

In truth I have been considering "brewing" a wine for awhile (adding some of the must to one of the sour beers I have aging, in the style of great sours from Cantillon (St. Lamvinus or Vigneronne) and Captain Lawrence (Rosso E Marrone and Cuvee De Castleton).  Alternatively I think red wine grapes would make a great addition to a dark strong ale, as they can have some dark fruit character that I think could blend well with the fruit (a friend of mine went to the Lost Abbey barrel tasting a few month back and had great things to say about their Angels Share on Cab Franc grapes).