Monday, May 31, 2010

Building Up Sake Fermentation (Moromi)

While waiting for the sake yeast starter (Moto) to finish I did some bellyaching about how slowly the process was going, after spending five nights building up the size of the batch with increasing additions of steamed rice and water I'm not complaining anymore.  This Moromi process is similar to the way some brewers do high gravity all-grain beers, starting with a small volume of moderate gravity wort and building with additions of concentrated wort.  The concept of building up the batch isn't too complex, but there are numerous individual steps (and it involves some annoying steps).

The Sake is on the left, and the rice/water addition is on the right.The three additions are composed of the same steps (add koji>wash rice>soak rice>steam rice>cool>mix rice and water into sake).  Each of the three has a traditional name (Hatsuzoe, Nakazoe, and Tomezoe), but I'll just refer to them as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Right before going to bed the night before an rice addition I added some of the koji I had made a few weeks earlier to the fermenting sake.  The koji provides enzymes to break down the starch from the rice addition the next day.

In the morning (before heading off to work) I washed and then started soaking the rice for the night's addition.  When I arrived back home I drained the rice in a metal strainer to dry the surface.  After 30-60 minutes of draining I put the rice into a cheesecloth lined steamer and steamed it for 45-50 minutes.  The second addition required me to use both tiers of the steamer basket (which I rotated top to bottom halfway through), while the third necessitated two separate rounds of steaming.  The method for preparing the rice is the same as it was for the moto and the koji, so check out those posts if you want more details.

Stirring the Sake by hand, what a pain.After steaming the rice I let it cool for five minutes in the steamer (so it was a bit easier to handle).  I dumped the rice into a metal bowl (getting as many of the stuck grains off the cheesecloth as I could) and let it cool for 15 minutes, then mixed in the specified volume of chilled water.  The first addition also got 7 g of  salt substitute (mostly Potassium Chloride) which serves as a nutrient for the yeast.  Once the rice/water mixture was close to room temperature I poured it into the sake.  I then mixed the whole batch with my well washed hand for 30 minutes.  This mixing ensures that all the rice grains are separated (which happens quickly if you did a good job washing your rice).  I suspect the extended agitation also helps to liberate starch from the rice (much the same reason risotto is stirred as it cooks).

Here is an overview of the process:

Night 1 - First addition: 1 cup of koji.

Night 2 - 2.5 cups rice (1 lb), 2.75 cups water (with 7 g of potassium chloride salt substitute).

Night 3 - Second addition: 1.5 cups koji.

Night 4 - 6 cups rice (2.5 lbs), 8.75 cups water. Followed by the third addition: 3 cups koji.

Night 5 - 12.25 cups rice (5 lbs), 17 cups water.

(The rice volumes/weights are pre-cooking, the koji volumes are as prepared)

Good looking fermentation, and that was before the final addition.After the first two rice additions the sake is held around 70 degrees to allow the yeast to continue its rapid growth, but after the third addition the sake is chilled down to around 50 degrees for the remainder of fermentation (Odori).  A cool fermentation leads to a smoother alcohol character (just like when brewing beer).

Fermentation was surprisingly active with some sake foaming up into the airlock despite the fact that I chilled the fermenter down after the third addition instead of waiting 12 hours as the Taylor-MadeAK guide suggested. The guide called for the batch to be around 4 gallons at this stage, but mine was only 3.25 (not sure what caused this discrepancy).

Once all of the rice/koji/water is incorporated, the main fermentation takes 3 weeks.  This is a bit longer than you'd expect even for a high gravity beer, but remember that the enzymes are still working and the lower temperature will slow them down.  For the first 6 days the sake needs to be stirred/swirled once or twice a day to ensure the yeast/enzymes are evenly distributed.

Over the next three weeks the enzymes and yeast completed their task.  With fermentation complete I had to separate the sake from the rice

5/17/10 Added 1 cup of koji to the fermenter, stirred, and returned it to the fridge.

5/18/10 7:30 AM washed 2.5 cups of rice and started soaking.  After returning home, drained the rice, then steamed it for 45 min.  Let cool for 20 min then mixed with 2.75 cups of filtered water mixed with 7 g of potassium chloride salt substitute that had been in the fridge.  Mixed into the moto by hand for ~25 min or so, not many clumps to break up.  Mixture tasted boozy/sweet/tart, seems to be headed the right direction.

5/19/10 Right before going to bed add 1.5 cups of koji and stirred to combine.

5/20/10 Started soaking 6 cups of rice in filtered water in the morning.  Steamed for 50 min after work, used two steamer trays rotated half way through.  Let cool briefly then mixed with 8.75 cups of filtered water.  Added to sake and stirred by hand for 30 minutes.  Milky/starchy, does not taste as sweet/boozy/tart as before. Total volume ~1.75 gallons.

Added 3 cups of koji and stirred in a couple hours later, already a good fermentation going including a moderate krausen.  Left in the basement in the upper 60s.

5/21/10 Soaked 5 lbs of rice starting in the morning.  Steamed in 2 batches for 50 min each (rotating the tiers top to bottom halfway through).  Mixed with 1 gallon plus 1 cup of filtered water.  Mixed into the rest of the batch by hand for 30 min.  Total volume ~3.25 gallons.  Placed in the fridge at 50 degrees (instructions were to leave it @ 70 overnight, but I didn't want too much fermentation happening at those warmer temps).

By the next morning the airlock had a bit of starchy sake in it and fermentation was raging.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Final Gravity Podcast Interview with Me

A couple weeks back I did an interview with Jay for the Final Gravity Podcast.  There wasn't a particular focus, with the conversion wandering through sake, the DC beer scene, my NHC entries, and brewing in general.  Episode #6 if you're interested in listening.

I'm back from a week down in Florida for work.  I got to see my friend Seth (I brewed a Temptation clone with him 32 months ago) who I hadn't seen since he moved down there two years ago.  He's been doing some pretty serious brewing, especially a saison soured with Fantome dregs and a blended Lambic.  I was also floored to snag a bottle of Cigar City Hunahpu's (a Chile/Chocolate/Cinnamon/Vanilla Imperial Stout) at a great little bar in Delray Beach called Tryst (a great find considering someone at the local liquor store told me that Carib was the best "local" beer around.)

I'm thinking of brewing a Smoked Dunkel sometime over the holiday weekend, anybody else brewing?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Double Berliner Weisse Brew

From time to time I let in to my urge to brew at times when I would be better off waiting.  As a result I have brewed when I'm not feeling well, have other things I should be doing, or when I don't have enough time.  A few weeks ago I had just that sort of night when I thought it would be easy to pull off a double (10 gallon) batch of "no-boil" Berliner Weisse after arriving home from work around 5... after having to fight through an epic fail of a stuck sparge I didn't get to bed until after 1 am.  Luckily, despite the issues, the rest of the brew went as planned (hit my gravity/volume/temps).

Racking Both BerlinersThe low gravity and lack of a boil made pulling off a 10 gallon batch with a 5 gallon mash tun and a 10 gallon boil kettle possible.  I followed a similar recipe and procedure to my last batch of Berliner Weisse (which I'm down to a single 750 ml bottle of now that I sent three bottles to the final round of the NHC), the only major recipe change was that I reduced the wheat malt from 40% to 33%.  I also pulled a bigger (hopped) decoction and actually hit my target Saccharification temp (145) when I returned it to the main mash.  The first runnings looked milky (starch?), and quickly the sparge ground to a halt.  I stirred in some rice hulls, and eventually got the mash to drain at a trickle pace.  It took about two and a half hours to collect the nine gallons of wort I needed.

I heated the wort to about 210 undiluted at 1.045 and watered the rest down to 1.032.  The low and high gravity portions each got a pint of a Lactobacillus starter (made of apple juice) along with half a pack of US-05.  I'll add some bottle dregs to both for some added complexity when I move them to secondary.

Berliner and his Big Brother

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 8.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.00
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated SRM: 3.2
Anticipated IBU: 9.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 0 Minutes

56.7% - 8.50 lbs. German Pilsener
33.3% - 5.00 lbs. Wheat Malt
10.0% - 1.50 lbs. French Pilsener

1.50 oz. US Fuggle (Pellet, 3.67% AA) Mash Hop

1.00 Tsp Yeast Nutrient 0 min.

Safale US-05 Chico
White Labs WLP677 Lactobacillus

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest 30min @ 125 (Infuse)
Sacch Rest 75 min @146 (Decocted)

5/02/10 Pitched a tube of White Labs lacto into 1 qrt of apple juice (Safeway - Vitamin C fortified). Both were at warm room temp (~83). Added a 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient after a day.  Took 3 days to show signs of activity, then took off. Added another pint of apple juice at the start of the brewday.

5/05/10 Brewed by myself.

Pulled a thick 6 qrt decoction, actually hit my temp when it was added back.

Really slow sparge, added several handfuls of rice hulls and re-suspended the mash.

Skimmed as I heated to a boil. Cut heat at 210. Chilled. Ended up with about 8.5 gallons of 1.045 wort. 5 gallons into 1 carboy, 3.5 into the other. The 5 gallon will be left as is, while the 3.5 gallon was diluted to 5 gallons (~1.033 OG) with filtered water. Chilled to 74, placed in 62 degree fridge. Pitched half a pack of US-05, shook, and 1 pint of lacto starter to each.

Good fermentation after 12 hours.

After 24 hours raised ambient temp to 68

After 24 more hours went up to 73.

5/13/10 Moved out of the fridge, ambient basement temp ~70.

5/23/10 Racked to secondary.

Berliner Weisse down to 1.003, not much sourness. Will add some dregs soon, although not much left for them to eat.

Berliner Lambic down even lower, 1.002, added 1 oz of oak that had soaked in Sour Squash for additional bugs. A bit more sourness, but still mild.

6/5/10 Added the dregs from a bottle of Captain Lawrence Barrel Select #1 to the lower OG half.

10/15/10 Added a small handful of oak from my Turbid Lambic to up the bug content on the Berliner Lambic.

11/11/10 Bottled the Berliner Weisse half with 5.75 oz of cane sugar. Aiming for ~3.6 volumes of CO2.

3/13/11 Interview and tasting of this Berliner Weisse with BBR.

3/16/11 Tasting of the Berliner Weisse half.  Really happy with this one, nice assertive acidity, good carbonation, lots of complexity.

10/15/11 Blended some, and bottled the remaining 2 gallons with 1 3/4 oz cane sugar.

4/24/12 Tasting of the Berliner Lambic, it is fine, but not great. I like the standard half much more.

5/7/12 The standard version scored a 38 at NHC, but failed to place despite scoring higher than my Cabernet Lambic which won the category. Snippets of the judges' notes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Foreign Export Stout Tasting

A year and a half ago I brewed a batch of Foreign Export Stout, sadly before I had a chance to sample it the gnarliest microbial invasion I've ever witnessed took over (bottles started exploding just two weeks after bottling, spraying diaper smelling liquid all over my bedroom early on a Monday morning).  The recipe wasn't designed to be sweet like a “tropical” Foreign Export Stout (Jamaican Guinness Foreign Export Stout, Lion Stout, Dragon Stout) more in line with something like Freeminer Deep Shaft Stout (and hopefully Pelican Tsumami Stout which I cribbed the malt selection from). Speaking of which, I'm hoping to get a chance to finally try some Pelican beers while I am out in Portland in a couple months, maybe even make it out to the brewpub.

I've been meaning to re-brew the recipe ever since, but I always seem to have enough dark beers around that I haven't made time for it.  Luckily I was chatting with Jeff and Tom from the Lug Wrench Brewing Company blog, who offered to brew the recipe and send a couple bottles my way.  Here is their take on our collaboration and their brew session.

Despite being a "blogger" I rarely do these sorts of inter-blog interactions, for the most part I use this blog as an outlet for my activities offline rather than online.  The great thing about this is that we are actually doing something, not just talking about it.  It's also nice to see another homebrewing blog doing some very interesting stuff (like the nerdy charts that I really enjoyed).  I'm really looking forward to opening a bottle of the Bourbon Oak Aged Old Ale they sent as well.  As a thank you I just sent them a six-pack of my homebrew, hopefully they'll enjoy the beers I send as much as I enjoyed getting to try my beer the way it should have been.

Foreign Export Stout

Foreign Export Stout (What a beautiful beer!)Appearance – Impenetrably dark, with a nice foamy tan head sitting on top. Good retention (in part thanks to the flaked barley) and a bit of lacing.

Smell – Big dark roasty nose with a pleasant creamy coffee component. There is a slightly sharp phenolic edge to it that is probably just an artifact of how young this beer still is. It has a fresh grainy character as well, a bit like sticking your nose into a bag of roasted barley.

Taste – The nose holds true with lots of complex roasted flavors, bitter chocolate, espresso, chicory etc... There is a nice lingering bitterness that reinforces that impression. There is some sweetness, but it is balanced towards the bitter overall. It tastes like an imperial Irish dry stout more than anything else. Just a touch of yeasty fruit in the finish, well fermented with only a mild hint at its alcohol strength even at cellar temp.

Mouthfeel – Velvety smooth, great moderate-low carbonation. Excellent mouthfeel, perfect for a slow sipper.

Drinkability & Notes – A serious stout, with a big roast character. I'm happy that even with someone else brewing the beer ended up pretty close to where I was aiming. It doesn't have the thickness or fruit complexity of a Russian Imperial Stout, but it is closer to that in terms of roasted character and complex than it is to most other stout styles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Papaya Citra Pale Ale Tasting

Last night was Audrey's birthday party. With mostly girls coming over I though it would be a good time to serve some fruit beer (not to stereotype). I had diverted a few liters of my Citra Pale Ale onto 1.25 lbs of papaya a few weeks back, so I strained the resulting beer into a 2L soda bottle the night before and use my carbonator cap to give it some CO2. The papaya chunks hadn't broken down much despite being frozen/thawed and then sitting in the beer for the last three weeks (which made separating beer from fruit easy).

Extra pale ale aged on cubed papayaPapaya Citra Pale Ale

Appearance – Hazy yellow-gold with a thin white head. I probably didn't get quite as much carbonation there with my carbonator cap which explains the poor head formation.  A bit murky from tiny bits of the the fruit.

Smell – Tropical, hard to tell exactly what is from the papaya and what is from the hops. Otherwise pretty clean, a bit of toasty malt is there in the background somewhere.

Taste – Balanced, moderate bitterness pretty dry. Nice crisp/clean flavor, with good fruitiness. The papaya doesn't come through as much in the flavor as it did in the aroma, but it is still “tropical.”

Mouthfeel – Medium light body, with medium-low carbonation. Alright, but I like the higher carbonation I have on the plain-draft version.

Drinkability & Notes – Nice pale ale with just a hint of papaya, went over well with everyone. I was expecting more flavor from the papaya, but it was fine at this lower level. I realize that papaya isn't as powerful a flavor as some other fruits, but I think this one may have been a bit underripe.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sour Bourbon Barrel Wee Heavy Tasting

With how well the Barrel Team's first beer came out, this batch had a lot to live up to.  A year ago there didn't look like much hope of that with an infection starting to take hold of our Wee Heavy after a few months of sitting in a first use bourbon barrel.  Luckily we don't mind sour, so instead of trying to fight the microbial horde with campden tablets and sorbate we embraced it by tossing in some bottle dregs from a sour beer tasting.  Hopefully the bugs/time/wood will treat the stout that took its place just as well.

Sour Bourbon Barrel Wee Heavy

Snifter of Strong Dark Sour BeerAppearance – The beer is a beautiful rich leather brown. Maybe a few shades darker than a Wee Heavy ought to be, but spot on for an Oud Bruin (especially an imperial one). The white head pours thick and creamy, but rapidly recedes to a thin covering.

Smell – After a hard pour into the snifter the first aroma is straight up bourbon, luckily that dissipates after a few seconds. The rich maltiness survived the barrel, lending raisins, cocoa, dates, toasted bread etc... The barrel lends just a slight hint of coconut and vanilla, beautiful. There is some tartness as well which combines with the ethanol to give a fortified wine character.  Not much funk, overall pretty clean fermentation character.

Taste – Nice tartness, but there is still some sweetness to balance. The complex malt and dark fruit flavor is there from the aroma. The alcohol doesn't come through as much as it does in the aroma, but it is still present without being “hot” (not too surprising since this is 12% ABV without including the 1% - 3% alcohol pickup from the bourbon barrel). One of the most port like beers I've sampled, rich, fruity, and boozy.

Mouthfeel – Decently thick and chewy for a sour beer, perfect medium-light carbonation. The tannins from the wood are a bit aggressive, but they should mellow with some more time in the barrel.

Drinkability & Notes – For me this one is headed up there towards the best commercial examples of big-dark-sour-beer (Consecration, Oerbier Reserva, Bon Chien etc...) but isn't quite there yet. The alcohol is a bit more aggressive than the others, and the flavors aren't quite as deep. At 18 months this is still a young beer though, and it has plenty of time to develop in the bottle. Another win for Team Barrel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sake Yeast Starter (Moto)

After producing koji (mold coated enzymatic rice) for my first batch of sake I moved onto the moto (yeast starter).  Unlike beer, where literally hundreds of yeast strains are used, and most well known breweries have at least one proprietary house culture, most sake producers use one of just a handful of yeast strains.  Luckily the most popular is available to homebrewers from Wyeast as 4134 Sake #9.  The strain is known for its light, but complex esters and high alcohol tolerance.

Traditionally high grade sake is made from short grain rice that has been highly polished.  The further a grain of rice is polish down the more of what remains is starch.  Much like wine grapes, there are certain varieties of rice that are highly prized for sake production.  Sadly there isn't any sake polish/variety rice available locally, so I went to the big local Asian grocery store (Great Wall) and picked up a 15 lb bag of Nozomi "Koshihikari" rice, the most expensive sushi rice they had (it was still only $20).  Using less polished rice may mean that my finished sake will have a yellow hue and some extra rice flavor, but it should be fine for a novice sake drinker. 

When brewing sake, just like strong beer, the yeast cell count needs to be brought up before the the main fermentation starts.  Instead of making a starter from malt extract though, koji is mixed with washed/soaked/drained/steamed/cooled rice and water (laced with Epsom salt and yeast nutrient) and allowed to sit for two days while the enzymes start breaking down starches into sugars.  By the time the two days had passed and I was ready to pitch the yeast into the starter it looked like fermentation had already started.  Once the yeast is added to the starter and given time to start fermenting at a cool temperature it needs to be stirred twice a day for three days then once a day for three more days, to distribute the yeast and enzymes. Hopefully the sake strain was able to out-compete whatever other microbe(s) got in there.

The yeast starter or moto for my first batch of sakeAfter the yeast finished fermenting (6 days), I chilled the starter to 50 for five days.  During this low temperature rest lactic acid bacteria (since there are no hops to inhibit them) do what they do best, produce lactic acid.  This adds a hint of tartness that helps to give balance to the finished sake. At this point the starter tasted yeasty, alcoholic, and a bit tangy (which seemed about right to me).  A less traditional method which speeds up production, involves skipping this stage and dosing with lactic acid.

Despite the fact that things are going smoothly, the sake "brewing" process is starting to test my patience a bit; after nearly three weeks of work (soaking, steaming, stirring etc...) I have about a quart of liquid to show for my effort. Luckily now that the yeast is ready I'll be ramping up the batch to four gallons (the full volume) with additions of rice, water, and koji over the next four days.

Next step Moromi

5/03/10 Mixed 1/2 cup of the koji with 2.5 cups of water (4 g Wyeast nutrient and .7 g epsom salt).  Put into the fridge for an hour while I soaked/drained/steamed 1.5 cups of rice.

Stirred twice a day.

5/05/10 There already appeared to be a small fermentation going after 48 hours. I pitched the smack pack of yeast and put the bucket into the cooler at 50 degrees to ferment.

5/07/10 (36 hours later) moved back to basement

Stirred/swirled twice a day for three days, then once a day for three more days

5/13/10 Moved to fridge @ 50 degrees for a 5 day rest before the main koji/rice additions start.

5/18/10 Ready for Moromi.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Citra (Papaya) Pale Ale Recipe

I kicked the last of my Double IPA unexpectedly on a Friday afternoon a few weeks back (not a great way to start a weekend), sad to see a delicious beer gone (although the huge hoppy aroma was already fading).  Despite how hop saturated that batch was, a keg of it failed to completely satisfy my hop-tooth; with the warm weather arriving in DC I wanted something hop forward, but without the high alcohol.

Two days later I woke up early on Sunday morning in the mood to brew.  I decided to toss together a light/crisp/hoppy beer with the ingredients I had on hand (one of the big advantage to buying in bulk and owning a mill).   

Flameout Hop AdditionFor malt, I didn't have enough American pale on hand to use it as the sole base malt, so I augmented it with German pils.  I had some Maris Otter on hand as well, but I didn't want too much malt character getting in the way.  I added a bit of flaked corn (left over from my Pannepot inspired spiced Belgian strong ale) to help dry the beer out.  Some Simpson's Golden Oats went in as well for a bit of nutty malt complexity. 

For hops, I used all Citra, with .75 oz at 15/10/5/0 min plus .5 oz in the keg.  Citra is a pretty new variety used most notably in Sierra Nevada Torpedo.  Citra is in the same general "American" family as other popular newcomers like Simcoe and Amarillo, but it leans heavily towards tropical/citrus flavors (not much pine).  I wanted to use it alone to get a real idea of what they bring to a beer.  Since this was a relatively light (1.046) beer I didn't want a lot of bitterness (33 IBUs), so I skipped a bittering addition, relying on the late boil additions for everything (a technique sometime called Hop-bursting).

Spent HopsFor yeast, I used a sachet of US-05 (something I always try to keep on hand for stuck fermentations and spur of the moment brews).  US-05 is a clean American ale yeast, supposedly a dried version of the the liquid strain sold by White Labs as 001 and Wyeast as 1056 (US-05 was originally marketed as US-56 until Wyeast complained).  The dry strain has become very popular with homebrewers and craft brewers because it is clean, cheap, and easy to use (a high cell count for the money eliminates the need for starters).  That said, I find US-05 more attenuative than the liquid variants, so I mash around 5 degrees hotter when using it.  I also find that US-05 is a bit fruitier (peaches?) than the liquid strains, but in a hoppy beer like this it should be complimentary.

Inspired by a couple fruit (mango and peach) IPAs I tried from Cigar City Brewing, I took just less than a gallon of the beer after primary and racked it onto 1.25 lb of papaya (cubed, frozen, thawed, quickly dipped in Star-San). The combination of fruit and American hops is something I had never been impressed with before (Dogfish Head ApriHop...), but the Cigar City beers had a great balance allowing the fruit to add complexity without disrupting the hop forward nature of the base IPA.  They also make a version of it with dried papaya that I had heard good things about, but when I saw the fresh fruit at the store I decided to go that route.  After two weeks on the fruit I'll bottle the papaya portion separately.

Citra (Papaya) Pale Ale

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 4.50   
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.13
Anticipated OG: 1.046   
Anticipated SRM: 3.5
Anticipated IBU: 33.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 min

49.2% - 4.00 lbs. German Pilsener   
41.5% - 3.38 lbs. American Pale Malt             
6.2% - 0.50 lbs. Flaked Corn (Maize)          
3.1% - 0.25 lbs. Golden Naked Oats

Manual Wort Aeration------
0.75 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 15 min.
0.75 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 10 min.
0.75 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 5 min.
0.75 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) @ 0 min.
0.50 oz. Citra (Whole, 10.00% AA) Keg Hop

0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.
0.50 tsp Irish Moss @ 10 min.

Safale US 05 Chico

Water Profile
Profile: Carbon Filtered Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 155

Brewed 4/25/10 by myself

Adding Gypsum to the Boil KettleAdded some of the sparge water to the mash to make sure there was enough room to collect wort using a single batch sparge.  Added 3 g of gypsum to the boil pot to up the sulfate because I didn't need to lower the pH of the mash.  Batch sparged with 178 degree water.

Collected 7 gallons of 1.030 wort.  Better boil-off rate than expected, ended up with 4.5 gallons of 1.046 wort.

.5 tsp of Irish moss and yeast nutrient rehydrated in water for a few minutes before being added to the beer.

Uneventful boil.  0 min hops added just after I started the chiller.

Chilled to 72, pitched dry yeast directly out of packet, shook for a minute 3-4 times over the first couple hours to aerate.

Good strong fermentation after 12 hours.

5/02/10 Fermentation mostly finished.  Got a papaya to cut up and rack one gallon of the beer onto.

5/04/10 Fermentation mostly complete.  Racked 3/4 of a gallon onto 1 lb of cubed papaya, that had been frozen, thawed and dipped in Star-San.  The rest was kegged with 1.5 oz of cane sugar, as my CO2 had just kicked.

5/23/10 Papaya version tasting, tasty beer, but not much papaya character.

6/12/10 Plain tasting, doing very well.  Nice complex citrus/tropical hop nose, good balance but could be a touch more bitter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chocolate Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Stout Tasting

I've never been much for desserts, they often seem to be so loaded with sugar that the complex flavors beneath are covered up.  How else could you explain the fact that "vanilla" is now a synonym for boring?  A high quality vanilla bean has to have just about the most complex aroma there is, sure there is the "vanilla" but there is also floral, leather, tobacco etc...  And don't even get me started on the misdeeds that have been done to rich smoky complexities of chocolate over the years.

Once a year I try to make a chocolate-vanilla stout to highlight these much loved but oft abused flavors.  I hadn't done one in more than a year so my Breakfast Stout Riff seemed like the perfect opportunity.  In the past I didn't have good luck with cocoa nibs (no head retention), but cocoa powder (with its lower fat content) has been a great choice.  Real vanilla bean in the secondary fermenter is the only way to go because of their delicate flavors and alcohol soluble molecules.  This time around I also added some bourbon soaked oak cubes in the hope that the vanillin from the charred wood would help to highlight the vanilla bean.

Mocha Bourbon Imperial StoutDessert Stout

Appearance – Opaque black body. The head is dark and loose with medium-poor retention. Longer, creamier head retention would have been nice. (Sorry for how boring the pictures of these four beers were.)

Smell – Rich dark chocolate and a hint of vanilla. There is an an earthy component and some pastry maltiness as well, very nice. A hint of bourbon/booze arrives as the beer warms along with just a hint of tobacco.

Taste – The cocoa comes through at the front and back with the vanilla/bourbon sandwiched in the middle. Just a hint of char in the finish. The hop bitterness helps to balance the residual carbohydrates and accentuate the dark chocolate association. Smooth/rounded, certainly desserty, but not too sweet.

Mouthfeel – Feels a bit fuller than the other three versions, and the carbonation seems a bit lower as well (although it is still over-carbonated). Not ideal, but I've had worse.

Drinkability & Notes – For such a big beer it is pretty easy to drink, probably my favorite of the four iterations. I would have liked a bit more complex vanilla character, but the chocolate is spot on. Next time I would up the vanilla addition a bit, but otherwise it just screams dessert.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chile Chocolate Vanilla Cinnamon Imperial Stout Tasting

Chile-chocolate Imperial Stouts seem to be one of the newest combinations to gather a following.  Chocolate and spice are a classic pair in Mexican cooking, and as an addition to a big stout they make for a more complex, interesting result than any of the obnoxiously spicy pale/amber "chili" beers I have tried.  There aren't a huge number of them available yet, but Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Cigar City Hunahpu's, and Sierra Nevada Hellraiser are the three to be on the lookout for (also check out the recipe Terry from Bullfrog Brewing gave us for his Chocolate-Chile-Christmas-Thingy).

Chocolate Chile Imperial StoutMexican Chocolate Imperial Stout

Appearance – Pitch black, just like the other variations on this beer. Unlike the others though the retention of the tan head is terrible, there must have been some oil on the surface of the chiles.

Smell – The chiles come through nicely with some fruitiness (berry/raisin). The chocolate plays a supporting role, reinforced by a hint of vanilla. Good aroma that showcases the chile, but isn't quite as powerful as I would have liked.

Taste – The beer is slightly spicy on the tongue, but the heat doesn't last more than a second or two after a sip. The complex fruitiness carries through from the aroma, going with lower heat chiles was the right call. There is some chocolate/vanilla in the middle, as well as some cinnamon spice in the finish. The carbonation is strong enough to add a bit of carbonic acidity to the flavor. I do wish the beer was a touch sweeter to help accentuate the richness of the flavor.

Mouthfeel – The strong carbonation get in the way of the savory qualities of the beer, making it seem thin and a bit harsh. 

Drinkability & Notes – If it weren't for the excessive carbonation this one would be pretty close to my ideal chile beer. It has a good balance, a complex spice character, and not too many Scoville units. I'll certainly be brewing a full batch of this at some point, with a tweak or two. Besides making sure the carbonation is in check, I'll also try to de-oil the chiles (or find some oil free) to improve the head retention, and probably up the cocoa powder a bit.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Coffee Chocolate Maple Imperial Stout Tasting

The second in my series of four Imperial Stout tastings.  This one was inspired by Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout, infused with cocoa powder and whole El Salvadorian coffee beans, and aged on bourbon then maple syrup soaked American oak cubes. 

Coffee Chocolate Maple Imperial Stout

Appearance – Pitch black. The tan head starts out tall and thick, but over the first few minutes the bubbles combine and burst. A ring of foam remains as long as the beer does (poorer head retention than the plain is probably a result of the oils from the cocoa and coffee).

Smell – The first aroma is pure fresh brewed coffee (rich, earthy, just a bit of spice). After that the chocolate comes out, but stays in a supporting role. A bit of toasty malt character blends in, but this is a mocha aroma primarily. The beer displays just a hint of ethanol as it warms up.

Taste – Good balance between sweet and bitter. The finish is long, filled with slightly bitter coffee, and rich desserty cocoa. Not much maple character, but I think it helps to add some to the earthy coffee flavor. Could use more “beer” character, but it doesn't come off as over-the-top novelty.

Mouthfeel – The mouthfeel is annoyingly thin and spritzy, just like the plain version. The head isn't as dense as it could be, which would have added nicely to the creaminess of the mouthfeel.

Drinkability & Notes – A solid attempt at a big coffee/chocolate beer, but I wish there was more of the bourbon/maple flavor from the syrup and cubes was imparted to the beer. Next time I'll age the beer on the cubes longer and add more than 2 oz of syrup per gallon, starting at a lower gravity to compensate.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Plain Breakfast Stout Tasting

Here is the first of the four tastings of the Breakfast Stout Riffs I brewed back in November.  I though the plain portion would be a good place to start before moving onto the spinoffs: Canadian (Chocolate/Coffee/Maple), Dessert (Chocolate/Vanilla), and Mexican (Chocolate/Chili/Vanilla/Cinnamon).   Oddly all of the beers ended up with too much carbonation (this may be a result of the 1/2 tsp of table sugar I added to each bottle instead of my usual technique of mixing a priming solution into the whole batch before bottling.)

Base Imperial Stout TastingPlain Breakfast Stout Riff

Appearance – Big foamy pour, a results of more carbonation than expected. Once the foam settles down the beer is an impenetrable black, even when held to the light. Very dense, mocha head, good retention and lacing.

Smell – Sharp bitter chocolate, oddly resiny. Not a complex nose, but not unpleasant either.

Taste – Solid bitterness, very clean. The carbonation and roast enhance the hop bitterness, which tastes more assertive than 46 IBUs should in a 1.091 beer. The chocolate from the nose comes through nicely, along with some espresso. It is missing the dark fruit and/or caramel I was expecting the Crystal 120 would bring. Just a bit boring for an Imperial Stout, more in the English tradition.

Mouthfeel – The carbonation is strong enough that the beer foams a bit in my mouth when I take a sip, not right for a rich ponderous beer. Once it warms and I swirl out some off the carbonation, the body seems smoother and fuller. The whole batch ended up over-carbonated, not sure why.

Drinkability & Notes – Not a great beer on its own, but this recipe is intended to be a stage for a variety of other flavors. It may improve with some age, but I don't see this “plain” portion ever being a great beer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sour Squash Beer Tasting

After a night spent with Nate bottling our Munich Porter and the DCHB Smoked Honey Stout, I needed a beer to cap off the night. I decided to go with my Butternut Squash Sour Brown (brewed February 2009, bottled a year later).  I did a tasting of the dry hopped version of this beer nearly two months ago I thought it was time to give the "plain" a once over.

Sour Squash

Appearance – A rich leather brown, clear when held up to the light. The light tan head pours two-fingers thick, falls quickly to a quarter inch, but holds steady there.

Smell – A certain honey-ish aroma plays with sharp acidic (like a sweet-tart) on a sweet earthy backdrop. I suspect that some of the earthiness is from the roasted squash, but it is too subtle for me to be positive. A swirl brings out a hint of spice, nutmeg to be precise, the cinnamon is a background note at most. Complex, but not well integrated (I get each part separately not mingled).

Taste – Tongue curling, saliva gland watering, lip smacking, sinus clearing sour. One of the strongest lactic acid sournesses I've created, but there is enough sweetness to keep it from being overwhelming. With each sip the sourness fades a bit and the complexity comes out. The light spice is the first thing I notice, warm and autumnal. Next comes the dark fruit character, cherry, fig, and raspberry (the Cabernet Sauvignon I added?). Interestingly there isn't much funk to it, very clean.

Mouthfeel – Decent body, not as thin as many sours get. This may be a result of what seems like minimal Brett activity given the lack of funk/barnyard in the aroma/flavor.

Drinkability & Notes – One of the better sours I have done to date, complex yet drinkable. I think I was lucky that it didn't get too funky, much more and the minimal spice/squash character would be undetectable.  If you really wanted a "fall" sour I would up the spice and squash, but I like it minimalistic.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Making Koji for Sake

This past Saturday I started the first step on my long journey to a first batch of sake.  Sake, just like beer, is a grain based alcoholic beverage where starch is enzymatically broken down into sugar which is subsequently fermented by Saccharomyces into alcohol.  The big difference between beer and sake (besides the lack of hops) is that malted barley contains the enzymes necessary to convert its starches into sugars, while rice cannot perform this trick on its own.

Luckily long ago the Japanese discovered that a certain strain of mold is capable of the crucial first step of creating sugar.  While you can buy koji (rice covered in the amylase producing mold Aspergillus oryzaegilis) I decided it would be more interesting to inoculate rice with the spores (which can be purchased at many larger homebrewing stores).  I've only dealt with mold a couple other times on this blog, most notably while making Camembert cheese.  Mold (a fungus just like yeast) needs oxygen and moisture to grow, air is an easy source of oxygen, but controlling the humidity can be tough at home (luckily I found a pretty easy solution). 

Soaking the rice in cold waterBefore describing my rig and technique, I'll suggest that if you want a complete guide with all the details, history, tricks, variations etc... check out the excellent Taylor-MadeAK - Brewing Sake guide, where I learned about the process and equipment required.  Bob Taylor also did a good interview with Basic Brewing Radio a few years back, and seems to know more about making sake than anyone else here on the internet.  This series of sake posts will only cover the steps I take, I'd suggest you read through his full guide if you want to try making sake at home.

The first step to making koji was to rinse 3.5 cups of short grain sushi rice in cold water until the water ran clear.  This removes surface starch and promotes good grain separation (giving the maximum surface area for the mold to grow on).  After 5 hours (as little as 1 would have worked) I drained the rice in a sieve for 30 minutes, to partly dry the surface, which further encourages separate grains.

Steaming the riceI steamed the soaked and drained rice for 45 minutes using a bamboo steamer (a present from my sister) lined with cheesecloth.  The pan I was using ran out of water near the end of the cooking, but the rice still seemed cooked through (if a bit chewy).  For the rest of the rice steamings required to make my batch of sake I've been using a pot that can hold enough water to last 45 minutes without a refill.

The cooked rice needed to be cooled, I did this by dumping it into a chilled Pyrex baking dish and giving it a stir every few minutes.  After 20 minutes the rice was down to 80 degrees.  I then sprinkled .5 tsp of the spores over the surface of the rice using a small fine-mesh strainer.  Once the spores were distributed I stirred, then repeated twice more for a total of 1.5 tsp of spores.

My Koji RigThe heat/humidity rig I constructed consisted of the rice filled Pyrex baking dish placed on top of a heating pad, all housed inside my large cooler mash tun (luckily I have an old heating pad which does not have an auto-off).  Ideally the mold/rice should be held at 96 degrees, so I wrapped the probe of my digital temperature controller in plastic wrap, and stuck that inside a Ziploc baggie and buried it in the center of the rice.  It took me a few minutes to figure out how to switch my controller from cooling to heating mode, but I eventually figured out the instructions and moved the pins to the correct configuration.  For added humidity I placed a small plastic cup of water on one side of the heating pad.

A bag of Koji, ready to useI came back every 10 hours for the next 50 hours to mix the rice with my clean hands.  After 20 hours I saw (white, slightly fuzzy) and smelled (funky/nutty/cheesy) the first signs that the mold was growing.  By 50 hours each individual grain was pretty much covered with the off-white mold, signaling that the koji was finished.  When I tasted a few of the grains they had a distinct sweetness, a good sign that the mold had produced the needed enzymes.  It goes almost without saying that if you see any black/red/brown/purple mold you need to toss the batch out and start over.

At this point I sealed up the koji in a plastic freezer bag and put it in the fridge.  Over the next few weeks I'll be slowly building the batch of sake with additions of koji, steamed rice, and water.  Hopefully the rest of the process will be as smooth as this first step.

Next step Moto

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Golding Bitter Tasting

I quickly kegged my Golding Medal Bitter before heading off to New York at the start of April for work, by the time I returned two weeks later I had completely forgotten that I needed to post a tasting of it.  It turned out nicely, certainly the closest I've gotten to my ideal English pale ale (mostly thanks to the terrific 1968 London ESB yeast from Wyeast). 

I've been a bit slow on posting reviews for several of my already bottled and carbonated beers so I'm planning on posting one a day for the next week or so. 

Golding Medal Bitter

Appearance – Brilliantly clear amber-orange with a sudsy white head perched on top. Acceptable head retention given the low carbonation, as well as some pretty lacing on the glass.

Smell – Nice toasted malt aroma with some earthy (almost dank) hop aromatics bringing up the tail end. There is some yeast fruitiness as well, but none of that “mineral” character that several other British strains (Burton/Thames most notably) give.

Taste – The biscuity English malt takes the lead, I think the Amber malt really helped to accentuate the Marris Otter I used as the base. A bit sweeter than I intended, but it is still well balanced by a firm hop bitterness. There is just a hint of cocoa powder in the finish that wasn't there when I first kegged the beer. Light fruity yeast character that adds complexity, but doesn't get in the way.

Mouthfeel – Medium-full body with a smooth, soft carbonation (actually softer than it was a few days ago, just noticed my CO2 tank is empty).

Drinkability & Notes – A great session beer with a nice malt character. Next time around I would either lower the OG to 1.045 (as I intended) or up the hops and drop the mash temp slightly to shift the balance towards the bitter and dry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Best way to add fruit flavor to a beer?

Racking a pale sour beer onto white peachesPuree - 29%
Fresh - 28%
Frozen - 22%
Extract - 4%
Zest/Peel - 3%
Juice - 2%
Dried - 0%
Beer should never have fruit flavor unless it is from the malt, hops, or yeast. - 10%

I'm in between the fresh/frozen camps (I generally buy fresh and freeze it myself), it gives the best combination easy and flavorful.  Puree is too messy, extract is unnatural, dried fruit is muted (although it works well in some beers), and juice is fine but a bit bland.  I do like citrus zest, but that is more to add complexity and less about making a "fruit" flavored beer.

I'm about to do my first non-sour fruit beer in a long time, a citra hopped papaya pale ale.  Should make for an interesting summer beer now that DC has hit 90 degrees... Usually I like the combination of fruit and sour, so I am just going to add fruit to 1 gallon of the beer and drink the rest without.

I am a bit disappointed in the 18 of you who said beer and fruit don't mix.  Don't like flavor of fruit beers?  Think they are wimpy/girly? Do you always follow the Reinheitsgebot in your brewing?  Post a comment and let the rest of us know.

Speaking of fruit, a few days ago I submitted an article to BYO Magazine about making fruited sour beers. If you are a regular reader of the blog there probably won't be too much new information in it, but it pulls together information that is scattered across the blog.  Not sure when it will be published, but I'll make sure everyone knows when I find out.