Archive for December, 2009

Fat Washing

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Yeah, I said it, what you got a problem with that? I’m into fat washing!

So the other day I played with the concept of fat washing. What the hell is fat washing!? That’s what I said at first, and it wasn’t some weird nakedness-with-a-hose-and-sandwich type of internet thing either. It has to do with infusing a liquor with the essence of a fat. OK, it’s still weird. So why the heck was I playing with the concept of fat washing? Well, to experiment with the idea of a Bacon Beer, why else!

So for my fat washing experiment Robert and I decided on making Bacon Bourbon, think it sounds good, yeah me too. So we needed bacon and bourbon. Robert supplied the bourbon with some 100 proof Old Grand-dad (yowsa!) and Booth’s Corner Farmers Marker supplied the bacon. We decided on two different bacons just to see if there was a difference, so we got approx a 1/3 of a pound of Pepper Hickory Bacon (HICK) and Double Smoked Bacon (DBL). We really had no idea what the ratio of fat to liquor should be, so we decided on amounts we could handle eating and drinking so there was no waste. So first of all the HICK bacon was cooked off and the liquid fat was poured into three ounces of bourbon. We didn’t want to pour in all the lovely bacon bits so we poured the fat through a coffee filter in a funnel, it worked perfectly. We then mixed this up and let it begin to settle, which is about the time-frame of when the picture above was taken. At first it looked like salad dressing, and I think it would make a good base for a salad dressing with a salad with spinach, hard boiled eggs, blue cheese crumbles, craisins, and steak – sign me up. Then we cleaned things up and proceeded with the DBL bacon in the same manor. After both bourbons were bacon infused we moved them to the freezer to help speed the solidifying process.

While the fat was setting up we ate almost all of the bacon, of course, until we got towards the end and decided we should chocolate-dip some of the bacon! So I grabbed some dark chocolate I was recently given and set up a quick double boiler, melted about eight pieces of chocolate and then dipped about eight pieces of bacon, while of course burning the piss out of my fingers with the chocolate. I then laid the chocolate dipped bacon on a Corian cutting board and placed it in the fridge to set up. We figured in a couple hours (two episodes of Lost to be precise) we’d have fat washed bacon bourbon and dark chocolate dipped bacon, sounds like bacon heaven.

After the bourbons came out of the freezer they had a very solid fat layer on top a little greater than half an inch thick, and it was fully separated from the bourbon. Next we had to figure out how to get the bourbon from under the fat. We tried two different methods. Robert went with the knife around the edge of the glass and try to pop the “fat puck” from the top of the bourbon. I went with the take a straw and pop a hole through the fat and then pour the bourbon through the whole. They both worked in their own way, but the pop-and-pour method worked better. After either method of trying to pop the fat puck or the pop and pour method we wound up partially breaking the fat so that there were fat floaties in the bourbon. So it was back to the coffee filter and funnel technique, and again it worked perfectly. After both bourbons were poured off the fat and poured through the coffee filter there was perfectly clean and clear bourbon for the sampling.

We had no idea what we were getting into so there was a lot of excitment/anticipation. Would it smell of bacon, taste of bacon, would it be greasy, would it be any good? These were all questions in our mind. And the answers, well, I was impressed. You could catch smoke in the nose, and bacon in the flavor, it was mild and slightly hammy, there was no grease or slickness at all, and yeah, it was good! I actually thought the fat washing took the bite away from the 100 proof bourbon, but that could have been from numbed taste buds from an afternoon of bacon and plain bourbon too. But overall I would call it a success and would highly consider doing it again. This time we weren’t thinking and threw out the fat, next time I’m going to reserve that stuff and cook something with it, like beans, and see if the fat absorbed any bourbon notes. Also, while enjoying our fat washed bacon bourbon it was time for the dark chocolate dipped bacon. And it was incredible too! Seriously, if you like bacon and chocolate you gotta try it. I think it would be amazing crumbled and put either in ice cream or cookies instead of chocolate chips. Robert even liked it and he’s not a big chocolate fan, but it did inspire us to next time try peanut butter dipped bacon, whoa.

Overall it was a silly afternoon with a high success rate. If anyone else tries to experiment please let me know. Now remember it has to be done with a fat that will solidify, like bacon fat or butter, not olive oil. Anyone up for a real Buttered Spiced Rum? Sounds like another afternoon to me! Oh and about the Bacon Beer … not sure if this was enough to convince me, but maybe a Bacon Washed Bourbon Beer, maybe.

Things to Remember this Holiday Season

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

You got salad in my beer!

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

You got beer in my salad! … Or something like that, either you get it or you don’t 😉

salad in my beer

So yesterday I finally had the opportunity to transfer the Anniversary Ale into secondary carboys and to add the dry hops. Let me be the first to say: 6oz of dry hops in 5 gallons of beer is totally and completely unnecessary and absolutely overboard. OK, now someone has said it, and I agree. BUT I did it anyway and it makes me smile.

When I was getting ready to add the dry hops I realized this is going to be a huge amount of hops, it filled about a gallon of space in the carboy, so my typical 5 gallon secondary carboys were not going to work, so I had to use my 6.5 primary carboys for this experiment. As of right now I would say only about a 1/4 of the hops are actually wetted, but I plan on leaving them in for three weeks, so I ‘ll give them a week on there own to absorb. But if it appears as if it it just too much, well then I guess I’ll flush the head space with CO2 and then give the beer an nice swirl or shake or something to get them as wetted as possible. No need to be wasteful in an already lushy environment.

The bad news was when I transfer the beer I always take a second gravity reading, the beer was still in the mid-1.020’s, not really what I was looking for. It wasn’t excessively sweet, but it had a lot more “chew” to it then I was looking for which for me lowers it drinkability (is this Bud Light?). I was thinking more West Coast style IPA, now we’re looking at more of an East Coast style, a la 90 Minute IPA from DFH. And I’m talking about body and fullness, not flavor as of now. I suppose that’s the flip side to Summer brewing is Winter brewing. In Summer it’s a constant battle to try and keep fermentation temperatures low, in the Winter trying to keep them high enough. It did ferment around 67/68F for the first week, but was probably closer to 63/64F for the second, and then fell close to 60F for the third. Oh well. I guess it’s time to try and find the time and money to work on the fermentation cabinet that I have, which should be able to create a year round stable environment.

Also of brief note, the Harvest Ale is now on tap. This is the beer that Garrett and I brewed using only fresh hops. Literally from the vine to the kettle. I totally appreciated the opportunity to brew that beer since I would not have been able to do it on my own since I have not re-planted my hops in years. I know, bad hop daddy. The beer turned out great, very different flavor than most “hoppy” beers and a great silky/creamy texture I wasn’t expecting. The hops are more floral, spicy, earthy, mellow but still retain a fresh flavor. It’s been dubbed the Freshy-Fresh around here. So soon there will be the Freshy-Fresh and the Sticky-Icky on tap, too funny.

Sly Fox Hop Project

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

So Friday 12.11.09 was the annual Sly Fox Brewery single hop variety celebration date, this year dubbed the Hop Project.


See the rest of the Sly Fox Hop Project pictures HERE

This was the sixth year Sly Fox has done its single hop variety year long deal with it climaxing during the celebration date, originally called IPA Day then later called the Hop Project. I have been to the last four years and have had a great time, though this year is the last year. They say (straight dope) it is a combo of reasons roughly based on the idea that the year long brewing of the single hops beers is taxing on the brewing schedule and they do not officially celebrate for their anniversary, which happens to also be in December. So, basically it appears as if they will stop doing the single hop beers throughout the year, yet will retain a celebration day in December for their anniversary with promises of not disappointing. Fair enough.

This year it was Erik, Robert, and I that went up. The doors open at 10AM and we arrived a little before 11AM. Three out of the last four years we have sat in the same seat, this year being one of them. So from being in the same area the last four years I feel as though it gives us a unique perspective on the the flow. I think Sly Fox definitely has there systems down; waitresses were on top of their stuff, beer flights and food flowed easily, and I don’t think I heard any complaints. But, I felt as though it were less busy than in the past. Typically the restaurant fills in wave; there’s the early morning idiots like us, then the lunch crowd / people who take half days from work, and the end of work / happy hour time frame crowd. We’re typically out before it gets much later, but I would assume there is a later resurgence also. Anyway, usually by the time lunch rolls around it begins to fill up, and by the time the after work crowd shows up it is busy, I didn’t feel that way this year, it never felt full to me, but maybe that was just me.

Another change was in the past Sly Fox had always brewed IPAs to showcase the hop varietal beers, this year it was Pale Ales, which may have been a good idea. You figure, a Pale Ale has less malt and is less complex than an IPA so there should be a better chance to show case the hops, plus Pale Ales are lower in alcohol which lets people sample the same amount without feeling the effects so heavily, and there is an opportunity for Sly Fox to use less ingredients thus make more money. They sold the beers in three small flights with five ounce beers, four beers per flight. If I remember correctly my favorites from each flight were the Cask 2009 Odyssey, the Boadicea, and the Argentine Cascade. After the flights we stayed for lunch and a couple pints. We were probably there from roughly 11-ish to 5-ish, which is slightly longer than I anticipated but not as long as it has been in the past.

Overall hats off to Sly Fox once again for one of my favorite annual beer events, and I can’t wait to see what they pull off for next year with their anniversary party.

10th Anniversary Brew Day

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

WOW, it had seriously been 10 years since I brewed my first batch of beer … seriously, WOW!


Happy Anniversary, Cheers!

Fool Circle circa 1999So, November 28th is the anniversary date which happened to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year. Most of you have probably heard the story before on how all of this got started, but I will re-cap anyway. My sister, Nancy, bought me a Mr. Beer kit in 1999 for my birthday, I was to turn 22 that year. She didn’t think anything of it, she wasn’t old enough to drink, and she didn’t like beer, but thought that it was something I might like. Five days after my birthday I was brewing my first beer, a Mr. Beer kit West Coast Pale Ale, and I was proud. Sure it may seem silly thinking of some of those early batches now and the things that did and didn’t go into the brews, but I’ll tell you what, I loved every aspect of it and couldn’t wait for the next batch. And I shared that stuff with everybody, and most of it was drinkable, but some of it was just … interesting. Some of my early creations that may have been a little ahead of their time included: Mandarin Orange Spice Beer (freakin’ 3rd batch! haha), Green Tea with Honey Beer, and the Opaque Espresso Stout that seriously blew me away. A lot of people at the time didn’t have the same interest in boundary pushing beer that I did, but I think because of some of those early experiences with my homebrews I believe it helped open other peoples eyes later to the craft brew revolution and some of the beers they enjoy today.

DIPA HopsRegardless, that’s not what this post is about, this post is about the Fool Circle 10th Anniversary Sticky-Icky DIPA brew day. This day had a lot of things that could go wrong: a new recipe, with new ingredients, on new equipment, and I had to be finished by a certain time. These are all elements that make it more exciting of course, but also a little nerve racking, but I know RDWHAHB. So this was going to be the first batch to pop the cherry of the new 15 gallon kettle which I talked about in the last post, and also I was going to use all whole flower hops – 2 pounds of whole flower hops, and I was stoked! The recipe is very roughly (read: not suppose to be a clone) based on a beer made by Russian River called Pliny the Elder, in my opinion probably the best Double IPA (DIPA). I actually did clone Pliny once before and it turned out excellent, hopefully this beer will be even better. So in the recipe there are hops everywhere: mash hops, FWH hops, 75, 60, 45, 30 minute, and flame out hops let alone the ridiculous amount of hops going in for dry hops, 6oz per carboy, haha. The hops are pretty much all C-hop goodies with some Magnum thrown in for some extra bittering pop, though I don’t think the beer is going to be too bitter considering there is so much hops added as late additions. Yet it is a relatively simple grain bill, 85% brewers two-row, two small additions of specialty malts, and some corn sugar to help hopefully keep the beer from being too sweet. It had a finishing gravity of 1.082, though I was aiming for 1.070, um can we say over-shoot, oh well, I’m OK with that.

Pliny the Elder and ElliosSo the brew day went relatively well, no major mishaps. I did discover the maximum capacity of my mash tun, 30 pounds. Even with lowered the grain to water ratio as low as I was comfortable after adding the mash-out water the lid was literally floating on top of the mash which was brimming the tun. I also realized, with the weight of the kettle (approx 40 pounds) and the weight of a full kettle full of wort (approx 110 pounds (14 gallons x 8 pounds each)) there was no way I was going to be able to move that thing around by myself. So instead of running the tun off directly into the kettle I kept the kettle on the burner and ran off into a 5 gallon bucket and transferred that to the kettle, much easier loads to handle. The sparge went slightly smoother than normal by me spending 5 minutes soldering some copper to make a pick-up tube. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I bought the HLT and finally did it, and it worked great, less than a cup of water in the bottom when all was said and done. The rest of the brew day seemed to go fine, though everything felt like it ran a little longer. I suppose I should have expected it considering I was heating a lot more water, and a lot more wort and also cooling a lot more wort. And no, I didn’t buy a bigger/better wort chiller yet, patience. The boil was a little funny with all of the hops in there, I was actually a little concerned about the absorption rate of the hops and how much wort I would lose, but I was able to pull 10 gallons so I guess I was fine. For lunch during the brew day I had a special treat, a bottle of Pliny the Elder that my buddy Guy was able to give me in trade for a few bottles of my beer when it is really, good trade. I felt this would be the most appropriate beer to drink to celebrate the batch and the day, plus I found the perfect pairing to go with it – Ellios Pizza. Yup, Pliny and Ellios, and it was great. The brew day was starting to come to an end after a very long cooling of the wort for November, I was suppose to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving round two and I was starting to feel the time crunch. What I hadn’t thought about was cleaning up still, and there was a ton of spent wet hops, enough to fill an entire grocery bag. Plus I had to clean the new beastly kettle, and you know what, it wouldn’t even fit in my utility sink, so that’s going to be fun to figure out an easier way to clean it.

Whole Flower Hops

See all the pictures from this brew day at this LINK

Mash TunThe next day was still full of beer-stuff fun. Since I was in a hurry Saturday I didn’t get to attend to my hop supply and put them away properly. I was going to re-seal the Mylar-type bags they came in with a Food Saver, but I couldn’t get it to work with those bags (though it is suppose to) and it was the first time that I had tried to use it on Saturday, so it waited until Sunday. On Sunday I still couldn’t get it to work with the Mylar-type bags so I had to use the expensive Food Saver bags, it’s like buying n inexpensive nice printer with expensive ink cartridges, ugh. Anyway, it worked great with their bags and everything is all air tight and in the freezer waiting for the next brew day. I also finally got around to another long time project, adding a thermometer to my mash tun. I bought the thermometer when I bought the tun and just never committed to the project. I think the ease and usefulness of the pick-up tube from the day before inspired me to finish this project also. This one wasn’t as easy as I anticipated, though I would have realized the issues if I would have thought it through. Anyway, the thermometer is designed to be used as a “weld-less” conversion for a kettle, or for a metal vessel. So it is designed to go through something very thin. My mash tun is about an inch thick since it is an insulated cooler. So I needed to figure out a way to mount this to that. The solution I came up with was to use a 3.5″ hole saw and carefully drill into the face of the tun to make a space large enough to accommodate the face of the thermometer, but I only wanted to drill through the front and not the back. After drilling through, I was able to scrape out all of the insulation leaving the back wall of the cooler (the inside) exposed. This was approx the same thickness as a metal vessel and I could then add the thermometer to the cooler. This seemed to work fine, and additionally bought me an extra inch of length to the thermometer now being even closer to the center of the tun. I still haven’t brewed with it yet so I don’t know how many times I’ll smack it while stirring, but over all I’d say it was successful.

So if all goes as planned this beer will be ready in January, so make sure you ask me about it then if your interested in trying it, I know I am! Oh, and BTW, you know I embarrass myself for your pleasure with those old pictures, right?

Hey! Where have you guys been?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Think it’s been long enough since my last post? Sorry about that. The good thing is, you haven’t missed much, the bad thing is, you haven’t missed much because I haven’t done much homebrewing.

15 Gallon Kettle

BUT, the really cool thing is I’m ready to brew more in 2010 then ever before! Look at that beauty! That’s my brand-spankin’-new 15 gallon kettle which will allow me to double my capacity by doing 10 gallon batches instead of 5 gallon batches. This kettle has actually been on the “wish list” for quite some time, and I received a little bit of funding for it LAST Christmas and just finally pulled the trigger. This bad boy is approximately 40 pounds, all stainless steel, with welded fittings for a 1/2″ ball valve and 2″ length / 3″ face thermometer. I also opted for the optional false bottom so I can use whole flower hops in my brews if I so chose. And, the novelty of handles, go figure. Yeah, this isn’t a cheap piece of equipment, but with proper care it will realistically last a life time.

So in preparation of getting my brew on for 2010, or at least for the next little bit, and to hopefully abuse (in the best way possible) the new kettle and all of it’s features I also placed a nice sized hop order from Hops Direct.

Hops, 5 pounds

It’s kind of a shitty picture, but that’s 5+ pounds of whole flower hops. Each bag was suppose to be 16oz, instead the bags ranged from 20 to 22oz a piece, over a pound of free hops total. Also, I was trying to hit a dead-line for my delivery and Hops Direct upgraded my shipping from 3-day to 2-day for free. This is my first time using them and I must say I was happily impressed and would easily recommend them to anyone interested. So what did I order? I ordered a bunch of C’s: Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, Centennial, and Magnum. So everybody better get ready for some hoppy American brews, but what else is new from Fool Circle.

So hopefully more news later this week, at least one more post about a very special brew from the weekend after Thanksgiving, stay tuned!