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Archive for the ‘Homebrew’ Category

So, what’s on tap?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

That’s pretty much the question whenever I have people over: So, what’s on tap?

Right now there is a nice variety on tap, the California Red, Chocolate American Brown Ale, and the Pepper Sage Saison. All three are pretty good to good, so I can live with that. Sometimes we need to take risks to find out where the world of good taste ends the world of homebrew adventure begins. I’ll go through each briefly.

The CA Red is a big hoppy yet malty beer. It is probably one of my top three favorite types of beers, the over the top hoppy IPAs that are dripping with malty stickiness. Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewery is a prime example and Racer 5 from Bear Republic, a bomber of either of them and I am a happy guy. So this IPA is brewed in that style, an excessive amount of hops, but still plenty of Crystal malts that add that non-fermentable caramel sugar love to the brew. It’s like candied hops, similar to candied orange rind, but not really, know what I mean? You think it isn’t going to be good, but instead it is delicious. When this beer was fresh this summer it was spot on. This is the second keg with a good six months on it, the hops have definitely faded. The beer is still good, just not as good as it was fresh.

The Chocolate American Brown Ale was the second keg of two. The first I left traditional style and is a beer I have brewed before, it turned out great, nice and malty yet hop forward enough to be balanced, and more flavorful than your typical american brown. This batch I added a pound (if I remember correctly) of powdered straight cocoa. It’s an OK way to add chocolate to your beer. This is the third variant of chocolate I have tried and I’d put it in the middle. The best was straight cocao nibs, though if I used them again I may grind them finer, straight cocoa powder being second, and chocolate syrup being third (not recommended). This beer is nice for one or two, but after that it seems to be a bit too much for real drinkability for my palate.

The Pepper Sage Saison was probably the most anticipated out of the three beers currently on tap and probably the one that fell the flattest. It’s OK, don’t get me wrong, just a little under-attenuated. It’s too sweet for a Saison which then masks too many of the other flavors. Saisons are suppose to be dry, crisp, kind of like a ray of sunshine, mine was definitely sweet, a little heavy, and more like a gray cloud. I think the peppercorn and sage is a GREAT idea for a Saison, but it was just to masked by the sweetness to really tell. The sage was more of an overall flavor, kind of the same from front to back, but the peppercorn had an initial taste on the front of the tongue, than gone, than a soft burn in the back of the throat. I think I used twice the amount of black peppercorn from the original time I used it and honestly I would double that again. Makes me wonder what a black peppercorn and rose petal Saison would taste like … hhmmm.

So anyway, that’s what’s on tap, hit me up if you want to try anything, the bar is always open :). Next lined up are a bunch of hoppy beers (yeah!), there is a simple pale ale brewed with Saison yeast, the SAW Pale ale, the January IPA (Sticky Jr), and I think maybe something else … can’t remember, 10 gallons of each, so plenty to go around. Until next time.

January IPA

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

It’s been a while, how have you been? Great, I’m glad you’re still thirsty for more homebrew.

Today I brewed what was originally labeled as FC Hoppy IPA, which I later mentally dubbed the Hailstorm IPA, but in all honesty it’s the Son of the Stick-Icky IPA. I had written this recipe back in May when I had ordered a bunch of ingredients. I like to write maybe six recipes at a time and then order ingredients accordingly versus ordering a bunch of random stuff and basing my recipes from what’s available. So, this one was just labeled as FC Hoppy IPA, it was roughly based off of the Fool Circle 10th Anniversary Ale Sticky-Icky DIPA. I say roughly because the base malt is slightly different and the hop additions are slightly different, same volume of base malt, and almost the same volume of hops, but with half the dry hops, which is still a half pound.

Anyway, the brew day went alright. It started a little slow, I had run out of coffee! So after a coffee run, I had to run back out to the grocery store to pick an additional ingredient up for the brew day. After the running around and getting the brew area cleaned up I probably started about 11:30AM. No major mishaps, which is great. It was the first brew day with the new basement door installed, which was nice, no more annoying screen door in the way. I did blow a hose on my water filter which was kind of crazy. In the middle of the hose it just blew apart, where there appeared to be no stress, no wear, no nothing, but the tubing was about twice as thin as it should have been, weird. It wasn’t a big deal, I had some extra tubing available and replaced it. About halfway through the brew day the sky started to get much darker, and knowing there was a 50% chance of rain I decided to put up my rain fly, which is essentially a blue tarp held up by bungee cords. It actually worked really well this time; no gaps, no puddles, no billowing. Though, it wasn’t just rain. Where I was we received rain, hail, and ice, it was quite loud but nice and dry and pretty warm from all the additional heat from the steam.

I also, finally worked on the SAW Pale Ale some. It really should have been transferred to kegs like, oh, say, a month or so ago. But, I’ve been slacking hard on the homebrew front, and today I actually transferred it to a third carboy. I was originally going to keg it today,  but forgot I wanted to try and fine the beer with gelatin which takes a couple days. I’ve never used it before, but it is what was available on the fly, so we’ll see. I followed some of the basic techniques on line: boil a cup of water, cool close to room temp, add a TBSP of gelatin, let it bloom, shake/stir, add to carboy, add beer, wait a few days to clear. Hopefully it’ll work. The beer was “clear enough”, but I was hoping it’d be clearer, plus I wanted to experiment with the technique anyway. If it really drops it clear I may use it more often, especially with heavily dry hopped beers which almost always seem to have more haze. After all the brew day action, and transfer fun, and clean up what nots the brew day wrapped a little after 8:00PM, a little long, but not too bad.

So as of now there is ten gallons of Sticky Jr waiting to begin fermentation in my upstairs, too cold during this time of the year in the basement. Hopefully by tomorrow morning it’ll be bubbling away and then ready to transfer in about two weeks, drop a quarter pound of dry hops in each carboy, and then keg (or possibly gelatin and then keg) shortly after. It really shouldn’t be up in the rotation to be put on tap, but I’m a sucker for fresh hoppy beers, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this beer sooner than later. On tap now is the second keg of CA Red from this summer, mellowed out some in the hop realm but still tasty taste, the Chocolate American Brown, good but I now believe I’ll stick with Cocoa Nibs, and the Sage and Black Peppercorn Saison, tasty but sweeter than it should be. Theoretically more on those three later this week.

S.A.W. Pale Ale

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Today was the first time I brewed since Labor Day weekend and brewed a beer I haven’t brewed since 2007, the S.A.W. Pale Ale.

The S.A.W. Pale Ale is a pale ale brewed with a combination of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Warrior hops, thus the S.A.W. abbreviation. I also use the Dogfish Head continuous hopping method for this beer where the hops are added at the same rate throughout the brew. So for this beer it has a 2 to 1 ration of Amarillo to the other two hops, I then mixed the hops all together so the three hops are indistinguishable, and then measure out a consistent amount, half an ounce for this batch, and add it continuously at at a set rate, every eight minutes for this batch. Also, I suppose I should mention that I wasn’t able to find whole leaf Warrior hops so I substituted with whole leaf Zeus hops, so I suppose this is really the S.A.Z. Pale Ale, but whatever.

The brew day went well enough, I went into it already exhausted which means I am really beat right now. There was no major mishaps that went down only a couple little hiccups. Didn’t realize I was out of Whirlfloc so there is a higher potential for a not as clear beer. I forgot to oxygenate my wort until after I added my yeast, really not a big deal at all just a little out of sequence then normal. I ran out of propane while heating the mash out water, really not a big deal either since I had a back up ready to go. And I’m a little nervous about my yeast starter, 1000ml of WLP001 that was a month out of date. Theoretically it should be fine, but, I dunno, it didn’t seem “right”. Other than that I got four carboys cleaned, two kegs cleaned, two beers transferred and dry hopped, and wrapped the brew day in less than seven hours. So, though I am exhausted, and there was a couple hoops to jump through, the day went well.

I transfered the APA with Saison Yeast, which of course meant that I sampled it. It was interesting, the final gravity was nice and low (unlike the Saison itself … hmmm), the american hops stood out brightly and the Saison yeast gave it an interesting twist though I would have preferred a more peppery contribution. We’ll see, should be in kegs soon, and then who knows when it will go on tap. Speaking of which, I just put two new beers on tap, the American Brown I brewed with Heather and Robert back in August and the plain Saision. I still have the Perle American Wheat on tap too. I’ll try to write a review of the two new beers this week. Lined up to be tapped next is the Chocolate Brown and the Sage and Peppercorn Saison, both of those should be interesting!

APA with Saison Yeast

Friday, September 10th, 2010

On Labor Day, 09.06.10, I had the opportunity to brew a batch of beer, this time it was an American Pale Ale with Saison Yeast, should be interesting.

The brew day got started a little later than I had wanted, close to 12:30-1:00, but that’s OK because I didn’t really have anything else to do that day. The brew day went relatively well, I did run out of gas so there was a propane run to the store, but that’s no big deal. Also I am using some simple sugars in this recipe, so I pulled 2 Qts of wort and mixed it with 2 lbs of sugar. I reserved these to add towards the end of active fermentation, about day 5. This way the yeast will gobble up the more complex sugars from the barley first. These simple sugars will hopefully help lower the final gravity, which I have been having some issues of too high FGs, I think (hope) it’s my current base malt, Crisp from England. I used Saison yeast with this APA, kind of an American-Belgian fusion. At the 24hr point the wort hadn’t really kicked off into active fermentation, which was weird because it was second generation yeast, so as a safety measure I added a dry pack of US-05 American yeast to each, it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

I also had an opportunity to keg the Saison and Pepper Sage Saison, so these will be on tap soon too. I still have the Perle American Wheat and the Grilled Pineapple Wheat on tap, I think the Pineapple will kick first. Then I’ll be putting two new beers on tap, definitely the American Brown and probably one of the Saisons. Then there is still a keg of the CA Red left, the Chocolate Am Brown, the other Saison, and then two APAs. I believe I still have ingredients lined up for two more batches, another PA and an IPA, hophead say what!? Additionally, there has been some minor talk of Garrett and myself revisiting brewing a barleywine together, ala the 2006 Gnarleywine, so I’ll keep you all posted as that develops too.

Pepper Sage Saison

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

So I finally got around to transferring the Saison to secondaries and I also committed to the spice addition.

So as the title suggests I decided on Black Pepper and Fresh Sage for the spice additions to half of the Saison, thus a Pepper Sage Saison. I went with a quarter of an ounce of pepper and a half ounce of sage. Hopefully neither will be totally overwhelming more so than too discrete. Last time I used black pepper I used an eighth of an ounce and I could barely tell it was there. And this was in five gallons of beer. The base beer tasted pretty good, a little sweet (kind of high final gravity), but it should be OK. So in about two weeks or so these will be kegged and ready to go. It’ll be cool if I have a bunch of wacky beers on tap at once, like the Grilled Pineapple Wheat, the Chocolate American Brown, and the Pepper Sage Saison, nice! So, we’ll see how this turns out, could be a pile of shit, could be exceptional. Would love to hear your thoughts after it’s ready. So far, it’s still more fun to take a couple of risks.

Saison and BCTC ’10

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

A little over a week ago was this years Ommegang’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC) and I also had an opportunity to brew a beer inspired from the event.

So upon the return from BCTC I had an extra day off from work, and as long as nothing came up I was going to brew. Inspired by all of the lovely Belgian-style beers from the festival I decided it was time to brew a Saison, even though my house is desperately in need of some hoppy-goodness. The brew-day and the recipe were both pretty straight forward and everything generally seemed to go fine, besides cooling which took WAY to long. In between the brew steps I was also able to clean six carboys and two kegs plus keg the American Brown and the Chocolate Brown. So whatever kicks first will get replaced by the American Brown. Originally I had thought about spicing the Saison but decided against it to see what profile the yeast contribute on there own. It was a Saison yeast and fermented a little on the warmer side so hopefully they’ll get nice and peppery/flowery/spicy on their own with out going overboard and throwing of headachey fusel alcohols. We’ll see. But, as a compromise, I think I am going to dry-spice five gallons of the batch. Right now I am leaning towards black pepper and sage, could be good, could be really interesting, could make a great marinade.

I’m not going to say too much about BCTC because there is already so much you can find on the internets, but I will say it is definetily my favorite beer fest of the year.

That’s probably the most non-representable picture from the even, but it was at out neighbors camp and struck me for some reason, I think I like the contrast between the construction/motorcycle boots and the 750 bottles and glass, dunno. Anyway, this was a great year once again. A weekend of like minded people camping out at a brewery in Cooperstown, NY enjoying themselves and each other and as much dank beer as you could ever possibly want. We arrived Friday and our volunteer shift wasn’t until 5PM on Saturday, so we had tons of time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Friday was a lot of wondering around visiting different people and shooting the shit while enjoying great beer. We actually missed our Axis Mundi crew who were MIA this year, so, sorry not to see you Rob, Kasey, Natalie, and Rick. We actually rocked out Sly Fox 113 IPA cans all weekend. It’s a great beer, in cans, and the hops are a nice contract to all the Belgian love that’s floating around. Saturday was more of a chill out at the camp site kind of day, which is great too. We acquired a shade tent this year which was a huge benefit, and we camped in a great area with great neighbors. The actual tasting started at 3PM, so we were able to taste for two hours then volunteer for four hours. Lots of great beers per usual at the tasting. Our shift this year was ice/water duty, it was pretty easy. We honestly tried to help and fill as much as possible, but in the big picture most of the breweries were good at this point so instead it was more like (us) ‘do you need any ice or anything?’ (them) ‘no, we’re good, do you need a beer?’ So there was a lot of getting to know the people you were trying to assist involved, pretty cool. Saturday night came quick for me and I was in bed early, but it sounds like the Saturday camp ground was great again, and Ommegang showed Caddy Shack on the big screen in the field, nice. Sunday came and went before we knew it and we were on the road making it home in just over five hours with no traffic and minimal rain, which I think is a record. Regardless, once again BCTC was a success and I would imagine I’ll be there again next year.

American Brown Update

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Not to much new going on, but I figured I’d drop as much of a load on you as I could.

So this is a follow up to the American Brown Ale I brewed over Fourth of July weekend. I finally got a chance to transfer tonight. This was originally a 10 gallon batch, for the transfer I left 5 gallons traditional and 5 gallons I added chocolate to it. This is the third time I  have used chocolate. The first was way back in March of 2000 when I brewed a Chocolate Stout with Hershey’s syrup, didn’t turn out so hot. Second was June of 2008 with the Chocolate Porter where I used Cacao Nibs (raw chocolate), turned out great but I actually desired more of a chocolate punch. And this time July of 2010 with the American Brown Chocolate using powdered cocoa from Ghirardelli’s. Hopefully I just didn’t brew five gallons of a hot mess of a drain pour, but we’ll see, that’s what it’s all about sometimes.

Other than that I’ve got three beers on tap for the first time in a long time, the American Wheat (good but with a lot of diacetyl), the Grilled Pineapple Wheat (good but with less specialty characteristics than desired), and the California Red (yummy!). I’ll try to put a proper review of those three beers up soon, it’s been a while.

I’ve got ingredients and recipes lined up for two pale ales, an IPA, and a Saison. Almost brewed on Sunday but forgot to make a starter, next tentative brew date is the first Monday in August – too long of a wait sometimes. Oh well, until then …

8th Annual Fool Circle Beer Tasting

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Yesterday, 07.09.10, was the 8th Annual Fool Circle Beer Tasting, and it was an amazing time!

You can view all of the pictures here, just CLICK.

Tradition stands strong. For the 8th year in a row I was able to host and participate in the annual Fool Circle beer tasting. This is a rare occasion when great friends get an opportunity to come together and sample a small eclectic variety of homebrewed beer. In attendance this year was Todd, Richard, Dave, Robert, Erik, and myself. This was Erik’s first year so he was the rookie. I had decided this year that I was still going to participate in the guessing, but was pulling myself out of the competition aspect, as in I couldn’t win regardless of the outcome.

The tasting itself was streamlined in comparison to last year. Last year we had 24 beers to sample which we determined was too many. So this year we had 12 beers which was just the beer since the last tasting. Well, actually there were 14 beers since the last tasting, but I forgot to bottle 2 of them, oh well. In the tasting this year were the following beers: Cluster Wheat, Sum Bra Pale Ale, Roby’s Red Rye, Kitchen Sink Amber, Kitchen Sink Dark, FCX Sticky-Icky IIPA 10th Anniversary Ale, Dubbel, Dubbel Dragon – Chinese 5 Spice, Anxious Amber, Perle Wheat, Grilled Pineapple Wheat, and the California Red. The two that missed the cut were the Harvest Ale – Freshy Fresh and the Twenty Pound Pale Ale. The highest number of beer guessed correctly out of the 12 was 8 and the lowest was 1. The 8 was guessed by myself so it didn’t count towards the competition and the winning of the the status of Grand Poo-Bah for the next year, and to be fair the 1 was guessed by Random Robert, which was just us filling in Roberts guesses at random since he was going to be late, but he still got 1 right!

In the end it turns out that Dave and Erik both guessed 5 correctly so we had to go into a tie breaker round. I had previously put 24 different vintage Fool Circle beers in the fridge, so for the tie breaker I was going to pick a beer and pour them off a sample, and who ever guessed correctly first would win. I chose the Scottish 70/- beer because it was distinctive, yet could be slightly confusing because of the two varietal Scottish beers also included in the vintage list. They BOTH guessed it correctly on the first guess, I was amazed. So now we had to go into double over time tie breaker style. I had to decide was I going to try and go obvious, or difficult, I think I went slightly down the middle maybe towards the more difficult side and chose the Simcoe Brown. After some deliberation the guys turned in their guesses and one of them guessed it right on the first try, again I was impressed. It turns out the rookie rocked the vets and walked away with the title of Grand Poo-Bah for the next year, that being one Mr. Erik. Congratulations, good job.

After that things went smoothly and I think we all had a blast. Some awesome dinner was had: great homemade guacamole with some snacky food, grilled chicken, tomato and cucumber salad, cheesy orzo, and black bean and corn salad. Then we jumped on some new beers to try, the Perle Wheat, Pineapple Wheat, and CA Red were all on tap, and Richard had brought some of Garrett’s ESB with him to share, Erik brought some old school Roxy Rolles he found, plus there were all the vintage Fool Circle’s to share. Todd wound up leaving first because he had work the next day and had to get up early, but everyone else hung until about 12:30AM or so and either rolled with a driver or crashed, most responsible year yet.

Overall it was once again a great time. If you’re interested in previous years activities you can check them all out here, all but the first year: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. Also, per usual, here’s some more than flavorful quotes from the night to keep you smiling, or cringing:

  • I heard they put a needle in your nut.
  • I think one of’em’s three of’em.
  • I don’t want you guys to think I’m weird or anything, but I got an AK-47 this year.
  • You will shit your spleen!
  • They make it in the radiators.
  • You’re like the Blackadder bitch.
  • They’ve gone plaid.
  • Were you smelling his fingers? – I was measuring his head.
  • Apparently my right ball is called “Columbo”.
  • I wanna see what my balls are called.
  • Give me a camera, I gotta snake coming out of my crotch.
  • Hey look, Erik and Dave had a sword fight in Robert’s mouth.
  • Rape him in the face holes.
  • Deuce Poose Grand Poo-Boose.
  • Simmer down Rookie!
  • If you took a 70’s porn star chick and her homeless Vietnam vet husband and mixed them together, that was your face.

American Brown Ale

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, 07.02.10, was the perfect day to brew some beer!

American Brown Ale

Yesterday I was able to take the day off from work extending the already long three day July 4th weekend into a four day weekend. My plans had changed twice already, but in the end I was able to revert back to the original plans, which were to brew a batch of beer. This time around it was an American Brown Ale. I have brewed this recipe twice before, once with Garrett and once alone. Each time there were slight tweaks to the recipe based on available inventory, but this third batch was almost identical to the original with Garrett.

The brew day got started between 10:30 and 11 and wrapped around 6-ish or so. My friend Heather was able to join me for most of the day, in particularly during the more interesting first couple hours, and my other friend Robert was able to sit in for an hour or so in the middle, so it was nice to have company on a beautiful July afternoon – 83′, sunny, and low humidity – that’s my kind of day! There were no major cliches during the brew day, so that was good. I suppose I had a minor brain fart in the beginning because I swore I had ordered a particular base malt (Marris Otter) for this batch, yet couldn’t find it anywhere, only to realize that I had ordered it, yet used it on the last batch with the California Red, doh! Really not a big deal, I did have other English two-row base malt (Crisp) so I just made a substitution on the fly. Other than that I hit my mash in and mash out temps on the nose, there was no major waiting for water to heat, and no major mishaps with the boil. Though my original gravity was much higher than anticipated, actually my last couple batched have been … it may be time for a new hydrometer, this one may no longer be accurate.

But then there was the cooling … Oh summer-time cooling, oh how I hate thee. An hour and a half later and the beer is only down to 80′. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s because the ground water is so warm, but there are things I could do to help this be more efficient. For example, I am still using the same immersion wort chiller that I used for five gallon batches as I do now for ten gallon batches, I believe it is a 25ft 3/8″ unit, I should really be using something closer to a 50ft 1/2″ unit if I choose to continue to use an immersion chiller. Additionally I could add a pump to the system and pump ice-water from a cooler through the unit which would totally increase the efficiency OR I could upgrade to a counter-flow chiller or even better a plate chiller and really cut down the time. The current desired end chiller would probably be a Blichmann Engineering Therminator plus a March Pump plus a cooler of ice water. The thought would be to run the wort through the plate chiller while ice water passed in the opposite direction essentially cooling the wort as quickly as possible. And to avoid acquiring the cold break material in the fermenter, I think if the cooled wort was pumped back into the brew kettle again before being put into the carboy the false bottom/whole hops would help filter that material out, thus chilling ultra quick and still retaining clear wort. I bet I could easily shave an hour off my brew day. When the money tree blooms, you know what I’ll be buying.

California Dreamin’

Friday, June 18th, 2010

On Friday 06.11.10 I brewed a California Red beer, plus it was my first night brew in a while too.

The CA Red brew night went well. I got started about 6:00PM and finished up about 1:00AM, seven hours isn’t too bad. I have had a tough time committing to weekend brew days recently so I decided to see if I could pump out a brew night in a reasonable amount of time, really to see how feasible a week day brew night would be. I think as long as there were no mistakes and kept about that same pacing, I’d say it’s quite feasible, especially considering I am usually just getting to bed around that time anyway.

This is the second time I have brewed this style of beer and I decided to duplicate the same recipe, only changing the bittering hops on account of what was available in house, from Horizon to Chinook. This is actually a really tasty beer, it comes off like candied hops. I also re-pitched the yeast from the American Wheat. I feel as if this is both a smart move and a risky move. Smart in the sense of I save $8.00 from the batch by not buying any new yeast, but risky because if there happen to be any problems with the first beer it will be carried over to the second beer. So far I have not run into any noticeable problems using this procedure, though the most I have ever flipped yeast is twice, and I’ll probably flip this yeast one more time too.

I think I am going to leave all 10 gallons of this batch the same, but I am also slightly leaning toward lightly oaking five gallons of it too. I think the next brew is going to be an American Brown beer. This is a recipe that Garrett and I have brewed together before and that I have brewed on my own too. It’s actually quite tasty. For that batch I think I will split it as a traditional batch and maybe add chocolate to half. We’ll see what happens when we get there I suppose.

“All the leaves are green, and the sky is blue, I’ve been for a brew, on a summers day … California dreamin’ …” Haha, whateva!