Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Update: I Got Some Hops

I was unable to grow any hops this year due to our move into our first house in mid/late May (YAY!).  My crowns were out of the ground in the sun for a couple hours and once I got them in the soil 5 of the 8 didn't grow at all, and the other 3 grew a small amount.  I was able to get hops from Oakshire Brewing's garden last year, but with their expansion and dropping the farmhouse next door they hadn't strung them up or cared for them in the last month.  I got an email from the brewmaster yesterday saying that they had continued to grow and climb the fence and were mine for the taking if I wanted them.  He even went next door to the farmhouse and asked the new tenants if they would mind me coming around and getting the hops on their side.  They were amicable and I was able to cut off all the bines on the Centennial and Chinook plants (left the Fuggles as I am not a big fan of them nor do I make many English beers).  Unfortunately their Cascade didn't make it this year.  

I was able to score 5 oz of Centennial (which is fine since it throws an annoying floral character that I don't care for) and 36 oz of Chinook.  Those are wet weights so I will have less once they are dried.  We had a hop picking party on our front porch once I got the bines home, even my 3 year old got in on it.  We separated the Chinooks into 4 large paper bags and the Centennial is all inside a standard paper grocery bag.  They are in the garage to dry out over the next few days.  Once they are dried I will re-weigh them and package them in vacuum seal bags in 1-2 oz quantities for freezer storage.  I might have a chance to help a local farm-brewery pick their hops this weekend and score some of those as well.  Hoping to get my hands on some Cascades for the future brew year too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recipe #49: Hazy Dayz (Session White IPA)

After brewing a couple lagers and waiting for them to finish up for drinking I noticed that I didn't have any really flavorful brews, nothing hoppy to slake my lupulin lusts.  I have my Saison in bottles and the 2 American Pilsners, that's it.  I really enjoy White IPAs.  I really enjoy session IPAs.  And yesterday was National IPA Day.  Seemed fitting that I brew up a nice sessionable White IPA.  Around 4.5% ABV, 43 IBUs., dry, crisp, refreshing, fruity, bursting with hops.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recipe #48: Release the Panic (Session Brett Wheat IPA)

I have really wanted to get into single strain 100% Brett fermentations for awhile now.  I did a Brett L Oud Bruin in Spring that was supposedly mixed with some Lacto (no lactic acid in the beer though), and I have wanted to brew a hoppy Brett beer as the fruitiness of the Brett is a great compliment to fruity hops.  Seeing as this is a split batch with a Session White IPA I don't really want a super fruity beer for this batch so I did a larger addition of Chinook to get a substantial amount of Pine with the Simcoe in there as well.

I decided to mash a little higher than normal for this beer since it is a smaller beer.  I didn't want it to end up in the lower single digits on the FG and be thin, especially since Brett beers typically lack body.  The high percentage of flaked products, the flaked oats, and the higher levels of Chloride compared to Sulfate should make for a decent finish on this batch even if the FG dips a little lower. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Raise, Rain, Rouse, Rest, Recirculate, Runoff, Rinse, Repeat: Mashing and Batch Sparge.

It wasn't long before I made the move to All Grain brewing once I started making my own beer.  4 batches to be exact.  All Grain brewing allows you to control certain variables in the process such as fermentability of your wort (bone dry finish, dry finish, sweet finish) as well as the body of the beer (light, medium, full, chewy).  When using malt extract, these variables are set by the company making the extract, as well as the composition of the base wort (some use caramel malts or carapils in the grist along with base malt).  All Grain brewing also allows you to use malts that cannot be used with out mashing like Munich and Vienna base malts, raw grains (raw wheat, raw oats, flaked adjuncts, etc.), and others.  It is also more affordable (initial investment is more, but cost of grains is drastically cheaper).  Many brewers might fear that All Grain brewing is too difficult, but in reality it is fairly simple: RAISE a volume of water to a given temperature, RAIN it into your mash tun, ROUSE the grains into the water, REST the mash, RECIRCULATE the liquid then RUNOFF the liquid, RINSE the grains, REPEAT the process (see below for the specifics).  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Recipe #46: CAPtain America (Classic American Pilsner)

I have been intrigued as of late with brewing more lagers, and specifically with making an American Pilsner.  This seems odd since I have been, typically, anti American Lagers.  It has been a long road to a place I thought I would never reach, but the truth is I need to be less overly-opinionated on things that are not founded on the infallible word of Christ.  It's like music, my buddy is very opinionated about how his music is the best music, and I find no enjoyment in his music, nor his claims that his music tastes are some how superior to those around him that don't agree with him.  In the same way I look at his claims concerning music and say, "In your opinion", I tend to be just as emphatic about beer choices.  According to my taste preferences, "in my opinion", Macro lagers aren't good beer, but to someone else they may taste great.  For all the "gospel" or "good news" or "evangelizing" Craft beer (all words I take issue with when used to reference an inanimate object with no power to save anyone from anything), it falls flatter than a Lost Abbey beer, it is all still based on conjecture and opinion.  Even with the recent decline in the sales of beer on the whole and the massive growth of Craft beer with increased sales, it is all still preference.  Whether it be the Pilsners that swept Europe, or the Pale Ales at the birth of Craft brewing, IPAs, Bourbon Barrel aged 25% ABV syrups, Super Sours, or the current rise of Session IPAs, one thing holds true, what constitutes "good beer" is totally subjective and shifts almost as quick as the smell of that red solo cup of PBR left out on the back patio.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Recipe #47: Iron Patriot (New School American Pilsner)

I have a knack for maximizing my output when I brew.  Pilsner and Saison split batch, Wit and American Wheat split batch, West Coast Red and Oud Bruin split batch, partigyles, etc.  When I do get to brew it is just easier to brew a double batch than to do a single 5 gallon batch, and then try to find another brew day to do another 5 gallons.  It is not much more effort to do 10 gallons instead of 5, and I only have to clean the equipment once.  So when I decided to make my Classic American Pilsner, I had to find another beer I could do with the same mash. Why not do the same beer with a huge twist?  Same grain bill (and mash), same brewing salts, same hopping schedule, but swapping out Old World noble hops (or American knock offs) with New World American varietals.  I swapped out the Saaz, Liberty, and Sterling for Simcoe, Mosaic, and Calypso.  The IBUs will be much different.  And I will be using the Munich Lager yeast for this batch instead of the Budvar which will slightly alter the profile, but shouldn't be much.

Brewday turned out to be a fiasco as I awoke to a broken water heater spewing boiling water on the floor of the garage and had to help a buddy replace it during the brew session, and had to fix a broken shower during this particular batch.  After a grueling day, having the propane kick mid boil, not getting the wort down to lager temps due to the heat, the fermentation went fairly well and smoothly.  Ramped up the temp a few times to ensure complete attenuation and let it sit on the yeast for awhile to ensure no diacetyl.  Once I finally kegged it though, I really wanted more hop character, so I figured why not dry hop it for fun.  I mean, this is the Iron Patriot, a nod to Captain America (the Classic American Pils), but with all the fire power of Iron Man.  I had to do something to make this one blow you away.  Tossed in the dry hops in doubled preboiled paint strainer bags (pellet hops) attached with plain dental floss and allowed them to sit in the beer at lager temps while serving.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: 1st Place - Procrastinator (Dopplebck)

I was never really a big lager guy, well, I guess I was a BIG lager guy seeing as the only lagers I really cared for were Dopplebocks.  Big, rich, malty, toasty, dark fruits, full body, dark, clear, warming.  When it finally came time for me to brew my first lager I jumped in with both feet.  I brewed a Dopplebock, low and behold, it took 1st place in its category, and I am told did well in the Best of Show round (but didn't get to the final table).  7 months after brewing I finally got around to doing the review, and the time lagering has been of benefit as it has really begun to come together even more than it was in May for the competition.  I was shooting for a Salvator like beer, and I think I got fairly close.

Look:  Pours a super clear garnet with ruby highlights, thick tan head with medium size bubbles, fades to a thick cap which eventually becomes nothing as it warms.  Light lacing, long legs.

Aroma:  Deep aroma of malts, burnt raisins, toasty breads, plum skins, a little molasses, alcohol, light metal (dissipates as it warms), chocolate as the beer warms.  No hops, no DMS, no diacetyl, clean lager character.

Flavor:  Taste starts off with chocolate, then leads to plums, alcohol, sweet breads, toasty, rich melanoidins, deep malt character.  No hops, no DMS, no diacetyl, clean.  Towards the end, as it warms, there is a kind of flabby fruit flavor in the finish.

Mouthfeel:  Medium-light body, fluffy carbonation, semi-sweet finish, bitterness is perfect for balance, light alcohol warmth.

Overall:  Looks great, everything I was hoping for, perfect color and clarity, the head needs help though as it falls flat eventually.  Clean beer.  Whoever says that you have to brew a smaller lager to get enough yeast to do a Dopplebock was wrong (this was a 2L starter stepped up again to another 2L), as was the person who said Melanoidin malt won't give you the same thing as decoctions.  Rich malts, deep melenoidin character, raisin and plum, light chocolate, smooth, alcohol is clean and warming.  The body is too light, needs to be chewier.  Next batch needs to have a thicker body, better head retention, and a fix to the flabby finish (water chemistry/pH maybe?).

NOTE: This beer took first place in May 2013 in the Sasquatch BJCP comp in Bocks, and took 2nd Place in February 2014 in the KLCC BJCP in Bocks.