Monday, June 30, 2014

DIY: Digital Dual-Stage Temp Controller Build

This How-To will walk you through how to build your own Digital Dual-Stage Temperature Controller.  I sourced many of the extra parts (wire, outlet) from Goodwill.  The temperature control unit was purchased on eBay for $20 shipped.  The project box was purchased from RadioShack for $6.50.  Total cost for me $30, which is much cheaper than the Ranco and Johnson controllers sold for $150.00.

Here is the link to the Temperature Conversion Chart which includes the year round offerings from WYeast (plus quite a few of their PC strains), the temp range for each yeast, and if they recommend a diacetyl rest for the strain.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: #55 The Callen 2013 (2nd Place Oaked Wee Heavy)

Scottish Wee Heavy.  I really enjoy them, but have not been able to make one I enjoyed in my 2 previous attempts.  One was infected and had lots of cherry pie.  The other was left to age on the yeast too long and tastes like pot roast (great for cooking stew, chili, or Corned Beef).  For this one I used a base of Golden Promise for a richer and sweeter malt character, and layered on top of it Cara-Pils for body, and British Dark Crystal, Carastan, and a hint of Special B to play up the rich toffee and dark fruits.  I wanted this one to hit hard on all cylinders.  Add to that aging it in the keg for a few months on second round oak chips and some Bourbon.  Almost perfect.  Needs a couple tweaks.  10.4% tastes nice, should drink great this fall after a few more months in the cellar.

Aroma: 10/12
The first thing to hit the nose is dark plums, caramelized figs, and rich toffee.  Behind this is a dark crusty bread.  Layered in and around the malts are medium-low notes of vanilla, barrel juice, and char.  Notes of molasses and burnt raisin linger in the back with a finish of alcohol.  The malts are dominant, but the level of aroma is medium high at most which is too style, malty, but doesn't jump out of glass like other styles.

Appearance: 3/3
Poured into a traditional Scottish Thistle glass at cellar temps, the beer is a clear dark brown with deep garnet highlights under a thin wispy khaki head that remains as a ring all the way through.  Leaves no lace, but lots of legs slip on the glass with each sip.

Taste: 12/20
As you sip you're greeted with rich malts, dark bread crust dominates.  Not much of the dark fruits from the nose though which is sad, but there is a good medium level note of burnt sugar.  Touch of age is on the palate with a hint of Sherry, but this is behind the woody oak, Bourbon juice, notes of vanilla, and a deep char from the wood.  The Bourbon character is low, the wood a little more expressive, but not by much.  Quite sweet.

Mouthfeel: 2/5
The beer is full and chewy, sweet, borderline cloying.  Low carbonation as to style.  The finish is sweet and full and rich, not really a trace of hop bitterness.  Definite warmth from the high alcohol, but it is clean.  The finish is flabby, needs some pH adjustment to finish a little cleaner on the palate.  Also need to use fresh hops instead of homegrown ones that are a little old, needs a touch of bitterness to balance it out.

Overall:  6/10
This beer is rich.  Super malty, with big alcohol warmth.  Great blend of oak and dark fruits and melanoidins in the nose, and caramel and oak on the tongue.  As far as a base recipe, I am thinking I hit it on this rendition, but still needs some tweaks on water and pH to help the finish, as well as a beefier IBU to help with all the sweetness and aging.  The oak and Bourbon need some help.  I actually think that this beer would be better with a little more oak, and Rum instead of Bourbon.  A touch of acid in the glass helps the finish round out better and cleanses the palate on the swallow.


1/31/15*** This beer took 2nd Place in Wood Aged Beers at the 2015 KLCC Homebrew Competition***

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

REVIEW: 1st Place: Tropic Thunder (100% Brett Trois APA)

This is my second attempt at a low abv, session IPA with 100% Brett fermentation.  The first wasn't that good, and I ended up dumping the last gallon or so of the keg.  This one turned out much better.  But of course, even when using Brett as a primary strain, it is still a wild yeast and can do some things you weren't looking for.  The evolution of this beer in only a matter of weeks is far different than a normal Sacc fermented beer.  When it was judged a few weeks ago at a BJCP comp it exploded out of the glass and was awarded 1st place against 14 other American Pale Ales.  At the Best of Show table a judge caught a medicinal note in the finish that knocked it out.  When I told everyone after the judging was over that it was a Brett beer, no one knew.  Of course, there was no funk in that beer, just the medicinal finish.  Since then the beer is starting to show some funk in the nose alongside the fruit, and the esters have started to fade a little as well.

Aroma:  9/12
Big burst of North West hops and esters hit first.  Hard to discern where each aroma comes form, is it the Brett or the hops.  Starts with pineapple and mango, gives way to pine drops, and some grapefruit pith, floral hop notes, and a touch of the funk.  There is a little sweatiness in there, not sure if that is some Brett funk or Amarillo as I have gotten it from this hop before.  Beyond this are some plum skins, rosy alcohol, and gooseberry, all layered over a toasty malt backbone.

Appearance:  2/3
Pours into my IPA glass a hazy burnt orange under 2+ fingers of thick and rocky tannish head with small, tight bubbles.  The head drops to a thick ring that lasts the whole way down, constantly re-energized by the glass design.  Leaves spotty lace down the glass, should be better with all the hops in there.

Taste:  15/20
Taste starts off with a low level of funk which starts to show the nature of the Brett.  This gives way to juiciness, over-ripe peach, and sweat (hello Amarillo).  There is some yummy pine cone in there from the Simcoe, mango, and floral hop notes (mild geranium).  Hop oils coat the tongue.  A touch of dankness hits before you get the toasty malt.  Medicinal note in the finish, as well as a soft but noticeable bitterness.

Mouthfeel:  3/5
Body is light on the tongue thanks to Brett not producing glycol in beers (and breaking it down in beers where it is present).  Spritzy carbonation tingles all around the mouth (keg keeps overcarbing, even at low 40s the Brett is continuing to attenuate the beer more).  Dry finish gives way to a lingering bitterness and phenolic note.

Overall:  7/10
Wonderful blend of big hops, bold fruity esters, and mild funk.  The beer is fading from its former glory upon judging though.  Starting to move towards funk and away from fruit, and the medicinal note is distracting from what would be a great end.  Still a very enjoyable, quenching, juicy, hoppy, fruity, refreshing session beer.  You just want another pint.  Need to find a way to make this beer again without the phenolic and funk creeping in so quick.  Might back off on the Carafa a tad too and lighten it up a touch, but not much.  Brett doesn't flocc well at all so it remains muddy, an lighter color could help with this.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

REVIEW: #61 Jolly Roger (Rye Saison)

It is getting warm outside, the sun stays up longer, the days are brighter, and my skin is tanner.  My yard has never looked better after all the work we've done on it in the past few weeks (now to keep it alive with all these warm and dry days).  It is the perfect time of year to grab a cold glass of Saison and a rake.  Designed for field workers to refresh them and keep them hydrated during the Summer heat, a Saison should be light, dry, crisp, bitter, refreshing, and hoppy.  Of course all of this is a showcase for so much yeast character.  For this Saison I used a combination of yeast I stole from a bottle of Allagash's Confluence.  They use their proprietary house Belgian yeast from their Wit, and a proprietary house Brett strain that they isolated from their coolship.  After stepping up this yeast blend I added it to my Rye Saison wort and the outcome is very pleasing.  1.004 FG, 4.7% ABV, 24 IBUs, and so much flavor.

Aroma:  10/12
Calypso dominates the nose with pear, apple, and an odd herbal note.  Still not a fan of Calypso, even though I dry hopped with Amarillo alone, it still dominates.  Past this is tangerines, flowers, geraniums, spicy phenols (can't put my finger on what though), light Brett funk, esters, plum skin, mild tropical note.

Look:  2/3
Pours a stunningly clear pure gold with a big thick moussy white head.  Fades slow to a thin ring.  Lacing a little sparse, needs better cling, could be the glass.

Flavor:  13/20
Spicy phenols hit the palette first, pepper and a touch of clove.  This is followed by pear and citrus rind, herbs, and a floral note.  Biting rye and a touch of bready malt in the background.  Light funk.  After taste is clean and bitter, with lingering rye.  It's all there, just needs a little more punch to it.

Mouthfeel:  4/5
Light refreshing body gives way to a dry and bitter finish.  Carbonation is bubbly on the tongue.  Not thin for such a small beer and low final gravity.

Overall:  6/10
The Calypso dominates in this beer like the 3 others I have done before, thought it might work well in this beer, but I have to say, I am still not a fan.  Beyond that, the nose is a complex blend of fruity hops, spicy yeast and Brett funk, flavor is there, but needs a boost.  Super easy drinking and quite refreshing.  Needs a touch more bitterness and funk, but it is still quite young and I rushed it into the keg for consumption.  Need to work on the lacing.