Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time Heals All Brews

One homebrewing lesson I have learned many many times is that time does heal all beers.  Back in the fall of 2011 I had this great idea to try and replicate a 1722 style porter based on the history of the style described in Ray Daniels book Designing Great Beer.  So I jumped online, bought some brown malt, amber malt, and since I decided most malts would have been kilned over a wood fire back then, some cherry wood smoked malt.  I used 3 pounds of each of them in a three and a half gallon batch.  I was aiming for an original gravity of 1.072, but having never used two of these malts before (the brown and smoked were both new to me), I didn't realize the really crappy extract yield you get from them.  I ended up with an O.G. of 1.044.  I wasn't going to sweat it, I figured I'll be happy with a 4% beer, not the end of the world.
Prior to brewing this however, I made a mini cool ship for a starter to get some airborne yeast.  I let it go for a few days to make sure I saw some fermentation in it before pitching it into this porter.  My thought was that there was probably a lot of wild yest in these old porters as this was before they had isolated strands.
Next step, I let it sit for about a year (technically 13 months), adding some oak chips at some point.  I have no idea how long the oak was in there because I, like an idiot, forgot to take notes about that.  I actually forgot I added the oak till I was racking it into my bottling bucket so I'm guessing it was in there for at least 10 months.
When bottling I was almost certain I had a disaster on my hands.  It was an oak monster with a final gravity of 1.027.  Turns out not only did I have a crappy mash efficiency, but also my attenuation was quite low giving me a final abv of 2.2%.  I of course took a sip at bottling time and my first thought was, Now you've done it you blockhead.  I was almost certain this entire batch was going down the drain based on my sip at that point.  I bottled anyway, then after 2 weeks tested a bottle which confirmed that thought.  I tried a bottle again at 3 weeks, after a few sips I had to dump the rest as it was undrinkable.

Now finally, about a month out, I decided to try one last bottle that was going to decide whether or not I kept the rest or dumped them, and holy crap this beer is great.  All the smoke flavor is either gone or totally masked by the oak which is the dominant flavor.  It has a decent body, not much of a head and again a big oak aroma.  Any sourness or funk that I was hoping to get from the wild yeast is at most just slightly present in the after taste.  In fact after tasting this I had to go back to my original notes and verify that I did indeed use wild yeast to make this.  There is no brett character, or anything you would think of when thinking about a lambic or Flanders red.  Over all it is a decent session beer.  My original plan for this beer back in 2011 was for this to be a strong soured porter that I would then mix with a weaker fresh porter like the original ales of London.  Since this is neither strong, nor sour, I think instead I'm just going to enjoy this beer as is, a wonderful session beer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rant about Beer Styles

For those of you who don't know, the BJCP is the Beer Judge Certification Program.  They are the ones who set all style guidelines and the guidelines for judging a beer contest.  I have never entered a contest before but this year decided I would like to .  What is the problem with this?  It's the style guidelines.  In a contest, judges are instructed to judge based on how well a beer represents a particular style and so you must enter your beer into a specific style.  I on the other hand almost never brew to style.  Most every recipe I make is related to a style, but it almost never strictly adheres to any of them.  I don't think you can make a truly artistic beer if you limit yourself to stay in the style guidelines.
For instance, the black IPA I made yesterday, there is no black IPA category.  It is too dark in color for the double IPA category, and far too aggressively late hopped to be a Russian Imperial Stout, so unless the BJCP creates a new style to get with the times, this beer is screwed in any contest I try to enter it into.  Same issue with my Marzen Madness, it is too strong to be either a Marzen or a Vienna lager, yet too hoppy and not malty enough to be a bock.  Also, there is no Belgian stout category, so my Brussels Stouts would either have to be entered as a Russian Imperial stout in which I fear it would be too funky and dry to win, or I could enter it as a Belgian Specialty Ale, but it is not spiced and probably too much roasted barley to do well.
BJCP does have category 23, Specialty Beer, but I feel like all of the beer I have made are not weird enough that they can't fin in a style, they just don't fit into the too narrowly defined styles created by the BJCP.  It is time that the BJCP loosen style definitions, and probably also time for a few new styles that have become popular in the last 5 years or so, like the Black IPA.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beer Naming and a New Recipe

I've had the last 6 weeks off so I've been trying to get all my brewing done now while I have a crap load of free time.  Since mid December I've done 5 batches and with a lot of help from the wife last night I now have names for all 5 of them.

Honey Apple What What:   A cyser base with some crystal malt and fermented with Wyeast's lambic blend.  I plan to let this go at least a year before trying it to let the brett have some fun.  I took a taste and gravity reading yesterday.  It's at 1.030 now and tastes great, but I'm hopping it gets much dryer.

Mårzen Madness:  Based on the extract recipe for Boston Lager as found in Clone Beers but I increased dry extract and the flavoring and dry hopping amounts.  It is probably closer to a Vienna lager than a Mårzen but I couldn't think of any puns involving Vienna.  Currently it is lagering in my front porch, should be bottled in 3 weeks.

I'll Be Bock:  An original recipe for a dobbel bock that was about half extract half mashed grains due to the limited size of my current mash tun.  It should end up being about 11% a.b.v.  I just racked it and started lagering it yesterday and due to the high gravity I'll probably give it at least 2 months before bottling.

Brussels Stouts:  An original Belgian stout recipe made with a pound of dark candi syrup.  Again due to the limited size of my mash tun, I only mashed the base malt and steeped all the specialty grains.  This is the first time I've done this but I have high hopes for this method.  This is the only one bottled so far which weighed in at 8.25% a.b.v.

And finally a new recipe for a 5 gallon batch.  It is a black double IPA that I will be brewing this tomorrow but it has a name already.

2 Black Eyes PA:

11 lbs Marris Otter

1 lb Black Pattent
12 oz Crystal 90L

2 lbs Muttons Extra Light Dry Extract

1 oz Centennial pellets (8.7% AA) first wort hopping (60 min boil)
1 oz Simcoe pellets (13.0% AA) 15 min
1 oz Centennial pellets (8.7% AA) 5 min
1 oz Simcoe pellets (13.0% AA) 5 min
1 oz Centennial pellets (8.7% AA) flame out
1 oz Simcoe whole leaf (14.1% AA) dry hopped (probably for 10 days but I haven't decided yet)

Fermentis Safale US-05 (I used a 1 quart yeast starter)

Starting next week I will be busy again so it'll probably be at least few months before my next batch.  Luckily it will be very staggered when these are all ready to drink and all of them will be quite strong so I don't think I'll be with out home brew for quite some time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Belgian Stout

I am right now using a 5 gallon beverage cooler as my mash tun which essentially limits me to about 11 pounds of grain for an all grain batch...or so I thought.  On a recent episode of basic brewing radio there was a guest who suggested steeping black and roasted malts instead of mashing them to get a less harsh flavor from them.  So the obvious next conclusion I came to was to steep all the grains other than the base malt.  Last week I made a Belgian stout using this method.  I have to say, it gave me a great mash efficiency of 84% and the final wort was tasting pretty good.

11 lbs Belgian 2-row pale

Steep for 30 min at 160 degrees F:
1 lb Roasted barley
8 oz Crystal 120L
4 oz Black patent

1 lb Dark Belgian Candi Syrup 180L

Newport (9.8 % AA) 60 min
Styrian Bobek (3.9% AA) 15 min

Wyeast Abbey Ale II 1762

The original gravity I measured was 1.079 and as I said above, it tasted great.  All my carboys are currently occupied so I had use a bucket to ferment this in.  About 12 hours after pitching the lid of the bucket looked like it was about to explode off as the air lock had apparently clogged.  I switched to a blow off tube, then about another 12 hours later it looks as though most of the fermentation is almost done.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's Lagering Time

First an update on my last post about my version of a cyser, it now has a name, and that name is Honey Apple What What.

I moved to a new apartment this year which is now on the second floor.  The front stairwell to get up to my apartment is not heated which if you are an idiot could be seen as a negative.  To the home brewer this is a golden opportunity.  After a few temperature sample readings, it seems the landing in the middle of the stairwell hovers at about 50 to 55 degrees and the bottom of the stairs stays at around 38 degrees Fahrenheit.  This means, at least till winter ends, I am doing nothing but lagers.
Two weeks ago I started an Imperial Vienna Lager (I think I may have invented this style).

Unnamed Imperial Vienna Lager

Steep for 30 min at 155:
1 lb Vienna Malt
.5 lb 64L Crystal

Bring to boil and add:
4 lb Pale liquid extract
5 lb Light dry extract

1.5 oz Tettanger (4.5% AA) 60 min
1 oz Hallertauer (4.3% AA) 15 min
.5 oz Hallertauer (4.3% AA) 5 min
.5 oz Tettanger (4.5% AA) 1 min
.5 oz Hallertauer (4.3% AA) Flame out
1 oz Hallertauer (3.9% AA) Dry hop in secondary for 6 weeks

Yeast:  Saflager S-23

And now, since my large mash tun is basically unusable I am limited to a max of about 11 pounds of grain so this week I'll be doing a partial mash to make a doppelbock.

I'll Be Bock

6 lbs Pilsner 2-row
4 lbs Light Munich 2-row
.5 lbs Cara-Munich Type 2
.5 lbs German Chocolate malt

6.6 lbs Liquid Munich Extract

1 oz German Northern Brewer (9.6% AA) 60 min

Yeast:  Saflager S-23

I'm actually planning on reusing the yeast cake from the Vienna lager for the doppelbock after I rack the Vienna to a secondary on brew day which should be tomorrow.  If we have a long winter this year I may try to get a schwarzbier done as well, but that seems doubtful as all my carboys will be occupied for a minimum of 6 more weeks.  A boy can always dream at least.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cider Mead Lambic?

It's been so long since I've posted to this I almost forgot it existed but today I made something that can't easily be loged in Beer Tools so I decided to post the recipe here.


3 gallons Motts All Natural Apple juice
1 gallon Simply Apple juice
5 lbs Clover Honey
8 oz Crystal 64 degrees L
Dash of Lemon Juice
Approx Table spoon of Yeast Nutrient
1 activator pack Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend


Steep grains in hot water (I'm guessing it was about 170, I didn't really measure as I was feeling lazy) for 15 minutes.  Remove grains, add honey, yeast nutrient, and lemon juice and bring back to about 170 (again, I didn't take a temperature reading, I'm just guessing here).  Mix up to make sure all the honey is dissolved then let sit for another 15 minutes.  Add about half the juice to the carboy, add the hot honey mixture, then top up with the rest of the juice, add the yeast and wait.

My plan is to give it about a year to let the yeast do it's magic and get some good sourness in this.  This was inspired by a Lindemans apple lambic made which to me always tasted like what I want a hard cider to taste like.  In fact I was not convinced that it was even possible to make a good cider till I was at my brothers for thanksgiving and tasted one he made that was quite good.  I added the crystal malt in the hopes of giving the final product some body which I find most ciders are lacking, and I added the honey because the way I see it, if this is going to take a year before I can drink it, it sure as hell had better be strong.

I, again because I was feeling lazy, didn't take a gravity reading so I am forced to estimate starting gravity of 1.072 which should land this somewhere in the 7 to 8% abv range which is low enough that I will probably carbonate it when I decide it's time to bottle in a year.

I have yet to make a good mead or a good cider and I've never even tried tried this lambic blend before so I really have no idea how on earth this will taste in a year, but here's hoping for the best.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Port errr...

One of the first things I remember reading when I first started extract brewing 5 years ago was to always use fresh malt extract. I don't fully remember the reasons the books gave for this, but I'm learning first hand some pretty good reasons. My Uncle, a former home brewer just gave me a pilsner extract kit. Now I'm pretty sure he hasn't brewed in the last 15 years, and this theory is helped with the fact that best before 1998 was printed on the can of hopped malt extract. I decided screw it, I'm going to try it anyway. I didn't hold out hope for the yeast but I tried to activate it anyway. Sure enough it was all dead, so instead I'm using a packet of Safale US-05. The instructions on the can specify that this is to make 5 gallons, and that I should add table sugar to supplement the malt extract. Instead, I'm making 2 gallons using only the malt it came with.
The first thing that hit me when I opened the can was the over powering smell of raisins. The color is much like that of dark molasses. Now that it's all boiled, it smells like a strong port. I'm guessing it will not taste like one.