March 17, 2008
Well, I just arrived here in Salt Lake City. From the little I could see in the dark, it appears that I’m well surrounded by snow-cap peaks, so I’ll try to snap some pictures when I get a chance, and hopefully head out to a local brewpub tomorrow for dinner.
I’ve got a bit of nervous apprehension/excitement about this brewpub, though. These silly Mormons (no offense to my 2 Mormon readers, but seriously folks, let me enjoy my beer in peace!) in Utah have strict laws about beer, and thus there’s a 4% limit on alcohol in the beer served at this pub. A portion of me simply thinks that they’re going to be lifeless, flavorless beers. But then, I wonder. When you tell an artist that he can only paint with shades of blue, the artificial constraint forces him to try to raise his craft to make the best damn blue painting that’s ever been painted. I wonder if they’re doing the same here. If they can’t brew over 4%, maybe they’re producing some of the most flavorful session beers ever seen.
Either way, we’ll find out soon!
Looking forward to being back in California on Wednesday evening, as the constant travel pace has been a bit taxing.
March 16, 2008
Over the past weekend, we brewed 15 gallons of our milk stout, and 10 gallons of a simple hefeweizen. Since we keg, of course, we need a new way to serve these beers. Below is the first step in increasing my serving capacity, the transition from a 1-tap kegerator to a 2-tap kegerator. I think a third tap should be ready to go within the next few weeks, as I have most of the basics covered to make the switch.
Below is a mostly empty keg of the amber ale, and a mostly full keg of the Rye Pale Ale. Kegging rules
March 12, 2008
My old camera is a piece of junk, so I might need to be buying myself a new one. Yet, I managed to get two decent pictures so far. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the camera ready for the World’s Biggest Truckstop, but I’ll try to get that one on my way back on Friday.
What I did get to do is visit a pretty phenomenal brewpub. I had to swing by anyway to drop off some beer for a homebrew competition, and because my hotel was only a mile from the brewpub, we decided to have dinner there on Monday. The food was great and the beer was awesome. The place is a steakhouse; my coworker had some prime rib and loved it. I had a salmon dish, and while I thought the salmon was slightly overcooked, the meal was still pleasant. And the beer… The beer was great. I had samples of about 5 different brews, and all were very well-brewed, very tasty samples. The only complaint I’d have is that the beer they market as an “American Amber” ale is quite clearly an American Pale. But however you classify it, it’s delicious, so I’m not going to nit-pick. The brewpub is Hereford & Hops, and I highly recommend it.
The next night, we went over to Primanti Bros, which was right next door to the hotel. I had seen the restaurant on the food network, and was sorely disappointed in the meal. Quite frankly, their “famous” sandwich seemed bland and tasteless. They did make a good spicy deep-fried pickle appetizer, but when the main attraction of the restaurant needs to be drowned in ketchup just to be palatable, it’s not a good sign. I can only hope the the location I visited (Cranberry Twp, PA) was an outlier, because there is no reason a restaurant that puts out food like what I had last night should be celebrated.
Tonight, we went for a true celebration of globalization. We went to a Japanese/Chinese restaurant, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At that restaurant I drank beer from Colorado and Oregon, while my Midwestern cohort downed some Sapporo. I wasn’t ready to eat sushi in Cedar Rapids, but apparently there’s decent turnover of the stock, due to a large number of out-of-towners who eat here. But if they’re surviving in the area, they must be doing something right.
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Chalk Another One Up For South Swell
March 7, 2008
One thing that I’ve struggled with since moving most of my political blogging to The Liberty Papers has been a lack of focus about what I write about here, and often a lack of content. I dabbled in college football for a while, post about brewing and Wyatt, but still have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing here.
So I’ve decided to muddy the waters even further. With my new job, I tend to travel a heck of a lot more than I used to. I’m often traveling twice a month, maybe 35% of the monthly work days. At the moment, I think I’ll be out 10 of the next 15 work days on actual travel requiring flying somewhere, and doing local Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego travel another 3 days of that time. If I keep this up, people at the office might forget who I am, particularly if I keep losing weight!
Since I’m on the road so much, I think it might be worth carrying a camera along with me and trying to document some of it. I try to keep a clear line between work and blogging, despite the fact that some of the customers I work with are doing really cool and interesting things I’d love to post about. But I spend plenty of time on these business trips trying to scope out new restaurants and brewpubs, seeing cities and parts of the US that I rarely see, and generally trying to do something more with my time than simply follow the airport-hotel-customer-airport routine. In addition, while I often find myself rather busy, I sometimes get stuck in a city with nothing to do and nobody I know in the area.
So I’ll be doing some travel blogging. Part of this will be reporting on where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but another part will be letting folks know where I’m going. If you live in or near the city that I’m traveling to, drop me an email (I get email on my phone, so I’ll be able to get it anywhere). If I have time in a city and nothing to do, I just might be interested in heading out for a beer to discuss parenting, politics, beer, Purdue, or just about any other subject under the sun. Or, if you simply have any particular knowledge or recommendations for the city I’m visiting, let me know, as I’m always looking for the local specialties.
This coming week I’ll be getting into Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, and leaving there on Wednesday afternoon. I head from there to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area, sticking around until Friday when I fly back to California. I’ll be dropping off some beer for a local homebrew competition in Pittsburgh and sampling the food and brews of Hereford & Hops, but still have no good leads on where to dine and drink in Cedar Rapids.
March 5, 2008
Being a homebrewer is a great hobby. As I often point out, what other hobby allows you to sit around with your friends, drink beer, smoke cigars, and end up with more beer at the end of the day than you started? In addition to the end product, though, it is a very satisfying creative process.
But I’ve noticed that as I understand more about beer, it helps me to improve my own personal taste palate. I find myself able to recognize and determine the cause of flaws and imperfections in a beer that I may never have even tasted a few years ago. I am better able to analyze a beer and understand what ingredients were used to create it, and when I am attempting to clone a beer, I am able to both get close to their taste and then understand with the final beer why I missed the target.
For example, my amber ale was brewed with the intent of being loosely based on Fat Tire. Thus, I intentionally put a heavy “biscuit” character into the recipe. After having brewed it and tasted it, though, I’ve realized two things. First, that I don’t like that much biscuit character in an amber. Second, that while I got the “biscuit” character of Fat Tire covered, I created a beer with less body, which then over-emphasized the biscuit and hop characteristics of the beer. I’ve decided from what I’ve learned to completely re-tool the recipe if I want to keep this beer as an amber, or modify the recipe if I want to tend more towards a brown ale.
As a second example, I created a beer loosely based upon the Left Hand Milk Stout. I enjoy the original beer, and wanted to create something similar but still mine. Based on what I’ve learned from a side-by-side tasting, though, the Left Hand version seemed to be both more roasty and more sweet than mine. I deduced that this was due to two reasons. First, I deliberately tried to keep the roast character in check, as it was only my second attempt at a stout and I didn’t want to overdo it. Second, I used a more attenuative yeast than I probably needed, and dried the beer out more than intended. My re-mix of the recipe to be brewed next weekend will include heavier roast character, heavier use of chocolate malt, but at the same time use slightly more sweet ingredients and a less-attenuative yeast. So the roast character should be increased, the sweetness should be increased, and I’ll have a corresponding increase in bitterness to keep that sweetness in check. I think the beer will be both more flavorful and more balanced.
All this coincides with improvements in my brewing process, which are helping to ensure that I’m trying to pick out small flaws in a beer, instead of having glaring flaws which mask the subtleties. And as such, I’m even more able to understand the complexities of a beer because they’re not drowned out by things I’ve screwed up.
All this is making me a better brewer, as well as making me a better drinker. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to put all this to use at South Swell Brewing Company
February 27, 2008
Well, I submitted about 6 beers to a local San Diego homebrew competition. Of the 6, there were really only two that I thought had a good shot, the Rye Pale Ale and the Milk Stout. Outside of that, I thought our Amber Ale was halfway decent but not great, and while I really, really like the Light Belgian ale, it’s a beer that’s been sitting around a while and doesn’t age well, and a 4.5% session beer usually will be overshadowed by most other things in the Belgian Specialty Ale category. I think the IPA wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and the Belgian Witbier was partially submitted just so I could get rid of it!
Of all those, and based on the critical acclaim from my brother-in-law’s drunk poker buddies for the milk stout (who drank ALL of it — those rat bastards!), I thought we’d place in the competition with that beer. Alas, no luck. Stout is usually a pretty tough category, and while I won’t know much more until the score sheets come back, it didn’t make the top three.
The Rye Pale Ale, on the other hand, took second place in the American Ale category! For my first crack at the recipe, I’m pretty happy about that. And I’m even happier that I just re-brewed 15 gallons of it!
There are a few other big competitions coming up, such as the AHA National Championship and the Sam Adams Longshot. I think the second brewing of the Rye will be submitted for both of those, as well as the milk stout (assuming it turns out properly when we re-brew it in March). I may also do a simple extract hefeweizen, as it’s a category that usually does not receive large numbers of entries. But that just might be for personal consumption
February 24, 2008
First things first… We brewed a mere 15 gallons of Rye Pale Ale today. I say “mere”, because my brother-in-law just bought a 20-gallon stainless-steel brew pot, which means that the 15 gallons we brewed was a single batch. I had considered brewing a second 10-gallon batch of a simple extract hefeweizen, but ended up not being able to source the ingredients in time, so I chose not to.
It’s a very nice thing to brew 15 gallons of beer in 6 hours, while still having time to drink a few, smoke a cigar, and hang out. For this day, a former coworker joined us, so it was very nice to catch up on old times as well.
The rye is a beer that I brewed a 5 gallon batch a few months ago, and have been loving ever since. It’s loosely based on the Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, but while they have a fairly complex grain and hop bill, I’ve gone simpler. It’s about 70% pale malt, 20% rye, 10% crystal 60L, with Nugget (a replacement for the original Chinook) as the bittering hop, and a blend of Nugget/Ahtanum for flavor/aroma, and nugget/ahtanum used in a dry-hop.
The original 5-gallon batch had a bit of a flaw. Do to some process issues, I think I oxidized it before bottling. I don’t think it destroyed what I was going for, but I think it might have kept the beer from being quite as good as it could be. That shouldn’t be an issue this time around, so I’m looking forward to it. In about 2.5-3.5 weeks, I should be drinking it. In addition, I’ve convinced my brother-in-law to take a more active role in controlling fermentation temperatures, which should clean things up a bit.
As I earlier pointed out, though, we had time today to sit down and drink some beer. Unfortunately my bro-in-law and his friends drank all but one bottle of the incredibly-tasty milk stout at a poker game yesterday. I was a bit upset when I found that out this morning. But luckily, he had kept that one bottle available, and also luckily, I was able to go to Denver last week for business, so I picked up some Left Hand Milk Stout to drink side-by-side in a blind tasting.
Of the two people who weren’t familiar with the beers themselves (i.e. I immediately knew which was mine and which was the commercial version), one preferred my beer and one preferred the beer from Left Hand. When that happens, it’s already an indication that it’s a good beer. Especially when the commercial version won a gold medal in the sweet stout category of the World Beer Cup. What surprised me, though, was how similar the beers were, not how different they were.
I stated here that I thought that my version was perhaps a bit more roasty and aggressive than the commercial version. After tasting the commercial version again, I’m thinking that’s not the case. If anything, I think Left Hand’s version is a tad bit more roasty than ours, which makes me think it might be necessary to increase the roasted barley slightly, not decrease it.
Either way, it’s definitely one of the best beers we’ve ever brewed. I can’t wait to do another 15 gallons of it!
February 11, 2008
So, overall we’ve had some good luck with recent brews. The Amber Ale turned out very good, which was expected, as we’ve made the recipe before. I think I may make some tweaks to it, though, as it’s not quite where I want it. I also will be submitting it to a few competitions, so I’m really looking forward to see what sort of feedback I get.
The other beer, of course, is the Milk Stout. This is a new recipe for me, something that I loosely based on the Left Hand Milk Stout, a beer which I used to drink in Georgia, but isn’t distributed in California. A sweet stout generally has low hop bitterness/aroma, but anywhere from a mild to heavy roast character, and a residual sweetness unlike that of a “dry” stout. The name “Milk Stout” comes from the use of lactose, a partially-fermentable sugar, which due to its limited fermentability lends a sweetness to the finished product.
I just got the opportunity to taste the first of the Milk Stout, and it blew me away. It’s definitely on the upper end of the roast character, but the residual sweetness gives it a very nice balance. It packs a whole bunch of flavor into a rather innocuous (probably just under 5%) package. This is a beer that won’t knock you off your seat, but the flavor will take your socks clean off!
I’m sure there’s some tweaking to be done on this one, since it was only the first attempt, and it was only 5 gallons. I think I’d cut back on the malts which lend that roast flavor a little bit, just to make it slightly smoother. But for a first shot, it was quite tasty!
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Brew Day & Milk Stout Tasting Notes
January 31, 2008
The wife and I had our 2-week weigh-ins with Weight Watchers. She’s lost nearly 10 pounds, and I’ve lost 10.6 pounds. I’d say that’s a pretty successful two week!
So I’m well on my way to meeting my goal: to lose weight so quickly that people think I’ve got a disease!
For me, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought. To get as many points a day as I do, I usually finish the day with points left over. If I avoid cheese and mayo, I can power down a footlong Subway roast beef sub and it’s less than 30% of my points for the day. That’s pretty filling.
I think I might have even done a little better over those first two weeks, but I did some business traveling in the middle there, which always finds me eating crappy airport food and drinking beer in airport bars, which is not the easiest way to get through this. But to lose more than 10 pounds in two weeks, I’m pretty proud of that.
January 8, 2008
Jonathan, in my post about my new brewing toys, asked for a review of the refractometer once we used it for the first brew session. Overall, I would say that having both toys made the brew day an unqualified success.
First, of least interest to anyone, is the scale. Given that we don’t have a grain mill, it wasn’t used for measuring grain. The recipe was generated with the intent of using even 1-lb increments of grain, so we ordered what we needed and didn’t have to measure. However, it was important for hops. The recipe for the stout called for 0.5 oz of Magnum and 1 oz of East Kent Goldings, two hops that we only had available in 2 oz bags. In addition, I realized that the alpha acid content of the Magnum was lower than what my brewing software expected, and I suddenly had to change the weight ot 0.6 oz. Also because the alpha acid was lower on the amber’s hops than expected, I added 0.5 oz of Magnum to that recipe in order to bring it into the correct range. These are things that I could only do with a scale, so it came in handy.
Even more useful, though, was the refractometer. I was able to keep tabs on my gravity during the sparge and boil, in order to ensure that I was in the range I wanted to be. Jonathan, in an email, asked if I thought it would make “better” brew. I said no, not necessarily, but it would allow me to make my brew more consistently and monitor the process while I still had a chance to change it. The amber nearly hit our targets exactly, without any special help, so I doubt the refractometer made any difference whatsoever on that batch. However, the Milk Stout started life slightly low in gravity, so I knew that it would be helpful to extend the boil, even though it might reduce my total volume of beer, in order to hit my targets. I boiled a good 40 minutes to drop volume before I started counting down the intended 1 hour of boil time. Thus, I probably got a bit of a low yield on the batch, but it was a lot closer to the intended original gravity.
As with anything, the first time using a refractometer had a few learning steps, but it is still about as easy-to-use as a hydrometer, and given that you can sample liquids at any temp, much more useful. I was able to purchase it quite cheap on eBay, so there’s really *NO* reason for an all-grain brewer not to own one.
Does a refractometer improve your beer? No, understanding brewing is what makes better beer. However, a refractometer allows you to understand where you beer is at any point in the process, and thus can allow a competent brewer to adjust to changing conditions on the fly. It’s not a substitute for having a full understanding of the process, but it’s a tool that gives you greater ability to change the process before making a mistake.
January 4, 2008
Ahh, what would a hobby be if not a money sink? Thus, it was time to pick up some new brewing toys!
The first was actually a Christmas gift from my wife. Over time, I’ve had to buy ingredients in small, even-measurement weights, and then in the cases where I must add 1/3 or 1/2 of the package at a time, could only eyeball it.
So my wife bought me a scale.
This is the first step towards buying bulk ingredients, which is an incredible money-saver. In fact, I’d already be able to purchase hops in bulk, although the current hop shortage makes that impossible. The next step, of course, will be a grain mill, so that I can buy 55-lb sacks of base malt, store and crush it myself as needed, dropping the malt price from about $1.40-$2 per pound to $0.60-$1.10.
The second toy is something that I’ve been needing for a while, more due to my own laziness than anything else.
When brewing (specifically all-grain brewing), it is a good idea to check things like sparge outflow gravity, wort gravity, etc, at various times to make sure the process is occurring as planned. Specifically, one of the main points is to check your OG (original gravity) after the boil, to ensure that the finished wort has the expected amount of sugar. But that’s just the start. Checking sparge outflow gravity ensures you’re getting an even flow of water through the grain bed to rinse your grain, and checking gravity during the boil can ensure that you end at your target OG, even if it means a higher or lower final volume.
With conventional homebrewing tools (a hydrometer), you can only check the gravity of cooled wort/beer. Thus, you can check the original gravity after the wort is cooled and ready to go into the fermenter, and you can check the gravity of the liquid during fermentation. However, you cannot do any of the more advanced checks I mention above. And because I’m lazy, and a hydrometer is more work than my new toy, I haven’t even been doing any of the basic checks lately.
That caused a problem when I tasted the most recent IPA. I believe I had channeling in my grain bed, resulting in a low-efficiency sparge. As such, my original gravity was low, and I think the final beer might be low in alcohol content (and thus too bitter). Of course, I didn’t bother to check any of the gravities, so that’s just my assumption.
Now it’s not going to be a problem, as I purchased a refractometer.
A refractometer measures sugar in liquid, so it will be able to tell me my gravity during the sparge/boil, as well as the OG (it can get close with the gravities during fermentation, but the alcohol throws off the results a bit). It uses a small pipette to remove the sample, so it doesn’t use (potentially waste) as much liquid as taking a hydrometer reading. And its design allows you to measure the gravity of hot liquids, which a (standard) hydrometer simply cannot do, as they’re typically calibrated for 60 or 68 deg F.
The plan is to brew 5 gallons of Milk Stout (new recipe) this Sunday, and 10 gallons of an Amber Ale that we’ve already brewed once and enjoyed. It will be even more fun with these new toys
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Per Request - Equipment Test Report
January 1, 2008
First, a few days before Christmas, we finally bottled some beer! 20 gallons went into bottles – 5 gallons of Belgian Lighthouse Ale, 5 gallons of a Rye Pale Ale, and 10 gallons of IPA. I’ll have tasting notes soon, but first let me tell you how much more relieved I am to have all these beers (well, only the row of cases next to me, the other row is my brother-in-law’s) sitting in my hall closet rather than sitting in fermenters.
I’ll have tasting notes on the RyePA and IPA soon. The rye so far tastes great, but the IPA isn’t quite what I expected, and thus I’m still trying to figure out why.
After Christmas, I went on a nice little family vacation with my wife and Wyatt, and my in-laws. We went up to Napa, and I managed to convince them to make a stop at the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa during the day that we toured Sonoma County.
This actually was a favorite stop for a few people, who have more “simple” taste in food, and weren’t huge fans of the gourmet dinners we had in the evening. The food was excellent. I had a Calzone, my father-in-law had a meatball sandwich, and I think everyone else had pizza. Everyone walked away satisfied. And I stumbled away with a nice buzz, because I finished off the below:
That’s two ounce tasters of 11 different Russian River beers. Six of these are american styles, and five are Belgian. For one of the top breweries in the USA, it did not disappoint me. I have only one nit-pick about any of their brews, and it is that their Blonde ale doesn’t seem to be anything approaching the BJCP style of an American Blonde Ale. It was over-hopped for a Blonde. In all honesty, I think there may have been a problem with a single, because they advertise the beer as 20 IBU, and it seems to be much higher than that.
Everything else, though, was amazing. I was the only person at the table who enjoyed the sour beers, but then I was the only one who had ever been exposed to such a creation. And I tried to order a growler of Perdition, their “Biere de Sonoma”, but they were out of growlers. So I picked up a couple bottles of Salvation, their Belgian Strong Dark Ale.
I’ll pass along more pictures of the vacation & Wyatt, more tasting notes of the bottled beer, and I’m going to try to increase my posting frequency, as I’ve neglected blogging since Wyatt was born.
December 18, 2007
The government believes you should use ethanol as a fuel. They have enacted policies to incentivize ethanol production. Those policies, as I pointed out here, have unintended consequences:
But let’s look at what’s happened. First, we started hurting poor Mexicans by threatening their access to affordable corn tortillas, a staple of the diet for the impoverished in that country. Then, it was found that the high cost of feed corn for animals will end up resulting in high costs and lower supply of meat. And now, it’s spreading to milk. You know, full of calcium, the stuff we tell children will give them strong bones? Great work, Congress!
And now it’s hit me square in the gut, in my beer supply:
I’ll explain what’s happened to the price of Malt and Hops and why, what can be done about it, and why you are going to see prices jump likely between 15 and 25% on the retail end for Craft brews in a matter of weeks.
In late September I was told by another brewery that malt was going up about 40% and hops 30 to 40%. I started calling suppliers and they confirmed this was true, and also that they have no prices locked in yet. Additionally, I was informed that many farmers are not honoring their contracts to the fullest extent (don’t blame the farmers please) due to the crazy price situation that’s evolving in crop farming, with corn being twice the price it was last year.
What does corn have to do with it? Our supplier tells us that with Uncle Sam’s push and financial support for ethanol the price of corn has doubled and many farmers grew corn instead of barley this year. In the UK, where the EU has also required ethanol production, rape seed is the crop of choice and again, a lot more profitable than growing barley and wheat. Couple this with bad weather and growing conditions this year and in Europe and you have a crisis in barley supply. We were told this was coming in early summer, but we assumed our malt company might have meant a 10 to 15% increase in price, not this. When we finally got nailed down pricing last week, one malt price was up 45% and the other up 56%.
As a homebrewer, I just felt this pinch. I knew it was coming eventually, but wasn’t sure how soon or how drastic it would be. I needed to buy some malt for this weekend’s brew session, and went to my usual supplier, who usually has the best prices on just about everything. I was shocked to see that malt prices had jumped 30-50% (depending on variety) since my last order in November.
I’ve been further dealing with the effects of a worldwide shortage of hops, as supply has become inconsistent and prices have shot up, but I can at least blame that on the market. There are some very natural supply-and-demand forces that have affected that market over the last decade, and the market will respond to increase supply. And, to be fair, there are weather-related reasons that the barley crop was not as plentiful as past years. But when government steals my tax dollars and uses them to further exacerbate shortages in the things I want to buy, it’s a double-whammy, and it makes me resent them even further. Instead of having natural supply-and-demand, there is entirely unnatural and inefficient government-created demand that is taking away the incentive to supply malt.
The last thing I need is government policies creating additional cause for shortages. It may be rather “unimportant” that I homebrew beer. And after all, as a hobbyist, I’m willing to spend plenty of money on my hobby, as my constant equipment purchases show. But I look at brewing as a potential future career, and watch as struggling breweries are now forced to deal with this shortage and hope that their consumers are willing and able to afford price increases.
For me, this is an annoyance. For some craft brewers, this might be the difference between being able to stay afloat in business and shutting their doors. It may just be beer, but as I pointed out when discussing the milk, tortilla, and meat price increases:
Simply put, look at how the cost of government is affecting your food. In addition to all the farm subsidies, price supports, and all the other nonsense, they decided to make a completely separate mandate regarding ethanol in the energy supply. What happens? Your cost of living goes up, and your standard of living goes down.
They’ve made some lobbyists and farmers very rich with these policies. And being politicians, they’ve been using your money– not theirs– to do it. They take your taxes, use them to create incentives which make what you want to buy more expensive, and then (especially in the example of beer) tax the hell out of the end product anyway.
I realize some of our readers are in favor of government. So please, can you even attempt to justify this? Why should I be paying three different ways for the government to make some farmers very rich?
December 14, 2007
Well, these two beers have been fermenting for a while— too long, in fact. The Belgian Lighthouse Ale was brewed in early August, quite a long time for a 4.5% ABV beer to be sitting around “aging”. The Belgian Witbier was brewed back in early September, which is a bit long for the style, but the bigger issue is that it sat on the yeast for 2 1/2 months, which means it is in danger of a symptom called “autolysis”, where the live yeast begins “eating” the dead yeast, causing off flavors.
Both were bottled two weeks ago. The Lighthouse is still slightly undercarbonated, which I think has to do with the fact that it has sat for such a long time. It should be fully carbonated in another week or two. The Belgian Wit is about at the right level of carbonation.
As for the taste, the Lighthouse is pretty much spot-on for what I intended. It’s a light-colored ale, with a mild-yet-not-boring taste. Hop levels are low, so the bitterness should not be off-putting to most beer drinkers. Where I think it shines is the use of Vienna and Caravienne malts. They give the beer a depth of body, but without really a heavier caramel note, like you’d find in a Bass. The belgian yeast also lends some complexity, but it’s nowhere near as fruity or spicy as heavier belgian ales. I still need to take it to experienced BJCP judges to get an idea if there are any flaws that my novice palate is not detecting, but that is something I’ve got plenty of time to do.
The Belgian Wit is a different animal. At the moment, I don’t taste any technical flaws (although like the Lighthouse, I need to take it to someone more experienced to get a better sense), but I think there is a recipe flaw. The original recipe called for 1 oz of crushed coriander seed, 1 oz of sweet orange peel, and 1 oz of bitter orange peel. On advice from the guys at beeradvocate.com, I dropped the coriander by about 50%. I should have done the same with the orange peel. If anything, I think the orange is a bit too powerful. That being said, it’s still a tasty beer. The only issue I have is the slight overspice of orange, I like everything else. And someone who appreciates a little heavier orange note might find it preferable the way it is.
Next Sunday (Dec 23), we’ll be bottling 5 more gallons of Lighthouse, as well as 10 Gallons of the re-vamped recipe of the IPA I entered into the Sam Adams contest, and 5 gallons of a Rye Pale Ale. All told, that’s another 8 cases of beer to split between three of us. At the same time, we’ll have 10 gallons of Belgian Tripel aging, and brew 10 gallons of an Amber Ale and 5 gallons of a milk stout. That will all be bottled in early or mid-January. So within two months, we’ll have bottled 50 gallons of beer. Good stuff
December 3, 2007
With crazy schedules, a new baby, and all the travel both work-related and personal, brewing hasn’t been a priority lately, and it’s been pissing me off to no end. For nearly 2.5 months, we’ve had 25 gallons of beer in fermenters, at least 15 gallons of which needed to be bottled at least a month ago. But we never had the time to get around to it, or to brew more.
10 gallons of the IPA that was a finalist in the Sam Adams LongShot. In typical fashion (for me), despite how highly it was rated, I decided to make a few tweaks to the recipe. It should help to smooth the hop character (when the beer is young), which is something that I had wanted to do. It should also increase some of the depth to the malt character, but without turning it into a “malty” beer. It’ll just be a slightly more solid backbone for the beer.
5 gallons of a Rye Pale Ale. When we were in Denver, my brother-in-law had several rye ales and enjoyed them, so we decided to give this a try. The last time I brewed with rye, I had a stuck sparge that took 2.5 hours to complete. Then, it got infected during fermentation. Ugh! Thankfully, this one didn’t have the first problem, and I’m not expecting the second either. We’ll see how it turns out. I used Chinook for bittering, Chinook and Cascade for flavor/aroma, and will then dry-hop with some additional Chinook & Cascade. It’ll have a heavier malt characteristic than the IPA, and I think it should come out to a nice well-rounded beer.
Both batches should be ready for bottling the weekend before Christmas, when I hope to also brew 15 gallons more.
5 gallons of a Belgian Witbier. We tasted this, and all the flavors came through pretty well. I didn’t detect any flaws, but then it’s still uncarbonated, so we’ll see. I think I’m starting to get better at tasting flat warm beer and understanding how it will turn out, so I think this is well on its way.
5 gallons of Belgian Lighthouse Ale. Again, I tasted this, and it seems to have come out exactly as I had expected. Should be very light and drinkable (for people who aren’t big beer drinkers), but not boring. My brother-in-law is having a Christmas party next Saturday, so we may put it to the test on some beer novices. We also have another 5 gallons waiting in fermentation that we had planned to bottle (but we were short on bottles), so we’ll get those bottled before the party Saturday.
Roughly 14 bottles of an American Barleywine I brewed in March. This beer was brewed back in Georgia, and my neighbor and I split the batch. We’ve had inconsistent carbonation on the bottles, and we both believe it’s due to overstressed yeast. So I popped all my remaining bottles and added a little bit of yeast. We’ll see where they go.
As previously mentioned, the 15 gallons brewed yesterday and the 5 gallons of Belgian Lighthouse Ale waiting to be bottled are still in fermenters. In addition, we have 10 gallons of a Belgian Tripel (named “Tripel Threat” because 3 of us brew together) that we transferred to secondary to age. I expect we’ll bottle this sometime in January.
I hope to make the next brew day the weekend before Christmas. At that time, we’ll bottle the two beers brewed yesterday, but continue to age the Tripel. I’d like to brew the following that day:
10 gallons of “Adam’s Red Ale”, which needs a better name. Adam is the third member of our brewing crew, and this was a recipe we made for his first-ever beer. It turned out really tasty (as only a 5 gallon brew), so we need to make another 10 gallons of it. It’s more of an Amber than a red, so we’ll continue working on that name!
5 gallons of an unknown beer. The only constraint is that we’ll probably re-use yeast, so we’re stuck with a beer that uses a standard California Ale yeast. However, a LOT of beer uses that yeast, so we should be good to go there. I might try to make a stout, since I rarely do so and we’ll want to avoid hoppy beers (due to a worldwide hop shortage).
General Brewing News:
I tried something new yesterday. Typically to “sparge” the beer (for those of you who don’t know the process, this is where you rinse water through the “mash”, the hot water and grain mixture), I had been using a small pot or measuring cup to manually pour the water. This time, I used a bottling bucket up on a tall wire rack to hold that water, so that I could simply use two valves to control flow rates, and keep the process much more automated. It’s something that I’ve been putting off for a while (since we don’t have a “sculpture” yet), but it worked great. We’ve got a few extra kegs that need to be cut open, and then we need to weld up one of these:
We probably need two of them, one for the 5 gallon and one for the 10 gallon rig. Once we have that, the process will be much smoother and easier from a labor standpoint.
Of course, we still need a scale and grain mill, so if anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present…
« Previous Page — Next Page »