Friday, November 26, 2010

Quick Mead Update

Just a quick note on how the quick mead turned out:  the pyment finished, cleared, and was bottled; the "traditional" mead was still cloudy as of Monday.  I'm visiting with family (I hope everyone's Thanksgiving is/was well); we've cracked one bottle of the pyment.

Overall, I'd call it a mixed success.  It came across as an off-dry red table wine.  Its concord grape character was still quite evident; the honey was very subdued.  I will absolutely have to do this again with "good" wine grapes--perhaps Riesling for a white; maybe a nice Cab-Sauv for a red.  It will, I'm sure, end up even more wine-like.  I'll probably sweeten it a bit further on the back end, as well: make it semi-sweet, and it will probably bear a strong resemblance to the Georgian wines I'm so fond of.  If I did a bit less back-sweetening, I think it would have more of a wine character, despite the concord grapes.

One area that I'm simply amazed: it dropped absolutely crystal clear, "read a newspaper through it" clear, and all that in under a month.  It's the most beautiful ruby red...  Photos will be forthcoming after I get home, next week.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Experimentation Update

Well, we're a little over a week into the experiment with quick meads, and I have a moment or two to spare, so I thought I'd give an update on where things are.

I had done two supposed "quick meads;" one a pyment, the other a traditional.  The pyment (done from this recipe) started at a gravity reading of 1.109; as of about 6pm today, it was at 0.999 (!).  It's not cleared at all, but fermentation does appear to be nearly over.  Flavor-wise, it tastes like your typical concord grape juice; granted, at a calculated 14-1/2% ABV, it'll be quite sneaky...  I'm probably going to rack it onto stabilizers and a little more juice & honey in an hour or so, but I may wait until tomorrow.

The traditional, done from another similar recipe, started at about 1.101, and has made it down to 1.038 today.  The two are sitting side-by-side, and are the same temperature; I've even given the traditional a little more nutrient, yet it's still going much more slowly.  Just goes to show how much wine yeasts like grape juice, I suppose...  This one is a little more "typical" tasting--nice honey notes; the buckwheat used (I'll track down the recipe and link to it next time) gives it a lovely depth--and will be quite nice, once it ferments its way down to where it should be--I'd like about 1.010 or so, but even a little lower would be nice.  I can always back-sweeten, after all.  The original recipe had it go from 1.100 to 1.020 in 2 weeks; I'll let it go, and see where it is come Monday.  Should be about right, unless the yeast decides to hang up completely. 

Here is a picture of how they looked when starting; adding one of how they look now would serve no purpose, as they haven't substantively changed:

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So, while I've been lax in updating this blog, I've been (reasonably) active with some experimentation.  My last brew day, one week ago today, saw one modified "normal" batch and one experimental, and I'll be whipping up two more experimental batches tomorrow evening.

The modified batch was a version of my (quite popular) Kolsch recipe, but with the volume turned up to 11.  I believe it will end more like a pale ale than anything else.  I was down to basically dregs on my current base malt stash, and decided to use it all; this bumped the starting gravity up about 25-30 points.  I increased the bitterness by a similar amount, keeping the BU:GU ratio roughly the same...  It will still be quite pale, I believe--something in the golden range--but with a firm bittering, and a solid malt backbone.

The experimental batch was based on the idea of caramelizing honey for a mead.  Several folks have done so-called "bochet", or "burnt" meads, with the results being described as different, if not entirely to their liking.  I was going for a slightly less "cooked" flavor, and hoping for an improved color.  (Not that a straw-gold mead is a bad thing, but it's just a bit... well, overdone.)  I took my "spare" pot (7.5 gallons) and emptied 10lbs of wildflower honey into it.  With a touch of water to rinse the honey containers, the total volume was right about 1 gallon.
Honey, before the boil

All accounts that I've read regarding boiling/caramelizing honey indicate that it foams up quite a lot.  I had planned on simply stirring like mad to keep it from boiling over; let me recommend instead using a very low flame.  The stuff literally tried to crawl out of the pot.
45 minutes into the boil; still climbing the pot, but a lovely color.
I boiled for about an hour, all told; the honey turned a lovely deep amber, and even my kids commented on the "caramel" smell.  A second word of warning for those who would follow in my footsteps:  bees can smell the honey cooking.  They will come to try to "rescue" it.  Lots of them will.  At the end of the hour, there were about 6 big bumblebees and maybe 15-20 honeybees swarming the pot.  At least three of the honeybees gave their lives trying to grab some of the honey--they got "caught" by bursting bubbles, and fell into the pot.  I don't think they'll throw the flavor off by much, though.  At any rate, the end result is quite pretty, and is (still) fizzing away happily.
The mead and the Kolsch; the mead is the dark one just left of center.
As for tomorrow's adventures, I'll be throwing together some more meads--a few folks over on the GotMead forums have some "quick" meads, supposedly ready-to-drink in 3-5 weeks.  We shall see...  I'll try to document those with pics here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Successful Brew Day

Yesterday marked another successful brew day.  All told, I got three batches done: one Kolsch (with/for my friend Dominick), and two that fall well into the "Kitchen Sink" category.  They are looking more like brown ales than anything else.

An interesting thing to note about my "Kitchen Sink" beers, those I make out of the dribs and drabs of whatever ingredients I have on hand: they are, more often than not, the best things I've made.  The Kolsch, for instance, is derived from a Kitchen Sink Kolsch I made two years back.  My Impropmtu Ale was quite tasty, as is a Golden Ale (very Helles-like) that I have on tap right now--both "Kitchen Sink" style.  So, while you never really know what you're getting, I have high hopes for these.

What was perhaps the most fun was doing the same beer back-to-back, with the same techniques, and watching the numbers fall out identically.  The pre-boil gravity was spot-on; post-boil, same.  Efficiency was identical.  Not to brag, but while I knew I had my process down, I didn't think I was *that* good at this!

I did change a couple of things up between the batches.  The grain bill was identical, but I added an ounce of Maltoferm Black to the second one.  This changed it from a deep reddish brown to something approaching a porter.  I also changed up the yeast--the first batch was dosed with California Ale yeast, and the second with a British Ale yeast.  Regardless, they were both fermenting happily this morning, and (as mentioned) I have high hopes for them.  Stay tuned for updates...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Pleasant Evenings

As promised, I'm posting from Pensacola.  Granted, I'm in the airport, on the way out, but that will have to do...  I dined at Hopjacks Tuesday and Wednesday nights...  I would probably have gone elsewhere, but there was a bit of a travel fiasco on the way here, so that evening was shot.

Tuesday night was a night for German-style lagers.  I started with Gordon Biersch's Marzen, then switched to something a little hoppier afterwards.  I can't recall exactly what, and I wasn't taking notes at the time, which I regret, because it was a lovely drink.  The Marzen was pleasant enough, but didn't have enough of a hop bite to stand up to the pizza I ordered; something to remember for next time.

Last night, I went more British with my drinks.  I started with a Fuller's ESB; again, it had difficulty matching up to the food (Belgian Fries, fried in duck fat--yummy); for the most part, though, I blame the saltiness of the fries.  I moved from there to a Smithwick's, which did a lovely job of cooling down some Buffalo Wings.  To finish up, I moved to an old standby, the Newcastle Brown Ale.  The pleasant, well-balanced maltiness was just what was called for, short of moving to a "dessert" beer.  I'm inspired to head down the ESB road again; perhaps I should dig out a Fuller's clone recipe; failing that, I may shoot for Smithwick's.  All of that, of course, in between batches of my Kolsch, which is turning out to be quite popular.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Long delay, Pennsic, and a Trip

Well, it's been far too long, again, since my last post.  Quite a bit has happened, though, and I can even remember some of it to tell you about!

Pennsic XXXIX was the biggest occurrence.  The weather cooperated, and a good time was had.  I did a lot of learning at Pennsic University; one or two things I can even bring "home" and use elsewhere.  There were only three real brewing/beer occurrences of great interest to me:  Firstly, Atlantia has a Brewing Laurel again!  Woohoo!  I need to sit down with him & "talk shop" at some point.  Secondly, I tried a phenomenal mead, called Moniack.  It's from Scotland, and near impossible to get here in the States, but worth the effort.  I've done a bit of digging, and I may be able to come up with something myself along the same lines, tastewise--but that's for a later post.  Lastly, my beer flew!  Well, not literally...  I brought 6 kegs, or 30 gallons; 4 of the kegs were emptied by the Thursday of War Week, and the last two I tapped at Atlantian Court.  They lasted about an hour, total, bringing my "record time to float a keg" down significantly.

In upcoming news, I'll be heading back down to Trimaris this week (Pensacola, FL, mundanely), and I anticipate spending a bit of time in Hopjack's.  I'll try to get over to McGuire's, as well, but I make no promises.  I'll try to post during the trip, especially if I find something tasty!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Into Every Life, A Little Rain Must Fall

It's been an interesting couple of weeks around the household, thus the reason I've not posted as often as I would like.  It began with a spate of Interesting Occurrences at work, which have kept me quite busy running hither and yon; those seem largely to have abated for the moment, but threaten to arise again in a month or so.  Additionally, my dear Children finished the year's schooling, and headed to points South, to spend the summer with my sainted parents; all of which required a surprising amount of preparation.  Then there have been the goings-on to prepare for Pennsic, which I will be attending for at least a week.  There is too much to go into there...

Lastly, there is the brewing.  It has been quite the interesting several weeks on that front.  I've brewed twice since my last post, for a total of three batches, my most recent being number 101 since I began keeping records within the Barony of Lochmere.  While working the 99th batch, my equipment rebelled, with a stuck mash, a disconnected lautering manifold, and several other uncomfortable issues.  In all, to do that batch took the majority of a day, and was quite frustrating.

The 100th batch (a Barleywine), by comparison, went quite smoothly, until the ferment.  Like a fool, I neglected to add Ferm-Cap when I pitched the yeast, so it frothed itself with merry abandon.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind so much, except that it blocked the airlock, and built to sufficient pressure as to "blow its top," as it were, leading to a broken airlock (a simple fix--I've many spares) and about a half-gallon of unfermented beer covering the floor and walls.  Quite a bit of clean-up was necessary; it wasn't how I had planned on spending the morning, but one plays the hand one is dealt.

The 101st batch has been blissfully calm; due to some vagaries of experience in the grist-milling and mashing phases, though, it will likely be unreproducible (and, by definition, quite probably sublime).  All told, though, I can't (and shan't) complain about it, other than to hope that my next several batches go more smoothly.  And there's the added thrill that I don't have to limit myself quite so much as I did--I'm not trying to hit a certain batch number by a certain date!  Two (or maybe even three) batches per brew day, to the best of my ability, for the rest of the year--that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Woohoo!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Warm summer-like days

Well, even though summer itself is still 3 weeks off, the weather has started behaving like summer already...  I need to put the finishing touches on my outdoor ice-powered keezer, so I can start using it.  It just needs the finishing bits of caulk around the seams outside, then the internal tubing & a Cornelius keg poppet connector or two.  Add the taps (I've got a couple of old spares) and it's golden!  The first beer on tap will be my India Pale Lager, done with the snow melt from Snowmageddon.  Beyond that, I don't know.

Meanwhile, some other experiments are moving along nicely.  The dual-batch brew I did a couple of months back at Night on the Town were bottled this weekend; I'm still in favor of the all-grain version.  The extract version has a much lighter mouthfeel--almost to the point of being thin--and a touch of a 'stale' cardboardy taste.  The AG version is fuller and more flavorful, with a stronger malt profile to balance the hops.  I'll have to see about doing that one as a full batch, and soon...

On the last brew day, I did a half-batch small beer from the second runnings of the main batch; the only yeast I had available was some dry wheat beer yeast (well, OK, I had some wine yeast, but I think EC-1118 would have been overkill).  So far, I think it's done fermenting; still cloudy as can be, but that's the point of a wheat beer yeast, isn't it?  I'll try to scrounge some bottles this weekend and bottle it up.  Finally, the brew I did with the last of the killer bee honey (just what was adhered to the sides of the jar) and a bit of DME has dropped pretty clear; I don't think it'll amount to more than one, maybe two bottles...  That should be done up this weekend, too.

That's all that's brewing here, at the moment.  What do you folks have going on?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

RIMS Build Complete

I finished up my RIMS build, version 1, two weeks ago, and had the chance to try it out on my Brew Day this week.  Considering that it was the maiden run of a basically untested system, things went remarkably well.

Someone out there, I'm sure, is asking, "what is a RIMS system?"...  In a nutshell, it's a gadget that has been added to the mash portion of a brew-day.  RIMS stands for "Recirculating Infusion Mash System."  The 'recirculation' part refers to the constant recirculation of the mash, drawing the wort from beneath the grain bed and returning it to the top.  On the way, it runs through a heat exchanger, which has an electrical heating element (scavenged from an old water heater) and the probe from a temperature controller.  The controller detects the temperature of the liquid; if it's too cold, it applies power to the element; just right (or too warm), and it de-energizes the element.  Thus, mash temperatures are maintained to within a degree or so, and the constant recirculation makes for a brilliantly clear wort.

I must say, that latter part of the equation worked out phenomenally.  The run-off needed no vorlauf--in essence, the RIMS performed a continuous, 1-hour vorlauf--and it was brilliantly clear.  Granted, I use pellet hops, which means that by the end of the boil, the wort is cloudy again with hot-break and hop residue; still, this has to be a step up, I would think.

My efficiency was low--only 68%--but I'm reasonably sure that I'll improve that as I brew more with the RIMS; I'd be quite happy to hit the mid-70's regularly.  I also overshot my target mash temperature to begin with, which entailed adding cold water to bring temps back down.  Ideally, I'd undershoot temp just slightly, allowing the RIMS to bring it up to my target.  The extra liquid probably (possibly) hurt the efficiency.

All things considered, though, I think this is a step in the right direction to achieve some greater consistency in my beers from batch to batch for a given recipe, and as that was the goal, I'd call it a success!

For my next trick, I believe I'll re-re-do my wort chiller, and add in a recirculator there, too...  Also in store, upgrading all of my pots, allowing for larger batches.  So much time, so little money...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Guys' Night Out

So, last night was the inaugural Guys' Night Out locally.  This was in response to many many weeks of my Lady Wife heading off to a weekly Girls' Night Out.  There was but myself and one other, but given the turnout (or lack thereof) for my Brew Days, I'm reasonably pleased with it.  I hope to do these monthly; I'm keeping them "invite-only" for now, and the current invitation list has four names on it.  Hopefully, next month will see more of us able to make it.  :)

We dined at DuClaw, in Arundel Mills.  I've been continually pleased with the brews there, despite my running commentary of "they're all extreme, in some way."  The food is quite good, as well--I think their cooks are getting a little jaded for parts of it, so it lacks a certain crispness, if that's the right word.  I probably should have had one of the new offerings on the menu--I will admit to having been tempted by the Kobe turf & surf--but I went with an old standby.

In all, the conversation was wide-ranging and good; combined with good brews and good food, I'd rate the evening a success.  Plans for future Nights Out include several other brewpubs, as well as some slightly more eclectic restaurants.  As ever, I'm open to suggestions from you, Readers.  Any tips for the Baltimore/DC metro area?

Friday, April 30, 2010

End of April Updates

Well, I managed to squeeze in two Brew Days this month; I'm right on track for my 100th such to come on the 4th of July weekend.  Woohoo!  Party at my place!

The first batch brewed was an "Oktober Ale"--the base recipe was for an Oktoberfest/Marzen, but I didn't have any lager yeast to hand, and didn't really feel much like futzing with it...  The grains were half-and-half Munich and Pils malt; Magnum bittered it, and Hallertauer were for flavor and aroma.  It's almost certainly over-hopped for style, but it's for me, and I'm not that concerned with it.

The second batch was last weekend's; I did a braggot.  Again, the grain was mostly Munich, with a bit of melanoidin for some unfermentables.  The honey was a gallon of Killer Bee I've had kicking around for a couple of years.  For hops, though, I tried something new--Citra.  It's 11% alpha, which is fairly strong, but the aroma!!  Wow--mango and passionfruit.  Nice, deep, and complex.  From what I've read, it's not great for a bittering hop, despite the acid levels; I'd tend to agree--I can see it getting muddied with too long a boil.  I used a bit less than an ounce of Magnum for bittering, then the Citra for aroma.  Starting gravity about 1.130; I hit the whole thing with a wine yeast (D-47, one of my favorites).  Initial airlock smells are great!  I'm thinking this will turn into something quite lovely.

On the equipment side, I've been gathering parts to do a RIMS setup.  I've got the heat exchanger done, and I have most of the parts for the control box.  I'll post pictures as I get things assembled (hopefully this weekend).  With luck, I can do a "dry-run" water-only test, see how it holds temp, this weekend, or maybe next; I'd like to have it basically functional for my next Brew Day at the end of the month.  Hmmm...  That means I'd need to build a new liquid return for the MLT, too.  Well, back to the hardware store for me...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brewing Experiment and Equipment Builds

Last weekend, at Lochmere's Night on the Town event, I held a brewing demo and discussion.  The topic at hand: the relative pros and cons of Extract and All-Grain brewing.

The brewing itself reflected this theme:  two "half-batches" (2.5 gallons each) of as near an identical brew as I can make, one each in Extract and All-Grain.  The basic recipe I tried to keep simple: I found a 3.3# can of Briess Munich liquid extract, and added a one-pound bag of Briess Pilsen Light dry extract; for hops, I went with two ounces of Hallertauer, one each at 15 minutes into the boil and flameout; WLP-838 was the yeast of choice.  For the All-Grain, I had to do some math--the liquid extract, while named "Munich," is not, in fact, all Munich malt.  So, I used 3.75 pounds of Pilsner malt and 2.3 pounds of Munich Malt.  The hop bill and yeast remained the same.

The process went fairly smoothly.  I had been worried about efficiency with so little grain in the mash-tun; it ended up being a non-issue.  After topping up the All-Grain batch (to even out the liquid levels), it had a gravity of 1.056, giving me a 73% efficiency; the Extract batch had an SG of 1.053.  The biggest difference apparent was, as expected, the color; I hadn't expected it to be quite as pronounced as it was, though.  The Extract batch was a good 5 degrees or so darker than the All-Grain, not the 1-2 degrees anticipated.  Regardless, it was interesting, and a good discussion was had, generally speaking.  I hope to serve the brews at Lochmere's Investiture, this September.

In other news, I'm gathering parts to (finally) shift to a RIMS system.  I've had the heating element for quite some time; I bit the bullet and started ordering other parts a couple of weeks ago.  I received yesterday a PID controller from Auber Instruments, as well as a thermocouple.  A solid-state relay and heatsink are en route, and should be here probably next week; most of what's left is plumbing.  I intend to do it all in stainless steel, which means I'll probably build slowly, getting a piece or two at a time, due to the cost.  Still, progress is progress.  Photos will be forthcoming as more parts arrive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's going down...

I've had my "Mk1" Scottish 80/- on tap for a couple of days now, and I've finally sat down to snap a photo or two.  Part of my reasoning for waiting was to let it sit a bit & settle (for clarity) and to let the CO2 bleed off somewhat (it started by pouring 1" of beer with 8" of head).  Here it is, though:
That is, of course, with a lamp directly behind it.  Still, the color is nice; it's a bit hazy, but I'm not *that* picky (so long as it's for my own consumption).  Flavor-wise, it's just about right on--not the same as I had in Glasgow last year, but well within the style guidelines.

Additionally, I've got hops again this year!  The one Cascade rhizome which survived the winter of '08-'09, and managed not to get ripped to shreds by the dog, has put up shoots...  Over 30 of them, to date...
This is early on, shortly after it started putting up shoots.  I've got it trimmed back right now to the "most vigorous" 12--and once Spring is in full swing (in a couple of weeks), I'll trim back further to the best four.  I've gotta give it to her, this rhizome is a tough girl.

In other news, I'll be teaching a class at Lochmere's Night On The Town this Saturday.  The topic:  Extract vs. All-Grain--Holy War, or Hype?  I'll be doing side-by-side half-batches of a simple Munich-based beer, one extract, one AG, and discussing the various differences/pros/cons of each method.  I hope to have the beer available for sampling at our Investiture in September.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Green Beer, Please

Whew!  It's been too long since my last post, but it's been a whirlwind in Real Life (tm).  Here's the latest:

Please stay away from the "green beer" tomorrow.  It's completely a gimmick--food coloring in cheap beer.  I object to the practice for a number of reasons.  First, to a brewer who cares about his craft, "green" beer isn't done fermenting yet--it's not ready to serve, and likely doesn't taste good; not something he wants to foist off on an unsuspecting public.  Second, to an Irishman who would be celebrating a Saint's Day, this would be a "holy" day, and they'd likely not be drinking to begin with.  At least, not as much...

I've been able to sample Sam Adams' Noble Pilsner twice in recent weeks.  As with a fair number of their offerings, my opinion is: well-crafted, but "meh."  Would I order another?  Probably, but I could be easily dissuaded by something else interesting.  Again, I detect the presence of a gimmick; in this case, the "Brewed with All Five Noble Hop Varieties" bit.  That's well and good, but by most counts, five is stretching it a bit.  Most brewers only recognize four Noble varieties: Hallertauer Mittelfreuh, Spalt Spalter, Tettnang Tettnanger, and Saaz.  The inestimable Mr. Koch is including Hersbrucker, which I understand as a variety of Hallertau (although I could be mistaken).  None of this detracts from the aroma, which is where the majority of these hops show through--and "show through" they do.  In that respect, this is a lovely brew.  Flavor-wise, it's pretty much a Pilsner, and nothing I'd really call stellar.

One point of interest:  The first taste I had of the brew was in a standard restaurant "tall" pint-glass... The second was from one of the "special" Sam Adams neo-tulip glasses.  I was expecting a revolution in the tasting experience, and approached it as such.  I'm afraid I was disappointed.  The glass really didn't do anything for me.  Still, if you get the chance, try it for yourself; your mileage may vary.  If I was doing something wrong, or if the glass really floats your boat, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Brew Perking Away...

I decided, after some soul-searching, to use my snow-melt to do an American IPA of sorts last weekend. I went with straight Warrior hops, and am (so far) quite pleased with how they have turned out--the smell was fantastic, and exactly what I expect from a good brew. It wasn't a SMaSH brew, as I used some Munich and Crystal malts; my main departure from the IPA realm was in my use of a lager yeast. That's right--this is a single-hop, American India Pale Lager. I named it "Snow Warrior," due to the snow-melt (duh) and the hops; my reasoning for lagering this brew is to continue with the "cold" theme. I anticipate that this will be quite lovely in mid-July...

All that aside, I'll be brewing again this upcoming weekend. I plan on being a bit more "traditional" this time; I'll probably do another English Bitter, although I've been hankering after an American Amber for a little while. I've still time to decide; with my Pacific Jade hops (combined with a few other things I've got laying around), I can probably swing something tasty.
In addition to my brew this weekend, my friend Elphinstone will be brewing something. I believe he plans to do a Bohemian Pils, or perhaps something more in the "lite lager" range (I believe he's using a recipe based on one or another Canadian lager).

I think my next "experimental" batch--possibly in the late March time frame--will be a single-malt, all Munich brew. I may lean a little traditional on it, and make it a lager--rather Vienna-like--but then, I prefer something a little more assertive in the hops. I guess time will tell...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upcoming Brew Day

Well, I'm in the midst of planning my next Brew Day. Right now, it's scheduled for the 21st of the month, but much of that "schedule" is really weather-dependent. We were snowed in this past weekend; the backyard hasn't even really begun to thaw, and I can't yet access my BrewStand. To top it off, there's another "killer" snowstorm headed this way, supposedly to hit us Tuesday night/Wednesday, and drop another foot of snow. I'm not sure we'll be dug out by the 21st...

While (ahem) "enjoying" the current winter wonderland, though, a thought struck me--all of this lovely, clean, frozen water, all around me. So, I pulled out my trusty AlePails (they were on the back patio, in a snowdrift) and filled them with packed fresh snow. I'm bringing them inside (as I find room for them) to thaw, and will hopefully be able to snag enough water eventually to do one batch of beer from snow-melt. I'm thinking something light and crisp, perhaps a lightly-colored AIPA, to be enjoyed mid-summer (when I can sit in shorts & a t-shirt outside and recall fondly the snow that made it possible)... A snappy name for the beer should be relatively easy, too. Ah, plans...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brew Day Complete

Another Brew Day happened last Saturday. I had planned to do one of my "main" brews, then an 'experimental' one. As it turned out, one of my brew buddies came over, and we brewed one for him rather than the experimental brew. No harm, no foul--two brews were planned, and two completed.

My brew was an English Pale or Best Bitter (they're the same style). It went well--I hit all of my temps, the mash proceeded without incidence, and (aside from a slightly lower starting volume than I would have liked) the boil was fine. Since I ended up with a lower post-boil volume, I had to top up with water, but as things went, the final gravity ended up basically where it should have been. I'm using the English Ale yeast from White Labs (WLP-002); I used my heating pad under the fermenter (the basement is a bit chilly), and primary fermentation seems to be pretty well done. I'm hopeful for this batch--it seems to be going quite well.

The second batch of the day was a Helles Bock. Again, the brewing went well; I think it'll end up basically where it's supposed to. We used a Kolsch yeast, which may dry it out a little more than is true to style, but in the end, that's the target. Not too hoppy; nice and malty, with a good crispness. I'm looking forward to trying it in a couple of months.

On a side note, I'm trying to finish up some partially-finished kegs; I'm working on my "SMaSH" French Wheat Ale, which isn't really a SMaSH--there were two malts. In the months since I first tapped it, it has mellowed quite nicely, and is displaying some lovely honey notes. Quite malty, and very pleasant. I might bump up the hop complexity in the future--it *was* single hop--but I'd have to leave it for quite a few months for the mellowing to work out. It's a good one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another Event Down...

Well, another Baronial Event has been successfully navigated. Lochmere's Winter Revel was yesterday; my Lady Wife was the Head Cook, and I co-hosted a Cheese and Beer Tasting, in addition to having my Brew Cart on premises.

The feast (in the style of 'Georgia-the-Country') was phenomenal. Some of the presentation and preparation was perhaps not quite as it was in Georgia, but the flavors were all just right--and they were good. :) The Tasting went about as smoothly as I had honestly figured it would. One of the planned cheeses (a Swiss-style) went moldy and had to be tossed. The ideal venue would have been almost a classroom setting, instead of the "buffet-style" we had. All the same, it went quite well; we had the opportunity to educate more than a few people, and everyone enjoyed our offerings. The runaway hit of the tasting was a 5-year-old aged Gouda, paired with Schlenkerla's smoked UrBock.

The beers on tap were CC's Blackberry Stout and a Scottish 80/-. It's hard to say which was the more popular; predictably, the women were drawing more of the Stout, and the men more of the Scottish. I was most pleased with the Stout, personally--too often, fruit beers are overly sweet; this was nicely dry, but the blackberry flavor was quite easily discerned. It was crisp and clean, and very satisfying. The 80/-, though, confirmed my original impressions of it from when it was kegged--under-attenuated, and overly rich. It was certainly pleasant enough, and not what I'd call "bad," but not everything I was hoping. Still, I had intended it as a jumping-off point to make an 80/- to my taste, and as such, it fit the bill quite well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Plans for the upcoming year

Well, with the New Year revelries over, I thought I might spend a minute or two to come up with my brewing goals for the upcoming year. I don't think I'll do anything really "crazy," like I did two years ago--using odd ingredients, making some extreme-ish beers... No, I believe this year will be a bit more tame, as such things go. Here's a quick list, in no particular order:

1) I'm already planning my first few Brew Days. 23 January is the first one; I'm not certain when I'll be brewing in February, and March may or may not be a wash this year. If it is, I'll certainly try to get a second day in either in February or (more likely) April.
2) I've got a few equipment projects lined up for throughout the year... I hope to make a RIMS system for my BrewStand--I've seen quite a few very nice ones over on I just need to save a few pennies and get the parts.
3) I'm working (slowly, in my 'copious free time') on a translation of a period German text on beer. This one details the various beer styles brewed in each of the various towns of Germany, from circa 1550. The list is rather vague on details, but is still interesting for its historical value, and there may be a few nuggets to glean...
4) I hope to work on really nailing down one or two beer styles this year, brewing them repeatedly until I have them where I want them. I'm planning on doing English Pale Ales until I'm sick of them, and may start doing a couple of lagers towards the middle of the year.
5) I plan on doing a series of 'SMaSH' brews, trying to see the differences between, and strengths and weaknesses of, certain ingredients. In particular, I'd like to make a series of near-identical brews using some of the new hop varieties that have shown up lately, such as Alpha, Bravo, Tomahawk, Warrior, and Zeus. Yes, they're all high-alpha varieties; I have a reason for that, but I won't be disclosing said reason for quite some time to come, most likely.
6) I will be prepping my 'stash' to bring to Pennsic--I'm aiming for 8 batches (40 gallons) at least, likely with a preponderance of 2 or 3 styles, as yet TBD. If I work on my EPA's, they will obviously be a large chunk of the lot; quite probably, I'll do a number of Irish Red Ales, as well. If I can convince my Lady Wife to allow me a couple more carboys, then my output may increase; my last Pennsic, though, I brough 40 gallons, and returned with about 4--I'm not certain what the 'saturation point' really is, but at least for 3 years ago, I slightly exceeded it.
7) There are hints that I *may* be asked to brew some 'donation brews' for Pennsic. You know, to "convince" certain mercenary groups that battling on the side of fair Atlantia is in their best interests. I'd be happy to--provided I have the brew time in my schedule, and maybe some assistance in requisitioning the supplies. I may have a line on a "regular" Sanke-style keg to put said batches in, which would be interesting from many angles. More on this particular item as I know it.

And, as always, other things will likely pop up as they attract my attention through the year. But for now, at least, that's the list. What do you, dear readers, have brewing?

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