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 HomeBrewTalk.com. 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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