Dark Saison 2014

>> Sunday, November 30, 2014

I ran to one of my local brew shops the other day to pick up some gas tubing for an upgrade I'm working on (nitro teaser) and I figured I'd pick up one of Wyeast's PC offerings for the quarter. I decided to go with 3726 Farmhouse and brew up a dark saison of sorts. Wyeast's desscription is as follows:

Wyeast 3726-PC Farmhouse Ale™
Beer Styles: Saison, Biere de Garde, Belgian Blonde Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Golden Strong Ale
Profile: This strain produces complex esters balanced with earthy/spicy notes. Slightly tart and dry with a peppery finish. A perfect strain for farmhouse ales and saisons.
Alc. Tolerance           12% ABV
Flocculation              medium
Attenuation               74-79%
Temp. Range             70-84°F (21-29°C)
I'm using a fairly simple grain bill on this brew but I am incorporating some concord grape juice into this recipe. I'm hoping it will add some fruity complexity, but I have to admit I've never brewed with grape juice. Winemakers kind of frown on concord grapes, so I'm kind of rolling the dice on this one. This beer is probably going to turn out awesome...or gross. I'll get some tannins from the grape juice so I'm using debittered malt to try to get color while minimizing any perceived astringency. I've also never used Nelson Sauvin hops, but they are supposed to contribute grape and berry flavors. Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

7.0# Dingmans Pilsner Malt
1.0# Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
6.0 oz Castle De-bittered Malt
4.0 oz Crystal 10
1.0# D-180 Belgian Candi Syrup (0 min)
35g US Goldings (60 Min)
14g Nelson Sauvin (10 min)
2.5g chamomile (5 min)
14g Nelson Sauvin (Whirlpool)
Whirfloc
Yeast Nutrient

96oz of Welch's Farmers Pick Concorde Grape Juice (preservative free) added halfway through fermentation (gravity should be around 1.031).

Mash at 148F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 68F then raise temps to 80F over several days.

Update 12/2/2014
Gravity had dropped to almost 1.020 by the time I got home from work today. I was hoping to catch it around 1.030. The krausen is still about two inches deep so I went ahead and carefully added the grape juice.

Update 12/3/2014
Fermentation is very active after adding the juice. It had slowed a bit before adding the grape juice yesterday.

Update 1/7/2015
I pulled a little sample today. This beer is very fruity with a definite concord grape aroma. The flavor is much more subdued. It's not horrible but I can't quite decide if I like it. I'm going to try to get it bottled this weekend so I'll see how it is once it's carb'd up.

Update 3/27/2015
I entered this in a club competition (Category 23 - Specialty Beer) and it scored well. I tend to be my own worst critic. Knowing that this beer has Concord grape juice in it, I can easily identify it in both the flavor and aroma, but going in blind (I described it as a dark saison on fruit), nobody else seemed to be able to identify the fruitiness came from Concord grapes. It's a good easy drinker, but I get a jammy/jelly component. If I did it again I'd cut back on the juice a little bit.

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Baltic Porter - Red Wine Barrel Project

>> Sunday, November 09, 2014

Today I'm brewing a Baltic Porter that's going to spend some time in a red wine barrel. One of my friends from my homebrew club (ZZ HOPS) acquired the barrel and asked for some help filling it. Projects like these are the kinds of fun things that result from participating in a homebrew club.

Here's a link to the original recipe and below is the way I brewed it (adjusted for my system efficiency and available ingredients).

8.5 # Avangard German Munich I
5.375 # Dingemans Pilsner Malt
6 oz Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt
6 oz Crisp Chocolate Malt
6 oz Dingemans Cara 45
6 oz Dingemans Special B
42.5g Magnum (60 min)
28.3g EKG (5 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast Nutrient
WLP001 California Ale Yeast

Mash at 152F, 90 min boil, ferment at 65F

Brewing Notes
No real issues to speak of. My gravity came in a couple points low at 1.088; target was 1.091. My mill jammed as I was milling my grain for this batch. I took it apart and expected to find a pebble. I wasn't able to find the source of the jam and I ran it through for a second crush without any issues. I chilled down to about 70F then transferred to the fermenter and placed it in the ferm chamber set to 65F. I'll let it chill overnight then pitch the yeast.

Update 3/3/2015
We had a club meeting over the weekend and tried a sample from the barrel. It seems the barrel may have been infected with some brett. Unfortunately this beer won't turn out as intended, but in my opinion it does have a pleasant brett character, so I'm interested to see how it evolves. I didn't pick up on much if any sourness, so I don't know that there's any lacto or pedio in it. One disappointing thing, this beer had some nice chocolate notes going into the barrel and that seems to be reduced substantially.

Update 4/17/2016
We ended up pitching Roeselare into the barrel after realizing it definitely had a wild yeast infection. We'll be pulling this beer out of the barrel in about a month.

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Chitty Bang Bang - Oud Bruin

>> Sunday, October 19, 2014

I needed to use up my Wyeast PC Oud Bruin blend so today I brewed up an Oud Bruin-ish beer. I like my Oud Bruins a bit more tart than the classic style guidelines. This style should be tart but not as much as a Flanders Red and they should have a fairly substantial malty backbone. This particular blend is supposed to allow the malt character to shine in the finished beer so I'm anxious to taste the results. As usual, I'm using aged hops in this beer. The recipe as I brewed it:

3 lbs 8.0 oz Crisp Maris Otter
3 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner Malt
2 lbs 8.0 oz Munich Dark
1 lbs 8.0 oz Chit Malt
10.0 oz Aromatic Malt
8.0 oz Pale Wheat
8.0 oz Special B
1.0 oz Midnight Wheat
1.0 oz Debittered Aged Hops (60.0 min)
PC Oud Bruin Blend (Wyeast #3209)
Yeast Nutrient
Whirlfloc

Mash at 156F for 50 min, 90 minute boil, ferment at 80F.

Brewing Notes
No issues. Hit target O.G. of 1.074 spot on. I whirlpooled down to 80F then transferred to a Better Bottle and pitched the blend. No aeration on this one.

Update 1/7/2015
I pulled a sample of this today. There's something a little off in this one. I'm going to rack it to secondary this weekend to get it off the yeast cake and give it some time to age a bit.

Update 1/20/2015
I racked this onto the yeast cake of the 2013 Oud Bruin Experiment over the past weekend. When I tasted it back on the 7th, it seemed like there was some autolysis issues in the beer. I'm hoping the brett in the yeast cake will clean things up a bit. I'll give this beer a few months before I try it again. 

Update 1/26/2014
There's definitely some activity in this beer. A bit of a krausen has formed and I'm getting a "glug" in the airlock every few minutes.

Update 4/7/2015
Pulled a sample tonight. I'm glad to say the hints of burnt rubber band (autolysis notes) are totally gone and it has a nice sourness level. The sourness level is towards the high end for the style...probably more along the lines of a Flanders Red than an Oud Bruin. ThIs is likely due to the additional cultures that were added via the 2013 Oud Bruin yeast cake causing it to dry out a bit more than the 3209 would have done on its own. I'm just glad this beer has been salvaged because it was a borderline dumper when I racked it.

Update 6/2/2015
I pulled a sample last night and I'm really liking this beer. The sourness is noticeable, but it's not too crazy. It has a lot of dark fruit character and really seems ready to drink right now. I may go ahead and package this beer in a couple weeks.

Update 6/28/2015
I went ahead and bottled this one yesterday.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took bronze. I decided to enter it in 28B Mixed Fermentation Sour Beer as an American Sour Brown. Based on my experience, I knew judges wouldn't accept this as an Oud Bruin (too sour). I'm glad there's finally an American Sour category that is more tolerant of some of the more sour beers.

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Sour Rye

>> Sunday, October 12, 2014

I recently brewed a Russian River Consecration clone as part of a club barrel project. Our club voted on a few different styles and the Consecration clone won out. We're only a couple weeks away from racking this beer into the barrel on a whole bunch of zante currants...which also means we're two weeks away from kegging our Tart of Darkness clone! But I digress.

One of the other styles that was in the running was a sour rye beer. I thought this sounded really interesting and I had some Wyeast sour blends on hand, so I decided to try my hand at a sour rye beer. I guess you could say Sour in the Rye from The Bruery is the inspiration for this beer, but this really isn't intended to be a clone attempt.

Like wheat, rye malt is huskless and has a reputation causing stuck mashes when used in large proportions, so I'd strongly advise, don't skip the rice hulls. I'm also using the chit malt again (as in Super Juice Solution). Here's the recipe as I made it today:

4.0 # Muntons Pearl Malt
4.0 # Weyermann Rye Malt
1.25 # Best Malz Chit Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Vienna
6.0 oz Weyermann Dark Munich
3.0 oz Briess Black Patent
1.0 # Rice Hulls
28g Aged hops (60 min)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
0.5 Whirlfloc
Wyeast 3203 De Bom Sour Blend

Mash at 150F for 45 minutes. 90 minute boil. Ferment at 80F then ramp up to 85F over a few days.

Do not aerate before pitching sour blend. Wyeast does recommend measured aeration after reaching about 80% of expected attenuation.

Brewing Notes:
No issues to speak of. I hit the target gravity of 1.057 spot on. Currently sitting at a cozy 80F in the fermenter.

Update 1/7/2015
Pulled a sample today. Aroma was very acidic, but the flavor was mildly acidic. I'm going to rack this to secondary this weekend to get it off the yeast cake and age it a bit longer.

Update 1/21/2015
Since the sourness level is so low, I decided to rack this onto a portion of the yeast cake from Flanders Red #3. I'm hoping the additional bugs will increase the sourness level. 

Update 4/7/2015
Pulled a sample tonight and the flavor is finally catching up to the aroma. I think I might let this go another month but it's pretty drinkable as is.

Update 6/2/2015
This beer is definitely tart now. The sourness level is getting close to some,of my Flanders Reds. I think I'll be packaging this beer in a couple weeks. I really like the way it has turned out. I'm not picking out a ton of rye character (e.g. spicy), but it's a really nice beer. I have a bottle of 2015 Sour in the Rye that I'm going,to share with friends at GABF this year, so I'll bring a bottle of this along and do a side by side comparison.

Update 7/22/2015
Recently got a pH meter, so I decided to check the pH of this beer. After knocking out a bit of CO2, it's reading 2.92...that's a pretty sour beer! Embrace the Funk lists the pH of a bunch of commercial sour beers (http://embracethefunk.com/ph-readings-of-commercial-beers/). Reviewing the list, none have a pH quite this low; 3.06 for New Belgium Bottle Works 10th Anniversary is the lowest as of 7/22/2015. I'm going to start taking readings on all of my sours, so we'll see if I need to start targeting something closer to the low 3's so that people don't feel like the enamel is melting off their teeth.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took silver for 34A Clone Beer. I already had an entry in 28B Mixed Fermentation, otherwise it would have gone there. I was afraid judges would shy away from the high acidity; they did comment on it but they said they enjoyed it.

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Consecration - ZZ Hops Big Bad Barrel Part 2

>> Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today I'm brewing 10 gallons of Consecration clone for part 2 of my club's barrel project. This beer will be fermented clean then racked to the barrel on a whole bunch of zante currants.

Here's the recipe as I made it adjusted for my efficiency (and the original)

19.0 # Rahr Pale Malt
0.88 # Weyermann Acid Malt
0.44 # Weyermann Carafa II
0.44 # Special B
2.0 # Corn Sugar (10 min)
2.0 # D-180 Dark Candi Syrup (Flameout)
28g  Sterling (90 min)
56g  Sterling (30 min)
56g  Styrian (1 min)
White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale
4.0 # Zante currants in secondary

Mash at 158F, 90 minute boil

Brewing Notes
This session was a bit of a bitch. I had a brain fart and forgot to put my hops into the hop spider. This caused problems during the whirlpool because it clogged my hop/trub filter. After a couple clogs I decided to just go ahead and pump into the fermenters. At least lunch was good...enjoying some smoked candied salmon with brown rice and Parmesan asparagus for lunch during the brew session.



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Milk Stout 2014

>> Sunday, September 14, 2014

Today I'm brewing a Milk Stout that I'm hoping will turn out close to Left Hand 's Milk Stout. 825 State Stout from Epic Brewing used to be my favorite commercial stout. Last year at GABF I got to try Left Hand's Milk Stout Nitro and Wake Up Dead Nitro (RIS). I absolutely love these beers and try to stock up on them whenever I can find them. They are so smooth and so easy drinking with just the right amount of sweetness, chocolate, and roast. 825 State Stout is still up there for me, but I love LHMS.

This recipe is based on one I found on HBT. I tried to go back and find the author to give him/her credit but for some reason I can't find it.

Edit: Found it! Thanks to ADX for sharing this recipe

One thing I'm doing today that I haven't done for a long while...I'm using dry yeast. Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

4.75# Muntons Pearl
2.25# Rarh 2 row
1.0# Briess Roasted Barley
.75# Briess Caramel 60L
.75# Briess Chocolate Malt
.75# Weyermann Munich II
0.5# Flaked Oats
0.63# Flaked Barley
10g Magnum (60 min)
28g US Goldings (10 min)
1.0# Lactose (10 min)
Safale S-05
Yeast Nutrient (5 min)

Mash at 151F for 75 minutes. 90 minute boil. Ferment at 63F then raise to 68F over several days.

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Super Juice Solution - Trinity Brewing

Not too long ago I brewed a sour IPA inspired by Red Swingline from Trinity Brewing. It turned out to be a nice beer, but it's not anywhere close to Swingline. It has some really nice hop flavor and aroma plus a mild tartness in the finish, but no question, I missed the intended target.

To my surprise, I received an email from Jason Yester, "Captain of the Pirate Ship" (that has to be the coolest job title ever), aka Trinity's head brewer. He mentioned he saw my post and said to contact him if I needed any help with the recipe. Jason is putting out some awesome beers so I would have been a fool not to accept his generous offer. We exchanged a few emails and he graciously shared his recipe and some process information for one of their newer beers, Super Juice Solution. Jason also gave me permission to post the recipe, which goes to show not only does he make great beer, he's also an incredibly cool guy. 

Super Juice Solution is similar to, but a little different than Swingline (e.g. no aging in Chardonnay barrels). It's a sour session IPA and it involves a method of souring and a malt that I've never used before.

  • Kettle/Wort souring - Usually when I brew a sour beer, I'll either pitch bugs early in the primary to give them a head start on yeast (see my Berliner Weiss posts) or I'll pitch a blend like Roeselare and try to be patient for up to a year while the souring microbes do their thing. This time I'll be kettle souring before the boil with lactobacillus then boiling, and finally fermenting with brett brux. After the mash, I'll collect 6.75 gallons of wort and take it up to a quick boil to kill off any unknowns before I pitch the lacto.  Next, I'll chill to around 114F then hold it at 114.5F for 22-23 hours until the pH drops to around 3.2-3.4. After that, I'll proceed with the boil. In order to maintain the temp during the souring process, I ordered a 60 watt car battery heater/warmer. This is controlled by my BCS-460. It probably wouldn't work that well in the garage in the middle of winter, but my garage is pretty warm in the summer so it's having no trouble maintaining the temp.
  • Chit malt - I've never used this malt before and it was a bit challenging to find a source. Fortunately the guys at Salt City Brew Supply managed to track some down for me. It's basically a very undermodified malt somewhere between raw barley and more common well-modified base malts. I asked Jason if I could use any undermodified malt in this recipe (e.g. Briess' Under-modified Pilsner Malt) and he said no, Chit malt is essential and the key to sour beer. This malt is also commonly used in decoction mashes for German lagers (e.g. Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner).
Jason gave me the recipe based on their 12.2 barrel brew system which I scaled down for five gallons. Here's the recipe as I made it. 

5# 12oz Weyermann Pilsner Malt
1# 8.6oz Best Malz Chit Malt
12.3oz Weyermann Vienna Malt
12.3oz Weyermann Acidulated Malt
5.3oz Crisp C77
6oz Rice Hulls
WLP677 Lactobacillus Delbrueckii 
WLP650 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis
14g Summit (60 min)
5.6g Corriander (15 min)
131g Amarillo (10 min)
120g Amarillo (Dry hop @3 months)
20g Willamette (Dry hop @3 months)
10g EK Goldings (Dry hop @3 months)

Mash at 145.4 for 35 minutes. Collect 6.75 gallons and boil for 15 minutes**. Chill to 114F and pitch lactobacillus. Hold at 114F for 23 hours (pH should be down near 3.2) then boil. 90 minute boil. Ferment in the low 70's then ramp temps up into the mid 80's. Age for 3 months then dry hop. 

**Jason doesn't recommend boiling for 15 minutes. Something got into my first attempt at making this beer. I'm not sure what it was (microbes and/or yeast) but it was horrible smelling and tasting. I ended up dumping it before the boil. So just for my own piece of mind, I decided to do a short boil on the second attempt to kill off any unknowns. 

Brewing Notes
So I brewed this beer a little while ago. I was debating whether or not to post about it until I found out if I successfully made a decent sour IPA, but I figured I might as well post anyway. 

Things went well although I left it to sour a lot longer than 23 hours. I tasted the sample after 23 hours and I could detect some tartness but it was masked by residual sweetness in the wort. I tried pH test strips and they didn't measure a change, so I decided to let it go a bit longer. Well, life got in the way and before I knew it, an entire week had passed. I tasted it before boiling and there was noticeable tartness, but it still seemed to be masked. I went ahead with the boil thinking that once the brett ferments out the sugars, the sourness should come out. Time will tell if that theory is correct.

P.S. Even if I manage to screw up this beer, buy a couple bottles of anything you can find from Trinity. You won't be disappointed.  

Update 11/30/2014
Dry Hops were added today!

Update 12/27/2014
This turned out to be a nice beer but the tartness level is pretty low. There's some tartness in the finish, but it's much lower than I expected, especially considering the lactobacillus had a whole week to sour. I must be doing something wrong during the souring phase. I'll have to revisit this recipe in the future.

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Robust Porter 2014

>> Monday, June 30, 2014

I brewed up a Robust Porter over the weekend. The recipe was somewhat of a mix between the last two smoked porters minus the smoked malt. BJCP guidelines describe this style as A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character. 

Here's the recipe is I made it:

3.25 # Crisp Maris Otter
3.25 # Muntons Pearl Malt
0.75 # Crisp Medium Crystal
0.75 # Crisp Light Crystal
0.50 # Crisp Chocolate Malt
0.25 # Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt
0.75 # Weyermann Munich II
0.30 # Briess Black Patent (added to the mash right before the sparge)
28g Chinook (60 min)
28g Willamette (20 min)
14g US Goldings (10 min)
1/2 Whirlfloc
1/2t Wyeast yeast nutrient
WLP862 Cry Havoc in 1L starter

Mash at 153F for 60 min. Ferment at 58F

Brewing Notes
No issues other than the gravity was a touch higher than I anticipated. Target was 1.061 and measured was 1.065. This brew smelled amazing during the mash. Looking forward to giving it a try when it's ready.

Update 7/2/2014

I was able to chill this beer down to the low 60's and put it in the fermentation chamber overnight to get it down to 58F before pitching. Fermentation took off fairly quickly. There's quite a bit of hop aroma coming off the fermentation. Hopefully I didn't overdo it for the style. I'm sure I'll like it, but I was planning on entering this one in a competition so hopefully the judges will like it too.

Update 7/7/2914
The krausen seems to be dropping but there's still a fair amount of activity. The fermentation chamber smells awesome.

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Sour Saison Experiment

>> Sunday, June 15, 2014

I feel like I've been brewing a lot of sour beers lately, not a bad thing at all. I was at my LHBS a couple nights ago and they had a pack of Fast Souring Lacto GB110, a new offering from Gigayeast. My first thought was to brew up more Berliner Weisse, but I already have 10 gallons from our recent Big Brew Day event so I figured I'd try something different. I love saisons and thought it'd be interesting to do a sour version of the style. This recipe is a little more complicated than most recipes because it involves two boils.

The basic process is mash, sparge, split batch in half (one for souring, one for non-souring), boil separately with respective hop and spice additions, and ferment separately. One half will be fermented with the lacto and the other half gets WLP568 Saison Blend. My goal is to get souring from the lacto fermentation, and some nice Belgian yeast character from the yeast blend. When fermentation is done, they'll be blended together. Hopefully I end up with a really good complex sour beer and not a mediocre beer resulting from an unnecessarily complex process.

Here's the recipe:

16.0# Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
2.0# Weyerman Pale Wheat Malt
28g US Goldings (90 mins non-sour half)
28g Aged Hops (60 min sour half)
WLP568 Belian Saison Blend (non-sour half)
GB110 Fast souring lacto (for sour half)

The remaining ingredients are split in half with half going into each boil:
14g US Goldings (15 min)
20g Ginger root, grated (12 min)
2.0# Candi syrup, Simplicity
Zest from one orange (5 min)
8g Coriander, ground (5 min)
8g Grains of Paradise, ground (5 min)
20 Black peppercorns, ground (5 min)
14g Simcoe (2 min)
14g Amarillo (2 min)
1t Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F. Collect 13gallons then split in half. 90min boil. Ferment at room temp allowing both to free-rise as much as they want.

Brewing notes:
No issues to speak of other than two boils make for a long brew day. We took a break between the two boils to listen to the NHC Awards ceremony to see if my Peppermint Chocolate Stout medaled (it didn't). The non-sour portion took off. The sour half is going a little slower.

Update 6/16/2014
The lacto seems to be taking off now. It took about 48 hours but it's now developing a bit of a krausen. On the other hand, the WLP568 took off like a rocket with a one inch krausen forming within the first couple hours.

Update 6/24/2014
Sour half is still chugging away. I'm going to try to pull a sample this weekend and see where it's at. 

The clean half seemed like fermentation had slowed so I swapped the blowoff hose for the airlock. Well it wasn't done and it blew the airlock out within 24 hours. Fermentation is still really active and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Update 7/2/2014
Both halves are still chugging along. The lacto half has a thin krausen but is still showing an occasional burp in the airlock. The saison yeast blend krausen has finally dropped a bit, but like the lacto it doesn't seem to be quite done yet. These might be ready for sampling in the next week or so. 

Update 7/7/2014
The unsoured half seems to be done, but the sour half is still chugging away. The krausen isn't as high as it was at its peak, but it's still there and the airlock is showing activity about once per 8-9 seconds. I'll let this ride for a few more days and see where it's at.

Update 7/9/2014
I got impatient and pulled a small sample of each half. Unsoured half has some nice yeast character that compliment the spice additions. The sour half is a little disappointing in that it is barely sour. My plan was to blend the two and end up with mid-level tartness in this beer; something noticeable but not mouth puckering. Based on my experience with Wyeast lacto in my Berliner Weiss, this should have been more than enough time to have significantly lowered the pH, but if I were to blend right now I don't think anyone would even know it was a sour beer. I tried measuring the pH with my 2.8 - 4.4 pH test strips and they don't even register. I decided to go ahead and pitch some of the Wyeast lacto + Jolly Pumpkin blend I saved from my most recent Berliner brew. In hoping this will help increase the tartness level.

Update 8/7/2014
I pulled a sample of each fermenter last night. The non-sour half is really nice with classic spicy saison character. The sour half is very similar but with some mild but noticeable tartness. It's about the level of tartness I was hoping to get by blending the two, so I don't think I'll be able to blend them after all or it'll just get lost. I think I might let the sour half go a little longer to see what happens with the JP dregs, but I'll probably keg the non-sour half this weekend.

Update 9/20/2014
Just got my scoresheets for the 2014 Grace Lutheran Bier Brauen (GLBB). I also entered this one in the Beehive Brew-off (BBO). Both entries were from the non-soured half. 

At BBO this beer scored a 36 with the only negative comments being that the carbonation was low. I had to hurry and get this in the bottle for BBO, so I tried to force carb it in about 24 hours and I knew it was a bit under carb'd. For GLBB I had a bit more time to up the carbonation and it ended up scoring a 44. Sadly, it did not medal, but I'll take a 44 any day. It had some great comments from the judges and I really dig this beer, so this recipe is a keeper. I can't wait for the sour portion to get a little age on it.

Update 10/7/2014
I pulled a sample from the sour half. I'm happy to say it has some really nice tartness. It's not as sour as my Berliners but it's not too far off. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most sour, my fruit lambics are a 10, 2014 Berliners are about a 7, and this sour saison is a solid 6. I decided to go ahead and rack this beer to a keg to force carb. I'll probably go ahead and bottle from the keg after it's carb'd.

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Sour IPA #1

>> Monday, June 09, 2014

I did another late night brew session last Wednesday night. This time I made an experimental beer inspired by Red Swingline IPA Primitif from Trinity Brewing. I got a chance to try this beer at The Rackhouse Pub's All Colorado Rare Beer Tasting last year. If you get a chance to try any of their beers, do it...especially the sour/wild beers. There isn't a ton of information about this beer, but their website describes it as follows:


Red Swingline, IPA Primitif. DRAFT Magazine's Top 25 Beers in the World for 2013! A wild and sour session IPA. Brewed with three heavily fruity hops, coriander, and tangerine zest the profile is definitely American in focus. Aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with souring Lactobacillus, funky Brettanomyces yeast, and dry-hopped in each individual barrel. This beer is a definite wow moment. 4.1% ABV; pH 3.6; 100 IBUs; rare.

When I found out they were claiming 100 IBU's on this beer, I had to call BS. I didn't detect hardly any bitterness and bitterness can really clash with tartness.

I found out a little bit more about their process from tidbits of info from various blogs and interviews. Trinity performs a sour mash, so they aren't relying on lactobacillus for souring during fermentation. After the mash it is boiled with hop additions that result in reported IBU level of 100. The sourness doesn't boil out, so they're left with a soured and highly hopped beer straight from the kettle. After fermentation the beer ages in French Chardonnay barrels for eight months. I think a lot of the bitterness ages out in the barrel. At some point, they dry hop the crap out of this beer with Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo. The result is an amazing beer for sour beer lovers at hop heads.

EDIT: To my surprise, I recently got an email from Jason Yester, Captain of the Pirate Ship at Trinity Brewing. He assured me this is a 100IBU beer. He also sent me a recipe that I hope to brew soon that should yield results closer to Swingline than this first attempt was. Props to Jason for being such a cool guy and being willing to share his knowledge and expertise.

So right up front I'll say this recipe isn't intended to be a clone and I don't expect it to turn out exactly the same as Red Swingline but I'm hoping for something drinkable and reminiscent of Red Swingline..

I'm using a similar process as my Berliner, so I'll ferment with lacto for a few days to get the sourness level I want. That means the IBU level has to stay low; lacto doesn't like IBU levels much above 6, so there are no hop additions prior to 1 minute left in the boil. I'm also incorporating hop stands at sub-isomerization temps, trying to extract flavor and aroma without bitterness. Here's the recipe and process as I tried it on my first attempt at making this beer. I had to change a couple things from what I'd planned. For example, my local grocery store didn't have tangerines, so I went with navel orange zest.

7.5 # Muntons Pearl Malt
8.0 oz Briess Crystal 20
8.0 oz Crisp Extra Light Crystal
8.0 oz Briess Carapils
7.0g Coriander (5 min)
Zest from 2 navel oranges (5min)
0.5t Yeast Nutrient
14g Mosaic (1 min)
7g Columbus (1 min)


1st hop stand at 165F for 30 min
7g Citra (60 min hop stand)
14g Amarillo (60 min hop stand)
28.3g Cascade (60 min hop stand)
7g Mosaic (60 min hop stand)

2nd hop stand at 140F for 30 min
14g Citra (30 min hop stand)
14g Mosaic (30 min hop stand)

Dry hop
28g Citra
28g Mosaic
28g Amarillo

Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus 
Gigayeast GY054 Vermont IPA

Mash at 152F. Perform hop stands as indicated. Ferment at 68F.  Pitch lacto at least four days and up to seven days before pitching yeast.

Update 6/9/2014
Brew day was fine on this batch, no real issues. I forgot to mention above, but you do not want to aerate this beer...just chill and pitch. Judging by the way the lacto took off, my IBU level is definitely low.

Update 6/12/2014
I pitched the Vermont IPA yeast today. Cracking open the fermenter, I was greeted with the aroma of hops and pleasant acidity. Once primary wraps up I'll dry hop it.

Update 6/15/2014
I pulled a sample today. The gravity is down to 1.007 and it has an amazing peach aroma. The tartness is there but it's a little more subdued than I'd hoped; It's probably perfect for people that don't like a really intense tartness. I'm going to cold crash it and try to get the yeast to drop out, then I'll dry hop for a few days.

Update 6/23/2014
Dry hops went in today. I also decided to add an ounce of medium toast American oak that had been soaking in Pinot noir for the past few months. I'm hoping the oak will add some complexity since it didn't turn out as sour as I wanted. 

Update 9/16/2014
Even though this beer didn't turn out as planned, it is a pretty nice beer. It has great hop flavor and aroma and the combination of hops work really well together. I decided to enter it in the 2014 Bier Brauen competition and it took second place in category 23 Specialty Beer. Granted, this is a lot smaller comp than NHC or Beehive Brew-off, but it's still nice to have it be recognized. I haven't gotten my scoresheets back yet but I'm interested to read the comments. 

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Flashy Topper IPA

>> Friday, May 16, 2014

I just wrapped up a rare Friday night brew session. This recipe is mostly based on Green Flash's West Coast IPA, but I'm using Gigayeast's Vermont IPA yeast which is the same yeast that's used in Heady Topper. I also did a hop stand for this beer, something I experimented with last year but decided it was time to revisit now that I have my whirlpool setup.

This is the first time using a Hopshot. I helped out a friend from my brew club with programming his BCS460, and he gave me a HopShot to try out. They're used the same as hops, you just don't get any of the vegetative matter.

The recipe is as follows:
10.0 # Rahr Pale 2-row
0.93 # Crystal 40
0.93 # CaraPils
5ml Hopshot (90min)
14g Simcoe (30 min)
7g Columbus (30 min)
21g Simcoe (15 min)
21g Columbus (15 min)
28.3g Cascade (10 min)
14g Simcoe (Whirlpool)
14g Columbus (Whirlpool)
1/2 Whirlfloc
1/2t Yeast Nutrient
Hopstand #1 @ 190F for 5 min - some isomerization still takes place
Hopstand #2 @ 165F for 30 min - sub-isomerization range
Hopstand #3 @ 140F for 30 min - tepid range
1 package Gigayeast Vermont IPA, no starter

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 61F ramping up to 65F

Dry Hops
14g Columbus
14g Simcoe
14g Amarillo
14g Cascade
14g Centennial


Update 5/18/2014
Fermentation took a bit longer to get going than I expected. Usually I'll see signs of fermentation in eight hours or less, but this one took closer to 24 hours. I know the cell count is a lot higher in Gigayeast packs and you're supposed to be able direct pitch without a starter, but I think next time I'll opt to make a starter anyway.

Update 5/28/14
I dumped the yeast today, added the dry hops, and bumped the temp up to 68F today. I'm hoping to keg this weekend.

Update 6/2/14
I kegged this beer last night and it smelled amazing. Hopefully it tastes as good as it smells once it's carb'd up.

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Big Brew Day 2014 -Berliner Weisse 2014

>> Friday, May 02, 2014

The first Saturday in May is always National Homebrew Day/Big Brew Day and for the third year in a row we're hosting a brew session. This year two of my friends will be brewing as well; one an all-grain 5 gallon batch, and one an all-grain 1 gallon batch. For me, I decided to do a 10 gallon batch of a Berliner Weisse inspired beer. The Berliner I made last year was one of my favorite beers I've ever made. This year will be similar to last year's, lacto gets a head start before pitching yeast. I'm using two different yeast blends this year; half will get White Labs American Farmhouse Blend and half will get a blend I grew up from Jolly Pumpkin La Roja dregs. Both contain some sach (assuming some survived in the La Roja dregs) and brett. The La Roja likely also contains lacto and maybe some pedio.

The recipe is basically the same as last time except scaled up for 10 gallons. I did increase the amount of grain a bit to increase the gravity. Process is more or less the same as well. I'll be using a short-boil (15 min) method and the following process:

  1. I'll be using 1/2 carbon filtered tap water and 1/2 RO water. This should help prevent any weird mineral/lactic acid flavors.
  2. Seven days prior to brew day, add one packet of Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus to 1L of 1.020 starter wort. Do not aerate! No stir plate! In fact, if possible, purge your starter container with CO2. Keep warm, preferably between 80-90F for a week.
  3. On brew day after cooling wort, pitch  the 5335 starter and allow it to ferment for one week at 68F. Again, do not aerate!
  4. After one week, add White Labs WLP670 to half and La Roja blend to the other half. Continue to ferment at 68F until finished.
Recipe

8.0 # Belgian Pilsner Malt
7.0 # Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
1.0 # Rice Hulls 
2.0 oz Aged Debittered Hops (Mash hops, 0.0 IBU's)
1 package Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus
1 package WLP670 American Farmhouse
1 La Roja dregs culture

Mash at 150F for 90 minutes. Mashout at 168F. 
Collect 10.5 gallons and boil for 15 min. Chill to 68F and pitch 5335. Ferment at 68F for 7 days before pitching WLP670/La Roja dregs

Update 5/12/2014
My wife and I were out of town for the weekend so I pitched the yeast blends a couple of days early on 5/8/2014. I think that was still plenty of time to get some good tartness.

Update 5/28/2014
Both beers are progressing nicely. The American Farmhouse version has a smallish pellicle while the JP version has a pretty mean and nasty looking one. Both have a noticeable acidic aroma. Both have also dropped pretty clear. I'll probably pull some samples this weekend and see where we're at.

Update 6/2/2014
I ran out of time and didn't get either version kegged this weekend. I'm going to give it a try sometime thes week.  

Update 6/24/2014
I got the JP version bottled last night. The  American Farmhouse version was bottled over a week ago. I had originally planned on kegging these but I didn't have any kegs available and I needed to free up the fermenters.

Update 7/7/2014
We cracked open a bottle of each of these for our Independence Day gathering. I'm really happy with the way both of these have turned out. The Farmhouse Blend version is more of a lemony tartness while the JP version is more of a cherry tartness. The JP version also has a bit more brett character, at least right now. 

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Barn Dance Pale Ale Re-Brew

>> Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today I'm re-brewing my Barn Dance Pale Ale. I really liked how the first attempt turned out and judging by how fast it disappeared, so did my friends. I'm not changing much, but I am doubling the quantity of the late hop additions to try to get even more hoppy goodness out of the Amarillo and Chinook hops.


Here's the recipe as I'm making it for version 1.1:

5.25# Rahr Pale Malt - 68.3 % 
12.0 oz Briess Caramel Malt - 10L - 9.8 % 
12.0 oz Crisp Maris Otter - 9.8 % 
9.0 oz Briess Cara-Pils/Dextrine - 7.3 % 
6.0 oz Simpsons Golden Naked Oats - 4.9 % 
20.0 g Columbus - Boil 20 min
46.0 g Amarillo - Boil 5 min
23.0 g Chinook - Boil 5 min
1/2t Yeast Nutrient - 5 min
1/2 Whirlfloc - 5 min
1.0 pkg White Labs San Diego Super Yeast WLP090 in 1L starter
46.0 g Amarillo - Dry hop 
23.0 g Cascade - Dry hop

Mash at 151F for 60 min. 90 min boil. Ferment at 65F.

Brewing Notes
Slight process change, I went with a hop sack to try to contain the hop debris. Also, I added a couple 3/8" standoffs to my burner. I was having a problem venting exhaust gases during the boil if the burner was set too high resulting in some soot. This time no soot and the CO detector stayed at 0 through the whole brew session. I might bump up the dry hop additions on this as well.

Update 4/21/14
Just added the dry hops for this brew. I'm loving WLP090.

Update 4/24/14
Here's a short clip of the whirlpool in action. The flow was much better with the hop sack compared to the scrubby over the pickup tube.



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American Amber 2014

>> Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today I brewed an American Amber. This recipe is based on the one from the CYBI episode for AVBC Boont Amber. The BJCP guidelines describe this style as, "Like an American pale ale with more body, more caramel richness, and a balance more towards malt than hops (although hop rates can be significant)." This is a good "gateway craft beer" that can be appreciated by just about anyone. Here's the recipe as I made it.

8 # Rahr Pale Malt (2 Row)
1 # Briess Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L
1 # Briess Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L
7.00 g Magnum - Boil 90.0 min
5.00 g Horizon - Boil 60.0 min
7.00 g Palisade - Boil 20.0 min
62.00 g Cascade - Hopback
English Ale (White Labs #WLP002)
1/2t Wyeast yeast nutrient
1/2 Whirlfloc

Mash at 152F. 90 minute boil. Ferment at 65F and allow to rise to 68F.

Brewing Notes
No real issues on this brew. The gravity came in at about 14.4P (1.058).


Update 4/30/14
I put this on tap a little while ago. Good beer but next time I think I'll try to increase the all around hop profile a bit. I'd prefer a few more IBU's as well as more flavor and aroma hops.

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Canadian Bacon

>> Sunday, March 09, 2014

Today I fired up the smoker and made some homemade Canadian Bacon. This is my second time making this recipe. The first time I picked up the wrong kind of pork loin; they were really small so I had to tie two together in order to increase the diameter. It worked out but didn't slice up as nicely as it would have if it was one piece of larger diameter loin. Regardless, I made my wife a birthday breakfast of Eggs Benedict with the homemade Canadian Bacon and homemade hollandaise sauce. Not to toot my own horn, but it was pretty awesome. I also used some in sandwiches and such.


This recipe is based on one found in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. Like a lot of the recipes in the book, this is really simple and yields excellent results. Not everything homemade is better than store bought, but in my opinion this Canadian bacon is heads and shoulders above what you'll find in your local deli.

For the Canadian bacon, you need one 4-5 pound pork loin. The pork loin was brined for about 48 hours then hot-smoked until it reached an internal temp of 150F. The recipe for the brine is as follows:

1.0 gallon water
350 grams Kosher salt
225 grams sugar
42 grams pink salt (Prague powder #1)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh sage
2 cloves garlic

Combine all brine ingredients in a stockpot. Bring to a simmer and stir until salt and sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temp then chill. Once chilled, add the pork loin (with a plate to keep it submerged) and allow it to brine in the fridge for 48 hours. 

After 48 hours, remove the loin from the brine and rinse well with cold water. Pat dry then place on a wire rack in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 12 hours. This forms a pellicle on the outside of the loin and helps improve the smoking process. Take the loin out of the fridge and allow it to warm to room temp while you get your smoker ready.

As for smoking wood, it really comes down to personal taste. For both batches, I used a blend of hickory, oak, and cherry and really liked the results. That's really about all there is to it. Like I said before, it's pretty simple but very tasty.

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Witbier 2014

>> Sunday, March 02, 2014

It's been a while since I've done a Witbier. Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue is one of my wife's favorite summertime beers. Not to rub it in for those in the Midwest that are dealing with another polar vortex, but the weather in Utah has been pretty nice the past week. Today it's 54F but a couple days ago it was up in the mid-60's. Given the nicer weather, I've started thinking about warm weather beers. Witbiers are refreshing with their citrus and spice notes so they're a great choice as the weather warms.

This recipe is based on the one from Brewing Classic Styles. I'm using Wyeast's Canadian/Belgian Ale Yeast which is the yeast from Unibroue.

5.0 # Dingmans Pilsner
4.125 # Flaked Wheat
1.0 # Rolled Oats
0.25 # Weyerman Munich I
Rice hulls as necessary
40.0g Hallertauer  (60 min)
1.0g Dry Chamomile Flowers (5 min)
12.8g Coriander (5 min)
21.0g Bitter Orange Peel  (5 min)
21.0g Sweet Orange Peel (5 min)
Wyeast 3864 Canadian/Belgian Ale

Mash at 122F for 15 min. Mash at 154F for 60 min. 90 min boil. Ferment at 68F.

Brewing Notes
This is the first batch using my new whirlpool setup. Everything went well but the flow was a little lower than I'd hoped. The hop/trub filter was relatively clean, so I think the bottleneck was the pickup tube. I'm going to try using a hop sack on the next brew and run the pickup tube without a scrubby. Everything else went fine for this brew session and the fermenter was happily bubbling away the next morning.

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Whirlpooling

>> Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pickup (lower) and whirlpool (upper) ports
I read Jamil Z's article about whirlpool chilling years ago and it sounded pretty intriguing. The basic idea is to use a pump to recirculate your wort thus forming a whirlpool in your boil kettle. The whirlpool motion increases the amount of wort in contact with the immersion chiller coils resulting in a more efficient chilling process. At one point I tried to update my immersion chiller similar to Jamil's design, but my attempt was a bit kludgey and I soon abandoned it. Even though my first attempt didn't really work out, I figured I'd revisit at some point in the future when I had a chance to work out a better design.

Jamil's article focuses on immersion chillers, but he also mentions that you can recirculate through a plate chiller and accomplish similar results (bulk chilling). One benefit is you're able to chill quickly and get the entire batch out of the range in which DMS precursors can be an issue. Another benefit, the whirlpool motion aids in building that nice hop/trub cone in the center of your boil kettle. In theory, I should also be able to leave more cold break behind in the BK. Another benefit for me is I have a thermometer on my BK so I'll be able to chill to pitching temps whereas in the past I'd sometimes over-chill in the winter when ground water temps were lower. This can also come in handy when performing hop stands where you want to chill a little bit, then hold at a desired temperature before chilling completely.

So those are all the benefits. There are a couple possible complications from using this method. First is you want to make sure you have the ability to filter out hop debris that would otherwise clog your precious plate chiller. A hop bag, hop spider, inline filter, or a combination of these can be used to accomplish this. Secondly, it's important that the positioning of the whirlpool return is correct. You want to create a whirlpool, but avoid stirring up debris. Lastly, the chances of clogging something (chiller, filter, etc.) will be higher with recipes that call for more hops (especially pellet hops), so I may have to throttle back the flow a bit until a whirlpool is established.

As for my implementation, I recently upgraded from an 8 gallon kettle to a 15.5 gallon keggle. In order to be able to whirlpool, I added another ball valve above the pickup tube's ball valve. The port was added at the four gallon mark so that it will function regardless of whether I'm brewing a five or ten gallon batch. On the inside of the keggle there's a 90 degree street fitting that is positioned horizontally to create the whirlpool motion. The chilling circuit flows from keggle to pump to hop/trub filter to plate chiller then back to keggle via the whirlpool port.

I haven't brewed a batch since finishing this upgrade, but I did a test a couple days ago with water. I was able to knock the temp from boiling to 78-ish degrees in about six minutes. I'm hoping to brew this coming weekend, so I'll report back on how it all goes.



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Lambic #2

>> Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sour beer time again! I recently split Lambic #1 in two and racked half onto red raspberries and half onto dark tart cherries. I figured it was time to start the next batch of lambic-style beer. I say lambic-style beer because there are some purists that don't believe a lambic is a lambic unless it's brewed the old world way (e.g. turbid mash, spontaneous fermentation, etc.). Personally, I don't subscribe to this line of reasoning. Processes, techniques, and raw materials change and evolve over time and I don't think it's that big of a deal to call it a lambic if the goal and the end result are consistent with the style. But what do I know, I'm one of those guys that eats their Chinese food with a fork.

Ok, back on topic. I also recently acquired a used Sanke keg that I converted to a keggle. It's more or less the standard conversion including a jig used to cut a circular opening in the top. I went with a ball valve and a combination sight glass and thermometer setup. This will be the inaugural batch on this new keggle and will also be my first time doing a 10 gallon batch. I know a lot of homebrewers start out doing 5 gallon sized batches then move on to 10 gallon or even larger sized batches. For me, 5 gallons is just about perfect; I have quite a bit on hand, but the kegs usually run dry right about the time I'm ready for a new style.  So I still plan to mostly brew 5 gallon batches, but it's nice to have the option of doing 10 gallons, especially for sours since they take so long to mature.

Today's recipe is similar to batch #1 but I'm playing around with the grain ratios a bit and I'm replacing a portion of the flaked wheat with wheat malt. As for yeast, I'm re-pitching the Roeselare cake from batch #1 along with a pack of Belgian Lambic Blend (Wyeast 3278). According to what I've read, 3278 doesn't contain a sach strain. Roeselare does when fresh, but since this is a re-pitch of the cake from batch #1 there probably aren't any viable sach cells left.

The mash schedule and fermentation temps will be the same as batch #1. As with most of my sours, I'm using aged debittered hops. Here's the recipe as I'm planning to make it:

7.0# Rahr Pale Malt
5.0# Dingemans Pilsner Malt
5.0# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
5.0# Flaked Wheat
1.0#-ish Rice Hulls
6.0 oz Aged Hops (90 minutes)
1t Yeast Nutrient
Roeselare cake blended with fresh Wyeast 3278

Dough in at 113F for 15 min. Raise temp to 122F for 15 minutes. Raise temp to 149F for 45 minutes. Raise to 158F for 30 minutes. Mash out at 169F.

Ferment at 68F for 12+ months.

Brewing Notes
The brew session went well. I got started a little later than usual which means I finished up later than usual. I did a test boil last night to make sure there weren't any issues with the new keggle.  There weren't except for a little bit of soot...and carbon monoxide when the gas was turned up too high. CO levels never got very high, but it was above zero. I tend to get higher readings just from parking the car in the garage. I believe the issue is the combustion gasses weren't properly venting resulting in incomplete combustion. To remedy this, I drilled a few holes in the skirt. This seemed to help so I'll keep an eye on it and may end up drilling a few more holes.

One other thing, I usually gravity drain the mash into the BK then lift the BK onto the burner. That's not an issue with 5 gallon batches, but 10 gallon batches with a pre-boil volume greater than 12 gallons is a bit of a back breaker. Fortunately my daughter is pretty strong so the two of us were able to lift it up onto the burner. I'll need to figure out a different method in the future.

Update 2/10/2014
I checked the fermenters this morning and there was zero activity. I came home from work this evening and it was like dueling airlocks. Fermentation has taken off like crazy.


Update 2/14/2014
Both carboys are still fairly active (about one bubble every 4-5 seconds)  but the krausen has dropped. Krausen had started pushing up through the airlock about 20 minutes after the above video was taken. I ended up switching out the airlocks for blowoff hoses but it's low enough now that I'm able to re-install the airlocks. The aroma coming out of the airlocks is slightly sour with some sulfur notes.

Update 6/24/2014
Not really an update with the beer, but my tart cherry tree has a nice amount of fruit on it this year. This is only the second year bearing fruit. Last year I got about a dozen cherries. Here's a pic of this morning's harvest. These will likely go into a portion of the lambic #2.
Update 7/2/2014
I've harvested almost all the tart cherries and I'm up to 13.5 pounds. Not bad at all for a second year harvest.

Update 6/2/2015
I pulled a sample from half the batch last night (the half that didn't go into the fermenter. I have to say I was a little disappointed. The tartness level was much lower than I expected and the body seemed a little thin. I may have to do some tinkering with this one.

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Bacon Part 2

>> Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's been a while since I've made my own bacon. I picked up a Cabela's meat slicer over the holidays which gave me the excuse to make up a batch. I made two styles; the first is a basic bacon with brown sugar and the second is an Asian-inspired bacon based on the one featured in Chop and Brew episode #2.

Both recipes use the Basic Cure which consists of 1# kosher salt, 8 ounces sugar, and 2 ounces pink salt (Prague powder #1).

Brown Sugar Bacon
The brown sugar bacon recipe is pretty straightforward. The pork bellies I used were about 1.5 pounds each; kind of on the small side, but that's how they come from my local Asian market.

1/8 cup basic cure
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix basic cure and brown sugar then coat the pork belly. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge and allow it to cure for seven days. It is also a good idea to flip it once a day to ensure the resulting brine is evenly distributed. After 7 days, smoke the bacon (see below).

Asian Bacon
The Asian bacon was marinated/brined for two days then had the basic cure applied for the remaining five days. This one also used a 1.5# belly.

1 quart water
1 c soy sauce
1 c hoisin sauce
1/2 c brown sugar
1 star anise, crushed
4 cloves garlic
1/2 T ground ginger
1/2 T Sriracha sauce
1/8 c basic cure (after brining)

Combine everything but the 1/8 cup basic cure. Brine/marinate the pork belly for 2 days. After two days, remove the belly from the brine and rinse with cold water. Pat dry then apply the basic rub, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for the remaining five days. Same as the brown sugar bacon, remember to flip it daily.

Smoking the Bacon
The first time I tried making bacon, I only cold-smoked it. There's nothing wrong with cold-smoking, but in my opinion it needs to be followed up with hot-smoking to end up with a product that tastes like bacon. I'm not sure exactly what happens, but something definitely happens during the hot-smoking process. If you only cold-smoke you, end up with a weird tasting pork product. For mine, I cold-smoke for about 8-10 hours. then follow it up with a hot smoke (225F) until it reaches an internal temp of 160F.

Before smoking the bacon, unwrap it and rinse well with cold water. This removes excess cure ensuring the final product isn't too salty. Pat dry and place it on a cooling rack and allow it to come to room temp. At this point I cold-smoked mine for about 10 hours.

Right before hot-smoking, I rubbed the brown sugar bacon with more brown sugar. The Asian bacon was rubbed with a combination of brown sugar and red pepper flakes. I cold-smoked with hickory and hot-smoked with a blend of hickory, oak, and cherry.

After hot-smoking, it is time to remove the skin; you can usually pull the skin off as soon as it's cool enough to handle. 

Once cooled, wrap with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to condition for a few days. The conditioning stage isn't absolutely necessary, but I think it allows the smokey character to mellow and penetrate the meat better.

Slicing the Bacon
A meat slicer is the easiest way to slice bacon and will result in the most uniform slices. If you don't have access to one you can still get good results with a good sharp knife. You probably won't be able to get it super thin, but you can get it to about 1/8". In both cases it seems to help if you partially freeze the bacon first. You don't want it to be frozen solid, but it's easier to slice if it's somewhat firm from a good chilling. Slice it to your desired thickness then cook it up in a hot pan and enjoy!

Tasting Notes
Both of the recipes turned out really well. They were eaten up before I even had a chance to snap a picture of the cooked bacon.

As I would expect, the brown sugar version had a noticeable sweetness. It was along the lines of what most people would think of as traditional breakfast bacon, but definitely better than store- bought. We served it with some hashbrowns and eggs and it was scarfed down quickly.

The Asian version was less sweet and preferred by my wife and two older daughters. The marinade flavors were there, but they were subtle. I think I'd leave it in the marinade at least a day longer next time and also increase the star anise and ginger a bit. This one smelled similar to pho soup when it was cooking. We fried it up, chopped it and served it on Chinese chicken salad with manderine oranges.

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Barn Dance Pale Ale

>> Sunday, January 05, 2014

Today I'm brewing a recipe I came up with that should result in a nice hop-focused session style pale ale. This recipe includes several of my favorite hop varieties, one of which is probably my absolute favorite, Amarillo. I'm hoping to get lots of hop flavor and aroma out of this beer with the bitterness being towards the lower end for the style.


I don't think I've ever used the San Diego Super Yeast strain before. My understanding is this is the one used by Stone Brewing in most of their beers. It's supposed to be similar to WLP001; basically a fast and clean fermenting yeast.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it for version 1.0:

5.25# Rahr Pale Malt - 68.3 % 
12.0 oz Briess Caramel Malt - 10L - 9.8 % 
12.0 oz Crisp Maris Otter - 9.8 % 
9.0 oz Briess Cara-Pils/Dextrine - 7.3 % 
6.0 oz Simpsons Golden Naked Oats - 4.9 % 
20.0 g Columbus - Boil 20 min
23.0 g Amarillo - Boil 5 min
11.5 g Chinook - Boil 5 min
1/2t Yeast Nutrient - 5 min
1/2 Whirlfloc - 5 min
1.0 pkg White Labs San Diego Super Yeast WLP090 in 1L starter
46.0 g Amarillo - Dry hop 
23.0 g Cascade - Dry hop

Target OG: 1.046
IBU's: 33.8

Mash at 151F for 60 min. 90 min boil. Ferment at 65F.

Brewing Notes
No real issues to speak of. My gravity came in a tad low at 1.045.

Update 1/10/2014
Gravity has dropped to 1.006...this yeast really is fast. Dry hops were added today. I'll probably pull a sample in a few days and see how it's coming along.

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