Rauchbier 2012

>> Monday, December 24, 2012

Any fellow brewers reading through my posts would quickly realize I tend to brew more ales than lagers. For those not familiar with the difference, ale yeast is a top-fermenting yeast that tends to work best at warmer temperatures, whereas lager yeast is a bottom-fermenting yeast that tends to work better at cooler temperatures. Ale yeast tend to contribute more flavor to the finished beer (e.g. esters) whereas lager yeast generally contribute less flavor resulting in a "cleaner" fermentation. Because of the cooler temperatures, lagers ferment slower than a typical ale so they can tie up your equipment a little longer. They also require bigger starters for a healthy clean fermentation, so they can cost a little more to make. That said, I do enjoy a lot of lager styles and particularly the one I'm brewing today, a Rauchbier.

Rauchbiers are similar to Marzen/Oktoberfest beers, so they tend to be malt focused. The major difference is Rauchbiers use smoked grains and the smokiness carries through to the finished product which can be good or bad depending on how much you like or dislike smoked foods.

I've brewed two Rauchbiers in the past, the first of which was fantastic but the second one suffered from a horrible case of chlorophenols. Chlorophenols can manifest themselves as band-aid-like flavors and aromas. They don't age out and humans are pretty good at detecting them even at very low levels. There can be various causes but chlorine in the brew water is a common one especially when paired with smoked grains which are phenolic by nature. If you plan to brew this style it can't be stressed enough, you need to treat your brew water to remove chlorine. There's nothing worse than finding out after 6+ weeks of nursing this thing along that you've ended up with band-aid beer. Carbon water filters, pre-boiling your brew water, and Campden tablets are a few ways to remove chlorine. It's pretty easy to prevent so just take the time to do it.

This recipe is loosely based on the Rauch Me Gently recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I've adjusted the grain bill slightly to adjust for my efficiency (typically around 85%) as well as availability of grain from my LHBS. I was planning on using Weyermann Rauchmalt but the LHBS was out so I went with Cherry Wood Smoked Malt from Briess. In my experience this malt imparts a lot more smoke flavor than Weyermann's beechwood smoked malt, so I'm only using 1.8 pounds. I also cold-smoked 2.8 pounds of Weyermann Pilsner malt over hickory that I'll be using in this recipe.

4.2 # Weyermann Pilsner
1.8 # Briess Cherry Wood Smoked Malt
2.8 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt (home-smoked with hickory)
1.5 # Weyermann Munich II Malt
0.625 # Weyermann Cara Munich III Malt
0.2 # Weyermann Melanoidin Malt
1.7 oz Briess Black Patent Malt
1.5 oz Hallertau (60 minutes)
0.5 oz Hallertau (10 minutes)
(2 packs) Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager in a 1.57 liter starter
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes. 90 Minute boil.

Ferment at 50F. This yeast is known to produce a bit of diacetyl, so it's best to perform a diacetyl rest after primary fermentation is complete to allow the yeast to clean up after themselves. To do this, raise the temperature from 50F to about 60F for 1-2 days. After the diacetyl rest, lower the temp to 40F for the lagering period. Allow it to lager for at least 4 weeks before bottling/serving.

Brewing Notes
No notable issues on this brew day. Color is a beautiful reddish amber. It started snowing around noon which made me really thankful for the ability to brew in the garage. The ground water temps have dropped to the high 40's, so I was able to chill the batch down to about 59F pretty quickly. A couple hours in my ferm chamber and the wort was down to pitching temp of 50F. I tasted a small sample and it's got a noticeable but smooth smokey character that seems very balanced with the malt profile. I can't wait for this one to be ready. Efficiency was about 83%. This seems to be about where I've settled in +/- 1%. That's with using a .045" gap on my grain mill.

Update 12/26/2012
I've got a couple inches of krausen this morning so things are progressing nicely. It's also worth mentioning, this brew may not quite fit the BJCP guidelines for a Classic Rauchbier since it uses a blend of cherry and hickory smoked malt rather than beechwood smoked malt. When smoking meat, different woods will create different flavors in the meat so I'd expect the same with smoked malt. Case in point, peat smoked malt should be used in very small quantities as it can result in a very harsh smokey character. On the other hand, some rauchbiers are made with up to 100% beechwood smoked malt. Despite the fact that this recipe doesn't use beechwood smoked malt, I think it will still be close enough to enter as a Classic Rauchbier in a BJCP-sanctioned event.

Update 1/3/2013
Fermentation seemed to be slowing so I checked the gravity and I was down to 1.017, so real close to finishing. I started ramping up the temp for the diacetyl rest.

Update 1/7/2013
I dialed the temp down to 40F the evening of 1/5/2013 to begin the lagering phase. A couple things surprised me with this beer. First was how quickly it fermented to terminal gravity. It just goes to show how important proper yeast pitching rates are, especially with lagers. I think this is the first time I have used two yeast packs and made a starter for a lager.

The second was the level of smokiness in this beer. The cherry smoked malt is smooth but intense. I originally bought 2.8 pounds for this recipe but scaled it back to 1.8 after eating some of it and realizing how smokey it was. The home-smoked hickory is more subtle by comparison and the combination of the two should add a level of complexity. This one is still in the fermenter but I'll probably transfer it to a keg soon for the remainder of the lagering period.

Update 2/9/2013
I put this one on tap for Superbowl Sunday and I think it turned out very well. It ended up having a much more subtle smoke character than I'd expected. It's noticeable but very smooth which may be why it seems more mellow/subtle. I'd guess it's at a level that would appeal to more drinkers than if the smoke character were more intense. 


Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine

>> Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today I'm brewing a pretty strong beer based on an English Barley Wine. I've brewed a couple beers in the 8% ABV range, but never an actual barley wine and never a bourbon flavored beer. I can't remember the brewery, but one of the best beers I had at the 2011 GABF was a Makers Mark Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine. A little while back I ordered some bourbon barrel chunks from MoreBeer so I'll be using them to add oak and bourbon flavors in this beer. Since it will be fairly high ABV, I'll be bottling it instead of kegging, and I'll probably put it in 12 oz bottles rather than 22 oz bombers. I'll see how it goes at bottling time, but I may end up fortifying this with a little extra bourbon. Oh and I decided to name it Mannish Boy Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine because I was listening to some Muddy Waters while brewing this beer. The recipe is as follows:

16 # Crisp Maris Otter
2 # Hugh Baird Carastan 35L
2.75 oz Fuggles 60 min
2.25 oz Fuggles 15 min
1.00 oz East Kent Goldings 0 min
2.00 oz Bourbon Barrel Chunks in secondary
Whitbread Ale yeast cake (from an Arrogant Bastard clone)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 155F for 60 minutes. Pull the first gallon of runnings and boil vigorously for about 45 minutes while you collect the next 6-ish gallons of wort. Return the concentrated wort to the boil kettle (along with the 6-sh gallons) and bring to a boil. Boil time is 90 minutes.

Ferment at 65F raising the temperature to 75F over a week.

Brewing Notes
The brew day went well. I was expecting a post-boil gravity of around 1.107 and ended up with 1.120. I believe this is because I forgot to set the timer when I was boiling the first runnings. I suspect I boiled for around an hour rather than the intended 45 minutes so the first runnings were more concentrated than I'd planned. I'm hoping I can get this beer to fully attenuate because with an O.G. of 1.120, I'll be pushing the limits of the yeast. I can't wait to see how this turns out. The Arrogant Bastard clone that the yeast came from had a very active fermentation; so active that I spent about an hour cleaning out the ferm chamber in preparation for this beer. This time I hooked up a blow-off tube just in case we have another extremely active fermentation.

Update 11/19/2012
So far so good, there's at least an inch of krausen this morning. I bumped the temp up about a half a degree.

Update 11/27/2012
I measured the gravity with my refractometer on 11/25. It was showing as 17.6P down from 28P. This should equate to something in the neighborhood of 1.043 and a current ABV of 10.23%. I gently roused the yeast today to try to get the gravity to drop to around 1.030. The temp in the ferm chamber is currently 74F.

Update 11/30/2012
This one is down a few more points to approx 1.039 today. I still want it to get down to at least 1.030...I know it's going to be rich and a bit sweet, but I don't want it to be syrupy. I'll let it go for a few more days then check the gravity again. I'm hoping to get it on the bourbon barrel chunks within a week or so.

Update 12/5/2012
It really seemed like this brew had stalled out at 1.039 so I added some WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale Yeast a couple days ago along with a dose of yeast nutrient. Just checked and I'm down to 1.032 (about 11.7% ABV). Hopefully within a few days we'll be below 1.030.

Update 12/23/2012
This seems to have finished just a hair above 1.030. I went ahead and added the bourbon barrel chunks today. They smelled amazing going in...lots of vanilla character. I'll probably pull a sample in a week and see how it tastes.

Update 1/7/2013
Pulled a sample today to taste and check the gravity. The bourbon barrel chunks have added some nice complexity. There's definitely some nice vanilla notes. Alcohol is noticeable and warming, but not hot. Speaking of alcohol, the gravity has fallen to around 1.019 for an ABV of 13.53%. Hop bitterness is a little lower than I was shooting for but I think this is still going to be an amazing barleywine. I picked up 375ml bottle of Maker's Mark Bourbon Whiskey to fortify this beer. I'll probably let it go about another 2-3 weeks then rack to a keg and add the bourbon to taste...probably starting with about half a cup.

Update 2/24/2013
This has been chilling in a corny keg for a while now. I pulled a sample and it's at 14.24% ABV. It has some great flavors going on...vanilla, caramel, oak...very complex. There's some residual sweetness but it's not cloying. Bitterness seems appropriate for the style as well. This is surprisingly smooth especially considering the high ABV, I was hoping to bottle this today, but the carbonation seems a bit low, so I'm going to up the pressure a bit for a few days (I'm force carbing). By the way, I went with a half a cup of Makers Mark. This seems like about the right amount because it seems to enhance the vanilla flavors but doesn't dominate the beer.

Update 3/12/2013
This went in the bottle yesterday. I'll probably age it at least for a couple months before cracking one open.


Flanders Red #3

>> Saturday, November 10, 2012

I bottled Flanders Red #1 last weekend so I figured I might as well get started on another batch. The recipe for today is based on the DewBrew Flanders Red recipe from the BYO website. I made some slight modifications with the grain bill but nothing too crazy. Same as the previous two batches, this one will use Wyeast's Roeselare; I think I found the last one in town which is good, but it's a little older than I'd prefer. I saved the yeast cake from the first Flanders and I'm going to be pitching that along with the "fresh" pack of Roeselare. I suspect there isn't much if any viable sach cells in the yeast cake, but I imagine the other strains and bugs are still alive, so we'll see what happens. My expectation is this batch is likely to sour more quickly than previous batches.

3.3125 # Crisp Maris Otter
3.3125 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
2..375 # Weyermann Vienna Malt
2.375 # Flaked Maize
0.5# Castle Special B
21 grams Aged homegrown hops (60 minutes)
Wyeast 3763 Roesalare Blend (no starter)
1.0 oz Oak cubes (French Medium Toast) soaked in a couple ounces of Cabernet Sauvignon**

**I also have the oak cubes from batch #1.  They'll be added as well but likely won't contribute any oak flavor.  They're primarily being added to help inoculate this batch with the bugs that were in batch #1.

Mash at 122F for 20 min, at 145F for 40 min, and at 162F for 40 min.  Mash out at 168F.
Boil is 90 min.  Fermentation will be done at ambient temperature in my utility room, so around 70-72F.  Normally I'd put it in my ferm chamber for a week or so then move it, but the ferm chamber currently holds an Arrogant Bastard clone.

Update 11/30/2012 - I don't know if it has something to do with the grain bill (flaked maize?) or the fact that I re-pitched the cake from Flanders #1 into this, but it seriously cloudy right now. This version is quite a bit lighter than Flanders Red's #1 and #2 so the cloudiness makes it look more orange than red. Fermentation has slowed quite a bit but there's still a layer of foam about 3/4" thick on top. It looks more like krausen than a pellicle but I suppose it could be a mix of the two. My Oud Bruin has something similar going on. I probably won't bother pulling a sample until April of 2013.

Update 1/11/2013
My beer fridge is in the utility room along with my sours, so I tend to peak in on them at least once a week. A couple weeks ago I'd noticed the krausen/pellicle had almost completely fallen and it looked like a lot of the yeast had dropped out of suspension too. The brew was looking more red and less orange. Not long after that, the krausen/pellicle rose back up along with a lot of yeast so it's back to the orange color. Here are some pics of my Oud Bruin compared to Flanders #3. They both looked very similar a couple weeks ago, but you can see here that #3 has a lot more krausen/pellicle floating on top.

Side by side comparison

Update 2/24/2013
I added 1 ounce of Cabernet soaked oak cubes today. Also the krausen has completely dropped again, even more than the Oud Bruin in the picture above. As I mentioned above, the oak cubes from batch #1 went into this brew but it was more for inoculating purposes rather than for oak flavor contribution. On a related note, I picked up another fresh pack of Roeselare yesterday as I'm planning on starting another batch within a week or so. I also ordered some hops from Hopsdirect over the weekend including some aged hops for making sours. Aged hops aren't absolutely necessary with sours, but these were cheap so I figured I might as well pick some up.
Krausen has dropped again

Update 4/6/2013
Pulled the first sample today and it's surprisingly tart given the young age. It's not as tart as #1 or #2 but it's much more tart than my Oud Bruin that's two months older than this Red. The flavor doesn't quite as complex as #1 and #2 and the color is much lighter. It's also still fairly cloudy but it should clear given more time. I'm beginning to think I might try some blending between this and the Oud Bruin. Oh, the refractometer read 9.8P today.

Update 1/7/2015
Pulled a sample today and it's come along nicely. Tartness level is very nice. There is a bit of acetic character, but I don't think it's too high. This will probably get bottled this weekend.

Update 8/9/2015
The Beehive Brew-Off wrapped up today. This beer took gold for 23B Flanders Red. Flanders Red #2 took gold last year, so I'm pretty excited #3 took it this year and I have high hopes for #4 next year.


California Trip - Craft Brew Sampling

>> Monday, October 22, 2012

The 50/50
I haven't had a chance to brew for a couple weeks so this post is a little different than most. We recently went to California for a family vacation, so I figured I'd do a quick little write-up on some of the things we were able to sample on our trip. Vacation is a great time for enjoying good food and good beer.

First up was Slater's 50/50 in Anaheim Hills. It's essentially a gourmet burger joint/craft beer sports bar. My niece waits tables here and we'd heard good things about it, so we decided to give it a try. I'm not positive, but I believe they have about a dozen+ beers on tap with the rest in the bottle.

Slater's 50/50 is known for their flagship burger, The 50/50. What makes it unique is it's made from 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. They have a few different designer burgers in addition to The 50/50 and you also have the option of designing your own custom burger. We decided to split a couple so that we could try more than one. If you go, keep in mind these burgers are huge and very filling and could easily be shared unless you're absolutely starving. We ended up splitting a 50/50 and a Peanut Butter and Jellousy between three people.

The 50/50 is topped with an egg (sunny side up), avocado mash, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo served on a white brioche bun. My two younger kids had sliders made with the 50/50 patties and didn't care for them as much as the grown-ups. It has a different texture than a 100% beef patty, and I think that's probably what turned the younger ones off. The 50/50 patty is really good and the combination of beef and bacon definitely add complexity...kind of like peeling back the different layers on a complex beer. The burger was cooked beautifully but the egg was slightly overcooked so it wasn't runny.

The Peanut Butter and Jellousy
Next up was the Peanut Butter and Jellousy burger. This is a 100% beef burger topped with thick cut bacon, creamy peanut butter, and strawberry jelly served on honey wheat bun. We ordered this one because it seemed like it was just weird enough that it had to be really good...and it didn't disappoint. Like the 50/50, the patty, bacon, peanut butter and jelly combined for some really complex flavors.  This one ended up being everybody's favorite. The addition of the crispy bacon added a texture that was missing from the 50/50. I think I may try to recreate this one at home.

I washed the burgers, fries, and dessert down with a Stone Levitation, a Magic Hat #9, an Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, all of which were fantastic. Long story short, the food was good and so was the beer. I'd definitely recommend this place if you're in the area. The only downside is it's in a strip mall and it really feels like you're in a strip mall, so the atmosphere is a little lacking. Service was good, but I could tell our waitress really didn't know a lot about beer; living in Utah I'm kind of used to that, so it wasn't a big deal to me.

Next was a brew pub in Laguna Beach named Ocean Brewing Company. It's located in a touristy area of Laguna Beach. I'd never been here before nor heard of it. I was hoping I'd stumbled across Laguna Beach's best kept brewing secret but I was a little disappointed. After sitting down I cracked open a menu that seemed to focus more on cocktails and wine than on beer...kind of odd for a place with "Brewing Company" in their name. Red Sunshine was one of their "house beers" and they claimed it was award winning but they didn't mention which awards. It arrived and was decent but not great. It had nice lacing and nice body but I suspect it was a little old because it didn't have much hop flavor/aroma (it's described as an Amber Ale). I've definitely had worse beers but I've had much better. We were meeting family later for dinner so we only ordered an appetizer. Food was like the beer, we ate it but it was so-so at best. Long story short, don't make a special trip to go here but if you're in the area it's better than going somewhere that only serves Bud/Miller/Coors.

Our last stop was Newport Beach Brewing Company. This one by far had the best atmosphere of all the places we visited. I'd never been there before but I believe I've sampled their brews at GABF. Speaking of which, several of their beers have won GABF medals. I order a flight of their beers and all were very tasty but my favorite was their Just Peachy Barrel-aged Blonde Ale. It wasn't as tart as some sours I've enjoyed (e.g Russian River Supplication), but it was very nice and the complexity really came out as it warmed up a bit. I'm usually not a fan of Blonde Ales, but the added complexity from the barrel aging was really nice on this.  No single flavor was especially dominant, but they blended well and complimented each other well. Food was great as well. I had the NBBC Patty Melt which was really tasty. It's described as an Angus patty grilled and topped with sauteed, jalapenos, onions, apple wood bacon, swiss cheese on grilled sour dough. Because of the jalapenos, it's best enjoyed by those that like spicy food. Long story short, beer, food, and atmosphere were great.

And now for some beer-porn.  Below is a variety of beers I picked up at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Newport Beach and Total Wine in Brea.  Both stores have a pretty good craft beer section including tons of beers that aren't available in Utah.

From left to right:

  • The Beast Grand Cru Ale - Avery Brewing
  • Saison du Buff - Collaboration between Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head Breweries
  • Smoked Porter with Chipolte Peppers - Stone Brewing
  • Duchesse De Bourgogne - Brouwerij Verhaeghe - Flanders Red Ale
  • Punkin Ale - Dogfish Head Brewery
  • Damnation - Russian river Brewing
  • TBA Ale - Collaboration between Bear Republic, Fat Head's, and Stone Breweries
  • Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend - Brewery Ommegang
  • Farmhouse Summer Ale - Flying Fish Brewing

From left to right:

  • Tartuffe - Herretic Brewing
  • Evil Cousin Heretic Brewing
  • Autumn Maple - The Bruery
  • Grand Cru - Rodenbach
  • Aged Pale Grand Reserve - Petrus
  • Theobroma - Dogfish Head Brewing
  • 11.11.11 Vertical Epic - Stone Brewing
  • Hope Stoopid - Lagunitas Brewing


Oud Bruin (Flanders Brown)

>> Sunday, September 16, 2012

L to R, Oud Bruin, Flanders Red #1, Flanders Red #2
I've been on a Belgian kick lately and today I'm brewing yet another, an Oud Bruin, aka Flanders Brown. This is a sour style but it is not as sharply sour as a Flanders Red. The BJCP guidelines describes it as follows:

A malty, fruity, aged, somewhat sour Belgian-style brown ale. 

The Oud Bruin is less acetic and maltier than a Flanders Red, and the fruity flavors are more malt-oriented.

An “old ale” tradition, indigenous to East Flanders, typified by the products of the Liefman brewery (now owned by Riva), which has roots back to the 1600s. Historically brewed as a “provision beer” that would develop some sourness as it aged. These beers were typically more sour than current commercial examples. While Flanders red beers are aged in oak, the brown beers are warm aged in stainless steel.

With the exception of the yeast, this recipe is based on the Oud Bruin recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I'm using White Labs Platinum Strain WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend. This yeast seems very similar to Wyeast's Roeselare Ale Blend (3763) so it'll be interesting to see how this one turns out compared to my Flanders Red. Unlike Wyeast's Roeselare, White Labs does not specifically recommend that a starter not be used. However, I'm going to assume it's best not to use a starter; the reason is the various components in the blend tend to grow at different rates and at different stages, so the proportions can get out of whack with a starter. The yeast data is as follows:

WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend (SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2012 release)
Blended culture used to produce the classic beer styles of the West Flanders region of Belgium . A proprietary blend of Saccharomyces yeasts, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus, this culture creates a more complex, dark stone fruit characteristic than WLP 655 Belgian Sour Mix.
Optimal Temp: 68-80F
Flocculation: Low-Medium
Attenuation: 80-85%+
Alcohol Tolerance: Medium-High

Like most sours, this one is going to have to age for at least 6 to 12 months, so it's going to be a while before it's ready to bottle.  The recipe as I'm making it is:

9.75 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
4.00 # Weyermann Organic Dark Munich
0.75 # Weyermann Caramunich
0.50 # Weyermann Organic Wheat Malt
0.50 # Dingemans Aromatic
0.50 # Dingemans Special B
2.0 oz Briess Black Patent
2 vials of WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend (no starter)
1.2 oz East Kent Goldings (60 min)

Mash at 152F for 60 minutes. Because of the extended fermentation period, I'll be fermenting this one in the basement utility room rather than in the fermentation chamber.  Temperatures in the utility room tend to vary a little bit throughout the year, but tend to stay in the low 70's.

Brewing Notes
No issues during this brew session. I ended up putting this into my ferm chamber at 71F. I'm going to leave it in there until the krausen falls, then I'll move it to the utility room for aging. Speaking of krausen, I checked the brew last night and there was still no sign of fermentation (approx 30 hours since pitching). I expected to have a little bit longer lag time since I didn't make a starter. I just checked this morning (9/18/2012) and I've got about two inches of krausen, so things are looking good.

Update 9/19/2012
I opened the ferm chamber this morning and it smells very funky.  It's kind of hard to describe, but it's basically the normal sach fermentation smells (yeasty, bready) combined with a very dominant funky sour smell.

Update 10/9/2012
I forgot to post another update, but right after the last update (9/19) the yeast started giving off a lot of sulfur. That's not uncommon with a lot of yeast strains, but it was definitely one of the strongest sulfur-smelling fermentations I can remember. This lasted for about three to four days then it diminished substantially. Given the long aging time, the yeast will have plenty of time to clean up after themselves so I'm not really concerned about it, but it was surprising how intense it was. One other update, this brew was moved to my utility room on 9/30 to clear up space for a Special Bitter.

Update 11/30/2012
I took a little sniff of this one today and it seems to have some very complex fruity aromas going on. It definitely doesn't smell as sour/tart as my Flanders Reds. Fermentation has slowed quite a bit but there's still a layer of foam about 3/4" thick on top. It looks more like krausen than a pellicle but I suppose it could be a mix of the two. My Flanders Red #3 has something similar going on. I'm probably going to let this go until after the first of the year before taking a sample. If it tastes half as good as it smells, it should be awesome.

Oud Bruin 2/27/13
Update 4/6/2013
I finally pulled a sample of this one today. It read 10.8P on the refractometer. The aroma is complex, malty with a hint of roast, some brett character, and some dark fruits coming through. Flavor is very similar to aroma. The tartness level is significantly lower than the both Flanders Reds #1 and #2. There's a lot of brett character in the flavor as well (reminds me of Brett brux Trois in my funky Saison). It's still pretty young but I'm hoping this one develops more tartness as it ages. I know oak isn't appropriate in an Oud Bruin but I might consider inoculating this with some oak cubes from my Flanders #2. They shouldn't add any oak character at this point but I'm hoping it'll help increase the tartness level a bit.

Update 5/27/2013
We had people over for a pre-Memorial Day BBQ yesterday and one of my friends brought a bottle of La Roja from Jolly Pumpkin. I've been a little disappointed with the tartness level so far, so we pitched the dregs from the La Roja into the Oud Bruin.

Update 7/12/2013
Took a gravity reading last night and it's down to 10.5P. Tartness level seems higher than last time but still much lower than my other sour beers; kind of like a gateway sour beer for those new to sours or those that prefer a less acidic tartness. I'm definitely picking up some dark fruit character out of this beer. I get a hint of a cinnamon-like aroma in the nose...one second it's there, and the next it's gone.

Update 3/4/2014
This beer went into a keg today. I'll be force carbing it this week then I'll fill two bottles to ship off to NHC. This one took a while but I think it's turned into a pretty good sour. The tartness level is nice and the malty complexity is much more noticeable than my Flanders Reds. I'm interested to hear what the judges have to say about it. I'll do a formal tasting myself once it's carbed.


Abbey Ale 9/2012

>> Sunday, September 02, 2012

I've been pretty busy lately and haven't had a chance to brew for the past few weeks, so I figured I'd take advantage of the long Labor Day weekend.

I've been on a Belgian kick lately so today I'm brewing an Abbey Ale. I emailed this recipe to myself a while ago and I honestly can't remember where I found it. If I remember correctly it was described as a dubbel, but when I entered it into Beersmith I found it didn't quite fit the style guidelines, so I'm just referring to it as an Abbey Ale. Here's the recipe as I'm making it today. Maris Otter isn't a typical choice for a Belgian ale, but it's my favorite base malt.

7.00 # Crisp Maris Otter Pale Malt
1.50 # Briess Dark Munich
0.25 # Briess Carapils
0.50 # Briess Crystal 80L
2.00 # Amber Candi Sugar (15 min)
0.50 oz Target (60 min)
0.27 oz Willamette (10 min)
0.27 oz Liberty (5 min)
White Labs WLP500 Trappist Ale yeast in a 1L starter
1 Whirlfloc
5.2pH Stabilizer

90 minute mash at 150F, 90 minute boil
Start off fermentation at 65F then ramp up to 72F over a few days.

Brewing Notes
The brew session went smoothly. Assuming I entered everything correctly, my efficiency was slightly higher than 90% with this batch. I ended up using a bit more hops to help balance out the increased efficiency.  I made the wort on Sunday and pitched the yeast on Monday afternoon.  This morning (Tuesday) I'm seeing a nice dense krausen.

Update 9/19/2012
This one got kegged on 9/16.  I didn't sample it before it went in the keg and I forgot to take a gravity reading so I'm not sure of the ABV.  I'll have to take a gravity reading once it's conditioned and on tap.  I do know that it smelled awesome when it was fermenting; definitely some banana aromas.  I've seen some reviews of this yeast where they indicated the flavor profile in the finished beer was less intense than expected based on the heavy banana smells coming out of the fermentation, so it'll be interesting to see how this one tastes.

Update 11/30/2012
I never got around to measuring the final gravity on this one, but I'd guestimate it's at least 7% but probably closer to 8% ABV. That said, it's very easy drinking so this is one that can really sneak up on you as a friend of mine found out when I took some to a Halloween party last month. It's got some great Belgian character, very fruity from the ester profile, and a beautiful copper/amber color. I'll definitely brew this one again but I might cut down on the grain bill slightly to try to reduce the ABV a bit.


My 2012 Beehive Brew-off Results

>> Sunday, August 19, 2012

This weekend was the 4th Annual Beehive Brew-off.  I volunteered to steward both days and it was a great experience and it was really cool to see what happens behind the scenes of an event like this.  Thanks go out to all the judges and other stewards.  Special thanks go out to Jamie Burnham and Mark and Kileen Alston for their support of such a great event.  There were almost 600 entries this year, nearly twice the number of the inaugural event!

I had eight entries this year.  Before the competition I ranked them from strongest to weakest based on my own observations as follows:
  1. Tie between Saison 05/2012 entered as a Saison (16C) and Funky Saison 06/2012 entered as a Belgian Specialty (16E)
  2. Smoked Porter entered as a Robust Porter (12B)
  3. English Special Bitter (8B)
  4. Bucksnort Brown entered as an American Brown (10C)
  5. Sloppy Seconds IPA entered as an English IPA (14A) 
  6. Jack's Punkin' entered as a Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer (21B)   
  7. Sweet Stout (13B) 
I didn't place on any of my entries which I'm a little bummed about, but still did pretty well for the most part.  Here the judges' scores in red, an overview of the judges' comments in grey, followed by my comments in blue.

Scoring Guide
Outstanding - (45 - 50) - World-class example of style.
Excellent - (38 - 44) - Exemplifies style well, requires minor fine-tuning.
Very Good - (30 - 37) - Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.
Good - (21 - 29) - Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws.
Fair - (14 - 20) - Off flavors, aromas or major style deficiencies. Unpleasant.
Problematic - (0 - 13) - Major off flavors and aromas dominate. Hard to drink.
  • Saison 05/2012 - 39, 38; Nice subtle spiciness, highly carbonated, slight tart, finishes balanced, finishes dry and refreshing, very very carbonated.  I'm pretty happy with this score and the comments. The only thing I'm a little confused by was the carbonation comments since this is supposed to be a highly carbonated style.  I plan to let this one age and enter it again next year.  
  • Funky Saison 06/2012 - 43, 39; Great brett character, aged appropriately, spices blend well.  I really liked this one and I'm happy with how well it did especially considering how young it is for a brett beer and for a Saison.   I plan to let this one age and enter it again next year.
  • Smoked Porter - 43,43; Really good robust porter,a little dark but other than that it is spot on, I finished it.  I really liked this beer as well.  I was a little surprised that it scored so high but still didn't place.  I thought it was good but I still think both the Saisons are better.  It's a Smoked Porter, but most of the smoke character was subtle to begin with and had dissipated since it was brewed, so it was too subtle to enter as a Smoked Beer. 
  • English Special Bitter -30, 33; I really like this beer, but it doesn't have the bitterness or the hop flavor to match the style.  You may have entered it in the wrong category as Extra Special Bitter.  I agree with the first comment on this one, but I'm surprised it didn't score a little bit higher.  My efficiency was higher than expected on this brew and it could have used more hops to balance out for the higher efficiency.  Also it was a little older so it has lost bitterness since being brewed.  The base malt is Maris Otter which results in a very malt-forward beer so that could be contributing as well.  It would probably be a better idea to enter a younger beer before the hop profile is diminished.  The second comment kind of pisses me off because I didn't enter it as an Extra Special Bitter, I entered it as a Special Bitter.  Regardless, I think the comments are fair.  
  • Bucksnort Brown - 35, 33; This is a good flavored beer with a couple of flaws.  Look at exposure to oxygen during mashing and transfer.  Full fill, a little too high.  This is the brew we did for our Big Brew Day.  I didn't care for this one too much right after it was kegged when it was a bit green, but I really like it now.  Both judges made comments indicating it was oxidized.  I didn't detect this at all when I had it on tap, so I wonder if it could have happened when bottling from the keg. I usually use oxygen absorbing caps, but I ran out and I think this beer got a regular cap.  The comment about the fill is a little odd...I use a bottling wand or my counter-pressure filler on all of my beers, so the fill is pretty much identical.  All of the other judges on my other entries said the fills where appropriate, so I'm not quite sure what the judge was thinking on this one.
  • Sloppy Seconds IPA - 25, 28; Just not a English IPA, no hop aroma, too sweet, too malty, would make a great Scotch Ale.  Wow...I'm 99.9% positive my bottle got mixed up with another bottle.  Both judges commented that there was no hop aroma and that it tasted like a Scotch Ale.  I just poured one for myself and it has unmistakable hop aroma and it's on the dry side.  I was actually afraid that this one didn't have enough malt character especially for an English IPA.  From what I can tell, Citra dominates the hop aroma so I was expecting to get dinged for using an American hop in an English IPA, but there's definitely a lot of hop aroma there.  I knew it wasn't the best example of either an American or an English IPA, but the comments are so far off on this one that I can't help but think that somehow my bottle got switched.  There's probably someone out there that's reviewing their Scotch Ale scoresheet and wondering why the comments say their beer tasted like a hoppy IPA.
  • Jack's Punkin' - 37, 37; Aroma is fabulous!  Beautiful color.  I would cut back on the cinnamon to let the other spices come through.  I was surprised this scored as well as it did.  I thought it was a little bit too rich/malty, and I thought that was going to count against me.  Both judges commented on this brew having too much cinnamon.  This kind of made me laugh because I purposely added more cinnamon to this batch compared to a batch I'd made a couple years ago.  That said, I think the comments are spot-on.  There is a slight harshness in the aftertaste on this brew and I think it is related to the amount of cinnamon I used.  I think it could use a little more hop bitterness too...but this could be due to it being an older brew.
  • Sweet Stout - 28, 25; Sweetness is a little high for the style.  The quality is good and drinkable still.  I didn't expect this one to do all that great.  This one actually won my brew club's stout meeting earlier this year.  It went to the national club-only competition and scored very similarly to these scores.  I agree it's way sweet.  In fact it's so sweet and filling that I don't like drinking more than six ounces at a time.  One of the reasons I entered it was because I was tired of having it sitting around taking up space in my beer fridge.  I personally like some of the other stout categories a lot better, so I doubt I'll be making another sweet stout anytime soon.
All in all it was a good time and I got some good feedback on my beers that should help me dial things in and make some better beer.


Salsa Recipe

>> Sunday, August 12, 2012

My fermentation chamber is full so there's no room for brewing another batch this weekend. Instead, I'm making up some fresh salsa with heirloom tomatoes and jalapenos from our vegetable garden. I found this recipe last year by googling for "World's Best Salsa Recipe" and I gotta say it's pretty darn good plus it's pretty easy to make.

6 large heirloom tomatoes of different colors (or a blend totaling about 4 lbs-5 lbs), washed,cored and quartered
4 jalapenos, chopped finely
1 sweet onion, quartered
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp. table sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 3 fresh limes
2 large bunches of cilantro, stemmed and chopped

Combine everything but the jalapenos in your food processor. Pulse until not quite pureed. Pour into a large bowl, add jalapenos, and mix well. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate. I usually wait at least a few hours before serving so that it has enough time for the flavors to blend. This is a great summertime snack to enjoy with a pint of your favorite refreshing lawnmower beer.


American Rye

>> Sunday, August 05, 2012

Today I'm brewing an American Rye for next month's Light Hybrid Meeting. Compared to my last couple brews, there isn't anything too crazy going on here. I've used rye in other recipes, but this is the first time I've brewed an American Rye "to style". This style should be a refreshing beer with a bit more hop character than the German counterpart. The rye contributes a unique but pleasant spiciness and crispness. Like wheat, rye does not have a husk so it is a good idea to incorporate rice hulls into the mash to help avoid stuck sparges. This is especially important when brewing on a RIMS or HERMS system as the constant circulation can quickly result in a compacted grain bed if the flow is too high. So word to the wise, use rice hulls and circulate/sparge slowly. 

Here's the recipe as I made it today. 

4.5 # Briess Pale Malt
3.0 # Briess Rye Malt
1.5 # Briess White Wheat Malt
Rice Hulls (about 3/4 pound is what I used)
1.00 oz Amarillo (35 min)
0.66 oz Liberty (0 min)
0.66 oz Amarillo (0 min)
0.33 oz Amarillo (hopback)
1 Whirlfloc
Wyeast 2565 K├Âlsch yeast in a 1L starter

Mash at 150F for 75 min. 90 min boil. Start out fermentation at 60F then ramp up to 65F near the end of fermentation.

Brewing Notes
The brew day was fairly uneventful. I had one minor problem during the chill. The Amarillo hops where whole hops and they clogged the pickup tube a couple of times, so the chill took a little longer than expected.

Update 9/19/2012
I think I lost some of the hop character (flavor and aroma) because of the extended chilling time, but it still turned out well. The Light Hybrid style is not one I'd typically brew; I don't hate them, but most of the subcategories just aren't styles that I love. Anyway, this one placed first in my club meeting.  It seemed to have a slight astringency and finished dry.  The slight astringency may be confused with the spiciness from the rye malt.  


Peach/Apricot and Pineapple Wheat Beers

>> Friday, July 13, 2012

With the 100+F degree temperatures in Utah this summer, I've been really enjoying Wasatch Brewery's Apricot Hefe.  It's a light summertime brew and you can enjoy a few without getting trashed.  Another favorite of mine is Mana Wheat from Maui Brewing.  It's a little harder to get a hold of in Utah, but it's pretty awesome as well.  It has a decent amount of pineapple aroma and a nice pineapple flavor on the back of the palate that really compliments the wheat beer flavor.  Recently we made a trip up to High West Distillery in Park City and enjoyed some of their peach vodka; first straight, then in a Peach Mule (their take on a Moscow Mule).  These drinks gave me the idea to do some experimenting with fruit.

I've made my Watermelon Wheat beer a few times now and it's turned out to be a crowd favorite.  The recipe is based on 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat.  Admittedly, you have to be a fan both of watermelon and fruit beers to really enjoy it because there is no hiding the watermelon.  I've had a few people accuse me of using watermelon flavoring/extract in this beer, but I swear all the flavor comes from the watermelon I use in secondary.

Today I'm going to try experimenting with some different fruits.  The plan is to brew up a five gallon batch of the base beer from my Watermelon Wheat.  After primary fermentation, I'll split it between two 3 gallon fermenters; one will get peaches and apricots and the other will get pineapple.  In Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher indicates you can often get better peach flavor using apricots instead of peaches.  I still want to try using peaches, but that's the reason I'm blending the two fruits.  If the flavor turns out too delicate, I'll supplement it with a measured dose of peach flavoring.  Pineapple can also present challenges.  Because of the high acidity, it could cause some problems for the yeast.  I've read some forum posts where people have claimed to not have any issues with pineapple in the secondary, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  Here's the recipe as I'm making it.

6.0 # Briess Pale Malt
4.0 # Rahr White Wheat Malt
1.0 oz Hallertauer (60 min)
1.0 oz Hallertauer (5 min)
White Labs California Ale Yeast (#WLP001)
1 Whirfloc
Yeast Nutrient
1.0 # Peaches (in secondary for Batch A)
2.0 # Apricots (in secondary for Batch A)
2.5 # Pineapple (in secondary for Batch B)

Mash at 152F for 1 hour
Boil for 90 Minutes
Primary Fermentation - Start off at 66F.  Ramp up to 72F over a few days.
Secondary Fermentation - Rack onto fruit puree in secondary and hold at 72F until finished.

Preparing the fruit
With the watermelon I've found that it's best to use a slightly overripe melon.  It may not be the best for eating (tends to be mushy) but it seems to have better flavor and aroma than a less ripe melon.  For the purposes of brewing, we don't care much about texture so go with  overripe fruit.  Obviously, make sure it isn't rotting...that'd be a little too ripe.

To prepare the fruit for secondary, all fruits were washed.  I then removed the pits from the peaches and apricots, mashed them up a bit, then froze them to break down the cell walls.  For the pineapple, the skin and core were removed, then I mashed it and froze it same as the peaches and apricots.  Some brewers choose to cook the fruit to cut down on the chances of an infection.  That can change the flavor and aroma so I choose not to cook mine.  So far I haven’t had any issues with infections (knock on wood).

Brewing Notes
The brew day was fairly uneventful, usually a good thing.  I noticed after a few minutes of recirculating the mash that the flow had slowed, so I checked the grain bed and found that it was compacted and possibly heading towards a stuck mash.  This is a fairly common issue when using a lot of wheat in your mash.  Since wheat doesn't have a husk it's more prone to stuck mashes especially if the flow rate is too high.  I stopped recirculating, added a few handfuls of rice hulls to the mash and stirred them into the grain bed.  I then started recirculating the mash again at a slightly lower flow rate and didn't experience any further issues.  I forget to take a pre-boil reading on my refractometer, so I don't know that my efficiency was.  The post-boil reading as 15.2°P which translates to a SG of about 1.059.

Update 7/28/2012
The wheat beer base has fermented down to 1.006 so it's about time to add the fruit.  Just an update on the amounts used, they're slightly different than in the recipe above.  I used two pineapples which yielded 2.625 lbs of fruit and juice. For the peaches and apricots, it's pretty close to 1/3 peaches and 2/3 apricots with a total weight of 3.44 lbs. The frozen blocks of fruit and juice are currently thawing on my counter.  I'm hoping to get them in secondary today, but we have company coming over for dinner tonight, so it might not happen until tomorrow morning.

Update 8/2/2012
The fruit went in on 7/28/2012 as mentioned above.  One thing that surprised me a little was that a lot of the fruit was floating the next day.  This hasn't been an issue when I used watermelon.  I sanitized the end of my mash paddle and used it to carefully knock the fruit down and gently swirl about once a day.  The peaches/apricots have now mostly settled to the bottom, but a good potion of the pineapple continues to float.  Mental note for next time, it might be a good idea to put the fruit in a fine mesh bag to better contain it and so that it can be weighted down.

Update 11/20/2012
I meant to post this update a while ago. Neither of the beers turned out as well as the watermelon version.  The pineapple one is the better of the two and it's a good beer, but it needs more pineapple character. I think I'd recommend increasing the amount of pineapple by at least 50%. Knowing it's made with pineapple, I can detect it.  However, I did some blind tastings and it seems to have a generic fruitiness that you might get from certain strains of yeast, but not an identifiable pineapple character.

The peach/apricot version is so-so and seems to vary from bottle to bottle.  If I were to do it again I would definitely remove the skins...and keep them in chunks rather than partially blend them. The skins seemed to give it an odd bitterness and the partially blended fruit was a total pain...lots of sludge at the bottom, some of which made it into the bottling bucket and into the bottles. Like the pineapple, it needs more fruit character as well. I'd probably try doubling the amount of fruit next time. For both beers, I think I'd add some pectic enzyme.


Funky Saison 06/2012

>> Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today I'm brewing up another version of the Saison I brewed back on 5/27/2012.  The only thing I'm doing differently with this batch is the yeast...I'm doing a 100% brett fermentation.  The yeast I chose to use is WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois from White Labs.  This one is a Platinum Series yeast and is only available in May and June for 2012.  The description from White Labs is:

This Belgian strain, used traditionally for 100% Brettanomyces fermentations, produces a slightly tart beer with delicate characteristics of mango and pineapple. Can also be used to produce effervescence when bottle-conditioning.
Optimal Temp: 70-85F
Flocculation: Low
Attenuation: 85%+
Alcohol Tolerance: Medium-High

 I'll be using the same grain bill, mash profile, hop schedule, etc. as the first Saison.  The recommended fermentation range for WLP644 is a little bit higher than 3711.  I'll start out near the cooler end of the range then ramp it to the higher end of the range.  WLP644 attenuates well so it should be able to dry out the Saison at least as well as 3711.  The cell count on brett strains is a bit lower since they're usually intended for secondary fermentation.  I made a 1L yeast starter on my stir plate in order to up the cell count.  It's still slightly underpitched which is good for Belgian styles where you're trying to get a lot of character out of the yeast.  It'll be cool to do a side by side comparison with these two beers to see how they differ despite almost everything being the same.

9.0 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
3.0 # Briess White Wheat Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Vienna Malt
0.25 # Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1.0 # Belgian Candi Sugar (5 minutes)
1.75 oz Styrian Goldings (60 minutes)
2 oz Saaz (5 minutes)
0.25 t Black Pepper, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Coriander, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Bitter Orange Peel (5 minutes)
Zest from a navel orange (5 minutes)
White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois

Mash at 147F for 90 minutes, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 72F then raise to 85F over a couple days.

Brewing Notes
My pre-boil gravity was just a hair off from the first Saison.   I accidentally ran off a little too much in the first one, so this might explain why it was a bit more diluted.  There was a bit more difference in the post-boil gravity and I attribute that to the fact that I had a boil over on the first one right after I added my candi sugar...which likely means I lost some of the sugars.

Fermentation Notes
Wow, this thing took off!  I made a one liter starter Friday afternoon and pitched it Sunday afternoon and it had a huge krausen by Monday evening.  I've been bumping up the temp a couple degrees per day.  The krausen dropped most of the way by yesterday (6/27) and I bumped it up to 85F (it took most of the day to ramp up).  I'd been fermenting with the lid off in my ferm chamber and just added the lid and airlock today.  It smells awesome, definitely some pineapple and other tropical fruit aromas in there.

Update 7/10/2012
The original refractometer reading on this brew was 19.2°P and as of today it's 8.5°P.  Using the Morebeer spreadsheet this translates to an O.G. 1.079 and a current F.G. of 1.007...nice and dry.  

Update 3/23/2013
I cracked one of these open last night and boy has it changed. It's really developed a nice brett character. The tropical fruit notes are much more subtle now. Dry but not thin, this is a really nice complex beer. I wish I'd saved more than I did.


Sloppy Seconds IPA

>> Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sloppy Seconds IPA

My freezer is full of leftover hops from past brew sessions.  Maybe it's because of the hop shortage from a few years ago, or my own frugality, or a combination of the two, but I couldn't bring myself to throw them out.  So today I'm doing a fun brew that will hopefully turn out well and likely be hard to replicate given the varying ages of the hops.  Because of all the leftover hops and the fact that I'm re-using yeast from our Big Brew event, I decided to go with Sloppy Seconds IPA for the name, (couldn't help it, my inner 14 year old thought it was funny).

The intent is for this to be a hop-focused west coast style IPA with as much hop flavor/aroma as these tired little hops can muster.  I'm also using some homegrown hops in my hopback to try to squeeze out a little more flavor/aroma. 

You'll notice all hop additions occur from the 30 minute mark on, which should give a nice smooth bitterness while emphasizing flavor/aroma.  Now I say should because some of these hops have been in my freezer for a while, so I'm sure they've lost some flavor/aroma over time.  I don't know how old some of these hops are so this brew is a little bit of a gamble.  

One important note, I smelled all the hops first to make sure they hadn't gone cheesy, picked up odors from the freezer, or anything else that would detract from the finished product.  I didn't detect any problems other than some of the really old ones had completely lost their aroma (I'm not using them).  Here's the recipe as I'm making it.

11.50 # Briess Pale 2 row
 1.00 # Briess Crystal 20L  
 0.75 # Briess Light Munich  
 0.75 # Briess Carapils  
 0.25 # Crisp Torrified Wheat  
 0.6 oz CTZ 30 min
 0.5 oz Chinook 30 min
 0.2 oz Simcoe 30 min
 2.4 oz Goldings, East Kent 15 min
 0.6 oz Cascade 15 min
 1.4 oz Liberty 5 min
 0.4 oz Fuggles 5 min
 5.2 pH Stabilizer
 WLP001 California Ale
3.0 oz Citra (hopback)

Mash at 153F for 60min.
90 minute boil
Ferment at 69F

Brewing Notes:
The brew day was fairly uneventful...no boil overs this time!  The only challenge was I opened a couple bags of homegrown hops and wasn't real thrilled with the aroma so I had my wife run to Salt City Brewing and pick up three ounces of Citra leaf hops for the hopback.

This IPA turned out very well.  It doesn't have quite as much hop flavor/aroma as I was hoping for, but it's a really good IPA in my opinion.  The Citra in the hop back seems to have contributed more aroma than flavor and the blend of the leftover hops give it a nice smooth bitterness.  I think I'll do this again with fresher hops and may even move the first additions back to the 20 or 15 minute mark.  


Saison 05/2012

>> Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today I'm brewing up a Saison.  This style is associated with farm workers in the French speaking region of Belgium.  It's said the workers would receive up to five liters per day during the harvest season.  The thing I like about this style is unlike a lot of other styles, the definition is pretty broad which means there's lots of room for experimentation.

I've been wanting to brew a Saison for quite a while but I didn't really have a way to accurately control the warm fermentation temps needed for this style.  Now that I have my fermentation chamber, I figured it was time to give it a go.

Like many Belgian styles, this recipe calls for Belgian candi sugar.  Belgian candi sugar is highly fermentable and helps lighten the body and dry out the brew.  It's pretty easy to find in at just about any brew shop, but you can also make it at home which is what I chose to do.  As far as equipment, you'll need a candy thermometer, a saucepan, and a foil-lined cookie sheet (for cooling).  The Cliff's Notes version of making it is:
One pound of home-made Belgian Candi Sugar

  • Dissolve about 2-3 pounds of granulated table sugar in about a cup of water.  
  • Heat in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved
  • Add a food-grade acid (e.g. cream of tartar) then raise and hold the temp between 260F and 275F for at least 20 min
  • Once the desired color is achieved, raise the temp to 302F then pour onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool.
 I'm not sure who deserves credit for first documenting the process, but here's a link to the instructions I followed to make my candi sugar.  Candi sugar generally comes as either clear, amber, or dark.  I wanted a little bit of color contribution, so mine is towards the dark end of amber.  It's cheap and easy to make...about a dollar per pound compared to store-bought which is typically around five to six dollars per pound.

The recipe I'm making today is as follows:

9.0 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
3.0 # Briess White Wheat Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Vienna Malt
0.25 # Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1.0 # Belgian Candi Sugar (5 minutes)
1.75 oz Styrian Goldings (60 minutes)
2 oz Saaz (5 minutes)
0.25 t Black Pepper, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Coriander, coarsely crushed (5 minutes)
0.25 t Bitter Orange Peel (5 minutes)
Zest from a navel orange (5 minutes)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Mash at 147F for 90 minutes, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 68F then raise to 78F over a couple days.

Brewing notes:  It was a pretty uneventful brew day up until the last two minutes.  I added all my 5 minute additions including the Belgian candi sugar.  The boil looked a little weak so I turned the heat up a little bit then ran inside to grab a spoon.  I was gone all of 30 seconds but that was just long enough to have a boil-over...good times.  Unfortunately a lot of the Saaz hops found their way to the garage floor courtesy of the boil over, so this may be lacking a bit of hop flavor/aroma.  It also added at least an hour to my cleanup because of the mess it made.  Word to the wise, never increase the heat right after an addition unless you're there to keep an eye on it.

Two changes I made on the fly: I originally planned on using the zest from half a navel orange but I ended up using the whole orange.  The other change was I added 1/4 teaspoon of bitter orange peel as well.

I bottled this one back on 5/27/2012.  Most of it was bottled in heavy Belgian bottles and corked using the Colonna Capper/Corker that my wife got me for Christmas.  This was the first time I've used it for corking and although there is a bit of a learning curve, it went well.  It's definitely a little more involved than capping so I wouldn't want to do it with every batch, but it makes for a very nice presentation.

Sampling one during a brew session
So we cracked one of these open on the 4th of July.  This beer turned out fantastic.  It has dried out wonderfully but isn't watery or thin.  There's a hint of orange in there but it does not dominate the palate.  Same with the other spices, they compliment the overall flavor profile without dominating.  I'm really interested to see how this brew changes over time, and I can't wait to try the brett version.


Big Brew for National Homebrew Day

>> Saturday, May 05, 2012


Today I'm having some friends over to celebrate National Homebrew Day.  We're brewing up Bucksnort Brown Ale which I suspect is supposed to be a clone of Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula Montana.  I haven't brewed a Brown Ale for quite a while and I enjoy Moose Drool so I'm looking forward to this brew.  This is a hands on brew session for our guests and hopefully everyone will have a good time and maybe some will leave with a new found interest in homebrewing.

The recipe as we'll brew it:

10 # Briess Pale 2-row Malt
8.0 oz Briess Crystal Malt 80L
8.0 oz Briess Crystal Malt 60L
6.5 oz Briess Organic Chocolate Malt
1.0 oz Briess Black Patent
0.75 oz Willamette 80 min
0.75 oz Willamette 30 min
1.25 oz Mt Hood 15 min
0.75 oz Willamette 5 min
White Labs WLP001 California Ale
1 Whirfloc

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes.  80 minute boil.  Ferment at 66F then ramp up to 68F after activity begins to subside.

Update 5/7/2012:  Normally I I start brewing pretty early in the morning (7-8am).  On this batch we started after 1PM.  I also don't usually drink more than one beer while I'm brewing.  Since this was also a "party" the beer was flowing.  Despite it not being a typical brew day, everything went pretty well and it seemed that everyone had a good time.  The only thing I know I screwed up on was I forgot to add yeast nutrient.  Fermentation seems to be doing fine though, so I'm not too worried.


Flanders Red #2

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My first attempt at a Flanders Red has been coming along really well so I decided to get started on batch #2.  I brewed this batch on 4/6/2012 and the brew session was fairly uneventful.  

The recipe itself was basically the same as the first batch, but some of the grains were from different maltsters.

One other note, I bought two Roesalare blends back in October when I brewed the first batch, but only used one.  I used the second one for this batch but ran into some issues.  The smack pack didn't swell at all and after a couple days there was no visible signs of fermentation...no krausen, no positive pressure in the airlock, nothing.  I suspect the viability of the saccharomyces strains must have diminished quite a bit.  I had some WLP001 that I'd saved from a previous batch so I went ahead and pitched it and the brew showed signs of active fermentation later in the day.  It'll be interesting to see if this one develops differently than batch #1.

5.25 # Weyermann Pilsner Malt
5.25 #  Weyermann Vienna Malt
1.00 # Weyermann Munich II Malt
0.5 # Briess Red Wheat Malt
0.5 # Castle Aromatic Malt
0.5 # Weyermann CaraMunich II
0.5 # Dingemans Special B
0.8 oz Aged hops** (60 minutes)
1.0 oz Oak cubes (French Medium Roast) soaked in a couple ounces of Cabernet Sauvignon
Wyeast 3763 Roesalare Blend (no starter)

Mashed at 154F for 90 minutes.  90 minute boil.

** The aged hops are my homegrown hops from the 2009 harvest.  This was when my hops were in their temporary locations, so it's a mix of varieties resulting from intertwined bines.  For sour beers you don't really want any hop flavor or aroma; that's where aging comes in.  I aged these hops by placing them in brown paper bags above my kegerator.  The changing temperatures over the years has completely stripped them of any hop aroma.

Fermentation Notes
As noted above, the start of fermentation was sluggish until I added the WLP001.  Fermentation picked up but it wasn't quite as active as the first batch (no threat of pushing up through the airlock).  Things slowed down after a week then picked up again after a couple weeks (much like batch #1).  I've already added some dregs from commercial sours (e.g. Petrus Aged Pale).

Update 5/4/2012
Fermentation is still chugging along.  I've been fermenting it in my ferm chamber at 70F.  I'm going to move it to the basement utility room next to batch #1 today because we're doing a Big Brew tomorrow and I need to set the ferm temp at 66F for that.  There are mild seasonal temp changes in the utilit room, but overall the temps stay pretty stable so it's a good place for aging.

Update 5/27/2012
Pitched dregs from Russian River Supplication and oak soaked in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Update 6/8/2012
Added dregs from Petrus Aged Ale.  I noticed the airlock had some positive pressure and there was a burp before I removed the bung

Update 9/15/2012
Added dregs from Sophie from Goose Island.

Update 9/22/2012
This beer is much more sour than the last time I tasted it (forgot to log the date but it was probably 6/24), but it's still much more of a mellow sour compared to the October Flanders Red.  There is a small pellicle.  My refractometer shows 10.4 brix down from 12 brix on 6/24/2012.

Update 10/30/2012
Added dregs from Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Update 1/29/2013
Checked this one again today and it's down to 10.2 brix. It's tart but still not quite as tart as batch #1. It still has a dusty looking pellicle, although it doesn't cover the entire top. Seems to be progressing nicely.
Dusty pellicle on Flanders #2

Update 4/6/2013
Pulled a sample today. It still has a little bit of a dusty pellicle. The gravity hasn't changed at all since the last reading (10.2P) but the tartness level has increased significantly and is on par with batch #1. I think I'll try to bottle this later this month.

Update 8/22/2013
So I just barely got around to bottling this batch. It's tart but it's definitely different than batch #1. I'd say it's much more fruity or at least the fruity character is more complex. I get pie cherries like #1, but there's also some darker stone fruit character. This is still carbing in the bottle so I'll prob give it another month before cracking one open.

Update 8/26/2014
This beer just took a gold medal for Category 17 in the 2014 Beehive Brew-Off! Pretty excited and happy that a more acidic example was chosen by the judges. Pretty much all my sours tend to be really sour and they haven't done all that great in competition. They usually score well, but time after time I've gotten comments like "I really like this beer but it's too sour for the style." At some point they'll add an American Sour category that will allow for higher intensity sours.


Irish Red Ale

>> Friday, March 30, 2012

I brewed an Irish Red Ale on 3/19/2012.  I've never brewed this style before, but my wife had one on vacation a couple years back and really liked it.  My brew club is also doing the AHA Club Only Competitions, and for April the style is Scottish/Irish Ales.

11.25 # Crisp Maris Otter
6.0 oz Briess Crystal 40L
6.0 oz Briess Crystal 120L
6.0 oz Briess Roasted Barley 300L
1.25 oz EK Goldings 60 min
5.2 pH Stabilizer
1 Whirfloc

Mashed at 153F for 60 min
90 minute boil
Fermented at 66F

Update 4/25/2012: I put this one on tap about a week ago.  It turned out really well but it didn't clear quite as much as I had hoped.  It's a nice reddish brown.  Flavor profile is definitely malt focused so at first it seems a bit sweet, but finishes fairly dry.  There's also enough bitterness there from the hops to balance it out.  I think I like Ordinary/Special/Extra Special Bitters and American Pale Ales better, but this is still a good beer and seems like it would be a fairly easy drinking beer.


Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 2012 Experiment

I bought a hopback from Morebeer a while back.  I used it once and it seemed like I got some decent aroma from using it, but I only used about 2 ounces.  I haven't made a SNPA clone for a while and with spring and warmer weather right around the corner I thought this would be a great time to make a nice hoppy pale ale.  I actually brewed this back on 3/4/2012.

8.0 # Briess 2-row
1.0 # Crystal 40L
9 oz Cara-Pils
1 oz Pearle 90 min
1 oz Cascade 15 min
1 oz Cascade 5 min
1 oz Cascade Dry Hop after primary fermentation subsides
About 4 oz Cascade and 2 oz Chinook in hopback, both homegrown in the hopback.
1 Whirfloc
5.2. pH Stabilizer

Mashed at 151F for 60 min.  90 minute boil.  Collected 6.5 gallons.  Pre-boil = 11.2P, post-boil = 14.1P.  I had to add 64oz of RO water with 35 min left in the boil due to high evaporation rate.  Fermented at 62F for two days then upped the temp to 63F.  Added dry hops after 6 days.  This stuff smells awesome!  I kegged it on 3/24/2012 and it's conditioning.

Updated 4/25/2012 - I really like this beer.  After a winter of high gravity beers this one seems very light and refreshing.  Hop aroma and flavor are great.  I haven't done a side by side tasting so I don't know how close it is to SNPA, but it turned out great.  Hop aroma is kind of perfume-like...very floral in nature.  Bitterness seems very well balanced with the malt.  I think I might up the late hop additions next time to try to add even more aroma.    


Bacon Anyone?

>> Saturday, February 04, 2012

Today's post is a litttle different in that it doesn't have much to do with brewing.  As I've mentioned before, I love smoked foods.  I have a stainless steel Great Outdoors propane smoker that I got from Sam's Club years ago.  It's awesome because the temperature can be easily adjusted to compensate for weather conditions unlike my previous smoker (charcoal smoker) that had a hard time maintaining temps in bad weather.

I've smoked a little bit of everying on my smoker including beef brisket, chicken, turkey, fish, and of course the king of BBQ: pork.  I've also used it to smoke grain for brewing but I've always been a little concerned about the heat and it's impact on roasting the grains.  I've always wanted to be able to do cold smoking for things like cheese but even on it's lowest settting my smoker generated too much heat for these kinds of things.

I did a little research a couple years ago and came accross the Pro-Q Cold Smoke Generator.  It's basically a metal tray with dividers aranged to form a maze.  You fill it with hardwood sawdust, light one end, and it slowly smolders providing up to eight hours of smoke.  I really liked the simple design but thought it was a bit overpriced.  Despite the price, I finally bit the bullet and ordered one a couple of weeks ago.  I'm basically using it inside my regular smoker without turning on the propane burner.  So on a day like today where it's about 42F outside, I can smoke things well below cooking temps without worrying about them spoiling.  I used it to smoke the grain for a recent smoked porter that I brewed and it seemed to work well.  I'm looking forward t trying this beer as soon as it's ready.  I also smoked some cheese with it and the cheese turned out fantastic.

I started reading through some other blogs and was turned on to an interesting book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.  This book is really cool and I'm looking forward to trying out the recipes and processes.  In a sense, I've already had some experience with curing meat.  The dry rubs I've used to make things like pulled pork and the brines I've used to make smoked turkey essentially involve curing the meat, but this book takes it to another level.  If you have any interest in hand-crafted artisan style meats I suggest you pick up this book.

All this leads me to today's post.  I decided to try to make my own bacon.  Based on my reading thus far, it seems to be one of the simplest cured meats to make, so it seemed like a good starting place.  The recipe for a basic cure in Charcuterie calls for pink salt (Prague Powder #1) but I wasn't able to find any locally so I'm going to have to order some online.  In the meantime, I found a  recipe that recommended equal parts sugar and Morton's Tender Quick.  Morton's Tender Quick is a meat cure that contains both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.  I mixed this up and and applied it to 2 lbs of pork belly that I picked up at the local Asian market.  It's been curing in the fridge all week.  Today I'm using the Pro-Q to cold smoke the cured bacon and with any luck we should be enjoying some tasty smoked bacon with our Superbowl Sunday breakfast.

You want to know how good bacon is?  To improve other foods they wrap them in bacon.  The only bad thing about bacon is it makes you thirsty...for more bacon
-Jim Gaffigan

The angle of the sun made it hard to get decent pics of the bacon in the smoker.  Here's a couple of the better ones.

***Update 3/30/2012***
So the first attempt at making bacon had mixed results.  I cooked up some right after taking it off the smoker and it was good but not great.  It could have been an issue with the cure (one I found on the internet), the smoke (cherry, which tends to be mild), my process, or a combination the above.  I didn't end up using it for a Superbowl breakfast afterall; instead I sliced it, froze it, and took it with us on a family trip a couple weeks later.  By the time we cooked it up, it was mediocre at best...lost a lot of smoke character and pretty much just tasted like a piece of bland fried meat.  

For the second attempt I used the basic cure recipe from Charcuterie.  I read some posts online about making bacon, and several people mentioned how much better it was when they either hot smoked the bacon, or cold smoked it followed by finishing it off in a 200F oven.  One comment was that it tended to cook up crispier after hot smoking and the fat consistency changed.  

For the second attempt, I cold smoked over hickory for about nine hours, followed by a rest, then hot smoked long enough to reach an internal temp of 150F (about three hours).  This time it turned out awesome and I'd definitely make it again!

Cold smoking the pork belly

Smoke wafting upwards
After eight hours of smoking over cherry wood