Golden Solera 2023

>> Sunday, April 02, 2023

Today I'm brewing another 10 gallons of my Golden Sour Solera. This will be the "fresh" beer that's replacing the ~10 gallons I'll soon be pulling off the barrel for the next variant. For anyone stumbling across this recipe, you'll want to plan on fruiting and/or dry hopping the finished beer as this recipe is boring without some kind of secondary treatment. Think of it as a canvas that works really well with secondary treatments.

I'm mixing up the yeast a little on this batch. I'm using Wyeast 5112 but I also have some Embrace The Funk Culture from Bootleg Biology that I'm planning on using this round. 

Wyeast describes 5112 as follows:
This strain of wild yeast was isolated from brewery cultures in the Brussels region of Belgium. It produces the classic “sweaty horse blanket” character of indigenous beers such as gueuze, lambics and sour browns and may form a pellicle in bottles or casks. The strain is generally used in conjunction with S. cerevisiae, as well as other wild yeast and lactic bacteria. At least 3-6 months aging is generally required for flavor to fully develop.
Bootleg Biology describes BBXETF as follows:
Source: A unique blend of ale yeast, Brett and restrained LAB curated by Embrace The Funk – Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, TN, USA. This is a specially curated blend of house saison yeast and multiple Brettanomyces strains that creates a floral bouquet of tropical fruit and black pepper.
Hopefully the combination of these two plus the resident barrel cultures will result in some complex funky character in the final beer. Here are the details for today's brew session:

Target OG 1.044
Target FG: 1.005
IBU: 0
ABV: ~6.0%

12.0# Weyermann Barke Pilsner Malt
3.0# Spelt Malt
56g Aged Hops (60 min)
Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis
Bootleg Biology BBXETF – Embrace The Funk Culture

Mash at 160F. Collect  ~10.0 gallons, then top up to ~12 gallons. 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Water Profile
50/50 blend of carbon filtered tap water and RO water.

Brewing Notes
No issues. The first mash pH sample was a little higher than I prefer. I rarely document exactly how much phosphoric acid I use to acidify my mash, but based on experience I typically add ~1.5ml for pale beers (per 5 gallons). Since this is 10 gallons, I initially added ~3ml. After the 5.47 reading I added an additional 1ml.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH  5.47
Ending mash pH  5.35
1st running gravity  21.8  (1.088)
Pre-Boil gravity  10.2 (1.040)
Pre-Boil pH  5.35
Post-Boil gravity  11,4 (1.045)
Post-Boil pH  5.45

Update 4/7/2023
This fermentation took a bit longer to get going than I’m used to. I forgot to mention, I’m fermenting this at room temp in a 15 gallon Kegmenter fitted with my spunding valve. Yeast was pitched late Sunday and it seemed like there was a little bit of positive pressure developing over the next few days, but it was a very small amount. I was starting to worry a little and even started to propagate a Bootleg Biology Black Project pouch, just in case it was needed. Then this morning I noticed a jump in pressure in the kegmenter. I dialed it in to about 6PSI and it seems to be happily fermenting away.


Homemade Refried Beans

>> Monday, February 20, 2023

One more food-related post today. This one is for Homemade Refried Beans. This dish is super easy to make, it just takes a little bit of prep time, and while I don't think there's anything wrong with a can of Rosarita Refried Beans, these are definitely better.

These are great as a side dish (we had them with lobster tacos). They're also really good paired with a can of Stokes Ranchero Sauce for a semi-homemade take on huevos rancheros.

1# Dried pinto beans (or black beans)
2 T Vegetable or olive oil
1 Large sweet onion
6 Garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c Cilantro, chopped
1.5 t Chili powder (e.g. McCormick chili powder)
1.5 t Cumin
0.5 t Cayenne pepper
3 Cubes pork bouillon (substitute chicken or vegetable if you can't find pork)
2 T Lime juice
0,5 t Salt

  1. The day before, place dried beans in bowl and cover with 1" or so of water.  Allow to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain off any excess water.
  3. Using a large saucepot, heat oil over medium-low heat then add onion, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. 
  4. Sauté for about 15mins, remembering to stir frequently to avoid burning.
  5. Add beans to pot along with bouillon, 8 cups of water, and salt.
  6. Cover and simmer for 1.5 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally to avoid burning the beans on the bottom of the pot.
  7. Remove the lid and continue to simmer at least 15 minutes or the desired amount of liquid remains.
  8. Use a potato masher or hand blender to mash the beans to the desired consistency. 
  9. Stir in lime juice and add additional salt and pepper to taste before serving.


Mexican Style Rice

Here's a Mexican-style Rice recipe I stumbled across recently when I decided to make lobster tacos for my wife's birthday dinner. I really liked how this turned out, so as usual, I'm posting the recipe here so that I don't run the risk of losing it. 

One thing I particularly like about this recipe, even though it incorporates tomato sauce, the finished product isn't saucy. Super saucy Mexican rice kind of grosses me out; if you feel the same way, give this one a try. One note, the first time I made it I didn't use low-sodium broth and I felt like it was too salty right after it came out of the pan. It seemed better the next day, like it had mellowed a bit. Either use low-sodium broth or skip the Kosher salt until you've had a chance to taste it.

2 c Long grain white rice
1/8 c Vegetable oil
8 oz Tomato sauce
6 Cilantro stems, chopped
1 t Kosher salt
1 t Minced garlic
4 c Low-sodium chicken broth
1/8 t Cumin
1/8 t Garlic pepper

  1. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add rice and cook until golden brown
  3. Add remaining ingredients to pan, and mix well.
  4. Bring to a simmer then cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Fluff with a fork before serving.


Chinese Take-out Fried Rice

Here's a really good Chinese Take-out Fried Rice recipe that I originally saw on a sub-Reddit a little while back. I've made it once so far and it's really good. It may look complicated, but it's actually a fairly simple dish to make. 

Credit to Jason Farmer for doing a bunch of research into the recipe and for documenting it very well on his YouTube channel. Here's the link and I recommend watching it all the way through before attempting the recipe. The key to this recipe is preparation. Things move quickly as you start cooking, so have everything ready to go before you start.
Ingredients - Here's everything you'll need. You'll only need small amounts of the soy sauces, so I'd recommend getting small-ish bottles rather than Costco-sized ones. Also, as noted in the video, you want Chinese style soy sauce, not Japanese style.
  • 2 parts standard long grain white rice
  • 1 part Jasmine rice
  • Lee Kum Kee or Pearl River Bridge light soy sauce
  • Lee Kum Kee or Pearl River Bridge dark soy sauce
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine
  • Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 - Chicken breast
  • Baking Soda
  • Sugar
  • Corn Starch
  • Kosher Salt
  • MSG
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
  • White pepper
  • 2 - Eggs, beaten
  • 1 - medium onion, diced
  • Diced carrot
  • Frozen peas
  • Bean sprouts 
Prepare Rice - The recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked rice. Since 1 cup raw rice is ~3 cups cooked rice, we need about 2/3 cup uncooked rice. That means 4/9 cup long grain white rice and 2/9 cup Jasmine rice. Since I've never seen measuring cups in the ninths, I just convert it to metric volumes. In this case it's 105ml of long grain white, and 52.5ml of Jasmine. Update: To be more precise, I converted volume to weight; use 47.3g Jasmine and 94.6g long grain white rice.
  • Wash rice under water until it runs clear.
  • Cook rice 1:1 with water (142ml)
  • Cool to room temp then chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare Chicken
  • Slice chicken into small pieces.
  • Wash chicken under cold water and squeeze out excess water.
  • Add 1/2 t baking soda to chicken and mix in.
  • Add 1/2 t light soy sauce to chicken
  • Add 1/2 t sugar to chicken.
  • Add 1/2 t corn starch to chicken.
  • Add 1/4 t Kosher salt to chicken.
  • Add 1/8 t MSG to chicken
  • Add 1 t vegetable oil
  • Mix well and marinate from 15 mins to overnight.
Prepare Sauce Mixture
  • Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 t light soy sauce
  • 1/2 t dark soy sauce. 
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved and set aside.
Prepare Dry Spice Mixture
  • Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 1 t Kosher salt
  • 2 pinches of white pepper
  • 1/2 t MSG
  • Set aside
Prepare other ingredients
  • To 2 beaten eggs, add a pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of MSG.
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 T diced carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 T frozen peas
  • Handful of bean sprouts
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine
  • 2 T sliced green onion
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
Bring It All Together
  1. Heat wok, pan, or griddle over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 T vegetable oil to pan
  3. Turn heat down to medium and add eggs.
  4. Cook eggs for about 15-20 second then carefully move them around to start scrambling. 
  5. Cook eggs to slightly undercooked then transfer to a bowl.
  6. Add 1 T oil to pan
  7. Cook chicken to slightly undercooked then transfer to bowl with eggs.
  8. Add 1 T oil to pan
  9. Toss in diced onion and diced carrots.
  10. Cook for a minute or two until onion is beginning to look translucent, then add garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds.
  11. Add 2 cups of the rice and stir constantly for about 2 minutes.
  12. Add chicken and eggs to mixture and incorporate well.
  13. Add sauce to mixture and incorporate well.
  14. Add dry spice mixture and incorporate well.
  15. Add frozen peas and bean sprouts, and gently mix them in.
  16. Deglaze with Shaoxing wine and immediately stir into rice. 
  17. Cook off the alcohol for about 20-30 seconds then turn off the heat.
  18. Add green onion and toasted sesame oil and mix in.
  19. Add salt and white pepper to taste.


Cold IPA - It Just Works Clone

>> Sunday, February 19, 2023

Today I'm brewing an experimental beer, a "Cold IPA". This is an emerging style that is still being defined, even in the commercial market. From the commercial examples I've tried, I would describe the style as hop-forward with firm bitterness and with a very clean and crisp fermentation profile. Grain bills are usually highly fermentable and closer to something you'd use for a crisp lager, employing things like flaked rice and steering clear of any crystal malts. 

You may ask yourself, what's the difference between a Cold IPA and an IPL (India Pale Lager). The answer is open to interpretation, but IMO I'd say the grain bill of an IPL is usually closer to that of an American IPA, whereas the grain bill of a Cold IPA is closer to that of an American Lager. So you could probably say an IPL is an IPA fermented with lager yeast (and slightly dialed down hop character to keep it balanced). A Cold IPA is closer to an American Lager with hopping rates on par with an American IPA and fermented with lager yeast or on the cold side of an ale yeast's range. Clear as mud? 

This beer is based on Green Cheek Beer Co.'s It Just Works and the commercial version is brewed with ale yeast. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

Target OG 1.059
Target FG: 1.007
IBU: 100+
AVB: 7.0

7.025# Weyermann Barke Pilsner Malt
3.0625# Flaked Rice
7.3ml HopShot (75 min) 
28g Pahto (HBC 682) (75 min)
4.66g BCAA
Yeast nutrient
37g Amarillo (Whirlpool)
1 Dropper of ALDC (Dry hop)
119g Ekuanot (Dry hop)
79g Mosaic (Dry hop)
40g Amarillo (Dry hop)
15ml Biofine at packaging - I've actually had better results lately with gelatin (my Biofine might be expired)

Mash at 148F, 90 min boil, chill to 64F then raise to 66F over two days and hold at 66F for an additional 2-3 days. 

On day 4-5, transfer to a purged vessel with dry hops and ALDC and hold at 68F until fermentation is complete. For my setup, I plan to use a purged keg with a dry hop screen fitted over the pickup tube and a spunding valve to regulate CO2 pressure. The ALDC isn't required, but it is intended to reduce diacetyl production when dry hopping. This will be my first time giving it a try.

Water Profile

Target Water Profile
 72.3  18.8  52  150.8  153.8 

I'm shooting for 150ppm each of Chloride and Sulfate for a 1:1 Chloride/Sulfate ratio, To 10 gallons of RO water, add:
  • 5.2g Gypsum
  • 5.0g Pickling salt
  • 7.2g Epsom salt
  • 5.6g Calcium chloride
Brewing Notes
No real issues other than I didn't realize my kettle ball valve was open when I was filling the kettle. As such, I probably lost about 4 oz of first runnings wort. Even with the target gravity exactly despite losing a little bit of wort on the garage floor. Clarity on this wort was amazing before adding the hops. As expected, the color is very light due to the pilsner and flaked rice grain bill.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH  5.27
Ending mash pH  5.39 
1st running gravity  19.9 (1.080) 
Pre-Boil gravity  11.6 (1.045) 
Pre-Boil pH  5.40 
Post-Boil gravity  15 (1.059)
Post-Boil pH  5.32

Update 2/25/2023
I’m transferring to a keg today and adding the ALDC and dry hops. Technically day 5 was yesterday, but fermentation was a little slow to start, so I think I’m still within the 4-5 day window specified in the recipe. I realized my dry hop dip tube filter is in use, so I’m using the floating dip tube assembly that came with my Kegmenter instead. I’m planning on dry hopping for a maximum of 6 days.

Update 4/13/2023
I forgot to post an update when I kegged this beer. I really dig the way it turned out. It's very drinkable, especially for ~7%. Hop flavor and aroma are on par with a modern American IPA. Bitterness is definitely firm, but not harsh, so I'm really digging the water profile. All transfers were done closed into purged vessels so as to minimize O2 exposure. The hop character has held up really well. 
The only hiccup I had was with the floating dip tube. It clogged, so I probably lost half a gallon of beer in the keg (secondary). Next time I'll try the dip tube screen and see if it works better. Also, I tried using gelatin rather than Biofine and clarity is decent, but not great compared to most of my lagers. Next time I'll probably go with Biofine and see how it does.


Tmavé Pivo - Czech Dark Lager

>> Monday, January 02, 2023

First brew of 2023 and I’m getting an early start because I want to be done in time to watch the Utes in the Rose Bowl. Today I’m brewing a style I’ve never brewed before. This recipe is based on Tmavé Pivo from Pivovar Hostomice in the Czech Republic, and it’s a Czech Dark Lager. This style is much less common than the more iconic pale Czech Pale Lagers, but I'd argue they're every bit as drinkable. Locally, Offset Bier in Park City, Utah won a silver medal at the North American Brewers Association competition (part of the Mountain Brewers Beer Fest) with their version of the style, also named Tmavé Pivo.

Here’s the BJCP description of the style:

A rich, dark, malty Czech lager with a roast character that can vary from almost absent to quite prominent. Malty with an interesting and complex flavor profile, with variable levels of hopping providing a range of possible interpretations.

This style is a combination of the Czech styles tmavý ležák (11–12.9 °P) and tmavé speciální pivo (13–14.9 °P). More modern examples are drier and have higher bitterness while traditional versions often have IBUs in the 18–20 range with a sweeter balance.

Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

Target OG: 1.056 
Target FG: 1.012 
IBUs: 41 
ABV: 5.8% 

3.6625# Czech floor-malted pilsner 
3.6625# Munich I 
1.675# Weyermann Caramunich III 
1g BrewTan B in mash
2.2oz Weyermann Carafa III (added at sparge)
8.6g Magnum (60 min)
10.5g Magnum (30 min)
54.2g Czech Saaz (15 min)
4.66g BCAA
White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager

Keeping with tradition, I'm employing a double decoction mash for this session. If you don't want to go to the trouble of a decoction mash, I'd probably do a single infusion mash at ~149-150F.

Mash In
Mash in at 99F then raise temp to 126F and hold for 5 minutes before pulling first decoction. 

First Decoction
  1. Pull a one-third decoction, raise temp to 145F and hold for 5 minutes.
  2. Raise temp to 162F and hold for 15 minutes. 
  3. Bring decoction to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes.  
  4. Return decoction to the main mash and maintain at 144F. 
Second Decoction
  1. Pull a second one-third decoction, raise decoction temp to 162F and hold for 15 minutes. 
  2. Bring decoction to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes. 
  3. Return decoction to the main mash and maintain at 165F for 10 minutes.
Add the Carafa III at sparge. 90 min boil. Chill to about 46F then increase temp to 50F over two days.  Hold at 50F until primary is complete, then cold crash and lager for at least a few weeks.  

Water Profile
This is a super soft water profile as recommended by Gordon Strong via a BYO article.  
  • Add 2.26 ml of Phosphoric Acid per 10 gallons RO water. 
  • Add 2g calcium chloride per 10 gallons RO water.
Brewing Notes
No issues other than my arm was really tired from the constant stirring during the decoctions…I might even have a blister. For anyone interested, here's a short video I posted on Instagram for this brew session.
Gravity came in a little below target on this batch, but it’s still within guidelines. Decoction temps were pretty spot on. I love our cooktop, it provides really nice even heating. Also, my wife bought some wooden cooking spoon/scraper utensils called Spurtles and they work amazing for decoction mashes. The color on this beer is gorgeous. Hopefully it tastes as good as it looks. I chilled down to ~55F before transferring to the fermenter. I’ll continue chilling down to 46F before pitching yeast.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.24
Ending mash pH 5.29
1st running gravity 20.3 (1.082)
Pre-Boil gravity 8.8 (1.034)
Pre-Boil pH 5.32
Post-Boil gravity 12.5 (1.049)
Post-Boil pH 5.27

Update 1/2/2023 5:40PM
Yeast was pitched.

Update 1/4/2023
Fermentation was a little sluggish to get going, but I did pitch at 46F and the low temp on this yeast’s range is 50F. I finished ramping the temps up from 46F to 50F today and fermentation activity seems to be ramping up. This morning there was a glug about once every 10-ish seconds and this evening it’s closer to once every 5 seconds.

Update 1/23/2023
This beer was kegged tonight along with gelatin for fining.

Update 2/17/2023
This beer has dropped crystal clear and is a really beautiful dark garnet color. It's a super easy drinking beer, yet it has some nice malty character. I'm going to be entering this beer in two competitions, NHC and Lagerpalooza.