Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brewers Gold Mild

I've really started getting into some of the British beer styles lately. It makes me think of tiny public houses in England full of smoke with old dudes having a beer with their dog on the bench next to them.

I see it as a real challenge as a brewer to create low alcohol beers that are still full of flavor.

Mild #1

Mild Malt- 6 lbs
Crystal 20- 8 oz
Crystal 80- 8 oz
Black Patent- 2 oz

Brewers Gold- .5 oz- 60 minutes
Brewers Gold- .5 oz- 13 minutes

Wyeast 1355- British Ale 2- Yeast cake from previous beers.

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

This a style I've never brewed before, and it was full of ingredients I've never used also. Mild Malt seemed like a no brainer as far as brewing a Mild is concerned. A couple Crystals for some subtlety, and the small Patent addition for color. Brewers Gold isn't a hop I had ever really seen before, and it's pretty sizable in alpha acids, so it was a nice opportunity to showcase this in a British style beer. They smelled great, but I was disappointed that the aroma disappeared almost immediately when I dropped them into the boil. I'm hoping some of that aroma will carry over into the finished beer.

I've got some temperature control issues to work out with my brew house. My mash pot lost about eight degrees over the hour, which is not so hot (literally). I'm going to have to figure out some way to insulate the pot after I heat the water.

Because I did this beer on a yeast cake, I'm going to do a quick turnaround next weekend with a Smoked Porter, partly to get some drinkable beers in the bottle soon, and also to use up some specialty malts I've got sitting around.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

McGill's Best Bitter

It's been a while since I brewed. A combination of beers needing to be bottled, along with a lack of empty fermenters and unpredictable weather have kept me from it. But this weekend, I got back in the saddle. I have an empty corny keg that has been begging for a beer to be put in it, and as the weather has gotten nicer, my thoughts have turned to having a BBQ in our garden with five gallons of home brew to serve up.

A low hoppiness, low gravity, but full flavored beer is perfect for that sort of scenario. And with the weather good for fermenting English ales, I thought I might brew a Best Bitter type ale.

McGill's Best Bitter

Crisp Maris Otter- 7 lbs
Flaked Barley- 1 lb
Caramel 20L- 8 oz
Caramel 80L- 8 oz

Fuggles- .5 oz- 60 minutes
Fuggles- 2.5 oz- 10 minutes

Wyeast 1355- British Ale 2- 1000 ml starter

155/170 mashoff- hot water infusion

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

The recipe is a version of something I did a year ago for a keg. The thought process revolved around trying to make a smallish medium sized beer that tastes a lot bigger than it is. The Maris Otter is about trying to get a nice flavorful malt with a little color. The flaked barley will work in tandem with the higher mash temps to give it a nice thickish body with a creamy mouthfeel. The Caramel will give a little sweetness/roastiness. The Fuggles was all I had, so the bitterness may be a little low, but I think some of my neighbors are a little wussy about beer (read: they drink Miller Lite), so it won't be too hop forward for their delicate (read: untrained) palates. Hopefully, the size of the late addition will play like the mash temp and flaked barely, and make it more hoppy than it seems.

I was most excited by the yeast. Aside from my Saisons I did last year, I was most happy with the ales that I fermented with the British yeasts. The hoppiness can be forward but more subtle and complex than what some of the West Coast yeasts can give you. Great stuff.

I will be posting again soon on my last lager of the year, which was a Pils, but I am really excited by ale season. I'm always excited by the weather changing, and with it, the chance to brew new styles. With the weather getting so warm, it'll be time for my favorites (the Belgians) again soon enough.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Steinsdorf Schwarz

When I lived in Germany, I drank lots of beers and lots of different beers. But the most memorable moments seemed to take place with the darkest of the dark lagers, the Schwarzbier. My host family had a garden house in Bad Köstritz, home of the famous Köstritzer. The world owes this beer a debt of gratitude culturally, as it was the beer that Goethe would sustain himself with when he was too sick to eat. Indeed, I remember my host mom warming some of this beer to give to me when I was so sick that they nearly stuck me in an ice bath to try and break a fever. The other great black beer memory I have was a trip to Prague with my host dad and brothers where we drank some of the divine dark lagers at U Fleků. The pub had been in business more than 250 years when the Declaration of Independence was written, and it was amazing to think about that in the Prague sun in the garden with trees growing up through the tables.

Obviously, I've got some fond memories of this style, so it was important that I do this one right. Named after a town next to the town where I lived, where my buddy Igor is from, Steinsdorf Schwarz. The village of stones. A proper name for a dark lager.

Steinsdorf Schwarz

Pilsener Malt- 3 lbs
Vienna Malt- 3 lbs
Dark Munich- 2 lbs
Melanoidin- 8 oz
Carafa 2 400L- 6 oz

Hallertauer Northen Brewer- 1 oz- 60 minutes

White Labs WLP833 Bock- Yeast cake from Winter Solstice Dunkel and Bock Bier

Mash Schedule-
151/167- hot water infusion

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV-

The style is sometimes referred to as Black Pils, so I elected for a bigger Carfa charge in this beer to try to get most of the color from there. I also elected to do a single water infusion, trying to keep this simple. Also, in keeping with the general idea of the Black Pils, I wanted to let the melded flavors of malt and bitterness tell the story, as opposed to hitting you in the head with the malts. I also stuck with a single, albeit large hop addition with a fairly high alpha acid varietal, Northern Brewer.

The exciting bit today was getting to use my new mash tun from More Beer. It was well worth the expense, as you can tell immediately that it's built to last. It also made the brew day faster as far as getting the mash going was concerned. With the cooler, I would heat my mash water up to a few degrees higher, then have to wait until the cooler had absorbed some of the heat, then started mashing. If I missed too high, getting that correct temp in the cooler could take 20 minutes. With this pot, I was able heat right to the temp, and start the mash right away. Also, because it is three gallons larger than the cooler, I was able to mash at a higher water to grain ratio. The lautering has rarely gone by so quickly.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bock Bier

Lager season this year seems to be turning into the season of the malty lagers. Next up was one of the ancient German styles, the Bock Bier. Noted for big flavor, big alcohol, darkish color and they also often have goats on the label (bock being the German word for goat). Sorry I couldn't come up with a better name. You'd think it would be easy, what with the goat visual and all, but sometimes I just can't be bothered.

Bock Bier

Dark Munich- 5 lbs
Vienna- 5 lbs
Melanoidin Malt- 1 lb
Belgian Carapils 8L- 8 oz
Carafa 400L- 2 oz

Northern Brewer- .75 oz- 60 minutes
Northern Brewer- .25 oz- 9ish minutes

White Labs WLP833 Bock- Yeast cake from Winter Solstice Dunkel

127/152/Mash out- All decoctions (I am, in fact, the man)

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

My recipe creation has hinged on Randy Mosher's great brewing book, Radical Brewing: milk as much color from the primary malts as possible. Hence, I opted for the dark version of the Munich malt, Vienna to provide some balance, and so on. The dark Carafa is a lot like the Black Malt in the English beers, where you literally need a couple tablespoons or you'll blacken the beer too much, along with giving it an acrid aftertaste. Traditionally Bock's only have a bitterring addition on the hops, but being an American, I need my hoppinesss and went with a small flavor addition. A word of note to any home brewers reading this: the White Labs Bock is a new strain, I think, and it is an exceptionally slow starter. I put this beer on the Dunkel yeast cake, and it didn't really show outward signs of attenuation for something like 36 hours. It gets a brownish foam going (almost like an ale yeast when it's almost done) before it takes off. Based on the Dunkel sample I tasted at racking last weekend though, it's a great yeast that totally accentuated the malts.

I think the cornerstone of this beer will be the malt, driven by the decoction mashing. It's kind of a pain, and you really need to do your math properly if you're going to hit your rest temps. Thankfully Promash does those calculations for me, but still, it's not something that you want to just try and wing. Better to cut your teeth on a decoction mash out once or twice (since you're trying to just get above a certain point), which is a lot more forgiving than trying to hit an exact temperature. Again, the Dunkel sample I tried, I wanted to just turn the carboy upside down and drink, it was so bready and tasty. So good.

I'm of two minds about the next beers to do. I would kind of like to do a small session style Schwarzbier, I'd like to do a redo of last years Smoked Lager (which Kerry's friend Lara said was the best beer she's ever had thankyouverymuchlara). I'm also not sure if I want to try a different yeast with these German lagers before I do some light colored beers before spring. The one thing I do know is that my mash cooler has brewed it's last. My old set mash lautering issues have cropped up again, and I'm scrapping this setup. I actually tried brewing this Bock beer last weekend, was only able to drain off two gallons of sweet wort, and ended up tossing it all in the composter. I had never been so frustrated while brewing. This week I splurged and bought an all stainless steel brewpot style tun with a false bottom that sits above the ball valve. First class all the way, so this thing better last a while. I can't wait to brew with it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Solstice Dunkel

Ahh, lager season. When I try to prove that a world class beer can be brewed in 32 degree weather on a porch. I like to think yes.

Dunkel means dark in German, which is what it is outside by the time I get done brewing. Which tomorrow or the next day being solstice, it made sense that I would brew a dark one.

Munich Malt(dark)- 5 lbs
Munich Malt (light)- 4 lbs
Carafa 2 (400L)- 2 oz
CaraPils- 8 oz
Melanoidin Malt- 8 oz

Perle- .5 oz- 60 minutes
Tradition- 1 oz- 15 minutes

White Labs WLP833 Bock

127/150/166- Double Decoction

Gravity- Projected/Actual/Final/ABV

I cannot account for that high gravity. It could have been the massively stuck lautering process again, which has me designing a new mash tun. I'm thinking something where the false bottom is weighted to about 10 pounds, thereby making it impossible for grain to get under it.

The decoction process was something I've done before, but I had never attempted to do it where I was trying to hit an exact temperature rest. I had always played it safe by doing it at mash out, which is not too tough, since if you miss your temp, as long as you don't miss too high, it's not too big a deal. Today I moved from the first rest to the sacch rest, and I absolutely nailed it. All I can say is to do your calculations (or have Promash do it for you like I do), and pull the exact amounts, and it'll work out okay. I'm interested to see what kind of maltiness I get from this technique.

The recipe is pretty German. I try to stay well within what you'd expect for a style the first time I brew a certain beer, then I can make my adjustments from there. All German malts, all German hops, and a southern Bavarian yeast. I'm a little worried that it might be a little too dark (that Carafa is soooo dark, you really don't need much to make a massive color adjustment), but it should taste like it was brewed in a cave outside of Munich by a guy wearing lederhosen.

I've never repeated anything, but I think this may be my first. I'm doing my first lager a little sooner this year, so I think I may try it at the end to see how the repeatability of the recipe is.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Highlanders Kiss- Scottish Ale

I have been trying to come up with some recipes lately to round out some styles that I haven't previously brewed. Unlike my dad who tries to completely fill his mash tun with grain (I keep trying to tell him that it's not like Belgium in the old days when you would get taxed based on the size of the mash tun), I tend to start out with my beers on the small side.

So I was a bit surprised when I wrote up my recipe for my first Scottish Ale that my gravity pushed it to the upper reaches of the style. I tried to imagine a Highlander, what with his kilt and no undergarments, drinking a beer with and original gravity of 1.035 in rainy 50 degree weather while tending his flock in the Scottish Highlands, and it just didn't seem right. I pressed ahead with my Export strength recipe, and came up with this:

Highlanders Kiss Ale

Maris Otter- 7 lbs
Crystal Malt 20L- 8 oz
Flaked Barley- 8 oz
Smoked Malt- 4 oz
Carafa 400L- 4 oz

Goldings- 1 oz- 90 minutes

Wyeast 1728- Scottish Ale- 1000 ml starter

Gravity- Projected/Acutal/Final/ABV

156/167 mash out- hot water infusions

Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will no doubt know that I typically have difficulty obtaining the ingredients I went for at the LHBS. I only had one substitute on this brew which was the Carafa (subbing for an equal amount of Roasted Barley). Meaning it was more or less what I set out to make. The name Highlanders Kiss is for the kiss of smoked malt I threw in to give it just a hint of smoke. Oddly, a lot of what I read said the German smoke malt is more suited to the style than a Scottish Peat malt, which I don't understand, but whatever. Perhaps when I'm perfecting this recipe once and for all, I'll try a batch with both to see how it turns out. Everything else is pretty straightforward. One hop charge at the beginning of a long boil, Scottish yeast, etc. Predictable brew day, hopefully to be a good brew. This yeast strain didn't form the normal krauesen that I expect, so I'm cautiously optimistic. I know it was viable yeast, so I'm giving it three weeks in the primary fermenter.

As far as the rest of the year, I'm at a crossroads. It seems to be getting much colder earlier than last year, so I may brew my sour beers and get on with the lagers. We'll see what the weather does and take it from there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saison Dunkel- A German Belgian

I don't drink Saison's very often, mainly because they're so damn expensive, but sometimes the expense is worth it. I had a Saison Dupont last night, and it just reminded me why I love the style so much. Peppery, spicy, and totally balanced. So good.

Today I brewed the second of two Saison's I will brew this year. I did a more classic version a few weeks ago, so today's was a darker brew. I read in Farmhouse Ales that some German's do some variations on the styel, so it seemed like a fun idea to do a darker incarnation that featured some German grains.

Saison Dunkel-

German Munich Malt- 3 lbs
Belgian Pilsner Malt- 3 lbs
Vienna Malt- 2 lbs
Special B- 8 ounces
CaraFoam- 8 ounces
Sauer Malt- 4 ounces

Fuggle- .75 oz- 60 minutes
Fuggle- 1.25 oz- 15 minutes

Yeast cake from Saison #1

148/165- hot water infusion with a decoction mash out

Gravity- Target/Actual/Final/ABV

I always go back to Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing when I'm putting together a recipe lately. One of the things he talks about is squeezing as much color from your base malt as possible. I had originally planned on using a dark Munich malt instead of a light, but this beer was still noticeably darker than the first one. The Special B is a classic Belgian Dubbel ingredient, so it seemed like the right roasted Malt to use as my other main color adjustment. The yeast does most of the work on this beer, so there's a very small amount of hops in relation to the gravity, but I think this will be a tasty brew.

I was putting together the list of beers I want to make in the next few months, and I've got some really fun things coming up. I will be harvesting some hops here pretty soon, which will go into my first Harvest Ale. I am planning on a Cocoa Porter using some Scharfenberger Cocoa Nibs as a bittering agent. I am also really excited about doing a Scotch Ale, which will employ a small bit of smokey malt. Good times!