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.