Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Brew Day 11/16/12

American Pale Brett Ale. This is my riff on Orval, which is probably the greatest beer ever. It has inspired so many fantastic “covers”, many of which are up near the top of my list of favorites: Rayon Vert, Brux, probably all the Anchorage beers… For those of you who haven’t had  the pleasure of  partaking in these greats, they are pale, yeast forward,  hoppy, and Brett’d.

I reckon we all essentially have Orval to thank for the beauty of that certain strain of Brett- Brettanomyces Bruxellensis- and its ability to lend its rustic funk to hoppy beers without grating too hard against their herbal bitterness. So good. So farmy. Some folks’ll call the funk “goaty,” “sweaty horse blanket,” or “urinal cake,” especially when it goes wrong, but I’d say “grassy,” “wet hay,” “lemony,” “pear skins,” and “herbal,” are better descriptors of how glorious it can be. I love the way it plays against a simplistic malt bill and lots of hops- Noble or American- and the depth it adds without detracting from a beer’s drinkability. Super complex, super crisp, super refreshing. Some med toast american oak should really spice things up too.

The “vision” for this recipe: Basically this should be the middle ground between Orval and  Rayon Vert. Closer to Orval in size and balance but without the phenolic Belgian primary fermentation profile, and closer to Rayon’s big fruity and piney hop aromatics. The nice Brett complexity will develop in the bottles for a couple of years while the hops fade into oblivion. If all goes well I’ll get a few cases of beer that start relatively clean and hoppy (although some funk is in order) and then transition into a great rustic farmy pale that smoothes out over a few years in the cellar as the hops fade and the Brett matures (if they last that long).

The recipe formulation was easy as pie… nice and clean pilsner malt with a touch of caravienne for color and body, with moderate doses of Centennial for layers of pine and that almost strawberry-like fruityness with some Calypso in the late dry hoping to compliment the lemon/ herbal/ apples/ pears from the Brett, and a relatively neutral yeast strain. Very easy beer to do on brew day. But… what to do with the Brett post brewing to get the beer where I want it? Brett is pretty slow acting, and produces a lot of the great funky flavors it is known for by eating the left over complex sugars that normal brewer’s yeast leave behind after primary fermentation. It is still kind of unpredictable though, and can leave you with a beer with nuances of sheep pee instead of pear skin if things go wrong, so based  on the experiments of a few great bloggers I came up with some strategies that will hopefully help get the beer where I want it:

The Proud Parents
-          Produce a very fermentable beer with a high- attenuating primary strain so that there aren’t a ton of residual sugars for the Brett to eat, thus keeping the Brett profile on the mellower side.

-          Brett’s funky flavors are partially a product of it working on phenolic compounds in the fermented beer, so I’m hoping that by using a clean English yeast instead of a Belgian strain in primary I will limit the source of some of the Brett’ less desirable characteristics

-           Bottle early (in bomb-proof thick bottles, of course) because many sources attribute Orval’s Brett quality to the fact that it develops under pressure and some aromatic by-products can’t escape. Also, oxygen allows Brett to take on a whole new level of harsh funk (like in a great Geuze). Also, this way  the hops can be enjoyed while young and fresh!

-          Brett strains are varied and abundant, but not all that well documents, so instead of rolling the dice with a strain from a lab that may be a propagation of cells that aren’t exactly what I want, I went straight to the source and just pitched the dredges from Orval and Brux into primary with no starter. The idea here is that the WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast would get a big head start to keep the Brett in check. 

This is probably the “riskiest” beer I’ve made, and could go terribly wrong. But, if all goes well I’ll get what I’m looking for and make what has the potential to be a true great.

The Recipe (for 5.5 gal into fermenter):

11.5 lbs Castle Pilsner Malt- 92%
.5 lbs Caravienne- 4%
.5 lbs Table Sugar- 4%

1 oz Nugget @ 30min

2 oz Centennial @ 15min
2 oz Centennial Dry Hop after 1 week in primary (DH total of 7 days)
2 oz Centennial Dry Hop in Secondary 1 week prior to bottling (DH total of 6 days)
2 oz Calypso Dry Hop in Secondary 1 week prior to bottling (DH total of 6 days)
2 oz MED Toast French Oak chips in secondary for 5 days. **the shipping got all F'd up, otherwise I would have gone with just one for more like 2 weeks**

Pitched 4 cup starter (cold crashed) WLP007 “Dry English” ale yeast and dredges from two bottles of Orval and Brux @ 60F with .5 tab Servomicies. Allowed to free rise to ambient high 60 in the house. Will most likely stay around 65 ‘cuz it’s getting cold outside.

Used Sonora Tap H2O with 1.5 g/gal gypsum for pale hoppy water profile.

Mashed at 145F for 45min. and the 152F for 30min.  Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
Double Batch Sparge
90min boil

Collected 5.5 gal after boil and hop trub removal.

OG: 1.053= 69% efficiency
FG: = 1.008 for ABV~5.9%

Calculated SRM: 5
Calculated IBU: Garetz 42, Tinseth 70

11/16- Pitched yeast and put in tub with a blanket wrap for house ambient.
12/2- Transferred to secondary to get off  yeast and first dry hop addition trub. Added 1oz gelatin.

12/20- Dry Hopped with 2oz each Centennial and Calypso.

12/26- Bottled: 4.5gal into 16oz swing-tops primes with .5c table sugar for target CO2 VOLs 2.5. FG @1.008. Hydrometer samples were pretty wild... bret funk is very grassy and nice, hops are much more floral than expected... like lemon verbena, and something about the combination of the WLP007, Caravienna malt, and French Oak is making for something very candy-like about the base beer. Wow!

1/15/13- Cracked the first bottles over the weekend. Holy cow, very exciting beer. Like a fruity hop flavored hard candy with a great, sublte brett finish. Tasting pending.

2/1/13- First review. This is so good. Hoppy now, but already has some nice Brett development. Aromatic, floral, lemony, apples and pears with some hay and a clean finish. Can't wait to bring 'em to Bellingham. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hella! Tasty

Reviewed 11/22/12

It’s been in bottles for quite a while now, and besides being moved in and out of the fridge a few times to make sure I didn’t get any gushers because of the priming sugar mishap, it’s been a tasty last month and a half. I couldn’t really be much happier with the way this one came out.

Appearance: Pale gold with a chill haze and hop oil filter that clears to crystal clear once it has a chance to sit for a bit. Eggshell white head that settles quickly to a thin 1 finger of lacy cream. Next to Celebration Ale it is quite a few shade lighter but shares quite similar clarity and head. **Very happy with the Nottingham yeast’s flocking capabilities! This is the clear beer I have been looking for.**

Smell: This is a very aromatic beer, not hugely complex, but very satisfying. Pineapple juice and sugar pine sap blast right off the bat with pithy tangerine right behind it. Some peppery spice fades into a subtle bready malt behind the citrus fruit and pine needles. Under it all I’m getting a pretty generic “ale” type smell from the yeast, but all and all it is a very clean fermentation. Next to the Celebration Ale I’m having along side it the nose on Hella! is much bigger, with similar woody notes but quite a bit more “sticky”.

Taste: Piney! More complex than the nose. Simcoe hops that stick to your teeth with more than expected pineapple and passion fruit flavors, some peppery spice, and mushroomy earthiness. Clean, minimally sweet malt doesn’t really show through, but serves as a nice medium for all the hop oils. I think it is the Chinook hops giving the spicy and earthy notes that I could almost call out as celery-like. Bitter and crisp with a great prickly hop oil tingle, and almost cheesey in the background (but not in a bad way). Next to the Celebration it is much less malty and much more pithy… Hella! falls on the steamy/ heady side of things while Celebration has that great alpine briskness.  

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, dry, very bitter, prickly. No boozy heat. Right in line with the Celebration.

Overall: In the dream-land-fantasy-world where I own a bitchin mountain top brewery and spend all my free time on two wheels, this would be my flagship big IPA. Way too hoppy, pale and bitter with a hop aroma and flavor to just plain overwhelm all else with pine, tropical fruit, and spice. The Nottingham yeast is a keeper, but next time I’m going to go a bit bigger on the sulfate treatment for some extra bitterness, and go 2:1:1 Simcoe:Chinook:Citra to step up the complexity in the nose a touch.

EDIT: After drinking this to the end, I think I may just go 1:1 Chinook:Citra and save the Simcoe for a single-hop beer. The Simcoe is so overpowering, I'd like to see some more of the wood from the Chinook and the melon from the Citra... plus Simcoes are still my favorites and I kinda want to make a beer that shows them off as the solo act.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Winter White: Blanche Niege

Brew Day 10/13/12

This was the white counterpoint to the Chocolate stout I brewed last time Kel and I were up in Sonora.

As stated in my previous post, the idea is to get a base black and a base white recipe down and brew riffs of each in the summer and winter. I figure Stouts/ Robust Porters and Wit’s both lend themselves to great seasonal drinkers depending on the finer points of the recipes. The Black beard is going to swing between a smooth, smoked honey porter for drinking around the campfire in the summer and a velvety, dry chocolate stout in the winter. The white will be a low-gravity Wit that will swing between something tart and fruity in the summer and spicy and comforting in the winter. Which brings us to our case-in-point: Blanche Niege.

Blanche Niege- (Winter Wit Bier): I’m aiming to hit my “wintery” buttons without making a sipper that drinks like holiday spiced cough syrup. Creamy, spiced, and warming without being hugely sweet, boozy, and malty. I like the thick, full flavor that unmalted wheat and oats gives to Wits without lending much sweetness, and the spicy Hoegaarden yeast character works wonderfully with additional spicing. In the summer I’ll probably go with something crisp like lemongrass and ginger, but this winter I thought that bitter orange peel, grains of paradise, and American toasted Oak would be just right for some hearth-side quaffage. I am fermenting this batch in the mid-high 60’s to encourage more of the earthy/ spicy esters as opposed to the tart and crisp fruity phenols that the yeast produces at higher temps (although this summer, I’ll be all about the mid 70’s). Otherwise, the recipe is a pretty straight forward Barley Malt/ Flaked Wheat/ Rolled Oats low gravity wort with minimal hopping. I went for American 2-row over the traditional Pils for a base malt as I thought saving some extra time on the mash and boil would be worth the swap (and I figured that the waxy/ bready character that Pils brings wouldn’t be missed in this particular beer). My spice additions were pretty conservative. Hopefully they allow for some context in later renditions of the recipe without being so overpowering I won’t be able to tell what is going on.

The Recipe (for 4.5 gal):

4 lbs Briess Organic 2-Row Pale Malt - 44%
4 lb Flaked Wheat - 44%
1 lb Flaked Oats- 11%

1 oz Czech Saaz @ 60min
Pitched 2 viles WLP400 (Hoegaarden strain) @ 65F with .5 tab Servomicies. Made starter with 2cups wort and let it cool overnight. Pitched whole starter the next morning.

Used Sonora Tap H2O with .75 g/gal gypsum for pale/balanced water profile and mash PH.

Mashed at 150F for 120min. Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
Double Batch Sparge
60min boil

Collected 4.5 gal after boil.

OG: 1.042= 63% efficiency
FG: 1.009= 4.3% ABV
Calculated SRM: 4
Calculated IBU: Garetz 16, Tinseth 16

10/14- Down to 65F after cooling overnight, pitched 16oz starter.

11/16- Bottled 4.2 gal with .5cups table sugar at 50F for target CO2 VOL 3.0. FG 1.009. Hydrometer samples are quite tart!

8/8- Winter White Review. Its OK. Weird, but enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Black Beerd: Cocoa Bear Stout

Brew day 10/13/12

Kel and I made our way up to Sonora to bottle Cuirve and Hella!, and I brew the next two batches. I thought it would be fun to make one black and one white, both with a wintery flair to carry us through the next couple of months. My plan is to do a riff on the same two recipes in the spring for the summer editions of each.
The black beer is an almost-dry stout with a hearty dose of chocolate and vanilla.
First of all: Besides the obvious distance between a brown porter and an imperial stout, I think that the two styles are essentially overlapping- especially as you wander into the lands of Robust Porters and Milk Stouts (which are both quite sweet and roasty)- to me the distinguishing characteristic between the two is simply (and subtly) the character or the roasted grains. I think of Porters as being nuttier, toastier, and more chocolaty… essentially “browner” than their closely related but more burnt tasting brethren. A porter should focus on balance, richness, and depth, while a good stout should counter any residual sweetness with some aggressive black-and-burnt dryness. Although I don’t find myself seeking them out very often I like both styles, but generally stay away from sweet variations of either. My favorites are usually dry, not too big, nice and roasty Stouts.
Cocoa Bear- (Oatmeal Chocolate Stout): This recipe is an evolution of the recipe for this summer’s Smokey The Poo Bear, with some adjustments made to nudge it over the imaginary tracks from Porter to Stout territory. Malted Golden Naked Oats and base English Optic Malt should provide much of the body and soul for this one, with the same ratios of brown and roasted malts as in SPB, but this time I used Black Patent in place of Chocolate malt to achieve a darker, drier, more ashen type roasted character. I left the smoke out, boosted the percentage of the oats to counter the meaner black grains with a hearty creaminess, and I’m shooting for a much bigger FG this time to keep it from having the assertive booziness that SPB had. Cocoa powder in the boil and vanilla extract at bottling will hopefully add some comforting layers and make for a nice desert beer.
To be honest, I’m a little worried that using Black Patent as the only roasted grain might leave me wanting some more depth in the roasty dept, but I like using certain recipe changes as “case study” opportunities and figured this would be a great way to contrast the contributions of Chocolate Malt (SPB) and Black Patent.
The Recipe (for 4.5 gal):
10lbs Optic Malt-76%
1.5lbs Golden Naked Oats-12%
.75lbs Brown Malt-6%
.75lbs Black Patent-6%
.5oz Zythos Blend @ 60min
.5oz Zythos Bland @ 10min
4oz Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder @ 10min
4oz Vanilla Extract at Bottling

Pitched 1 Packet Danstar Nottingham Dry yeast @ 65F with .5 tab Servomicies. Set to ferment at 66F for 15 days and then up to 75 to clean up.
Used Sonora Tap H2O with .75 g/gal each gypsum and baking soda for dark/ balanced water profile.
Mashed at 156F for 60min. Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
Batch Sparge
60min boil
Collected 4.5 gal after boil and hop trub removal.

OG: 1.065= 63% efficiency
FG: 1.025= 5.2% ABV 
Calculated SRM: 36
Calculated IBU: Garetz 28, Tinseth 31

10/14- Pitched @ 65F.
10/27- Let temp free-rise to ambient.

11/16- Bottled 4.2gal with 4oz Vanilla Extract and 1 carbonation drop per 22oz bottle **FG is so high I fear that there will be furthur attenuation in the bottles, so I amied for SUPER LOW carbonation. If the high FG is correct and just a product of the cocoa powder, we'll just have a very low carbonation. If not, there should be plenty of room so as not to blow the bottles.** FG: 1.025!?!.

1/25/13- Its been a huge hit over the holidays! Ridiculously chocolaty, and spot on in terms of everything save the need for that it needs more BLACK and maybe a more to-style yeast. Super enjoyable though.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lamb Burgers:

Easy, fast, and tasty.

For two …
One pound ground lamb, the best you can find (if you have a package from our freezer you are off to a great start)
Lots of Salt and pepper. Shape patties into equal size and even thickness. Grill medium rare.
Great Buns ! No sweet bread here. We have used whole wheat, but I think chewy sourdough would be best.
Greek style – tomatoes, raita, feta and romaine lettuce and avocado
Indian style – mango chutney mixed with mayo, some butter lettuce and a slice of fresh red onion.
Bistrot- sauteed onions, guryere, dijon, and frisee.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Carey Had a Little Lamb

To Lamb Lovers everywhere (I know you are out there)
This entry is so long overdue it is a crying shame.
All summer long Jose and I have been enjoying this outrageously delicious organic and grass-fed lamb that we bought in Sonora this spring. Being the lamb lovers that we are, having a freezer full of spring lamb is truly a comforting feeling. This is the best stuff you’ve ever had – and I say this with considerable experience in lamb consumption.
Back in the winter of 2012 (was there really a winter?) I contacted a gentleman; whose name and number I will keep to myself; and ordered one animal that would be ready to butcher in the spring. We talked over the phone about how big it was going to be, and when he thought it would be ready, as well as how I might want it packaged. When we picked it up at Rawhide Meat (story to follow) I was surprised that it all fit into a relatively small box!  35 lbs of meat all told. The butchers had butterflied the legs for me, packaged shanks and shoulders separately, and cut the chops into individual portions. The very best part of all, is the rest has been ground. Lamb burgers, Indian Kofta, Greek Moussaka, souvlakis, Shepard’s Pie, etc……

The possibilities are endlessly delicious. I am including a few recipes for your own lamb, organic or not.
One of the really great side benefits of buying this lamb from a local Tuolumne County resident is that it has opened a few windows for me onto the small farms, ranches and family owned dairy businesses in our foothill communities. Look for more input on some of these little gems very soon!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Awesome Special Brown (ASBII) Tasting

Reviewed 10/18/12

Good, but not great.

ASBII is a bigger, browner, more bitter riff on the original ASB. The original was a really good beer, and I felt I could capitalize on its strong points and move it further in the “hybrid” direction.  

The target was a hop-forward, cleanly malty, bitter brown, and I’d say I hit the mark. I am not completely happy with where the recipe is right now though, and will be re-brewing it again with some new adjustments.

So here we go:

Appearance: Leathery brown that shows garnet red where the light shines through. Significant chill haze, but clear enough (I though the yeast was going to flocc better, but it is pretty young still). The head is big, creamy, and doesn’t fall.

Great head J

Smell: Main impression is toasty, coffee like, nutty, and grassy. It gets more aromatic as it warms and the fruitiness from the yeast begins to open up. Some, but only some, bright hoppy notes that push a hint of peach with some grass/ herbs. The usual hint of caramel sweetness, but this isn’t a sweet smelling beer.

Taste: Bitter and toasty with a grassy edge and an assertive “brown” character. The malt profile is surprisingly crisp and powerfully nutty, biscuity, and coffee like with almost no sweetness. As it warms there are some new subtle layers of toffee and dried apricots. The finish is bitter, clean, and dry.

Mouthfeel: Slick, full, and bitter. The carbonation should be lower and the bitterness softer. Next time I guess.

Overall: Drinks a lot like SN Tumbler, which Kel and I had alongside for comparison. We made some notes for how they compare… Tumbler: Slight smoke, cleaner yeast, creamier sweetness, half as bitter… ASBII: More aromatic, fuller body, apricots and peaches, coffee and nuts.

EDIT: After some age, it has developed quite a prominent sweetness. Good, but needs a certain smoothenss that was lost somewhere between it's bitter youth and sweet sunsetting.

My thoughts on how it compares to the original ASB:

    Making it bigger by upping the base malt was unnecessary. The original OG/FG worked wonderfully with the higher ratios of specialty grains, and this one could use the additional sweetness that the original had.

     Turning it brown was awesome. The added toast balanced out the caramel perfectly.

      The 15min/ flame out/ DH quantities were an improvement this time. I like the effect of less hops in the flavor dept. Next time I’ll skip the 15min altogether to let the malt shine.

     The Timothy Taylor yeast is good, and only subtly different from the London Ale that I used last time, but would be better suited to a paler beer. I’ll go back to the WLP013 for the next re-brew as I really loved the apple/ pear/ and woody notes it provided. The WY1469 has some amazing apricot/ peach type esters going on, and a very nice perfume-like powdery thing that shined in the 2 bottles I saved of the starter wort (which hilariously turned out to be a very solid “blonde”).   

      I overshot the bitterness on ASBII by quite a bit. Next time I’m going to aim a little lower on the IBUs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Brew Day 9/22/12

Cuivre means “copper” in French. Since my Penny Bier went sour, I’ve been wanting to get another stab at table beer for the holidays and this is it- A second, much more focused attempt at a small Dubbel; or a “Table Strength Belgian Amber” to be more specific. Copper colored, single strength, mellow, fruity, and spicy. Penny Bier take 2.

One of my favorite not-pale beer styles (at least in the winter) is Abbey Dubbel -- I love the complexity and warmth that Belgian yeast strains can bring to a simple brown grain bill. I find that when they are done right, the rich, sweet complexity of the spicy and fruity Belgian yeast compliments the slightly toasty malt bill without being overwhelmingly fruity and sweet the way Belgian Golden Strong Ales or Tripels are. I think that the spicy, warming, rich and earthy character of darker belgian beers makes for a perfect holiday beverage, and I want to have something that pairs well with roasted meat and veggies without filling you up or getting you too “toasty” ready for the family Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, so I whipped up a lower ABV dark Belgian.

Cuivre (Amber Belgian Table Bier): This is almost a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop), but the use of Willamette hops as the bittering charge and the lb of dark Belgian candi syrup at flame out DQ it in that dept. Still though, 100% Vienna Malt for the grain bill and Saaz hops as the only flavoring addition should make for a wonderfully simple palate of warm bready malt and spicy-sweet hop aromas as the backdrop for the earthy, dark fruit, and clove dimensions contributed from the Abbey yeast and candi syrup. The Chimay yeast fermented at a relatively low temp should keep the bubblegum and banana phenols to a minimum and hopefully let the spice and plum-skin esters shine through. Light bodied and full flavored, with just enough subtle bitterness to keep it from feeling too sweet-- I’m looking to achieve a nice depth without noisy complexity.

The Recipe (for 5 gal):

10 lbs Vienna Malt - 90%
1 lb D-90 Dark Candi Syrup - 10%

1 oz Willamette @ FWH

2 oz Czech Saaz @ 15min

Pitched 2 viles WLP500 (Chimay strain) @ 75F with .5 tab Servomicies. Quickly dropped to ferment at 66F for 5 days and then up to 75F to clean up. **Would have loved to pitch at 65F, but the fridge was being kooky**

Used Sonora Tap H2O with .5 g/gal gypsum for pale/balanced water profile and mash PH.

Mashed at 155F for 75min. Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
Batch Sparge
60min boil

Collected 4.5 gal after boil and hop trub removal.

OG: 1.052= 63% efficiency

FG: 1.011= 5.4% ABV
Calculated SRM: 14
Calculated IBU: Garetz 28, Tinseth 33

9/23- Down to 66F after cooling overnight, small krausen.

9/27- called Annette to turn chamber up to 75F.

9/13- Kel added 1oz gelatin.

9/14- Bottled with Carbonation drops. FG@ 1.011

12/6/12- Been drinking it since Thanksgiving. Its OK. A start at the recipe, but I need to skip the Vienna malt and ferment hotter next time. Probably switch out hops too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hella! IPA

Brew Day 9/22/12

This was the first of two beers I brewed at the new HomeBrewery inSonora, and besides one terrible scare with the fermentation chamber it went amazingly smooth. All targets were hit, both recipes were solid, and hopefully both beers will be winners.

H!PA: I know I’ve mentioned my affinity for IPAs before. Ridiculously, out of the 9 beers I have planned for the next several months, 6 are IPAs…. All with a different “concept.” The theme for this recipe is for it to be an extra-gnar-super-duper special delivery of a forest of hops. Not looking for balance, not looking for excitement, not looking for size; just want an extra pale and piney, mean, green, lean, and stinky hop rocket. West Coast IPA from the hills; Hella! Pale Ale. Pine sap, citrus peel, earthy spice, and maybe some distant tropical tingles are my targets in that order with the hopping on this one! OOooooooooooohhhhhhhh boy!

I also am also looking for a clearer and paler beer than I have been making lately. No caramel malts and a flocculent English yeast should keep it nice and clean while the Golden Promise as the base should keep it interesting enough in the background to support all of the hops—really I just haven’t been satisfied with my previous IPAs in the bitterness dept, “too much balance” has left me wanting more bite—so I went the distance and opted for what is essentially a base only bill (just some carafoam for “the chewy” and sugar to help it finish nice and low) and with 89-135 IBUs depending on the calculator it should be up around 2x the bitterness of YPA.

What else… Magnum as the bittering charge ‘cuz that is how Sierra does it…. A 2:1 ratio of Simcoe to Chinook kettle additions ‘cuz Simcoe’s resinous pine and orange brightness should be even better with a touch of the Chinook’s, woody, earthy, spicy darkness to anchor it…. 3 oz additions at 15min and “whirlpool” to ensure the flavor and aroma get the full spectrum of citrusy sweet to pine sap nuances from the hops… a single oz Citra at 5min to hopefully extract it’s great tropical and black pepper notes but boil off the more subtle and delicate floral tones (pine and floral perfume are two of my favorite hop profiles in IPAs, but they don’t belong in the same beer IMO)… a big dry hop dose of Simcoe and Chinook to keep it super “foresty”… and relatively low fermentation temp to leave the yeast out of the way. **We’ll see how the Nottingham Dry yeast does, and if I can actually use Citra for it’s citrus and tropical fruit flavors without being as perfumy as it was in the flame out and dry hop additions in La Rouge, Sunny Side, and Swamp Thing.**

The Recipe (for 4.5 gal after boil, 4 into fermenter thanks to hop bag absorption):

.5 lb Hops in the Boil!
10 lbs Golden Promise-69%
3 lbs Rahr 2-Row-20%
1 lbs Carafoam-7%
.5 lbs Table Sugar- 4%

1 oz Magnum @ FWH
1 oz Chinook @ 15min
2 oz Simcoe @ 15min
1oz Citra @ 5min
1oz Chinook Flame Out @ 160
2oz Simcoe Flame Out @ 160
1oz Chinook Dry Hop after 2 weeks in primary (DH total of 10 days)
4oz Simcoe Dry Hop after 2 weeks in primary (DH total of 10 days)

Pitched 1 Packet Danstar Nottingham Dry yeast @ 75F with .5 tab Servomicies. Quickly dropped to ferment at 66F for 5 days and then up to 75 to clean up. **Would have loved to pitch at 65F, but the fridge was being kooky**

Used Sonora Tap H2O with 1.5 g/gal gypsum for pale/hoppy water profile.

Mashed at 145F for 30min, then 152F for 30 min. Mash Out at 168F for 10 min.
Batch Sparge
70min boil.

Collected 4 gal after boil and hop trub removal. **under shot boil off rates, and therefor overshot targeted OG. Should have been 4.5 into fermenter at 1.066, instead got 4 gal at 1.070**

OG: 1.070= 63% efficiency
FG: 1.012= 7.6% ABV
Calculated SRM: 6
Calculated IBU: Garetz 88, Tinseth 135

9/23- Down to 66F after cooling overningt, foamy activity!

9/27- called Annette to turn chamber up to 75F.

9/13- Kel added 1oz gelatin.

9/14- BOTTLING NIGHTMARE! The damn whole leaf hops that I used in the dry hopping soaked up around a half gallon. Seriously. Then they clogged the damn spiggot so badly that I had to stick my ARM in the bucket to plunge the opening, only after blowing bubbles through the nozzle and failing to dislodge the clog that way. Also, I'm an idiot and calculated the carbing sugar for 4 gal BEFORE transfering the beer to a bottling bucket, only to find out that thanks to the long list of mis-haps there was only 3 gal to bottle.

Over carbed by 1.0 VOLs CO2? Check.
Exposed to major risk of infection? Check.
Oxidized beyond recognition? Probably.

Hopefully the yeast is clean enough to survive a short bottle condidioning period and go straight into the fridge to stop the carbonation from going too high. As far as the oxidation goes? All there is to do is keep my finger crossed that this beer will just be too hopy to detect any off-flavors.

11/22/12- After a few ins-and-outs of the fridge due to paranoia about over-carbonation, it has finally hit the sweet spot... However the hops have already faded a bit from where they were in thier glory at 2 weeks. Supurb IPA if you ask me! Luckily all the mishaps didn't detract from the final product too much. It's a heady brew, brimming with pine, pineapple, and some earthy spice. Will brew again!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Living in Oakland and Brewing in Sonora

New Space Update

So, Kelly and I have moved in to our new place in Oakland. We are counting our lucky stars to have been able to land in such a great apt in a great neighborhood in what looks to be great City, and we are thrilled to be out of the ‘burbs. Rural>Urban>>>>>>>>>>Suburban. One day we will make back to the woods, but for this chapter in our lives we are quite pleased to be so close to good friends, epic riding, and super-rad beer.

But…. I had to move the brewing operation up to my dad’s in Sonora.

Although it was a hard pill to swallow at first, I think moving the operation off-site will actually be a good change. First of all, the water in Sonora is amazing- basically the same profile as the RO water I was buying in Los Altos- which means most beer styles are ready to go right out of the tap with a minor adjustment only a dash of Gypsum or Baking soda away. Second, there is a spare fridge in the shop that we have outfitted with a thermostat so now I will be able to dial in fermentation temps to within a degree/ make lagers/ cold-crash for clarity. Third, the fact that it is a two hour drive away from home means that I’m going to be brewing around once a month (enough time between batches to bottle the previous while I brew the next) which will help with planning and recipe formulation- I expect to average two batches per brew day, and will be very careful to have all my ducks in a row before heading out. The only factor that makes me a bit nervous is that I won’t be around to “babysit” the beers while they ferment, but I have confidence that my pops can properly execute things like temp adjustment and dry hoping.

Also very positive: Kel and I now have a standing date to make it back home to visit my Folks once a month.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BRYnRYE’s Ale Tasting

Reviewed 8/16/12
I’m not really sure where I stand with this one, but I guess it is pretty much what I was looking for; a middle of the road beer. I like the color, the balance, the malt profile… but it somehow misses the mark on drinkability. I guess there isn’t really anything solid enough to really draw you in. And there is a weird tang that I can’t track down the source of in our brewing process-- I’m thinking either it comes from the Special Roast/ rye combo, or possibly an extremely heavy hand with the Starsan (acid wash) at bottling. The grain bill would have been awesome as a “Belgian Amber,” and now I’m really disappointed that the Penny Bier half went sour.

Appearance: If it weren’t for the haze and lack of head it would be quite pretty as it is a neat marriage of red and yellow streaks in the light that come together to make a nice dark orange color in the dark spots.

Smell: This isn’t a very aromatic beer to tell you the truth. There are some subdued round and mellow caramel note, hints of dark fruits, and somehow some winter spice in the way-back. The hops are very subtle in the nose as a tinge of grapefruit from time to time over the malt. No yeast to speak of.

Taste: Bigger than the nose suggests, but still not huge. Spicy and caramel malt flavors with a slight biscuit note and some yeasty fruits like pears and plums. As it warms it starts to show some brown sugar sweetness mid-sip. There is a weird almost tart (but not sour) and raspy finish that I really don’t like but am not sure the source of, maybe the Cascades? The rye? … I want to call out a raspberry note, but I think it is just an illusion created by the combo of the tartness and dark caramel notes. The finish is sandpaper-rough from the lingering bitterness and rye.

Mouthfeel: Med to full bodied, low (too low) carbonation, at once rich and dry, with a rough lingering bitterness. I actually like the character of the bitterness, which is harsher than the mid-palette IBUs suggest, but in this beer it too heavy. Would be at home in a "meaner" beer.

Overall: Without the dry, bitter, and tart finish it could be a nice, mellow beer.
Close, but no cigar. I’m not really sure how I want to remedy the recipe, I think it could be a great beer with just a small nudge in one of three directions: 1) Go bigger on the OG and switch the hops out for something gnarly (I’d probably do Horizon or Pacific Gem, maybe even Chinook) a-la Arrogant Bastard, 2) use a sweeter finishing English or Belgian yeast for a “warmer” beer, or 3) simply switch the Rye for wheat and Special roast for Crystal 60 for a similar mellow balance with an easier, smoother character. We’ll see, I’ll probably just move on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Smokey The Poo Bear Tasting

Reviewed 8/27/12

Please forgive the dirty glass-
Another total success, up on the list of best-evers with  Swamp Thing.

This is a pretty aggressive beer, but not off-putting in any way. Keeping the hops low and the crystal malts out worked wonderfully, as did the combo of oats for body and honey for boosting the OG but keeping the finish nice and dry. The smoked malt and brown malt give it a neat complexity and sharpness that worked to provide some interest without adding sweetness.  Roasty, toasty, bread crusty, and dark chocolaty up front with a creamy mouthfeel and a sweet –boozyness to balance. It is definitely big and satisfying, but without the intimidating sugary-sweet depths of bigger imperial stouts.

I’ll have to make this one a house recipe for the warm weather black beer, but I’ll probably add a pinch of Honey Malt to bring out a honey-sweetness in the finish.

Appearance: Leathery around the edges and pitch black in the depths with a HUGE spongy tan head.

Aroma: Faintly smokey with a woody-honey sweetness and a pretty dominant dark-toasted bread smell. It smells faintly sweet and really reminds me of burnt marshmallows. There are faint hints of the honey, but I have to really seek 'em out. As it warms the nose gets much bigger and a booziness comes out along with some more mead-like notes from the yeast.

Taste: Creamy, roasted, full, and smooth with a silky dark chocolate bite and a very subtle coffee twang. Surprisingly dry and clean for the marshmallow notes in the nose. It is “warming” as it warms up and the honey/mead/ woody thing comes out. Finishes dry, ever-so-slightly on the bitter side of scale but I don’t think it’s the hops… The balance is more of an attribute of the sour-dough like brown malt and the roasty malts leaving a hint of lingering “blackness”.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and dry with some boozy heat. Not sticky at all, but still quite full bodied with very fine, yet vigorous, carbonation.

Overall: Unlike any porter I’ve bought lately. Not malty, not sweet, but not acrid and “sour” like the Mild (which needs some sweetness to balance the burnt flavors). It has an awesome balance from the sweet alcohol and depth of roasted, toasted, and smoked grains. Drinks quite like a bar of dark chocolate; not sweet, but still rich. Only change I’ll make next time is a less attenuating yeast and a pinch of Honey Malt for some clean sweetness. Might add some more oats too, as it could do for a touch more body.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What Beer Looks Like

Being a designer, it's always fun to check out what other folks are brewing up in their studios. Here are some Beer Fest posters that exemplify what American Beer looks like, on a graphic level. Check out OhBeautifulBeer for your daily dose of "eye-hopping" packaging, posters, and all things beer!

Basemint Design

ASB II and Brown Bavarian

Brew Day 8/25/12
The ASB I brewed earlier this year has been a great go-to, easy drinking beer, and now that it is gone I felt the need to line up another riff on it. Plus, the bRYEn’RYE came and went in a hurry and wasn’t all that satisfying on the “backyard beer” front. So I got out the ASB recipe and re-worked it for the fall.
I wanted to keep it relatively the same size on gravity and hop-presence, but mix up the profile a bit to make a more cohesively toned beer. I felt that ASB’s Victory malt and Crystal 40 ratios lent a very nice and balanced biscuity sweetness that backed up the mellow but hop-forward flavor and character form the English yeast. A combo of Americanized hops with distant English lineage for a nice combo of earthy and fruity aromas to compliment the yeast and biscuity malt backbone sounded like just the ticket for a great fall go-to. A quick break down of the recipe is as follows--

ASB II- Awesome Special Brown:
-Clean and slightly sweet Golden Promise as the base to stay out of the way.
-A moderate dose of Victory and C40 to re-create the great biscuity flair of ASB. Think pie crust.
-Enough Pale Chocolate to turn it a deep brown and lend some more toasted and nutty flavors. Again, think pie crust.
-Timmoth Taylor yeast for clear flocculation and some nice stone-fruit esters.
-Amarillo, Palisade, and Willamette flavor and aroma additions for complimentary peachy/ apricot/ earthy/ grassy hop-profile with some Belgian Admiral in the dry hop for juicier but still English aromatics. I also moved some of the hops out of the 15min flavor spot and into later additions to try for less hop oils in the mouth and more in the nose. Probably would have been even cleaner if I had done FWH and DH only, but that’ll have to be next time I guess. With the pie crust malt and fruity aromatics I’m kind of hoping for an Apricot Turnover beer.
-Mash high to keep the finishing gravity up. The ASB finished at 1.008, and although it was a great outcome in that beer, I wanted this one to have a bit more weight in the finish to balance the hops.
Brown Bavarian:
As usual, I couldn’t just stop at one beer, so I picked up an extra pack of the Weihenstephan yeast strain for the other half of the wort. I’m hoping that the subtly clove and banana fermentation profile blends nicely with the slightly sweet and biscuity malt and hop profile, plus I’ve been drinking a lot of hefe lately and felt that I needed more.

The Recipe (for 7 gal split- 3.33 ASBII and 2.8 BB):
12 lbs 2-Golden Promise- 80%
1 lb Victory Malt- 7%
1 lb Crystal 40- 7%
1 lb Pale Chocolate Malt- 7%

*Both beers recieved the same Hopping*
1oz Centennial FWH (bittering only addition)
1oz Amarillo for 15min boil
1 oz each Amarillo, Palisade, and Willamette at F/O
1 oz each Palisade and Admiral Dry Hop for 7 days


1 3L Starter WY1469 "West Yorkshire" yeast
1 Pack WY3068 “Weihenstephan” yeast
1g each gypsum and baking soda per gal of water. All R/O.
Single infusion @ 156F for 1 hr

OG: 1.052 = 63% efficiency

FG: BOTH AT 1.014~ 5.0% ABV
SRM: 19
IBU: 40

8/25/12- Brewed with no hiccups. Lost a half gallon to hop trub.
9/8/12- Added dry hops. Gravity at 1.019 for both beers.

9/15/12- Bottled 3 gal ASBII with 1/3 cup table sugar for 2.4 vol CO2. FG1.014~ 5.0% ABV

9/15/12 Bottled Brown Bavarian with 1/4 cup table sugar for 2.4 vol CO2. FG1.014~ 5.0% ABV

10/18/12- ASBII is bitter, crisp, and good. I'll be making some more changes for next time in the vein of getting a little closer to the original. This one is too bitter, and the WY1469 made a better blonde (I bottled the starter) than it did a brown.