Tuesday, May 22, 2012

La Rouge and Pomegranate Kolsch

Brew Day 4/20/12
Another seat of my pants brew.

I have a hard time with being a little over-stimulated when it comes to planning recipes, and I have learned from experience that I need to have a very specific plan layed out for brewing a beer, or else I'm just overcome with GREAT ideas and usually end up smashing way too many of them together last min. The result is usually fine, thanks to a decent level of self-restraint in recipe formulation (I feel that it is easy to muddle up a beer with too many ingredients. I totally think the key to nice depth and drinkability is a focused, simple recipe), but I often end up using up an idea I am really looking forward to in another context (like the Simcoe/ Chinook/ Centennial combo that I had set aside for an IPA but ended up using in my ASB).

I tried to keep this in mind when hen I headed by the LHBS to buy the ingredients for a Smoked Mild/ Honey Porter that I have been thinking about for a few weeks now only to find that they were out of almost every specialty ingredient that I was looking for. This time, instead of picking and choosing from random inspirations, I just took a look in the fridge for any interesting yeasts or hops and took it from there. The only rule was that I couldn't steal from any of my up-coming recipes.

La Rouge-(Rustic Hoppy Amber Farmhouse, the main event for this brew day)- Miracously, the shop had a lot of Citra hops on hands. Sweet! Then, in the back I found a lone packet of WY3711 French Saison yeast which I had been hearing some great things about.

Tropical fruity/ citrusy hops? Check.
Spicy/ rustic yeast? Check.

From there I put together a malt bill that i thought would compliment the Citra hops and French yeast... Mostly pils as I wanted this to be a Saison at heart, with some Munich, Caravienne, and Special B to give it a nice color and some malty sweetness to fill out the dryness from the uber-high attenuation levels that this yeast achieves and balance the big Citra hops. I also grabbed a vile of Brett C because I love the added layer of funk that my favorite Farmhouse/ Saisons have. EDIT: After drinking a few I decided it is not a Saison. Farmhouse, sure. Biere De Garde, maybe. Saison, not so much.

Pomegranate Kolsch- (Table Beer with Pomegranate, second fiddle)- The shop had some WY2565 Kolsch yeast on hand, which I have been curious about but didn't have any solid plans to brew with. I like the idea of the subtle apricot and white wine fruitiness that show through an otherwise very neutral fermentation. Sounded like a good choice for a light, low gravity summer beer. I figured it would work well enough with the malt base and hopping schedule of the Saison. I grabbed a few oz of Sorachi Ace hops to add to the portion of the wort that would be the Kolsch-- the lemony descriptions of the hops sounded like it would be interesting here, but annoying in the Saison.

The pomegranate idea was born of necessity. After 3 weeks in primary fermentation it was a little lost. The super low gravity and neutral yeast made for a pretty bland beer, and although the lemon notes did come through in a nice way from the Sorachi Ace hops they were accompanied by a distracting dill taste in the background. So, I decided to try and emphasize the slight tartness that the yeast provided and added pure pomegranate juice. Hopefully it covers the dill, compliments the lemon, and brings the acidity up. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Recipe (for 8.25 gal):

14 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt-74%
3 lbs Munich Malt-16%
1 lb Caravienne-5%
1 lb Special B-5%

Whole batch got 1oz Warrior for 60min boil
Whole batch got 2oz Amarillo for 15min boil
La Rouge got 2oz Citra at F/O
Pomegranate got 2oz Sorachi Ace at F/O

**I diverted 3.5 gal of wort into .5 gal ice water at F/O to bring the Kolsch to my target lower gravity and IBUs, and to be able to give different F/O hop dosages to each beer**

La Rouge got 1 vile each of WY3711 French Saison and WL Brett C
Pomegranate got 1 packet of WY2656 Kolsch yeast

Single infusion mash at 152F for 2 hours thanks to surprise visitors :(
Batch OG (before splitting and adding water): 1.051=63% efficiency
Farmhouse OG (4.25 gal after boil): 1.051 ---FG:1.002= 6.4%ABV **Woah 3711!**
Pomegranate OG (after splitting wort and adding ~2l water): 1.040 FG:--1.010=4.5ish%ABV after POM juice.
SRM: 13ish La Rouge, 16ish Kolsch after POM juice
IBUs: 37ish La Rouge, 30ish Kolsch

EXTRAS: Pomegranate got 8 oz pure pomegranate concentrate in secondary.

4/20- Brewed at night with way too many distractions from the neighbors. Ended up being so late I didn't use my wort chiller. Just sat overnight and I pitched in the morning.

4/29- Kolsch down to 1.012 and Saison down to 1.006. Kolsch tastes bad. Dill like crazy.

5/15- Bottled La Rouge @ 1.002 with carbonation drops. Looking for a pretty high CO2 level.

5/20- Racked Kolsch onto 8 oz pomegranate concentrate and didn't take a gravity reading. Will bottle in two weeks.

6/7- Bottled POM @ 1.010 into a case of bombers using 2 carb drops per bottle. Looking for a high CO2 level to compliment the tartness. Still tasting some dill, but very faint at this point (I'm hoping with some time in bottles wil clear it up). **Had a problem with my racking cane while transfering from the carboy to the bottling bucket. The hose clamp connecting the tubing to the cane wasn't tight enough and it let ALOT of air in for the first .5 gal or so. Hopefully we can drink it all before it tastes like cardbaoard from oxidation. **

6/14- La Rouge First tasting is much differnt than expected. Spicy and tropical but needs time. It is now officially a Biere De Garde.

7/11- The Pomegranite Beer took a while to clean up, but it is quite good now. Tart and refreshing. The Kolsch yeast, Sorachi Ace hop, and Fruit combo deserves a rebrew with a paler malt base.

3/3/13- La Rouge Revisited. Came around nicely once the hops faded and the Brett worked it's magic.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What a weekend!


Kelly and I had a truly epic weekend this past week. In the interest of launching the new "Pastures" page I thought I 'd post up a little debrief of what went down so that there would be a post to put on it.

Pastures will be a medium for us to share activities, events, and places that we think are a good time.
It'll most likely be kept to arts, the great outdoors, and community enrichment activities (all of which I could stand to experience a lot more of).

*I really don't want this to turn into gross, ego stroking, narcissistic, way too public journal where we constantly update the collective meat-wad as to our every bone-chillingly-mediocre daily activities... So we'll try to hold ourselves to a standard of quick, informative posts.*


Friday night Kel and I went to Berkley Rep and saw "In Paris," an amazingly beautiful, artistic, and humble play about an unlikely couple of Russian ex-pats in living in Paris in the 30s (I think, maybe the 20s?). Their paths cross at a neighborhood restaurant and they fall in love. The story is super charming, and comforted me with the perspective that we are all much smaller, simpler, and more human than we often get carried away with thinking we are.

Mikhail Baryshnikov produced and starred in it. Only a bit of dancing though. It was abstract (in my estimation at least-- I'm no theater critic) and performed exclusively in Russian and French with English "super titles." Really rad. We've seen a lot of great theater this year, but this was by far our favorite.

And then, on Saturday... RIDE FOR A REASON! <--follow the donations link ;)

Ian Sportz
My friend Ian is a science teacher at Claremont Middle School in Berkley. Being the great-dude that he is he had me sign up to participate in Ride for a Reason. It is a big fundraiser for his public school district that has participants ride from Oakland Tech High to the steps of the Capital to raise money and visibility for the hugely underfunded CA Public Schools.

The Trusty Steed

We started at around 6:30am, and came into Sacramento at 3ish. This was definitely a cut above other century rides I have done in the past; A perfectly planned rout through spectacular country, more than ample refreshments, and lots of friendly faces. The girls drove the rout and were waiting at all of the stops to encourage and inspire. The good company, positive vibes, and plentiful beer and cookies at the end were the icing on the cake. Killer day.

Chelse and Kel
Free Beer!
Anybody looking for a great weekend ride should make a point to check out the route and pick a section to enjoy (my favorite part was the first 40 mi. Awesome climbs, decents, and scenery coming out of the Berkley hills and then a mellow wind through vineyards).

We wrapped the day up with some tasty beers at The Trappist in Oakland. US Alive, and #7 were the crowd favorites.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2011 Estate Harvest Cider

Brewed Sept/Oct 2011

Kelly and I have been living at my Grandparents for the last several months, and it has been an amazing time. When we first moved in we were planning on just staying long enough to find jobs and get squared away with our own place, but we both ended up gainfully employed on the Peninsula and figured why mess with a good thing. We'll be here through the summer, then we're moving north a piece.

One of the best parts about living at their house is their beautiful garden. Seriously nice. There is an apple tree down by the dahlias that produces tons of super tasty, nice and tart, crisp apples every summer. Grandma always makes several delicious pies to freeze and enjoy for special occasions throughout the year, but that barely puts a dent in the over-load of apples that seem to condense out of the tree when the weather first begins to cool at the end of the summer.  I'd guess we picked well over 100 lbs this year.

So, being dry cider super-fans, we thought it would be fun to make a big batch of cider brute for the big family Thanksgiving party at Kel's folks' house.

Being our very first foray into home made fermented beverages, we started with a trip to the local Homebrew Shop and just started asking questions.

Because we had never done it before we had no idea what we could expect- from juice yield to processing results- so we just decided to go as simple as possible... 1) extract the juice, 2) pitch some yeast, 3) bottle and drink.

Ian and Chelse came over to help with the "press." We set ourselves up in an assembly line where the apples were cubed and seeded (we read that the seeds can leave some harsh tannins in the must), pulsed in the food processor a few times in batches to shred 'em up (think grated cheese), and then collected in a mesh bag that we squeezed the shit out of over a fermentation bucket.

The whole thing was quite a production. I think we'll probably rent a bladder press next time.

Unfortunately we didn't take any notes, but a rough outline of the process was:

We collected just under 4 gal of must.

We read that pasteurizing the must would compromise the quality of the cider, but we were also told that a wild fermentation was a bad idea-- looking back I think it would have been interesting-- so we sterilized the must with a campden tablet.

48 hrs after the campden tablet was added, we pitched 1 packet of champagne yeast, covered with the lid and airlock and let ferment at room temp in my plastic carboy for about 4 weeks. Then we bottled with 4oz of honey.

No OG or FG readings were taken.

We drank most of it over the holidays, which upon reflection was a bad idea because it is supposed to really improve with time. It was well received, although it did throw some of the folks off that were used to sweet, English style cider as it was quite a bit different. Much closer to champagne than beer.

Great apple nose, tart and crisp taste, with a very light and dry finish and champagne like high-carbonation.


ASB Tasting

Reviewed 5/13/12

The American Special Bitter has been in bottles for just under a month, and it is drinking pretty nicely. I want to make a habit of comparing my beers to appropriate commercial examples in these reviews, but I don't really know what to compare this to. Bitter American comes to mind for obvious reasons, but it is quite different in reality. Mine is less bitter, less sweet, more malty, uses English yeast, and is just generally mellower.

Appearance: Burnt orange with a very slight haze and a pretty pitiful head-- nice and bright white with a fine texture, but no retention. Lacing is present, but not impressive. I reckon the lack of head retention is due to the unusually long and low mash thanks to going out to lunch, and the fact that I went for a relatively low level of carbonation because because I don't like the club-soda like effect that too much bubbles has on mellow beers.

Smell: The malt and yeast put up a firm caramel apple smell with some biscuit warmth. The sweet, woody, fresh-hop aroma is very distinct from, but in balance with the malts underneath. The malt and yeast are ever-so-slightly more present than the hops in the nose, but just barely.

Taste: Real crisp. Smooth flavors with nice depth that I'm going to thank the Victory malt for. There is a mild caramel sweetness that makes way pretty quickly for a dry/ biscuit malt impression. Pretty mild. Citrus hops kinda' float in and out with a wood-like finish that could be from the yeast? Easy, beady, nicely fruity (like apples and pears), clean finishing beer with a very slight lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation and a light to med body. The body is almost too thin, but the low carbonation and hop oils in the finish make it feel bigger than it is. This is a bone-dry beer despite the mid sip caramel notes and apple/pear impressions in the nose.

Overall: Solid. I like it enough to do it again with just a few tiny changes to dial in the FG (either up the mash temp, or use the Fuller's yeast).

I ended up changing the hop schedule on this last min., but I'm pleased with the result. I was planning on making a moderately hopped ESB with a pretty mellow, earthy, floral, and spicy hop profile, but ended up unable to get the Willamette, Palisade, and Cascade hops that I wanted. So, on the fly I opted to go with a hop schedule I had planned for an IPA later in the summer (but that I was really looking forward to trying- just couldn't wait) but with the amounts dialed down to a lower gravity Pale Ale scale.

The citrusy Northwest hops, London Ale yeast, and some toasted Victory malt came together to make a very full-flavored beer for its moderate size (OG1.048- 5.3% ABV). The yeast finished a few points lower than I planned, but it didn't dry it out too much. I actually think if the yeast had slacked off and left it at the targeted FG1.011 the beer would have been a bit sweet for my tastes. As it stands, it is a very well balanced, easy drinking pale. It is only really lacking in body and head retention.

Friday, May 11, 2012

YPA Tasting

Reviewed 5/10/12

Blue Ribbon Winner!

Love it! A bit fruiter in the hop profile than I planned, but definately a solid crack at a house IPA.

Appearance: Huge, rocky, white, meringue like head that never dies. Lacing is nice. Pretty hazy, probably from all of the hop oils, and a darker yellow-fade to-orange hue than expected (C15 only next time).

Smell: Clean and bright hops. Orange rind, grass, apricot, and grapefruit are the main impressions in that order with some spicy-pine resin and caramel malt in the background. The smell is surprisingly sweet. Hop candy. Kelly threw in a comment about a smell of "stone" along with clean and grassy...

Taste: Prickly, balanced bitterness. Orange peel all up in your face. More grassy and floral notes than in the nose- almost earthy but not nearly as woody as the Blind Pig I had next to it for comparison. A slight black pepper spice in the finish from the hop oils. Clean sweetness underneath it all that gets stronger along with the citrus juice flavors as it warms up. Slightly warming from the 6.9% ABV.

Mouthfeel: Spot on. sticky despite the dry 1.010FG with a super mellow lingering bitterness. Finishes surprisingly clean for all of the hop and candy flavors. Kelly pointed out that it has pretty fine bubbles, which I agree with and like, although it needs slightly lower carbonation next time.

Overall: I've been drinking this for a few weeks now, and I am pretty happy with the way it turned out. I feel like I pretty much nailed what I set out to brew and could easily tweak this into a real staple IPA.

Strengths: The neutral, slightly sweet malt works perfectly with the moderate OG and nice dry finish. The resinous hop-oils make for an awesome, sticky, medium body that I really want to re-create in every IPA I make. And, the smooth bitterness from the Centennial bittering charge pairs well with the almost candy-sweet hop flavors. I think a rougher bitterness would have been a little harsh next to the otherwise so-fresh-and-so-clean hop flavors and aroma.

Weaknesses: I was looking for something with a bit more of a pine kick. I'm glad I missed the mark, as I think it would have been a bit overwhelming in the mix with so much grassy, citrus, and fruity hop flavors. The carbonation is a bit too high. Just a bit though. Also, it's a touch sweeter than I planned, I think mainly because the super juicy hops add to the perceived sweetness (the malt backbone is quite dry and neutral).

Take-aways for next time: The mouthfeel is PERFECT to my tastes, I just can't get enough of the prickly-spicy hop oils. This hop combo is great, even if it is a bit off of what I was looking for. Next time I'll use it in an even paler beer as it seems to bring it's own sweetness to the table- no need for the extra caramel from the C40L. Switch the oz of Cascade for Columbus, and add an extra oz of Amarillo in lieu of one of the Centennial additions for a touch more floral and a bit less grassy notes.

Tips and Terms

We'll update this post as necessary. If you find something in a different post that you want clarified let us know and we'll do our best to sort it out.

Bread Terms:

Leaven: Recently fed starter. If you plan on making bread soon, it works out best to get a leaven ready one half of the feeding cycle ahead of time (I usually feed the starter every morning, so I make the leaven the night before the morning I plan on making the bread). To make the leaven throw out most of the starter and feed it equal parts flour and water, just like for a normal feeding. The main differences here are that: 1- you are getting rid of most of the old starter so that the majority of the active yeasties in the leaven will be fresh and vigorous, 2- you are feeding it way more than usual so that you have lots (up to two cups) of usable active leaven with enough left over to be more starter, and 3- you are planing on using it when it is still young and fresh (instead of letting it get all flat and funky like the starter does if you give it a whole feeding cycle).

Bakers percentage: The total amount of flour used will be the 100 for the given recipe. All of the other ingredients will be given with a number that represents a percentage of that 100. So, if you aim to make a lot of bread (three loaves I made for a big dinner party) start with 1000g flour and go from there.

How to make a starter:

Easiest thing ever. Just put a few hand fulls of organic flour in a bowl, add enough unchlorinated water to get an oatmeal-like consistency, and let it sit at room temp for a week covered with cheese cloth. After a week, it should be pretty nasty looking and strong smelling. Throw of this out "its called a "sponge" now) and add another healthy dose of flour and water. Let it sit again for a few more days until it gets nice and funky.

At this point, your sponge should be feeling strong enough to respond well to some more regular feedings... Just throw half of it down the drain and mix in enough new flour and water to get it back to its original size. After a week or so of regular feeding it should be smelling pretty nice. Et Voila!

Bread Making Tips:

-Feed starter regularly. Feeding it on a schedule (like at the same time every day, or consistantly gapped days if kept in fridge) really helps it perform more predictably.

-The longer it takes, the better it tastes!

-Use a dutch oven, or something to keep the moisture from the bread from being vented during baking. I bake the bread on our pizza stone with our big stock pot covering it like a hood. Bread house.

"House" Bread

These are the basic guidelines that I follow to make our "house" breads. The base is a simple country bread leavened with the wild starter that I have been maintaining for the last two years or so. I developed it from what I learned from Tartine Bread with some adaptations based on trial and error.

The base recipe makes a slightly sour, doughy, and waxy bread with a pretty open crumb and truly amazing candied crust. I adjust the flour composition, leavening time, the wetness of the dough, starter condition, and shaping technique based on what I am looking for. The variations you can produce with a few simple adjustments is amazing.

For a more sour loaf: Feed the starter in the fridge for a few days instead of at room temp. The organisms in the starter that produce sour acids out perform the more neutral bugs at lower temps. Also, a longer, slower rise produces a more developed yeast character in the final bread, so letting it rise for two days in the fridge rather than for half a day at room temp will yield a much stronger flavor contribution from the yeast.

For a chewy, open crumb: Use a higher percentage of high-gluten flour combined with a long rise. I find that King Arthur's Bread flour is so high in protein that it yields a super airy and waxy bread without any kneading. Just let the yeast develop the gluten and give it plenty of time to get nice and airy.

For a softer, nuttier bread use more whole wheat flour. I find that whole wheat flour in the starter mellow the flavor out a bit, too.  The bugs seem to really like the extra nutrients because they start fermenting much more vigorously. This means a shorter rise time, and less strong flavors.

For pizza, make a wetter-than-usual dough and a big, healthy dose of recently fed starter, a quick rise, and add some oil. This makes for a nice neutral taste and a softer texture.

Some other guidelines and outlines of terms, basic concepts, and techniques can be found here.

So the basic recipe: Rustic Country Bread

Tap Water 75%
Fresh Leaven 20% *Give it a big feeding about 8 hrs before you mix the dough*
White Flour 90% *My favorite is Whole Foods Organic All Purpose Flour. Regular All Purpose Flour is a little too soft, and bread flour is a little too hard.*
Whole Wheat Flour 10%
Salt 2% *If you can find smoked salt, it really adds a neat depth.*

Dissolve the leaven in the water. Add the rest of the flour and mix by hand just enough to get it all wet, then let it just sit for at least 30 min.

Add the salt and turn by hand just enough to be sure that everything is evenly distributed. Let the dough sit in a covered container for at least 4 hours at room temp, folding the dough over its self in the container every 20 min or so (less often and more gently after the first three hours). *If you find that the bread is too soft, consider spending a few minutes slapping the dough to help develop the gluten more*

Remove from container and divide into as many hunks as suits your desired number, shape, and size loafs. Gently shape each hunk into a rough ball and let sit for 15 min or so so that he gluten can fully relax for the shaping. *For pizza, just stretch it out, no need for a second rise. Top it add nauseum, and bake in the hottest possible oven (seriously, 3 min at 900F is ideal).*

To shape the balls gently flatten the dough and fold it into thirds like a letter and in half again the opposite way, then pinch the seam together. Let 'em rise for two to four hours covered and coated in rice flour (to prevent sticking) seam side up.

When it is all fat and puffy its time to bake it. Have the oven ready at 500, flip 'em onto the pan seam side down, cut some big scores in the tops so that they have room to grow (and it looks pretty) and cover with the lid. Leave it covered for the first 20 min, then turn the oven down to 450 and take the cover off. Bake for another 20 min, turning reg so that you don't get uneven burning. Dun.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

American Special Bitter

Brew day 3/31/12

Kelly and I headed up to my Pop's for the weekend to see my brother who was visiting with his girlfriend Emily. I love it when he comes home. I brought my brewing equipment 'cuz I figured it would be nice way to spend our mellow Saturday morning.

For the brew day, I had a recipe planned that I was going to do as a split batch of APA and BPA (same beer with White Labs London Ale yeast for one half and Belgian Ale for the other). It was  great idea, and the recipe probably would have worked out beautifully for both iterations. But I ended up packing different hops than I thought, and decided that having 2 x 2.5 gal batches was going to be too much of a pain in the ass to deal with on the limited equipment that I brought, so I switched the hopping schedule and just went with the London Ale yeast.

It ended up being a super smooth brew day, and the resulting beer is so good I'm really stoked that I opted for a full 5 gal of it.

American Special Bitter-(Best Bitter/ APA)- So what is it? A Special/ Best Bitter? A Bitter? An American Pale Ale? I think if I entered it in a comp I'd go with Special Bitter, but the hops are so bold and american I'm not sure if it would qualify. I went with a pretty sessionable 1.048OG (I was shooting for 4.8%ABV, but I guess I mashed too low and got slightly better than expected attenuation. Next time I'll probably do this with the Fuller's strain). For malt character I went for a super simple bill of Base, Crystal 60, and some toasted Victory malt for nice depth and breadyness. The London yeast was meant to be pretty full flavored to flesh out the simple malt bill and low gravity, while still being clean and dry. For hops, I set out to use a combo of Willamette, Palisade, and Cascade for a nice blend of earthy, floral, apricot, and mildly spicy notes that I still think would go perfectly with both London and Belgian yeasts (next time, I guess). But, the bag I grabbed didn't have any of my Palisade or Cascade packets in it, so I changed directions and used equal parts Chinook and Simcoe on brew day with Centennial for dry hopping. I couldn't wait to use this combo in my next IPA, so I figured I'd just go for it. I really love the combo of pine, wood, citrus, and harsh bitterness that Chinook and Simcoe bring to Ranger, but thought that I could improve on it a bit by adding a "fresher" dimension with Centennial and making all of the hop additions 15min or less (to minimize the harsh bittering properties of the Chinook hops). I was right, they came out as a great combo of orange juice and fresh pine trees. Mellow, crisp, bready, and refreshing.

The Recipe (for 5 gal):

9 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt- 82%
1 lb Victory Malt- 9%
1 lb Crystal 40- 9%

1oz each Chinook and Simcoe for 15min boil
1 oz each Chinook and Simcoe at F/O
2oz Centennial DH12 days.

2 viles WLP013 "London Ale" yeast
1 Tbsp gypsum to strike water

Single infusion @ 152F for 1 hr *I didn't use a mash out, and left the sweet wort to sit for 4 hours before boiling it because of a lunch date with my Mom. I think this may have added to the ferment ability of the work. I'll  def. go for 155F next time I do an all barley malt beer this low gravity for some extra body.*
OG: 1.048 = 63% efficiency
FG: 1.008 = 5.3%ABV *would have been happier with 1.011*
IBU: 55 *feels lower to me*

4/4- Vigorous fermentation has died down.

4/5- Added 2 oz Centennial DH

4/17- Bottled @ 1.008 with corn sugar for calculated CO2 vol of 2.2.

Crisp, mellow, smooth.-->> Placed 2nd in Class at the Alameda County Fair.


Brewed 3/11/12

IPAs are probably my favorite beers. IPAs and Sours. I know, how original.
I go through phases of being really excited about other styles, especially ones that I feel really work from a seasonal standpoint- dubbels at Christmas, saisons when the weather starts to heat up, big stouts when it gets cold... But IPAs are ALWAYS in the fridge. I even try to resist drinking them too often so as not to "wear 'em out" but my attempts are futile. They fly. I even fear that I've up-ed my lupulin threshold and can't get quite the same thrill that I used to from super high IBU beers.

Anyhoo, as much as I love IPAs, I'm pretty picky about which ones I really like. They generally need to be really hoppy, and really dry. Some of my favorites are Sculpin, Pliny, Racer5, Caldera, and others that seem to follow the general rule of being very pale and very american-hop forward. I do like to mix it up every once and a while with something a bit fruitier, darker, or mellower, but I can't really resist the harsh yellow ones.

YPA-(American IPA)-I was shooting for with this recipe a great, plane IPA that can serve as the jumping off point for future recipes. Middle of the road on OG, standard burnt-yellow color, neutral yeast, and hop flavors that didn't veer to far in any specific direction.

To me, american hop profiles can fall into the categories of floral, pine, citrus, fruity, spicy, grassy, dank, and tropical flavors. You could get really specific from there, but I feel like those are the major groups there are to work with. With this beer I didn't want to get too carried away muddling all of these together and decided I wanted to focus on balancing citrus out front, with pine, floral, and grassy notes backing it up. *In the end it came out great, but much grassier and less floral than planned.*

As for the malt, I was mainly looking for a nice chewey mouthfeel and enough malty sweetness to show up under the big hop flavors (although to my tastes, this means a pretty light malt presence-- I really hate malt bomb IPAs). I could go on-and-on, but I'll save it for later IPA posts...

The recipe (for 4.5 gal):

4 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt 32% *next time I'd skip this for an even 44%pils/ 44%BP split*
4 lbs Belgian Pale Malt 32%
3 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt 24%
.5 lbs Crystal 15L 4% *next time I'd just do 5% Crystal and 5% Carapils*
.5 lbs Crystal 40L 4%
.25 lbs Carapils 2%
.25 lbs Aciduated 2% *added for mash ph*

.5 oz Centennial 60min boil
.5 oz Cent 20min boil
1 oz Simcoe 10min boil
.5 oz Cascade 10min boil
.5 oz Amarillo 5min boil
1oz each of Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe @ F/O
.5 oz Cascade DH10 days
.5 oz Amarillo DH10 days
1 oz Columbus DH10 days
1 oz Simcoe DH10 days

Pitched 1 vile WLP001 "CA Ale Yeast"- No aeration.
Added 2 Tbsp gypsum to strike water.
Single infusion @ 150F for 1 hr
OG: 1.063= 65% Efficiency
FG:1.010= 6.9%ABV *Stoked on the low FG!*
SRM: 8ish
IBUs: 60ish

3/15- Fermentation already died down-- added DHs

3/25- Bottled @ FG 1.010 with carb drops for moderate/ high CO2.

Drinking beautifully at 6 weeks in the bottle. Juicy and grassy. -->>Blue Ribbon Winner!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rosemary's Baby and Black Steam

Brewed 3/10/12

I am a little too obsessed with the idea of getting more than one beer out of a single brew day. Usually I pick two styles that I want to brew that are similar enough to share the same wort, adjust the recipe to be a good compromise between the ideal versions of each, and then make any necessary adjustments post boil. Options for adjustments are limited, but can provide huge variability between the two beers. Yeast is the most obvious variable, followed by gravity (water down or add sugar during fermentation), and then any secondary ingredients; from dry hopping schedules, to oaking, to wild microbes, to fruit and spices...
This sounds like a great idea and should be a fun way to get a wider variety of new recipes developed, but in reality I end up pretty disappointed in one or more of the "compromises" that I had to make to the base recipe.
Sometimes though, the two styles align beautifully. Case in point: Rosemary's Baby and Black Steam.

Rosemary's Baby-(Dark Saison)- I wanted to brew a big, spicy, fruity, funky saison that would be ready for some nice back yard sippage during the amazingly beautiful evenings we get in late September/ early October. Something big and complex to enjoy on its own or with hearty BBQ, but that isn't too sweet for hot weather. I really like the added smoothness that Bam Noire, and Sublimely Self Righteous have from the mild roast, and I thought the dark color would go well with the spicy flavors.

Black Steam-(Black Steam Beer)- This one was just kind of a wild hare. I wanted to do a "lawn mower" beer for the coming summer months, but I didn't really like the conventional beer-for-drinking-in-the-sun options. Cream Beer is just plain boring, I don't have the set up right now for lagers, and I had a low gravity hoppy beer already lined up for a later brew. So, I just winged it. Smooth, relatively low gravity, mild, and bbq worthy-- A black pseudo-lager.

*Looking back over these recipes, I don't know how I neglected to come up with a good hopping schedule. I ended up just trying to make the best of what I had in the freezer. Oops.*

The Recipe (for 6 gal):
5 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt-37%
3 lbs Vienna-22%
2 lbs White Wheat Malt-15%    
1 lbs De-Husked CarafaII-7%
.5 lbs Crystal 15L-4%
2 lbs LME-15% *added in a pinch because I decided to up the batch sizes last min*

Whole batch got 1oz Willamette for 60min boil
Whole batch got 1oz Cascade for 10min boil
Whole batch got 1oz Amarillo at F/O
*Don't ask me what was up with this hopping sched. Looking back it was totally stupid. Should have been a nice and spicy ~35IBU Saaz for 60min and some more Saaz at F/O*
Rosemary's Baby got 1oz each of Amarillo and Perle DH7days for some floral/ fruity notes
Black Steam got 1oz Mt. Hood DH7days  for some spice/ wood/ herbal notes

Saison got 1 vile of WLP568 "Belgian Saison Blend" *They were out of the DuPont strain : (
Steam got WLP810 "Ca Lager"

Single infusion mash at 150F
Batch OG (before splitting and adding water): 1.072=79% efficiency *very high thanks to LME*
Saison OG (after splitting wort and adding ~2l water): 1.061 ---FG:1.012= 6.3%ABV
Steam OG (after splitting wort and adding ~4l water): 1.050 ---FG:1.010= 5.3%ABV
SRM: 30ish
IBUs: 25ish

EXTRAS: Rosemary's Baby got 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary from the garden at DH7days, and was meant to get fresh ginger and black pepper to taste once the fermentation was done along with some Brett. The Rosemary was seriously about 10x too much and made the whole batch taste like a rosemary-pulp bacon soup, so I didn't follow through with any of the rest of the additions. Batch is ruined (super good pork marinade though!).

Fermented saison for a total of 2 weeks in primary. *Bottled instead of transferring to secondary as planned because the batch was hopeless- just wanted it for marinade.*

Fermented steam 3.5 weeks total in primary to ensure diacytle and sulfur clean-up.

Rosemary bottled 3/25 @ 1.012FG with carb drops.

Black Steam bottled 4/2 @ 1.010FG with honey for target 2.0 vols CO2. *Love the bubbles.*

Black Steam came out much better than expected. It's a Keeper.

I poured Rosemary's Baby down the drain to free up some extra bottles. It sucked bad.