Thursday, June 28, 2012

Smokey The Poo Bear and Short Stack

Brewed 6/12/12

These beers couldn't have been a better mach for my typical double-duty brew plan. It was as if the perfect recipe for each beer existed completely independent of the other, and it was sheer dumb-luck that they both happened to be the same recipe with simple adjustments for gravity, yeast, and late-hopping. Man, I was so excited. It went like this:

I really wanted to brew up a Dark Mild worthy of Kel's wicked-good taste. The inspiration was the consistently great low gravity beers that Magnolia's in SF puts out and that Kelly always really loves (I like 'em quite a bit, too). They are incredibly full-flavored for such small beers, while still being super mellow and balanced. No gimmicks- not hiding behind a wall of hop aroma, not back sweetened to bulk out the low ABV, and definitely not "Light" at the cost of being pee-pee thin.

Magnolia was probably my first real exposure to true British Style beer, and after listening to my best guy Rowan muse on and on about them I felt like I finally knew what he was talking about. Mostly I find british beer to be less than appealing; they aren't bad, or even boring really thanks to their epic depth and balance, but they were never really bold enough for my tastes (also, I gravitate to hop-forward beers like American IPAs or yeast-forward beers like big belgians or sours, the emphasis on malty flavors that british ales focus on isn't my thing... Even the germans do malt better IMO) and besides having a thing for cask conditioned beers of all persuasions, I stay away from English brews.

But, like I said I really appreciate the drinkability and balance of a smooth Mild or silky Porter, so I thought they would be good choice for summer beers that were a bit out of the typical Wheat-and-Fruit light beers that basically just water beer down in the name of added refreshment. For the mild I wanted to add a little extra interest and settled on oak and smoke, and I figured a smooth and smokey porter with a bit of of lift from some mesquite honey would be just thing to compliment a s'more around a campfire on a warm night.

The mild was the priority: Short Stack- (Smoked Dark Mild)- Low gravity but not too thin in the body, with a hearty malt backbone that relies on toasty-oat and roasty-malt aromatics over tiring carmel sweetness, and a yeast expressive enough to deliver the light load with dignity. I settled on british Golden Promise as the base, with a heavy hand of lightly toasted malted oats, and some brown and chocolate malts for the color and roasted sweetness. I threw in 2lbs of mesquite smoked base for the camp-fire effect I was looking for. Hops are only vaguely there with some subtle earthy and floral tones-- There was more than enough going on already, I didn't want the hops to muck it up. My strategy was to rely on a really high mash temp to provide the unfermentables for body and  sweetness, the yeast for more character (oops... read on) and the roasted malts for depth. I wasn't really going for complexity, just a nice "fullness."

Smokey The Poo Bear- (Smoked Honey Porter)-The Porter was an easy adjustment up from there. I'd brew the wort to my target OG for a moderate porter (too big would have been kinda' messy in my estimation given the smoke and oats) and compensate for the super-full body from the hot mash and oats with some honey in secondary to up the alcohol and dry it out a bit along with a dry yeast to further chew through the malty-sweetness that I built into the Mild.

I simply brewed the porter as planned and added a gallon of ice to the Mild portion to bring the gravity down 12 points.

It was a PERFECT plan, and well executed I might add, until the early morning pitching fuck-up that I mentioned here when I accidentally pitched the neutral/ dry American Ale yeast meant for the porter into the mild and the low-attenuating/ sweet-and-chewy Fuller's yeast into the porter.

All and all though, things could be worse. The yeast situation was an easy fix for the Porter, I just topped it off with some dry english WLP007 that I had on hand and let it dry the beer out as planned. The Mild didn't have such an easy fix, but luckily the extra chewy wort looks like it isn't going to finish too-low after all, and I think I'll compensate for the lack of yeasty character with some oak chips and vanilla :)

The Recipe (for 6.5 gal):

12 lbs Golden Promise Malt-70%
2 lbs Mesquite Smoked Malt-12%
1 lb Golden Naked Oats-6%
1 lb Brown Malt-6%

1 lb Chocloate Malt- 6%
8oz local, woody honey into Porter in secondary- 6%
Whole batch got 1oz Nugget for 60min FWH

Porter got 1oz  Fuggles at F/O
Mild got 1oz Kent Goldings at F/O

**I diverted 3 gal of wort into 1 gal ice water at F/O to bring the Mild to my target lower gravity and IBUs, and to be able to give different F/O hop dosages to each beer**

Porter was supposed to get 1 packet of US05 "American Ale" yeast, but got 2L starter of WLP002 plus slurry form WLP007 "Dry English Ale".
Mild was supposed to get 2L starter of WLP002 "English Ale" but got 1 packet US05. 
Water adjustments: 100% RO city water with 1 gram/gal each of Gypsum and Baking soda.

Single infusion mash at 156F
Batch OG (before splitting and adding water): 1.052=58% efficiency **No idea what the problem was here, must have been that the grains sat for 2 weeks post crush. Also worth trying a "thinner" mash nest time**
Porter OG (3.2 og1.052 gal after boil)+ 8oz honey: Calculated 1.058 --FG: 1.009 for 6.5% ABV
Mild OG (after splitting wort and adding 4L water): 1.040 --FG: 1.011 for 3.8% ABV
SRM: 30 Porter, 24 Mild
(Average)IBUs: 30 Porter, 22 Mild
6/19-Porter @ 1.021, Mild @ 1.012

6/20- Added honey to Porter along with slurry from starter of WLP007. "Theroetical" OG now 1.058.

7/1- Added ~.9 oz American medium toast oak chips soaked in Vanilla extract for 2 weeks. I boiled them in some warter to remove any harsh-ness and pitched the chips in the bucket. Plan is to leave 'em in  for two days and one night. I'm worried that they will be too much for such a busy (and low gravity) beer, so I'm hoping the small and quick dose adds just a touch of richnes to compensate for the pitching mistake.

7/3- Bottled 3.5 gal of Mild with 1/4 cup corn sugar for 1.7vol (pretty low) CO2. FG 1.011 **higher than I feared. But still not the 1.015 I would have wanted if I had pitched the right yeast**

7/8- Bottle 3.1 gal of Porter with 1/3 cup corn sugar for 2.3vol (moderate) CO2. FG 1.009 **WHAT!!??! Must have been infiltrated by the Brett C that was previously in the same bucket for La Rouge. This should have finished more around 1.015, so I guess Brett is the only explination. It doesn't really taste all that funky though... we'll see what it is like once it carbs up.**

8/27- Smokey the Poo is seriously great. No sign of an infection at this point, so I'm not really sure what made for the low FG.

I liked this.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Whats Blue and Red and a big surprise!?!

I entered a few beers in the BABO Homebrew Competition at the Alameda County Fair. I don't really have much interest in competitions as they require entries to follow pretty strict style guidelines (I'd rather brew "to taste", not "to style") but I thought it would be interesting to get some objective feedback from BJCP certified judges about some of the strengths and weaknesses of my beers. After reading through the descriptions for each style I figured that YPA fit well in class 10A- American Pale Ale**see note below** , ASB fit the profile for 8B- Special/ Best/ Premium Bitter, and La Rouge (which I hadn't even tried yet) would have to go into the broad 16E- Belgian Specialty Beer.

The judging happened last weekend but Kelly and I had better plans, so I just figured I'd wait for the results via mail. But curiosity got the better of me so I went to check the results online, and MUCH to my surprise....

YPA got "Best in Class" for American Ales out of 24 entries, and ASB placed 2nd out of 9 entries for English Pale Ales! La Rouge didn't place, but I'm not surprised after this weekend's first tasting of it.

Check out the Official Results.

I'll post the judges notes for each when I get them, along with pics of the ribbons ; )

**Note: Some folks on BA that are into competitions suggested submitting entries on the bigger side of a given style- hence the choice to enter YPA as a Pale Ale instead of an IPA.... It just barely qualified size-wise as an IPA, so I thought it would stand out more a bit more as a big Pale.**

YPA Scored 35.5. Judges comments Focused on the huge hop aroma but lack of malt backbone or
supporting bitterness.

ASB Scored 33. Both judge seemed to love it, and had nothing but good to say bug good about the malt profile, but couldn't justify a higher score because the hop profile was "too American" and not to style.  I should have entered it as an APA.

La Rouge bombed with meager 27.5, but still took 4th. Comments were encouraging, but both judges were looking for more charachter form the yeast and Brett. I agree, but am hopefull that time will mellow out the Citra hops and let the Brett develop.

La Rouge Tasting

Reviewed 6/9/12

La Rouge has only been in the bottle for 3 and a half weeks now, so the Brett hasn’t really had any time to develop. Those Citra hops should be quite intact though. I don’t have any appropriate commercial beers on hand to compare it to this time around, but I’ll try to get one for the next tasting. Going into this I was expecting a peppery, dry saison with big tropical hops and maybe some mellow cellar-must type funk form the Brett C.
Boy, I wish it lived up to those expectations…  
Appearance: Murky brownish red with a khaki head that falls to a thin layer instantly and leaves no lacing. This is the ugliest beer I have made to date. The lack of retention is probably due to the super low FG combined with the relatively high alcohol content for a beer of this modest OG (6.5% for 1.051). Hopefully some age and the Brett will help with the murky mess down the line.
Aroma: Spicy yeast and a big hop nose that puts passion fruit way out front. There is some floral orange and cantaloupe in the back, but no typical “green” type hop notes. Definitely smells sweet thanks to a combo of fruity hops, sugary malt, and spicy yeast. If any of the fruitiness is coming from the Saison yeast or Brett, it matches the POG profile of the hops perfectly because all I get besides that is some allspice type esters.
Taste: Dry and slick with all of the big tropical notes from the nose. There is a hint of fruity sweetness mid-sip, but earthy yeast and tropical flowers really dominate the whole experience. The low finishing gravity lets the 6.5% ABV show much more like a big hot 8% and the finish is very Capitan Morgan-esque. There is a faint lingering bitterness that Kelly had to point out for me to notice.
Mouthfeel: Slick and sugary while still finishing quite dry. The high carbonation could even be higher. The booze is actually a nice touch as it serves to clean up the big fruit and spice bomb fall out.  
Overall: This isn’t really a bad beer, nor is it hard to drink in any way, but I am still disappointed. It just didn’t live up to my expectations. Dry and very flavorful, but kinda’ one-dimensional. The Citra hops are so damn in your face that I’m having a hard time getting a solid grasp on what the yeast is contributing. As it sits right now it drinks like a slice of Pineapple Upside-down Cake with a Mai-Tai on the side. Not bad if you’re into that kind of thing, but I’m not.
Takeaways: Hopefully some time will see the hops fade and the Brett get funkier.  Otherwise this will be a once only brew.  UPDATE: I have decided that this is a Biere De Garde, not a saison. Def. got the farmhouse thing going on, but not in the big refreshingly fruity way that I look for in a Saison. This one is going to sit and hopefully rely on its spice and earthy character once the hops fade and Brett develops.

EDIT: Had another bottle 8/1/12 and it is definately changing for the better. Dryer, more complex earth and spice coming out, and a greatly improved balance thanks to an integration of the hopy fruity flavors and some new acidity in the finish. Look for a second review in a few months.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mourn with me...

Last night I brewed up a beautiful split batch of a Smoked Porter and a Dark Mild that I was just thrilled about. I hit all of my targets, the recipe was the result of weeks of careful adjustments, the water treatments were spot-on, my starter was huge and healthy...

I went to bed with the buckets both sitting at 72ish (tap is already too warm to cool much below 70, and it was late) with plans to pitch first thing in the morning. The 1.040OG Mild was going to get Fuller's yeast (which Magnolia uses for Kel's favorite) and the 1.050OG Porter a packet of dry CA Ale yeast (the Chico strain).

Woke up as planned at 5am for a run, and thought it would be fun to pitch first and see if there was any activity when I got back. So, I went into the garage and groggily did the deed. Then, as I was rinsing out the funnel and re-affixing the air locks I realized that in my pre-run, pre-coffee haze I had switched the buckets for the yeasts!

Now I'm afraid my Porter is going to be a chewey mess (I mashed at 156) and my Mild is going to just taste watered down (neutral/ dry yeast in a small beer, NO!)

So, here's to two beers that would have been great-- pour one out for them.

Any comforting words would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, June 4, 2012

bRYEnRYEs Ale & Penny Biere

Brew Day 5/26/12
Re-do of the Rye Amber from the previous weekend.
After brewing up a split batch of Rye Amber wort as a Bret fermented funky brown and a clean American Amber Rye with coffee, I didn’t feel satisfied that I had accomplished what I originally wrote the recipe for… A solid, plane old, moderately sized and hopped Back Yard Beer… and a nice and easy “table Belgian” for the holidays this winter. So I brewed the same recipe again the next weekend with the help of my Father in Law, Brian.
 bRYEnRYE’s Ale- (American Amber Rye)-I set out to make something that would appeal to all drinkers of good beer. Easy, satisfying, simple- the Everyman’s beer. A nice amber color, a dry raspy finish, a well rounded hop profile, and enough bitterness to satisfy the lupulinophile in all of us. This is meant to be a riff on my first favorite craft beers, the ones that got me hooked.

Penny Biere- (Belgian Ale: “Copper Single”)-I love the great fruity and spicy phenols and esters that darker colored Belgian beers seem to have a monopoly on, but I find most dark Belgians- Dubbles right on up to Quads- are often taxingly sweet and too boozy to enjoy without taking notes. I like the idea of having one around that is a bit easier to drink, but is still yeast-forward in that great Belgian way. Also, I think the dark-fruit and clove and ginger spice notes in abbey ales are a great partner for holiday weather and food, so I plan on sitting on this until Thanksgiving rolls around.

The brew day went exceptionally well, we hit all of our target temps, volumes, and even hit a higher than usual efficiency of 68% (which meant a batch yield of almost a whole extra gallon). I’m really looking forward to what should be a solid-ass beer.
The Recipe (for 9 gal): **Planned on 8, but the water in Salinas was a great fit for the pale-amber grain bill, so the efficiency was up 5%.**                                                     
14 lbs Marris Otter-70%
3 lbs Rye Malt-15%
1.5 lb Special Roast-7.5%
1.5 lb Crystal 120L-7.5%

Whole batch got 1oz Nugget for 60min boil
Brian hard at work
BnR got 1oz each Palisade, Cascade, and Willamette for 15min boil
BnR got 1oz Cascade, 1oz Willamette, and 2oz Palisades at F/O
Penny got 1oz Willamette at F/O

**I diverted 4.5 gal of wort into .5 gal ice water at F/O to bring the Penny Bier to my target lower gravity and IBUs, and to be able to give different F/O hop dosages to each beer**

BnR got 1 Packet of Safale US05 “Chico” dry yeast.
Penny got 1 vile of White Labs WLP530 “Abbey Ale”- The Westmalle strain.

Single infusion mash at 150F
Batch OG (before splitting and adding water): 1.050=68% efficiency
bRYEnRYE’s OG(4.25 gal after boil): 1.051 FG:-- 1.013= 5%ABV
Penny Biere OG(after splitting wort and adding ~2l water): 1.049 FG:--
SRM: 16ish
IBUs: 45ish BnR, 30ish Penny Bier

5/27- Chico yeast is going strong. Abbey is a little slow to start. Reckon I under-pitched thanks to the larger than planned volume.
5/28- Both bubbling away.
6/4- Activity on Penny has stopped. Brian has the Chico carboy.

6/7- Penny @ 1.012

6/12- Transfered Penny to purged Better Bottle to free up the bucket for a Dark Mild.

6/15- Penny is bubbling away again! Starting to form a pellicle too... Lesson learned on re-using plastic that has housed Brett. The carboy was used previously for Swamp Thing, so this is def a Brett L infection. Oh well, time to rethink this one.

6/24- Added the dredges form a bottle of Supplication to Penny. I'm going to plan an additional couple of gallons to top up the carboy on this and add some raspberries and oak. Next year hopefully I'll be sittin' on a tasty sour. 

8/26- Topped up the Penny Bier carboy with a quart of pure Blackberry purre and about a 1.5 gal batch of OG1.060 Amber Dry Malt Extract.

8/19- BRYEn'RYE's is just OK. Nice balance, but a wierd metalic finish that is throwing it off.

NorthWestAle & Swamp Thing

Brew Day 5/20/12
This was the first weekend of brewing the same wort to be used a total of 4 ways.

NorthWestAle-(American Amber Rye with Coffee)- The base wort is amber colored, pleasantly hoppy without being too bitter, with a nice balance of simplicity and depth that shouldn’t wear you out, and a bunch of rye malt to keep it interesting and bulk out the body while retaining a nice dryness. I late hopped with a big dose of Palisades, Willamettes, and Cascades to hopefully achieve a nice blend of peachy, earthy, and spicy hop flavors and fermented it with the Anchor Liberty Ale Yeast which I thought would be a nice choice given its reputation for clearing well and maintaining some malt character without being too sweet or estery. Then I “Dry Hopped” it with a huge dose of coffee grounds. A coffee beer that isn’t sweet, tight!

Swamp Thing-(Brown Ale fermented with Brett)- A super funky, tropical storm, fruit punch, pseudo sour Brett beer. Same mash and boil as the Coffee brew, except I pulled it out of the kettle onto  some spicy noble hops at flame out and then gave it a healthy pitch of White Lab’s Brettanomyces Lambicus. I thought Brett L would work the best with the amber wort (I would have gone with Brett B in a paler beer), and I was more interested in the “sour cherry” flavors attributed to Brett L in this beer than the all-out goat breath funk of Brett B (which I truly love, especially as a layer on top of otherwise clean and hoppy beers).   Also, because half of the batch was going to be funky and a bit sourish I kept the overall bitterness a bit lower than I would have wanted for the clean batch (sour and super bitter sounds a bit fatiguing). I plan on dry hopping it before bottling with a nice floral variety. It’ll get the dredges of my favorite sours as it develops, and hopefully in a year or so it’ll have a nice, mildly sour, wet, slightly sweet thing going on.

The Recipe (for 6 gal):                                     

10 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt-72%
2 lbs Rye Malt-14%
1 lb Special Roast-7%
1 lb Crystal 120L-7%

Whole batch got 1oz Nugget for 60min boil
NWA got 1oz each Palisade and Willamette for 15min boil
NWA got 2oz Cascade at F/O
Swamp Thing got 2oz German Select at F/O

Swamp Thing got 1.25oz of Amarillo/ Citra mix DH for 5 days

**I diverted 2.5 gal of wort into .5 gal ice water at F/O to bring the Swamp Thing to my target lower gravity and IBUs, and to be able to give different F/O hop dosages to each beer**

NWA got 1 vile of White Labs WLP051 “California Ale V”
Swamp Thing got 2 viles of White Labs WLP653 “Brettanomyces Lambicus”

Single infusion mash at 148F **I was aiming for 152F… Have to remember that the Igloo absorbs a few more degrees than my kettle.**

Batch OG (before splitting and adding water): 1.051=64% efficiency
NWA OG (3 gal after boil): 1.051 FG:-- 1.010= 5.4%ABV
Swamp Thing OG (after splitting wort and adding ~2l water): 1.048 FG:--
SRM: 16ish
IBUs: 37ish Swamp Thing, 55ish NWA

5/23- Took the Brett a day or so to get going, but it is looking strong. Krausen and all.
5/23- NWA is bubbling strong.
5/28- NWA has pretty much settled. SG1.095
5/28- Swamp Thing is still churning out bubbles every 15sec or so.
5/30- Added ~2oz fresh ground Coffee. Kelly picked it out. Smooth roast, low acidity. Will bottle
next weekend.

6/6- NWA SG 1.010

6/9- Bottled NWA @ 1.010. Primed with corn sugar for 2.4 vols CO2 (moderated carbonation) and used my CO2 gun to purge the bucket AND bottles.

6/9- Transfered Swamp Thing on to 1 12oz jar of "Tart Cherry Dark Candi Syrup" form the LHBS in my 3 gal glass carboy and topped it off with ~.5gal of Penny Biere. Harvested a jar of the Brett for later use. Fairly active bubbling from new candi sugars the next morning. SG at transfer 1.006.

7/18- Added ~1oz medium toast american oak chips that have been soaking in Chardonay for 2 weeks.

7/18- Dry hopped wuth ~1.25oz of Amarillo/ Citra mix that I had left over from Sunnyside. SG @ 1.004.

8/1- Bottled Swamp Thing; 2.9 gal with 1/4 cup Corn sugar. The idea is to go for a pretty low CO2 (2.0ish) vol with the priming sugar so that if the brett takes the beers any lower over an extended aging time in the bottle there will be some room for the extra gas without making bombs.

8/9- NWA is finally becoming drinkable. The coffee is strong!

8/27- Swamp Thing is fucking fantastic. I got lucky with this one.

2/19/13- Tasting 2 for Swamp Thing. 7 Months old and still grerat, although different.

1 Grain Bill, 2 Brew Days, 4 Beers!

Rye, c120, base, & special roast
I brewed a rye beer a few weeks ago that has several different inspirations. I split fermented it into the two beers that I designed it to become, but wished I had done a bigger batch so that I could play out ALL of the different ideas I had for it. Then I found out on a Thursday that the ingredients for my next recipe (the ever-elusive Smoked Porter/ Mild that I had to skip last time too) were still on backorder and I had to come up with something to brew that weekend at my in-laws with Kel’s dad while she was at a bridal party. So, I decided it would be fun to just do a repeat of the recipe and split it into the other two ideas. Plus, this way I could make the little adjustments to the process that I felt like I missed the first time around, all while looking like a pro ‘cuz I had just rehearsed the whole process grain-for-grain.
I have loved the Rye Beers I’ve had lately- There is something so intriguing about the touch of roughness and depth that it adds, especially mid-palette. I feel like it makes the yeast taste yeastier, the hops spicier, and the booze dryer. I figured it would be a cool thing to work a few concepts on top of.
Here is a break down of what I was looking for:

A)     Coffee in Pale/ Amber beer- Kelly and I are big coffee drinkers, and I feel that in addition to being tasty on its own and in deserts, it can make an interesting addition to other cooking. My dad used to make seriously bitchin’ ribs with a ton of coffee in the rub, and Kelly made an amazing black rye bread once that had a hearty dose of coffee alongside some black pepper, poppy seeds, and caraway.

B)      100% Brett primary fermentation- I generally feel that funky / sour beers are more interesting than clean ones (although in practice I probably reach for the hops more often), and I am especially obsessed with Sanctification right now. It is a 100% Brett fermented Blonde beer that I can’t drink enough of. Layers of funk, tropical fruit, wet grass, fruit-cocktail-cherries, and super easy sourness make for a beer complex but drinkable enough to want by the growler-full.

C)       “BackYard Beer”- Something to appeal to that place in all of us that got into craft beer thanks to the gateway beers. SNPA, Mirror Pond, and Stone Pale Ale were probably the three beers most responsible for weaning me off of my Budweiser, MGD, and Pacifico addiction when I was in college and they still stand as super solid, everyday beers. So, I wanted to make a beer that would fill the same niche: A beer for backyard BBQs. That is good. Just plane and great.

D)     And, I wanted to get a good beer put together for Thanksgiving- Table strength, crowd-friendly, full flavored, and seasonably festive.
So, I came up with a wort to tackle all of these in different combinations of primary and secondary fermentations:
The first weekend I tackled the Coffee and Brett beers.
The second weekend we did the Back Yard Beer and a “Copper Single” for Thanksgiving.