Monday, July 30, 2012

All things tomato

I say all things tomato right now. Now that the heat is on, they are coming in strong. Wish I had a garden of my own dedicated to the heirlooms, but, alas, I don't. I rely on Fisher Farms, a little farmstand along 120 eastbound just a few miles past Jack Tone Rd. They have an entire barn filled with bins on every type of tomato you can think of...just ask to go back there.

Juicy, sweet as candy yellow ones, little green gems, brandywines, BIG beefsteaks for the best BLT , on and on. Basically it is tomato heaven.

We just had the Best BLT aka BBLT. Big fat slices of juicy ripe tomato, applewood bacon (extra thick slices) sweet white onion, avocado and arugula; all held together with mayo, (best foods, of course) on chewy thick slices of toasted sourdough rye bread. That is key, the bread. It has to be thick and dense enough to stand up to the juicy tomatoes, and no trace of sweetness. I highly recommend this while catching the exciting Olympic action!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunny Side IPA

Brew Day 6/26/12

As stated previously, I am a total IPA junkie. I have been fantasizing lately (as I'm sure we all do from time to time) about what I would do if I were at the helm of a commercial brewery.... Besides ride my bike every day to and from my mountain top production facility through epic swoopy fast trails, host fantastic parties with fireworks every weekend, put the whole passel of friends and family up in awesome log cabins with shiny motorcycles parked outside, and put in a ski lift for our own private enjoyment in the snowy season... I would brew a whole bunch of IPAs. I think I'd approach it from a seasonal stand point so that I could brand like 8 different styles instead of having to stick to just one.  Cuz' there is a lot to love. I can't really choose just one flavor profile that scratches the itch every time; Sometimes I want something floral, sometimes pine, sometimes fruity, and sometimes just plain dank.

The idea with this one was a summer seasonal IPA. Thirst quenching, and not too boozy or bitter to facilitate having a few back-to-back without wrecking your palette or your social skills. The hop profile is heavily weighted towards tropical fruit flavors soaked with big floral perfume, and some herby grassyness in the background. Even thought I usually like 'em more on the rougher side with some woody-pine and spicy-citrus, I wanted this one to be all island breeze-- the "smoothest" IPA I could muster (stay tuned for later seasonals that'll focus on more earthy, juicy, woody, and dank profiles).

As always with IPAs I went for a very hop-forward and dry beer. This one features some obligatory summery wheat malt for its lightening properties, my first experiment with Honey Malt for what is hopefully some clean sweetness mid-sip, and some Carapils to fill it out. I could have gone without the Carapils given that the wheat addition would take care of the head retention, but I love the way Carapils fills out the mouthfeel in IPAs... I feel like it gives something for all the hop oils to stick to and contributes to the impression of a more resiny finish without being sweet OR soapy

For hops I wanted to use varieties with a low cohumulone percentage (that is the alpha acid that folks reckon makes for a harsh, lingering bitterness) but big aroma oils. Citra and Amarillo both have awesome floral aroma with huge passion fruit and mellon-like tropical fruit flavors from the Citra and peachy-orange juice from the Amarillo, but I feel both can be a bit overwhelming (cat-pee from Citra and diesel from Amarillo) if used with too-heavy a hand. So I spaced them out with some Centennials, which I reckon were responsible for the great floral, grassy, and juicy character in my YPA earlier this year. Late hop additions in quantities that border on ridiculous and a SUPER pale grain bill should make for one of the hoppyest beers yet without being all that bitter. 

Hopefully this is going to be just the thing for our heaven-on-earth week in Tahoe, on the Sunny Side of the lake ; )

The recipe (for 5 gal. post-boil~ about 4 gal yield after losses to hop trub.):

8lbs 2-Row Pale Malt (Rahr) 54% *nice and neutral*
5lbs Golden Promise (Simpson's) 33% *some extra character*
1lb 2oz White Wheat Malt (Great Western) 7% *light and fluffy*

7oz Honey Malt (Gambrinous) 3% *sweet but not caramel*
7oz Carapils 3% *for structure*

.5oz Citra First Wort Hop

1oz Ahatanum 60min boil
1oz Citra 15min boil
1.5oz Centennial 15min boil
1oz Citra Flame Out @ 140F **waited to chill a bit-trying to get some different hop oils into solution**
1.5oz Centennial Flame Out @ 140F
.5oz Amarillo Flame Out @ 140F
.5oz Cita Dry Hop after 7 days in primary (DH total of 10 days)
1.5oz Amarillo Dry Hop after 10 days in primary (DH total of 10 days)
.5oz Citra Dry Hop after 2 weeks in primary (DH total of 5 days)
1oz Amarillo Dry Hop after 2 weeks in primary (DH total of 5 days)

Pitched 1 Packet Safale US05 Chico yeast @ 67F with 1 tab Servomicies- no temp control means for an average ambient 70F.

All RO water with 1.5 gram/gal gypsum **I think this is going to be my new standard for water treatment in pale and hoppy beers.**

Single infusion @ 151F for 1 hr
60min Boil

OG: 1.062= 62% Efficiency
FG:1.010= 6.9%ABV *Stoked on the low FG!*
Calc SRM: 6ish
Calc IBUs: 55ish Garetz, 80 tinseth **I'm thinking the Garetz scale is more in line with my system based on perceived bitterness of my last couple brews**

7/16- Bottled 3 gal with 1/3cup table sugar for 3.5 target vols CO2. Samples are tasty! FG1.010

7/16- Put remaining 1 gal in secondary with dredges from "House Brett" after bottling Apricot Brett Beer. Will Revisit in a few months.

8/5- Perfect thing for our trip to the lake. Great sucess!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pomegranate Kolsch Tasting

Reviewed 7/11/12

This beer has been on a bit of a journey. It started as the secondary batch of a seat-of-my-pants brew day. Half of the red wort got Citra hops and Brett C and became La Rouge. This half got some extra water to adjust the gravity down, a too-heavy dose of Sorachi Ace hops at flame out and was fermented with Kolsch yeast for a spritzy summer table beer. I was a little nervous about it as it was kind of a weird concept, and because I had heard mixed reviews about the Sorachi hops.  And sure enough, the slow to flocculate Kolsch yeast combined with the wacky hops in a pretty muddy way that I really didn’t like in the fermenter. To remedy the batch I added pomegranate syrup to the secondary fermenter with the intent of upping the acidity a bit and complimenting the lemon and dilly hops with some earthy fruit flavors. Even then, it took another month or so in bottles for the dill character of the hops to fade into the background. But it came together and is drinking quite nicely now.

Appearance: Quite a hazy muted orange that has a pinkish tinge in the light. I hate that I didn't do any water adjustments when I brewed this one, it should be a lot clearer. Rocky off-white head that is big at first and falls to 1 finger after a few but never quite goes away.

Smell: Lemony tartness front and center, with a fresh and clean dew-drop sweetness. The smell has a similar zing to a glass of white wine with some weird grape skin and tart cherry whispers in the background form the pomegranate.

Taste: The taste is different than the smell suggests. The lemon juice flavor is even bigger than expected, so much so that I think you may be able to tell someone that it was served with a squeeze. There are some interesting herbal notes coming from the hops that were way too dilly while the beer was young, but have mellowed out into a neat earthiness over the last two months. There is a hint of maltiness towards the end of the sip that instantly makes way for a thirst quenching finish. The pomegranate only shows itself as a hint in the background that reminds me of a strawberry/ balsamic reduction.

Mouthfeel: Dry, light, tart, and crisp with a pleasantly high level of carbonation. I think that if I hadn’t used the munich malts in this one it might just pass for a bubbly wine.

Overall: Turned out great! It was muddy and dilly for a while, but it really turned a corner once the yeast finally cleared and the hops mellowed out. Not totally what I expected, but it is a great summer time refresher. Next time I’ll leave out the dark malts and just go for a crisp pils, wheat, and fruit combo with this yeast and hop paring.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Black Steam Tasting

Reviewed 7/5/12

We’ve been enjoying Black Steam for months now, and I realized that I oughta’ write up a review before it’s all gone.

For a kinda’ haphazard recipe, this beer came together really nicely. It is at once super crisp AND pretty rich… walking the line between a dry porter and a dark lager thanks to the hybrid steam beer yeast. It has been a great beer to pair with BBQ.

Appearance: Black that fades to chestnut around the edges with a 2-finger light tan, latte foam head. The head is nice and creamy right to the end of the glass.
Smell: Rich, mild, lightly toasty malt out front with lots of eucalyptus woodiness in that background that I’m going to say has as much to do with the CA Lager yeast as it does with the Mt. Hood hops (the yeast profile is very similar to Anchor Steam). The background has a faintly sweet and piney smell with maybe a touch of sulfur from the otherwise very clean yeast.
Taste: Richer than the nose suggests, with a silky-smooth roast and a very light toasted bread character. The eucalyptus effervescence is there just as the aroma suggested and lends to a nice crisp finish. Some faint roast and malty-sweetness from the carafa and vienna malts help to balance the woody yeast and hops for an overall impression that is very crisp and clean for such a dark beer. The woody hops combine with the yeast and black malt for an almost smokey impression (as opposed to coffee, prune, or chocolate-like dark malt flavors). It is surprisingly refreshing for how dark and creamy it is thanks to the clean base malt and piney hops that make for a light, lager-like balance.
Mouthfeel: Carbonation is pretty low, which gives it a heavier feel than you would expect from the otherwise medium-dry and light body.

Overall: Super drinkable. I will most likely brew this one again as I reckon it is quite a crowd-pleaser thanks to its mellow flavors and easy balance.

Next time I’ll only make a few tweaks to the recipe to really dial it in as a crisp, dark lager. I think I’ll shoot for a bit more assertiveness in the malt by using pilsner instead of American 2-row, and removing the wheat and subbing either some rye or just more pilsner and mashing higher to boost the loss of body. I think all Mt. Hood hops will be the way to go, and the CA lager yeast is awesome with the carafa malts. Again, this is a great BBQ beer.