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.