Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The tale of two Westchesters

My friend Eric Keeley lives in the eastern part of Westchester, Illinois. He calls this part of town "Eastchester." He grows Chinook hops in his backyard and this year produced many, many pounds of hops. I used these hops in a batch a beer back in September which as long since been bottled. This homegrown hops were the only ones I used in this batch and the beer turned quite nice. The hops were not real prominent in the beer but you could tell they were there. The British yeast (Wyeast 1318) seemed to express itself more than the hops. In fact, this was the second time I've noticed a rose water-like fruitiness while using this yeast. Something about the higher fermentation temps (in the 70s) is what I suspect brings about this flavor. It is very pleasant.

I've bottled another batch of this same beer, except I added some Chinook pellets. Four ounces worth to be exact, which seems to have pumped up the hop flavor immensely...I dare say almost too much. I'm sure the beer will mellow in the bottle though and perhaps the hops will fade. However, at this point I'm inclined to dub this batch Little Bastard, because it tastes like the little brother of Stone Arrogant Bastard. Time will tell.

Here is the recipe for that latest batch of Eastchester Red.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mmm....homegrown hops.

Well, what I've just brewed is probably a very dark bitter that will almost be a brown ale. It will be hoppy, with 2.5 ounces of Chinook hops for the boil and two more steeped, even though I only boiled for 35 minutes. The hops were dried in mesh produce bags for about two weeks after picking at my friend Eric's house. I have three more bags of these hops. I have no idea what the alpha acid or beta acid of these hops are since they were homegrown. My malt bill for batch was one pound of Thomas & Fawcett 60L Crystal, one pound of Weyermann Munich malt; a half-pound of Thomas &Fawcett Amber and 30L Crystal and four ounces of Weyermann CaraAroma. The base malt was a three-pound bag of Munton & Fison dry light malt extract. I chose Wyeast #1318 for my yeast. This yeast is a top cropper so if I'm ambitious I'll scoop some krausen out of the bucket in a two or three days to use for the next batch. I just used one packet and no starter since the gravity was 1.042 which is on the low side.  I had hoped for an ordinary bitter, but my utilization was much better than expected, so I would like to brew an ordinary or standard bitter next.

So long Summer...

I wistfully bottled up the session saison last night. I filled 19 22s and three Sierra Nevada bombers. It was a long primary and secondary ferment on this one. I lost track of the calendar due to so much going on and just life in general. The bottling session went very smoothly and the beer tastes good so far. My tasting notes:
Moderately phenolic nose with melon and floral scent. Very light and dry with a very slightly viscous body. Touch marzipan sweetness, dry finish just shy of being sweet. Not bitter at all, but some peppery spice. Despite it's low ABV, I'd like to cellar this beer until next summer.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


I finally found the courage and the time to brew. The burner on my stove worked just fine and I was able to do a quick extract batch after work today. It was my first time using the Belle Saison dry yeast from Lallemand. I brewed a very simple all extract batch of one three-pound can of Briess Pilsen LME and two pounds of Munton's Light DME. I used Huell Melon as my single hop for bittering; using one ounce of pellets at the start of the 60-minute boil and two ounces with 12 minutes left in the boil. This is my first time using Huell Melon and I was tempted to keep the beer real simple to let the hop character express itself, but I decided to also add a bunch of spices. I may dry hop with another ounce of Huell Melon that I have remaining. The spices I added included Trader Joe's Flower Pepper (which I can't find anymore), culinary-grade lavender, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander, some crushed juniper berries and ground black pepper. Everything was pretty much equal except for the coriander and lavender (about one and a half tablespoons  each and maybe a tablespoon of black pepper. A real hodgepodge and a little heavy on the quantities of spices, but I was feeling adventurous. The beer won't be very strong, likely just above four percent alcohol, so it will definitely be a highly sessionable beer. That said, I'm hoping to cellar at least half the batch until next summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer is the time for Saison

Saison is probably my favorite style of beer. It is an old style from Belgium and it is interesting (and fortunate) that it is a style that is becoming more popular here in America. What do I appreciate about Saison? It is the dryness, the esters and lively carbonation that get me excited about Saison, but any hint of terroir is a big bonus. The saisons I brew tend to lack terroir (I brew in a condo, not a farmhouse) but U work hard to achieve that dryness. I don't do a full mash, but a partial mash, but keeping the mash at a lower temperature makes the wort more fermentable. I've found that a full extract Saison won't get that dry,, so I always try and mash at least a couple pounds of Belgian Pils malt with some pilsner extract when brewing my Saison.
Sadly, I haven't brewed any Saison yet this year as my burner has been a little flaky. I'm working up the courage though as I have a new yeast to try -- Belle Saison dry yeast. Meanwhile, I sipping on my stash of Saison from previous years as well as earlier this year. This would include my Saison D'Automne, which was pretty much an Oktoberfest recipe I fermented with a Saison yeast. It turned out OK -- plenty dry despite using some more dextrinous malts -- but it has an odd aftertaste. It opens up after some time in the glass and is still quite drinkable, although it is a bit boozy. Not sure that I'll replicate the recipe.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hoppy American Wheat Bottled

The Hoppy American Wheat (a.k.a. Liquid Sunshine) has been bottled! Bottled it this past Sunday (3/23) and the bottles are resting comfortably at about 72 degrees. More later....