Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"Special Reserve" gets bottled and kegged

I bottled up the Marcobrau Special Reserve last night. The bottling went pretty well, netting 17 twelve-ounce bottles, seven 16-ounce bottles and one mini-keg. My mini-keg is starting to rust and I'm not sure if I want to buy more kegs, migrate to the Tap-A-Draft system, or back to the Party Pig. Any advice is appreciated. The first miniature kegging system I used was the Party Pig, but I experienced a lot of inconsistency with the carbonation. The biggest problem with the mini-keg (aside from the rust) is that I tend to get a lot of yeast in the glass when I tap the beer. I'd move to a full-size kegging system (5 gallon cornelius kegs) but I like to bottle part of each batch and I've heard too many stories about counterpressure bottle fillers.

Meanwhile, the Special Reserve is one hoppy ale, not too mention the extra Chinook hops I added to the mini-keg. I'm very much looking forward to tasting it some more in few weeks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Marco-reserve bubbling away

This past Saturday I decided I had time to brew, and I was able to make this last minute decidision, using one the new Wyeast Activator packs. I had planned this recipe loosely based on Santa's Private Reserve, a hoppy, red ale from the Rogue Breiwng Company of Newport, Oregon. The brewing process went pretty well, except for forgetting to add hops to the mash. That's okay, because I just add them to the first runnings of my partial mash. I'm not sure what to call the recipe yet, but I'll be posting updates as the Blogger interface allows.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Cherry-licious Porter (a.k.a. Cherry Stout)

Porter or stout? Which is it? I'm calling this one a porter, but it should probably be called a stout, at least based on the color, which is quite black at this point. Fermentation for this one was a bit on the warm side at 72-73 deg. F. The wort was really actively fermenting for the first three days and some of the liquid bubbled up through the airlock. The krausen seemed to fall after about five days (hard to see through the plastic bucket), but I didn't peek under the lid of the bucket until the seventh day and at that time the krausen had fallen completely. My finishing gravity seemed a little high, so I cut back on the priming sugar to avoid exploding bottles. I filled six quarts, eight pints and 19 12-ounce bottles. The pints and quarts are plastic, while the 12-ounce bottles are glass. This batch seems to have more cherry flavor than the least cherry beer (stout) that I made almost a year ago. I omitted roasted barley, too, which resulted in a lack of coffee flavors. The flavors in this beer (so far) are more of chocolate malt and caramel malt. I can't wait to try it in a few weeks!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cherry-licious Porter

On Sunday I brewed up a batch of Cherry Porter using pasteurized pure tart cherry juice from Michigan. I've brewed with this juice before, only last time it was in a stout. I used dry yeast (gasp!) for this one and took off like a rocket. Tomorrow is Thursday and I think most of the fermentation will probably be done. It was a very active fermentation that shot fermenting beer through the airlock and gunked things up. I'll probably check the gravity this weekend. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to bottle a week after brew day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Birthday Brown Ale (a.k.a. Almost-a-Porter)

Bottled up the Birthday Brown Ale yesterday. I'm using mostly plastic bottles with this particular beer, with a few 12-ounce glass bottles for competitions. I like the plastic because it's convenient, reuseable and doesn't break. I found the pint-sized plastic bottles at Grape and Granary. I racked the contents of the primary (plastic bucket) fermenter into the bottling bucket with a half cup of priming solution (corn sugar mixed with boiled and cooled water.) I'm pretty surprised so far at how much coffee flavor got into this beer. I could see cutting down the amount of English maltster Beeston's Amber Malt (available at Grape and Granary) to half pound from one full pound if I try this recipe again. The coffee flavor seems a bit pronounced for a brown ale and the beer really is too light in color to be a stout. I suppose it's too early to make any snap judgements about this brew.

I haven't tapped the mini-keg of Leftovers Sparkling London Ale, but I don't think it'll be around after this Friday night. At about three weeks of conditioning, the 'Leftovers' has turned out pretty well, with a moderate bitterness and hop flavor, and a bit of malt accented aroma. The malt flavors are pretty simple, nothing complex (with really only two malts), but the yeast seems to add a little bit of fruitiness and earthiness.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bottling Leftovers London; Birthday Brown Gets Born

Time for an overdue report on the Leftovers London Ale. I bottled it up after 10 days and now it's been 10 more days in the bottle and the mini-keg. The mini-keg will sit for probably another week or two, meanwhile I've popped a tester bottle and the results are very interesting. The first thing I noticed about this beer was that it was highly carbonated. I used two thirds corn sugar to prime, but I'm wondering if I read my measuring cup wrong again and measured three quarters a cup. Other than the high carbonation, neither myself or Lady Heathen Soul could detect any off flavors. We were mostly struck by the effervescence and pale color. This beer turned out less hoppy and a little less bitter than I thought, but the hops end up being rather balanced with the malt. It will probably take more experimentation, but I don't think first wort hops contribute that much bitterness. The wheat seems to have added a little to the mouthfeel and certainly to the head retention. The body is a bit lighter than I had hoped; this may be due to my relatively low mash temp of 148 F. This would be a really good beer if there was another couple of months of summer! I think I'm going to rename this one Sparkling London Ale; as it sort of reminds me of Coopers Sparkling (not a bad thing.) It will be interesting to see how this batch matures.

This past Saturday I took shelter from the rain outside in the comfort my kitchen, also known as the brewhouse, and made a brown ale. I decided on a brown ale because I thought it would be a good beer for autumn. I was also reminiscing the other day about how the time I brewed an autumnal brown ale with my friend Ryan at the defunct Brewing Company No. 9 in Chicago. I used a few different malts that I'm hoping will add complexity to this brew. I also used first wort hops again as well as hops in the mash. Here is the recipe.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A Summer Sparkling Ale

It's still summer and it's still warm; albeit cooler than it was the last time I updated this page. Today I brewed what I hope will turn out to be a decent English Pale Ale or Extra Special Bitter. I'm calling this batch Leftovers London Ale. The "Leftovers" part of the name comes from using leftover grain from previous partial mash batches. The "London Ale" part of the name refers to the yeast I pitched for this batch, Wyeast #1968. The yeast was packaged in the new Activator pack; that advertises that the contents should be ready to pitch in as little as three hours. I activated the pack the morning that I chose to brew and by the time I had chilled the wort (about fours later) the package had started to swell about three-quarters of an inch.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a five-gallon Rubbermaid brand beverage cooler at Menard's on sale for $10. I bought it to use as a mash tun and for the last couple of weeks I've been pondering just how to implement its use in my little brewery. I ended up fitting the cooler with a Zymico Kewler Kitz Basic Plus purchased from Northern Brewer. On the inside of the cooler I attached a stainless steel lint trap to the Kewler Kitz bulkhead using the tie that came with the trap. I still used my fermenter bucket (insulated with a heavy towel) as my lauter tun. No grains ended up in the wort and the lint trap stayed attached to the bulkhead. As far as partial mash brewing is concerned, the system worked pretty well, but as an all-grain setup I would want a higher mash efficiency (see my recipe notes.) The system is certainly an improvement over the first partial mash technique that I used in which I ladled the sparge water over the grains in the colander suspended over the brew kettle. All the parts for the mash tun, including the cooler, cost about $45. Again, the Kewler Kitz are availbe at Northern Brewer, and the other parts (half-inch hose, plumber's tape and lint trap) can be found at your local Ace Hardware store.

Something else I tried with this batch was a technique I've read about called first wort hopping. I read about this in Randy Mosher's new book, Radical Brewing. I added an ounce of Willamette whole hops to the first runnings of the wort that I collected in the brewpot. From what I've read adding these hops at such a point in brewing should add quite a bit of hop character. As the recipe for the London Ale shows, I also added some Kent Goldings pellets for bittering and the rest of the two-ounce bag of Willamettes. I'm eager to taste what effect first wort hopping has on this batch of homebrew. I suspect I might have to make this batch again without first wort hopping to really notice anything.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Too Hot to Brew?

It's been too hot to brew and almost too hot to even drink beer. My stock of homebrew includes my Belgian Triple (more a dark strong ale), the Double IPA, the Gall Bladder Wheat, Saison Morency and a little bit of Cherry Stout. I checked the IPA for carbonation last week and it was almost perfect. The beer is much stronger than I thought and not quite as over the top hoppy as I hoped. It should last a very, very long time in the bottle and mature nicely. The wheat has gone pretty fast -- it's been a popular beer. I've been holding back as much of the Saison as possible. It turned out very well and has right amount of esters. It has a rather dry finish, almost like a really good pilsner. The cherry stout is over-carbonated, but still tasty, and a bit sweeter than some months ago. The Triple is really a strange beer. It has a rather remarkable bitterness for its 30 to 34 IBUs. It is also quite dark, almost a light brown and is darker than I had hoped. I'm blaming the color change on the caramelization of sugars in the ketttle. It's something that's hard to avoid on my electric stove.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Frightful IPA Bottled

Busy, busy. Bottled up the IPA last Friday with help of my friend Ryan. (We didn't drink too much of the zwickel bier, which was good.) The IPA is an insanely hoppy and strong beer; best I can tell it's about 8.5 alcohol and 100 IBUs -- which makes it more a "double" or "Imperial" IPA. It ending up sitting in the carboy for more than a month, but seemed not to suffer. Most of this batch won't be consumed for several months.

Yesterday I bottled the Gall Bladder Wheat, also known as Gall Bladder Head. It's not quite as hoppy as I thought it would be but that's okay. I wasn't sure if the yeast (Safbrew T-58) would add that much character or not, it seems to have added a slightly tart character, with a bit of smoke in the aroma -- very interesting. The body is light and the flavor of the wheat is very prominent. It's going to be a good summer beer and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out using such simple ingredients.

Meanwhile, the Saison is continuing to mature with the hops not quite as bright as before and more of the wheat malt flavor coming through. I haven't opened a Tripel in awhile, but the last I did it was quite good, with very strong vanilla notes emerging.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Gall Bladder Wheat (a.k.a. Gall Bladder Head)

Brewed something today that I hope is at least somewhat close to Three Floyds Gumballhead that I'm calling Gall Bladder Head. I had my gall bladder removed a couple of weeks ago. I've just been able to start to stomach more exotic foods like Mexican (lots of fat and dairy), so to celebrate I brewed a beer. For those unfamiliar with Gumballhead, my sort-of-clone is a wheat beer that is hopped more like a west coast pale ale. It's a straight ahead extract brew using a mix of liquid and dry extract. I used a dry yeast (something I haven't done in a few years) to further simplify things. I've heard dry yeasts have improved in the last few years so I thought I'd experiment with DCL's Safbrew T-58. The ferm lock is already bubbling and I'm going to interpret that as a good sign.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Bottled the Saison today. I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out so far. The gravity dropped from 1.053 to 1.012, which comes out to about 77 percent attenuated and the top end of the performance for the yeast I used. The primary fermenation was in the low to mid 70s and the secondary has been even warmer, at times getting up into low 80s. There are a lot of styles of beer I wouldn't want to ferment that warm, but it seems the White Labs Saison #565 yeast really likes the warmth. All the character that a traditional saison should have -- earthy, peppery and spicy -- are all there without adding any spices. It's a great warm weather yeast. In fact, a couple summers ago I brewed two different batches of saison with this yeast, because it was such a warm summer.

I've also experimented with using quart-sized brown plastic bottles with screw caps for about half of this batch. (The other half went into 22-ounce glass bottles. I figured that the saison is a summer beer; so why not put it in plastic bottles that are more portable? I got the bottles at The Homebrew Shop in St. Charles, Ill. I'm looking forward to taking some saison on a picnic or on a hike or whatever.

The last couple of bottles of Red Rover went south. They were very over-carbonated (think fountain of beer) and "dusty" tasting. It seemed to "jump the shark" sometime in the last month. Most of the batch was fine and consumed in the first month after bottling or kegging to a party keg.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Wheat? No, wait Imperial IPA!

I was thinking about making a light wheat ale the other day, but I changed course rather drastically and I brewed a strong IPA. Each year, I make a strong and extra-hopped ale that I call Old Frightful, and this is it. I've saved bottles of previous vintages for a year or two and they tend to age very well. The bulk of the fermentables came from 10 pounds of extra light liquid malt extract bought from Listermann in Ohio. I've never brewed with this particular bulk malt extract. It was really cheap at $2.25 a pound. We'll see if it makes good beer. I added some grains leftover from previous batches including some Caravienne, 2-row pale ale, CaraMunich, Munich and just a little bit of Special B making for a bit of hodge-podge and what will probably be a darker brew than I think.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The Season for Saison

I've brewed up a batch of Saison for summer. For this recipe I used about 10 percent Spelt, a type of grain that I haven't used before, but have read about in beer books and magazines. I did a mini-mash of spelt, torrefied and Belgian Caravienne malts. In retrospect I should have added some 2-row pale malt, too. I used Kent Goldings hops this year, instead of Styrian Goldings. I didn't add any spices to this batch because I want to see what type of a spicy character I can get from the yeast. I used White Labs Saison #565.

I think my next brew is either going to be a multi-grain pale ale or a strong English old ale. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Older enteries (not in the Blogger format) can still be found on my main site as archives.