Sunday, December 27, 2009

Can't believe I haven't mentioned that I have a porter in it's eighth day of fermentation. The yeast was pitched on December 19th and it's been real quiet for a few days now. I plan on keeping it in the plastic primary for a couple more days before I decide on the next step. I'm not sure if I want to rack to the secondary with dry hops or bottle it up. Since I'm going for a west coast-style porter I feel like I should add some dry hops, but I'm going to give it a taste in a couple days and see how I like it. I added a lot of hops (five ounces) in the last 15 minutes of the boil which should add a significant hop flavor, but I'm not sure how much aroma they will add. I haven't used Chinook hops in a few years, but I know they're quite powerful.

My next batch is probably going to be something like a British Mild crossed with a Saison, mostly because I have Safbrew T-58 and some black malt. At this point in the recipe formulation, I'm using Briess Pilsner malt extract, black malt and molasses along with Strisselspalt and Goldings hops. I plan to use the Goldings and some of the Strisselspalt for bitterness with the Strissepalt as the sole aroma hop steeped at the end of the boil.

Looking through my posts, I also see that I've failed to mention that I ordered three pounds of hop pellets from Hops Direct. The pricing seemed a lot better than paying two to three dollars an ounce at the local home brew shop. I now have about one pound each of Chinook, Amarillo and Strisselspalt hops in my freezer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I was extremely pleased to find two six-packs of 2007 Goose Island Christmas Ale earlier today. This is a small-batch beer that is released once a year and is a favorite. According to the brewery it ages well up to five years. I've poured the first bottle out of the 12 and it's so far so good. Here are my tasting notes:

I give it a good pour into an old school Schlitz dimpled goblet. The head that forms is modest, but lasting, and some lace left behind with each sip. This light mahogany-colored beer is much hazier than I expected, but otherwise looks delicious. The nose is pretty neutral with some complex fruit and malt aromas. It is wonderfully smooth with a luscious caramel flavor that fades into more roasted coffee flavors before a smoothly bitter finish. Some unidentifiable spices nips at the sides of the tongue; it's almost sort of peppery, yet sweet. A very tasty ale!

I have a bottle of this year's Christmas Ale in my fridge. It's a 22-ounce bottle and I'm told that the recipe has changed (the alcohol increased and more hops have been added.) It is only available in 22-ounce bottles and thus the price of this year's version has about doubled compared to the 2008 and 2007. Despite my initial gripe, I still look forward to procuring some of this year's batch and letting some of it rest in the cellar.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I tapped the Party Pig of my last three-gallon batch of extra hoppy pale ale and it was way over-carbonated, pouring all foam. My guess is that the batch wasn't done fermenting or was infected, although it tasted fine. I also noticed the Party Pig pouch didn't activate properly. It was sort of pinched in the middle and not fully inflated, leaving a lot of head space. I sort of figured I might have a problem when I couldn't get the pouch to inflate. According to instructions on the Party Pig website, the beer should rise to the top of bottle (vertically oriented) when bleeding the excess air. If the beer doesn't rise to the top, then the pouch hasn't activated. So I took a chance letting it carb with the priming sugar in the hops that the pressure might change and the pouch might activate as the yeast created more carbon dioxide during conditioning.

Since the Pig was pouring all foam, I decided to bleed off some gas (I did this by standing the Pig up vertically so there was but air to escape when I tapped it), thinking this might reduce some of the pressure so the beer didn't pour all foam. This wasn't very smart, because the result was that I went from dispensing all foam to nothing. The pouch failed to expand and I ended up opening up the Pig, deactivating the partially inflated pouch and siphoning the beer into bottles with Munton's Carb Tabs, so we'll see how that goes. I think the issues I had with the Party Pig pouch had to do with how it was oriented in the bottle, causing to not activate properly. I think that I then pumped too much air into the bottle trying to get the pouch to activate, which may have contributed to over-carbonating the beer.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sipping an English-style barleywine I brewed last year and I'm not sure how I feel I about it. It hasn't turned out quite like I expected; it almost seems more Belgian-style than English. First of all, the nose has a lot of banana-toffee esters that are mixed in with a pretty heavy caramel-toffee smell. The taste is a bit sweet with some hop spice and a lot of caramel and toffee, while the finish seems dry at first; but with a late tawny port sweetness that fades to corn sweetener. The banana in the aroma is unexpected as is the corn sweetener taste late in the finish. I wouldn't be surprised to notice banana esters in a barleywine if it had fermented and conditioned real warm, but according to my notes (from 11 months ago) the beer fermented at 72 degrees F. and was conditioned for the last nine months or so in a 60-70 degree F. basement. Reviewing my notes I also noticed that I re-pitched a yeast from an English bitter that I brewed. The yeast was Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire, substituted for the NB recommendation of either Safale US-05 or Wyeast 1056.

This was a Northern Brewer Barleywine kit with not a lot of hops which is why I used the English yeast. If I brewed this again I think I would add a touch more bittering hops and some aroma hops, too. Looking at my notes, I reduced the flavor hops addition at 15 minutes to 5 minutes and stuck with the NB recommendation of no aroma hops. If I brewed this kit again I think I would follow the direction on the flavoring hops addition and add additional hops to the kit as aroma hops (probably Goldings or Fuggle.) I think I'd still stick with an English yeast but don't if I'd be able to use the Wyeast 1469 again since it was a limited edition strain.