Monday, October 21, 2013

Autumnal Ale already almost gone, Chinook Red bottled

Well, the Autumnal Ale has turned out pretty nice. Perhaps the best way to describe it is Saison Dupont crossed with Chimay Blue. It's of course not nearly as strong as Chimay, but has a bit of the flavor of the Blue from the use of dark Belgian candi syrup and a fairly low hop bitterness. It's kind of interesting stuff. Like I posted earlier, I really thought it wouldn't turn out as dark as it did using only a half pound of candi syrup. I've actually already (sadly) plowed through most of the batch even though it is just now coming into it's own. I guess I was thirsty and foolish.

I've brewed another batch since the Autumnal Ale and it is a rather fun project. My friend Eric Keeley shared some of his prized hop crop with me a few weeks ago and I used the fresh hops pretty straight away. He packed two gallon-sized Ziploc bags with the fresh picked Chinook hops, which I put in my freezer for about a week before using them. I used all of them in the batch which at first seems like a lot, but I did so after reading that five times the amount of fresh hops should be used compared to dry. It turns out I did the right thing, as the beer is hoppy, but not too much so. I did cheat a bit and used the Brewer's Best Red Ale kit, so the batch was augmented with some pellet hops, which I used for bittering only. (The kit called for splitting the Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops between bittering and flavoring additions.) I made a point to bitter with the pellets (since I knew the AA percentage) and use the fresh hops late in the boil for flavor and aroma. I'm actually a bit surprised at how much aroma persisted in this beer without dry hopping with additional pellets. I'm quite pleased. I added the corn sugar provided for bottling and reduced the volume of the batch from five gallons to four and half gallon to push the gravity up a touch.

I brewed the Chinook Red on the September 14, racked on October 7 and bottled it this evening. The results so far are about as expected. I really didn't expect a hop bomb, but I wasn't sure. What I hope to end up with is a flavorful red ale with a nice accent of Chinook hops and smooth, but lingering bitterness.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Brewed and bottled Autumnal Ale

Oh, yeah...right! I have a blog. I kinda forgot.

My full-time job has been very tiring in the past couple of months and the time away from work has been spent enjoying summer doing other things than brewing. I've re-evaluated my schedule and now I'm making some time for brewing. On and off for the past few years I've brewed an ale for the fall weather. I usually just call it Autumnal Ale. About a month ago I found some time to brew and crafted a recipe that is sort of a brown saison. I was sort of hoping it would be more amber, but it ended up being brown (at least so far.) I very much underestimated the power of a half-pound of extra-dark candi syrup. It added a lot of color and I still have another half-pound to use in another recipe or maybe I'll brew another batch of what I bottled today. The fermentables  for this beer included included six pounds of pilsner liquid malt extract, one pound of amber dry malt extract and about nine ounces of extra dark candi syrup. I boiled for one hour with three ounces of Strisselspalt hops, adding another ounce at 40 minutes into the boil and an ounce of Crystal hops at 15 minutes left in the boil. All the hops were pelletized.

Temperatures in the fermentorium (kitchen) have been in the low 80s so I used the Wyeast 3724 yeast. The ambient temperature never got above 83 degrees and this notorious yeast still took almost a month to complete fermentation. I left it in the primary the whole time, mostly because I had a bit of a fruit fly problem in my kitchen and wanted to the fly population to dwindle before I racked the beer. It seems to be no worse off. The beer tastes good with a fruity, earthy flavor along with some complex caramel flavors no doubt from the candi syrup. I'm eager to taste the finished product in a few weeks.

The beer that accompanied my bottling session this evening was my Dragon Slayer Ale, a highly-hopped Belgian-style quadrupel. This monster of an ale is still quite delicious a couple years after being bottled. The hop aroma and most of the hop flavor is long gone and what's left is mostly just phenolic; but the flavor is quite interesting with marizpan notes, caramel corn, almonds, a touch of a sauvignon blanc wineyness and an earthy, woody character that leads to a somewhat bitter and boozy finish that smooths out and leaves a residual marzipan-like sweetness on the tongue. To style? Well, it doesn't really fit any style, but it is pretty interesting. Would a lot of people like it. Probably not. Do I like it? Yes, and it's just homebrew, so that's really all that matters, right?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Revisiting the Belgian Spiced Cherry Stout

I dug out another old bottle of homebrew yesterday. This time it was the Belgian-style Spiced Cherry Stout that I brewed back in 2009. I was amazed at how well this beer is holding up. Here are my tasting notes:

Plenty of carbonation; an amazing amount for a three-year-old beer. Sour cherry and curry nose. Yes, curry. More curry than cherry. A bit lactic and quite tart. Quite a bit of acid, along with hot alcohol. Will need to hit the antacids again tonight. Milk chocolate middle. Tart finish. Really need to try this again, but I doubt I could pull off a repeat of such a masterpiece.

Here are some of my earlier notes on this beer from November 2009:

Seeing that I didn't account for the fermentability of the tart cherry juice I used, I've gone back and estimated the alcohol content of this brew to be at least 9 percent alcohol. I knew I had a lot more alcohol in this batch than I thought after getting buzzed pretty good after a couple small glasses. That said, the alcohol content is not getting in the way of what I think will be a terrific beer. Even at just a couple months of age, there is a wonderful infusion of chocolate, roasted coffee and tart cherry flavors in this beer. There is also a slight cola flavor and a hint something else; sort of an undefinable complexity. I'm guessing this depth of flavor has to do with not just the Belgian yeast, but the subtle addition of cardamom and black pepper (about a tablespoon each.) This beer continues to sleep and shall do so for awhile; as at it's strength it should improve over the years.
I'm thinking the cardamom and black pepper is contributing the the "curry" aroma in this beer, as it each spice is part of the Indian spice blend known as Garam Masala. Perhaps I'll just go ahead add Garam Masala to this recipe if I ever brew it again.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Revisiting the Dragon Slayer

Tonight I'm tasting a beer I brewed almost three years ago. I ended up calling it Dragon Slayer Ale. I intended it be sort of a cross between quadruple and a double IPA. It's all pilsner and wheat malt extract with some cane sugar and 12 ounce of hop in five-gallon batch. I added:

2 ounces Chinook pellets at 11.5% AA for 60 mins
3 ounces Chinook pellets for 30 mins
1 ounce of Chinook pellets for 10 mins
3 ounces of Crystal whole hops for 5 mins
3 ounces of Sytrian Goldings dry hopped for 20 days
Needless to say, at this point the hops have faded quite a bit. Although the aroma is very earthy and woody which I attribute to the hops. Aside from this character, I also get some marzipan in the nose and taste it as well. It's also a bit dry at this point and just a touch tart with sort of a chewy maltiness right before the finish. As noted previously it reminds me a bit of Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine, but in this case an old bottle, not a fresh one. I've lost some of my notes on this beer, but based on the ingredients list it was around 11-12 percent alcohol. Definitely the the strongest beer I've made. Despite it's strength it's not boozy at all, but the strength is noticeable in the head. There are some caramel notes that seem to compliment the other flavors well. I think I need to more batches like this that get squirreled away. It really is quite tasty. One part northwest U.S. barelywine, one part Old Ale and one part quadruple, but all good!
This poor neglected blog. I just haven't had the right time slot (or money) to brew much in the last couple months. I'm spending too much money on commercial beer I guess, but there's so much out there right now and going out is so much more fun than staying home and drinking homebrew.

The last beer I brewed was a French Saison that turned out pretty good. I have maybe half the batch left. It turned out a little fuller-bodied than I hoped. I'd like to try the recipe again without as much wheat or perhaps without wheat altogether. The grain bill included 12.5 percent flaked wheat, but I also used two pounds of wheat DME. Perhaps sticking to the flaked wheat next time might make the difference. The late hop character is also lacking. I would probably also dry hop with Sorachi Ace (the single hop I used) or at least add some at the end of the boil, instead of just a flavor addition at 15 minutes. Live and learn I guess. Still a decent beer and nothing horribly wrong with it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Japanese Sunshine gets brewed

Earlier today I brewed a wheat beer based on a recipe I brewed last year. I'm calling it Japanese Sunshine. It's a wheat ale fermented with a Belgian yeast strain (Wyeast 3711 French Saison) made using a partial mash consisting of Belgian Pils malt, flaked wheat and flaked rice along with Munton's wheat malt extract and Briess pilsner malt extract. The hopping schedule included solely Japanese Sorachi Ace hop pellets at mashing (first wort), 20 and 15 minutes. (A half-ounce at 20 minutes and an ounce and at 15 minutes with a half-ounce for first wort hopping.) I was thinking of adding some spices for this beer, but I've left it up to the yeast and hops for complexity. The temperature in the fermentorium is currently 72-73 degrees, which should make this yeast reasonably happy, throwing s fair amount of esters.

I'm feeling like I really need to ramp up my brewing schedule in the next few weeks. I'm thinking a full on IPA should be in the mix; or maybe a "Belgian" IPA. I'm also thinking about an American wheat. Ideas?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Looking back at the Sunshine and talking about blood oranges and stout

Wow. My first batch of Liquid Sunshine, which I later brewed as Japanese Sunshine back in July, is holding up quite well. There's an orange-y-citrus nose. (Very sunny.) It has a nice clear gold color to it and well, tastes fantastic. Lightly citrus fruity with a definite wheat flavor. Finish is perfectly balanced, perhaps a touch sweet (to be expected after nine months!) I'm quite pleased at how well my summer brews hold up. It was nice brew to accompany a bottling session the other day. I bottled the Blood Orange IPA and it's well, very hoppy! There's a pronounced fruity flavor (citrus, guava, mango, name it, it's in there.) I'm eager for this beer to be carbonated so I can start enjoying it's wonderful hoppiness. The only thing I would change is I'd like to try using more blood orange juice and even more zest; just more orange flavor, I guess. Blood oranges have a real interesting flavor and I'm kind of missing it in this beer. I'm looking for that grapefruit tartness and bitterness that comes from a good blood orange. Not entirely sure if I need to use more juice or more zest or both.

I'm enjoying a Bell's Amber Ale (well, a few of them) this evening and I'm thinking I package up the dry stout I brewed early last week. It's had a few days of diacetyl rest and should be ready to go, especially noting that I used the Fermentis S-04, which seems to ferment rather quickly. I'm looking forward to a roast toasty stout for St. Patrick's Day quaffing. Yes, I brewed a dry stout 13 days ago and it fermented rather quickly. Looking back at my notes I see that I pitched a combination of the S-04 and Wyeast 1318 slurry that had been sitting in my fridge for at least a couple of months. Fermentation was very active for about 36 hours. I used a blow off tube instead of an airlock for the few days of fermentation. I used a full pound of roasted barley in addition to a half pound of black malt in the stout, so I'm expecting some burnt roasted malt flavor and substantial bitterness. It might end up being a good stout for black and tans. (The tan ideally cutting the burnt grain bitterness.) As I said earlier, I hope to package this beer soon. It will go into two Party Pigs, which always seem to deliver a nice creamy pint of stout.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wee Heavy Bottled, Blood Orange IPA Racked

Took a half day off work on Monday and got caught up on some homebrewing. First, I moved the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale I brewed about six weeks ago out of cold storage and bottled it. Bottling went well. I was amazed at how the six weeks of lagering cleared up the beer. I actually roused some yeast in fear that not enough would be suspension for the beer to carbonate -- probably unnecessary I know, but my hydrometer sample tasted delicious -- I really want this beer to turn out!

The second part of my afternoon was to rack the Blood Orange IPA into the Better Bottle that I used to lager the Wee Heavy. I went for broke, and since there was so little yeast sediment, racked right on top of the the yeast. Well, first I added an ounce of Zythos hop pellets for dry hopping. A taste test a few days ago revealed that this beer was lacking the hop aroma I wanted. It mostly smelled fruity; kind of an English aroma with maybe just a hint of tropical fruit. The beer is very cloudy, so I'm thinking of lagering this one, too, but I'm also considering using some Polyclar for the first time, but I read that it works best when the beer is kept very cold. I fear the combination of the clarifier plus lagering might have me adding more yeast before bottling.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tasting the Abbey Ale (formerly Belgian Dark)

Decided to try a couple of beers I've had stashed for the last several weeks and months. First up is what I intended to be a Strong Belgian Dark, but it's more amber than brown. It pours with a nice rocky head thanks to some wheat malt and plenty of carbonation, but smells relatively clean for a Belgian-style ale. There's some trademark raisin-like character from the Special-B malt that I used, but the mouthfeel isn't right. There's just not enough body and there's too much bitterness. It's actually quite dry, but I should expect that from Wyeast 3522. This beer is almost saison-like at least in terms of body. I measured the original gravity at 1.089 and it finished at 1.016. It's an odd creature. There really aren't off flavors except for the unexpected harsh bitterness in the finish. I guess you'd call it an amber abbey ale. I think I'll call this beer "Saison in my Abbey." Still not sure what happened here.

The next beer is the Autumnal Saison. I meant for it to be a saison with Munich malts; sort of a Belgian festbier sort of thing, but it's ended up more like a tasty, dry Belgian Pale Ale. I say this because I had a Belgian try it and he liked it quite a bit. It's not at all bitter; it's estery and dry with caramel malt flavor. I have few bottles left that might all go to him...cheers to you Fabien Van der Stappen!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Blood orange IPA gets brewed

I had an incredible beer a couple summers ago from Shorts' Brewing Company in Bellaire, Michigan. (One of many incredible beers I've had from the brewery.) This particular beer was described as a wheat wine with blood oranges and it was packed with extreme amounts of flavor. Seemingly lots of hops combined with the grapefruity bittersweet flavor of the blood oranges. (I'm guessing a lot of the supposed hop flavor came from the oranges.) Tonight I've brewed a tweaked version and I'm eager to see how it turns out. I brewed my blood orange beer as an IPA style more than wheat style, although I did use a about 20 percent wheat for body. The rest of the malt bill was Pilsner malt. I should clarify that all of the malt was extract. My weeknight brews usually comprise more extract (if not 100 percent) to save a little time. I also simplified things further by using the Safale S-33 yeast. I've used this yeast before with success in a wheat bock type of beer. I used the flesh and juice from six Moro blood oranges, along with the grated peel of two of the oranges. I used Magnum hops for bittering (one ounce at the start of the 60-minute boil and one ounce at a half hour.) I was a little bit excited to find the Zythos hops blend which I added at 45 and 50 minutes into the boil in one ounce increments. I also added a half-ounce of Trader Joe's Flower Pepper at the 45 minutes into the boil. The wort was cooled in about 20 minutes with my immersion wort chiller with two packets of the S-33 pitched into the fermenter. I accompanied the brew session with a Merry Ale, which was quite delicious, if I dare so myself. It was somehow more bitter than it seemed at first, with the hops playing against the crystal malts quite nicely. A very hoppy, bitter red with plenty of fruitiness, but also not to strong at 5.2 percent.