Monday, July 11, 2016

Wine and things

We harvested grapes, and just in time. Despite nets and traps, the creatures of the world were after them. It was only about three or four pounds of grapes, though, so not really enough, once crushed to fill out wine.

Plenty for Pyment, though. 2.875 pounds of wildflower honey per gallon, plus the blend of red and white grapes will make for an interesting pyment someday, next year. A little citric acid and a blush wine yeast and let it go.

I've also combined a couple pounds of figs from the mystery fig tree in back with some cardamom and a little star anise and simple syrup and vodka for a homemade liquor.

I'm about to see how many habanero peppers are ready, because women in my life enjoy hot, hot, hot pepper jelly.

Lots of things done, but all so simple and simply made.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Brewday: Witbier and American Ale

Summer is here, and already temperatures have risen over a hundred here in south Texas. Refreshing beverages are the ride of the day. I split a 10 gallon batch of wheat beer to become half witbier and half American wheat.

I lost about ten pounds in pure sweat, out there. I had difficulty getting mash temperatures correct and hitting my numbers, so I actually recirculated a portion of the wort back into the grain bed to try one last time at a decent mash, and it seemed to work. It was pure frustration on my part, but draining out all the wort into the mash tun and warming that up and trying again succeeded at hitting numbers.

Now, splitting the batch do two styles of beer is a little difficult considering the spice additions of a traditional Witbier. Instead of adding the orange peel and coriander and chamomile and grains of paradise to the boil, I added them to a small jar of vodka. The tincture will be added after primary fermentation to the witbier portion.

This got me thinking about homemade cordial: Imagine a "Witskey" with hops and spices and simple syrup combined with a light-bodied whiskey! Next payday I will have to give that a shot!

I wanted 10 AA of Saaz hops, and have some leftover as a result. I can't imagine I would need lots of hops to infuse some whiskey!

Brandy might also work well with the complex flavors of witbier spices...

Anyway, herein the recipe:

Wit and Wheat
10 gallon split batch
ABV: 4.82 %
OG: 1.047 SG FG: 1.010 SG
IBUs: 18.7 IBUs Color: 3.8 SRM

8.5 pounds White Wheat Malt
5.5 pounds Pilsner Malt
2 pounds Flaked Oats
1 pound Munich Malt
3 pounds Rice Hulls
10 AA Saaz @60 (1.4 ounces, this time.)

Safale US-05 and Wyeast Forbidden Fruit

In the vodka tincture:
Zest of 2 CaraCara Oranges
2 grams Paradise Seeds
2 teaspoons of cracked coriander
1 chamomile tea bag

Fermentation is split, naturally, with the American Wheat half held at a strict 60 degrees in the fridge in the garage for a clean fermentation profile. The Witbier portion is in an ice bucket in the air conditioned guest bedroom, to keep it in the mid-70s.

I may add something fun to the American Wheat half... but what? Figs aren't in, yet. Blackberries finished already. The watermelons are a month away. The Habanero peppers are nearly ready, but not everyone in the crowd is pleased with that flavor. I will ponder and possibly do nothing at all.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Brewday: Brother's Modelo

So, I do this beer for my brother and it is versatile and tasty and reminiscent of the flavors that make Negra Modelo tasty.

For ten gallons,

6 pounds of 6-row (or 2-row plain base malt)
6 pounds of Vienna
6 pounds of Munich 10l
1 pound of crystal 90l
1/2 pound of Chocolate Wheat
Approximately 30 Ibus from 3 hop additions: 1 oz of Magnum @First Wort Hops (or @60, if you prefer), 1 ounce of low alpha noble heritage @30, and 1 ounce of the same low alpha noble heritage @5. This time it was Hallertau but it could be Mt. RAINER, LIBERTY, SAAZ... Whatever you have handy that is fresh and inexpensive.

I use Saflager S-23 for half the batch, and consider that the official version: my brother loves smooth lagers. I am also doing half as an American Ale for me, with Safale US-05. I dont have room for two lagers, alas.

This is a great recipe for intermediate brewers because it is very forgiving to water styles, to my knowledge, and has enough hop and malt flavor to wash over minor issues. It is also ready quick, for a lager. I expect to ferment for two weeks at 50 degrees, turning up the temperarure in the last two days for a diacetyl rest. Then, I expect to secondary cold down near freezing for three weeks. Finally, I hope to bottle and drink after one week. Caebonation isnt perfect, at that time, but it is close enough for enjoyment of beer!

The all portion will be even quicker. I am of half a mind to do something fun like fruit or honey or something, but I probably won't.

Brewday was mostly successful with one boiler early, that was not as bad as it looked. Just a little foam, a little green. Disappointing, but with such a forgiving recipe, I am not concerned about anything but the mess.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mexican Hellas, bottled

My happy little "Penguin" from the doublebatch brewday is a modified Helles with Vienna malt and crystal 20l, and a Mexican lager yeast. Built and mashed like a Helles, but fermented with a Mexican/Vienna twist.

Tastes like beer. Refreshingly bitter, quaffable, but with the added toast and malt backbone on top of the nutty pilsner. I look forward to carbonation when aromatics truly happen!

I expect little will be left at Thanksgiving, when it will be served to friends and family.

I have long since bottled the Saison, which truly tastes like a wildly different beer. It even looks different, with a lighter color. The added dates fermented out with a slight pectin haze, and the herbal notes of the verbena and sage enhance the natural flavor of French Saison.  It is a fantastic beer. The Governator is already popular with friends and neighbors. I am hiding the rest for special occasions.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Double Batch Brewday 10 Gallons, 2 Batches, Lots of Beer: Governator and Penguin!

Time is of the essence. I'm looking down the barrel of deadlines, commitments, life, etc. It's hard to keep up with brewing when life gets busy. One of the tricks that people do, when they brew few and far between, is to brew a large batch of wort, and split it up into carboys for different yeasts. In my case, half the batch is going to go with the White Labs Mexican Lager into the fridge for a deep, cool ferment. The other half is going into the middle room along with some caramelized dates, sage, and lemon verbena and the big, bad powerhouse Wyeast French Saison that will likely finish fermenting the whole five gallons in approximately 3 hours. I am exaggerating the time, but not by much as those familiar with that yeast strain will know. ;)

Right, I got a big, big heavy 60 quart stainless steel kettle sitting on a Bayou Classic, and burning that propane down.

I mashed 16 pounds of Pilsner Malt, 4 pounds of Vienna Malt, and 1 pound of Crystal 20l with 3 steps up, starting at 132, then 147, then 156 (thereabouts... Still working out the kinks of my step mash technique and the way south Texas summer heat messes with temperature calculations.) After 30 minutes at each step, I noticed that attenuation had slowed down and I was running out of room in my 10 gallon cooler. So, that was the end of that mash. I slowly recirculated the mash liquor until it looked more clear and a grain bed had formed, and let it go.

With my imprecise method of getting my temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised by full attenuation.

Anywho, I topped up the 60 quart can for a long, hot boil, and put an ounce of US Magnum at 90 minutes as a big, bad bittering charge. At 15 minutes, an ounce of Crystal went in, too.

It made beer. Two buckets full. One will be a Saison, the other a Lager. After brewing all the wort, I took a handful of sage and lemon verbena from the garden to cook down with the dates, and tossed it all into the Saison bucket. I expect to pitch the yeast in a few minutes, and can't wait to see what happens between the two very different, twin brews.

I should name them something twin-like. The Saison will be the bigger and faster of the two. It shall be the Governator, with the yeast of decimation. The Lager will be called Penguin. It will be kept very cold for a long time, and will bring a chill to the hottest of days.

Lemme see if this foolish machine allows the uploading of photography.

Apparently not easily. Perhaps someday, pictures will come. Alas, not today.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spontaneous Partial Mash Brewday

Life being life, things have been happening - mostly bad. I got very sick, there, for a while, and fell behind on all the things. Brewing being brewing - a hobby that produces something that cannot be consumed while battling off a pernicious infection - everything brewing related fell by the wayside. Frustrated with my empty pipeline, one Friday evening, I swung by the homebrew shop and got what I needed for a fast, simple, fun partial mash with minimal equipment set up and tear down. I used two large kettles on the stovetop. One was for the partial mash's mashing, and the other was for the sparge water and main boiling. I wanted something for summer, which means light and refreshing, but I also wanted something with a twist of flavor and malts that would fool the eye even as the palette was sparkling clean. Wheat malt, caramel wheat malt, and chocolate wheat malt, then, for a light and refreshing twist on a classic summer wheat brew!

5 gallons of water+more for boil off replacement
1 can of Briess Bavarian Wheat Extract
2 pounds of American Pale Malt
2 pounds of Bavarian White Wheat Malt
1/2 pound of Flaked Wheat
1/2 pound of Caramel Wheat Malt
1/4 pound of Chocolate Wheat Malt
.75 ounce of Cluster hops @60
.25 ounce of Cluster hops @15
Safale US-05 American Ale

Simple right?

So, the partial mash process is painless. I mashed in 1.5 gallons of water brought up to 153 degrees, then placed in a warmed oven for an hour while I got the sparge water going in the larger kettle. (I used the smaller kettle for the mash because it is easier to move it in and out of the oven, you see.)

Once upon the stovetop, I washed as much sugar out of the grain bag as I could with my sparge water (which was heated to 175 degrees) and then tossed the grains into a colander in a bowl to strain out a little more wonderful malty liquid. Then, I filled up the kettle, and added the extract.

Once boiling, add the first hop addition and start the timer. Stir occasionally, and watch for boilover. At 15 minutes, add the second hop addition and let it finish out. Cool quickly in the sink, in a bed of icewater. Once it's down below 175 degrees, transfer to the sanitized bucket and throw it in your spare refrigerator to cool the rest of the way. (No copper coil: minimal equipment, minimal clean-up, minimal time.)

In the morning, pitch the yeast, and set the temperature control for 60 degrees. It will be a clean fermentation, right at the bottom of the yeast's tolerance zone. Keep it cool and fermenting for at least two weeks (which is the step we're on, now!)

After two weeks, pull it out and let it warm to room temperature to promote a nice clean beer, then crash cool the beer back in the fridge close to freezing. Bottle with an appropriate amount of priming sugar for an effervescent wheat beer, which looks to be about 4 ounces of plain sugar.

Hello summer? I hope. We'll see how it goes in a couple weeks, eh!

ETA: I have cracked open the first one, and it is so summery and delicious. It looks like darkness and winter, but the flavor is bright and fruity and light, with strong notes of blackcurrent, a slightly sweet finish that is refreshing with chips and salsa on a hot day. Definitely a do-over!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Heilige Taffelwasser a Patersbier

Aroma of pear and sweet herbs on a fluffy white head that lingers with decent (not flawless) lacing, with a warm straw color, that is smooth and fruity with a balance of esters and floral bittering. The flavor drops away with pleasant funk and sour notes with a clean finish.

Serve with stinky cheese, potato dishes, sweet pastries, or rich curry dishes.

I can see why this is a popular style for homebrewers. It is refreshing with a bit of Belgian funk, but it won't knock anybody out with alcohol. So much flavor came from such simple ingredients. It may be the exact opposite of the ubiquitous light American Lager all over the bars and beer aisles, where so much complexity of chemistry and ingredient is used to taste like nothing at all. It is also a testament to the power of yeast.

I think this malt bill can easily be utilized for any number of amazing brews. 7.5 pounds pilsner malt, 2 pounds of Vienna, and 1/2 a pound of Caramunich is a nice, simple, rounded malt profile with just what you need, and nothing you don't. I am imagining a pale ale and a lager with the same lovely color in the glass.

I think I like W yeast Trappist High Gravity better, and Belgian Ardennes better, but for cash strapped brewers, I can see the appeal of Safbrew's new Abbaye.