Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Getting Ready for Gruit!

I'm sipping Mama's Witbier, and I'm down to just a couple bottles. Thank goodness I've got that Molasses (Wh)E(at)SB in the bottles getting carbed up! Between the last post and now I spent a lot of time researching different healing herbs that are also often paired with tea or traditional brewing of healing beers. I put together a recipe for a pretty basic, Munich-y Irish Red Ale with grains I have hanging out in my brew closet. I'm going to use it as a base for a gruit in the morning. Once I get done with this post, I'm going to measure all the pieces out to get it ready for the morning. I've got Nottingham sitting in the fridge, ready to eat some wort and make beer, and I know my yeasty-beasties can't wait to start chewing up some sugar. If only I had a wort for them! First, the grains for 3 gallons of a healing gruit: 3 pounds of Rahr 2-Row 2 pounds of Munich Malt 5 ounces of piloncillo 5 ounces of flaked barley 4 ounces of Rahr Red Wheat 2 ounces of Debittered Carafa I I will use hops. My gruit research indicates that hops are still a must, because they keep beer from spoiling. I don't want a sour gruit! I'm going to use just enough hops to get the IBU up to a legal Irish Red Ale. That's 0.3 ounces of Cluster @60 for bittering, and 0.15 Styrian Celeja @30, and 0.15 Styrian Celeja @10. Styrian Celeja is a hop without too much distinctive flavor. It is a pleasant flavor, but it isn't a citrus and spice bomb like Cluster, and Celeja seems to be noteworthy for adding a sense of hoppiness and little else. It's good for malt-forward beers, I've noticed. In this case, it will be used for herb-forward beer. I spent a few hours researching different good herbs for male health - particularly cardio-vascular health as it's an area I feel like I could always improve in the winter. Are you ready for this? I'm about to destroy this beer, to your eyes, with an insane drink-able experiment that has quite a lot going on. Chamomile, Rosemary, Sage, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Turmeric, Coriander, Crushed Red Pepper, and Orange Peel. The other thing I was doing this evening, while researching herbs, was making tiny tea blends to figure out what will not be nasty to drink. The thing that was so surprising is how drinkable sage, chamomile, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and black pepper are, together. One could legitimately make a tea out of this combination of things. The turmeric is dangerous, and must be kept in a very minimal amount. The hot pepper is dangerous and must be kept, again, minimal. Still, for the goal of a healing brew, both turmeric and hot pepper are excellent for cardio-vascular health. Even a little bit - and it will be just a teensy, tinsy little bit of each - should make a subtle difference in the health of vital organs. The only herbs that do not aid the heart and veins are cardamom and coriander, and these are mostly digestive aids, to help all this stuff go down with a good flavor! With all of these herbs and spices, a little bit goes a long way in both flavor and health impact. The hope is that this will be a drinkable, enjoyable brew that gets the elegant complexity of flavors from healing herbs, not hops or yeasts. It will be an adventure of complex flavors and aromas. I'm going to go measure it all out. This will be madness of the maddest sort.

Homebrewing for the Holidays


I just bottled a Molasses (wh)E(at)SB, and the dregs are telling me that I've got the makings of a nice, little, easy-drinking brew that will enter my glass in about 3 weeks. It's pretty young tasting, but I know it will be good, someday soon! It will be a great way to ring in the new year.

Also, my mama came down to visit the other day, and sampled the Witbier I brewed for Mama. It went over well. She was downing them two at a time, and loving it. It was a great way to welcome a family member to the house for a scheduled visit - to have a beer brewed just for them! When you know you're going to have some guests coming, planning out a piece of your pipeline to make something they'll love is a great little trick to help folks feel welcome. Also, I felt pretty welcome downing bottle after bottle, myself. A good witbier is one of the easiest-drinking lawnmower beers out there, and this one was no exception. The addition of chamomile really worked well, and the absence of orange peel was not noticed due, in part I must assume, to the hoppy late addition. I had read that orange peel was used not to give an orange flavor, but to give bitterness. Well, hops do that, too, and they will also provide their late-addition flavors. In this case, Styrian Celeja worked very well, and enhanced the chamomile and coriander presence. I expect to make this a regular rotation brew, and look forward to making one in the spring for summer quaffing.

The holidays are coming at us faster than a greased monkey on a fireman's pole, so I'm going to squeeze a brewday in tonight. I plan on experimenting with an herbal gruit and some of the herbs we have in the garden. I'm still poking at recipe formulations and pondering what would taste best. My idea is to use herbs and spices that aid in particular functions of the body. Example: Cinnamon is great for circulation in the extremities. It has healing powers that can aid in cardiovascular health. Chili peppers, as well, aid circulation, and keep the blood flowing through the veins to the extremities. Ginger, and chamomile, and fennel, and all these common household spices and herbs are also healing aids that could be harnessed for the forces of good. In this case, I'm trying to find a balance between healing properties and excellent flavor. I don't personally think a cinnamon, chamomile, hot pepper combination would be good in anything but the compost heap...

Any ideas, let me know. One of these minutes I'm going to check out this book from the library.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

BREWDAY: Molasses (Wh)E(at)SB

Prononuced: "mole-ASS-ee WEET-sbee" It is, as can be deduced, a London ESB style with the twist of copious wheat malt, and a healthy dose of Blackstrap Molasses. (Also, some flaked oats. Flaked oats are great. So it'll be a little cloudy, so what? It's already a wheat beer!)

I just put this one in the primary yesterday. I'm getting the process down, and things are starting to get a lot better. This time, I was outside, again, grinding the grains, and I attempted to grind directly into the brew-kettle, with the bag already in place for the Brew-In-A-Bag brewday. I don't think I'll do this again, because as I was doing it I was concerned about the wear and tear on the brew bag. The whole point of this, to me, is to not be buying replacement equipment every ten minutes.

This was also an experiment in saved yeast from my Cluster Bomb. I am currently waiting to see if it takes off. I have some spare yeast, just in case of a failure to launch.

Another experiment: Reading on-line about other folks' recommendations with BIAB, I *dramatically* increased my efficiency by dunking the bag in the water a bit, then squeezing the bag, then placing the bag in a separate (dry, unheated) pot to let even more grain juice schlurp out of the bag.

I was looking at a brix of just over 10 before I did this, and ended up with a brix just above 16! I added some clean, filtered water just to get the brix down closer to the desired strength just before boiling!

Regardless, I have high hopes that this brew will come out good, even if it isn't on spec.

I made the crystal malt and the brown malt at home, using the instructions of John Palmer from "How to Brew" and it came out smelling wonderful, and providing a rich color to the brew. I made it with Rahr 2-Row.

Molasses (Wh)E(at)SB
3.75 gallon boil
batch size 3 gallons
boil time 60 minutes at 76% efficiency for figuring, but as I mentioned I had ridiculous efficiency such that I had to water it down just to keep from making an alcohol missile of a brew.

3 pounds of Rahr 2-row (40%)
3 pounds of Rahr Red Wheat (40%)
6 ounces homemade Brown Malt (5%)
6 ounces homemade Crystal 60l (5%)
6 ounces Quaker Quick Oats (5%)
6 ounces Blackstrap Molasses (5%)
0.6 ounces of Styrian Celeja  @60 for 14.83 IBU
0.6 ounces of Styrian Celeja @30 for 11.4 IBU
0.6 ounces of Styrian Celeja @10 for 5.38 IBU

I used Danstar Nottingham that I harvested from a Cluster Bomb, and I'm hoping with fingers crossed that it will take. If it doesn't, I've got some spare dry Belgian yeast in the fridge, just in case, but I expect Nottingham to taste better in a Molassy London ESB-style of beer. Fingers crossed!

Pictures forthcoming... Later.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Random pictures of recent adventures

Camera cable found, but the pictures are all sort of jumbled together without a good, quick transfer to a tagging system.

Some of them were from garden/yard projects, some from brewing. The garden/yard projects are actually just brewing projects that aren't obvious, yet, because I will be slowly building an outdoor porch area and fixing up the deck, a little bit at a time, for use with a turkey fryer and an outdoor keezer, for some far future day when I slowly DiY myself up to that point with weekend projects that each slowly build to something. Anyway... I'm certain the first picture was the delicious, delicious BUTTERNUT STOUT! Beyond that, it's a mystery.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finally a Golden Cloud to be proud of...

Woot, but I am pleased to be drinking this one. I had had a few misses with the "golden cloud ale" recipe formulation. I knew if I could get it right, I'd find something really good and refreshing. Success finally came with an American Hefeweizen style.

This beer was brewed as much to develop a yeast culture that I could harvest as it was for the beer itself. I wanted a light, simple beer that would create an excellent yeast starter for the next brews when I washed the happy, unstressed yeast.

Call it a Pale Golden Cloud, or a Wheaten Cluster Beatdown, or whatever you call it. Just be sure to brace yourself for the vigorous (for a hefe!) hopping that provides a fruity and slightly spicy flavor to fill the mouth with vigorous, American hoppiness.

This is a Hefeweizen for the hop head inside you, and a lawnmower light beer for the Torpedo enthusiast! It's almost like a Smash of 2-row and Cluster, but with the added sweetness of wheat and oats to balance the bitter hops.

Next time, I believe the beer would be enhanced by toasting some of the base malt lightly, to add a little more complexity to the light-bodied beer.

OG 1.014
FG 1.012
20 IBU
3 Gallon Batch

2 pounds 4 ounces American 2-Row
2 pounds 4 ounces American Red Wheat
2 ounces Flaked Oats
@60 minutes .25 ounces of Cluster
@10 minutes .5 ounces of Cluster
Dry hop in secondary on .25 ounces of Cluster
Danstar Nottingham

I fermented on an autumnal porch out here in San Antonio, where the temperature was fluctuating between about 50 and about 70. I kept it in the shade, on the cooler side of the porch. I love the idea of letting yeast take on the teroir of the natural temperatures, doing their thing and doing it a little different every time depending on the influence of the natural winds and time. (Naturally, I don't love the idea of letting beer ferment outside, in San Antonio, in the summer, but when the weather is in the right range, I say let godisgreat experience the whims of god!)

4.8% ABW, and 158 calories, it's still going to have a few calories for a light beer, but with this much flavor in their glass I don't think anyone will complain.

The one place this beer is really distinct is in the color and cloudiness in the glass. It's like a cloud has infused a beer, with oats and wheats and yeasts creating this appearance that is definitely not clear, but still oddly appealing. The Hefeweizen style is supposed to be cloudy and foamy. The oats seem to really enhance that, and bring the cloudiness to a whole new level of funkiness. Not everyone will appreciate a beer that is intentionally cloudy like this, but I am not a clear beer snob when i know adding oats to the brew will taste great, and wheat beers seem to benefit from haze from my experiences with commercial beers in Germany and France. Haze is good if the taste is good!

The body is light and refreshing, with sweetness from the oats and wheat to try and balance the huge flavor of delicious Cluster hops. As it ages, I will be curious to see what it tastes like as the hops fade into the back of the flavor.

Next time I crack one open, I'm going to have to snap a picture.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Update on a brew with my camera cable lost...

Without my camera cable, I feel naked. What's the point of talking about brewing without photographic evidence? How do you know I'm telling the truth and not just making stuff up?

Well, I think it all begins with the hellacious brew that wasn't, when two yeasts didn't take and I gave up on some disgusting bread yeast that was just gross and under-attenuated. It was around that time that the camera cable went MIA. I still have the camera, but I can't charge it. I'm waiting on a replacement. 

Anywho... I brewed! I brewed again, a simple, all-Cluster hops, low-gravity American Wheat Beer. It's siting in a bucket over there, waiting to get put into bottles. I'll be washing the yeast from this one, and hopefully creating a good yeast bank. I should get quite a lot of yeast off this one as long as I keep doing a few low-gravity, low-hopped brews to keep the strain alive. We'll see how that goes! After my last, lost wort (that actually had the makings of great beer from the flavor of it) I want to make sure there's a little more yeast in my fridge always ready for emergencies. 

I brewed up a witbier, as well, to build up a yeast cake of Belgian-style, low-gravity, lightly-hopped yeast that I can wash and maintain. Both recipes are very simple, with a touch of oats for body and head-retention, and just two kinds of base malt, with an OG around 1.045. The witbier used some coriander, chamomile, peppercorn, and hibiscus along with Styrian Celeja hops. 

I'm mostly unimpressed with Styrian Celeja hops, so far, but I'm convinced I haven't found the right way to use them, yet. They seem to have this vegetal, celery/parsley-like smell when dry, and I don't believe I want that in a dry hop, but I'm still not sure how much of the unpleasantness makes it into the glass when it's cooked. Cluster, on the other hand didn't just impress me. I was floored by how good Cluster are as a hop, compared to their reputation. Cluster will become a staple of my brew-closet, alongside equally most-favored hops like US Northern Brewer, French Strisselspalt, German Smaragd, and Czech Saaz.

I'm also steadily moving my operation outdoors. I ground my grains on the deck last time and it was so nice not to have to spend half an hour sweeping and mopping up the mess in the kitchen. The birds took care of all the spare flying grains for me, and seemed grateful for it, too. What they didn't handle, a rainstorm washed out.

I've also recently made my own brown malt, and crystal 60l out of base malt. I cannot recommend home toasting and roasting your own malts enough. I have been very pleased with the results of my experiments in this avenue. 

Once I get a camera cable again, I'll post some dern pictures...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smells like sushi?

I'm about to bottle a beer that ended up having to be fermented with some bread yeast, or nothing at all, because the yeast I originally pitched had died after a few days of no activity. I ended up pitching bread yeast out of necessity.

I'm bottling it in about an hour.

It smells like sushi.

It's too early to judge any brew until it's been bottle-conditioned. But, I am definitely glad I got a new shipment in so I can brew something properly. Because it smells like sushi with the bread yeast on bottling day. I don't know what will happen in a couple weeks. But, I have very low expectations. It came out at a massively sweet 11 brix (1.042 fg)

The dregs are basically a sugar-bomb. I'll be baking bread with this, then, and never, ever drinking it. Yuck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BREWDAY: Belgian'd Golden Cloud

So, I modified the Golden Cloud Ale recipe a bit, to reflect my first round try. I wanted to simplify things, a little. I wanted to get the percentages into something that would be easier to scale up. I also wanted to adjust the hoppiness into something resembling a wheaten Patersbier.

I wanted to experiment with a Belgian yeast versus a German one! I had a mystery packet of WYeast Belgian Abbey II that was accidentally included in a grain shipment at the bottom of a box - and it sat in a garage in September southwest of San Antonio, in Texas, which is to say it was probably baked dead! I also had a backup dry yeast of Safbrew S-33, if the Wyeast packet was as dead as I had suspected. I wanted to take this same grain bill concept, and hop concept, and apply a different kind of yeast entirely to experiment and see if it tastes better this way!

So, the revision of the recipe:

3 gallons, BIAB
3 pounds of Rahr 2-row
3 pounds of Rahr Red Wheat
6 ounces of Toasted Malt
3 ounces of Quick Oats
@60 - 0.6 ounces of Cluster
@10 - 0.4 ounces of Styrian Celeja

Target OG: 1.059
Target FG: 1.015
29.2 IBU

The brewday went as expected. I had thought everything was going to be fine. I ground some grains, got my bag out and got brewing. I have acquired a functioning refractometer, and managed to hit my target gravities, hooray. 

Now, as I had suspected, the Belgian Abbey II packet was dead as a doornail. there was no activity at all after three days. I pitched the backup yeast, that I thought had been handled correctly. Alas, two days later, no signs of life! 

As I am out of yeast, and it would take at least three days to get any, I went ahead and pitched some bread yeast I had handy. I was concerned, definitely, that I had issues I didn't realize in my water, and if the bread yeast hadn't took, I'd have dumped the whole batch. Fortunately, kreusen formed and activity took off. I watched the temperature of my fermenting beer carefully, attempting to keep it very cool because who knows what off-flavors will develop with this last-minute, unexpected change in the yeast addition. When I try my next round of Golden Cloud, there really is no telling how good or gross it will be. Perhaps the S-33 was just slow to take off, and dominates the flavor. Perhaps the Belgian Abbey II rose up from the bread yeast invasion, and became something. Perhaps the bread yeast will surprise me with a clean, respectable ale flavor. Who knows? I bottle sometime tomorrow, and we'll see what happens.

Regardless, I will soon be able to answer the question that pops up from time to time on message boards about using bread yeast to make beer with real, live experience.

In the mean time, it's time to order more yeast. I'm looking for a way to buy a box of yeast packets at once, instead of just one at a time. I don't really have room in our fridge to do any yeast saving. I'm lucky there's room for yeast, at all!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pictures from toasting some malts

Working on a revision and Belgian edition of Golden Cloud Ale, I toasted 3 ounces of red wheat malt, and 3 ounces of rahr 2-row nice and toasty.

I want to see what the yeast will do to effect the flavor.

(Naturally, considering the insanity of the yeast situation, this time, I expect that will actually mean something soon...)

Here are pictures, beginning, middle, and end!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The taste of things, and the next things

The Butternut Stout! is a fabulous Christmas brew. It pours a rich, dark ebony, with a full, dark head and good lacing. It tastes of spice and roastiness with a pleasant amount of squash - not too much! - on the back tongue. I would do this brew again tomorrow. And the day after. It's very rich and full and delicious.

The Wise Pumpkin Dunkel brew is not. It isn't bad. It is, in fact, quite drinkable, and I expect it to get better as it ages and things settle down. But, the spice of the yeast clashes with the spice of the spice. This will mellow, though. In time, this will mellow. The issue that is unsalvagable is the body of the brew. The pumpkin and wheat together thinned out the mash so much that it's practically a graf. Again, not unpleasant, but not desired. My wife, when she first tasted it, said it tasted like apple cider. And, it really does. The thin mash, the caramel from the piloncillo, and even the high percentage of wheat malt in the mash contribute a light body that is reminiscent of cider. It's not bad. It's just more of a graf than a beer. I hope, in a couple more weeks, when the spices and yeast settle down and smooth out in the bottle, that more pumpkin flavor might come through.

Regardless, Butternut Stout!

Next time I crack one open, I need to snag a picture.

Next up is a wild experiment. You see, I received a bonus yeast in the mail that was likely dead. And, I tried another yeast. It also seemed to be dead. In desperation, with my last packet of yeast spent, I pitched quickrise bread yeast. (I don't live anywhere near a homebrew shop, alas!) Now, I have some wort. It looks it is making beer, but...

Well, I'll tell you about this later.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Make yer Medicine

In my continuing efforts to include my wife, who enjoys neither beer nor wine, in my hobby, I have been reduced to making medicine for her.

Ancient herbal tonics.

I took a classic mead recipe, and a house favorite (in that, I really like it! And no one else in my house likes it!) called Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. (Google it. It's everywhere.) It's a simple recipe. 3 and 1/2 pounds of honey, an orange, a clove or two, a cinnamon stick, and some bread yeast. Top up a one gallon fermenter with this stuff, and shake it to aerate, then walk away for 2-3 months until it's done.

So, this batch involved a shift to aid my wife, who has a background in herbal medicine and holistic healing and nutrition. I asked her to provide me with herbs that she uses as a tea or tonic, because I was going to use the simple, tasty mead recipe as the vehicle to carry the medicine of her herbal, medicinal tonics. I have no idea what she handed me, but it was a tea blend she made custom for her occasional needs of it.

I added one tablespoon of the tea blend, before aeration.

When the orange drops, she will have her medicine ready to drink.

Notes on technique:

I like to grab a gallon jug of spring water from the grocery store for this one. I pour out half the water into a clean pot, and bring that to a boil, then turn it off. In the half-full jug, I pour the honey. Then, I use a few tablespoons of the boiled water to shake loose and dissolve the honey that's clinging to the walls of the plastic containers. I also top up the jug with hot water after everything is added.

Anyway, it's pretty simple. Notice my complex and elaborate fermentation lock of boiled foil held down with a rubber band... I just place the cap on top, to further protect the foil.


I also always include a tray beneath the jug, in case of overflow!

Making the medicine.

Make yer medicine.

Make yer meadicine.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Old Way of Things

Recently, in a local museum, I saw a sculpture of an Egyptian using a large pot to mash a wort. He's holding down the lid, or lifting it to check on his brew.

It's an old way of things, this brewing.

Doing this is one of those things, like bread, like hunting, like growing vegetables and fruits and grains, that goes back to the old, dark corners of time.

I'm thinking it might be fun to make an Egyption brew, one of these moments. Anyone know where I could find a recipe for it? Some dates, some raisins, some malted grains, and herbs?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Waiting for bottle caps...

Wise Pumpkin Says Dunkel ferments in the bucket on the left. Butternut Stout! is wrapped in a towel to keep the lights out of the glass, and awaits only bottle caps for the bottling to begin. It smells wicked good, like autumn itself has been condensed into an alchemist's vial. Every brewer has their "favorite" ingredients, that they think of immediately when thinking about beers they will like. Caraffa I and Munich Malt are both high on my mind of very good things I know I will love! The two best beers I ever made was an extract brew with Munich syrup, caraffa I and caramunich as steeping grains.

I also have a soft spot for Northern Brewer and Smaragd hops, but there are none here, today.

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I'm looking forward to getting my hands on more Smaragd once the 2012 hop harvest comes in!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BREWDAY: Wise Pumpkin Says Dunkel for Halloween

The seasonal brews are one of my favorite things to do. Most brewers don't like pumpkin beer. It is a plebian affair, after all, and you have to like what pumpkin tastes like to like it in a brew. Pumpkin has a flavor. It is not necessarily a pie flavor. In fact, most pumpkin pies are made with butternut squash. Still, for those of us who do enjoy pumpkin, a seasonal brew with the fruits of the autumn harvest is the perfect time to celebrate that pumpkin love.

Ah, pumpkin. Ah, Halloween. Halloween pumpkin. Ah. Yes.

Here's what I came up with from my handy brew closet supply:

3 gallon batch

1 whole roasted pumpkin pie pumpkin (about 2 1/3 pounds, cleaned, in this case)
2 pounds of red wheat malt
8 ounces of 2-row
8 ounces of caramunich
8 ounces of piloncillo sugar
2 ounces of carafa i
2 ounces of quaker quick oats
.8 ounces of Styrian Celeja hops @60
.2 ounces of Styrian Celeja hops @30
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice blend (in this case, McCormick's brand. I did a good strong amount because the container is years old. Were this a fresh batch of homemade stuff, I'd use 1/3 of a teaspoon!)
1/2 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice (in this case, a homemade blend, about a year old, containing fennel, star anise, clove, szechuan peppercorn, and cinnamon)

Things I did differently this time:

I used 3.75 gallons of storebought spring water to fill my kettle, this time. I want to see if I can isolate either the water or the sanitation process. I kept my sanitation the same, with the bleach and the rinsing of bleach. Let's see if it is (as I suspect) likely coming from the hard, chlorinated San Antonio tap water.

I've had good results with overnight mashing, and I'm going to keep doing it, for now, until I can get a refractometer. I've ordered one, but it is not here, yet.

So, I got my strike water up to 175 degrees, doughed in with my fresh crushed grain and pumpkin, and got the temperature up to about 155. Then, I placed my kettle in a pre-heated oven at 170 degrees. I flipped the oven off, went to bed, and did the rest of the boil in the morning. Simple. 

Pumpkin. I love pumpkin. I could take a cured cinderella pumpkin, slice it up like fine cheese and eat it raw. I could make pumpkin bread, and pumpkin alcohol, and pumpkin cinnamon rolls... I love pumpkin!

How do you process a pumpkin for homebrew if you don't have a food processor? Ours was dirty, and I was too lazy to clean it, so I had to find a different way. I put the roasted pumpkin in a plastic bag, and smashed it up with my hands, crushing it inside of the plastic bag into a gooey paste. It was clean and easy to work with, and seemed to lead to good conversion in the kettle. Time will tell. Time will tell. Refractometer en route.

Anyway, the wise pumpkin says dunkel, because yeast should have a flavor, and the spicy, fruity German yeast will complement the spicy, fruity pumpkin brew. It will not be another commercial amber pumpkin ale. (I could buy that in the store, if I wanted it!) It will be something I haven't seen out and about. And, my hope is that the piloncillo and caramunich will impart a rich caramel flavor to go with the pumpkin and the spice. Caramel pumpkin is a wise combination, no?


Monday, October 29, 2012


Part of me wants to drink it now because it looks so good, and smells GLORIOUS!

I am excited and pleased.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble... Get more wicked, little beer!

Friday, October 26, 2012


So, a yield of about 20-21 beers, with two down and drunk already. Definitely an improvement on the prior beer. The nose is very hoppy and seems to cut the flavor of the malts down to the quick. The sticky sweetness of the homemade caramel malts really comes through in the aftertaste. Before that the fruit notes from the very banana-y, five-spice-y, citrus-y, and jammy as the weizen yeast and fruity hops and spices dominate the flavor.

A success, definitely!

The overnight mash really helped, I think. So did the better temperature control during the primary fermentation! Doing this next time, I have a list of things to do or improve upon.

1) I will get more aggressive roasting that chocolate wheat, and get it really dark - black patent dark!

2) Thin. The beer feels just a little thin. Certainly an overnight mash contributed to this, somehow. I either need to invest in a refractometer, or add a body-builder like oats or flaked what or carapils. This beer is too thin.

3) I doughed in cold and brought the temperature of the whole mash up together, to a protein rest. I'm not sure that was the right way. I think with 70% wheat, a protein rest was called for - and my beer is surprisingly clear considering how much wheat was involved - but I don't need to start cold and build up to it. I can get the water up above protein rest temps, then dough in.

 4) Water chemistry and sanitation: I can taste a very subtle background note of band-aid/plastic. That means one of two things. Either the chlorine/chloramine from the tap water made it through, or some of the bleach water sanitizer did. Either way, there is a simple solution. Campden tablets and a no-rinse sanitizer are cheap and effective methods of preventing this problem.

Ah, but how heartening to drink something I have made, all-grain, and know that it is good. Not win homebrewing awards good, but share with others unashamed good. Onward!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BREWDAY: When life drops your butternut, make BUTTERNUT ALE!

Upon the kitchen table that is a family heirloom from when my parents were first married, I had placed two pie pumpkins, and a butternut squash.

I had every intention of making a pumpkin beer in a couple weeks, after pipelining some simple, small SMaSH Pale Ales to feature Cluster and Styrian Celeja hops in two otherwise identical brews. I had even toasted up 8 ounces of malt to a nice, nutty, medium toast, to be divided up between the two pale ales. I had even made up 8 ounces of a home-roasted caramel malt, made from soaking grain and caramelizing it in the oven and then roasting it to dry it out. I had done these things for Pale Ales.

The gods of homebrew hurled my butternut squash upon the ground. It cracked at the top, splitting evenly down the center, and halfway down the fruit.

Immediately, I roasted the squash to make some use out of it. If I had left it alone, it would have just rotted like that.

So... That was not part of our dinner plans, just yet.

Beer gods demanded Butternut Squash Beer.

Interesting fact: Most homebrewers who make pumpkin beer are probably already making butternut squash beer, because most commercial cans of pumpkin puree are actually a type of butternut squash, or a hybrid variety of squash/pumpkin called Dickenson Field Squash. Actual pumpkin, if you made it into a pie, would be a golden yellow color, not the orange we know and assume means pumpkin. Butternut Squash is what people are really thinking about, when they're imagining the flavor of pumpkin in their mind. It's richer, deeper, with a bright orange color, and it's a perfect thing to make beer with on an early autumn day!

I cobbled together a recipe with what I had lying around. Fortunately, I did have some more interesting malts in the brewcloset. (Plus some fresh spices straight from Grenada courtesy of my wife, whose family harvest cocoa, cinnamon, and amazing nutmeg and send it to us from their farm. Nutmeg and cinnamon were both from Grenada!)

This batch turned into a 3 gallon brew when I lost track of how much water I was pouring into the darn brew kettle... The end result was around 3 gallons, right?

I pulled up my edition of iBrewmaster...

3 gallons, thereabouts
OG: 1.062
FG: 1.017
30 SRM
(estimated mash efficiency of 86%)

3 pounds of Rahr 2-Row Pale
1 pound of Munich Malt
8 ounces of home-toasted malt
8 ounces of home-made caramel malt, est. at 100L-140L
6 ounces of Caraffa I
6 ounces of Dark Brown Sugar, added to the boil
half of a roasted butternut Squash for about 1.5 pounds, pureed
@60 minutes use 1 ounce of Cluster hops for about 40 IBU
@15 minutes, add one small cinnamon stick, 1/2 tsp of fresh-ground Nutmeg, .25 ounces of grated, fresh Ginger
Include in the full Primary (or secondary instead, if you plan to use one) with 1/4 of the cooked, pureed butternut squash
Pitch 1 full packet of Safale S-04

With Brew-in-a-bag, and a very fine grind, I'm expecting a super efficiency. I also did another overnight mash. In fact, my overnight mash went long because I got pulled away for some stuff for work in the morning, and could not get to the wort after eight hours. It was a thirteen-hour mash, then. I set the oven to 180 degrees when my wort, on the stovetop, was protein resting at 122 degrees for twenty minutes. By the time I got the wort to 154 degrees, the oven had reached 180 degrees. I put my kettle inside to mash overnight, and flipped the oven off. When I woke up, before I got an e-mail from work, I had flipped the oven back on to buy someself some more time, to 200 degrees. I had started the mash at ten o'clock, and didn't mash-out until almost eleven-fifteen.

And, my grind was very small, too. I was really aiming to pulverize this stuff, because I wanted to give BIAB a real go of it with a finer grind.

Anyway, woot for butternut squash! There's still a quarter of the squash sitting in the fridge for my wife.

Of note:

The squash that I put into the primary fermenter was microwaved just before putting it into the primary good and long, to make sure it was completely cooked and to make sure it was completely sanitary. It seemed like the easiest way to sanitize something that likes being cooked in a microwave, right?

Of note: Pictures of a brewday that was messy and spontaneous and fun.

The smell in the primary, just before pitching, was stunning. A milder dark roast, with Caraffa I instead of chocolate and medium-toasted malts instead of dark roasted malts, may not be the "perfect to style" stout, but it does ease into the stout flavors, allowing the butternut pie flavor with the sweetness of the caramel malts, to shine over the top of the dark, thick brew!

It's the sort of thing that makes me want to use exclamation points. Because the squash fell! I can make it into beer! The beer smells really good! Everything is working!