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!