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.