Friday, August 9, 2013

Red Ale Round 1

I like red ales. I like that they are unfussy. They offer lots of variation. The ruby color is impressive poured into a glass where a recipe design and a homebrew technique combine to make a goal happen.
I missed. The color is close but looks more amber than red. There's redness there, and it looks to be a quality homebrew, but it is probably not going to be a perfect color of red to dazzle guests.

(We'll see what happens after fermentation clears out the wort, though!)

Red Ale Round 1

OG 1.050 (estimated at 75% efficiency)*
FG 1.011 (estimated)
22 IBU ***
4.6% ABV (estimated)
14 SRM (hm... We'll see.)**


6 pounds of pale malt
2 pounds of red wheat malt
6 ounces crystal 40l
6 ounces special b
2 roasted barley
2 ounces of flaked wheat
1 ounce of Progress hops at 60
1 ounce of cracked coriander at 8
1/2 ounce of cracked szechuan peppercorn at 8
Safale US-05

A multi step mash to settle the wheat and oats with 10 minute rests at 90, 113, followed by half an hour at 145, and a 60 minute conversion mash at 151-154 degrees. (All of these times approximate. Multi-step mashing is more guesswork than science on an electric range where quickly moving out of the target temperature is just not possible!)

**A singed brewkettle where the false bottom failed.

*A mystery conversion of 60 minutes for the main conversion, with a missing presumed tossed refractometer leading me to sort of sip wort and guesstimate if it is getting sweeter/richer or not.

***A crazy boil where I lost the boil for a few minutes halfway and i am uncertain i got a good heat break
It will be interesting. It is fermenting with safale us-05 as we speak. Will update with results.

Pictures? Pictures.

<-spice is nice!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Anybody in San Antonio interested in this little event?

Talking About Faith Through Imaginary Worlds:
Speculative Fiction at Viva!

worker prince kingmaker the thousand names 
August 31

Panel Discussion and Book Signing

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror offer the unique opportunity to post unreal elements in the real world.  More than just adventures and entertainment, these books offer new insights into the human condition.  Three leading authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror will be here at Viva to talk about speculative fiction's role in healing the world.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of The Worker Prince and The Returning, novels that re-invent the classic story of Moses as a space opera.  He also hosts the popular #sfwriterchat on Twitter.  Follow him @bryanthomas or visit his website

Maurice Broaddus is about the pursuit of truth, be it by art (over 10 years as a professional writer), science (20 years as a environmental toxicologist), or by religion (over 15 years in ministry).  New he focuses on working with the homeless by day (as Executive Director of Cities of Refuge Ministries) and writing by night (learn more at

Django Wexler is an author with a strong interest in history, which includes a serious study of religion as a defining factor in monumental conflicts.  His fantasy novel, The Thousand Names: Book of One Shadow Campaigns looks at Victorian Imperialism with an eye for adventure.

(Author's note: I'll be moderating and shuttling people around or something, so I'll be around if you want to meet with me, as well.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Using Oak in a Mead for the first time

In a pumpkin mead ready for racking, I decided to go for it and acquire a little oak. In this case, medium-toast Hungarian oak, at 1 ounce for the whole batch. Attempts to rig some sort of weighted bag or somesuch were futile, as it was impossible to get the silly things into the mouth of the carboy and the weight I would usually use (a clean, sanitized, stainless steel spoon) won't fit through the mouth. Fudge it. Let 'em float. I read on-line that many a home winemaker just takes a light hand with the oak, and waits for them to sink to the bottom. With this 5.5 gallon batch, a single ounce is 1/3 less than the recommended amount, and I am happy to exercise that restraint.

I poured just-boiled water on them to sanitize and dumped them into the carboy.

My hoses don't fit? Get a match.

I picked up an auto-siphon that I thought matched me extant tubing. No luck. The tube was too small to get over the mouth of the siphon, and too large to squeeze inside of the thing.

Auto-siphons are an important thing. Moving beer from one bucket to another cleanly, without muss or unsettling, is critical to the brewing process.

I was working on homebrew late at night, when all good homebrew shops were closed.

First, and this worked one time, I did my best folding and shoving job to get the mouth of the siphon to swallow a jammed-up tube. The tube was folded and bent to make this happen, and it did not form even remotely something resembling a good seal. I wrapped it, then, with saran wrap. I needed to tighten it more, so I also got some rubber bands rigged them above and below the saran bandage, tightening them with a plastic knife that I could twist inside the rubber, and leave in place.

Ugly, but it worked once. I was concerned about sanitation so I stripped the saran wrap, and thought I'd try something else.

The second thing I tried was taking a knife and cutting a harelip out of the tube. Then, I jammed it on as best I could, and got out a match to melt the plastics together. This worked for a little while.

When I was racking the home-toasted wheat malt porter down to the secondary, I heard the sucking sound of air in the line. Oh, no! I pushed hard while racking to seal it with pressure.

The whole mess is in the trash, now. Everything worked. Once.

It gets you through a brewday and replacements aren't too expensive. Next time double-check the line.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grapefruit Hefeweizen

In the need for a large amount of something for the summer months - a lawnmower beer, if you will - I decided to remake and adjust one of the most popular beers on the internet: the Blood Orange Hefeweizen.

It isn't blood orange season, now, though.

The red citrus fruit I could find at the store was Texas Ruby Red Grapefruits.

So, I zested six of those big suckers, and prepared the pulp for the brew by smashing it up.

6.6 pounds of Bavarian Wheat LME, with 1 ounce of US Hallertau in the boil, with 1 ounce of US Hallertau dry-hopped, done with 6 gallons of water.

It's fermenting now, and the overwhelming grapefruit aroma is very sweet and pleasant, and I suspect this basic, popular recipe from this book:

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...would take to all manner of citrus treats from Buddha's Hand Citron, to Calomondin, to Lime, to Pomelo. 

Hefeweizen's and citrus are some kind of magic combo. Pick your favorite citrus and put together one of these simple, ridiculously tasty brews today!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gruit 2

I've got five pounds of red wheat in the oven right now, toasting into something brown. 350 degrees, for about an hour, and I'm really not going to stir it very much. I want a lot of variety from burnt to brown to barely. It's dry, too. Completely dry.

I've got this yard full of herbs and vegetables and fruit treas. I'm thinking it's time to try my hand at another gruit. A whole heap of mugwort seeds came up in the shadows of my hedge. I hope they propagate themselves there, and push out the useless weeds that were otherwise all over the place. I've also got a pretty good-looking Sweet Annie herb under my kitchen window. Sweet Annie is an Artemisia, but instead of being bitter, it has a haunting, near-sweetness that lends its name. I could even harvest off a powis castle Artemisia hybrid, if I want extra bitterness, but I think I'd rather move that plant from where it is, and let it grow larger, before I do anything with it.

After the toasting of my malts, I'm going to need to let them chill a while, and release their off-flavors. Next week, I expect to be cranking some 100% wheat, 100% artemisia gruit ale.

Just a small batch, mind you. No need to make five gallons for an experiment! I'm aiming for 2.5 gallons to ferment, for 2 gallons total in the end. Enough to share and see what people think, but not so much I'll be looking for cooking recipes and stuff.

anyway... Exciting!

I'm sipping a homebrew, at the moment, that came out much fruitier than expected, with Smaragd hops late in the boil and an amount of Special B that I thought was low enough. It's mellowing. Every day it tastes a little closer to balance. I've set six aside for July 4th, and we'll see.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Waiting for Beer...

We live in such an instantaneous gratification culture. I'm waiting for my beer to be done. I bottled an Amber Ale the other day, with Belgian Special B, Caramel 40l, Red Wheat, Northern Brewer bittering and Smaragd Aroma, with cracked coriander for the flavor addition. I've got this Saison aging over in the corner of the kitchen. I've got time, sure. I've got a long week and weekend of work ahead, with two deadlines piling on top of each other along with a part-time gig I picked up for steadier cash than freelancing. I'm waiting, though, for something to come through and be ready to drink. The Amber Ale will at least be the sort of thing I can sip for a while, without aging it or feeling bad for drinking it early. In another week, I should find a glass of beer quite drinkable at the end of my hectic workweek.

I tried a new yeast out, for this one, but I can't find a record of what it was. It was a Danstar dry yeast, probably BRY-97 West Coast Ale. Here's what the yeast cake looked like...


Wise men sing, "Waiting is the hardest part!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Getting ready for another brew, plus garden progress

Spring has sprung, and with it my urge for Saisons and other pale Belgian ales. But, my ability to produce one has been hampered by the fact that it is spring planting season, and the garden is in need of much labor.

I'm about to brew tonight, when I get back from the gym after work. This simple saison will take 3.5 gallons of water, 5 gallons of Belgian Pilsner Malt, 2 pounds of Rahr Red wheat, one ounce of Crystal Hops, about 8 ounces of Piloncillo sugar inverted with fresh lemon juice, and some Wyeast French Saison (a beastly beast of a yeast that will tear through the wort in a day or two and taste great with lots of natural pepper and coriander and flavorful esters!) and I'll make me a brew.

I have some herbs I could toss in there, fresh from the garden. Rue, for instance, is a likely candidate. I've got some excellent Rue. Borage is alive out back, and thriving. Sage and rosemary are well-established from a prior home-owner. I've got a little bit of parsley and cilantro, too. Heck, my nasturtiums are thriving and if I get an edible flower open I'm very likely to toss that into the brew kettle. Saison, to me, does mean getting a little adventurous with the herbs. It also means a little adventurous, only, to provide herbal notes and hints in the back of the brew, not an overpowering, overwhelming chorus of green. I'll take only a little, and drop it in at flameout. That's all I'll do with the herbs. A pinch here, a pinch there. I can always add more to the secondary if it needs it.

Hey, speaking of gardening, let's take a look at progress:

Tonight, we brew Saison!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Plum Beer Goodness

Plums in beer. I know, right? It sounds like it would be horrifying. It isn't. In fact, it's really delicious. this plum experiment was testing what the heck I would do if I planted a plum tree and found myself with fifty to one hundred plums to dispose of before they go bad. Plum beer is one strong possibility.

Plum wine, as I'm sure we are all aware, is a delicious thing that comes to us primarily from the east. Plum wine is synonymous with Asian cuisine, Sake, and bottles in stores with pandas on them. It's a sweet, dessert wine, and very good for dates with wives and lady friends. It has a light, fruity flavor, and often comes very pale white.

Plums in beer, then, has to deal with the lightness of plums. I don't think plums would withstand an Oatmeal Stout Porter. In fact, I don't think it would withstand a strong Belgian yeast, with all those distinctive aromatics.

With the lightness of plums in mind, I put together a very simple American Wheat Ale, with Safale US-05, and three equal additions of Willamette hops for a low IBU of about 15. This was 60/40 Red Wheat, and 2-Row, brewed in a bag. Once the beer was brewed, I threw it on top of two cans of Oregon Plums from the bakery section of the grocery store.

On bottling day, I couldn't help but notice the delightful and aromatic fruitiness of the plums. This is not necessarily a beer drinker's beer, in the same way that plum wine is not necessarily a wine-drinker's wine. But, it is sweet and delicious and mild and fruity and clean. The weather's turning to spring here in the Hill Country, and I know I'll be appreciating this brew after mowing the lawn, while nibbling on the first tomatoes of spring from the garden (which are also already flowering here in the sunny southwest!)

A plum tree, then. Perhaps I shall find a place for one in the yard. It will be difficult, though, as I have an Asian pear tree, a fig tree, two peaches, and a pomegranate. Also, I have a muscadine and two grapevines. Oh, and there's blackberries. Any plum I might or might not do in the months to come will be in the front yard, or not at all. There's simply no room in back with my little orchard already quite full!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oatmeal Stout Porter Deliciousness, plus a Caribbean Recipe

I cracked open the first Oatmeal Stout Porter last night. I shared some with my wife who made a quick version of a traditional Caribbean "Eggnog" with it, both recipes I have included below.

Making Stouts and Porters is one of the most rewarding parts of homebrewing, because they command a premium in stores but come cheap as sin as homebrew, and the darker  roasted beers are the most-forgiving styles of beer to make at home. The simple, clean yeasts that are commonly used are forgiving of temperature shifts. The clean bittering with a simple, single addition is, again, forgiving. The roasted malts mask any minor misteps. And, my wife will also drink them in her own special, Caribbean way. Sharing is good!

This was a winner. Woot is it good. The head formation was impacted by the high percentage of oats, but this was a small price to pay for such a tasty, smooth brew. A complex bouqet of spicy and sweet flavors rolled over my tongue with the silken oats and enough Cascade hops carried through to the final product from the single addition to add lovely herbal and citrus notes under all that excellent malt.

Aiming for 3 gallons of brew-in-a-bag goodness, the grain bill was 5 pounds of 2-row, 1 pound of roughly-toasted quick oats (barely-stirred: let the sides singe!), 10 ounces of homemade brown malt, 10 ounces of crystal 40l, 8 ounces of special B, and 4 ounces black patent. 1 ounce of Cascade hops was added at 60 minutes for an hour boil, for about 34 IBU, and good ol' Safale US-05 was the yeast of choice. 

The temperature was kept on the high end for the yeast, and given three weeks in the primary before bottling. 

The only negative mark against this super-fantastico brew is the head retention, but with so much oat you expect to pay a price. It's worth it. Woot is it good. Woot woot.

I've got twelve big growlers of this carbed and waiting in a box. But wait, beer is more than just beer, for it can also be an ingredient for other mixed drinks!

Caribbean Eggnog

My wife, who is not a beer drinker, actually liked this brew. She used it to make a quick and dirty variation on the traditional Caribbean beverage that her Grenadian grandma calls "eggnog" that I've seen many of her relatives make with a Guinness Stout. 

1 part Stout or Porter
4-6 ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk (Whole Milk plus sugar) per 12 ounces of Stout
Lime Zest (one whole lime's worth per 12 ounces)
Raw Egg (optional)

Blend it in a blender to get it frothy and serve over ice with a lime wedge!

1 beer's worth will serve 2-4 people.

Angie's QuickNog

1 part Stout or Porter
4-6 ounces of Whole Milk
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
dash of vanilla extract
juice of half a lime

Stir vigorously over ice.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Update on Experiments and Progress

Work's been a real bear, and has kept me from real beer.

That said, I just cracked open a Mayan Apocalypse Death Brew, and I think I've found out what the top end of hoppiness tastes like. It's actually more enjoyable than I expected. The Barley Wine strength helps, and I'm going to put away all the bottles that remain until next Christmas, because I suspect the complexity and enjoyment will come next year.

I've also got two new brews sitting in the primaries. They're both ready to move to a Secondary, and I just haven't had a free moment to make that happen!

My first Oatmeal Stout Porter is done and ready to bottle, by now, most likely! Beside it a light and fluffy American Wheat Beer brewed with Willamette Hops and canned purple plums is sitting there, waiting for the transfer to secondary, soaking up plum wine-iness, I assume. (The latter is a small, experimental batch because I'm thinking of planting a plum tree, and I'm curious to know if I could use them successfully for beer. The former is the THING I AM MOST EXCITED ABOUT IN THE WORLD OUTSIDE OF WORK right now. I love stouts and porters, and oatmeal stouts and oatmeal porters.

I have pictures and a recipe or two kicking around here, but I don't know where they are, right now. The only one I remember off-hand was the wheat beer with Plums. I took two cans of Oregan plums in the primary, drained of their juices but unrinsed, and a 60/40 Red Wheat/Two Row ratio, with Willamette hops equally at 60, 30, and 10 to reach from 14 to 16 IBU. Lallemand Safale US-05 is my go to yeast for most purposes, and I know I used it for both brews, though I couldn't tell you what was in the Oatmeal Stout Porter besides the yeast without my notes and pictures.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Projects

A quiet winter of travel and work left little time for brewing. The Molasses (wh)E(at)SB is in the bottle and carbed and I've been sampling a bottle here and there, but the flavor is still very raw and young. I think the molasses flavor may require up to a month just to settle down in the bottle. I set aside a couple to sample far into the future after I've forgotten about the beer, and then discover it, later, and realize I should drink it. Two things I've done recently: Medicinal Red Ale, and Brewpocalypse Closet Clear-Out Barleywine Brew. I made a medicinal mead for my wife that we cracked and sampled and despite the medicinal herbs, it tastes fantastic - light and sweet and herbal. Inspired by this, I tried to do a strongly herbal gruit with hops only for the preserving qualities. I gathered a simple red ale recipe, and an assortment of herbs that are good for men's circulation and cardio-vascular health including sage, ginger, green cardamom, rosemary, turmeric, chamomile, etc., etc. It was quite a frightening combination of spices. It's sitting in the primary awaiting the secondary, now. I'm going to rack it off some time next week, and let it really settle. Here's the recipe via Hopville! The brewpocalypse was a lot of fun. I took all the leftover parts, and hops, and combined them into a massive barleywine that barely fit into my equipment. (I lost a large plastic bowl from resting the grain bag in it and cracking the plastic!) It smells absolutely fantastic in the primary, and I expect to rack it off into a secondary in a couple weeks. I'm going to make this an annual thing that I do every Christmas. I'll make something big that will keep a long time, use up all the leftover hops getting old in the freezer, and all the little ounce or two of various specialty grains, with whatever else I have around, and combine it with some leftover adjuncts (honey, agave syrup, and maple syrup in this one!) to ramp up the alcohol over to the top of what my yeast is capable of chewing through. I took pictures of all this insanity.