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!