Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sweet Cyser

My wife asked me for cider. I don't like cider, generally, because it always just tastes sweet, to me, with nothing else going on. I do like melomel, which is sweet with . My cider experiments have been iffy in the past, in part because I did almost no research into the process. Wine is much easier. I saw EdWort's Apfelwein recipe, and wondered why I would add corn sugar without any flavor to just boost alcohol content without enhancing the flavor profile. So, I thought, why not use honey?

And... lo and behold, people have been doing exactly that for a thousand years! They call it CYSER and it seems like it would be supremely delicious.

My wife with her sweet tooth, I thought would like something to finish sweeter. I have used bread yeast in the past with honey and enjoyed the results. (I am actually poking around to figure out a good beer to brew with this yeast, too, when the weather turns cool.)

Anyway, here's how it goes:

I took a gallon jug of organic apple cider, a 3 pound jar of honey, and old world, plain bread yeast. (No active rise, no quick rise: just YEAST as ingredient.)

First, honey is hard to stir into a tight mouth jug. Instead, I poured off one quart of cider and brought it to a low boil, cooking and simmering for about twenty minutes to reduce the volume. Then, I stirred in the honey to dissolve without boiling, but not all of it. I poured while the pour in was easy and set the last 1/2 a pound aside for coffee and tea.

I poured a second quart out of the jar, and used a funnel to pour the warm honey liquid into the jug. I topped off with the extra quart I had poured out, and added the yeast. Thus, I capped with an airlock and set aside in a dark corner beside the fridge. On top of that, I put some foil loosely over the top and placed the jug in a baking tray to catch the overflow and keep it running along the side. It isn't overflowing quite as badly as some would think. In my experience, Bread Yeast is very similar to Nottingham. They overflow about the same. They have a similar flavor profile. And, after a couple days of primary fermentation, the risk of overflow will fade out.

Soon, I will cover it in a towel and place it in the closet once I don't think it will overflow!

I think maybe 3 months, minimum. Probably six or nine.

No gravity reading, alas. My tool busted and has yet to be replaced!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brewday: Thanksgivingfest

I learned a very valuable lesson yesterday. I had measured my hops into little glass bowls, all identical, and I had put them in order and assumed I would remember which one was which.

I did not. I got out there, and put them down, and realized I had no idea which one was which. The aromas were similar enough that I didn't want to chance mixing up the wrong one, and completely adjusted my hop additions on the fly, because I had .75 ounces of each of the variety still in the bag, which had initially been intended for late additions of aroma and flavor. Instead, I used the lower hop variety - Santiam at 7.2 AAU - at .75 ounces for the Bittering Charge, and saved all the potent Magnum for the end of the boil because too much Magnum would overpower the malty Oktoberfest flavors!

So, what I learned is this: Carefully mark your hop additions because in fifteen minutes you can completely forget which is which, and unboiled, they can smell very similar to each other. Sure, Cascade is quite different from Magnum, but Santiam and Magnum are both noble-hop-esque and the danger of over-hopping the Oktoberfest with the high-alpha Magnum was very high.

Here's what I did, instead:

6 gallons of spring water
(+1/2 gallon of boiled tapwater starter of Wyeast Bavarian Lager and 1 pound of Golden Light DME)
5 pounds of Bavarian Pilsner Malt
2 pounds of Vienna Malt
2 pounds of Munich 10l
1 pound of Munich 20l
1 pound of Caramunich III (58l)
.75 ounces of Santiam Hops @60 minutes
.25 ounces of Santiam Hops @15 minutes
.25 ounces of Magnum Hops @15 minutes
.75 ounces of Magnum Hops @0 minutes

I mashed for 60 minutes at 153 in my brew-in-a-bag rig. The supremely hot day made it very easy to keep the mash temperature up. I didn't have to do much fiddling with the nozzles to hold mash temp when I was only trying to hold it about 50 degrees hotter than the air, itself, in full sun, with all metal equipment on a concrete pad.

Woof. So hot. I'm still rehydrating.

The boil went well, with lots of stirring.

I sent a lovely helper to the store to get bags of ice because I was concerned that the hose along the outside of the kettle simply wasn't enough to get the wort cool enough to put into a plastic bucket for refrigeration. Instead, I used an ice bath and the hose water to get the temperature down enough to pitch the yeast.

Now the waiting game. I have to wait for the yeast to chew through all that malt, and then transfer to secondary for a long lagering. No Oktober-drinking here. It won't even be close to ready by the first two weeks of Oktober!

This will be a Thanksgivingfest. It will be served to family at Thanksgiving.

As it will be hogging my fridge for four or five months, I will be limited on my brewing options. This is fine by me, because it is ridiculously hot outside, and getting hotter, and I stocked up on plenty of Honey-Witbier and Red Ale to keep through the longest, hottest months.

See ya in September and happy brewing!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bottling day: red ale

I just finished putting a red ale in the bottle. The kitchen is a mess. When my wife wakes up that will be a thing.

Cleaning is very important. Brewers and homebrewers are basically janitors that briefly boil water.

This is part of the hassle and part of the Zen.

At the homebrew shop yesterday, I thumbed through the titles in the I little bookshelf, and there were more books about growing and marking than there are about cleaning. Really metu clouds, dedicated, thorough professional sanitation is the tg ing that raises the bar for brewers and preserves batches from infection. But, there is not a single book about it. There is no effective designed system beyond StarSan.

And, the book probably wouldn't sell that well, either. We are all more interested in the creative aspect than the zen stuff. We are interested in the glory, not the janitorial work. Even now, I blog instead of cleaning the kitchen!

Tomorrow, Thanksgivingfest.