Sunday, October 18, 2015

Brewday: Brother's Modelo

So, I do this beer for my brother and it is versatile and tasty and reminiscent of the flavors that make Negra Modelo tasty.

For ten gallons,

6 pounds of 6-row (or 2-row plain base malt)
6 pounds of Vienna
6 pounds of Munich 10l
1 pound of crystal 90l
1/2 pound of Chocolate Wheat
Approximately 30 Ibus from 3 hop additions: 1 oz of Magnum @First Wort Hops (or @60, if you prefer), 1 ounce of low alpha noble heritage @30, and 1 ounce of the same low alpha noble heritage @5. This time it was Hallertau but it could be Mt. RAINER, LIBERTY, SAAZ... Whatever you have handy that is fresh and inexpensive.

I use Saflager S-23 for half the batch, and consider that the official version: my brother loves smooth lagers. I am also doing half as an American Ale for me, with Safale US-05. I dont have room for two lagers, alas.

This is a great recipe for intermediate brewers because it is very forgiving to water styles, to my knowledge, and has enough hop and malt flavor to wash over minor issues. It is also ready quick, for a lager. I expect to ferment for two weeks at 50 degrees, turning up the temperarure in the last two days for a diacetyl rest. Then, I expect to secondary cold down near freezing for three weeks. Finally, I hope to bottle and drink after one week. Caebonation isnt perfect, at that time, but it is close enough for enjoyment of beer!

The all portion will be even quicker. I am of half a mind to do something fun like fruit or honey or something, but I probably won't.

Brewday was mostly successful with one boiler early, that was not as bad as it looked. Just a little foam, a little green. Disappointing, but with such a forgiving recipe, I am not concerned about anything but the mess.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mexican Hellas, bottled

My happy little "Penguin" from the doublebatch brewday is a modified Helles with Vienna malt and crystal 20l, and a Mexican lager yeast. Built and mashed like a Helles, but fermented with a Mexican/Vienna twist.

Tastes like beer. Refreshingly bitter, quaffable, but with the added toast and malt backbone on top of the nutty pilsner. I look forward to carbonation when aromatics truly happen!

I expect little will be left at Thanksgiving, when it will be served to friends and family.

I have long since bottled the Saison, which truly tastes like a wildly different beer. It even looks different, with a lighter color. The added dates fermented out with a slight pectin haze, and the herbal notes of the verbena and sage enhance the natural flavor of French Saison.  It is a fantastic beer. The Governator is already popular with friends and neighbors. I am hiding the rest for special occasions.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Double Batch Brewday 10 Gallons, 2 Batches, Lots of Beer: Governator and Penguin!

Time is of the essence. I'm looking down the barrel of deadlines, commitments, life, etc. It's hard to keep up with brewing when life gets busy. One of the tricks that people do, when they brew few and far between, is to brew a large batch of wort, and split it up into carboys for different yeasts. In my case, half the batch is going to go with the White Labs Mexican Lager into the fridge for a deep, cool ferment. The other half is going into the middle room along with some caramelized dates, sage, and lemon verbena and the big, bad powerhouse Wyeast French Saison that will likely finish fermenting the whole five gallons in approximately 3 hours. I am exaggerating the time, but not by much as those familiar with that yeast strain will know. ;)

Right, I got a big, big heavy 60 quart stainless steel kettle sitting on a Bayou Classic, and burning that propane down.

I mashed 16 pounds of Pilsner Malt, 4 pounds of Vienna Malt, and 1 pound of Crystal 20l with 3 steps up, starting at 132, then 147, then 156 (thereabouts... Still working out the kinks of my step mash technique and the way south Texas summer heat messes with temperature calculations.) After 30 minutes at each step, I noticed that attenuation had slowed down and I was running out of room in my 10 gallon cooler. So, that was the end of that mash. I slowly recirculated the mash liquor until it looked more clear and a grain bed had formed, and let it go.

With my imprecise method of getting my temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised by full attenuation.

Anywho, I topped up the 60 quart can for a long, hot boil, and put an ounce of US Magnum at 90 minutes as a big, bad bittering charge. At 15 minutes, an ounce of Crystal went in, too.

It made beer. Two buckets full. One will be a Saison, the other a Lager. After brewing all the wort, I took a handful of sage and lemon verbena from the garden to cook down with the dates, and tossed it all into the Saison bucket. I expect to pitch the yeast in a few minutes, and can't wait to see what happens between the two very different, twin brews.

I should name them something twin-like. The Saison will be the bigger and faster of the two. It shall be the Governator, with the yeast of decimation. The Lager will be called Penguin. It will be kept very cold for a long time, and will bring a chill to the hottest of days.

Lemme see if this foolish machine allows the uploading of photography.

Apparently not easily. Perhaps someday, pictures will come. Alas, not today.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spontaneous Partial Mash Brewday

Life being life, things have been happening - mostly bad. I got very sick, there, for a while, and fell behind on all the things. Brewing being brewing - a hobby that produces something that cannot be consumed while battling off a pernicious infection - everything brewing related fell by the wayside. Frustrated with my empty pipeline, one Friday evening, I swung by the homebrew shop and got what I needed for a fast, simple, fun partial mash with minimal equipment set up and tear down. I used two large kettles on the stovetop. One was for the partial mash's mashing, and the other was for the sparge water and main boiling. I wanted something for summer, which means light and refreshing, but I also wanted something with a twist of flavor and malts that would fool the eye even as the palette was sparkling clean. Wheat malt, caramel wheat malt, and chocolate wheat malt, then, for a light and refreshing twist on a classic summer wheat brew!

5 gallons of water+more for boil off replacement
1 can of Briess Bavarian Wheat Extract
2 pounds of American Pale Malt
2 pounds of Bavarian White Wheat Malt
1/2 pound of Flaked Wheat
1/2 pound of Caramel Wheat Malt
1/4 pound of Chocolate Wheat Malt
.75 ounce of Cluster hops @60
.25 ounce of Cluster hops @15
Safale US-05 American Ale

Simple right?

So, the partial mash process is painless. I mashed in 1.5 gallons of water brought up to 153 degrees, then placed in a warmed oven for an hour while I got the sparge water going in the larger kettle. (I used the smaller kettle for the mash because it is easier to move it in and out of the oven, you see.)

Once upon the stovetop, I washed as much sugar out of the grain bag as I could with my sparge water (which was heated to 175 degrees) and then tossed the grains into a colander in a bowl to strain out a little more wonderful malty liquid. Then, I filled up the kettle, and added the extract.

Once boiling, add the first hop addition and start the timer. Stir occasionally, and watch for boilover. At 15 minutes, add the second hop addition and let it finish out. Cool quickly in the sink, in a bed of icewater. Once it's down below 175 degrees, transfer to the sanitized bucket and throw it in your spare refrigerator to cool the rest of the way. (No copper coil: minimal equipment, minimal clean-up, minimal time.)

In the morning, pitch the yeast, and set the temperature control for 60 degrees. It will be a clean fermentation, right at the bottom of the yeast's tolerance zone. Keep it cool and fermenting for at least two weeks (which is the step we're on, now!)

After two weeks, pull it out and let it warm to room temperature to promote a nice clean beer, then crash cool the beer back in the fridge close to freezing. Bottle with an appropriate amount of priming sugar for an effervescent wheat beer, which looks to be about 4 ounces of plain sugar.

Hello summer? I hope. We'll see how it goes in a couple weeks, eh!

ETA: I have cracked open the first one, and it is so summery and delicious. It looks like darkness and winter, but the flavor is bright and fruity and light, with strong notes of blackcurrent, a slightly sweet finish that is refreshing with chips and salsa on a hot day. Definitely a do-over!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Heilige Taffelwasser a Patersbier

Aroma of pear and sweet herbs on a fluffy white head that lingers with decent (not flawless) lacing, with a warm straw color, that is smooth and fruity with a balance of esters and floral bittering. The flavor drops away with pleasant funk and sour notes with a clean finish.

Serve with stinky cheese, potato dishes, sweet pastries, or rich curry dishes.

I can see why this is a popular style for homebrewers. It is refreshing with a bit of Belgian funk, but it won't knock anybody out with alcohol. So much flavor came from such simple ingredients. It may be the exact opposite of the ubiquitous light American Lager all over the bars and beer aisles, where so much complexity of chemistry and ingredient is used to taste like nothing at all. It is also a testament to the power of yeast.

I think this malt bill can easily be utilized for any number of amazing brews. 7.5 pounds pilsner malt, 2 pounds of Vienna, and 1/2 a pound of Caramunich is a nice, simple, rounded malt profile with just what you need, and nothing you don't. I am imagining a pale ale and a lager with the same lovely color in the glass.

I think I like W yeast Trappist High Gravity better, and Belgian Ardennes better, but for cash strapped brewers, I can see the appeal of Safbrew's new Abbaye.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bottling day: Heilige Taffelwasser

My Patersbier was bottled today. I wanted it pretty effervescent, close to a Saison. For about 4.25 gallons in the bottle, I used about 5 ounces of raw turbinado sugar.

The flavor is apples and hay, sweetness, and bittering floral hops. It hasnt quite all melded together, yet. Once the carbonation sets in and dries it all out a little more, unlocking the complex aromatics, we shall see what results in the glass

Note: This was a first attempt with Lallemand Safale Belgian Abbaye, a new dry yeast. I was not impressed with the yeast cake. The beer is full of floating yeast particles that just wont drop. I also expected a drier beer. Fermentation was under very good, controlled conditions, starting at 60 for two days, and rising slowly over the course of two weeks to 80 degrees. Before bottling, I crash chilled the beer down to below 40 degrees to help it drop clear, and it did not seem to do a rhing. I am unimpressed compared to Wyeast Trappist High Gravity, and would pay a couple bucks more for that product next time without question. Included are pictures of the dregs in a glass full of floating particulate and cloudoness, and the unimpressive yeast cake.

Still, light and crisp and lightly sweet, with apple and flower notes, I expect my family will love this beer in the sweltering Texas heat that is already waking up down here in South Texas.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


All over south Texas, landowners and homeowners plant this ornamental tree called a loquat. It is in the rose family, not the citrus family. It is tremendously delicious, and fruit after mild winters triannually. It also fruits very, very early, before even the mulberry comes in. This is why mild winters are key: The blooms come from january to march.

Also, they don't last long after picking. One really only sees it in ethnic markets in cans. It is not a familiar fruit to Americans, and most years a tremendous waste occurs all over the south. The fruit falls rotten to the ground. Nobody eats it. Nobody puts this abundance of glorious, apricot-tinged and aromatic sweet nuggets of deliciousness to use.

We encountered a tree off by itself in the grass beside a local farmer's market, of all places, laden with huge, delicious loquats. I was flabbergasted that at a venue celebrating local food, no one thought to pick the loquats!

Quickly, my wife and I harvested a good produce bag's worth and showed some to  a few of the vendors who were asking us what we were doing.

At home, we see aside a couple of the best for immediate fresh eating, while I turned the rest into refrigerator pickles.

Upon picking, they last about a day. This is why we don't see them in grocery stores, I reckon. They need to be processed fast. Also, as this is urban foraging, they need to be triple washed and really inspected for signs of trouble. The Loquat tree is used because it is such a trouble-free plant, that requires minimal fertilization and no spraying. However, that doesn't mean nothing happened in the grass around it. Always exercise common sense and caution while urban foraging. Avoid sites that look like heavy spraying or lots of exhaust from the nearby roads might pollute the fruit. This was a fairly well-tense spot but it was simply grass and nothing else. Also it had been raining for days. I assumed the worst I soul encounter would be chemical grass fertilizers that had not been completely washed out by the rain.

At home, we washed them first in a baking soda and vinegar and water solution. Then, I chopped off the blossom end, and sliced them in half to remove the pits. Rinsed through two more times until the water they soak in is clean, stuff them onto clean Mason jars with whatever spices and herbs you desire. Everybody uses rosemary. Rosemary in loquat pickles is glorious. Bay leaves are popular, too, but ours is too small to harvest. Instead we did thyme in one, and black pepper and cardamom in the other.

A simple pickle brine solution with salt, vinegar and water is sufficient, but I do like mine sweet, so I also add a bit of sugar to the already sweet loquats.

This stuff is tree candy, and it is astonishing to watch it go to waste year after year. This is truly one of the finest fruits in the world, right up there with peaches and cherries and apples, and it is so abundant at a time when so little else is available fresh. I am flabbergasted every year by the astonishing waste of loquats. Food is free. Particularly loquats. Go harvest some today, south Texans!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I love nothing more on my day off when the house is clean and I  have nothing to do. I pull out a good book, fire up the coffee, and lounge about in pajamas, until the dog decides we simply must go do something outside.

On the lazy days, I like to spike the coffee with a wee little khalua or bailey's. Alas, I dont do dairy, anymore. Also, ever notice how there's no ingredient list? What the hell is in that stuff, anyhow?

I do know Irish cream is not supposed to be stable outside of the fridge, and caramel coloring is definitely in the khalua. In other words, they are full of weird chemicals.

I decided to make my own. Lacking Irish Whiskey, and feeling creative, I put together a recipe for something that's like khalua and baileys had a Caribbean hippy baby!

Vegan, gluten free, and delicious!

First, make almond milk with about a pound of almonds. This is very simple. Soak raw, fresh almonds overnight in filtered water. Then, grind them in the water in a food processor or food ninja. Place the grainy, gooey, wet paste in some cheesecloth in a colander over a large bowl. Almond milk drains out of the almond meal. Voila, almond milk.

Second, make French Press coffee. I used Italian Espresso, but make your best, most favored kind. Cold brew coffee would also work well. i prefer French Press. Hot coffee is where to dissolve the sugar. For a gallon batch, the rum is quite sweet, so for a 2 quart batch, I used 1/4 cup of dememera.

Now, you need really good rum, unspiced. I had a bottle of 12-year old Appleton rum sitting unopened. (Despite my blog about beer and alcohol, we drink less than one glass a night of anything alcoholic. Two on weekends, maybe.)

You also need dememera sugar, or Turbinado. (White cane is not vegan, and imparts no flavor. Boo and boo.)

Finally, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla per quart.

Spice is nice! For this batch, i only added cinnamon, but I regret not adding Bay Leaf, which is actually a close cousin of cinnamon both genetically and in flavor profile. Any other spices you desire. (Recommendations: ginger, bay leaf, nutmeg, coriander, black pepper, cocoa, etc.)

Now to make Rumbally.

2 parts fine, aged, unspiced rum.
1 part fresh almond milk
1 part coffee
Natural sugar to taste, about 1/4 cup-1/2 cup per 2 quarts
1/4 tsp vanilla paste per 2 quarts
Spices - a light touch is suggested as a little goes a long way.

Combine and refrigerate for one week.

Almond milk settles out, and that's normal. Be sure to shake and stir before serving.

Use like Baileys and Kahlua, or just serve over ice as a dessert drink.

It is like baileys, except rum and spice and no animal partd and no preservatives or fillers or mystery ingredients. It is like what Baileys would be in Grenada. Okay, they would probably use cashews instead of almonds, but I really like almond milk. And, hey, try it with cashew milk. Why not?

I dub it Rumbally. Pronounced like Rum Baileys in my belly, a.k.a. rum-BAH-lee.

Looks good, no?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heilige Taffelwasser

Patersbier is a great Texas early summer beer, and a simple recipe for anyone trying to get their new mash tun squared away in the brewing process.

Today's recipe is for about 5 gallons of beer. I am looking to make this with 8 pounds of pilsner malt, 2 pounds of Vienna malt, and half a pound of caramunich. It is protein resting, right now. I will try to get a medium body infusion going in a step mash momentarily up to 152 degrees for an hour.

Once the boil starts, at the 30 minute mark an ounce of fuggles goes in. Then at 30 and 15 each, half an ounce of First Gold is going in.

I am trying Fermentis' new Belgian Abbaye yeast. I am excited for new dry options in Belgian yeasts, and I hope for greatness!

I bottled the Fiddleback Brown Ale eaelier today, and it is very good, very green, and much thinner-bodied than intended. I had struggled to get the grains up to mash temp and had to water everything down a lot. I hope this time, with this brew, I have a little more success.

Practice, practice....

Anyway, I may snap photos as I go and add them, later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brewday: Fiddleback Brown Ale

I built my own mash tun from a 10-gallon Igloo cooler. I did so because I have been having issues with the direct heat, BIAB method, particularly with a puppy and a busier schedule. It's hard for me to sit there and stare at the thermometer, and flip a flame on and off. Also, it is more expensive in propane to keep it running all through the mash, all through every step. So, I built a mash tun. The plans are widely available on-line, and I used the cheapest method possible, with a sink line mesh for the filter. To test out my system, I put together a fast, easy, and likely very delicious American Brown Ale that I'm going to name after the spiders I kill in my house: Fiddleback.

Target 5 Gallons (Actual 4 gallons)
Target OG: 1.51 (actual 1.54)
30.5 IBUs
22.1 Target SRM
Target ABV 5.15%

6 lbs American 2-Row Pale
2 lbs American Munich 10l
1/2 pound Gambrinus Honey Malt
1/2 pound Crystal 120l
1/2 pound Victory Malt
1/2 pound American Chocolate Malt
1 ounce US Goldings @60
1 ounce US Goldings @30
Danstar Nottingham Yeast
Intended mash of 153 for 70 minutes.

Brewday went well, but for my first attempt at a real sparge, I ended up not reaching my target temperature and expect a thinner beer, as a result. I mashed longer, and did my best, but I just need more practice at it. I came out with an OG that was lower than intended for a 5 gallon batch, but higher than intended with the 4gallons that resulted at the end of the boil. When I see the FG, I will adjust water amounts with the priming sugar a quart or two to get a little lighter in the bottle. Summer is coming, and I don't need to warm myself against it down here in south Texas.

Practice, practice, I need more practice.

Also, I forgot to take pictures. Oh, well...

UPDATE: Bottling went well after two weeks at 60-65 degrees. The beer is carbing, now. It came out sweeter than I would like, so far, but hopefully as it settles into the bottle, it will lose some of the sweetness as roasted notes rise up. On the nose, there is a lot of roast and toast.

I think, in the future, I'd drop the Honey Malt entirely, and just up the base malt by 1/2 a pound. Also, I'd use a different hop, with more of an edge to it. Goldings is very "pretty" and it only makes the beer taste sweeter. Perhaps Northern Brewer would be a better fit, for my palette.

Good, though, but not great. My audience does prefer sweeter beers, and I expect it will be drunk very quickly when I bring it to my brother's house, or to a party somewhere.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Disastrous days, under-attenuation, etc

Last two batches were both disastrous.  A belgian patersbier got infected in the secondary due to some crud I whiffed during cleaning. The tiniest of crud is enough to infect and ruin a whole batch!

The next was a Mexican-Viennese Lager that never quite reached efficiency in the mash run, boiled over, and froze during primary which stymied the yeast. This all resulted in a light, sweet beer. I also discovered that I dislike Mount Rainer hops which were the aroma and flavor in this batch. In a sweet, under-attenuated beer, it tastes like licorice soda.


I hope it dries out in the bottle, and under carbonated on purpose with that hope in mind.

I will try again with new equipment. I built a mash tun out of a 10-gallon Igloo Cooler and help from the nice expert at Lowe's.  I have a wort chiller, now, at last. I also got a temperature controller for the fridge.

Working 3 jobs doesn't help my brewing any, either. Som of my problems were due to severe time constraints. I see no respite any time soon. Buy my books, yes? Anyone?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Brewday: Mexican Moderno

One of the most popular beers among my family members is Negra Modelo. I am not interested in cloning it. I am interested at taking the idea of a Light Munich Dunkel or Vienna Lager as interpreted by Mexican brewers not too far from my house, and bring in a craft brewer eye to the beer style.

Alas, an early boil over cost me some serious gravity points, and threw off my hop schedule. I ended up with a much lights beer than intended, with a starting gravity of 1.45. I will watch fermentation, and prepare some sort of simple sugar to boost gravity up to par, if I end up with an extremely light beer, and my bittering will be a mystery after such boiling over that occurred. Alas, my brewkettle struggled with what I though would be such a simple thing. So, recipe below is the intended one that got all wobbled and cobbled...

Mexican Modern

3 pounds American 6-row
3 pounds Vienna Malt
3 pounds Munich 10l
1/2 pound American Crystal 90l
1/4 pound Chocolate Wheat Malt
1/2 oz Hercules at 60 minutes
1/4 oz Mount Raineir at 20
1/4 oz Mount Raineir at 5
American Lager Yeast

Dough in at 144 for 15 minutes
Then saccharification rest at 156 for half an hour.

Lager people instructions from your page yeast supplier.

But, we shall see what result with this sucker that boiler over early and often despite my best efforts, alas!

Tonight, I rack off the Belgian Pale to the Secondary. I expect great things. Buy my books, people, so I can afford a bigger and better brewing rig!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Brew day:Monastic Pale Ale

Simplicity and order and lack of pretension and obeying the spirit that moves through the world, out in the winds that blew away the bad storms and freezing rain, opened the sky to the sun, and rustled through the leaves and palms that all survived the fronts, I brewed a beer in the tradition of the Trappists.

The Monastic Pale has a simple ingredient list, and a simple process.

10 pounds if Pilsner malt (bohemian)
2 pounds Vienna Malt (American)
1/2 pound of Caramunich 3
1/2 ounce of German Herkules at 60 minutes
1/4 ounce of Mount Rainier at 30 minutes
1/4 ounce of Mount Rainier at 15 minutes
A simple mash schedule, at 150 degrees for 60 minutes
A 90 minute boil.

The yeast will be Wyeast Trappist High Gravity, and I am about to pitch it, now.

The winter here turned harsh a while, but the Orange trees survived just fine, as did the lemon in the front dooryard. At last, the peaches and pear have lost their leaves and sleep until spring comes. When it does, I will toast the breaking buds of new life, and the spirit that moves through the seasons, like Ecclesiastes' turning wheels of time.
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