Saturday, December 17, 2011

Final Tasting of Batch #17

Batch #17 was brewed for my brother's wedding in late September. I used many tradional wedding spices to give it an, "oh so special" vibe. My main goal is to be as spot on with temperature during primary fermenation. I was pretty pleased with it overall. With some of the ingredients (mainly cloves), this beer is a great winter brew. Last night we thought might be the best night to share the last bottle saved. I am almost regreting giving the 2nd to last bottle to our new neighbors as a house warming gift.

Right out the gate the cloves are present and dance nicely with the Belgian Ardennes yeast. I used fresh lemon and orange zest but coupled with that yeast and fermented at 78 degrees it was pleasently more sweet than dry. I laid off the Belgian grains with this recipe for no good reason except doing something completely opposite from Batch #15, a Lemon Rosemary Saison. My second regret was the length of time that I oaked it for. 30 days was not enough, or maybe I need another ounce of oak. It was more than mildly present.

Batch #17. Clove and Spice Saison
US 2 Row,  US White Wheat, Belgian Vienna, Belgian Cara 45, Flaked Maize and Carapils.
Mount Hood, Amarillo, and German Spalt Select Hops
Green Tea leaves, ground pepper, Rosemary, Parsley, Orange Zest, Lemon Zest, Cloves and Pinot Noir Oak Cubes
Wyeast Belgian Ardennes w/ starter.

Brewing Status:
Primary: Empty (first time in a long time)
Secondary: Single Hopped Pale Ale
Bottle Condioning: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Dubbel w/ Figs, Robust Porter w/ Molasses and Dates.
Up Next: Batch #18 (revised)- Imperial Chocolate Stout

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chicha Is On!

For many beer geeks I am sure that you either knew about the Perivian Beer, Chicha, or honestly, like me, heard about it through the Brew Masters episode rightfully titled, Chicha. Without getting deep down into the history, Chicha was and is a traditional Inca fermented beverage/ beer made from corn. It is best to watch the above linked clip to understand what you are about to read. To back things up I just got back from Peru and as much as the Inca Trail and 15th Century ruins were the main focus, I have hard time telling anyone that for 5 days, Chicha finding was what Dooglas and I had our sites on.

Now we heard tales that Chicha is hard to find in the traditional method of the brewer still chewing the corn. I saw a couple corona grain mills at the Chicharias. I would like to think that one (we visited many) in particular was as authentic as they come. We spotted our first "red bag" in Pisac. Eager and hesitantly we made our way into the homestead, past the chickens and into a dark structure where Dooglas asked, "Ahh, con permiso. Es la Chicha?" Si. Si.

In a small room with just us, our Chicha brewer, one or two locals and a floor full of coy, we sat on a small wooden beach and were served in a 20 ounce glass room temperture Chicha straight out the pot. We tipped our glass and let Pachamama have to first sip. It was very earthy, grassy, tart and delicious. An ancient Beriler Weiss comes to mind. Delicious to say the least.

We went back and got more Chicha to go in our water bottles. We got Chicha in Ollantaytambo and we enjoyed a few even our our way up the Inca Trail (we were "those" people). Nothing compared to the experience of the taste. It was a craft beer personified and a greater spiritual awaking for me.


*Picture is a glass poured from a "to go" bottle brought to dinner.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tasting: Batch #18

Chocolate Bourbon Cherry Wood Stout
Strong vanilla flavor. A bit overpowering. There is are subtle chocolate notes, the cinnamon comes through in aroma while the bourbon finishes. A slight woody taste from the cherry wood, jet black and a creamy tan head. A pleasant desert beer in the end.

With 8 ounces of cacao powder in the boil and another 3 ounces of dark chocolate in the fermentor I was thinking liquid cake. This batch's separated twin at birth (Chocolate Stout) has those characteristics. This will be a very tweakable recipe to say the least. It is a bit thinner and not as roasty as expected. I will up that portion of barley next time as well as maybe toast some oats and mash a bit higher and up the base malt a few more pounds. It only sits at 7.5% and it should probably have more warming alocohol notes. Come's winter. I like the vanilla a lot though. It was a gift from Belize and probably the richest and most concentrated vanilla extract alive. I give this an overall B-.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Batch #20

Date and Molasses Robust Porter
Maris Otter, Munich, Rye, Chocolate, Crystal, Carapils and Black Malts.
Northern Brewer and Cascade Hops
Northwest AleYeast
1lb Molasses 8oz Dates

I haven't used this yeast in about 8 months. It moves like molasses. It is either the tortoise of yeast strains or I have grown to be impatient. But none-the-less it is my 20th batch of the year with a month to go in the year. Batch #21 is fermenting now on the other side of Roxborough. It's not a secret batch, #20 and #21 are for the holidays and some readers that I consider my tasters need to have something to look forward to. With this beer only 6 days in the fermentor I haven't even sampled it. I am debating on almond extract at bottling.

Half of Batch #18 was bottled and sampled 3 days ago. Low carbonation for the first seven days. This tends to happen during the late fall, early winter months in this house. The heat isn't turn on yet and without insulation my number of constant temp. rooms has fallen shot. As for the Chocolate Stout it had a very pronounced chocolate flavor and vanilla finish. Very thin though. It's counterpart, Bourbon Cherry Wood Chocolate Stout was bottled today and tasted delicious. I can not wait to see what some carbonation brings to it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Batch #19

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Stout
Pale Malt (Maris Otter), Flaked Oats, Roasted and Flaked Barley, Chocolate Malt, Crystal Malt,
Special B, Organic Raisins, Dark Rum.
Northern Brewer and Fuggle Hops
American Ale II Yeast w/ starter.

I have never had such an active fermentation. The blow off tube was a krausen subway for 60 hours. Finally, a week in it is calming down. I was looking to make a big beer. Not a 10%er, but something to enjoy for the holidays. I used a half pound of raisins in the boil and have another 4 ozs sitting in 8 ozs of dark rum for a few weeks. I didn't quite hit my OG on this. My mash tun was filled to capacity and I needed a small amount of DME to get it on it's feet. "We're gonna need a bigger pot."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tasting: Batch #17

I wanted to make something "Fallish" without pumpkin, but still in the fruits and veggies category. Oddly, I am in recipe-mode for a pumpkin(ish) beer for the winter. For Batch #17, Plum Rye IPA, I found a new love affair.

It's fairly dark in color with a strong citrus aroma. It is very hop forward but the tartness from the plums finish nicely. I was hoping for a bit more rye, but if I had to sacrifice the plum overpowering it, then I am happy enough. It is overall what I was hoping for.  It packs a nice 6.9% ABV and is great to finish the end of the night with.

Plum Rye IPA
2 Row, Rye, Munich, Carapils and Crystal malts.
Simcoe, Columbus, Palisade and Amarillo hops
Lots of Fresh Plums
Wyeast American Ale II

Monday, October 17, 2011

Batch #18

Bourbon Cherry Wood Chocolate Stout
2 Row, Chocolate Malt, Crystal, Black Malt and Carafa Malts.
Cacao Powder, Dark Chocolate, Cherry-Wood, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon
East Kent Goldings and Fuggle Hops
London Ale Yeast w/ starter.

After Primary Fermentation was complete I split this batch in two 3 gallon carboys. 2.5 gallons is from the recipe listed above. The second carboy is minus the cherry wood and vanilla. Bourbon has added a bit of vanilla flavor to my past batches, but I am hoping to have this one finish with it instead of it being more forward. The cherry wood for this batch was a gift given to me in a 5 foot plank that I have dried, sanded and cut into cubes. I have 2.5 ounces of cubes in 6 ounces of bourbon.  This will age for a minimum of 4 weeks and if my will power servers me right, more like 8 weeks. The vanilla extract used is a gift from another friend and contributor, Doog in Belize. I added about a tablespoon (+/-).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Road Trip

Thursdays are usually a local night. We hike down the beautiful hills of Roxborough until we reach the corner of Terrace and Salaignac, Terrace Taproom. But this past week was a road trip. The Slingluff Gallery needed their monthly beer from the folks at Sly Fox. A Thursday night road trip. After a bit of a back up on the Schuylkill and meandering route through Conshy we were Royersford bound.

"The Fox In The Snow"

Fox in the snow, where do you go
To find something you can eat?
Cause the word out on the street is you are starving
Don't let yourself grow hungry now
Don't let yourself grow cold
Fox in the snow
Girl in the snow, where will you go
To find someone that will do?
To tell someone all the truth before it kills you
They listen to your crazy laugh
Before you hang a right
And disappear from sight
What do they know anyway?
You'll read it in a book
What do they know anyway?
You'll read it in a book tonight

Boy on the bike, what are you like
As you cycle round the town?
You're going up, you're going down
You're going nowhere
It's not as if they're paying you
It's not as if it's fun
At least not anymore
When your legs are black and blue
It's time to take a break
When your legs are black and blue
It's time to take a holiday

Kid in the snow, way to go
It only happens once a year
It only happens once a lifetime
Make the most of it
Second just to being born
Second to dying to
What else could you do?

A great thing about Sly Fox is that they usually have 12 drafts on and at least 3 that are seasonal or one-offs. Most of the table drank O'Reilly's Stout, and although their were a few on hand that I have either had in cans or their 22ozs, I opted for a style that I find myself drinking more and more these days, the Smoked Porter. I've enjoying Left Hand's Fade to Black a lot recently. As far as any of Sly Fox's smoked beers go, well, they lay heavy on the smoke. But heavy or not, it was a delight. Spring is now here and it is time to put away the Belle and Sebastian albums (Well, at least, If You're Feeling Sinister) and cellar your cold weather brews either for a Spring cold patch or until December finds us.
If you find yourself in the Phoenixville area, head over to Sly Fox's annual Bock Fest and Goat Race.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Owl Spotting: Hitachino

As much as I have enjoyed listing all the delicious beers that I am fortunate enough to drink in Philadelphia, I must say, that it is time for something different. Surely when I find myself in the mist of a rare or great beer week, I will document it. And of course, any Beercation, will have a pad and pen along at every stop. I'd like to spend a wee bit more time talking about individual beers, brewing companies, homebrewing, taprooms and bottle shops. So keep reading and enjoy the poems.

The Owls
Charles Baudelaire

Under the overhanging yews,
the dark owls sit in solemn state
like stranger gods: in twos and twos
their red eyes gleam. They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream
until that melancholy hour
when, with the suns last fading gleam,
the nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise
will learn with terror and despise
all tumult, movement, and unrest:

For he who follows every shade,
carries the memory in his breast,
of each unhappy journey made.

This poem was sparked by my new love, Hitachino Nest.  During the Summer Beercation in Philly, Dooglas pointed out a white ale that I never tried. I saw the name and then I saw the state, no, the country: Japan. A Japanese microbrew. Awesome. Hitachino Nest is a product of Kiuchi Brewery. It was established in the early 1800s and from I was able to round up, Sake was their seller.They have quite a few beers available, but their Real Ginger, Red Rice, White and Classic Ale were all that I have had.

The Classic was a great IPA. I love breweries that use cedar to age with. At first taste it reminded me of a Furthermore beer. "Pepper," I thought. But the bartender assured us that it was cedar. (Think more on the Cigar City lines). It has a nice nose, a bit maltly and pleasantly hopped. It seems to be easier to find Hitachino on draft, but I am a major fan of finding them at bottle shops. Their logo is a sweet piece of art. They use pudgy little pink and orange owls that remind me of something from Urban Outfitters. That sounds like it might be a bad thing, but I am a fan of owl art no matter where it comes from.

Cheers for now.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Beercation 2010. Hello 2011.

Port Brewing Co. Santa's Little Helper (D)- Memphis Taproom
Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale (D)- Memphis Taproom
Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabazza (D)- Monks
St. Feuillien Saison (D)- Monks
Southhampton Saison Deluxe (D)- Monks
Leifmanns Cuvee Brut (D)- Fork and Barrel
Gina (Dogfish Head, Del Borgo, Baladina) (Cask)-Fork and Barrel
Birrificio Pausa Cafe Chicca (D)- Fork and Barrel
North Coast Acme California IPA (D)- Terrace Taproom
Manayunk Brewing Co. Iron Curtain Imperial Stout (D)- Union Jacks
Petrus Aged Pale (D)- Union Jacks
Bells Two Hearted (D)- Union Jacks
Philadelphia Brewing Co. Shackamaxium (B)- House Beer
Bells Kalamazoo Stout (B)- House Beer
Troubadour Magma IPA (D)- Fork and Barrel
Beer Here Morke Pumpernickel Porter (D)- Fork and Barrel
Dogfish Head Palo Santo (D)- Terrace Taproom
Troegs Java Head Stout (D)- Terrace Taproom
Yards Tavern Spruce (D)- Terrace Taproom
Coronado Islander IPA (B)- House Beer
Spring House Seven Gates Pale Ale (B)- House Beer
Saison des Trois Enfants (D)-Earth Bread and Brewery
Romulous on Handpump (D)- Earth Bread and Brewery
Second Degree (D)-Earth Bread and Brewery
Iron Hill Russian Imperial Stout (B)- House Beer

The Sipping List -Jules Holiday Party (All Bottles)
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
Petrus Winter Ale
Gouden Calrolus Noel
Vichtenaar Flemish Ale
Uinta Brewing Co. Labyrinth Black Ale
Brooklyn Local 2
Hitachino Nest Owl
Harviestoun Ola Dubh
Lost Abbey The Angels Share
Ichtegem's Grand Cru
Stillwater Artisanal Ales Saison/ Farmhouse
Brewdog/ Mikkeller Divine Rebel
Brasserie des Rocs Triple Imperial 
Lindemans Faro Lambec
Dogfish Head 120 Minute
Otter Creek Quercus Vitis Humulus
Monks Sour Flemish
Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
Rogue 2x Chocolate Stout 

Kevin's "Fear of a Black IPA"
Kevin's "Under the Boardwalk Brown Ale"
Tim's Dry Stout
Ben's Imperial Stout
Ben's IPA
Ben's Bitter

I couldn't  have been any happier with the few select bars we were able to make it to over the holiday week. Memphis reigns as one of my favorites, but Fork and Barrel is just pure bliss. All I can say about the F and B experiences is that we were able to have Gina. And from what I know, it was 1 of 5 kegs/casks in the country. Gina is an herb garden. It reminded me of Saison du Buff, with more parsley, sage and thyme, a lot of oregano, and less hops. I also had the Pausa Cafe Chicca. This seems like another rare one. Again, from what I read, I had 1 of the 8 kegs in the country. It's an Italian coffee beer made by inmates of an Italian prison. Read more about it here. When I read that prisoners made the beer I had mixed feelings about it. I needed more info on what Pausa Cafe is all about and then found this.

With a title like The Sipping List, there better be a story. Let me just say that I probably missed a few bottles on the list mentioned above. It was a crazy night.

What seems to be an annual party at the best house in Manayunk, we had a theme this year. Bring a great bottle and wear an ugly sweater or dress up fancy. There were about 30 amazing bottles, 4 ugly sweaters, 1 suit and few in a fancy wear. Obviously, beer was the all important factor. With 30 or more bottles and 20 or so people, our only choice was to sample each. Let me tell you that 3 ounces here and 5 ounces there surely does catch up with you. There is no way to talk complexity on any of these beers, but as for some to seek out: Vichtenaar Flemish Ale, Uinta Brewing Co. Labyrinth Black Ale, Hitachino Nest Owl, Harviestoun Ola Dubh and Ichtegem's Grand Cru. Sours are a holiday all their own in my book. 

We are going to start to talk about homebrews a lot more on this site in 2011, so stay tuned. There are a number of homebrewers in the Brews of our Lives crew. Hopefully all of them will contribute a few words over the next year.

Thanks to all the readers of this blog for a great year.