Monday, December 24, 2012

Cycle Brewing's End of the World Barrel Aged Beer Party

Cycle Brewing's Rare D.O.S.
by douglas reeser on December 24, 2012
Back from Belize
and missing the stout,
December 21st
is taking us out.
What better way
than to enjoy the day
with a barrel-aged brew
from the Cycle Brewing Crew!

A year and a half working on research in Belize has left me pretty broke, so I haven't been able to truly enjoy the crazy variety of beers available here in the Tampa Bay area. I've had a few good ones to be sure (like Cigar City's Moat Water), but drinking craft beer on a budget has meant lots of Sierra Nevada beers. I've been trying to keep my eyes open for can't miss events since I've been back, and have really only missed out on a few at Cigar City. One I circled on the calendar though, was the Rare DOS event scheduled for the End of the World. I decided I couldn't miss it.

The Rare D.O.S. beers are building a small legend around themselves, and for good reason it would appear. It has a score of 100 on both Rate Beer and Beer Advocate. Impressive. And with the recent announcement that the brew works will be expanding from the small bungalow restaurant, Peg's Cantina, to a new brewery location under the name of Cycle Brewing, this would probably be the last chance to get this beer in such a small-event atmosphere. It's a drive, and I was alone, so I didn't get to try everything, but here's what made it into my belly:

The 12-21-12 Beer Menu
Rare D.O.S. ~ a deep, dark, and thick stout, reminiscent of some of the best big stouts I've had from Cigar City. Bourbon was very present in the aroma and the taste, along with some chocolate, and even a hint of anise. Sweet, but not sugary. The perfect belly-warming way to start off a beer event. This beer is outstanding and delicious!

Waste Not Want Not Sour Brown Ale ~ I love me a sour, and I couldn't wait to try this one. Doug, the head brewer, has brewed an excellent Berliner Weiss in the past, so I had some expectations with this one. To my surprise, this was a real sour, and a really good one. A nice puckering brown, low carbonation, but very nice and drinkable. A surprisingly good sour.

Sun Exploder Tart Cherry ~ I tried this one next since I was already on the sour-kick. I was expecting a light fruity beer, but it came at me dark as night. It turned out to be a sour cherry stout! Thick and chocolatey at the beginning, but as I drank it down, the cherry really started to pop. By the end it was something like a sour cherry dipped in chocolate. Yummy.

The RareR DOS growler.
Funky D.O.S. ~ I couldn't pass up one last D.O.S. (Doug's Original Stout), and this one had my attention all evening. I wasn't disappointed. The funk really stood out, and I was wondering if I was getting lactose in there - lactose soured? The Funky was another big beer, but the light souring made it a very easy drinker. Another excellent beer.

Sadly, I only had these four beers. As you can see from the menu, prices were pretty steep, and these were all big beers at somewhere between 8-11%. I also wanted to pick up a growler of a Rare(r) D.O.S., a special, older version of the Rare D.O.S. that I had on draft. The keg of Rare(r)was kicked before I got there, so my only choice was to bring one home. At $20 for a 500ml bottle though, I wasn't able to get as many as I wanted. Since the world didn't end, I'll be able to drink that one on Christmas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


A few of us meet up a every week or every other week at Appalachian Brewing Co. in Collegeville, PA. Appalachian is one of those brewpubs that has 15 on tap, 8 are various lagers, an IPA, a stout, and a few others that never change. Even a Barleywine is always on. This isn't a complaint and the IPA never sits too long and is pretty fresh, always. They don't brew on this Appalachian and it is the furthest away from their other pubs in the Gettysburg area. What am I getting at? Get to the point. A few months ago I was pleasantly surprised to see a trio of of different adjunct IPAs on. I saw Three Grain IPA and was happy enough, but I was then served three 10oz tulips of a Rye IPA, Wheat IPA, and an Oat IPA. The Oat stole the show. Granted all three were 7.5% ABV and the Oat was the last one that I finished. I did sip on each throughout though.

So I set out to brew an Oat IPA. I wanted a very hop forward, and slightly grainy brew. I kept the grain bill as simple as possible. 2 Row, Crystal 40, Carapils, and Oats. I went with Golden Naked Oats. They were nice and biscuity, similar to a Vienna Malt. On the hop side I thought long and hard about  it. I bittered with a bit of Nugget, but with 15 mins to go I used generous amounts of Columbus, Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra. It was dry hopped with Amarillo, and, for a first time, keg hopped with Citra.

I was spot on with OG (1.066) and slightly shocked that it dropped to (1.008). Dryness is what I was going for. I mashed at 149 and boiled for 75 mins. I've been boiling for 75 mins lately so that 90 min boils don't seem as long and to drive off DMS. I've never had a problem with DMS, but I might as well stop thinking about it.

It is currently carbonating now. I did lose a bit with dry hopping and I am sure that the Citra are soaking it up nicely in the keg. The picture above is 5 days in the keg. It is super cloudy, but I have stopped using Irish Moss. I expect it to clear up a bit though. And this is the first full glass poured. A full review will come soon.

Wild Oats by Philip Larkin
About twenty years ago
Two girls came in where I worked -
A bosomy English rose
And her friend in specs I could talk to.
Faces in those days sparked
The whole shooting-match off, and I doubt
If ever one had like hers:
But it was the friend I took out,

And in seven years after that
Wrote over four hundred letters,
Gave a ten-guinea ring
I got back in the end, and met
At numerous cathedral cities
Unknown to the clergy. I believe
I met beautiful twice. She was trying
Both times (so I thought) not to laugh.

Parting, after about five
Rehearsals, was an agreement
That I was too selfish, withdrawn
And easily bored to love.
Well, useful to get that learnt,
In my wallet are still two snaps,
Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.
Unlucky charms, perhaps.

Great Western 2 Row, Crystal 40L, Carapils, Golden Naked Oats
Nugget, Columbus, Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra (dry hopped with Amarillo, keg hopped with Citra)
WLP Cali Ale (1L starter on plate)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sour Raspberry: Tasting

I brewed this beer in the spring. It was a first in playing with both fruit and brett. My family picked an abundance of raspberries and I was looking to get my hands on a few pounds of them. I got seven of those pounds. I've learned more about brett since brewing this. I still have only used it in the secondary either pitching directly from vile or smack or growing up from bottle dreggs. I only left this one on the brett for 6 months and I am sure that patience would have made some real difference.

It is a nice ruby red color. The brett cleaned up the haze from the raspberry and continued to drop the gravity. The head lasts and is a brilliant bright white.

The aroma on this is straight up funk and fruit. If you don't even sort-of like raspberries then you would hate it. Again, not knowing too much about brett at the time I probably would have either pitched a cleaner yeast in the primary and a lacto and pedio along with the brett in the secondary. I could have held back a bit on the  amount of raspberries also.

I carbonated the hell out of it. The mouthfeel is quite bubbly, tart and desert-like. The alcohol stays hidden until half way through the glass. I sip pretty slowly, but often, trying to pick up the nuances. This was set out to be a giant Belgian Fruit Beer, but I thought that it was a bit overwhelming and wanted the berries more musty and earthy. The brett if anything was an experiment to make something that I would maybe like out of something that I knew that I wouldn't. If I say Sour Raspberry some think Lambic. It lacks complexity, is a bit young and at this point, it is what it is....a nice jolt of funk.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Barrel Project

Photo by a G.L.U.B member

Yesterday was a Multi-Club Group Barrel Project put on by Keystone Homebrew. My club participated in filling our Bourbon Barrel with an Allagash Curieux Clone. The day was pretty much perfect for brewing and every once in a while it is great to wake up at 7am and get started. A little over a dozen clubs were involved from all over the area. Beer was poured by Round Guys and Free Will and food was served by Iron Abbey and a few others. Checking out other brewer's setups is fun for me. When brewing solo I am pretty simple. I heat up my strike water in my mash tun, dough in and insulate if needed. My SS mash tun loses about 1 degree in a 60 min mash and 2-3 degrees in a 75 to 90 min mash. I fly sparge with a whirly-gig and boil as normal (unless I have a high hop amounts going in and I use a SS Hop Spider). Five gallon batches are easy this way. But with 13 or so clubs and 5-10 club members per group, there were plenty of propane burners, single tier rigs, 10 gallon kettles, 55 gallon kettles and everything in between. The gist of this project is that we collect from the barrel is that it will part of a giant club night event at NHC in Philly next year. I don't have the complete low down on how long it stays in the barrel.

One of my last posts ended with my eagerness for the Farmer's Cabinet Tamarind Brew Challenge. The event changed a few weeks prior to the date and ended up turning into a tasting at Keystone. The date didn't work for me and even though it was a friendly-style competition to start with I never entered my beer. It was a Tamarind Brown Ale with a few Belgian specialty malts in there as well.

My end result on the Tamarind wasn't really what I was shooting for. My original intention was to brew a few different styles and go from there. I slacked. I brewed other beers that  I had planned. I don't know why. I ended up brewing 2 sours and I have nothing but time to sit an wait on those. I had a British Yeast in mind for this one. I picked up a pack and it was pretty old. I had my doubts from the start. It was one of those decisions that homebrewers make that seems even more wrong when you walk out the door of the brew shop. I put in on the stir plate for 36 hours with little to develop. I probably could have stepped it up a few times. Instead I hoped and pitched. The next morning was a sad morning. A sad Monday morning with the only Homebrew shop open an hour away. I gave it a few more hours, but I wasn't going to kid myself. So Nottingham Yeast it was. I am not blaming the yeast on this brew. In fact I was pleased and intrigued after a vigorous fermentation. The tamarind was super noticeable. Maybe too prominent, but I didn't care. I thought it would fade in time. It did. At this point I am letting it sit a bit. Maybe my taste buds will come around. I can't put my finger on the issue with it. I want to say oxidation and thought my Brew Club would agree with me. There is nothing like a group of brewers palates to find the flaw. No one picked up on the oxidation. Most said it was a fine session beer. I am almost out of the last few bottles of them and that is just fine with me.

But a las. My art opening at Sweet Mabel Folk Art is 6 days away. The Oatmeal Stout is ready to be kegged. In the meantime Jules and I found the time to brew up a Dark and Hoppy Harvest Ale. I haven't had to much time to sample it out of the fermenter, but we dry hopped it the other day and 8ozs of uncarbed, deep brown, slightly murky and beautifully hopped beer looked nearly ready. Tracy at Sweet Mabel did mention her fondness for IPAs. I hope this one makes the show. The grain bill on this started out like a Black IPA minus the roast and it's currently the color of a Victory Yakima Glory.

Curieux Clone
Belgian Pilsner Malt, Carapils and Dextrose
Hallertau and Tettnang  Hops
WLP 550 and Wyeast Belgian Ardennes Blend

Monday, October 1, 2012

Taste! Belikin Chocolate Stout

Belikin Brewery's one-off chocolate stout (almost 7%!)
by douglas reeser on October 1, 2012
I consider myself a beer lover. Like many craft-beer connoisseurs, I enjoy trying new beers and I drink the hoppy, the malty, the sour, and the weird. When I moved to Belize almost a year and a half ago, my beer drinking took a turn for the boring. It's a small nation, with just over 300,000 people in the entire country, and as with most Caribbean and Latin American countries, craft beer has not yet happened in Belize. Needless to say, the choices are slim. The national brewery, Belikin, has a corner on the market, but thankfully they actually offer a few options. They brew some lagers (Lighthouse and "beer"), they have one of the few concessions outside of Ireland to brew Guinness, and they also brew their own stout (that clocks in at about 6.5%). As a daily drinker, I drank the stout, even resorting to adding a bit of coffee to my glass, that actually worked quite well. Regardless, I didn't have all that much choice in my beer drinking endeavors.

To my surprise, the brewers at Belikin decided to get creative after I moved to the country (although I doubt I had anything to do with this development). The brewery announced a series of seasonal beers, and they started with a sorrel stout. Sorrel, also known as hibiscus, has a sweet, berry-like flavor, and is common in Belize, especially around the winter holidays.  It's typically known as a wine or tea, but it worked great as a stout . I quite enjoyed this uniquely flavored beer last winter, and was looking forward to a spring beer that never came. However, Belikin released a chocolate stout for the annual cacao fest held in the south of the country every May (They also later released "Verano" - a Blue Moon type summer beer). I drank as much as I could during the cacao fest celebrations, and then stashed a few in the fridge to enjoy over the ensuing months.

Gold foiled and stickered cap...
Well, my time in Belize started to wind down, and I had one chocolate stout left. It was Belize Independence Day (September 21), and I was home alone after celebrating the night before. I decided to break out the choco-stout and write down some notes. I poured it into the typical 10oz Belikin glass, and immediately, the strong, rich chocolate aromas hit my nose. It poured a dark brown and had a fizzy carbonation with virtually no head retention. As I lifted the glass to drink, the smell of chocolate overwhelmed my senses, and that smell transferred to my tongue. While not as rich and thick as some craft chocolate brews, the Belikin chocolate stout still tastes like a chocolate bar. It was carbonated in the mouth, and a bit of the bitterness of the stout came through at the end, but there was virtually no aftertaste.

I can't say that this beer would stand out if put up against some of the specialty craft brews from the States, but I do think it would hold its own against most. In either case, it was a welcome change of pace in a country where the men drink stout and the women drink Lighthouse - with pride. It was also unique enough to stand out from other chocolate stouts that I've had in the past. And this should not surprise, as the chocolate is from cacao grown by Maya farmers in southern Belize, something to which no other beer can lay claim. After drinking about half the bottle, I was actually reminded of the traditional cacao drink of the local Maya population - a kind of watery, sweet, chocolatey drink popular in the nearby villages. The stout is sort of like that cacao drink, with very little in the form of additional flavors coming through. In the end, the beer left a chocolate taste in my mouth, and I love chocolate, so I would never complain about this beer! Thanks Belikin, and thanks Belize. My beer-life for the last year and half did lack in variety, but I made it through thanks to the adequacy of the brewers at Belikin.

And in keeping with the spirit of things around here, how about a poem in the form of the Belize National Anthem:

O, Land of the free by the Carib Sea,
Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty
No tyrants here linger, despot must flee
This tranquil haven of democracy
The blood of our sires which hollows the sod,
Brought freedom from slavery oppression's rod
By the might of truth and the grace of God.
No longer shall we be hewers of wood.

Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Put on your armours, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants let despots flee-
Land of the free by the Carib Sea!

Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,

O'er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold
Drove back the invaders; this heritage hold
From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
Through coral isle,over blue lagoon;
Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
For freedom comes to-morrow's noon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oatmeal, Pumpkins, Funk, and Tamarind

I've never cared for blogs that do not have at least one picture per post. With something like a beer blog I need something...anything. A hydometer reading is even fine. I still do not have a camera right now and it is killing me.

My last post was for my Pumpkin Mole Stout. This was bottled in the past few days and I was shocked to see the hydrometer read 1.010 as a final gravity. It is a bit dryer than I expected, a bit too much heat without enough chocolate, however it is spiced up just right for a pumpkin. It will be interesting to see what comes of this in the next few weeks after some time in the bottle. It is going to be a great holiday brew. Halloween or Thanksgiving? I lean more toward Halloween.

I wanted to rebrew and tweak my Dark Farmhouse Funk recently as well. I love this beer and I am happy that I didn't give too much of it out. I can't wait to see if I get more complexity out of it over time. There were plenty of changes I wanted to make and now  it is less like a rebrew and more like a completely different beer. When I first brewed it I was going for a Bretted Black Saison. This time around it is more like a Belgian Brown/ Bruin. It is only 3 weeks since brew day and the original Farmhouse sat of 4 months. I've got all Fall and winter for this. I used bottle dregs on the first brew. This one has Brett, Lacto, and Pedo in the secondary.

In 4 weeks I have an Art Opening that I wanted to brew for. I did this early in 2011 for an opening and wanted to do the same this year. So I asked Julian Heal to brew up an Oatmeal Stout with me. Art Opening crowds are tricky to brew for. IPAs are great and Pale Ales are not as fun. If I am going to drink it I like it a bit hoppier than your average crowd would like and that is not fun. Dark Beers turn people off. It is weird. When the sky turns black at 7:30pm during the year, stouts and porters are perfect. An Oatmeal Stout sounds light enough for a crowd.

The brew session for out Oatmeal Stout was great. We started at 7pm and finished around 12:30. Jules gave me carte blache on the recipe. It is probably a bit too involved. My goal is to simplify my recipes a bit more. There are 7 grains in this brew and I am sure that at least 1 is unneeded, but when you have six grains, 7 or 8 is fine too.  I was most excited to finally have a stir plate. Up until now, my Mr. Malty yeast starters were pretty good (at least 10-20% close). This one was spot on and blew the airlock off the conical. I can't say that I am pleased with that result, but after a dump and tasting we'll see what we get.

In two more weeks the entries for Farmer's Cabinet Iron Homebrewer challenge are due. Last year I attended with Julian but did not brew. It is a special ingredient challenge with some nice guest beer aficionados (mostly BJCP certified). Last years ingredient was a Smoked Cherry wood Rye. This year we get Tamarind. I am not sure how to work correctly with tamarind. It is so tart and there are plenty of good options to use it with, but when the goal behind the challenge is how well that you use the ingredient, you want it to stand out and not be overpowering. There seems to be a fine line with tamarind. A tamarind Berliner Weisse sounds great, but then you are working with tart and tart. I think Belgians would melt great. The spiciness from the yeast and tartness from the fruit marry nicely in my head. With the brew using a secret ingredient I have a tendency to be secret with my brew for the time being. I look forward to talking about it next week in a post.

Oatmeal Stout
Pale Malt, Flaked Oats, Flaked Barley, Chocolate Malt, Crystal 80, Roasted  Barley, 
Carafa III, Special B.
Galena and Willamette Hops
WLP 004 Irish Ale

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brewing: Pumpkin Mole Stout

Old Photo. I lost my camera in Baltimore last week.

The idea for this beer came out of a desire to make a Pumpkin beer, although I am not a big fan, and to further experiment with some ideas by the "other guy" that blogs on this site. That was a slight jab at Doug. He has been living in Belize and has to drink the same beer all the time. There is not much he can do here, EXCEPT, throw ideas my way about using mole in a beer. If you do a simple search, a few homebrewers have published their successes at using mole. Commercially I have been seeking out New Holland's El Mole Ocho, New Belgium's Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole (which I missed on tap in Baltimore on a weekend trip last weekend. The tap list was 95 deep. I was bound to miss one), and the various others out there that are probably incredibly difficult to get your hands on.

With so much going into this batch, the ideas of using actual pumpkin seemed to be another time sensitive (under 15 mins) "thing" to consider. What the hell though. I picked up a few 1lb boxes of organic pumpkin puree. It seemed to be the best idea based on research. This was only a 3.5 gallon batch by the way (1.074 gravity). I made a nice little concoction of the necessary "pie" spices. The major issue was going to be anything too overpowering with both the mole mix and pumpkin mix. I was looking for more mole with a bit of a pumpkin coming through rather than the other way around. With everything going into it, the mole, was a cheapened version of what it should be. I drew 2 quarts of wort at 20 mins and kept a low flame on it on the stovetop. I added 2oz of cacao powder, ancho chili powder,  and a dash of paprika and red pepper. At 1 min I threw in a deseeded pablano pepper for some extra heat. More chocolate will come in the secondary as I am sure it will be needed.

The recipe of the stout was a slight variation of last years Chocolate Stout, but with more oats, more flaked barley and a Canadian Pale Malt instead of Maris Otter. I used WLP San Diego Strain on this one too. I love this strain and the blow off came with in the first 6 hours. The smell is pretty delightful, but I must admit that the pepper at flame out is scaring me a bit. 

Pumpkin Mole Stout
Pale Malt, Munich, Flaked Oats, Flaked Barley, Chocolate Malt, Crystal 120, 
Roasted Barley, Carafa III.
Fuggle Hops
WLP San Diego Strain
16 oz Pumpkin Puree, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, All Spice.
Cacao Powder, Ancho Chili Powder, Red Pepper, Paprika, Pablano Pepper

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hoppy Pale Wheat

Hoppy Pale Wheat or Wheat IPA? It is a style that I have not brewed often enough to find what I am looking for in an end result. I can't even say that there are many commercial examples that I have had. A few years ago one of my local bottle shops parted with a 3 Floyds Gumballhead. We never see 3 Floyds in PA (not even in Philadelphia). It was great beer none-the-less. I guess Lagunitas Lil-Sumthin Sumthin weighs in on this category also despite the higher 7% ABV. I am sure that there are plenty of others, but I don't seek out too many of them unless they are on tap somewhere.

Brewing a low ABV hoppy brew gets a bit confusing for me and has been requiring tweaking recipes multiple times before brewing, especially with a grain bill that has very little specialty malts and wheat as the predominate base malt. By the way, the OG on this brew was 1.042. On our Session IPA a few months ago we used a pound of hops, but with a Vienna/ 2 Row base, Crystal 60, and Honey Malts there was plenty for the hops to mellow out with. The grist for this brew was Wheat (50%), 2 Row(45%), Crystal 40 and Caravienne and Simcoe,  Cascade, Amarillo, and Citra for Dry Hopping. Overall 8oz of hop madness. I've also been washing my yeast whenever possible. My 2nd generation Cali Yeast was used for this.

Drowning in Wheat - John Kinsella

They’d been warned
on every farm
that playing
in the silos
would lead to death.
You sink in wheat.
Slowly. And the more
you struggle the worse it gets.
‘You’ll see a rat sail past
your face, nimble on its turf,
and then you’ll disappear.’
In there, hard work
has no reward.
So it became a kind of test
to see how far they could sink
without needing a rope
to help them out.
But in the midst of play
rituals miss a beat—like both
leaping in to resolve
an argument
as to who’d go first
and forgetting
to attach the rope.
Up to the waist
and afraid to move.
That even a call for help
would see the wheat
trickle down.
The painful consolidation
of time. The grains
in the hourglass
grotesquely swollen.
And that acrid
chemical smell
of treated wheat
coaxing them into
a near-dead sleep.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No-Boil Berliner Weisse

I love Berliner Weisses, however the irony is that I have not had many of them. Locally I have loved Nodding Heads Berliner Weisse. It is beautiful, crisp and tart as can be. 1809 is the classic example and it is an amazing beer to use as a comparison against any. When I come to think about I have primarily enjoyed and had only locally brewed examples: Earth Bread and Brewery, Tired Hands, Round Guys and Dock St. Dogfish Head's "Neo" Berliner, Festina Peche is probably the most accessible.

So my Berliner was a shot in the dark. I went for the no boil method and single decoction. This was my first time decocting and I hit my target temp nicely upon return. However, no boil or not, this Philadelphia summer heat is killing me and cooling down with 10 pounds of ice isn't any easier. Getting below 90 degrees is the issue without an extra 20 mins of the hose/ice bath method. I do look forward to attempting a sour mash next time, but it has to be in the Fall or Spring. Berliners aren't just a Summer treat for me. 

I racked after 11 days. I used the White Labs Berliner Weisse blend. I eased into this batch. I read about a lacto starter and dry yeast in conjunction for those who have brewed before and didn't get the tartness that they were expecting. I am in no hurry, so with a few months at a nice basement temp, I have my fingers crossed. I threw in 8ozs of Acid Malt too. It was my first time using it and after noshing on the grains before cracking them, I am hoping that time will really take hold of it.

That Old Tart Spring Again
Rae Desmond Jones

Offering your usual false promises,
You have arrived early this year like a blousy aunt
In a voluptuous taxi of light,

Draped in those bright loose fashions -
Far too tight at your age,
Flashing your heels as you trudge the backyard,
flirting outrageously
As you sway indelicately between the stones.

Despite your long record of hypocrisy & corruption,
& still uninvited, yet you are welcome,

So croon your perfumed defiance into the bitter winds,
Flirt with the exhausted winter flowers
As they rise in rows from the dark trenched earth.

Despite ourselves we are cheered by your cheap rhetoric,
Anaesthetized yet again by your charm & certain of betrayal. 

Berliner Weisse
Pils, Wheat, Acid Malt
Tettang Hops
WLP 630 Berliner Weisee Blend

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tasting: Dark Farmhouse Funk

For months now I have referenced this "Dark Farmhouse Funk" beer that was brewed in a while back. I had all intentions on brewing up a Black Saison. Low and behold I popped into my LHBS and they were out of saison yeasts. It was a Sunday and I really wanted to brew on Monday night. I never write about homebrew stores or owners, but Barry's Homebrew in Fishtown hasn't let me down yet. Granted I did want a Saison yeast, but the recommendations I got back were a bit more up my alley and kicked off my funk and sour brews that I just haven't yet made.

So the Bastonge Belgian strain from White Labs was what I was offered. Read about it. It is the Orval Strain. As for the grain bill, I is fairly complex and fun. Pils malt, Special B, honey, late addition raisins and orange rind and the dregs from two bottles of Jolly Pumpkin during primary fermentation. I mashed low (150) and boiled for 90 mins. I just upgraded my mash tun when brewing this and the extra thick walls hold the heat nice without any insulation and mashing out is quite nice with a false bottom.

The beer itself is dark brown with a nice funk, horse blanket aroma and raisiny, dark fruit upfront taste. It's s lightly acidic with a sweet honey finish. Hops are virtually non existent. I added an ounce of Amarillo at 60 mins hoping that there would be enough funk to hold this beer up. I am pleased as punch for this first attempt.

Dark Farmhouse Funk 
Pils Malt, Vienna Malt, Crystal 60, Honey Malt, Special B, Carafa II
Orange Blossom Honey, 8oz Raisins, Orange Rind
WL520 Bastogne Belgian Ale , 1lt starter (Dregs from JP La Roja)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tasting: Imperial Black

Imperial Black Death. 11.4% ABV
I aimed pretty high when making this Imperial Black Ale. It was one of the bigger experiments that I have taken on. It was my first time attempting an ABV > than 10% without a pound of extract for safety. It was also my first time fermenting on a yeast cake. I didn't have a real comparison at what I was going for. What I ended up with is a rich, jet black, sweet and pungent ale.

The roasted grains are cut by the pound of Orange Blossom Honey. It wants to be astringent, at least more astringent, but the honey is a bit over powering. It is boozy. There is no doubt about that. It took  longer than expected to carbonate. It wants to be served above 55 degrees. Think red wine. Take it out of the fridge and enjoy something comparable before hand. I wasn't sure how much I enjoyed it until the temperature was right. The Galaxy Hops play a nice encore. Dark, dank beers and grapefruit need a something like Simcoe to roll hand and hand together. I would have enjoyed another two ounces of hops, preferably Simcoe during the dry hopping. The Motueka Hops get a bit lost. Before Dry Hopping it was a bit more mellow. You almost didn't believe that the ABV would climb over 10.5%, and if it did, you would encounter some trouble. It drank too easily. Plums and raisins and other dark fruits surface as it warms. Again, think red white or Imperial Stout. There is more going on then if it was extremely hopped.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tasting: Single Hop Citra Pale Ale

It is going on almost two solid weeks of above 90 degree days in Philadelphia. Every time I prepare to make a yeast starter, exhaustion sets in and the last thing I want to do is brew. It is pretty sad. Almost pathetic. What is even sadder is that in about a week, the Belgian Pale and Session IPA kegs are gonna kick.

The Citra Pale Ale that Tim and I made is now bottled, carbed and is down to the last few bottles. We split the batch and my other half has been indulging a bit too much without me. Writing this post has been the first time that I have been able to sit down and pick it apart. The hops play a huge part in both the aroma and backbone of this beer. The pound of White Wheat gets pretty cut by the 8oz of Victory. I like nutty Pale Ale when a hop like Citra is so dominant. It is a beautiful golden color, perfect against the room darkening shades to keep the sun out of the house. So it is pretty much a cave beer. We kept the ABV lower on this. 4.8%. A bit astringent, nice carbonation, but over all straight forward Pale Ale. It would benefit from another ounce hops (either late addition or dry hopped). It would be nice to age on any summer fruit. I am thinking peaches and I am thinking that this will happen during the month of July. A year ago I made a Peaches and Cream Ale aged on Vanilla Bean. It was a great beach beer that my non beer drinking family thought tasted like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Belgo/ American Pale and Session IPA Tasting

Belgo/ American Pale Ale

This Belgo/ American Pale Ale was brewed for a small, non BJCP, friendly competition during Philly Beer Week. I am certainly not a fan of competitions, but I sure do like when you get to sample the other brewer's beers. It was the 3rd year for the Oakmont Cup in Havertown, PA. Year to year the style changes, but the comp. is a one style challenge. This was the year for Belgians. Dubbels, Triples, Sours, Pales, Saisons. Uggh. It seems like too many for one to stand out over another. is a friendly competition. A nice night to sit and  drink a dozen or so beers for free.

This style seems to be Julian's favorite. A month prior to brewing this one, I think that he found the recipe that most fit his palate, then I walk in with an Ardennes yeast and no candy sugar. After brewing this style for the first time, I am now more of a fan. I love the fruitiness of this yeast strain and sweetness from the Munich works well with the American Hops, but still leaves a good amount of spice to linger. I wouldn't change much on this recipe, but would love to play with different yeasts and more late addition hops.
Pic by Jonathan Slingluff

Our session IPA was a nice trial run for the style. This was brewed as an Anniversary Ale for the Slingluff Gallery in Philadelphia. The gallery is sandwiched in between and around some terrific beer bars and with a beer fest mere 4 buildings down the street, it seemed like a good idea to brew something for the occasional stumbler as well as an afternoon delight beer that doesn't weight in too heavy. This IPA clocked in around 5% ABV. Not guideline sessionable, but with a pound of hops and great conversion, this recipe has so much to play with when brewing it again. Our first hop addition wasn't until the 30 minute mark, with most being added at and after 5 mins. I've never used Vienna as a primary base malt, and it without a doubt provides a smooth, biscuity addition. Galaxy Hops and Citra really do play nicely together. Citrus and Summer Fruit bombs to say the least.

Watermelons: Charles Simic
Green Buddahs
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
and spit out the teeth.

There are a boatload of Tasting posts to come in the next few weeks. Single Hop Citra Pale Ale, Imperial Black IPA, Dark Farmhouse Funk are all conditioning nicely. As for recipes for the Session IPA and Belgo/ American, here ya go.

Belgo/ American Pale Ale
Pils, 2 Row, Munich, Caravienne Malts
Warrior, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo Hops
Wyeast Belgian Ardennes

Session-Style IPA
Vienna, 2 Row, Crystal 60, Carapils, Honey Malts
Citra, Centennial, Cascade, Galaxy
White Labs San Diego Super Strain

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tasting: Table Saison

This is the 5th saison that I brewed over the past year. I haven't found the right mix and match until now though. A German Pils base malt was attempted in two of them. An American 2 Row in another. I usually use a a Wyeast Belgian Saison and have tried both American citrus hops and Noble variety. Some I have herbed with sage and some with coriander and pepper. I have oaked and fruited some and usually feel underwhelmed with my overall expectations.

I aimed for a 4.5%< on this one. My first few uses on my new mash tun left me with very poor efficiency. I first thought that it was due to heat loss when using under 10lbs of grain. The false bottom also threw me off with my water to grain ratio. Insulating the pot helped in no way shape or form. I now find the direct heat method works wonders. A low maintenance flame and stirring every 15 mins as done the trick.

The yeast/ hop combo is what I am most pleased about with this recipe. I used a saved/ washed White Labs 510 Bastogne Belgian Ale with EKG hops and 60 mins and Sorachi Ace at the end of the 75 min boil. I currently have 2 other batches fermenting on this yeast ( a dark farmhouse-style with JP dregs and a Strong Belgian Pale w/ Brett B). Neither recipe says much about the primary yeast strain anymore, however, the Farmhouse is coming along nicely and just about ready to be bottled.

This saison has a very light body, spicy upfront with a nice lemon aftertaste. The Sorachi Ace work nice with the honey malt. A slightly higher mash temp kept it from turning out too dry and primary fermentation was at around 72-75 degrees. My saisons brewed mid summer are always fermented around the mid-80s. With this saison ready before Summer officially hits, I am sure that it will be gone by before July comes around.

Table Saison (Saison Lan)
Belgian Pils, Honey Malt, Caravienne, Wheat
EKG and Sorachi Ace
WL 510 Bastogne Belgian Ale

Friday, May 25, 2012

Partial Mash Day

I brew solo most of the time. I tend to brew on random nights after work, Mondays or Tuesdays. If I am sure that I will brew I have my starter going a few days ahead of time. Maybe I get sidetracked and throw it in the fridge. Usually I have it planned out a bit though.

Lately I have been enjoying brewing with someone else. I've been brewing with The Heal Brother's every month now since November. Yesterday, I brewed with the first person to get me into homebrewing. Tim brews 5 gallon extract batches. Last year, one year ago, we brewed an all grain Amarillo Pale Wheat. This year we decided to brew again, almost a year ago to the day. Memorial Day weekend 2012 was a partial mash year. But yet again, a single hop year. Tim has the best homegrown hop system that I've seen. I counted sixteen, 25-30ft lines spanning across his homestead stretching up the side of the house, or up the newest contraption dubbed, Good Ship Hoppy Hop or Hopistad (Amistad). Yes, it looks like a ship.

I forgot how fun Partial Mashes can be. Granted we did use 6lbs of grain on what should be a pretty decent Citra Pale Ale. The well water on the property is outstanding. I get so use to filtered Philadelphia water that I forgot that something so delicious still comes out to the earth as close to as 50 miles from my house. This is a low gravity beer, session-like beer. I am hoping to have it bottled in 3 weeks.

Citra Pale Ale
2 Row, Wheat, Victory, Crystal 40, Carapils
Citra Hops
Monocacy Water
California Ale Yeast

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mini-Micro-Session IPA

Working on The Heal Brother's
 Brew Rig. Photo by J.K. Slingluff.

Philly Beer Week is approaching. A few months ago fellow brew collaborator, Julian Heal and I were asking to participate in a couple events, the 3rd Annual Oakmont Cup and a Homebrew Tasting Night at The Slingluff Gallery. I've been anxious for both. The Oakmont Cup isn't a sanctioned contest, but it is a nice opportunity to semi-compete for patron's palates. A little alliteration goes a long way. Every year the contest is about one beer style only. Belgians take the cake in 2012.

For the Homebrew Night at The Slingluff Gallery we aimed to take it low. A low gravity treat with hops to knock your socks off (Keep your feet off the walls, it's an art gallery). The gallery is right in the midst of Barcade, Johnny Brendas, Memphis Taproom, Kraftworks, and an on going list. There will be plenty of events ending Philly Beer Week, but this just so happens to fall on the The Slingluff Gallery Anniversary, and with beer running the city for a week we shot for brew that won't put you face down on the concrete as you make your rounds around town.

The Oakmont Cup is on Tuesday, June 5th from 7pm-9pm in Havertown, PA.
The Slingluff Gallery Event is Saturday, June 9th. TBA.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Imperial Black Ale

I've got about a week to go before I bottle this one. The past few months have been devoted to brewing Belgians and I am in need of a well hopped American IPA. This beer was my first time fermenting on a yeast cake. It was everything that you have read about. It took off in about 2 hours and was vigorous for about 4 solid days. I didn't hit my original gravity, 1.102, but at 1.094 I was still pretty pleased. My worry came from pitching a 3 gallon batch onto the cake from a 5 gallon batch and getting some off flavors from stress. I also adding a bit of dextrose at high krausen. I was pleased to find out a week later that everything when fine. I did get great attenuation and 2 months later it is sitting at around 9.8%. I am excited for a first tasting post.
Sweet Honey: Joyce Hemsley

'Good Morning hairy bumble bee
Have you stopped by to talk with me?
You seem to be in a frantic rush
Humming and buzzing from bush to bush.

A little bird told me the story
At the end of summer you must die,
I will miss your yellow striped body
Humming and buzzing and drifting by.

But please, don't ever try to sting me.
Because if you do, you'll surely die
And I would be so full of sorrow...
So bumble bee, don't even try!

Just peacefully collect the nectar
From your favorite summer flower
And I will live in gratitude
As your sweet honey I devour.'

Imperial Black IPA
Maris Otter, 2 Row, Crystal 80, Carafa III, Chocolate, Orange Blossom Honey
Columbus, Motueka, Citra, Galaxy
American Ale 2


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Birthday Beer List

Sign for Shawnee Craft Brewing Brewpub

Shawnee Craft Brewing: Bourban Barrel Porter
Shawnee Craft Brewing: Double Pale Ale
Saint Somewhere: Lectivo Devinia
Allagash Brewing Co: Curieux
Farmers Cabinet: American Nightmare
Stillwater Artisan: Existent
Saint Somewhere: Saison Anthene
Ithica Brewing Co: Flower Power
Clown Shoes: Supa Hero Double IPA
Flying Dog: Cujo
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan: Maracaibo Especial
Stillwater Artisan: As Follows
St. Fuellien: Blonde
Dark Horse: Double Crooked Tree
Goose Island: Matilda
Monks Cafe: Flemish Red
Earth, Bread and Brewery: Amerella
Earth, Bread and Brewery: Pale Ale
Brooklyn Brewing Co. The Companion
Stillwater Artisan: Debutant (Bottle)

My birthday was a few weeks ago. I treat that week like a vacation. I like to go to my favorite places and hit up some new ones as well. This year's list included an old hometown brewpub, Shawnee Craft, as well as my around the corner and through the woods spot, Earth, Bread and Brew and includes tap lists from Bookstore Speakeasy, Boilermaker, Union Jacks on the Manatawny, Barcade, Kraftworks, Belgian Cafe, and Old Eagle. I even made time to brew and hit up Yards for a brew tour.

Every beer on this list stands out to me so I am not picking a favorite. Stillwater's As Follows was pretty amazing and was a huge influence on my last brew session. I have read about five different discriptions of this beer and I will throw it in the ring to contend as a Strong Belgian American Pale. It weighed in around 9% and that is where that description throws a monkey wrench in wording of, American Pale.

Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem should be a trip for every beer lover in and around Philly. Brought to you by the people at Farmer's Cabinet and Boilermaker, it was around before defunct Fork and Barrel and paired nicely with Tap and Table's Emmaus farmhouse atmosphere. Yes, Tap and Table, defunct as well. Bookstore is on a side street behind a metal door stamped with the establishments name. Walk in through the doorway and there you have books galore in a tiny room with a podium and hostess. You'll find yourself led through velvet curtains into a tiny ceiling space with jazz bouncing across the room. The tap list is small. I believe 6 at most, but for my visit included Saint Somewhere, a few Mikkeller's, a rare to find Hitachino and a Darkhorse. Think Fork and Barrel more than Farmer's Cabinet. It is delightful.

Happy Belated to me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tasting: Ginger/ Lemongrass Session

This beer was my first time working with another homebrewer's recipe. Last year while in Florida, Greenbriar Artisnal Brewer, Doug, opened up a bottle of his Ginger/ Lemongrass Session Pale Ale. I thought his beer was right on target. A beautiful beer, crisp and bright with the ginger not overpowering and overall pleasing to the palate. All brewers throw their own little tweaks in a recipe, but it is amazing when it comes out right the first time.

I subbed in a few ingredients for my version and I see why the original came through so well. Our base malts were different and Doug's addition of flaked maze really did make the crispness that a Florida beer needs. The ginger in my version was a bit too strong, although I used the same amount as called for, however I yielded about a .5 gallons less than the recipe. My efficiency was higher than usual on this one and I am still baffled at that. Overall I am pleased, and for the first time I am hoping some of the flavor subsides. I would have also liked to keg this one as well. I will probably end up making this again, but sticking to the exact recipe and see if it is all I remember it to be.

Ginger Hair
Simon Gowen

I’m a feisty little red head.
I’m a mother and a wife.
I am clever and outrageous
I lead an interesting life.

There’s a stigma that surrounds us
Cos the colour of our hair
If you really got to know me
Then you wouldn’t think it fair

But I look upon the positive
That’s what I like to do.
We’re few and far between
And not as common place as you!

So if you walk along the street
Don’t stop and point your finger
Don’t mock me cos I have red hair
Respect me cos I’m GINGER! ! !

Ginger/ Lemongrass Session
2 Row, Vienna, Crystal 40, Carapils
Ginger Root, 2 units Lemongrass
Centennial Hops
Wyeast 1056

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tasting: Imperial Amber

This is a long overdue post. This beer has been kegged for over a month, but I'm pretty sure that I haven't handed out too many of them yet to get any other opinions on it. In January I was little inspired by Port Brewing's Shark Attack. I wanted something carmely and piney; hop forward while big and malty. While this was in the primary our Imperial Oak IPA was just about ready to be bottled. I wanted this to be the exact opposite of that beer. It is loaded with darker malts and C hops and heavily Amarillo dry hopped. The grain bill looked almost Barleywine(ish) and my big fear was that it would be unbalanced as hell.  Three ounces of Amarillo would hopefully take care of that. OG clocked in at 1.082. I might enjoy this a bit too much while April is finishing out. 

Imperial Amber
Pale Malt, Munich, Victory, Crystal 80, Carared, Carapils, Special B
Columbus, Centenial, Cascade and Amarillo Hops
American Ale 2

The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Katharine Tyran

There's music in my heart all day,
I hear it late and early,
It comes from fields are far away,
The wind that shakes the barley.

Above the uplands drenched with dew
The sky hangs soft and pearly,
An emerald world is listening to
The wind that shakes the barley.

Above the bluest mountain crest
The lark is singing rarely,
It rocks the singer into rest,
The wind that shakes the barley.

Oh, still through summers and through springs
It calls me late and early.
Come home, come home, come home, it sings,
The wind that shakes the barley.

*Imperial Amber to the left in photo. Plum Oak Saison to the right.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Farmer and the Ale

Dogfish Head/ Victory/ Stone: Saison du Buff (2012)
Elysian Brewing: Idiot Sauvion
Mikkelier: Ris a la M'ale
Du Stuise/ 3 Floyd Brewing: Shark Pants
Farmers Cabinet House Beer: Joy Division Series-New Dawn Fades
Clown Shoes: Tramp Stamp
Founders: Breakfast Stout
Daisy Cutter: Half Acre

The weather is to confusing lately. A few weeks ago I was all about Saisons and IPAs. It is amazing what 10 degrees lower will do to your palate. So for the past week I got every little last drop out of my keg of Milk Stout to both prepare for something new and in high hopes that the sun will shine again. I grew tired of waiting. And because I haven't written down a list of what I drank over the weekend in a while, I decided to throw out a few of my favorites.

I always look forward to a Mikkelier and 3 Floyds is always worth having when on the menu. When it is a Du Struise collaboration is extra worth it. Somehow I have been drinking Half Acre a lot recently. It is such a clean and well hopped Pale Ale that it is hard to pass up. I haven't had Founders BF Stout at all this winter, but I wound up having an early-early bird dinner yesterday that it was perfect to pair with the time and conversation. It was an old school Sunday dinner for me in the 3pm range.

The Mad Farmer Revolution
Wendell Barry

The mad farmer, the thirsty one,
went dry. When he had time
he threw a visionary high
lonesome on the holy communion wine.
"It is an awesome event
when an earthen man has drunk
his fill of the blood of a god,"
people said, and got out of his way.
He plowed the churchyard, the
minister's wife, three graveyards
and a golf course. In a parking lot
he planted a forest of little pines.
He sanctified the groves,
dancing at night in the oak shades
with goddesses. He led
a field of corn to creep up
and tassel like an Indian tribe
on the courthouse lawn. Pumpkins
ran out to the ends of their vines
to follow him. Ripe plums
and peaches reached into his pockets.
Flowers sprang up in his tracks
everywhere he stepped. And then
his planter's eye fell on
that parson's fair fine lady
again. "O holy plowman," cried she,
"I am all grown up in weeds.
Pray, bring me back into good tilth."
He tilled her carefully
and laid her by, and she
did bring forth others of her kind,
and others, and some more.
They sowed and reaped till all
the countryside was filled
with farmers and their brides sowing
and reaping. When they died
they became two spirits of the woods.

On their graves were written
these words without sound:
"Here lies Saint Plowman.
Here lies Saint Fertile Ground."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Strange Fruit: Part 2

Oak Plum Saison
Belgian Pils, Caravienne, Torrified Wheat, Special B
Saaz, Mount Hood, Zythos Hops
Wyeast Belgian Saison (1.2 lt starter)
3lbs Yellow Plums
3oz Hungarian Oak Cubes

A few days before making the Belgian Fruit Beer mentioned in the post previous to this one I brewed up a Saison. Although I felt it was a couple weeks early to brew a Saison I did have the weather in my favor. When you are reaching 70-80 degrees every day, a Saison hits the spot. I also saw The Bruery and some Stillwater's on tap a few times while I was out and about to sway my brewing schedule.

Again, I mentioned in the previous post that I had to play with varying temperatures last Summer and Fall, but this early Spring brought a nice stable 67-70 degrees in my basement with the help of a blanket or two wrapping the fermentor. For my OG on this batch I shot for 1.046 was almost right on. Wyeast Belgian Saison is as finicky as them come in my book. Just when you think that you stalled out everything revitalizes and is fine. I still let the primary go for 13 days. To bring fruit into this recipe I went back to my Plum Rye IPA and ended up getting 3lbs of Yellow Plums. You are not going to get a whole lot of secondary fermentation using plums. I was hoping for a bit of tartness. The Rye IPA was very pleasant, but with this yeast I didn't know what to expect. I left the plums soaking in Cabernet for the entire primary and the taste of them on racking day made me want some Sangria. The tartness of the plum and fruitiness of the wine was a nice blend. That brings us to the current week. The outside temp is dropping and with a week in the 50s and low 60s I figured that oaking it might be another nice addition. That is where this post ends. I am going to let it sit on the oak for about 14 days. Every other time that I have used oak it was a Stout or Porter and 30 days seemed to be what I gauged everything on. The one exception was the Oak Double IPA that we did this year and 2 weeks was plenty (by the way, a First Tasting Post on that beer should appear later in the week).

Cheers until then.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Strange Fruit

4lbs Raspberries in Secondary
Now is the time of year when I start thinking about fruit beers. It's not that I am a fan of them, but playing with different fruits and alcohols has been a big part of my brewing over the past year. Last year I worked on a few different saisons, mainly concentrating on different herbs, different yeast strains, higher and lower temperatures and overall getting to know the style of beer a bit better. Spring in Philadelphia is absurdly warm right now and it feels like a nice middle of the road temperature to work with.

I have access to a good deal of fruit grown last year and frozen. Raspberries were the majority in my options. I wanted a pretty basic base of Pale Malt, a bit of Wheat. Warrior hops seem to be something that have made it into two recipes last month so I went with it as the only hop at 60 mins. I wanted this to be a fairly big beer with an OG around 1.096. I planned on 3 lbs of berries at knock out and a 2 litter starter with 2 smack packs. This is sounding kind-of DFH Fort-like and as much as I would love to make something like that, I know there is so much time and knowledge to kick something like that out. I was recently sent a blog where the brewer made a 120 Clone and I assume that it is a similar fermentation process.

After primary is over I still plan on racking onto another 4 lbs of berries. Time and taste will tell.

Lesson Learned- Puree, Puree, Puree. I potato smashed 3 lbs of rasp. and wild berries. This resulted in a nicely clogged screen when draining into the fermentor. I planned on this so I had a strainer and large funnel sanitized and ready.

Brett Pellicle

After a month of sitting a top of 4lbs of raspberries in the secondary it looks no different that out of the primary. Why would it? The berries roused up a nice second fermentation adding plenty more tartness and haze. I pitched a vile of Wyeast Brett L. Let's see what happens.

Sour Belgian Raspberry
Pale Malt, Wheat Malt, Carapils
Warrior Hops
Wyeast Belgian Wit 
White Labs Brett L
Orange, Lemon, Lime Zest
3lbs of Raspberries (knock out)
4lbs of Raspberries (secondary) - Photo above

Here is a poem: 

Strange Fruit by Seamus Heaney
Here is the girl's head like an exhumed gourd.
Oval-faced, prune-skinned, prune-stones for teeth.
They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair
And made an exhibition of its coil,
Let the air at her leathery beauty.
Pash of tallow, perishable treasure:
Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod,
Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.
Diodorus Siculus confessed
His gradual ease with the likes of this:
Murdered, forgotten, nameless, terrible
Beheaded girl, outstaring axe
And beatification, outstaring 
What had begun to feel like reverence.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Batch #3

Double IPA
Brewed with Julian Heal

Canadian Pale Malt, US 2 Row, Munich, Belgian Pilsen, Crystal 40, Carapils
Warrior, Cascade, Centennial Hops
Wyeast American Ale II

I never brewed an Imperial before. Well...nothing that was supposed to be over 10% and actually hit both gravities. It was a perfect day to brew as it was the morning after the only real snow that Philly got all winter. That is what Imperials are for sometimes. A nice boozy treat that you can sip on when the winds are wiping around and you just want the winter to end. Well...that is my Northeast scenario. In this case it will be a nice treat where everything is just beginning to bloom. That means it is hop planting season. Speaking of hops we have close to pound of hops in this beer.

We had a nice blow off by the morning after brew day. I wasn't there to see it, but it must have been a nice see that we had plenty of aeration before pitching our starter. It was also one of back to back brews that Jules made that day. Who starts off with an Imperial and ends with a Smoked Oaked Baltic Porter? After a nice primary we racked on to 4ozs of French and Hungarian Oak Cubes. After two 2 weeks it had plenty of oakiness so we racked off, let it sit again and dry hopped. With about eight weeks in we are getting ready to bottle. More pics to come soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hometown Brews

We took a day trip out of the city yesterday to visit my parents in North East PA. They live about 15 mins north of Scranton and the ride up I476 to the Turnpike Extensions is about a 2+ hour ride with zero traffic. Yesterday brought a series of snow squalls from Lansdale to Allentown. It was a nice to see that there is a winter outside of Philadelphia. There are plenty of decent beer bars up in the Scranton area, but it is rather difficult to get my parents (just one half) to have a meal based around craft beers. There was a nanobrewery just outside Scranton that just settled into the their hometown of Carbondale. This all happened in the past month so I was hoping to catch one of their beers on tap, and I did.

Three Guys and a Beer'd is the name of the brewery. Their website is still in the works, but from their Facebook page it looks like they eight or so beers readily available. Three of them were on at our dinner destination. I started out with Ladder Dive, a Rye IPA. I've always been a fan of Rye IPA. Philly's own Dock Street's Rye IPA has always stood out as one of my favorites and I was pretty pleased with this beer as well. Like most Ryes there is a bit of sensory overload. Sweet and piney and citrusy and spicey.  My only disappointment was in the bar's glassware. Unfortunately frosted mugs don't make an easy transition from shitty domestic lagers and pilsners toward anything craft. I always worry that frosted mugs equals frosted cleaner which in turn leads nighttime sickness.  They had an American Wheat and an Irish Red on also. I don't have a tendency to gravitate toward either of these styles, but I had a nice fish dinner so I went for their wheat, Wheat the People. This one can pass in a frosted glass. It was a classic, clean US Wheat. It took them a few tries to get me the right beer though. First they gave me a lager, then the Rye IPA again, and finally the Wheat. Fortunately I had they left the Rye on the table and I got enjoy both of them.

On the way back to Philly we made a stop in the Poconos. Both my wife and I lived in Stroudsburg prior to moving to Philly. There are a few brew pubs around the area with most recently, Shawnee Craft Brewing Co. being available outside their tasting room. I've heard about Shawnee for a while and have even had some Philly friends stop at their tasting room last year. Their Session Porter was on tap along with a Blonde. I tried both and was overall pleased with these two as well. The Porter was super rich with nice dark fruit notes and plenty of body of a session beer. At around 4% it was a nice beer to enjoy before an hour ride home. Their Blonde, which I am assume is their Biere Blanche was a bit more of my style of wheat compared to the Three Guys American Wheat. Nice peppery notes, a bit puckery and dry finish made this beer a winner for me. But overall I both breweries make coming and going and a new treat for me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tasting: Dubbel de Figs

Dubbel de Figs was my second collaboration with friend, long time homebrewer, Julian Heal. Julian and his brother, Tom, have been brewing for well over a decade and since 2010 have been making batch after batch on their Brew Magic system. For me, getting out of the basement or patio and working on a piece of equipment like this is a nice change of pace.

It is all in a name, and Dubbel de Figs is just that. A nice Belgian-Style Dubbel with figs added at every stage of brewing (1st Wort, Mash, Boil and Fermented). The end result was a cloudy, dark amber concoction pleasing to the nose and palate as a Belgian should. It starts off nice and sweet, a bit nutty with a bit of dark fruit (raisiny and or figgy), and of course yeasty. The head dissapated quite quickly. Jules kegged his 5 gallons and we bottled mine. We bottle from a conincal fermentor, so the priming sugar was probably a bit uneven bottle to bottle. There is a subtle spiciness to it from the star anise and cloves, but it is probably all in the yeast. (Belgian Abbey).

We started our first collab. of the year with a Double IPA. You can read about that in the Spring.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Tasting: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Stout

I was stoked to make this beer from start to finish. I read about a clone of Lost Abbey's Judgement Day where the raisins were added for the entire boil. Judgment Day is a sweet beer to begin with so I wasn't sure how this one was going to work. I now feel like the silkiness that the oats tend to add are insignificant.

Of all the stouts that I made for the winter (Chocolate Stout, Chocolate Cherrywood Stout, and the Rum Raisin Stout, and even the Date and Molasses Porter), I tweaked each ingredient list here and there; Maris Otter base malts, 2 Row, Roasted Barley or Flaked Barley, Oats and Carafa 2 and 3, just to get a better understanding of the grains themselves. I used a half pound of raisins in the boil and then racked onto another half pound of raisins the were in a dark rum for 14 days. It has been great playing with different alcohols, woods and fruits this year. Peaches and Rum, Cherrywood/ Bourbon, Oak/ Bourbon Raisins and Dates even Plums and Bourbon. This year I hope to get into a few others.

I give this beer a solid B+. It is very sweet, but the rum added to that and I would rather see it come through on the heavy side rather than always wonder how much is enough. I can now start to scale back. The head on this dissipated very quickly, but from the picture above you wouldn't guess. I am thinking that the raisins are the culprit. I was away for a few weeks during all of these dark beers while they were racked so they all had plenty of time to be undisturbed or bottled too early. I am learning to be patient.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yeast Starter Anatomy

Smack your pack or take you vile out of the fridge to room temp.

I only got into the fun and importance of making yeast starters in the fall last year. I made half batches for so long that one packet of yeast was plenty for 3 gallon high gravity beers. Last night while enjoying the last beer made last year, a Single Hop (Palisade) Pale Ale, a friend found something off about it. Out of no where he asked if I made a starter and I actually didn't. It was the first time I didn't out of 8 or so recipes. So here is my usual set up for making one. Yeast Nutrient optional.

For a 5 gallon batch with a 1,000 ml starter use 3.5 ozs of DME. Consult Mr. Malty though for correct number of yeasties that you need for your recipe.

15 Min boil of your DME in one pint of water.

Chill baby Chill. 15-20 Mins is usually enough time.

Keep it Clean!

Keep it really clean!

Wait 18-24 hours. Give it some swirls if you are not using a stir plate. Use an airlock, tinfoil, or foam stopper. Consult other books, blogs, and forums. Everyone does it different.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Tasting: Batch #20

Molasses and Date Porter
This batch was a fun colaborations with Mi Esposa for the holidays. We decided that there is no greater gift than something handmade. In this case we wanted to be handmade, fermented and around 7% ABV. All gifts need an alcohol content.

I am lying when I said this was a first tasting. I sampled it a few times before I knew that it was significantly carbonated. At room temperature the sugars from the molasses and dates came through great. The aroma was pretty sweet, but the dark fruit had a way of making a bit of funk with the molasses.

After another week, chilled and ready to drink I was pretty pleased with it. Nice, warming alcohol notes smacked your lips leaving them a bit sticky. It is a jet black porter. I that we held back enough on that the black patent malt and it wasn't too bitter, but worked well with the fruit. Giving these up as gifts was a bit difficult. We labeled a few and waxed the caps for a presentable present for the "Feasts for the Dead." The wooden 4 pack holder was a fun gift to make as well. The idea was picked up from BYO magazine.

Cheers and Happy New Year