Saturday, April 5, 2014

Maple Mild

Hard to believe, but I managed to find the time to brew up another batch while my last one (this year's altbier) is still in the fermenter. After the success of last year's maple sap experiment, I wanted to give it a try again. This time my friend was able to collect plenty of sap for a full batch, so I went with last year's original plan to brew up a "regular" English mild (as opposed to the strong English mild I ended up with last year). I know I haven't posted tasting notes from last year's brew, but I still have a few bottles of that batch so I am hoping to get to it sometime soon. But since the sap has been running like crazy this year, I had 6 gallons of fresh sap I had to get to before it spoiled (yes, maple sap can go bad).

I went almost with the same grist as last year, but I decided to change it up at the last minute - subbing out the brown malt for some amber malt and adding just a touch of roasted barley to darken the color a tad (though, I fear that my LHBS didn't quite measure the roasted barley precisely enough as this beer seems darker than the expected color...measuring just 1 oz on the same scale used to measure pounds of grain is probably tough to do and a little extra roasted barley in this size batch can make a noticeable difference). I kept the same hop and yeast variety as last year to stick with a traditional British profile. This year's sap had a higher sugar content compared to last year - 2.3% vs 1.5% - so the OG ended up being a tad higher than I was shooting for. Still, this beer will likely come in somewhere around 4% ABV, making it nice and sessionable. Given the low gravity and highly flocculant yeast strain, I'm looking at a relatively quick turnaround time on this beer - maybe just 10 days total in the fermenter before getting it into the bottles. Of course, that would mean finding the time to bottle :)

Sweetwater Mild
Brewed on 3/29/14

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Estimated Color: 13.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
OG: 1.042

4 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 79.1%
8.0 oz Amber Malt - 9.9%
8.0 oz Crystal Malt (77°L; Crisp) - 9.9%
1.0 oz Roasted Barley - 1.2% (for mash pH)

~6 gallons of maple sap (SG = 1.009...I figure the amount of sugar from the sap would be the equivalent of ~7.5oz of sucrose)

8 g Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - 60.0 min
9 g Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - 30.0 min
11 g Bramling Cross [7.80 %] - 10.0 min

English Ale (White Labs #WLP002)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 153-154°F, Batch Sparge

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 Altbier

It has been one cold and snowy winter here. And busy. I haven't been able to find the time to brew like I had planned to. In fact, I missed the opportunity to use the spectacularly frigid weather to brew the German Pils I had planned. I'm bummed, but I'll just have wait until next winter to try again. For now, I will turn my eyes towards Spring and Summer brewing. Hopefully I can find some time over the next few months to knock out at least a few more batches. Luckily, I had time today to start with this year's Altbier.

Last year's altbier attempt went south before I could bottle it...poor planning on my part resulted in the altbier being fermented in a bucket I had previously used with Brett and I must not have sanitized as well as I thought I did. For this year's batch I used last year's recipe as a starting point, but I decided to up the grain bill a tad to get the OG up over 1.050 and, since I already had the hops I was going to use in the German Pils that never got brewed, I decided to just use those instead of going with the traditional Spalter hops.

Brew day went well, except I ended up a tad short on my volumes - nothing major..just a 1/4 gallon or so. I want to ferment this in the upper 50s/low 60s, but I am having a tough time finding a spot in the cellar that is just the right temperature. Most places are too cold - a testament to the winter we've had. I think I've got the right spot, but I'm going to keep my eye on it and will move it to a warmer-than-I-want spot if I have to. Spring weather is slowly, but surely, on its way.

brewed on 3/23/14

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.5 gal
Estimated Color: 14.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 47 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.6%

5.5 lbs Pilsner malt - 76.2 %
1 lbs Munich Malt - 13.9 %
8.0 oz Caramunich I - 6.9 %
2.0 oz Chocolate Wheat - 1.7 %
1.5 oz Acid Malt - 1.3 % (for mash pH)

16 g Northern Brewer [10.1%] - 60 min
14 g Hallertauer [3.9%] - 20 min
14 g Hallertauer [3.9%] - 5 min

Dusseldorf Alt Yeast (White Labs #WLP036)

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest - 133.0 F (10 min)
Sacch. Rest - 150.0 F (40 min)
Mash out (via 10 min decoction) - 168.0 F

Water - (estimated)
Ca: 129 ppm
Mg: 1 ppm
Na: 3 ppm
Cl: 148 ppm
SO4: 104 ppm

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow Day Porter (aka Fireside 2.0)

Frigid temperatures.  Blizzard conditions.  First day of the semester cancelled.  All non-essential employees told to stay home.  Kids' school cancelled.  Home for the day and snowbound.  Hmmm...what to do....what to do?

Lucky for me I had just picked up the ingredients to make a smoked porter.  With dry yeast to boot since I was not expecting to brew and so had not made a liquid yeast starter.  I've been wanting to brew this recipe for a while now - it is essentially the "Fireside Smoked Porter" I made a few years ago that turned out spectacularly.  I tweaked it slightly this time around - Chinook hops instead of Columbus (which was my original idea the first time except that back then I couldn't get any Chinook), more smoked malt, and just a touch more black malt (partly to darken it up a tad more, but mostly because doing so completed a numeric pattern in the grain weights...see recipe below...yes, I am that kind of guy).

Brew day went pretty well, except that my mash pH came out on the low side unexpectedly.  I use store bought spring water and have been using an old water report I got from the company as the basis for my salt additions.  It is possible the water has changed enough over the years to make a difference here.  I'll have to ask for a new report. I am not overly concerned about this, though my efficiency was a little lower than normal. I also ended up with 1 little more volume than I intended, leaving my OG a little lower than I was shooting for.

I have to admit that I wish I had brewed this beer a couple months ago - it would be nice to be drinking something like this during the current "arctic outbreak".

Snow Day Porter (Fireside 2.0)
brewed on 1/22/14

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 4 gal
Estimated Color: 30.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 49.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.051
FG: 1.013
ABV: 5.1%

4 lbs Pale Malt -  50.8 %
2 lbs Smoked Malt (Weyermann) - 25.4 %
1 lbs Munich I (Weyermann) - 12.7 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Wheat (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) - 6.3 %
4.0 oz Honey Malt  - 3.2 %
2.0 oz Black Malt (500.0 SRM) - 1.6 %

6 g Chinook [13.90 %]  - 60.0 min
14 g Chinook [13.90 %] - 30.0 min
14 g Willamette [4.80 %] - 15.0 min
14 g Willamette [4.80 %] - 1.0 min

0.5 oz oak cubes (medium toast, Hungarian) - in primary

Safale American (Fermentis #US-05)

Mash Schedule
Single infusion, 152°F, batch sparge

Monday, December 16, 2013

Autumn Brown Ale Tasting

With Fall officially coming to an end, figured it was about time to post some tasting notes on my Autumn-inspired Brown Ale.  It's been a busy season, with little time to brew or blog, but I'll make up for some of that in the coming months.

Abscission Ale

Appearance - Beautiful deep brown, with creamy tan head that slowly dissipates

Aroma - Malt dominates, with a nutty and toasty complexity.  Just a hint of smoke.  The hops bring an earthiness with a touch of spice that backs up the overall rich aroma.

Flavor - Follows the aroma.  Rich, earthy, and nutty/toasty.  Strong malt backbone, with a low level of sweetness, supported by the spice of the Challenger and EKG hops.  Just enough bitterness to carry the malt.  Exceptionally quaffable.

Mouthfeel - Moderate body with moderate-low carbonation (as intended).  Would be good with a bit more body, but, as it is, it works well.  At only 4.2% ABV, I was worried about it being too thin, but I think the the specialty malts give it just enough substance.  Next year, I may add some flaked grain and/or increase the crystal malt slightly just to up the body a bit more.  I'll use Maris Otter as my base malt as well (my LHBS was out when I picked up the ingredients this time around)

Overall - A great Fall season beer - dark and rich enough without being too heavy.  This beer did not last long, though I did manage to hold onto a few bottles to share with family at Thanksgiving - this beer paired excellently with the (beer-brined) turkey.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Summer IPA Tasting

Now that I've got the first fall seasonal beer brewed, I suppose it is past time to post some tasting notes for the IPA I brewed a back at the start of summer.

Firefly IPA

Appearance - Slightly hazy, orange-yellow with a thick, foamy white head.

Aroma - Fresh grapefruit and ripe melon. 100% hops. The Amarillo, Cascade, Citra and Motueka hops really work well together. The Motueka hops bring some non-citrusy fruitiness that adds another dimension to the aroma.

Flavor - Firm bitterness that lingers just long enough. "Grapefruit juice" definitely comes to mind. Nice dry, clean finish. Just enough malt to prevent the hops to becoming overly harsh. There's a slight hint of sulfur in there too, which I imagine is derived from the hops - it is just barely noticeable and does not detract from the flavor.

Mouthfeel - high carbonation, dry and slightly prickly on the tongue - perfect for a hot day.

Overall - I am very, very pleased with this beer, especially given it was my first-ever IPA attempt. I drank this almost daily there for a while. For my tastes this IPA had an excellent balance between being nice and hoppy withouth being overly bitter. I suppose it would fall on the "lower" side of the IPA scale, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Brown Ale

This is, by far, my favorite time of year.  Crisp, sunny days and cool breezy nights.  The summer vegetable garden is winding down and the leaves are starting to turn colors.  Temperatures are perfect for brewing too.

It just feels right to brew something darker and maltier as the days start to grow shorter.  One of my favorite Autumn commercial beers is Sierra Nevada's Tumbler , so I thought I'd try my hand at making something similar.  This is not an attempt at a clone exactly - though I did use info on Sierra Nevada's website to help guide my recipe.  I was looking for something rich and malty, something where the hops take a supporting role to the roasted malts.  I actually had hoped to brew this up at the beginning of the month so that it would be just about ready for the start of the fall season, but, as usual, time got away from me.  Still, it will be a good beer to have as the weather continues to cool down.

Abscission Ale
brewed on 9/19/13

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Estimated Color: 22.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 28.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.018
ABV: 4.2%

6 lbs Pale Malt, UK - 80.3 %
12.0 oz Brown Malt - 10.0 %
6.0 oz Crystal Malt (45L) - 5.0 %
4.0 oz Chocolate Malt (450L) - 3.3 %
1.5 oz Smoked Malt - 1.3 %

14 g Challenger [5.70 %] - 60.0 min
14 g Challenger [5.70 %] - 15.0 min
14 g EKG [5.70 %] - 15.0 min

California Ale (White Labs #WLP001)

Mash Schedule
Single infusion, 153ºF, batch sparge

Thursday, August 15, 2013

German Pils Tasting

I'll start off by saying that this, my first official lager, turned out great. As long as my cellar and garage temps continue to be low enough I think I will continue to brew one each winter. Now, on to the tasting...

Gartenwasser Pils

Appearance - Clear, pale gold. Thick, foamy white head that persists. Looks like a Pils should.

Aroma - Overall mild aroma. Noble hops and characteristic Pilsner malt "Graham cracker".

Flavor - Moderate bitterness up front that lingers just's there, but could perhaps use more for the style. SOme non-distinct fruitiness - probably from the New Zealand hops. Although they were of noble variety, these hops were noticably more fuity than their German counterpart. Some more noble notes mid-sip. Overall clean and crisp.

Mouthfeel - Crisp and dry, but not thin. Moderate carbonation. Creamy head.

Overall - Excellent beer. Perhaps on the milder side of the style. In fact, a German friend compared it to Warsteiner and said she prefers her Pils more "herber" (she said this is German for "dry/harsh/bitter"). It is well balanced, but, for this style, it could definitely be more bitter. I think it is also a bit fruitier than most traditional Pils thanks to my hop selection. Regardless, it is perfect after mowing the lawn on hot summer day!

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