Sunday, December 14, 2008

New England Cider and Wild Cider

Back in October during the peak of apple season here in New England I decided to experiment with some cider. I bought 4 gallons of unpasteurized cider from a local orchard.

Three gallons went into a fermenter with 1 cup chopped raisins and 12 0z molasses. The raisins and molasses were boiled with some water to sanitize. The total volume ended up at 3.5 gallons at an OG of 1.060. Fermentation was done with Lalvin 1118 Champagne yeast. When fermentation finished White Labs 675 Malo-lactic bacteria (I think this is just Pedioccocus and Lactobacillus) was added. This is supposed to smooth out harsh acidity from the apples. After six weeks I bottled the cider with an ounce of corn sugar for a slight bit of carbonation

The fourth gallon of fresh cider went into its own fermenter by itself. I wanted to find out what happens when the cider is left to its own devices and yeast. After about 2 weeks there was a small krausen and after another week the airlock was releasing at 5 second intervals. Even though I was encouraged by the apparent fermentation the sulfur smell was off putting. Even though fermentation has finished and the cider cleared brilliantly I am holding off on bottling in hopes that the unpleasant smells will dissipate.

1883 Guinness Porter Tasting

The beer appears to be black as its poured but a close looks shows a dark red. Given that Crystal 40 and Chocolate malt added up to only 15% of the grist this is surprisingly dark. One finger of foam can be coaxed with an aggressive pour.

The aroma is a bit fruity from the yeast. The taste gives an interesting combination of fruitiness at the start followed by an unusual roastiness (spell check tells me that roastiness is not a word, I'll say empyreumatic instead). I presume this empyreumatic flavor comes from mashing/boiling the chocolate malt separate from the main mash. The hops play their supporting role well.

Overall an interesting brew. Next time I brew a porter or stout, I will remove the Crystal malt in favor of some Amber and Brown malt. A cleaner yeast that does not compete with the malt might be nice as well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

1883 Guinness Export Stout/Porter

As an obsessive reader of Shut up about Barclay Perkins, it was only a matter of time before I brewed a historical stout recipe. I decided on 1883 Guinness Export Stout since it is likely the closest to Special Export Stout that Guinness only sells in Europe. The recipe has probably changed over the last 125 years but this is a historical brew, sort of. The malt ratios and hopping rate can be found here. The brewing store does not stock amber malt so I substituted Crystal 40. The reasoning for 400 L Chocolate malt is "Properly made black malt had an even chocolate brown colour..." according to W.L. Tizard in "The Theory and Practice of Brewing." (Source) I also boiled the chocolate malt separately from the mash as recommended by Tizard.

10/26/2008: 4:00 PM - Pitched starter of yeast collected from Red Ale (originally from Oerbier).
10/26/2008:9:00 PM – Fermentation started.
10/27/2008: 10 AM – cropped yeast.
11/1/2008: Racked to secondary. 1.014 SG.
11/14/2008: Bottled with 2.5 oz corn sugar.

55 percent efficiency knocked the gravity down below even the 1883 Guinness Porter. Oh well, this should still turn out as an interesting historical brew. The fermentation starting within 5 hours amazed me. That Oerbier yeast seems to be some sort of Barry Bonds like freak. Surely, we'll find out in 5 years about its steroid use.

As the picture shows, the beer looks the part of Guinness. The taste is very fruity at first then gives way to a great lasting roastiness. And I do mean lasting. I could taste it for a good ten minutes after finishing the sample. The fermentation character up front was still somewhat rough at bottling. I hope that calms down when conditioned after several weeks in the bottle. An update will surely be coming!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Red Ale

This beer was my first all grain brew. I hoped to create a beer similar to Oerbier from De Dolle Brouwers. I guessed at the grain bill just from what I could taste in Oerbier. I guessed at the hops as well. Though looking back I do not know why I put two ounces of 6.3 AAU Cascade hops into a beer that is supposed to feature the malt and yeast character. Overall the brew went fairly smoothly. Because I party-gyled this, making a Table Beer from the second runnings, I am not sure if I can accurately calculate the mash efficiency.

9/28/2008: 4:00 PM Pitched starter made from Oerbier sediment into 4 gallons wort.
9/29/2008: 10:00 AM (18 hours) – Airlock releases every few seconds.
9/30/2008: 3:30 PM (48 hours)Top Cropped ½ cup yeast. SG: ~1.030.
10/3/2008: Racked to secondary. ~1.013.
10/26/2008: Bottled with 4.5 oz honey.

I forgot to measure the OG before pitching but from the Pre-Boil OG I calculated 1.088. That gives an astonishing 91% attenuation and over 10% ABV. The attenuation seems wrong given its a grain only beer mashed at 158 F (I was aiming for 150 F).

The beer pours a deep clear red (although my awful photography fails to show this) with a off white head that quickly subsides. I can't decide exactly what it smells like. Malty. Fruity. Yeasty. The first sip immediately tastes grainy that changes into hop bitterness, which dominates the flavor throughout. There is some great malt and yeast flavors hiding behind the bitterness. The beer is very green right now and definitely needs some aging.

Overall I was happy with this as a first try at all grain brewing. The beer turned out alright but not great. The grainy flavor likely came from a hot mash and/or not monitoring the mash pH. I will likely tweak the recipe for lower alcohol, attenuation and bitterness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hoppy Belgian

This first beer is probably the best beer I've made. That makes for a good place to start. The goal of this beer was to combine the fruity flavors of a Belgian yeast strain with American citrus hops. Amarillo hops to be exact. I just made a British person cringe. "I say, proper beer does not taste like grapefruit." As for yeast food, pale dry malt extract and Caramel 20 gave the beer everything it needed. I will go into more detail when I get to the all-grain brews. To really bring out the hop flavor I dry-hopped with Amarillo flowers then bottle conditioned using honey.

The taste is resembles this year's Stone Vertical Epic. Considering I brewed this three months before the release of that I beer, the Stone beer gave me conflicting feelings. I was happy to not be alone on the idea of combining Belgian yeast with citrus hops, but now my beer was not so unique. I would say my beer is distinguished by the honey in the bottle and the touch of sourness from the fermentation. The honey adds no sweetness because its sugar is completely fermented. It does add to the wonderful aroma and a delicate spiciness to the flavor. The fermentation gave a touch of acidity (nowhere near a lambic or even an oud bruin) to accentuate the citrus and fruit flavors. Because fruit, especially citrus, contains some acid, the acidity in the beer was a natural combination.

This beer turned out exactly how I had hoped. Next time I brew it will be in the Spring and it will be an all grain batch. I might leave out the Caramel 20 malt to try to push the attenuation over 90%.

(Pardon the crappy picture, my camera sucks. Uh barman, my beer is blurry. And why is it in a wine glass?)

Obligatory Introduction

Hi, my name is Tim and I brew beer. In my kitchen. That is not unusual. But some of my beer wanders outside the bounds of normal brewing. Odd flavor combinations. Sour beer. Historical beer. Thats what I like and I have had the most success brewing. But I still have a lot to learn. So this will be a documentation of my tests and trials, successes and failures.