Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Pumpkin Beer

A few days ago I made a comment on Appellation Beer about horrid pumpkin beer. It spurred a few replies spanning a wide spectrum of sanity and coherence. I feel that I need to expand on my little rant and defend my detest of gourdy libations.

First up is Lauren Buzzeo's reply to criticism of her list that sparked Stan's post and subsequent debate. I enjoyed her reply and she certainly showed some journalistic professionalism, even suggesting a survey of brewers about pumpkin beer. In light of other replies, I am content to agree to disagree.

The other comments in response to mine were somewhat bewildering. I was accused of short-sightedness. My comment was misinterpreted as railing against adjuncts. I WILL NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY... damnit.

This might be fine if bitter or pils were the subject. But the subject is a group of beers of which every one I've tasted (unfortunately too many) has been obnoxiously spiced mix with stomach churning aroma, taste and body. Every time I give another one a chance I'm reminded of Lewis Black's rant on candy corn, its even seasonally appropriate. As that rotten liquid runs over the back of my mouth... SONUFABITCH! I've never seen anyone want a second serving of pumpkin beer. Even the people who do like it struggle to put away a full pint.

It is true that pumpkin beer has been made for centuries. But those colonial brewers were not using pumpkins to add flavor. They were short on barley and were looking for other things to make booze. They also fermented parsnips and wood shavings. Maybe some "innovative" brewer should concoct parnsip and wood shaving ale fermented in a pumpkin. It will be great!

It seems I'm rambling so I will head toward some final grandiose point. I'm not too concerned about the comments in response to mine in particular. But seems people find a problem with not liking, even hating, something. The defenders of pumpkin beer are reminiscent of Mac fanboys, though not quite as ravenous.... yet. So I will just say all pumpkin beers are disgusting and I don't care who knows it or what they think about it. Actually, I hope my local brewers get the message.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tasting: Double Stout

I have been hotly anticipating this stout. As I had mentioned before, I have yet to brew a stout I was happy with. A new water profile after moving and a new recipe gave me hope that this would turn out well...

Pours the way an ideal stout should like used motor oil under a thick tan cap. Sticking my nose in the glass reveals many layers of roasted malt, from dark toast, chocolate and coffee to a bit of peaty smoke. The taste is more roast malt and bitterness. The hint of smoke is not the smooth campfire smoke of rauchbier, rather the peat and salt of scotch. But that is just a background note in the full on dark chocolate and toast that is the main flavor. Ultimately the body is not so heavy as to prevent repeated sipping. Finally I've brewed the stout I imagined.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Belgian Chocolate

I took advantage of the day off from class to brew and bottle some deliciousness. Out of the fermentor was the Double Stout, finishing at an adequate 1.012 and 8.1% ABV with wonderful smoky and roasted flavors. Into the fermentor was a Belgian-inspired brew with cocoa powder (fka Dubbel Chocolate). I changed the recipe from last to tone down the chocolate and up the fuitiness. Also no oak this year. I plan to add some frozen blackberries and plums in secondary to accentuate the fruit. Details below.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tasting: La Fontaine du Sang

The foam starts building in the bottle as soon as the cap is pried off. An experienced drinker, I have a special glass ready for my precious libation. This one shows some odd behavior when poured. The bubbles roll around slowly in suspension before lazily rising to the top, as if in a highly viscous liquid. The bubbles deceive though, the beer is actually quite light in the mouth. The color, a gorgeous deep burgundy, fits the name.

Quite a bit of complexity in aroma and flavor. Cherries and plums. Raisins and dried fruits. Apricot maybe. There is enough malt sweetness for this to be recognizable as beer but the underlying acidity accentuates the fruit and funk. I am very happy with how this turned out and it will take great patience to wait on the next pull from the solera.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SS Stout

I have yet to brew a porter or stout that has satisfied my picky taste in dark beers. I have high hopes for this hefty brew though. The recipe was formulated with the knowledge of stouts brewed in Britain in the late 19th century. How do I know what British stout recipes were like in the late 19th century? Well clicking here would be a start. The slight liberty I have taken is the use of Cherry Smoked Malt, which I can justify using to approximate the smoky flavor that some Brown malts of the period produced.

OG is an adequate 1.074. When I finished my kitchen looked the way my garage did after my first attempt at changing motor oil.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vertical Tasting: Les Framboises du Mal

With this year's batch of Les Framboises du Mal bottled and ready to drink I decided to open my second to last bottle of the 2008 brewing for a vertical tasting. I started with the the 2008 vintage...

Les Framboises du Mal 2008

Big foamy head over a deep red-orange beer that is perfectly clear to show off the streaming columns of plentiful CO2. Very fruity aroma with raspberries, light caramel malt, and the elusive pineapple brett scent. The Orval yeast is very apparent as aged Orval is a huge component of the aroma. The raspberry smell is more forward than I remember which could be the funky yeasts' doing. Finally taking a sip gives a soft dryness accompanied sub-acidity to tartness. A light malt sweetness remains. The raspberries appear in the middle which then giveway to some earthy mustiness. The 7+ percent alcohol makes no appearance. Time has been kind to this brew. I will try to hold off on the last bottle until next year in hopes a three year vertical tasting.

Les Framboises du Mal 2009

This bottle has yet to reach full carbonation so no head sat atop the shade more red than polished brass liquid. In contrast to the 2008 only an occasional buble meanders upward through the viscousity. The first whiff reaks of pungent lambic with a load of barnyard funk and a touch of almond nuttiness (odd but still nice). However, in the mouth the acidity level is much lower than a lambic but still quite tart. This beer is still rather sweet with plenty of raspberry and stone fruits. The sweet-sour balance is tilted more towards a true lambic to please me but hopefully not so far that it puts off my friends that have been anticipating this one. There is also the ropy mouthfeel you get in a real lambic. Worth the wait and I'm-afraid-to-add-up-the-cost-of-fruit. While this would cower in the shadow of the Rosé de Gambrinus, I feel I could fool some people in a blind tasting of lambics that what I have here is an honest to goodness Senne Valley blend. I plan on putting at least a case of this away for long term aging.

PS. Can you guess what I plan to brew next?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Funky Brewings

Finally another post for anyone that actually reads this modest brewing information repository. Between moving across the city and starting graduate school, blogging time has been nonexistant. Brewing history posts will, unfortunately, be even more seldom for a while and I will most likely only have time for quick posts on brewing activities.

Ahh, fall, time to start brewing again. The cool weather arrived early this year which means I have already brewed twice this fall. I cooked up another batch of saison early in September and this weekend I filled Saturday afternoon with a parti-gyle brew and bottling La Fontaine du Sang and Les Fleurs du Mal.

Only part of The Fountain of Flood was bottled. The remaining half was refilled with the first gyle to begin a solera. The second gyle received oak and a portion of my sour starter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dog Days of Summer Brew Update

When the temperature and humidity in the 90s, brewing just can't be any fun. Thus, since stocking up on saison in early July, nothing more intense than bottling has happened. I do have some aging beers that I can squeeze an update post out of.

Belgian Barleywine
When bottling the base beer I drew off one gallon to age some more with an "infected" oak spiral. Only bubbled a bit occasionally but never put up a pellicle. I figure at nearly 13% ABV that the bacteria and Brett. were killed off. Not much funk when I tasted it last week but it was still boozy and hot despite the extra aging time. I put it in the back of the refrigerator in hopes a few cold weeks will calm it down a bit. That main portion of the batch never carbonated so I will use wine or champagne yeast at bottling time.

La Fontaine du Sang
After two months in secondary, this one has just put up a bubbly and ropy white pellicle. A sample last week still tasted fairly clean and mostly like sweet caramel malt. Quite a ways to go for this one.

Les Framboises du Mal
I've added all the fruit I can afford to dump into beer, which now totals 5.5 lbs of raspberries and 12 oz plums from the fantastic Kimball Fruit Farm. The samples have tasted very sour and funky but I was dissappointed with the lack of fruit flavor and hue of the raspberry color, so I added plums to help rectify those problems. Although I have never heard of plums added to sour beer. The raspberries floating on top have beautifully disgusting crust.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Difference Between Porter and Stout

With Ron wasting the summer writing about trivial subjects like lager and travel, little progress has been made recently in droning on about important matters. Those matters of course are porter and stout, and the difference between the two. So here is a quote from and industrial chemistry manual published in 1921.

"Stout, with a very dark color, malt flavor and sweet taste, brewed stronger than ale, and possessing a tart taste in the aged product, but less alcohol than ale; usually lively. From worts of about 16 to 18 per cent extract.

Porter, with a dark color, brewed like stout, but not so strong."

-"Industrial Chemistry: A Manual for the Student and Manufacturer.", page 921.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tasting: Saison

What a wonderful feeling to open that first bottle of a much anticipated brew, raise it up to your nose, that first whiff encouraging glass to lips and take in all that goodness and hard work, comforting you that you made a beer just the way you drew it up in your mind.

Soft on the palate, a round maltiness (thank you Weyermann Vienna) gives way to a delicate bitterness. Then comes a yeasty pepper flavor along with floral and grassy flavors of several noble hops. A dry bitterness lingers. A spectacular beer for a night when both heat and humidity begin with an 8.

Crap, my glass is empty.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Inspired by a couple great beers, Saison Dupont and Ommegang Hennepin, I heeded the siren call of saison. To me, saison is four basic ingredients of beer combined in perfect harmony. Nothing fancy. Just the finest malts and hops fermented with a difficult yeast. That was the aim of this recipe.

4 lbs. Belgian 2-row pale malt
4 lbs. US 2-row pale malt
1 lb. Vienna Malt

60 Minutes - 0.75 Amarillo % AAU
60 Minutes - 0.5 ounce Saaz 6.8% AAU
15 Minutes -0 .75 ounce Noble mix*
0 Minutes - 0.75 ounce Noble mix*
*.5 ounce each of Saaz (6.8 AAU), Hallertau (3.8 AAU), Styrian Goldings (2.0 AAU).

113 - 20 minutes
145 - 50 minutes
162 - 20 minutes

pitched starter built up from Saison Dupont Vieille Provision
OG: 1.053
78 % Efficiency.

Update: Version 2 brewed 7/16/2009 using the same recipe. 1.051 OG.

7/16/2009: 1.020 SG. First batch racked to secondary.

7/28/2009: Bottled 5 gallons, primed with 3.5 oz table sugar. 1.004 FG, 6.1 ABV, 92 % AA.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tasting: Les Fleurs du Mal

This has proved again to be one of my favorite recipes. The marriage of fruity Belgian yeast and American citrus hops has shown itself to be an excellent combination. I had only planned one batch of this for the summer but it has gone so fast I may have to brew up another to quench my thirst.

The color splits the difference between orange and amber and puts up big off-white head from the high carbonation. Oranges dominate the aroma among other tropical fruits with a grassy, herbal note adding some complexity. In the mouth, it presents a prickly carbonation and bitterness up front with a slight caramel sweetness and burning alcohol, which provides just enough kick to please a Scotch drinker, in the middle. The bitterness returns for a long, dry finish. Well chilled, its an ale that is very refreshing on a hot summer's eve.

The only change I would make would be to substitute pale malt of some, if not all, of the pils to give some extra malt to interact with the hops and yeast.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beer in Colonial America, Odd Mixtures and Small Beer

Here are some interesting drinks from the late 17th century. They range from pleasant to downright nasty.

An historical writer of that time gives a list of the beverages which were then drunk in America. Among others he mentions "manatham," which was made from small beer, rum, and sugar; "tiff" or "flip," prepared in the same manner, with the addition of a piece of toast and butter; "hotch-pot," a beverage made of warmed beer with the addition of rum; and "sillibub," which was a mixture of warm milk and beer.

Then there was small beer, which was made from syrup by heating some water and adding a quantity of molasses and a little malt. The brew was then thoroughly shaken and afterwards a small quantity of hops and yeast was added and the whole was put in a barrel and allowed to ferment. The following day the beverage was cleared and was ready for use. "The Brewing Industry and Brewery Workers' Movement in America", page 36.

Suddenly I have the urge to stroll up to the bar at Drink and demand that the bartender (fuck you yuppies, I'm calling your precious mixologists what they really are) toss together a sillibub.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beer in Colonial America, Regulation

Today's post is another excerpt from TBIBWMA (ooooh, an unwieldy acronym). I'm surprised that it took the colonists seventeen years to begin regulating beer production. Maybe they were just too busy figuring out how to stay alive.
The government of the colony made various regulations in regard to the preparation, price, and sale of beer. In 1637 the brewers of Massachusetts were forbidden to sell stronger beers to tavern keepers than such as cost eight shillings a barrel. In 1640 it was decreed that no one should be allowed to brew beer unless he was a good brewer. The price of beer was also regulated. Beer that sold for threepence per quart had to contain six bushels of malt per hogshead; beer for twopence per quart, four bushels; at one penny a quart, two bushels; and less proportionately. In 1645 the price of beer was fixed at twopence a quart. In 1677 is was officially decreed in Massachusetts that beer which contained three bushels of malt per barrel was to be sold at threepence a quart. Every additional bushel of malt per barrel raised the price of beer one penny. In spite of all their piety, the Pilgrim Fathers seem at an early time to have known the adulteration of beer. In 1677 the General Court of Massachusetts established a regulation according to which beer might only be prepared from good barley malt. Additions of syrup, raw sugar, or any materials other than malt were punishable with a fine of five pounds for each offense. The authorities also looked out for the comfort of travelers and in October, 1649, the General Court issued an order that each hotel keeper must keep good beer, so that travelers should not be compelled to buy expensive wines.
"The Brewing Industry and Brewery Workers' Movement in America", pages 24-25.
The author does not cite his sources so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the prices and punishments, but the specific nature is encouraging.

Beer in Colonial America, Parsnips and Wood Shavings

I have slowly been working my way through The Brewing Industry and Brewery Workers' Movement in America by Hermann Schlüter, from 1910 and available on Google Books.

I will start with a passage on obtaining the necessary ingredients in the first years of colonization.

In the first year of the settlement the colonists planted the grain necessary for brewing beer, but with poor result, for the soil of Massachusetts was not well suited for the raising of barley. They therefore imported the materials for brewing, and also some beer itself, from England. In the year 1629 forty-five barrels of beer and four hundred weight of hops were brought to Massachusetts Bay at one shipment. Malt was also imported after the attempt to make it from maize had been tried with but slight success. A poem of that time informs us that the Pilgrim Fathers had such a tremendous thirst after alcoholic drinks that for want of beer they made intoxicating beverages out of pumpkins, parsnips, and shavings of walnut wood.
"The Brewing Industry and Brewery Workers' Movement in America", pages 24-25.

Barley and hops couldn't grow for shit in the rocky soil and harsh New England climate, no surprise there. Compared to beer from parsnips and wood shavings, corn beer doesn't sound so bad.

This post powered by Ten Fidy, the wonderful imperial stout from a can by Oskar Blues Brewery.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Les Framboises du Mal

Last year I experimented with making a funky raspberry beer. It turned out great but had one problem, I only made one gallon. The pre-fruited beer is fairly similar to Les Fleurs du Mal but with some wheat malt and the hops turned down to let the funk and raspberries shine after several months of aging. As with Le Fontaine du sang, half a gallon was removed and funkified with "infected" oak. Raspberry season should be just starting when primary fermentation finishes.

85% Belgian 2-row pale malt
10% Wheat malt
5% Crystal 20

80 Minutes - 0.45 Galena 12.2 % AAU
80 Minutes - 0.3 ounce Saaz 6.8% AAU
15 Minutes - 0.18 ounce Perle
15 Minutes - 0.18 ounce Cascade, 9.3 AAU
0 Minutes - 0.18 ounce Perle
0 Minutes - 0.18 ounce Cascade, 9.3 AAU

113 - 20 minutes
145 - 60 minutes
162 - 20 minutes

repitched De Dolle yeast from Le Fontaine du Sang

OG: 1.069
72 % Efficiency.

6/22/2009: Down to 1.004 SG. Blended in the funkified half gallon portion, which had a wonderful bright lactic, yogurty acidity and a bit of bretty funk. Like a low gravity lambic! Might be another week or two before raspberries arrive at the farmer's market.

6/26/2009: Racked to secondary with 10.5 oz raspberries from farmer's market.

7/1/2009: Added 14 oz raspberries from farmer's market.

7/8/2009: Added 10 oz raspberries from farmer's market.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to See Boston in 1890

Here we have an excerpt from a guidebook on touring Boston's brewing district. The area is certainly no longer the pastoral outskirts of a busy city, though Franklin Park and Arnold Arboretum still provide a leafy respite for the weary city dweller. Only the Haffenreffer Brewery (called Boylston Brewery here) lives on as the headquarters for the Boston Beer Company.



"By this route we 'do' the most rural of the outlying districts of the city. Within it are elegant country estates and charming rural homes, and the walks about it are exceedingly pleasant. In this district, also, are the great Franklin Park, yet to be improved, but already a most inviting place ; the Bussey Institution and Arnold Arboretum, connected with Harvard University ; and Forest-Hills Cemetery. The latter can best be reached by steam-cars over the Providence Division of the Old Colony Railroad ; and there are street-cars direct to Forest Hills, through the Roxbury District, and to Franklin Park by way of Oakland Garden, by the street-railway.

"Street-cars for Jamaica Plain start from the Tremont House, Tremont Street, a short walk from our general starting-point ( Scollay Square ). The ride out is directly through Tremont Street and the South End.

"At the Roxbury Crossing of the Providence Railroad, just beyond the Roxbury station, Tremont Street turns to the right. The Brookline cars here follow the line of Tremont Street, while the Jamaica-Plain cars continue almost straight ahead up Pynchon Street.

"We are here in the midst of the breweries district. Over to the right, across the railroad-track, we can see the great Burkhardt and Vienna breweries. Burkhardt was one of the pioneer German beer brewers of Boston and vicinity. His brewery is the solid, substantial, stone structure. The Vienna brewery is of brick, and a more modern building.

"As we enter Pynchon Street, we can see up Roxbury Street, on the left, Prang's extensive art-establishment, which we have already noticed in a previous route. Soon we pass, also on the left, the immense brewery of John Roessle—a fine structure of brick, with yards and outbuildings well-kept, all wearing an air of substantial prosperity. Next to the Roessle brewery is that of Pfaff, and, beyond that, the Norfolk brewery. Across the way, at the right, on streets parallel with Pynchon Street, are the great Highland Springs and Burton breweries. Farther along, not to be seen from the car, but not a great distance beyond, is the Boylston brewery. Others are in this neighborhood."

-How to See Boston: A Trust Worthy Guide-book By Grand Army of the Republic National Encampment. 24th, Boston, 1890, National Encampment, Grand Army of the Republic

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

La Fontaine du sang

This beer was inspired by several Belgian styled red ales that are similar to Rodenbach ales but are higher in alcohol. Those beers would be Oerbier and La Roja from Jolly Pumpkin. I am aiming for an acidity level between those two wonderful ales. I took the grist from my red ale that showed quite a bit of potential but need less aggressive hopping. For bittering, Saaz replaced the Cascades that overpowered the beer.

To achieve a good level of acidity and funk I took a half gallon and added the oak spiral from the Brett beer that had been soaking in lambic dregs. I plan to blend this portion back into the rest of the beer for the secondary conditioning.

I like the idea of naming beer after a Charles Baudelaire poem (or even his entire master work). The concept provides a combination of literary allusion and awesome imagery. And they are in French for added snob appeal. This brew shall be named La Fontaine du sang (The Fountain of blood), perfect for a strong, sour red ale.

60% Belgian 2-row pale malt
20% Munich malt
5% Belgian Aromatic
5% Crystal 90
5% Special B
5% Dark Wheat malt

80 Minutes - Saaz 6.8% AAU

113 - 20 minutes
145 - 45 minutes
160 - 15 minutes

repitched De Dolle yeast from Les Fleurs du Mal.

OG: 1.064

6/10/2009: 1.010 FG. 7.07% ABV. Racked to secondary with sour portion and ½ oak spiral soaked in red wine then sour slurry.

7/13/2009: Took sample. Dark Amber/Caramel to slightly red (see picture above). Smells like an oud bruin but taste has more bitterness and very subdued acidity. Could be bottled now but aging will bring out the full brett flavor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tasting: Belgian Barleywine

This is the first tasting of the Belgian Barleywine, two weeks after bottling. It has yet to carbonate but I wanted to get this tasting in before summer arrives and barleywine is not on the mind.

Appearance: Deep dark amber. Nearly no carbonation despite re-yeasting at bottling.

Aroma: Pear, raisins, caramel, and molasses. A bit boozy.

Flavor: More pear, raisins, caramel, and molasses. Nugget hops provide a firm bitterness and earthy, spicy flavor to counteract the sweetness and fruitiness. The 12.7 ABV makes itself well known with a long boozy burn at the finish.

Overall an good first attempt to make a beer this big. The alcohol burn and lack of carbonation detract quite a bit from what could be an outstanding beer. Some age may be able to take care of this. Hopefully these problems can be resolved in the funky portion or next brewing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

1906: Beer in New Hampshire

If you know a good ale when you taste it you ll be glad to taste J the best ale when you know it It
I have taken some time lately to search through Google Books for historical information on New England breweries. The 1906 report from New Hampshire State Board of Health has provided the best information on types and strength of beer. The gravities range from 1.043 to 1.068, the latter being the highly regarded P.B. Ale from Van Nostrand Brewing Company in Boston. Thirty of seventy-nine samples tested positive for some for of adulteration. All but one of those thirty contained either salicylic acid or sulphorous acid.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Les Fleurs du Mal

This is an all grain adaptation of the Hoppy Belgian that I brewed last Spring with excellent results. The grain bill is simple to let the yeast and hops shine. I brewed several batches of this last year and aimed for similar hop additions to the one that has aged best.

10 lbs Dingemans Pilsner malt
.6 lbs 20 L Crystal malt
1 lb sugar, inverted*

60 Minutes - 0.88 ounce Nugget, 14.6 AAU
15 Minutes - 0.25 ounce New Zealand Hallertau, 7 AAU
15 Minutes - 0.5 ounce Cascade, 9.3 AAU
0 Minutes - 0.25 ounce New Zealand Hallertau, 7 AAU
0 Minutes - 0.5 ounce Cascade, 9.3 AAU
Secondary – 0.5 ounce Cascade, 9.3 AAU

Mashed 113 F – 145 F – 160 F
1.067 OG
75 % Efficiency

*Heat 1 lb sugar with 1 cup water and 1 tspn lemon juice. If I had a candy thermometer I would aim for certain temperature.

5/5/2009: Racked to secondary with 0.5 ounce Cascade flowers. 1.020 SG.

5/29/2009: Bottled 5 gallons with 4 oz local blueberry blossom honey. 1.010 FG. 7.5% ABV.

7/1/2009: Tasting posted.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BBeer* Tasting

I bottled four gallons of the all Brett beer just over a month ago. One gallon was combined with sliced Gala apples and put away to age. Worried about over-carbonation and exploding bottles, I only added 1 ounce of sugar at bottling. My worries have been unfounded as an aggressive pour gives no more than a weak head that immediately falls apart. This color is a cloudy orange.** Lots of fruit in the aroma; green apples, cherries, oranges. The flavor is more of the same with some tartness developing that was not present at bottling. There is also some fresh oak character in the aroma and taste like you would find in white wine.

Overall, I have yet to make up my mind on this beer. It seems very young so I will slowly drink my through the batch. I tasted it with three different cheese, Brie, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Vermont cheddar. All three were an excellent match.

*The extra 'B' is for Bbrettanomyces Lambicus.

**I keep a single clear bottle in rotation to monitor color and clarity. The flocculation has been so slow that there is a visible difference between the fine and murky parts of the beer. Oddly enough, the portion that I mixed with apples is brilliantly clear.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lovibond Porter

Bottled after 7 days (4/7/09) with 2.5 ounces white sugar.

The pour produces a tan head that quickly recedes into a ring of foam around the edge of the glass. The color is black with brown-red higlights. There aroma is sweet and roasted malt with a bit of yeasty fruitiness and hops in the background. Just enough residual sugars and carbonation to give a full mouthfeel but remain suitable for quaffing, which the 3.7 % ABV suits as well. Still a bit green but has a nice sweet malt and roasty flavor balanced by just enough hops.

As a bonus, here are some numbers for several porters from just after the turn of the century. For comparison, mine has a 1.022 SG, 3.7 % ABV and absolutely NO adulterants.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anniversary Guinness

A bottle of Guinness Bi-Centenary stout at the storehouse
at St. James Gate. They keep all the bottles in a glass
case ensuring than any pictures will be crap.

Guinness has announced today that they will be unleashing a limited 250th Anniversary Stout in the United States. From the write ups I cannot tell what to make of this new stout. MSNBC has a convenient comparison between Guinness Draught and the Anniversary Stout. (The date section for plain draught provides amusement. "Sometime after 1799.") There are reasons for optimism and cynicism. My inner optimist's and cynic's dialogue whilst reading the article:

Optimist: A stronger, maltier stout sounds encouraging.

Cynic: Hardly Foreign Extra Stout though.

Optimist: At least its not nitrogenated.

Cynic: But carbonated for more refreshment and zing!

Optimist: No two part pour, that should be refreshing.

Cynic: Don't forget the "double brew stream that combines two types of malts, ale and stout."

Cynic: Oh, oh it also has "triple hops" just like Miller Lite!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Brewing Historic Porter

Over at Barclay Perkins, Ron has written a bunch times about mid 19th century porter grists. Recently he posted about a particular porter found in the Lovibond Brewery logs. According to W.L. Tizard, a porter consisting of only amber malt and black malt resulted in an exquisite beer. A fan of dark beer and historic beer I had to brew for myself.

This beer presented a couple challenges with regards to malt choice and mashing. Finding Amber malt proved to be harder than I had anticipated. I needed a lightly kilned pale malt that retained most of its Diastatic power. [source] While reading the Dingeman's malt descriptions I noticed that they alternatively call their Aromatic malt "Amber 50" and the description matched the historical description. As an added bonus, Dingeman's Aromatic malt is widely available. I declare it good enough. I hope Ron reads this so he can tell me why that is a stupid declaration.

Without a true base malt I tempered my expected efficiency down to 70% from my usual 75+%. Turned out not to be enough as I ended up at 60%, so I added a half pound of brown sugar to raise the OG to range I was shooting for, 1.05-1.06. For hops, .5 oz Nugget boiled for 60 minutes and another .5 oz Nugget boiled for 10 minutes. Kent Goldings would have been more likely but I like Nuggets, so much for historical accuracy. At least I used Whitbread yeast.

After 20 hours of fermentation, yeast was cropped. The gravity had fallen to 1.042 from 1.051. The taste already attained an excellent balance of big malty flavor and an obvious but not overpowering roastiness. After 6 days the measured gravity holds steady at 1.022 (1.027 real SG, a paltry 47% attenuation and 3.7% ABV) and is ready for bottling. Never mind the terrible attenuation, this tastes great!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Malt Sourdough Bread

Inspired by other baking homebrewers I decided to try my hand at putting all that spent grain from the barleywine to good use. I used a low hydration figuring that the malt would bring along plenty of water. I aimed for 50% hydration but neglected to account for the starter and ended up at 57% before the malt was added. All measurements are by weight.

16 oz King Arthur Bread Flour
8 oz filtered water
5 oz sourdough starter (100% hydration)
5 oz still wet mashed malt
.3 oz kosher salt

-Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let rise 20 hours.
-Shape and let rise another 2 hours.
-Bake for 30 minutes in 450 F oven.

The bread had a good flavor with a nice combination of sourdough and malt. (Good enough that I ate it all before I thought to take a photo.) The only problem was the texture turned out a bit too wet and dense. Next time I would either push the hydration even lower or use some grain that has not been mashed. Some crystal or honey malt could be tasty.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Belgian Barleywine

This ale was inspired by Stille Nacht from De Dolle Brouwers. I am quite enamored with their beers, if that was not already obvious. I'm not in the mood to make up the tables that I did for the previous batches but the recipe is quite simple. A heap of pale malt, whole Nugget hops (I love the earthy spiciness of Nuggets), a healthy dose of sugar, a long boil and Oerbier yeast. OG at 1.110.

The only question is which oak spiral to add to secondary: one that has been soaking in red wine or the one that just came out of the B. Lambicus beer. Maybe both. Maybe split the batch and use both.

3/22/09: Racked to Secondary. 1.010 SG apparent(90%), 1.026 real(75%), 12.7% ABV.

5/5/09: Racked 1 gallon to 1 gallon jug w/ half medium toast French oak spiral soaked in lambic dregs. Bottled 3 gallons with 2 oz corn sugar. Smells very fruity and sugary with pear and Nugget hops. Taste of fruit, spice, molasses, caramel, hops with a rocket fuel burn afterward.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mild! Tasting

I bottled the mild after only 7 days of fermentation with 4 oz brown sugar. It attenuated to 1.005 SG (86% apparent attenuation) making for a nice light 4% ABV. I cracked open a bottle three days after bottling and was pleased to find it already carbonated.

With a vigorous pour down the center of the glass the beer releases a nice two finger head of light foam. The color is a light orange with a brownish tint from the brown sugar at bottling. Decent clarity. A distinct yeast fruitiness, oranges mostly, blends with the earthy hops to create a pleasurable but not overpowering aroma. The taste is similar with some bready warmth and honey sweetness from the biscuit and honey malts. The hops assert themselves in bitterness and flavor and make me want to call this an IPA. The body is a bit Kate Moss but that makes for extreme gulpability. Overall I am pleased with this brew but might aim for a higher finishing gravity next time I get a craving for session beer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quadrupel Imperial Double Mild

Back to brewing. I started getting anxious to bottle the B. Lambicus beer but it needs at least another month to finish attenuating and aging. And while the Dubbel Chocolate and Stout are tasty, after couple of either I find myself wanting something lighter in flavor and alcohol yet still tasty.

For this ale I aimed at 1.037 OG with the character coming from an interesting the malt and special yeast (De Dolle yeast repitched from a previous batch). I brewed this last Friday, February 6 and plan on bottling early next week. Like all my brew, this hardly fits in any category. Maybe a Belgian single/ankel (if there is such a thing) or mild in terms of gravity but not any other way. I decided to have a little fun with name and poke fun at the need of many brewers to increase hops and alcohol for the sake of hops and alcohol.

This is my official joining of the session beer project. I look forward to enjoying this ale with lunch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Irish Beer, Part III

I'm eager to get back to covering brewing activities so here is a quick round up of Irish beer with notes on the few stragglers. Occasionally I found an Irish beer available outside a brew pub at a non-beer bar. These were all pleasant surprises to the usual Guinness/lager/cider choices.

Galway Hooker: A pale ale from a craft brewery in the west. They deliberately limit distribution to certain pubs where it would be tasted with open minds. It tasted like a three quarter strength Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. Nothing amazing but a nice every day beer. Galway Hooker on the web.

O'Hara's Celtic Stout: A stout from the Carlow Brewing Company. I found this one in bottles at an off-license so thankfully I could taste it without flavor obfuscating nitro-kegging. Smooth and roasty; exactly how I wish Guinness would taste. The best Irish stout I've tasted. Carlow also brews a red and a wheat which I did not try.

Kinsale Lager: As far as I can tell this is the only offering from Kinsale Brewing Company in Kinsale. After a 3 km walk each way to Charles Fort in Summercove, a pint of this lager showed its strengths. A refreshing, light body carrying bready malt combined with just enough noble hops.

Overall I was surprised at how awful the beer selection was in Ireland. Finding these craft brews was rare and each of these were only in one location. I only found Franciscan Well to have decent distribution, but only within Cork city. I think that Irish culture can be extremely conservative in certain aspects, especially when it comes to food and drink. So any change in the beer available will come slowly but there is a start with the brews I've mentioned.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Irish Beer, Part II

From Cork I moved on to the big city, Dublin. Beer was a fairly low priority in my travels but I found some time to search out something beyond Guinness. I made the requisite visit to St. James' Gate and found the tour tedious and exhausting. The tour could be whittled down to the advertising section without losing anything. At the end I opted to make my free beer a bottle of Foreign Extra Stout, thankfully served only slightly chilled. Beer in hand, I fully enjoyed the 360 view from the Gravity Bar on that Waterford crystal clear day.

Tired of the throngs of tourists I figured a mid-afternoon trip to the Porterhouse brewpub would provide a sanctuary from directionless drones that plague large tourist attractions. Wrong. But at least there was some decent beer.

Plain Porter: Not quite as dark as Guinness porter. Nitro-kegging dulled any subtle flavor it had to offer.

Oyster Stout: A deft combination of a dry, roasty stout and salty oysters. Further evidence that stout and oysters are a natural combination. Unfortunate nitro-kegging. Why, why, why?

An Brainblasta: Supposedly the brewery's top of the line. Seemed to me that the malt, hops and yeast were fighting each other instead of complimenting. Not awful, just meh.

TSB: A 3.7% ABV bitter. An excellent session with a very English balance of malt and hops. Moreish. The Porterhouse's best beer is its lowest strength beer.

Due Up for Part III: Beer not from brewpubs.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Irish Beer, Part I

I recently returned from Ireland, a place known for beer. Painfully though, that is only one type of beer mainly from one brand that frankly sucks. Slowly though, Irish craft beer is making headway.

My first respite from nitro-stout came in Cork thanks to the Franciscan Well Brewery, which has been brewing since 1998. Their beers are available in Cork's better pubs with the Rebel Red reaching ubiquity. I find extensive tasting notes tedious to write and pompous, but here is my opinion of their beers.

Shandon Stout: Nitro-kegged stout. A step up from Guinness-Murphy's-Beamish with a bit more roastiness.

Blarney Blonde: A light, easy drinking blonde ale. Lacks character.

Friar Weisse: The brewery's wheat beer. The yeast character tasted like it needed more maturation time.

Bellringer: A spiced winter beer. Over spiced to near undrinkable. Why do brewers make these insipidly spiced beers? I have yet to drink one doesn't puzzle me.

Rebel Red: A wonderful red ale that shames industrial Irish red ales. Very fruity with distinct rasberry flavors. At 4.3% abv Rebel makes a great session beer (very important for beer in Ireland). By far the brewery's best and a beer I would gladly drink any time.

I only found these beers within Cork. Apart from the brewpub, Blarney Blonde, Friar Weisse, Shandon Stout and Rebel Red can be found at the Mutton Lane Inn and Sin É. You can also drink Rebel Red at the infamous Hi-B bar until you, like me, get kicked out for no good reason.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Brettanomyces Lambicus

We want the funk.

Now here we have a beer I am really excited about (more so than usual). A single strain Brettanomyces beer. For this one I kept the malt and hops simple to let the B. Lambicus shine. Unfortunately, I think using a new oak spiral may have negated that effort.

Higher than expected efficiency resulted in an OG of 1.064, a few points higher than I wanted. After 19 days the gravity had dropped to 1.020. I racked 1 gallon onto a pound of sliced Gala apples and the other 4 gallons to its own secondary fermenter. Other than taking longer, fermentation appeared normal.

At racking the beer smelled of cherries, pears, apples, tropical fruit and a touch of barnyard funk. The taste was similar but with the oak fighting for prominence.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dubbel Chocolate

This ale is an adaptation of an extract recipe I made last winter. The original beer combined a fruity witbier yeast with some dark malts and a little chocolate powder in the boil. For this version I kept the malt bill the same and added an extra ounce of chocolate to bring out that flavor a bit more. In the previous batch I used a pound of the dark rock candy that the home brew store sells. It tasted great but was much too expensive. I substituted dark maple syrup and white sugar that I caramelized the night before brewing. An oak spiral was added to the secondary fermenter.

This brew started with a step mash similar to what is recommended in the excellent Brew Like a Monk. Mash in at 104 F 15 minutes and use infusions to raise the mash to 145F for 45 minutes and 158F for 15 minutes. Efficiency hit nearly 75% with this mashing scheme.

1 tspn Irish Moss
4 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 lb caramel
375 ml maple syrup

Apparently I forgot to write down the final gravity but I think it was around 1.015. That would mean 77% apparent attenuation and 6.5% ABV.

Now for one of my favorite activities, writing extensive tasting notes.

Color: dark, off white head

Smell: Chocolate, oaky vanilla some dark fruit.

Taste: oak, vanilla, fruit, chocolate, dark malt, bullshit.

Overall: Good but too much oak.

Table Beer

I mentioned in my post on the red ale that I made a table beer from the second runnings off the mash. A 3% ABV beer ought to really test brewing skills, sanitation and all that.

As for recipe I collected 4 gallons of wort boiled with some Perle hops. Post boil I had 3 gallons of wort at 1.030 OG that fermented with White Labs 500 (a strain cultivated from Chimay). With little work to do the yeast settled out enough to bottle after 5 days. Final Gravity was 1.006. 3.1% ABV.

The resulting beer is similar to a watery Chimay Cinq Cents. The hops and yeast prickle the tongue with spiciness. There is also a touch of infection that has not increased in the three months since bottling.

Overall not a bad effort. Since most of my home brew is high gravity rocket fuel it is nice to have something light to reach for when I don't want to get knocked on my ass.

(PS. Can you name that coaster?)