I’ve been quiet here because I’ve been swamp and the blog quickly became a lower priority than even my wiener blog. I’ve brewed though, keeping kegs full (or at least attempting to).
Sat – 8.31.13 – I brewed an ESB (of sorts) with hops grown at my father-in-law’s (pictured above). They had a decent amount of lupulin under the petals but next to no aroma unless provoked (crushed/rubbed) so I’m wary about the amount of ‘hops’ it’ll even have. None the less. It’s his favorite type of beer so I gave the malt profile it’s go, we’ll see how the cascade play and make it NOT a Pale Ale.
Sat – 9.7.13 – Pitched the meads at 1.057. Made a big 8 gallon batch and am splitting it down to a number of things. Yeasts are 5 gallons Red Star Champagne & 1118, 1 gallon Red Star, 1 gallon 1118, 1 gallon “blonde blend”. Will likely dose the blonde with cherries, fruit a gallon or so of the 5, bottle a couple of the single strain for comparison’s sake, dose a mead with lavender, dose another with ‘herbs’, etc etc.
I also pulled 4 different grains for a lacto growth session for SPG. Seeing if rye, wheat malt, unmalted wheat, and pilsner malt have slightly different microbes on them and/or slightly different flavor profiles.
Up next will be my first real big bear: Fallen Dekkera, a oaked/brett-secondaried quad/Belgian strong for the long winter months as well as those winter months of next year. This one will be sitting for some time. Slated to pick up another 10 gallons of apple cider as well while in Michigan. This year: standard ale yeast (for a more ‘standard’ cider) as well as letting one just ‘go wild’ (for a dry and funky cider). No molasses this year.
Mostly because I know I need to write here is what is happening with the homebrewing.
5 gal Blended yeast cider
5 gal Bourbon oak aged porter
5 gal Belgian Pale/Blonde
3 gal Belgian Pale/Blonde (champagne yeast and brett b blend)
And it’s that one I’d like to focus on some in this post. For the starting brewer yeast is nearly an afterthought, as most homebrewers progress yeast becomes a larger brush to use on the canvas. Switch it up some, heck maybe some funky critters or a punch of lacto. I’ve got to say, I can understand why the Roeselare blend has a sherry strain in it. The Champagne yeast has blasted through the sugars I set before it and left the soft round flavors of the Slovenian hops, brought new light to the spices, allowed the funky fruit of early brett to shine through in this perfectly drinkable beer. I’ve pulled a lot of samples before, but none as tasty as this. The other ‘standard’ Belgian yeast is ‘fine’ but not intriguing and interesting like the small batch is.
What I’m alluding to is to explore more. Try things and let fear bother someone else, because creating things that surprise you is always an adventure.
So I’ve been lamenting a lot on what exactly I should be brewing. I know for a lot of brewers it’s making a great pale ale, or kicking out a pilsner to be proud of, but for me it’s about making something I can’t buy at the store; I want my beer to mean something to me in a way too, a self-expression and representation of me as a person.
So far it’s done a pretty good job of describing my clunking along in a sort of ‘duct-tape-the-muffler-back-on’ sort of way. From the not great attempts at brett table beers, to the way brew days always seem to go, I’m more or less running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
But I’m trying to change that – at least with my brewing.
I’ve got a spreadsheet running with upcoming beers, ideas, and current/past beer on the list. I’ve added what is ready, what is currently fermenting, and the litany of ideas below. I think this year as well, I will attempt to have a standard ‘house brew’ on tap. I’ll work on getting my method down more. Brew more often, and just generally ‘tighten’ up the ship.
As far as current brews, I’ve got the first group brew day beer on tap. It’s a toasty dark-brown beer with heavy doses of wheat and fermented with wheat and roeselare blend (pictured above). It’s mostly “wheat” with a kind of over-toasted bread taste profile. I don’t get much sour/funk but I’ve been told it’s there. Hard to compare it to something else I guess. A stout of unknown recipe is bubbling along from a huge 40 gallon brew day just this past weekend. Myself, I tried to blast through 4 batches of solo-hopped beer during the same time, but due to weather and bad planning only made it to 3 with the last one a blend of last two remaining hops. It’s likely that those are in the upper 1.070s – didn’t get a clean measurement (another mistake).
So in a roundabout way – this post is also my declaration that I’m going to start taking this much more seriously.
This past Sunday, right as Sandy was just grazing the edges of Maine, I made a twenty minute trip with a carload of brewing equipment, a baby, and a wife. The latter two didn’t stay with me, but I powered through. Three Gents, strangely all starting with G, met up and got to brewing. A fantastic club brew-day.
Let me step back a bit here and say I was extremely weary of going to a homebrew club meeting. I know there are some young folk brewing beer, as myself, but wasn’t convinced that the older guys would even acknowledge me as a respected brewer let alone person. My worry was that these dudes were going to be super weird, horrible, and painfully unreliable. Luckily, I was wrong. The guys are pretty great and almost spooky how nice they are. But on to the beer.
Brew day produced a pilsner split between two, an oatmeal stout, and my ‘farmhouse brown.’ Mine consisted of three different chocolate malts (meaning roasted to blackness, and what adds a ton of flavor/color to most “dark” beers), a “coffee kiln” barley, some medium crystal malt (mostly adding sweet/roasted unfermentable sugars), and more wheat malt than barley malt. I wanted to use up a bunch of old malt I had from when I moved to Maine, and to make something with the ‘sour’ blend pulled from a personal favorite homebrew. The wort (beer pre-yeast) smelled amazing like toasted wheat bread crust dipped in dark chocolate, I selected mild citrus, spicy, floral hops to compliment the sweetness instead of trump the real aim – the roast/toast malt profile meets wheat/sour. A clove/banana profile is strong in the wheat yeast while the sour yeast blend will pull out a cherry tartness, dry palate, and punchy sourness if left long enough. I’ll have to taste this often to see where it goes from tasty and funky to face melting tartness – mostly because this is my second run of this sour yeast, and I got it from another guy who fermented once off it who got his yeast cake off a buddy of his who had reused and washing the yeast at least three and up to five times – and it has a reputation of gaining strength each reuse.
Next on the list? Maybe I’ll finally kill off those SMaSH beers I’ve been waiting to take down. Three fermentors full of cider or beer and not a one to drink. Keg of IPA is nearly kicked, but I’ve squirreled bottles. I’ll be chewing through that supply for sure.
Oh hey, this thing is back. Yay! Turns out, I’m not great at web dev stuff – who would have thought! My move from Justhost to apisnetworks was a bit bumpy. The folks at apis were very nice and even set up everything for me, but being the dolt I am – it wasn’t “perfect” so a little change of code here and… wooops! A good month later I buckled down, plowed through about 6 installs of wordpress and finally piecemealed the sql backup files along with a base-install of wordpress. Yeah, should have done that in the first place. On to my life!
Finn is walking, pretty much. He’s still pretty uncertain on his feet but is moving a lot these days. Being a stay-at-home parent is getting to be a whole lot of work. Mostly emotional work, because good lord am I fried after a long day of yelling and teething moodiness Oy vay. He’s also more attached to Lis than me. Which is fine, but after a whole day of yelling and crying – to have him smile and giggle as soon as she walks in a bit wrenching. Overall though, I’d say I couldn’t be happier with how this has worked out; I’m getting paid to write and doing what I’ve always said I wanted to do – be a stay-at-home dad.
Beer is going great. I picked up two more kegs for an incredibly low twenty bucks. They both hold pressure and the tiny bit of stale beer washed out quickly enough. One keg is dedicated to serving Lis’s drink of choice: sparking water. We were buying cases of the stuff anyway – nearly one a week at its peak. So I decided to be fiscally responsible by picking up a keg for her, and why not an extra for me? Bottle the cream ale, the IPA is kegged, and I’ve got ten gallons of cider conditioning with two different yeasts. I think I’m going to break up the ciders into many one-offs: dry hopped (4766, local inspiration), back sweetened (both), dry (both), and maybe even a bourbon oaked version (4766). Coming up is either a cherry stout or a start of my ne0-noble hop experiments.
In a delayed birthday present to myself and partial wedding gift – I picked up some brewing goodies.
The Run Down
Picked up a wort chiller from NY Brew Supply, the cheapest and best value stainless steel chiller I could find – trust me I’ve done the digging.
A couple of buckets, some yeast, and some grain from Northern Brewer.
Amazon is shipping a 10 gallon pot, bazooka tube, and stainless ball lock.
I’ll be ready to finally do all-grain without a cooler, no problem. My other thought too, is that this way I’ll be ready for upgrading if/when it happens. I can reuse the tube in another MLT, the 10gal pot for the HLT if I wish to go larger. I did a lot of lamenting on which would be the right way to go, and I think this is the ideal for me.
And none too soon. I’ve got a Cream Ale and a Floral IPA slated for asap. With the new buckets and my wishes to move to parti-gyle 1 gallon sour ales.
For those non-homebrewers reading this, basically that last part means, I’ll be rinsing the grains one last time and making a beer from it using Brettanomyces strains (a souring yeast) to create a sort of table-beer. These will only be bottled, for a number of reasons – but mostly because I’d like to keep the amounts low. More on these later.
So, really – not a lot to share but I had forgot about updating, so here is one.
I thought I’d take a second as to why I love brewing and to a greater extent – beer. Initial impressions would lead people to think I’m a drunk; that I make the cheapest swill garbage possible with as much booze as spirits, and then get blasted for fun. Reality being, for me, that drinking my work is only an added bonus. Then folks may say, oh sure – I brew huge bomb beers, sure I enjoy the process, but I’m basically out to get plastered. Still not true, I brewed a ~3.5-4% abv last go-round. Then ‘they’ will say oh, so you are just a super ned with a hobby of fun toys, making a slightly more complicated version of tea, and reading. To that I’d say – oh, so you are a homebrewer as well?
It’s really less about the drunk part so much as the process. The ability to make something that [nearly] everyone can enjoy. It’s about cultivating a living organism, watching it grow and chew away at sugars and hearing the ‘clink clink’ of the airlock. Sure, like most homebrewers the process can lead to frustrations, burning your extract, missing your target OG, having a stuck sparge, ect – but the clouds clear after the first deep sniff of a bubbling blow-off tub. Even if the beer sucks (I’m looking at you cranberry beer) there is a flood of happiness that fills you when you watch someone drink your beer. It’s a learning process, something to be picked up, cleaned up next time. You shuffle again and deal. Didn’t like the bitterness in this one? Want to tweak a famous beer you had? There is almost nothing the big boys do that you cannot. There are few hurdles, which I think make it appealing in the first place.
A year only I’ve been at it. I’ve plowed thorough a handful of beer making books, cram my day full of reading beer blogs, it envelops my day. Finally a passion, a goal orientated hobby, and a relatively cheap one, comparatively. I don’t see this ending soon. You could maybe expect bottles for Christmas gifts.
Everything seems in order, our hospital bag is packed – sort of. Baby’s bed is ready save for the fact that our male cat Ike is peeing (again), and thus the bedding is waiting in the wings. We’ve met with our pediatrician, he’s quite nice. It’s snowing again in Maine, meaning slick roads and little-to-no clean up. My brews are waiting either to be kegged or bottled. I’m fairly certain both braggots are inoculated due to the use of the raw honey, but are clearing and chilling in the hallways at about 61°f. The mushroom grow box Gary bought me for Christmas is starting to really spout – hideous and disgusting, but interesting.
I’d like to address a quick… how should I put it, nuance. A few folks have been using a phrase (possibly without even thinking about it) that has Lis and I wondering. A simple three lettered word when in reference to Lis and I’s unborn child – “our.” Sure, it’s normal and fine for the two of us to use it, because – well – it’s ours. But when grandparents and great-grandparents use it, it sounds – oddly possessive. Maybe I’m only noticing this because of my close reading background, maybe I’m an attentive parent, but when “our baby” shows up in an email – I’ve got to wonder and fear how they mean it. Where do they see themselves fitting into our child’s life? A part of myself is concerned about their idea their interaction, their ‘teaching’ us to parent, and their influence on us. I think our seclusion and distance may seem like a hindrance, but it may also be a blessing – only time will tell.
I’m not worried about the raising a kid part as of now, more about the safety of my wife and child during labor. A symptom of my cross-that-bridge-edness that I can’t help.
A short time left. Anxiety may be getting to us all, but the longer I’m with Lis the closer I feel.
On Wednesday, I brewed up my first real mini-mash – an (attempted) red farmhouse ale in which I call Red Barn. This is also the first (of hopefully) many farmhouse ales that I will create for the time being. Recently, I’ve been evaluating the beer I’m drinking a lot more closely and find myself drawn to these types because of their straightforward ingredients but complex in the profiles – seemingly beautiful in their simplicity. Easy drinking, easy to make – what is not to love? Their fruity profiles allow for those who “don’t like beer” to drink up, and those beer snobs to find the malty buried blow the yeast profile or sniff the complex hops – heavy or light. The broad definition also allows for any kind of interpretation as well, from inky black to a clear pilsner-like color, adding any spices, adjuncts, etc. I created a darker farmhouse ale using the same yeast (3711) this past summer and wanted to make something a bit less ‘sip-able’ and more ‘drinkable.’ This is that attempt.
I’ve looked at brewing a braggot (1/2 honey/malt) for sometime and finally was able to once my uncle shipped me some of his wild flower honey from his farm in Michigan. Again, I wanted something low alcohol so I aimed for two gallons to split between two gallon jugs I kept from whole foods apple juice. I pitched two separate yeasts in them, which is where the “sort of three” comes in. In one, ‘normal’ yeast that will showcase the honey and malts nicely, and the other was dregs from a local brew and one with wild yeast from Michigan – quite fitting, I think. First, the dregs from the local brew were pulled and incubated to a point where they could become pitchable – creating a wort and simply pouring the dark muck that sits in the bottom of bottle conditioned beers. I grew the sample to ~1L yeast starter, then [drunkenly] decided to toss in the Jolly Pumpkin sediment after finishing the bottle off on New Years Eve. Simply chilled (or cold crashed) the samples till the yeast separated from the “beer” and on brew day warmed, shook, and dumped it in. My first sour beer.
All three are happily bubbling away and I’ll post more on them once they become drinkable.
So I know I said I’d try to write a post a day in September. Didn’t happen – at least I got some writing done. That is better than just leaving this a barren wasteland because I wasn’t sure what to post. But I’ve made beer, trying to stay connect on Facebook and Twitter – which can seem like a bit of a hassle sometimes, using my camera more, reading more about beer, hanging with my cats and of course spending time with ma lady.
Been spending time worrying about being a father. I’m sure everyone goes through worrying if they are ‘ready’ or they’ll be a ‘good’ dad. A daunting task to bring an individual into being.
In beer news, I’ve got the Cranberry Wheat Ale through its first stage and now I’m just waiting for a container of apple juice to empty so I can use the glass jug it comes in. My plan: Break the 5 gallons up, 2 -1 gallon batches, and 1 three gallon batch. I want to buy frozen cranberries try it solo in one batch, just adding cranberry concentrate, and for the three gallon batch doing both. I have no clue on ratios so I’m sort of shooting in the dark here. I have read 1lb of cranberries per gallon, which is possible – but unsure on the concentrate. The bitter is kegged and ready to drink. It’s sweet up front and lots of citrus with a smooth bitter end.
I swear, I’ll write a story soon instead of these uninteresting ‘life’ updates.