A Day Late

Yeah, I know I forgot about a day. Hell, I even had the day off from work. But I was brewing so I do have that in my defense.

Yeah, this post will be about beer, sorry – not much of a story time.

I have a spreadsheet with the upcoming planned beers and their information – nerd out. First up is the English Bitter mostly because of the short lead time into readiness, my dark saison is nearly all gone so I’ve got to get something in the pipes. The ‘bitter’ name is a bit of a misnomer. Sure it’s a bit on the sharp side, but it (should) have great balance, be a decent session beer, and be quite tasty. I was looking at picking up the Northern Brewer exclusive ‘neo-britiania’ (1945) strain but read the tasting notes and thought the Thames Valley (1275) would provide me with something a bit more of the ‘real bitter’ I was looking to achieve. I cannot honestly say the last time I’ve had a bitter though, take my advice for yeast with a grain of salt. That is until the brew is ready. The fully inflated yeast pack I broke into smelled pretty dang good – looking forward to having a nip. It’s bubbling away at a bit warm 70f in the basement of my apartment. My luck this week is one of the warmest weeks since mid July. Grain bill was 2lbs of Gambrinus Honey Malt and 1lb of Briess Victory. The mixture smelled like honey glazed biscuits – amazing. I don’t have a full grain setup (yet) so I topped with 3.15 lbs of “gold” Liquid malt extract. I was feeling cheap so this brew is all Cascade hops, saved a couple bucks by buying one 8oz pack instead of 1oz packets [note: I only used 2.5oz]. Brew day went off without a hitch. Only issue I had was that the strange setup of this apartment’s kitchen makes for a very warm brew day.

Next up is a Cranberry Wheat beer using a Belgian wheat yeast (3942). The yeast is not chilling after making a 2L starter. The beer is planned to be at 8% so I thought it better of me to make a hefty yeast, give them a leg up. More on this brew day when it happens.

Quick Sat brew reflection

As I stand in my three  square foot kitchen filling with humidity from four gallons of boiling sugar water and a cousin of weed – I can help but smile. My yeast puffing up slowly. A spray bottle with cold Maine water waits for another boil over. I’m still smiling. I may not carry it on my face but I can feel my work melt away. It’s been a struggle – working, my job. The job isn’t hard – it’s well her. A weight that pulls my jaw up, makes me sequester myself into my too-big-for-me office, and breath a long heavy sigh of relief when hitting the doors out.

I’m making beer. Sweet marvelous beer. Sure it’s not one on my list [link], but it’s summer and I’m not feeling adventurous enough to buy cucumber (plus they aren’t in season yet). I’m making a dark & heavy saison. I’ve caught a bug of saisons and am infatuated by it’s near death experience and now a resurgence (in homebrewing). They are a ferment of glory, usually very light and powerful with flavor. They are a like a breeze on a hot summer’s day filling in the gaps of sweat with complex yeast flavors, hints of hops, and meandering grain profiles. The saison I am creating is doesn’t fit the norm. Recipe:

1/2 lbs chocolate malt
6 lbs Pilsner LME
3.5lbs Wheat LME
2oz Northern Brewer
1oz Crystal
Wyeast 3711

Northern Brewer is meant to feed into the chocolate flavor profile. We’ll see how well that turns out.
(note to self: don’t write and brew – boiled over twice)

Quick beer list

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about beer. Liz is watching some garbage about the royals, so I thought this might be a good time for a post.

For some time I had been thinking that I should have a ‘house beer’ that I can focus on and ‘perfect’ and I may have just come up with one: A session brew. Yeah, doesn’t really narrow it down. But it will most likely be a lot like the French number I made a couple of months ago. Mostly because it’s my lady’s favorite and the fact that it’s great for just relaxing and having a sip. Of course, I think eventually I’ll have a new beers that I can tweet and keep “on tap” but for now I think one that I can adjust temps on, change and tweak and ‘perfect’ while making a list of other beers. Speaking of that list, I’ve been looking through (and reading again) my homebrew books and came up with a few I’d like to get to when we get moved east:

  • Traditional bitter
  • Barley Wine
  • Cherry Stout
  • Cucumber (lemon?) wheat beer

So yeah, only four thus far – but not a bad start.

I’ve cracked into the black gingered beer and it’s pretty nice. A touch more ginger than I had wanted, but the beer is still very green and may mellow out with time – first dark beer I’d done and I really enjoy it. The Nottingham yeast really lets the malt speak and takes a back seat to allow the ginger to step in. The hops are muted, but not invisible. It’s like a gingered beer poured over a dark beer – quite nice. If I were to make again, I’d have make it a bit stronger weighted, 8% or so – only because the ~6% its at is fine but the beer lends itself to be drank slow and savor it.

I miss brewing already – so I look forward to those long weekend days spending brewing away after we move.

    Work, and this blog

    Don’t worry, it’s not going away – I’ve just got to get some work crap done. I’ve got three beers ‘cooking’ right now; one just bottled today, another ready for drinking, and a last one still bubbling with massive krausen that just won’t quit. Updates soon to come, I haven’t even allowed enough time to fill out my beer sheets – I’ve just been taking notes on the paper recipes.

    Beer 3 & Beer 4

    Getting up to speed on this one – the previous post straddles the two beers so here they are.

    Beer 3, a Witbier started off on the Sunday after my brew fail. I picked up the kit at the only homebrew store in Chicago (Brew and Grow), along with a new floating thermometer. Side note: after breaking the last one and doing some thinking – I plan on buying a digital thermometer so I can be lazy and set an alarm instead of worrying about breaking the thin glass bobber and potentially wrecking the beer. So word to the wise, don’t buy the glass thermometer if you can help it.

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    The Witbier went without a hitch, what with learning to leave the breakable glass objects out and getting ‘used’ to brewing, it was went well. It was a partial mash kit – meaning there was an ass load of grain (see: wheat) to steep in the first part of the brew. In the photo above you get an idea for how much grain there was – that’s two and a half gallons of water with a massive grain sock in it. That was the 20th of February, for a timeline reference. I racked it to secondary and then bottled it last weekend.

    This time I wanted to add labels because everyone had been asking if there were labels to be had. Initially, no, there weren’t going to be labels – ever – because you take labels off ‘store-bought’ beer once and thats pretty much it. I remembered there was a post I had read showing labels topping the crowns (or tops) that would work in conjuncture of my laziness and save on waste. Thus labels were made for Wampa Slayer. Eventually, OG and some color will be added, but the trail run was awful so I didn’t want to push my luck with images/color/too much text.

    A week passes and I need to make another beer. I had been eye balling a ‘limited edition’ Farmhouse beer from Northern Brewer for a while now, so I pulled the trigger and nabbed it. It was the easiest brew day I’ve ever had – I think I can attribute it to both the kit it self – one hopping @ 60min – and the fact that this is my 4th beer and experience is helping smooth the process. Specialty grains were steeped, yeast packet ‘smacked’, wort boiled, things sanitized – it was a breeze. This was the first Northern Brewer kit I’d done, and it seemed a lot more ‘together’ than the brewer’s best kits.

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    Only had one hiccup – as shown in the photo above, my blow off had a nice big crack in it – who knows for how long (hope Wampa Slayer isn’t wrecked) – so I just stuck the softer tubing I’ve got into the hole atop the primary fermenter, dropped the other end in some sanitizer solution and away we went. It’s still bubbling an awful lot two days in, which is always exciting. This one should be completely done and drinkable in four weeks including bottle conditioning – super quick.

    Working on a couple other posts, and maybe I’ll do one catching up with my life instead of my life in beer.

    Beer kit

    So I got a beer kit finally thought I’d share some photos of the little darling:

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    The biggest pot I could find outside the brew shop and my buckets
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    Goodies and toys
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    Hydrometer - this tells you fun numbers
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    Cleanliness is next to godliness

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    Wouldn't be the first choice, but a good first kit: American Amber

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    "Better Bottle" carboy and cleaned bottles.

    Now I’ve just to wait when I have enough time to get it all done – I’m looking at you Saturday.