Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brew Day: Behind Enemy Lines Porter

Buying a home is an interesting thing. It is the largest expense we will ever incur, but your decision is largely based off walking around for 20 minutes at an open house. In the end there are always surprises. I had my first surprise when I wanted to brew and couldn't find anywhere outside to attach a hose. With beer being primarily water, this is a bit of an issue. To say nothing of cleaning or running water through my wort chiller.

Until this situation is rectified, all grain brewing was out of the question. I figured I could brew an extract batch and use my top off water to cool my wort down.

After my summer brewing hiatus I had a fair bit of ingredients I bought for beers I never got around to brewing. I had several cans of domestic malt extract I purchased for a planned Belgian Quad. I also had a ton of miscellaneous specialty malt. With winter approaching I decided to brew a porter.

I pulled a sample when a friend came to visit. Both him, Jennie, and I really liked it. If the beer tastes as good in the glass, I have already developed an all-grain equivalent featuring Muntons malts.

What was intended to be a bit of a throwaway batch of porter is a perfect beer to play with my new keezer. This was a six gallon batch that I racked into two separate three gallon kegs.I added priming sugar to both. I gave one keg a normal amount of priming sugar, while I gave the other keg half that amount. The low carbonated keg will be served on nitro.

Can't wait!

See full recipe here

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Session 131: Three Things In 2018

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. Over time, it is the hope — of me, at least — that a record will be created with much useful information about various topics on the subject of beer. The idea for the Sessions began with Jay Brooks and fellow beer writer Stan Hieronymus, who noticed similar group endeavors in other blogospheres and suggested those of us in the beer world create our own project. 

I happened to see Jay Brooks tweet about it. I initially thought he was looking for some type of guest post, but the concept looks really cool. I am a bit surprised that I just found The Session; the project has been ongoing since 2007.

For January Brooks threw out three questions:

Question 1: For our first question of the new year, what one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink. Craft beer seems to be the most agreed upon currently used term, but many people think it’s losing its usefulness or accuracy in describing it. What should we call it, do you think?

The Brewers Association is a trade organization and it is up to them to determine membership criteria. There has been a lot of hand-wringing about the Brewers Association's definitions of craft beer and independence. Honestly, I find it tedious.

One of the dictionary definitions of craft that I found is: "an activity involving skill in making things by hand."

I recently visited a large craft brewery that opened within the past year. There were no brewers on the brewstand. There were a half dozen in an adjacent control room full of computer screens. Everything in this state-of-the-art facility was hard piped and the brewers in the room were monitoring and moving liquid from one vessel to the next. The bottling line employed numerous robots that did everything from removing pallet slips, unloading bottles off their pallets, to repalletizing full cases of beer to be shipped out.

Equipment and resources like this would be the envy of 99% of craft brewers. Does any of this meet the above definition of craft? Nobody would say advanced systems designed to ensure consistency and efficiency is a bad thing.

To answer the question, beer is beer. I've always believed people should drink the beer that they like even if it is not craft beer or hand-crafted.

Question #2: What two breweries do you think are very underrated? 

This question would have been much easier to answer five years ago. As the number of breweries in the US has grown, more shelf space and draft lines are going to local brands at the expense of larger craft brewers from out of state and imported beers. We could list small brewers all day that most people reading this will never visit or drink their beer.

  1. von Trapp Brewing in Vermont produces flawless, traditional German lagers. The Helles in particular is a love letter to pilsner malt. These aren't the type of beers that will garner lots of attention or light up the beer rating sites, but those of us who are beyond that will never be disappointed.
  2. There are some beers that when I have them are always better than I remember. Smuttynose Finestkind IPA is certainly one. Old Brown Dog is one of the few brown ales you see year round in the Boston area. Whenever I think of a Robust Porter, or American Porter in the 2015 BJCP guidelines, I think of Smutty's Robust Porter. I've only visited the brewery once, and when I did some of the rare and imperial stuff they had on tap blew me away.
Question 3:  Name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of.
  1. Non-imperial, adjunct free stouts. More Irish Stouts, Export Stouts, Tropical Stouts please. Not every stout needs lactose, vanilla, or artisanal coffee. If you are drinking one of these styles and think it is "light" because it is lighter than Old Rasputin, you are wrong.
  2. Bitters or English Pale Ale was one of the styles that launched the craft beer revolution. Like pilsner it is a style brewers love to make and drink. I spoke to one brewer who lamented how poorly an ESB sold in his taproom. I suggested calling it an English Pale Ale thinking that would work better with drinkers who didn't know what a bitter was. Unfortunately that was exactly what he did and it didn't help. Also, the way InBev has let the Bass brand die on the vine is an absolute shame.
  3. For the most part beer in America was initially inspired British, German, and Belgian brewing traditions. Surely there were people in other regions too cold to grow wine grapes, but where cereal grains thrived, that were making beer. I'd love to see more of these styles brewed in America.
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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Brew Day: Galloupe St Gold

There really is something to be said for any brewer or beer drinker to have a house beer. A house beer being a beer that is kept in the house at all times. It's the beer you go to if you want to relax on a Tuesday night after work. For a craft beer drinker that can mean keeping a six or twelve-pack of a house beer in the fridge; for a homebrewer it's a beer brewed with some regularity and kept in stock.

In the past I tweaked and tweaked my milk stout recipe to perfect it. After continually tweaking, before finally dumbing it back down to a degree I am happy with the recipe. I haven't brewed a milk stout since Curly's Pumpkin Milk Stout. Partly that is due to my hiatus from brewing, but mostly milk stout isn't something I want to drink all of the time.

When we moved to our new home, and I built my keener, Jennie suggested brewing an easy-drinking beer to have as a house beer. Jennie came up with the name Galloupe Ave Gold. When we brewed together more, Jennie was always coming up with names for beer. The easy thing would have been to brew a British Golden Ale, but that is a style I brew every summer for the summer. I decided to look farther afield from the name of the beer for inspiration.

The first beer that came to mind for inspiration was New Glarus Spotted Cow. The Beer Judge Certification Program lists Spotted Cow as a commercial example for a Cream Ale, however the brewery bristles at that designation and calls their beer a "Wisconsin Farmhouse Ale". The grist in Spotted Cow is Wisconsin-malted barley, flaked corm as corn is widely grown in Wisconsin, and flaked barley. Several years ago we brewed Northern Brewers Speckled Heifer kit, a beer that as the name indicates is inspired by Spotted Cow. New Glarus holds their recipes close to the vest, but the ingredients in the kit gave me an idea of where to start.

Working for Muntons, and being well-stocked with Muntons' products, my house beer has to use Muntons malt. I took the domestic malts in the Northern Brewer recipe and substituted in Muntons malts. I'm using Muntons Propino Pale Malt as the base, Muntons Caramalt in lieu of Carapils, Muntons Brewing Wheat in exchange for flaked barley, only keeping the flaked maize. This grist looks an awful lot like an English Pale Ale. The color was a touch light for the style so I added a very small amount of Muntons Roasted Barley for color adjustment.

If I really wanted to be married to the style I would probably use Fuggle or Kent Golding hops. Having plenty of American hops in my inventory, and wanting my beer to have a bit of an American hop flavor, I used Columbus for bittering and Cascade for flavor. Both hop additions were small enough that our house beer should still be approachable.

Final volume was short. The heat wrap around the carboy
helped the beer ferment at ale temperatures in my cold basement.
My brew day went fairly well until it was time to add the beer to my fermenter. I was well short of five gallons. I'm still not dialed-in brewing outside with a propane burner. Instead of topping off with water, I just went with what I had. The beer did finish a couple points higher than estimated which isn't the worst thing in the world. On packaging day there was enough beer to fill a three gallon keg and a half gallon growler.

This is the first iteration of the beer. I am not married to the recipe and will tweak it until I feel I've nailed it. I could try using traditional English hops. I could use a darker crystal malt if the malt flavor is too generic. I think some amber malt could add a nice biscuit flavor.

What Jennie wants and I am trying to achieve with this beer is drinkability and approachability. I will know I have perfected this beer if it is a beer that both craft and non-craft drinkers enjoy.

As for the name, our house is on Galloupe Avenue, but when the city replaced the street signs the new signs initially said "Galloupe St". There was also some confusion with the direction of the street. I'm glad I snapped a photo so this multi-faceted fail can live on.

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Brew Year's Resolutions for 2018

I am a sucker for things that were cool four years ago.

As I reviewed my Brew Years Resolutions from last year, my line "I have a feeling 2017 is going to be a big year for me personally and professionally" was more true than I could have imagined. After a good start with my resolutions,  a new job and moving to a new house really threw a wrench into my brewing. 

Let's see how I did with last years resolutions:

  • Brew more big beers and sour beers: Qualified success. Thomas Brady's Ale is waiting to be bottled. I love how The Sour Chris is coming along and am giving it even more time to develop. I wanted to brew a Belgian Quad over the summer, and there were two other sours I wanted to brew. The sad thing is I bought ingredients for all of these. 
  • Perfect a house IPA recipe: Fail. The last IPA I brewed I had to dump, and I brewed that beer last may. At this point I think I want to keep experimenting with different riffs on IPA. There are so many different ingredients that can go into IPA that I don't want to limit myself.
  • Make other fermentable beverages and food: Qualified success. I did make my first ever kit wine and spontaneous ferment cider. I have wanted to try my hand at mead for a long time but didn't get to it. 
  • Enter more competitions: Success. I won my first ever first place with Pa's Lager. I also won two medals with our smoked wheat Lyin' Lochte, and a third place with Sour Chris. Of the four beers I entered into the National Homebrew Competition, one made it to the mini-best of show round which indicates it nearly placed and advanced. The only negative here is that my brewing hiatus prevented me from entering competitions in the second half of the year.
  • Collaborate more: Fail. 
A mixed bag to be sure. Going forward the key for me will be to fall into a routine with my career and brewing. Here are my resolutions for 2018:
  • Brew more big beers and sour beers: I'm carrying this one over from 2017. I have a cellar now and it is not going to fill itself. I also need to get some type of storage solution for my bottles that will protect them from light.
  • Make other fermentable beverages and food: I love having a cider on tap so much I want to make more in 2018. The wine kit was so easy I would also like to dabble in making a wine from juice. For years I have wanted to try my hand at mead. Cyser, a fermented blend of honey and apple juice is amazing when done well. I bought Jennie a cheesemaking kit several years ago. Time to make it happen!
  • Perfect a house beer: I already have a head start on this one. Check this space!
  • Plant a hop garden: I have a yard that gets plenty of sun. Can't wait to brew another wet hop beer.
  • Keep writing: When I started the blog on the Gatehouse Media platform I agreed to write two posts a week. Since I was and still am giving Gatehouse free content they aren't exactly going to fire me. Still, I want to do a better job writing regularly. For 2018 I want to average 6-8 posts per month. The easiest way to do that is to do a better job writing about my finished beers. Often by the time my beers are ready to drink my focus is already on the next beer.
I think that is a solid list for 2018. Happy Brew Year everyone and brew on!

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