Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brew Day: Summer of Jennie (Fruit Beer)

Before I finally broke down and purchased Amazon Prime, I would always have to buy one extra item to qualify for free shipping. One such item I bought was Brew Your Own Magazine's 250 Classic Clone Recipes. My guess is this is an anthology of various recipes to appear in the magazine from over a period of many years. Some of the beers in there are no longer produced which in my opinion makes it cool that there are clones out there for a brewer who wants to recreate them. There are several in the book I would like to try.

One recipe that caught my eye was Sea Dog Brewing Company Blue Paw Wheat Ale. A beer alternately known as Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat Ale or Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale. As the Sea Dog brand is jointly owned by the owners of Shipyard, I suspect that Shipyard Summer Ale is the base beer for Sea Dog's various fruit beers. The information on Shipyard's website for Summer Ale, matches quite closely with Brew Your Own's base beer.

I find Shipyard Summer Ale to be a light and refreshing American Wheat Ale. I have fond memories of bringing Shipyard Summer to a Labor Day cookout when that was the only summer beer left I could find. I could easily brew a batch, split it after primary fermenation, leave half as it was to make a Shipyard Summer Ale clone, and add fruit of my choice to make a fruit beer.

I asked Jennie if she wanted to add blueberry and make another blueberry beer. She wasn't overly enthused. I suggested any number of other fruits until I remembered that she really enjoys Sea Dog Sunfish, a fruit beer with peach and grapefruit. We had a winner.

I tweaked the recipe in the book to make it a six gallon, partial mash. The idea is to only have to do one boil, and end up with three gallons of each beer. I also adjusted the hops because I still had plenty of bulk Nugget and Cascade. The Cascade at 25 minutes in the boil should make the beer slightly more citrusy and less earthy than the commercial versions.

Since the hops are different I feel comfortable renaming the base beer and passing it off as my own creation. I'm calling the base beer Transistor Radio. It's a beer designed to be enjoyed on the back deck, by the pool, or on the beach while baseball is playing on the radio.

For Summer of Jennie I bought a can of peach puree and fresh grapefruit. I am going to rack the beer on top of the puree, grapefruit peel, and grapefruit flesh. The Dawson's Kriek kit used two cans of cherry puree for a five gallon batch. From that experience, I think one can for a three gallon batch will be sufficient. I also added the fresh peel of one grapefruit and threw in the flesh just because. Even though the beer is inspired by Sunfish, the hops are different and I am not trying to perfectly replicate the balance of fruit flavors, I don't consider it a clone.

Ideally I would have racked this beer already, but I've been under the weather with a nasty cough. I have one last summer brew I need to get in, then I have a lot of racking and bottling to do.

See the full recipe here

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Brew Day: 'Murica Brewed the Easy Way (Pre-Prohibition Lager)

There is quite a bit of overlap between homebrewers and craft beer lovers. Many craft beer drinkers see macro beer as an existential threat. Personally, I am more ambivalent. I wrote a post about how I would restore Budweiser to relevence a week before AB InBev aired the "Brewed The Hard Way" commercial during the Super Bowl.

After that Super Bowl ad aired last year a coworker jokingly suggested that I should brew a beer "The Hard Way".  I considered brew attempt to brewing a Budweiser-like beer complete with krausening, beech wood (or whatever tasteless wood I could find) aging, and truly brew it the "hard way".  In the end that beer ended up as a would-be brew.

I love lagers and my lack of equipment to control my fermentation temperature is the only reason I don't brew more of them. I still managed to win an award with a lager fermented at room temperature. When I saw my friend from HomebrewCon Marshall's exBEERiment showing a lager brewed with Saflager Lager (W-34/70) that fermented at ale temperatures had no discernable difference between a beer brewed at lager temperatures, that got my wheels spinning. 

As I thought about what I could brew to see what kind of warm-fermented lagers I could make, I wanted to make something more flavorful than Budweiser or another Standard American Lager. The first lager I ever attempted was a beer called Pesky's Pole Pilsner. Under the 2008 BJCP Guidelines it was a Classic American Pilsner, and under the updated 2015 guidelines it would have been a Pre-Prohibition Lager. I attempted this beer only a few short months after I started brewing. I made numerous rookie mistakes and made five gallons of undrinkable beer. This is a style I have wanted to take another crack at!

In almost all of my cream ales or historic American brews, corn had been my adjunct of choice as I really like the flavor contribution it brings. Eamon, my manager at Modern Homebrew Emporium attributes health issues he has experienced to GMO corn and will not drink a beer with corn in it. He does not have that issue with the other American adjunct grain of choice, rice. I wanted to brew something I could share with Eamon, while also using an ingredient I haven't used in several years. I look forward to comparing this beer with some of my other beers I have brewed with corn. 

Compared to corn which adds a noticable sweet flavor, almost like cream corn, at high levels, rice will dry out a beer. If you have ever drank Asahi at a sushi restaurant, the rice used in that beer contributes to the dry finish. In America AB and Coors use vast amounts of rice, while Miller uses corn. 

Now, I could have brewed a beer "the hard way", but some of my recent brew days have been hard enough. I wanted an easy brew! I never brewed the "hard way" lager because I have more beers I want to brew than I have time to brew them. By brewing this beer with extract my brew day is easier and it frees up time to brew other beers I want to brew.

At the shop we sell rice syrup solids,  an extract powder derived from rice. It lightens a beer without contributing color or flavor just like if this was an all-grain batch and I added flaked rice to the mash. I know of one award-wining brewery in Central Mass that uses rice syrup in their Cream Ale. In the spirit of an easy brew, rice syrup solids do not need to be mashed like flaked rice. Rice that isn't pre-gelatatinized like flaked rice require an added step called a cereal mash. 

This recipe is so easy there isn't even any specialty grains I need to steep. I could steep some Carapils if I wanted to give the beer a fresh malt flavor, but the shop turns over a lot of extract and I am confident that the extract I bought is sufficiently fresh. 

My vision is to have an easy-drinking beer where most of the flavor comes from the hops. As a historic beer I want to have some Cluster hop flavor. I don't, but a lot of people think Cluster has a catty flavor. I want to balance the flavor and aroma with floral and spicy Liberty hops. There will also be a small dry hop to help hide any flaws and punch up the hop aroma. 

Color looks decent before pitching.
No starter needed. Used a lager pitching rate
even fermenting at warm temperature.
I pitched two sachets of dry yeast when my wort was at 68F. A couple days later we had an unseasonably warm day and at the height of active fermentation, the fermenter did get up to 74F. Clearly that wasn't ideal, but at this point I am just going to hope for the best.

It's getting to be time to pump the brakes on brewing, and focus
on bottling (and drinking)
Hey! That's not your cat tree!!

I brewed this during a double brew day. Almost all of my fermenters are full. I am going to try to squeeze in two more brews before the weather is too warm to ferment with most American ale yeasts. After that I am going to take a bit of a break from brewing and focus on bottling everything up.

See the full recipe here

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Brew Day: Shareholder's Saison (Brett Beer)

As our club has been planning our homebrew competition, Jennie wanted to re-brew and enter her recipe Shareholder's Saison. She designed, and I brewed the first batch of Shareholder's Saison for 2015 Ales for ALS. We didn't enter the beer in the competition, electing to enter our more tried and true Curly's Milk Stout.

The base beer is a pale, standard strength saison. To spice things up, Jennie decided to add a blend of spices and use White Labs American Farmhouse Blend which contains brettanomyces or brett in addition to regular brewer's yeast. For competition purposes a saison is not supposed to use brett, and examples that do belong in the Brett Beer category.

At the time we were very happy with how the beer turned out. The original batch was a five gallon partial mash. We kegged three gallons for the event, and bottled the other two gallons. In the ensuing year and a half we have opened bottles here and there on special occasions. Over time the hop character has faded, while the brettanomyces flavor has become more assertive.

Usually when I re-brew a batch, I find something to tweak to try and make it better. As this was Jennie's recipe, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to change and she shrugged. So I brewed the batch as closely as I could to the original batch.

This time around I bottled the entire batch. On bottling day I poured some bottle dregs from the first batch into my bottling bucket and racked the new beer on top of it. I don't expect that to impact the beer at all. I just liked the idea of having a piece of the original batch melded in with the new batch.

This isn't an IPA where the hop flavor and aroma will fade and the beer will fall off after a couple of months. The brett flavor will change and evolve over time.  Since we plan to cellar the beer over a period of time I printed up some cool Green Bay Packer-themed bottles.

Even though we re-brewed the beer for our club's competition, I am also entering the beer in a competition in Ohio called Saisonfest which is a competition only for various styles of saison. I am also planning to enter the beer in a competition in Green Bay.

See the full recipe here

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Checking In: The Anti-Chris (Double IPA)

With the North Shore Brewers Competition less than a month away, I will be bottling my double IPA The Anti-Chris this weekend. I dry hopped the crap out of this beer. Not wanting any of the hop material to clog my siphon or make it into any of my bottles I used muslin bags for both of my dry hop additions.

I barely fit the first hop addition into my carboy. The hops kept bunching up inside the bag but I eventually made it work.

First dry hop addition 14 days. 

My second dry hop addition was even larger. Additionally when the shop was out of Citra hop pellets I had to buy two ounces of Citra hop leafs which take up even more room. The second time around I bought a larger muslin bag. A big enough bag to hold several pounds of steeping grain for an extract batch. I also put a couple of metal screwdriver bits into the bag to make sure the entire thing didn't float at the surface. The idea is to have as much of the hop material in contact with the beer as possible. 

Again I had a heck of a time jamming that bag in there, but eventually it worked

My second dry hop addition

I managed to squeeze all of this in there.

Both bags are in the carboy. 

The volume of the second dry hop addition displaced so much room inside the carboy that it pushed beer to almost the very top. Then the hops started to swell as they absorbed the beer. This pushed beer up through my airlock. I actually had to set up a blow-off tube to channel the beer away.

If beer is being pushed out of my carboy, I'd prefer
it not be onto the floor. 
Moving and lifting this thing on Sunday should be interesting. Not having to unclog my sipohon and bottling wand multiple times will make it worth it.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Brew Day: Bonus Brown (American Brown Ale)

I find yeast to be a particularly interesting topic in the world of brewing. Many brewers exclusively use a generic ale yeast like Chico be it Safale S05, Wyeast 1056, or White Labs 001, and do not give yeast a second thought. Many brewers just want the yeast to stay our of the way so the flavor from the malt and the hops can take the spotlight. Some brewers like Bell's and Harpoon have house strains that they use. Bone Up Brewing opened in Everett in 2016; they brew American styles, but with a Belgian yeast.

Up in Portland, some of the older craft brewers like Geary's are "Ringwood breweries" that exclusively use Ringwood Ale yeast. Geary's in particular has never bought a fresh pitch of Ringwood. They have repitched the same yeast from batch to batch for over thirty years. In that time their yeast may have evolved and mutated. I always got a cleaner taste with less diacetyl from Geary's beers as opposed to say Shipyard Export.

As a homebrewer, I enjoy experimenting with different yeast stains. Whenever I buy liquid yeast I try to harvest extra yeast from my starter. Last summer while I was busily brewing my US of IPA brews, and beers for Ales over ALS, I neglected to label a couple of my jars. The gars sat in the fridge for a period of months and Jennie was tired of looking at them.

Mystery yeast!

While I was trying to figure out what kind of beer I should brew with the second runnings of Wee Heavy I had an idea, why not just throw all of the yeast in a batch and see what happens? It felt crazy enough to work. These are all strains I've used before and loved. Why not use them together and try to make something unique? If it works I can keep using it like Geary's has used the same yeast for as long as it has.

One of the jars was labeled 1187, that would be Ringwood likely harvested from my yeast starter for Age of Sail. One jar I am fairly certain was 1318 from my 2016 Summer Somewhere. The other jar could be 1272. The other possibility is that it is The Yeast Bay's Vermont Ale. I froze some of the yeast back in 2014. When I tried to build it up last summer the fermentation wasn't that active so I bought fresh yeast for my NE IPA Haze for Daze. I may have saved that slurry also. I also dug around and found an older jar that was labeled 1318. If nothing else I have learned my lesson about organization.

Boiling my second runnings.

After conducting two boils for the Wee Heavy, I was anxious to get this over with. I ran the risk of tripping a circuit and boiled with two burners on the stove. I only added hops to the main kettle, while boiling the smaller pot just long enough to sterilize the wort. At the end of the main boil I blended the beer from the smaller pot back into the main kettle. The idea was to help cool the main wort while again sterilizing the wort from the smaller pot in the near-boiling kettle.

Given how old these jars were, I made a yeast starter and harvested a pint of my new blend. I decided to keep the recipe for my bonus beer fairly simple with one hop addition at 60 minuted and one at 10 minutes. After pitching my starter fermentation took off fairly quickly.

Beer is hazy, makes me think there's some VT Ale
yeast in there. 
With a double brew day looming, I pulled a sample to see if I could get an idea what kind of flavor my mystery blend would bring. The first samples tasted bitter and almost phenolic. I didn't trust it to pitch in another beer. I ended up buying new yeast for my double brew day. 

A few days later on my double brew day, I racked the beer to a secondary to free up a primary fermenter. I was hoping some time in the carboy would mellow what I thought was an acrid beer. Before going through the effort of racking I gave the beer another taste to see if it was salvageable, and I was pleasantly surprised!

There were lots of esters in there. It is clear the blend is mostly English. The beer was quite hazy which makes me think there is Conan in the blend. The hop flavor was accentuated which is another hallmark of Conan. Even with two small hop additions, the hop flavor really shone through. At the same time, the beer didn't feel too dry which is something I have experienced in the past when brewing with Conan.

I think my blended yeast will be perfect for a New England IPA. I'll be sure to use it in the next one I brew.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Race against time, summer is coming

March is supposed to be "In like a lion, and out like a lamb". In Massachusetts in 2017 March weather was miserable from beginning to end. Snow was still on the ground on Red Sox Opening Day. Now we are in April, summer drinking season will be here before we know it. Summer is my favorite season and I probably enjoy summer beers more than any other season. I have to brew summer beers!

Not only is time against me in terms of having beer ready by Memorial Day, the weather is turning against me. It appears we will be measuring spring in terms of days instead of weeks or months. Tomorrow temperatures are going to be in the high 70s. In my third floor apartment it will be even warmer. When the weather is consistently that warm, I have trouble keeping my fermentation temperatures down.

To beat the calendar and Mother Nature I had a double brew day on Sunday, and am planning another double brew day next Sunday. On top of that I had to bottle a batch yesterday, and need to bottle Pasteinator and The Anti-Chris next week. In the meantime I am running out pf places for all of my fermenters. The only way I could fit all of my fermenters in a picutre was to take a panoramic photo. Even that didn't include two carboys in the kitchen.

All seven of these vessels are full. The Ant-Chris and my cider are not pictured, they are in carboys in the corner of my kitchen.
I'll be sure to fill you my loyal readers in with what I have been brewing and bottling. After these two double brew days I am going to pump the brakes for the summer. Boiling gallons of wort inside when it's hot and humid is never pleasant. Running a stove for several hours and two air conditioners tests the limits of my apartment's electrical system. The ground water is so warm, cooling wort is also a challenge.

I do look forward to having plenty of beet to last me through the summer. During the summer I'll probably do a batch a month just to keep the carboys full and brew some Belgian styles.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Brew Day: North Shore Brewer's Barrel Beer #4 (Wee Heavy)

Awhile back my homebrew club The North Shore Brewers acquired two used Utopias barrels from Samuel Adams. The first two barrel beers were two batches of a Kate the Great/Mott the Lessor clone. The club brought a keg to Jamboree last fall, and the beer was excellent. Club member Ryan Veno entered two of his bottles in the National Homebrew Competition. The beer finished first at its table and advanced to the Final Round of judging held at HomebrewCon.

The third batch was a SMaSH barleywine. I brewed a batch with my friend from the club Pat, but by the time it was done the barrel was full. We ended up raking our barleywine into 5 different one gallon growlers where we are aging the beer on different woods and different spirits.

After the barleywine the club had a vote on the club forum about what style of beer to brew next. I suggested either a Strong Scottish Ale (or Wee Heavy) or a clone of Westvleteren 12, one of the most sought-after beers in the world. I made sure to leave the forum open to other suggestions.

In the end the Wee Heavy won out in part because it is less expensive to brew. The Westvleteren 12 clone would have required relatively expensive dark Belgian candi sugar. Paul Gentile from Gentile Brewing helped us out with a grain buy. A grain buy is when a group of brewers get together to buy bulk grains directly from a wholesaler, or when a commercial brewer orders grain for homebrewers. We ordered our hops in bulk directly from a wholesaler, and I brewed a beer to propagate enough yeast for everyone. In all the cost of the batch was less than $30. For a high-gravity beer that uses as much malt as this beer, that's not bad at all.

I scaled up the recipe for Pyrite Pistol, changed it to all-grain, and then made a
couple of tweaks.
The starting point for the recipe was Pyrite Pistol. When converting the batch from malt extract to all-grain there we decided to use Scottish Golden Promise base malt. One club member suggested using some Munich Malt to punch up the malt flavor so we added a pound to the grist. I replaced the lighter Caramalt from Pyrite Pistol with 150L CaraArmoa malt. The idea is to give the beer the color and flavor it needs without having to employ too long of a boil. A shorter boil will boil off less water, which requires running off less wort from the mash, and will leave more sugars behind to brew another beer with the second runnings.

After my experiment with The Anti-Chris, I felt confident in brewing a batch like this with my mash tun in my kitchen. I mashed in just like I would with any other all-grain batch. I ran off around four gallons of wort expecting to boil it down to 2.5 gallons. Before I brought that to a boil, I filled my mash tun with sparge water, stirred the mash, and sealed the mash tun. When my first boil was over, I cooled my wort, poured it into my fermenter, ran off another four gallons, and boiled the second half of the batch.

This worked fairly well as I ended up with just a shade under five gallons. After pitching my yeast starter I was probably right there. The only downside to this method is the time involved. It takes time to bring the wort to a boil, this batch used a 90 minute boil, then I had to cool it down. Conservatively this added an extra two hours to my brew day. That is without factoring in a second beer I made from the grains.

It is good to know that I can brew a big, all-grain beer in my kitchen. The brew day is just so flipping long I can't see myself doing it more than a few times a year.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Barrel House Z

Barrel House Z (BHZ) opened in 2016 in Weymouth, Mass., and is a brewery that specializes in barrel-aged beers. Last year as they opened, BHZ sponsored their Launch Pad homebrew competition. I entered a second iteration of my Camp Randall Red IPA. I bottled my beer too soon, and the resulting batch was yeasty and overcarbonated. The over-carbonation caused the beer to gush.

Wanting to foster relationships with local homebrew clubs, when BHZ put together their Lift Off Competition for 2017 they restricted entry to homebrew club members that live within 25 miles of their Weymouth brewery. As I lived more than 25 miles away I couldn't enter the competition this year, but I did volunteer to judge. The competition was organized by the MASH Holes who I had a great time hanging out with at Jamboree and Homebrew Con.

Judging was at South Shore Homebrew Emporium in Weymouth. After sleeping through my alarm I managed not to arrive too late. In the first round I judged Strong Dark Lagers, and then participated in the Best-of-Show judging. Six beers advanced to the Best-of-Show round. Our job was to only pick the top three to be brewed on BHZ's pilot system. From there, the beers will be served at the brewery and winner selected at a special event.

For any readers not from Massachusetts, I live in an area north of Boston called the North Shore. Weymouth is located south of Boston on the South Shore. Although not separated by many road miles, Boston and it's poorly-conceived road and rail links separate the North and South Shore like Hadrian's Wall.

With no traffic on a Saturday morning it took me an hour to get to Weymouth. On a weekday it would easily have taken me twice as long. While I was in the area the plan was to always go to Trillium's brewery in Canton after judging. When I saw that BHZ was less than ten minutes from the judging site it made perfect sense to stop by the taproom as well.

The space at BHZ was really nice, lots of exposed wood and metal, and plenty of room to sit and relax. The staff couldn't have been more friendly.

I started with a taster of a juniper pils, Sunny & 79º. The juniper flavor was more prominent than most gins I have tasted, but it worked well with the base beer. I also enjoyed two barrel-aged stouts Adeline and Quaker State. I gave Adeline a slight edge over the oatmeal stout, Quaker State as I felt it had a more robust roasted malt and hop flavor. 

The two beers that got my wheels spinning a bit as a brewer were Townie a 9% Irish Red Ale aged in rum barrels, and Red Rye Ale #23, a 10% red rye ale aged in Jamaican rum barrels. Technically speaking the base beers would be in the American or British Strong Ale category due to their high ABV. In a commercial as opposed to composition setting I don't worry nearly as much about style parameters. A commercial brewer deserves wide latitude in how they describe their beer to the public.

These two beers were a revelation because the vast majority of barrel-aged beers are imperial stouts. There are some barleywines and a few Belgian dark strong ales. The only beer available locally that experiments with different styles and wood is Innis & Gunn. These beers showed the kind of flavor a scaled up Irish Red or American Amber Ale brewed with rye can produce. In both cases the rum barrel was perfect for aging. 

As homebrewers we should experiment with aging different styles with wood or in barrels. An ESB, Brown Ale, or even an IPA scaled up and aged on or in wood would make an interesting beer to try. Next time I go big with one of my beers, I think I might try a bit of an unconventional style. 

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