Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tasting Notes- Pulpwood Stacker (2C International Dark Lager)

Inspired by Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark. A smooth dark lager with just enough malt character to be interesting, but still approachable. Blows Negra Modello out of the water for me. I entered the beer into NHC, let's see how it does!

This was a bit of a re-brew. Last time I tried to brew a partial-mash version of this beer, the batch was infected and I had to dump it.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Brew Day: Rundown Irish Red

Time goes by so fast. You only wanna do what you think is right. You know what doesn't feel right? That I haven't brewed either of my house Irish beers in a very long time. As I have started to circle back, I contemplated re-brewing my Spring Training Stout or Rundown Irish Red.

My other impetus for brewing these beers again is the fact that these style of beers are not as prevalent as they once were. At least not as prevalent in the portfolios of American craft brewers. Gentile Brewing in my hometown is an exception as they brew a year-round stout and seasonal Irish red.  Nowadays many craft stouts have some kind of adjunct like coffee, chocolate, vanilla, spices, and most are imperial in strength.

A subtle, slightly malty style like Irish Red couldn't be more different than say New England IPA. That doesn't give craft brewers impetus to brew them. Several examples are made with American malt. In a malt-driven style like this using authentic ingredients is critical. I've bought "Irish Red" ales that tasted like under-hopped American Amber Ales.

As I drink less these days, I didn't have room to put two Irish beers on tap. On tap right now I have Employee Orientation 102, the second runnings of a training beer I made with a colleague, and a re-brew of a dark lager Pulpwood Stacker. If I could only brew one, the Irish Red made the most sense.

I kicked the batch further old-school by brewing the beer with malt extract. Two cans of Muntons Maris Otter Pale extract to be exact with some steeped specialty grains. I brewed this batch the same day I brewed Thomas Brady's Ale. To heat my water for steeping my specialty grains I used the first gallon of water to come out of my immersion chiller as I started to chill my first batch. The water was piping hot and seemed to do the job just fine in terms of extracting flavor and color from my grains.

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Who needs a muslin bag?

From there I strained my specialty specialty grains and collected the wort in my Mash & Boil, topped off with more water, heated up the wort to near boiling temperature, and cut the heat before adding my malt extract. The idea is to not scorch the kettle or the extract. Also, the Mash & Boil has a breaker that shuts off if the water is too low to stop the unit from heating up when it's dry. I made sure my liquid extract was fully dissolved before powering back up to get to a boil.

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The same thing as using Maris Otter out of the sack, except I let my colleagues in Stowmarket
do the mashing for me. 

Every time I brew with malt extract I ask myself why I don't do it more often. Are there limitations that come with extract brewing? Yes, but every brewer has limitations of some kind. I visited a large brewery that had only just opened. The brewers stared at monitors like Homer Simpson at the nuclear power plant as almost everything in this state-of-the-art brewery was hard piped. Even touring that facility, the brewer lamented a couple bits and bobs he wished they had done differently that they had to work around.

Usually as soon as I am done brewing, my mind immediately shifts to thinking what I will brew next. Enjoying the beer is almost an afterthought. For some reason I am particularly excited to enjoy this batch. I think I am excited to enjoy a beer made with such relative simplicity. A beer where the base was malt extract, the proportion of specialty malt was small, the flavor is designed to be subtle, and the balance makes the beer crushable.

The beer is already in the keg. Pints will be enjoyed on Saint Patrick's Day!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Brew Day: Thomas Brady's Ale (2019)

It's been two years since I brewed the first batch of Thomas Brady's Ale. Originally I had intended to brew the beer on an annual basis. Unfortunately last year I was busy settling into a new house and new job, and just never got around to it.

The idea for the beer came from my friend Eamon. Every New Years Day he brews his barleywine, ages it over the course of the year, bottles it in the fall, and opens the first bottle on New Years Eve. I brewed my batch a few days after New Years.

Brewing on a stove-top, I made my first barleywine with an obscene amount of malt extract. Now that I have both a yard to brew in where I can use my propane burner, and my Mash & Boil that is capable of a full volume boil. That makes brewing an all-grain barleywine with a grist of over 20 pounds of grain far more practical. The bones of this all-grain recipe are very similar to the original extract version.

The last label from my last sack of
Propino Pale Malt.

For the last several years at Muntons our main spring barley variety has been Propino. Before I worked for the company, the North Shore Brewers had our SMaSH base malt project where members brewed beers with different base malts as a way to evaluate them. In hindsight it was fortuitous that for my SMaSH blonde the "UK 2-row" I used was Propino. Out of all the SMaSH beers brewed, I liked the one I brewed with Propino the best.

New barley varieties are developed every few years as growers seek greater yields in the field and disease resistance. In East Anglia, where Muntons sources most of its barley, Propino is on its way out and Planet is on it's way in. My craft beer customers have all switched over to Planet, as I was down to about 14 pounds of Propino. Using the last of my Propino in a special beer like Thomas Brady's Ale that will be cellared for years felt an appropriate swan song.

When I decided to brew this year's vintage as an all-grain beer, I revisited the recipe Pattinson published on his website:

It is interesting that the grist uses both pale and lager malt. English pale malt is relatively low in diastatic power. My educated guess is that the lager malt was added to help convert the un-malted wheat in the grist. Most American brewers are not familiar with lager malt, and most homebrew shops don't sell it. Lager malt is light in color like Pilsner malt, but usually doesn't have the same honey-like sweetness.

As I slowly work through a sack of wheat malt, I used wheat malt in my recipe. This makes diastatic power not a concern. Considering I didn't have any lager malt this was a good thing. I still didn't have quite enough Propino Pale Malt to replace all of the lager malt in the original recipe. As a substitute I used Muntons Super Pale Malt.

Super Pale is an awesome malt. It is the lightest colored malt Muntons makes; lighter than even its Pilsner and Lager Malts. The bag I have at home is 1.3L in color. Super Pale was designed for hoppy beers, and in this recipe will allow most of the base malt flavor to come from the Propino Pale.

The specialty malt in the 2017 vintage was a caramel rye malt, and I aged the beer on oak cubes soaked in rye whiskey. As I thought of which spirit I would use for this batch the choice that immediately came to mind was a bourbon made by one of my customers. This bourbon uses a small amount of Muntons Crystal 400 which is 150L. Since the malt is in the spirit it was natural to use it in the beer.

Brewer: Jason Chalifour
Batch Size: 5.25 galStyle: English Barleywine (17D)
Boil Size: 6.85 galStyle Guide: BJCP 2015
Color: 18.8 SRMEquipment: Mash & Boil With Cooler
Bitterness: 60.6 IBUsBoil Time: 105 min
Est OG: 1.103 (24.5° P)Mash Profile: Single Infusion, Medium Body, No Mash Out
Est FG: 1.024 SG (6.1° P)Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage
ABV: 10.8%Taste Rating: 
9.61 galAmber Full (7-17 SRM)Water1
2.06 gChalk (Mash 60 min)Misc2
1.28 gEpsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash 60 min)Misc3
1.10 gGypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60 min)Misc4
14 lbs 7.04 ozPale Ale, Propino (Muntons) (2.5 SRM)Grain5
4 lbs 8.00 ozSuper Pale Malt (Muntons) (1.7 SRM)Grain6
2 lbs 8.00 ozWheat Malt (Muntons) (2.2 SRM)Grain7
1 lbsCrystal 400 (Muntons) (170.0 SRM)Grain8
1.25 ozNugget [13.0%] - Boil 75 minHops9
1.00 ozAurora [8.2%] - Boil 30 minHops10
0.24 tspIrish Moss (Boil 10 min)Misc11
2 pkgsNottingham Yeast (Lallemand #-)Yeast12
0 pkgsSuper High Gravity Ale (White Labs #WLP099)Yeast13

This was the second batch in a row where my yield was exceedingly poor. The last batch was a re-brew of Crackerjack Cream Ale I intended to enter into NHC.

My starting gravity going into the fermenter was 1.080, barely enough for the beer to be a barleywine. When my pre-boil gravity was off, I disassembled my mill as I waited for my wort to reach a boil. I found a barley kernel that may have been causing one of the rollers to jam. I cleared that out, gave the mill an overdue brushing, and reset the gap to the factory default position. Hopefully things will be back to normal during my next all-grain batch.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tasting Notes: Pa's Lager (Pale International Lager)

I really think video is a better medium for sharing tasting notes. I have never done a great job at posting tasting notes blogs anyway.

As far as the quality of the videos I think they are getting better. This is the first one I shot in landscape! I'll see what I can do about the lighting. Wait till the end to see what the hum in the background is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Brew Day: Pesky's Pole Pilsner (Pre-Prohibition Lager)

My first video posted to the blog. I'm not sure why my last two have not. I think I have it figured out. The video and video editing are works in-progress.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Brew Years Resolutions for 2019

Image result for new year's resolutions funny

Welp, 2019 is upon us! The one Brew Year's Resolution I failed miserably with from 2018 was to write more. Writing was so much easier when I was in a cubicle and needed something to occupy myself with between phone calls. Working from home it is easier to just watch TV than to write. When I travel it's easier to listen to podcasts, or wade into the cesspool that social media can be.

Before thinking about what I want to do for 2019, let's take a look at the rest of my 2018 resolutions:

I resolved to brew more big beers and sour beers. In 2018 I brewed one, an imperial stout. At Muntons we hired a new sales rep based outside of Chicago named Sven. Sven had previously worked as a beer buyer and bartender, but had never brewed before. When Sven came to Boston to train with me, the first thing we did was brew a batch. Initially Sven wanted to brew a Tripel, but I wanted to brew something that used more of our products than just Pilsner Malt and sugar. I took one of Gordon Strong's recipes from his book Modern Homebrew Recipes, and tweaked it to utilize ten different Muntons malts.

I had a fresh sack of Muntons Maris Otter Pale Malt. The first thing I did with Sven was to show him how to properly open the grain sack by cutting and pulling the threads that stitch the bag together, and had him do it. Then we chewed on each different malt before throwing them into the hopper. We milled our grist so Sven could see what milled grain should look like with the inside of the grain crushed, and the husk intact.

When our gravity was off by a few points after our mash and fly sparge, we weighed out and topped off our wort with Muntons Light Spraymalt (Dry Malt Extract) as a way to show Sven how most craft brewers use our extracts

Too many of the pros get this wrong 

The brew day was great. We had enough fermentable sugars in the mash to do a parti-gyle and make a small beer. I made a huge yeast starter for the Imperial Stout, which took off right away after being pitched. Within a week the beer was within a couple points of it's final gravity. That beer is in a secondary fermenter right now and I look forward to bottling it in a couple of months.

As great as that brew was, it was the only big beer or sour beer I brewed in 2018. Overall I have to say this resolution was a miss. As was my resolution to make other fermented beverages and food; that was a total miss.

The one resolution that was a success was my hop garden and making a beer with my home-grown hops. In the spring I planted five different hop rhizomes: Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Northern Brewer, and Willamette. I suspect I planted the Centennial and Cascade a bit too deep. Eventually I replanted them and they did grow. The Centennial grew to a modest height, but I did clip the Cascade with my weed whacker....whoops!

I had heard that Chinook grows really well in this area. For a first year plant it did okay in my yard, but I do think it would do better in a spot that gets more sunlight. The Willamette looked promising early, but never really took off. I spoke with a representative from Four Star Farms at a trade show who told me that Fuggle-derivatives like Willamette don't always do well in Massachusetts. I'll give the Willamette plant another year and see what happens.

The plant that did the best by far was the Northern Brewer. I planted the rhizome in the middle of my yard, which in hindsight meant it got the most sunlight over the course of the day. I probably harvested about a pound of wet hops from the Northern Brewer plant. I dried them on a screen and used them as the flavor and aroma hops in a California Common. The beer was decent enough, but didn't have a ton of hop flavor. I probably harvested the cones too soon which would explain the lack of flavor and aroma. Next year I won't be so anxious.

In 2018 I wanted to perfect a house beer. I brewed three versions of Galloupe Street Gold to date. The first batch was good, but a little more hop forward than I was going for. I designed the second batch to be more of a traditional English Bitter. That batch was infected and I dumped it. My third batch that I brewed in the summer was pretty good. I used a single hop, Sterling, and just thought the beer was a little one-dimensional. Jennie will want me to brew this one again.

For 2019 I want to keep my resolutions and make them obtainable. I will carry over one resolution from last year, but with a twist:

  • Generate more content next year. Instead of just resolving to write more blog posts, I just want to post more stuff. Whether that content is new blog posts, a quick post on my Facebook page, sharing posts from my archives, or new photos and videos., I want to post more. I could post about brew days, tasting notes, or maybe just cool places I visit on my travels. One or two posts per week should be easy.
  • Retake the BJCP Exam and score an 80. I told myself I would never try to become a National judge. Now I have the requisite experience points and work in the industry, I feel compelled to push on. To move up in rank I need to score an 80 on the BJCP Exam, which for me means I need to take it again, and then pass the BJCP Written Exam. I retook the exam at HomebrewCon last year in Portland. I barley studied and took a punt that additional experience since I last took the exam would carry me through. I scored a 76, which tells me I am not far off. Rumor and innuendo is that the BJCP is loath to give out scores that are off by a point or two because that invites exam-takers to appeal their grade. If I continue to judge and put more effort into studying I am confident I can achieve this one.
  • Dry(ish) January. Dry January is a recent phenomenon that encourages people not to drink in the month of January mainly for health reasons. I seldom drink to get drunk, but I am looking to get back into shape in the new year. In August 2015 I vowed to downsize my consumption and production of beer. For two years I did a fair job with it. There were times my diet and exercise was better than other times. A rotator cuff injury in 2016 didn't help matters. In 2018 the wheels fell off again. From mid-August to mid-September I was on the road almost every week. Eating out, eating at airports, eating at highway rest stops, my food choices steadily became worse. When traveling alone it became too easy to sample the local beer where I was staying. From my experience, a few weeks of abstaining from alcohol can do wonders in terms of lowering my alcohol tolerance, which will help me drink less in one sitting.

    Beyond the calories I will be saving, I think a bit of a break from beer will be good. So many beers I try now are indistinguishable from other beers I have tried. I am increasingly bored with New England IPA.  It has been too long since I have tasted a beer that really wowed me or made me want to try and brew a beer like it. My palette needs a break almost as much as my waist.

    I am calling it Dry(ish) January because my job does make it almost impossible to completely abstain from alcohol. If a brewer asks me to try his/her beer I'll limit myself to just a couple of sips or a four ounce taster at the most. Similarly if I need to taste my own beer, I'm not going to make a huge deal out of it. 
In terms of what I want to brew in 2019, I am going to keep things open ended. Luckily my brewing has been more consistent than my writing over the last six months. I have no overarching goals. I am having fun revisiting my older recipes, and there is at least one new recipe I have been working on that I can't wait to have a go brewing. In 2019 I'm just going to keep having fun with my brewing.