Monday, November 20, 2023

Jockey box rebuild

When I volunteered to pour at Ales over ALS this year there were two things I needed to do. The first was to brew. I managed to do that successfully. The second was to dispense the beer that I had brewed.

I still owned the jockey box I purchased for my first Ales over ALS in 2015. The problem was that the jockey box had not been used or seen the light of day since Ales over ALS in 2019. Whenever I brought homebrew anywhere out of the house over the past four years, I just filled growlers off one of my taps. The jockey box had sat in my basement for four years gathering dust and spiderwebs. 

With the event coming up, I had to bite the bullet and see what kind of shape the jockey box was in. Oh my god, was it more disgusting than I imagined.

More disgusting than I thought.

This thing had not been cleaned at all since I last used it. Then it sat for four years. I could tell this project was going to be fun. And by fun I mean completely miserable.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Ales over ALS 2023

One thing I have always understood is that life is about choices. Humans have to make an innumerable amount of choices on a daily basis. Every once in a while we are confronted with important decisions. Lately it feels like my batting average on these important decisions is below the Mendoza Line. 

Anyway, this all started at the end of September at a North Shore Brewers club meeting. Club Vice President Tim Broderick listed off the club members that had volunteered to brew for the upcoming Ales over ALS competition and event. As Tim read off the names, participation felt light. I haven't brewed for the event since before the pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, I served as a judge and was penciled in to judge again in 2023. After a few beers, I told Tim "If you need me to pour beer instead of judge, let me know". Then I completely forgot about volunteering until Tim messaged me a few days later.

Broken First IPA and Potrero Hill Porter

Now, my history at this event has been fraught. I've had near-misses where I've brought solid beers and almost won the People's Choice and the Judge's Choice. I've also brought a beer and a cider that were completely trashed by the judges. Deserved or not, it stung and I left the event enraged and embarrassed. If I was going to pour and compete again at this event, I was going to put my best foot forward.

At the time I volunteered, I had two beers on tap: an extract version of my Derby Wharf Porter and Inverted Fest. Neither beer was terrible, but neither were great. The porter was under-hopped because I used homegrown hops and guestimated the bitterness. The marzen was an experimental recipe that missed the mark.

That meant I had to brew at least one new batch, and I had to brew right away!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Brewday & Tasting Notes: Inverted Fest (Marzen)

 A couple years ago I brewed a version of this award-winning recipe from Ian Anderson of the Boston Worts. I'll be damned if that was not one of the best beers I have ever made!

Now, I did to make a few adjustments based on the ingredients I had on hand. 

No Fest 2020

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 4.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.7 %

9 lbs 11.9 oz    Pilsner Malt (Muntons) (1.9 SRM)  85.0 %            
1 lbs 2.3 oz     Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)  10.0 %            
9.2 oz           Cara Malt 10 (5L) (Muntons) (5.1 SRM)   5.0 %              
1.50 oz         Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min        14.3 IBUs               
0.50 oz          Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min          .4 IBUs           
1.0 pkg          Octoberfest Lager Blend (Wyeast Labs #2633)          10         

Tasting Notes from my brew log: Might be the best lager I've ever made. The consensus is that my beer is better than Notch's Festbier.  Definitely more malt forward and less hoppy than Weinstephan Festbier. 

Overall super smooth, touch of sweetness, enough hop character to finish clean. If anything it could have used a little more body and breadyness. That could be corrected with better yield in brewhouse. 

I replaced the 20% Vienna Malt with 10% Munich Malt because that's what I had. The 5L Caramalt really gave the beer a subtle sweetness that I think put it over the top. 

One thing I love to do is play around with grists. To take the percentages and change the ingredients. In the Festbier Malt A was 85%, Malt B 10%, and Malt C was 5%. I wondered what would happen if Malt A was Munich instead of Pilsner Malt, Malt B was Pilsner instead of Munich, and Malt C was a different Caramel or Crystal Malt. This beer, I put that theory to the test!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Tasting Notes: Simply the Zest (Fruit Beer)

As we hit the beginning of August I was anxious to put this beer on tap to enjoy during the last weeks of summer. I went as far as to taste test the beer after only seven days. Usually I am the type to let a beer sit for 14-24 days until I know it is done.

Simply the Zest on the Left, Samuel Adams
Porch Rocker on the right.

At 7 days the beer was still quite green. At 14 days it tasted ready to go.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Brew Day: Simply the Zest (Fruit Beer)

So far in 2023 I haven't been brewing or writing a great deal. I did brew two batches for the summer; I need to write about that double brew day. 

Summer being my favorite beer season, I really should have brewed one more batch. Especially for late summer when store shelves start to fill with marzens and festbiers. 

Toward the end of July I happened upon a sale of Muntons malt extract. My supply of base malts has dwindled after being laid off, so the timing worked out well. I have three upcoming brews that needed English base malt. At $9.95 per can I can brew an extract batch for roughly the same price as buying base malt for an all grain batch at a homebrew shop.

While loading up, the Muntons Simply the Zest kit caught my eye. This would be a great way to sneak in one last brew for the summer! The weather this summer has not been conducive to a long, all grain brew day either with June being a washout, and July alternating between oppressive humidity and thunder storms. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Making great homebrew with a beer kit in a can or pouch

When I started brewing in the early 2010's, my first recipe kit came with two cans of un-hopped malt extract, some specialty malt to steep, and hop pellets to add in the boil. In that era many of homebrewers started that way. Traditionally here in the US, and especially internationally most brewers entered the hobby with an even simpler way to make beer at home: canned extract beer kits. My copy of the 3rd Edition of the Complete Joy of Homebrewing includes a chapter recipes for enhancing canned extract kits.

These canned extract kits contain pre-hopped malt extract. The extract only needs to be dissolved in water before yeast is pitched and the wort is fermented. Usually, but not always additional fermentables are required and dissolved along with the contents of the beer kit.  Then the brewer tops off with cool water to the desired batch size.

The main producers of canned extract kits currently are Coopers, Mangrove Jack and Muntons. The most widely available brand in the US is probably the Mr. Beer line of extract kits and equipment, which is produced by Coopers. Small in size and at moderate cost, Mr. Beer has been a low entry point four countless brewers.

Canned beer kits are popular in places like the UK and Canada where a pint at a pub or craft beer is relatively expensive due to taxes on alcohol. In these places a making a beer kit is a cheaper way to enjoy a beer. Beer kits are also popular in areas like parts of Asia or Eastern Europe where there is little or no craft beer available. Places where if you want anything other than a pale lager you need to brew it yourself.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Tasting Notes: Bernie's Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)

I have always run hot and cold with beer names. Originally when brewing was something Jennie and I did together, our brewery had a baseball theme as did all of our beer names. After awhile I ran out of baseball puns and references. Since then I either come up with a great name, or struggle to think of one. 

von Trapp (L) and Bernie's Dunkel (R)

As I drank the first samples, I was reminded of my grandmother's husband Bernie who she married in 2007. Bernie wasn't much of a beer drinker, but he was stationed in Germany while in the army. When he saw our first batch of Double Play Dark he recongized that dark ale as a dunkel. Bernie passed away in 2021. It is fitting this beer honors him.

In the original brew day post, I called the Munich Dunkel I was brewing Shoebert Lager. That name was in honor of a gray seal that visited my hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts. Shoebert swam through a culvert underneath MA Route 62 and ended up in Shoe Pond, hence the name Shoebert. Initially authorities were content to let Shoebert swim and feed in the lower section of Shoe Pond. For several days onlookers gathered at the pond to catch a glimpse of the gray seal. 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Tasting Notes: Pa's Lager (2022)

One of my Brew Year's Resolutions for 2023 is off to a great start! If you count the blog refresh I am working on, that's two. 

Harp Lager and Pa's Lager.

In addition to writing down somewhat detailed sensory notes on this batch of Pa's Lager, I picked up a commercial example to compare it to: Harp Lager. I love Guinness, and brewed in Ireland, Harp Lager was Guinness' first foray into lager brewing. I thought it was a good choice here for a couple of reasons. Presumably both beers were made with malt from the British Isles: Pa's Lager with Muntons Pilsner malt, and Harp with Irish barley malted by Guinness. I also wanted to revisit Harp after making my cheap lager tier list

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Keeping an effective brew log - what I should have started doing from the beginning

Author David McCullough wrote all of his books on a typewriter. What makes this noteworthy is that McCullough only just passed in 2022, and his last book was published in 2019. His justification was that he never had to worry about one push of a button erasing his work. As I have gone through every published post and inserted recipes, I have noticed more missing recipes than I thought.

Brew sheet from my AHA-finalist Imperial Stout

When I started brewing in 2012, even before I started brewing my first batch, I looked for a mobile application I could use as a brew log. Back then the motto was, "There's an app for that!". At the time storing everything on an iPhone application seemed like the only way to go. Ten years later as our phones fill up with large image files, larger video files, and podcasts, many of us are removing seldom-used apps to save storage space on our devices. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Blog refresh is underway

I finally started the long-needed refresh of the blog. When I set up the blog on Blogger, it was initially just an archive of what I wrote for Wicked Local. Then I started posting my content here and pushing it to Wicked Local. I never put a great deal of effort into the design and layout of the site.

As I mentioned on my Brew Year's Resolutions for 2023, I knew the older posts which I exported from Wicked Local's WordPress, and imported into Blogger had some formatting issues. This includes mis-sized and mis-located pictures, captions with code showing, and posts with no tags. 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Brew Year's Resolutions for 2023

What should my resolutions be for this year? I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Fuck do I know?

My mental issues aren't this bad.

That is only a slight exaggeration. It's been three years since I made Brew Year's Resolutions. Before starting this post, I skimmed through my previous years resolutions. My batting average on these resolutions is about what I expect the 2023 Red Sox to be. I still haven't studied for, or taken the BJCP Exam since 2019. My basement brewery still doesn't have a sink and is as disorganized as I usually am. I also still have not perfected Galloupe Gold as our house beer. Why do I do these again?

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Forcing myself to brew and not think about the future too much

They say one of the signs of depression is no longer finding joy in the things that you love. The past few weeks I have certainly been feeling depressed. In early November I found out that Muntons was eliminating my position at the end of 2022. This wasn't a surprise to me. For at least a year my job felt tenuous. Still, when the call came it was a punch to the gut.