Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Been Awhile

Yeah I know it has been awhile since I updated...besides my gmail account getting hacked and my account suspended for a few weeks (blog is tied into my gmail account) things have been slow homebrewing-wise

Besides the Ciders and Belgian Christmas Ale aging in the basement I did get another batch done which is a Dark Pumpkin Ale (due to a bit too much Carafa I in my grain bill) but it seems to be coming along nicely.

I may try to get one more batch in which would give me the full "6 pack."  I am leaning towards a session Vanilla Cream Stout or Chocolate Stout.  I got to get this in production soon if I am going to do it as time is quickly becoming short.

And I've still got to bottle everything...but I am very excited about some of the labels that I have some artist friends doing for me ... they are going to be AWESOME

Well I will try to update more on a regular basis...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Holiday Brewing Update

Sitting here on a Friday evening sipping on my Indian Ladder Hard Cider from last year (it is quite tasty) and realized it has been awhile since I updated this here blog and I have done some more Holiday brewing.
Belgian Christmas Ale, Hefeweizen Cider, and Belgian Saison Cider

Cider Batches:
I racked the Cider with the Hefeweizien yeast into a 3 gallon carboy and it is now aging in the basement
I did finally added Campden tablets and Potassium Sorbate to the carboy to stop the yeast and then added some Indonesian Cinnamon sticks ...can't wait to taste this one


Started my Belgian Christmas Ale just over 2 weeks ago... I had to get this started because it has to age for 3 months because this one should finish around 11 to 13 % ABV

The Recipe:

3.3 lbs    Lite liquid Malt Extract      (60 min)
6.6 lbs    Lite liquid Malt Extract      (15 min)

    Grain Bill

         - 1 lb  Caraamber 

         - 1 lb  Caramunich

         - 1 lb  Vienna Malt


          Cumin, Coriander, and Caraway Seed

          Dark Belgian Candi Syrup

          Northern Brewer

          Wyeast Belgian Strong Ale yeast

My final refractometer reading was 29 Brix or 1.112...because it was going to be such a high gravity beer I had to make my first yeast starter.  I ended up using my Brown's Brewing growler...by the day I went to brew it was over flowing as I did another addition of malt to increase the yeast production.

This should be ready to rack to the secondary here in a few days then bottle it so it can age.

I also used the spent grains to make dog treats using a recipe I found in my Zymurgy magazine

Berkley, my brothers greyhound, was the recipient of most of the cookies but there were plenty to go around for both Sherman and Jack and some of their doggie friends.

 Overall it was a good brew day

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Update:Holiday Cider

Lately I have been doing some reading on the Homebrew Talk Forums about Cider Making.

In the Cider forums there is a guy who has done a lot of experiments with different juices and yeasts...and I wish I had read the entire thread (Some 51 pages long) before starting my cider with the Belgian Saison yeast.  He posted that his experiment with this yeast was not very good and that the yeast quickly stripped the cider of the apple taste. 

Friday after work I stopped at the local homebrew store and purchased a 3 gallon carboy.  On Saturday I transferred the cider into the bottling bucket and did a taste test and specific gravity of 1.006 ...still a bit of apple notes to it so I decided to move forward with the batch.
3 gallon carboy
I then steamed some French Oak chips and put them in the cider

Next step was to attempt to cold crash it and make the yeast go dormant...this part is where I had to think like MacGyver since I don't have access to another fridge.  After much thought on the best way to do this with the materials I have on hand I opted to take this route...

Ice/Salt slurry bath...

While the first round of this has melted down the water bath is still cold...going to do this one more time then probably going to use some Potassium Sorbate to kill the yeast and prevent further fermintation. 

This is not a problem since this will end up a "still cider."  I will probably "back sweeten" with apple concentrate prior to bottling

hopefully this will turn out alright in the end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update: Rhubarb Raspberry Hefe and Cider Update

Just a couple things to update on the brewing front:

 Opened a bottle of the Rhubarb Raspberry Hefeweizen ... Yummy!
The first taste you get as you drink it is a nice tart taste from the rhubarb and then as it finishes and goes down the back of the throat you get the sweetness of the raspberries.  Pleased with the carbonation level on this one (4 tablets) still have to open a 3 and 5 tablet.  Anyway really pleased with the way this turned out in the end.

Added the yeasts to the carboys on Saturday.

In the the first carboy I used White Labs Belgian Saison yeast which is a classic Saison yeast from Wallonia. It produces earthy, peppery, and spicy notes. Slightly sweet.

 In the second carboy is White Labs Hefeweizen  IV yeast which has a large clove and phenolic aroma and flavor, with minimal banana. Refreshing citrus and apricot notes. Crisp, drinkable hefeweizen.

Currently both are bubbling away...and I am not sure if it is the light or what but the one on the right with the hefeweizen yeast looks like it is lighter in color...or it could just be my brain playing tricks on me...

Anyway I can't wait till these are ready to sample.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Holiday Brewing: The Tale of Two Ciders Part 1

Last year was my first time making hard cider. At the time it was a spur of the moment idea I got after I read an article in Zymurgy which is the magazine that is a part of my American Homebrewer's Assoc. membership. 

When I say "spur of the moment" I mean that I read the article the day I got the magazine and within a few days I had purchased the cider from one of the local apple orchards in the area.  According to the pictures of this first batch that I took, I started the batch in September which really didn't give it a lot of time to age since it was to be part of the "Brewathlon Holiday 5 pack."

This year I am starting a little sooner then last year and this year is going to be a bit more experimental.  The other night I stopped at the local food Co-op and purchased 6 gallons of cider.  When I got to the check out counter the lady running the registrar looked at the 6 jugs of cider and without missing a beat asked, "So let me guess...you are making Hard Cider?" Apparently she too is a homebrewer and maker of Hard Cider.

 So when I got back to the house I began cleaning and sanitizing my carboys...I say carboys because I am doing two 3 gallon batches (see previous post on Holiday Brew Plans).  One of the things I like about cider making is that it is a very simple process...pour cider in carboy, add pectin enzyme and let sit for a few days, add yeast, then add adjunts. 

Next came the pectin enzyme...
Pectin Enzyme helps get rid of the cloudiness and makes a clear sparkling cider.  Last year I added the pectin enzyme after I added the yeast and fermentation had already started...afterwards I read that the enzyme works best if used prior to adding the yeast because alcohol inhibits the clarification process.  So this year I hope that I get a clearer result in the end due to adding the pectin enzyme (not that last years batch was not clear but we shall see if there truly is a difference

Currently the two batches are sitting down in the basement and I hope to make it to the Homebrew store this weekend to pick up the yeast.  I think I am going with a hefewiezen for one and either a Belgian or Saison for the other but I am not sure. I think I will probably do some more research on the White Labs website and the Homebrew Talk Forums and see if there is some information on the use of these two strains.

Stay tuned for further updates..

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bottling the Rhubarb Raspberry Wheat

Well Summer is half over and at least I finally got around to bottling the Rhubarb Raspberry Wheat.  It sat in the secondary for just over a month because of a vacation home to WV, the extreme heat and humidity, and just general procrastination

My original plan for priming was to use two different priming methods: Priming Tabs and sugar cubes
Unfortunately I was unable to find sugar cubes at the store but did end up purchasing a new type of conditioning tabs that are supposed to allow you to have a bit more control the carbonation levels.

So as an experiment I did the following:

22oz Bottles - 8 conditioning tablets
12oz bottles with 3 conditioning tablets: 3
12oz bottles with 5 conditioning tablets: 3
12oz bottles with 4 conditioning tablets: 12

I also didn't get as many bottles as I usually do from a 5 gallon batch because some of the Rhubarb didn't get totally pureed and was clogging the tubing and bottling wand.   This  made it difficult to fill the bottles since the pieces Rhubarb were preventing the tip on the end of the wand from closing.  I ended up tossing the bottling wand (needed a new one anyway) along with the tubing

Overall my initial tasting of the beer is promising and I can't wait to try it once it is conditioned. This batch has also made me want to do 3 gallon batches and move to kegging as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Holiday Brewing

Last thing most people are thinking about this time of year is the upcoming Holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving and Christmas) and like most people I for the most part don't or want to start thinking about them either but I must when it comes to brewing.

Last year I brewed five batches of homebrew which I gave as gifts to family and friends which were:
  • Biere de Festivus - a winter warmer ale
  • Zum Wohl Oktoberfest 
  • Empire State Maple Porter - made with NY maple syrup
  • Minty Moose Stout - a stout with peppermint and spearmint (think a peppermint patty)
  • Indian Ladder Hard Cider - my first ever attempt at making a hard cider which turned out great 
For the most part I think (and hope) these were a hit with the people I gave them to. Personally I think the Oktoberfest was the weakest of the five because it was a lager and those are just too much work with trying to get the temperatures for fermentation stable.

This year I want to try some recipes I have found from a homebrewing book I got from Barnes & Noble about a month ago.
This is a really nice book because it has recipes for beer, gluten free beer, mead, cider, and soda (something I really would like to try soon)

 These are the brews I am considering doing this time:
  • Pumpkin Ale (from book)
  • Belgian Christmas Ale (from book)
  • A Winter Warmer (from local homebrew shop mailer)
  • Cider w. hefewiezen yeast
  • Cider w. Belgian or Saison yeast
  • TBD (Maybe Raspberry Rhubarb Hefe if it turns out well)
I really should start these soon especially the Belgian Christmas Ale since it is a high gravity beer and needs at least 3 months to bottle condition.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Priming Issues

    So as I mentioned in my last post I have the Raspberry Rhubarb Wheat that needs to be bottled here soon and I will after the heat is more bearable though.

    I am apprehensive about bottling this beer because the last couple of batches I feel have been inconsistent when it comes to the amount of head that the beer has once it is done bottle conditioning.  Some have little to no head and some have too much head when poured into the glass.  Other then the Minty Moose Stout which I accidentally over primed (not enough to cause bottle bombs but enough to make it an interesting experience when opening the bottles) I have no idea as to why I am getting this inconsistency.  I can think of only 2 reasons for the homebrews that pour with too much head.
    1. Infection
    2. Something going wrong with the priming sugar
    I think that if it was an infection problem I could taste it when I drink.  Now I don't claim to be a expert when it comes to tasting but I think I know when something is not right and I take sanitizing seriously.

    This leads me to believe that the inconsistency is caused during the priming step.  I always use the recommended amount of corn sugar and try to make sure it it gets mixed thoroughly in the bottling bucket.  I have used priming tablets a couple times before and am considering using them on this next batch.

    I will update as I bottle and open this current batch.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions I am open to any tips

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    West Virginia Brewing

    Front of Mountain State Brewing growler
    First off I haven't forgot about this blog. 

    Not much has been going on brewing wise here because over the past month or so my mom came up to visit before having knee surgery, I went over to Connecticut to dog sit for my brother the next weekend and then we just got back from going down to WV for vacation.

    All this time the Raspberry and Rhubarb has been in the beer hopefully making what will eventually be a very tasty brew.  I will try to bottle it within the next week or so.

    My vacation to WV was however not without so beer related stops. 

    First some background...
    When I was in graduate school at WVU the only place in WV that actually brewed their own beer was the WV Brew Pub.  It was a great place to go and the atmosphere was great (and I used to have an awesome growler which I took to get filled here in Albany and the idiot waitress gave to someone else).   When I was in the Political Science graduate program we would always go there after Friday afternoon colloquiums and just sit around drinking and shooting the bull with the professors who joined us.  One of my professors even held the final class down there when presented our research papers for the Bureaucracy Seminar, he bought the beer but you couldn't drink until you had presented your paper.

    After moving to Albany I had heard that the WV Brew Pub had closed ...this saddened me greatly but as it turned out they did reopen under new management and a new name: The Morgantown Brewing Company which had beers on par with the original.  It wasn't until this past Christmas when I was home and went out to dinner with family and friends that I learned about a new brewery Bridge Brew Works which is located near the New River Gorge Bridge and sampled the one brew that the restaurant had on tap (and I remember enjoying it greatly).  About a month prior to my journey down to WV I saw a friend had posted about the Mountain State Brewing Company which has three locations one of which is located in Morgantown.  It also turns out there are also 4 other brewing companies in the state for a total of 7 brewing companies in the state.

    My goal while in WV was to go to as many of these new brew pubs as possible. 
    Our fourth day in WV my girlfriend and I did the New River Bridge Walk where you walk the entire length of the bridge on the 24 inch cat walk that runs under the bridge.

    876 ft up in the air on a 24'' catwalk...FUN!
    Afterwards we drove down to the Bridge Brew Works brewery which is basically a medium sized building, we didn't go in because I don't think they give tours (sad puppy).  I did however pick these two beauties up at the Capitol Market in Charleston and can't wait to taste them.
    Belgian Style Dubbel and Tripel

    On our way back North we stayed with my college roommate in Morgantown and met one of my other buddies for drinks at the Mountain State Brewing Company where I got this growler (didn't get anything in it due to not wanting to worry about it spilling while traveling) but they too had some really nice beers to enjoy.

    Back of Mountain St Brewing growler

    While I am glad that there these new Brewing Companies in the state recently my post retirement dreams (I figured by then I would be a much better homebrewer) was to move back to WV and open up my own Brew Pub...I guess I still could as of right now there are none located in the Southern part of the state but then again it could only be a fanciful dream that will never see fruition...

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Summer HefeWiezen Part Duex

    Last night I racked my HefeWiezen to the secondary and added the two summer ingredients which will make this a one of a kind homebrew: Raspberries and Rhubarb

    I have been wanting to use rhubarb for sometime now and figured that a wheat beer would be the best base beer for this endeavor.  Because rhubarb is very tart I decided that to try and balance it out I would add a "sweet" berry.  The first choice was Strawberry but after some research I found that real strawberries don't work that well in beer and I have had success with the Razzburly Cream Ale (eventually to be reviewed here) and figured to go with what I know.

    The Rhubarb came from my girlfriend's mother which she grew in her garden and the raspberries were frozen organic berries from the store. Both were frozen (break down the cell walls) and taken out the freezer three days prior to racking the beer.

    Not wanting to just dump the rhubarb and raspberries into the new carboy, I put both in the food processor to make a puree

    Rhubarb and Berries
    Pureeing the two allowed me to sample the mixture so that I could find a balanced taste between the tangyiness  of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the berries.  I then added it to the carboy

    In to the Carboy

    Here it is almost 24hrs later:

    I will probably let it sit like this for 2-3 weeks before bottling it. I am going to estimate that by the time it is ready to bottle it should be about 5% ABV

    I am really looking forward to the time when this is ready to try

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Berkley's Gluten Free Brown Ale

    Brew Type: Extract with Specialty Grain
    Style: Gluten Free Brown Ale
    Batch Size: 2.5 Gallon

    Date Brewed: 4/24/2011
    Date Bottled: 5/15/2011

    Amount       Item                                                   Type          
    3.30 lb         Briess White Sorghum Syrup              Extract        
    0.70 lb         Buckwheat (Roasted in Oven)             Grain
    0.70 lb         Millet (Roasted in Oven)                     Grain
    5 oz.            Maple Syrup (Grade A)                     Adjunct
    6 oz.            Blackstrap Molasses                          Adjunct
    5 oz.            Dark Candi Syrup                             Adjunct
    0.70 oz   Fuggle    (60 min)                                 4.8%        
    0.50 oz   East Kent Golding   (15 min)               4.2%
    1/2 Packet   Nottingham Dry yeast (Gluten Free)


              This batch of homebrew was one of two that I did for my sister-in-law over in Conn.  She was unable to enjoy beer and couldn't find a gluten free beer that she enjoyed and didn't have a sour from taste from the sorghum.  So I started doing some research on gluten free homebrew recipes on HomeBrew Talk forums and came up with this and another recipe.

              This batch was also my first time roasting the grains in the oven as I did with the Buckwheat and Millet which I used as the steeping grain.  It also took me some time to locate the White Sorghum Syrup which I found at my local homebrew store which had just started caring it.

              I am really pleased with the way this turned out...it is very cloudy for some reason but it does not take away from the overall taste...I think I am still have some carbonation issues which I am currently researching.  From what I have heard my sister-in-law enjoys the beer. 

            I will probably be making this recipe again since it was a hit with the intended audience so I should be able to tweek and perfect this particular recipe.


    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Brew Day: Starting the Summer HefeWiezen

    Summer is right around the corner so today was the day I had the free time to start my summer hefewiezen being that it is Memorial Day and having the day off from work.

    My Recipe was a basic hefewiezen I found online at HomeBrew Talk

    The Brew Sheet:
    Type: Extract w. Specialty Grains
    Batch Size: 5.00 gal
    Boil Time: 60 min   

    Amount       Item                                                                         %                               
    5.00 lb         Wheat Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)       Dry Extract     83.33 %
    1.00 lb         Cara Hell                (2.0 SRM)       Grain              16.67 %

    1.00 oz      Tettnang [4.80 %]    (60 min)         18.2 IBU

    Beer Profile:
    Est Original Gravity: 1.045 SG
    Measured Original Gravity:  12% BRIX = 1.039 SG
    Est Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
    Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.30 %

    I got to use my early B-Day present from my AWESOME girlfriend : The Refractometer

    Anyway after the primary fermentation I plan to add something stuff during the secondary ... you will have to stay tuned and see...


    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Watermelon Wheat

    Batch #: 8
    Brew Type: Extract Kit with Specialty Grain
    Style: American Wheat
    Date Brewed: 6/20/2010
    Date Bottled: 7/18/2010

    Amount       Item                                                   Type             %
    6.60 lb         Wheat Liquid Extract  (8.0 SRM)     Extract        86.84 %
    1.00 lb         Wheat, Torrified          (1.7 SRM)      Grain         13.16 %
    2.00 oz    Hallertauer [4.80 %] (60 min)   32.8 IBU
    1.00 oz    Tettnang [4.50 %] (60 min)    15.4 IBU
    1 Pkgs    American Hefeweizen Ale (White Labs #WLP320)
    5.00 lb    Organic Watermelon (2.0 weeks)

    Measured Original Gravity:
    1.044 SG
    Measured Final Gravity: 1.009 SG   
    ABV: 4.56%

    Photo Album

    This was my second time adding fruit to the beer during the secondary fermentation.  My inspiration for this one came from both the Amer. Craft Brewing Scene and from my friend Craig who got me hooked on homebrewing.  The craft brewing influences Hooker Brewery's Watermelon Ale and 21st Amendments Hell or High Watermelon Wheat both which used the artificial watermelon flavoring which in my opinion can be at times to sweet for me.  My friend Craig had previously done a Watermelon of his own and used sugar to sweeten it.  My goal was to try and only use the watermelon in hopes the natural flavor came through without sweetening it.

    I was pleasantly surprised with how well this batch turned out.  Unlike the my Raspberry Ale where all the color was drawn out of the berries when I went to bottle it the watermelon pieces retained their color and tasted almost normal yet imparted a nice finish to the beer.  Almost 1 year later the taste still holds up and makes a nice refreshing drink.

    New Blog

    I decided that it is time once again to try blogging on a almost regular basis.  Hopefully this will be a more successful endeavor then it has been in the past.

    This new blog will follow my adventures in homebrewing, a hobby which I have been doing for almost 2 years.

    I started brewing back in October of 2009 I have been documenting my brew sessions through pictures and posting them on my Facebook account.  While this has been a way of sharing my process, it hasn't been a way to provide a background on why or how I think things turned out in the end.

    My aims for the blog are as follows:
    • General musings from someone new to the hobby
    • Give my thoughts on the batches that I have done in the past
    • Give some background into why I tried certain experiments
    • Occasional thoughts on Craft Brewing in the news
    • To have fun
    So if you are interested in brewing or have tried one of my beers then I hope you find this blog entertaining.

    So go grab a cold homebrew or Craft Beer and sit back and enjoy while you read

    Relax, Don't Worry, and Have a Home Brew