Batch and Hop Yard Update

There have been a lot of theme weeks lately, it seems, so I haven’t done one of these in a while. The first couple updates are a bit out of date, but I want to try to keep this complete. After covering all the beers, I have a quick update on the hop garden. Here we go.20140731-082433-30273969.jpgBatch088 – 2014 PROOF

Last time I updated on PROOF, I had just racked it into a six gallon carboy and added champagne yeast. The yeast didn’t seem to do much of anything. I’m considering picking up some Super High Gravity yeast and doing a starter to see if I can get it dry out any more. For the time being, though, I racked it into a five gallon carboy to reduce the head space while it lays dormant, waiting to be unleashed on anyone dumb enough to try it.

Speaking of which, I took a tiny sample when racking it and got Kory and Amy to try about a thimble full each. Kory said it reminded him of Jägermeister, which I didn’t think of as I haven’t had that stuff in years, but I think it’s pretty accurate. Amy just scrunched her face up and made a sort of high pitched buzzing sound.

Batch089 – Evidence Belgian IPA
If you don’t remember, this was made with the second runnings from PROOF, a whole lot of Columbus hops and Saison yeast, then dry hopped with more Columbus hops as well as some Nelson Sauvin. I bottled it at the end of June. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out and I’ll be posting tasting notes soon.

Batch090 – bCloud
This is the beer I was previously calling Trap Weiss. I brewed it with my buddy Kory and I gave him the honor of naming it. Since it is a very cloudy hefeweizen, he decided on bCloud. We bottled the beer together on July 18. I am planning to finish up the labels this week and give Kory his portion. I will do my normal tasting notes and I’m going to try to get tasting notes from Kory, too. I’m not sure if those will be different posts or not, I’ll have to see how much I can get out of him.20140731-082434-30274421.jpgBatch091 – Tripple Valor

My Tripel went a bit crazy during primary fermentation. It is going through secondary fermentation in the basement. I racked it a week after brew day and was surprised to see that the gravity was all the way down to about 1.006. The sample tasted a bit rough. It is going to be aging for a while, I’m hoping it comes together and have no reason to think it won’t, but I’m considering adding some coriander. I will sample it again soon and see where it is at.20140731-082433-30273201.jpgBatch092 – Berlin(er Weisse) Batch 3

I decided that I wanted a lot more of the cherry version, which I’ll cover below, so I’m conducting an experiment with the small amount that was left for this portion of the batch. I normally pasteurize this beer and then add ale yeast. This time, I didn’t. I have about a gallon of this stuff, which the lactobacillus still working and I added some ale yeast as well. I have a feeling this is going to turn out too sour to drink, but I’m anxious to be proven wrong. I’m going to give this some time. I don’t know how long, but I’m in no hurry, I have enough other batches going on to play with.20140731-082433-30273670.jpgBatch093 – Sour Cherry Sour

As I mentioned above, I’ve been getting increasingly excited for this beer, so I decided to make more of it. After pasteurizing it to kill the lactobacillus, I racked it on top of three quarts of tart cherry juice and two quarts of sweet dark cherry juice, then added a pound each of semi-sour pie cherries and sour cherries. I had planned to add more whole cherries and less juice, but I was unable to secure any more. I got the sour cherries from Amy’s parents and they’ve been in the freezer for a long time. Semi-sour cherries I found at a farmer’s market, but they were in limited supply, as well. The juice I used is organic, all natural cherry juice with no preservatives and I think it will work out very well. I’m hoping to rack it off the cherries and maybe add some clearing agent, depending on how it looks, so I can bottle it in a couple weeks.

Batch070 – Wyld Cyser
Yes, this stuff is still kicking around in a carboy in the basement. It was there all Winter and really should be bottled. I’m planning to actually do that soon. Really. I still don’t have the number wine bottles I was hoping for, but I should be able to get enough in the ones that I do have to not have to bottle too much of it in beer bottles. I’m hoping to bottle this before the end of August and it doesn’t need to carbonate or anything, so as soon as I do, I will have tasting notes.20140731-082432-30272791.jpgHop Yard Update

The twine continues to be a problem. The top pieces keep ripping and dropping my precious bines onto the ground. I definitely need to get some trellises for next year. On the bright side, though, there are a ton of cones on the Centennial plant and more coming on all the others. Look at those beautiful Centennial hops, though.

Woo. That was a lot. A lot of these are already bottled and more will be soon, though, so there will be new brew days to come in the next few weeks including an IPA to hopefully make up for my slightly disappointing Single Hop batches and the second annual batch of my Old SMaSHy barley wine.

Buddy’s Dirty Mouth Mild

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The third and final installment in the Dogs of Christmas series from 2012 was English Mild Ale for my Dad named for the dog my parents replaced me with when I moved out. I knew I was going to be running low on bottles by this point, so I planned accordingly and put half of this batch in my Party Pig. I also added an ounce of East Kent Goldings hops to the Pig.

The bottled version of Buddy’s Dirty Mouth Mild was pretty good, but the half dry hopped in the Party Pig was fantastic. This was my first time brewing a Mild and it led to a few more. The ale in the bottles may have been more traditional (from a hopping standpoint) but the EKG dry hops are what I fell in love with. My Milds have a conventional level of bitterness, but I always add some hops at flameout or in dry hop, normally Goldings, and I think it makes for a great session beer.IMG_20121125_124940Aside from the lack of bottles, I was also running short on time before Christmas. This was all planned, of course and I picked the beer style with that in mind. Its low gravity meant that it fermented quickly and its dark color meant that I didn’t have to wait for it to clear much. This beer was brewed on November 25 and was ready to drink by Christmas day.

In the non-dry hopped version, most of the character came from the Chocolate Malt, but there were also hints of fruity esters from the English yeast. The addition of a small amount of brown sugar helped dry the beer out and make it endlessly drinkable despite the heavy roast character from that Chocolate Malt. Some Crystal Malt added a bit of body despite it being so dry. It was all a balancing act to keep a beer with less than 4% alcohol interesting. This also made a very nice Black and Tan (Blonde?) with Maggie’s Beautiful Blonde.IMG_20121216_203028The East Kent Goldings hops in the Party Pig version added another layer of earthy, herbal, tea-like aroma which blended wonderfully with roasty, estery, malty goodness. My recipe is below, but as I said, I’ve brewed more Milds since this and I always tweak the recipe. I think that the EKG hops and sugar are key but I think you can play with the malts a lot. This combination worked great, I’d recommend adding some hops at flameout, though.

BeerLabelBuddysDirtyMouthMildStyle: English Mild Ale
Brew Date: November 25, 2012
Serve Date: Christmas 2012
Original Gravity: 1.038
Final Gravity: 1.009
ABV: 3.8%
IBUs: 20

Fermentables:
.5 lb Chocolate Malt
.5 lb Crystal 60L Malt
3.75 lb DME
.5 lb Brown Sugar

Hops:
1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min
1 oz East Kent Goldings @ Dry hop in Party Pig (for half of batch)

Yeast:
Windsor Dry Ale Yeast

Maggie’s Beautiful Blonde

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This beer may not quite fit the style guidelines for a traditional Blonde Ale, but how could I pass on that name? Maggie was a wonderful pug who had sort of a rough life, getting moved around to a couple different families before finally landing with my sister a few years ago. She had few great years of being loved by my niece and nephew, though and even before that, nothing could seem to keep her down. She was always happy, although never quite satisfied with her food rations.

Anyway, on to the beer. My original idea was a straight up blonde ale, but then I decided to beef it up a bit. I added some Munich Malt which gave it a nice malt profile and some body, but also knocked it a few shades darker than a normal blonde ale.

IMG_20121211_180757I decided to use Saaz hops because I wanted to give it some late hop character but I didn’t want it to be abrasive at all or to showcase any of citrus or pine aromas associated with American hops. Spicy, earthy Saaz hops always seem like a good go to and Noble Hops seemed appropriate to accompany the Munich Malt.

IMG_20121223_001235This beer turned out great. It could be considered a quaffer but it had a lot more flavor and body than your average lawnmower beer. The Munich Malt, while knocking it out of style, was a great choice to make this ale stand out with some body despite its dry finish. The ounce of Saaz hops at flameout gave it some nice aroma without overpowering the malt or taking it into Pale Ale territory. This was a nice German inspired twist on an American beer.

BeerLabelMaggiesBeautifulBlondeStyle: Blonde(ish) Ale
Brew Date: November 18, 2012
Serve Date: Christmas 2012
Original Gravity: 1.052
Final Gravity: 1.01
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 25

Fermentables:
1 lb Munich Malt
7 lb LME

Hops:
.5 oz Saaz @ 60 min
.5 oz Saaz @ 30 min
1 oz Saaz @ Flameout

Yeast:
Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast

Henry’s Sheltie Pale Ale

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In 2012, I foolishly decided to brew a bunch of beers for specific people for Christmas gifts. Right before this, I had brewed Valor’s Golden Glory, CVP, Very Neat Cherry Wheat and Moktoberfest… some of my favorites I’d made up to that point. I was on a roll. Then I started brewing much more frequently than I normally do to try to get beer ready for Christmas and the results were mixed.

The first three of these beers were what I dubbed “The Dogs of Christmas” series. This was the first of those and I’ll cover the rest later this week. This one was named for Henry, just a puppy at the time and a new member of my sister’s family.

The beer was not exactly a clone, but pretty closely modeled after Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Aside from brewing a lot, I was also starting to try to wash and reuse yeast. The yeast I intended to use for this batch did was not viable. I gave it over twenty four hours and it never started, so I finally pitched new yeast.IMG_20121224_101213

The beer did not turn out very well. I’m not sure if the fermentation issue was the only problem, and I don’t really even remember what exactly it tasted like. I just know it was off, but it’s long gone now.

The recipe, which is below, is adapted from an all grain clone recipe for Sierra Nevada that I found online. The gravity is slightly lowered and it was converted to an extract recipe. The hopping rates are very similar to Sierra Nevada, though. I intended to use the Chico/California Ale/Sierra Nevada yeast strain, but after the initial pitch didn’t take, I ended up using Nottingham.

BeerLabelHenrysSheltiePaleAle

Style: American Pale Ale
Brew Date: November 7, 2012
Serve Date: Christmas 2012
Original Gravity: 1.047
Final Gravity: 1.01
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 38

Fermentables:
1 lb Crystal Malt 60L
7 lb LME

Hops:
.4 oz Magnum @ 60 min
.4 oz Pearle @ 30 min
1 oz Cascade @ 10 min
2 oz Cascade @ Flameout

Yeast:
Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast (California Ale preferred)

Week Twenty Two

20140726-134540-49540761.jpgI hope you enjoyed Pumpkin Beer Week more than I enjoyed drinking pumpkin beer in July. This week, though, it’s back to normal. I’m not brewing anything this week, but just about all of the batches I have going have had something done to them, so a batch update post is in order.

Beyond that, I will continue chronicling old batches. With the pumpkin beer out of the way, all of my 2011 batches have been covered. 2012 is almost done (but won’t be finished until after I do a Hard Cider Week…) and I’ll inch forward with that. I am debating doing some tasting notes this week, but they are harder to do right now while I’m on night shift. I have two more weeks, then I’m back to day shift and I may just wait and then do another Tasting Notes week to celebrate. Stay tuned.

Plumpkin (2011) and Plumpkinstein Tasting Notes

20140726-133831-49111347.jpgThis is not going to be good. I’m pretty sure. I’ve been thinking about dumping what is left of these beers for a long time but I’ve been waiting to do these tasting notes and make a decision. I expect both to be gushers, so the two beers will probably end up being less volume than my usual one beer tasting notes. Okay, time to stop stalling and go pour these beers…

Original Post: Plumpkin Ale

Brew Date: August, 2011

Original Post: Plumpkinstein
Brew Date: September, 2011

Pleasant surprise, no gushers. The Plumpkinstein did start foaming, but I was ready with a glass and I didn’t lose anything. The two beers are almost identical amber colors but Plumpkinstein has a ton of floaties… probably pumpkin.20140726-133831-49111656.jpgTaking a whiff, the Plumpkin actually smells okay. It is a little spicy, but it seems like a nice pumpkin pie mix, no one spice sticking out too much. Plumpkinstein is all cinnamon on the nose. Oh ha… and I just noticed there is definitely some cinnamon floating on the foam. That explains that.First sip of Plumpkin and it is odd but not entirely unpleasant. The spice is still there along with some slight Crystal Malt flavor. It has a strange metallic flavor, though. I’m not sure what that is. This is not nearly as bad as I was expecting, though. It tastes like an old pumpkin ale. The age shows and the flavors are muted, but it isn’t the oxidized disaster I was expecting. Time to try the Plumpkinstein.20140726-133831-49111971.jpgThis is much spicier. It is mainly cinnamon, but I’m picking up some nutmeg as well. There is nothing behind the spice. That isn’t good, but it’s not what I was expecting. Especially after seeing all the floaters, I was afraid this would taste like a rotten pumpkin. Instead, it tastes kind of like seltzer water with cinnamon. It has extremely high carbonation, I’m surprised it didn’t gush and that prickly carbonation may be part of the reason I’m not tasting much. The bubbles almost sting when they hit the tongue.

Back to the Plumpkin. Especially after the other beer, this really isn’t too bad. As it is warming up a little bit, I am getting some of old-beer-cardboard character in the finish, but there is enough spice to keep it from getting too bland. I know my expectations were insanely low, but this shockingly drinkable.

Plumpkinstein again. This is not good. The cinnamon is so overpowering. I swear I feel it coating the back of my throat. I don’t remember this being the case originally, I don’t know why it has aged in such a way for one specific spice to completely takeover the beer.

20140726-133832-49112303.jpgBoth beers are down to a few sips left. You know what that means. Time to mix them. Pouring them together got me another big head. It looks clean, though, no pockets of cinnamon.

Despite that, it still tastes mostly of cinnamon. There is some malt backbone now that wasn’t there for the Plumpkinstein on it’s own. This is exactly what I’d expect from mixing these beers together. It is better than the Plumpkinstein on its own but not as good as the Plumpkin.

Going back to my intro, I am thinking that Plumpkin is worth holding onto. It is definitely a couple years past it’s prime, but it still works as a pumpkin ale. The Plumpkinstein, on the other hand, will likely be getting dumped. I think there about six of them in the basement, so it is not a big loss. I still have some beer left, but I don’t I have much more to say. If you have some really old homebrew in the basement, give it a chance. You may be surprised.

Plumpkin Ale Saison (2013)

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After brewing two batches of pumpkin ale in 2011 and having a ton leftover, I skipped 2012 and decided that the next time I brewed one, it would be designed to age well. By the time I got to brewing Plumpkin Ale 2.0 in 2013, it had evolved into a 9+% ABV saison with pumpkin, oats, spices, vanilla and brown sugar.

Despite calling it a saison, other than the yeast, this is closer to other pumpkin beers than farmhouse ales. The sugar and oats work for either style, but most of the rest of the fermentables are much closer to amber pumpkin ales. Right down to the base grain, a mix of American and English Pale Malt, where as a saison would normally have Pilsner for the base.

Beyond the base grains, I used a blend of Belgian specialty grains. These grains; Munich, Aromatic and Cara 8, originate from Belgium, which I used as justification for putting them in a saison, but they add up to an amber ale. They are also more plentiful than I would use in just about any beer now. Three specialty grains, two base grains plus oats all add up to too much going on in a beer that is supposed to be more about the pumpkin spice. They did create a wonderful color, though.

I added a full 64 oz can of pumpkin to the mash, which may have added to the great orange hue, but I’m not really sure how much of an effect it had. That goes not only for the color, but for the beer in general. You can supposedly get some sugar converted from pumpkin in the mash, but this was early in my all grain brewing career and I’m not sure if I actually achieved that.

IMG_20130813_162552The pumpkin did have definite effect of giving me my first stuck mash. It ended up taking me a couple hours to collect my wort during run off, which was huge pain, but is minor compared to some horror stories I’ve heard. In the end, my efficiency wasn’t very good, but I got my wort and got on with the brew day.

For spices, I added three cloves and two teaspoons of ginger during the boil then three more cloves and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg in secondary fermentation. I also added a vanilla bean during secondary. In the future, I would probably move all of the spice additions out of the boil and into the fermenter. I think the results are more predictable that way. Adding the spices before fermentation will cause you to lose a lot of their character from all of the yeast action going on. How much will depend on how crazy fermentation is. Rather than add the spices directly to the beer, I would probably make a tea with them, making it easier to sample and get the ratios right, then adding the tea. It may still be hard to figure out how much flavor you are adding, but at least you can get the balance of different spices right. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more clove flavor in this beer, despite adding more cloves than anything else.

plumpkinI decided to use Belle Saison dry yeast for this beer. It was fairly new, at least to my local shop, at the time and I was excited to try it. Ultimately, I wasn’t crazy about the results. It may have just been overwhelmed by everything else, but I didn’t get much character from it. It did dry the beer out extremely well, though. After a disappointing mash efficiency, I still ended up with more alcohol than I planned on because it finished so much drier than I expected.

I posted my tasting notes for this beer yesterday and covered some of the things I’d do differently, but I’ll collect my thoughts here and then, hopefully when I brew version 3.0 next year, you can see how much my opinion has changed again and see how it all works out.

First of all, I’d strip the grain bill down. I’d get rid of all the Pale Malt and replace it with Pilsner. I’d maybe keep the Munich and get rid of everything else. I really love the color of this beer, but it’s not worth ruining the flavor. Pilsner, Munich, Oats and brown sugar. The sugar in this was only about 6%, so I would definitely raise that. Probably double it.

I realize now that I haven’t mentioned the hops at all. I bittered with Goldings and added Willamette for flavor. I would probably sub out the Willamette for some Noble hops. You could probably skip the flavor addition all together. There is enough else going on that the balancing bitterness is all you really need from the hops.

For all the Juju that makes this a pumpkin ale, I’d move things around quite a bit. I’m not sure how much the pumpkin in the mash did other than slow things down, so I’d probably either move it to the boil to try to get some flavor or just skip it all together. I’d move all the spices to secondary fermentation. I’d mix them in a tea and then add it to the fermentor. I may even start with pre made pumpkin pie spice, which I would have thought of as lazy in the past, but the truth is, I’m not an expert in pie making and sometimes it’s best to realize where your strengths are just leave the rest to the professionals.

I’ve talked about using Saison II yeast, but I’d also consider using an Abbey style yeast. I’ve just brewed a hefeweizen and a tripel using Chimay’s yeast and I plan to experiment with more of these yeasts throughout the rest of the year, maybe a saison isn’t necessarily the best Belgian beer to emulate here. I do plan to make something else called Plumpkin next Fall, but it may end up being as different from this beer as this is from my first Pumpkin Ale.

plumpkinlabelStyle: Pumpkin Saison
Brew Date: August 13, 2013
Serve Date: September, 2013
Original Gravity: 1.073
Final Gravity: 1.002
ABV: 9.4%
IBUs: 35

Fermentables:
7 lb American Pale Malt
3 lb Maris Otter Pale Malt
3 lb Belgian Munich
1 lb Belgian Aromatic
1 lb Oats
.5 lb Belgian Cara 8
1 lb Brown Sugar

Hops:
1.5 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 min
1 oz Willamette @15 min

Juju:
3 Cloves @ 15 min
2 teaspoons Ginger Root @15 min
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg, three more cloves and one vanilla bean in secondary
64 oz of baked canned pumpkin in mash

Yeast:
Belle Saison Dry Yeast