July 30, 2010

Awesome blonde beer becomes awesome chili beer and awesome lime beer

I posted this recipe up on HBT, but I wanted to share it here as well. The base blonde beer is a 5 gallon batch that I split and did half lime beer, half chili beer. If you want to replicate this with all 5 gallons with lime or chili, make sure you double the additions.

Blonde ale:

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: 1338
Yeast Starter: 1L
Additional Yeast or Yeast Starter: N/A
Batch Size (Gallons): 5 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.055
Final Gravity: 1.016
IBU: 16.1
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 4.5
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 14
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 7
Tasting Notes: Awesome

Grain Bill:
8.75 lb Pale malt
1.25 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine
.25 lb Crystal 20L

Hop schedule:
.5 oz Mt. Hood (5.2%) at 60 min
.5 oz Hallertau (4%) at 60 min

Mash schedule:
Single infustion of 12.81 qt at 170.5F to reach 158F for 60 min
Batch sparge

Boil volume:5.72 gallons

Lime Beer (aka Acid Trip):

1. I froze, and then thawed and peeled 7 small limes and tried to remove as much of the pith as possible.

2. I crushed the lime fruit up to release the juices and provide as much surface area for the yeast as possible. In retrospect, I would not do this, because the small pieces of lime clogged up my bottling lines. I would recommend instead just cutting the lime into thin slices.

3. I added the lime to a cup of water and pasturized at 160F in a saucepan for 20 minutes.

4. Cooled and then racked the beer on the fruit. Ferment for seven days, and then bottle.

Tasting notes: Very tasty. It is more bitter than Bud Lime or Miller Chill, but on the other hand, it doesn't have that chemical-lime flavor. It's mostly a tart flavor, but it is definitely a little bitter. It tastes exactly like what you would expect of a blonde or pilsner if you added a healthy amount of lime to it. If you wanted to make it a little sweeter and more like Bud Lime/Miller Chill I think it would work to backsweeten this beer with some lactose to balance the bitter lime flavor without making it taste chemically like the commercial products.

Edit: After enjoying several pints out of my party pig of Acid Trip, I definitely find that it is rather tart for a lot of people. I don't mind the bitterness, but others have said it's a little too bitter for their tastes. Next year when I make this, I'll definitely add some lactose to balance the bitterness.

Chili Beer (aka Lying Scorpion):

This beer uses hatch green chilis, but the blonde base could easily work with spicier chilis. My dad grows these chilis, so I made this beer with his chilis. It is easily one of, if not the best beer I have ever brewed.

1. I used two fresh hatch chilis and three roasted chilis, all treated the same way. I froze them and then thawed them out to breakdown the cell walls. I then chopped off the tops, sliced them length-wise, and removed the seeds and veins.

2. Rack beer on chilis

3. Ferment seven days in secondary, then rack and bottle.

Tasting notes:Awesome beer. It has great chili flavor with only a hint of heat in the aftertaste. The roasted flavor comes through. As I said, perhaps the best beer I've brewed. Hatch chilis are not known to be among the hotter chilis, so this has very mild spiciness but a big chili flavor that would pair well with Tex-Mex, Mexican food, southwest food, or Bar-B-Que.

You will want to taste the beer every couple of days to see when it reaches the flavor profile you want. Early in the chili addition the beer will be hotter and the fresh chili taste will come through. About five days in the heat subsides and the chili flavors blend well into the beer. The roasted flavor started to show at about five days in and melded well at seven.
July 27, 2010

Tasting Note: Smoked Bourbon Peach Porter (Steak Sauce)

I brewed this porter back in June. It was a delicious smoked porter with just a slight smoky finish from the rauchmalt. I then proceeded to add a peach and some Maker's Mark bourbon for a secondary fermentation. I just kinda came up with the idea of mixing those flavors.

I opened bottle 1 last Thursday. It was very bourbon-y with some porter flavor. The smoke flavor was slight, and the peach taste was muted and mixed into the bourbon. Some of the bottle was more bourbon-y than others. It was odd, like it didn't mix well. I tasted a second bottle on Sunday. It was less bourbon-y with more of a porter/bourbon/muted peach taste with little smoke.

The underlying porter is still very tasty, but I don't think this combination is working. I don't know whether it was poor execution or I opened it too early. (I definitely intend to make another batch of the smoked porter without the bourbon or the peach, because it was delicious.) Since I don't want to drink mediocre beer, I am going to age the porter and drink one bottle every month to see if/how the flavor changes over time. Hopefully it will mellow and blend into a delicious beer. If not, no big deal because I only made 1 gallon (so I had 11 total bottles) and created a truly delicious porter.

I'll probably hold off on pictures until the next tasting. I'll get the smoked porter recipe up in the near future.
July 15, 2010

Exodus Red Ale

This is my second recipe and I'm really happy with how it turned out. It has a very thick mouthfeel and the hops are well balanced. The only thing I don't like is that it is a very dark red. It's more of a brown color but it definitely has a red ale flavor.


3 Gallons

SG: 1.049
FG: 1.015
ABV: 4.48
Color: 12.9 SRM
IBU: 32.7


5lb Pale Malt
.33lb Crystal 60L
.10lb Flaked Barley
.10lb Chocolate Malt


1 oz Fuggles 60 min
.5 oz Fuggles 15 min
.25 oz Fuggles 10 min

European Ale Wyeast 1338

Mash schedule:

Mash in 11.06 qt at 95 for 45 min
Decoct 2.95 qt
122 for 60 min
Decoct 3.69 qt
148 for 30 min
Decoct 2 qt
158 for 30 min
Mash out at 168


3 weeks at 68
Bottle condition 5 weeks


As you can probably tell, I followed a triple decoction mash schedule. I don't believe decoctions are necessary, especially for English ales. However, I wanted to figure out the technique before I tried it on wheat beers or Belgians, which typically do use some sort of decoction process. Also, when I bought my grains, the LHBS didn't have flaked barley so I substituted pale malt. Since I didn't have flaked barley to add thickness, the decoction was my substitute.

Let me say, this ale is awesome. It has a tremendous thick mouthfeel. It almost, but not quite, has a stout mouthfeel. That's pretty impressive for a beer that's almost straight pale malt (in my opinion).

It has a solid red ale taste and the fuggle hops (although I know so many people are not a fan) meld really well together. As I've said before, I'm not a tremendous fan of hoppy beers. This is on the upper reach of my enjoyment of a hoppy beer, but it works really well because it's balanced with a great maltiness. I find Smithwick's -- the standard for red ales -- a little thin and boring. This beer really kicks up the taste without going overboard and becoming an imperial red. I think this has a flavor more like Sam Adams Irish Red, but a much thicker mouthfeel.

I definitely foresee myself making this again. I might try making it with a single infusion mash, but I will definitely make future batches with a triple decoction.

Pictures to follow!
July 14, 2010

Brewing goals through the end of 2010

Before I get on topic, I have to say, you know what I really like about blogging? You can vomit your ideas into the internet now matter how inane, unqualified, or useless they are. That's mostly what the internet has become. A lot of inane, unqualified comments being thrown out one useless expression at a time. Twitter and facebook (and myspace and livejournal before that) really captured on this idea that people want to share their every thought with the world. However, there is a lot of great knowledge shared on the internet, and I'd like to think that most websites have figured out how to separate useful exchanges of ideas and inconsequential (and often inflamatory) blabbering. I'd also like to think that I've cut this blog down to interesting information, rather than self-gratifying nonsense. So the actual goal of this post is just to summarize what is to come for the rest of the year so that people can determine whether this is a useful exchange of information they would like to find.

Ok, so all that aside, here are my current brewing projects:

In the fermenter:

*Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Bottle Conditioning:

*Smoked bourbon peach porter
*Sour ale
*Hatch green chili blonde
*Lime blonde

In future posts I hope to remember to provide details on these recipes and how they turned out, provided they are not completely terrible.

I just purchased two corny kegs I plan to use as fermenters, along with my 7.9 gallon bucket and 4L glass jug. The only downside of using the kegs is that they are not good for any style that promotes ester production (e.g. Belgians and hefeweizens) because of the geometry of the container. However, I'm looking forward to being able to ferment multiple other styles in them.

My goals for the remainder of 2010:

*Belgian dubbel -- a recipe I designed
*Saison -- also of my design
*Scotch ale -- also mine
*AHS Live Oak Hefeweizen kit -- it's my favorite hefe, and I've yet to find a clone recipe (oddly enough, I know the brother of the brewer in charge of Live Oak's hefeweizen, but I can't seem to convince him to convince her to share the recipe)
*Left Hand Milk Stout clone
*Sour mash cherry kriek-style ale -- still being designed
*Smoked porter -- same recipe as the porter I have bottle conditioning, but without the peach or bourbon
*Belgian blonde -- still being designed
*Dunkelweizen -- not yet designed
*Another graff attempt -- not yet designed
EDIT: also adding a Gratzer-style ale and an oud bruin, although the oud bruin will probably happen next year.

I have a busy fall ahead of me (other than brewing) so this is a very aggressive schedule. Since some of these will be 1 gallon batches and most will be 3 gallon batches I should get through most, if not all of them, at least before it starts warming up next spring. The dubbel will definitely happen next month, and I hope to have the saison also fermenting by end of August.

Some of these beers, like the dubbel and the golden strong (currently fermenting) are big 10% beers, so they will condition likely into the winter, so I'll need to have some more sessionable stuff in the works (hence the saison and wheat beers).

(I haven't had a chance to put up any updates because I've been making these initial posts at work, and all my brewing notes, recipes and pics are on my laptop. I haven't had a chance to take my laptop somewhere I can get online (I currently lack access at home) where I can post up all the pics and recipes from beersmith.)
July 8, 2010

Brief update on the wild yeast experiment

At the last minute I got scared that what I had was all bacteria and no yeast, so I decided against pitching the culture I developed. Instead, I added it to the boil for a very gentle sour mash. After a very solid fermentation it appears to be done, so I'll bottle and give it a taste in a few weeks. It ended up being something of a sour mash American Wheat (with low hops). More details will follow once the bottles get cracked open.

In other news, I have a very delicious smelling Belgian Golden Strong Ale fermenting that I am very excited about. I'm also about to crack open an awesome red ale I brewed in May, so I'll give the gorey details (pun intended) shortly.
July 1, 2010

Buying (and using) hops cheaply and effectively

I like buying hops in bulk.

My local homebrew shop sells one ounce of hops for $3-4 dollars a piece. I can order a pound of hops for around $21-24. If I bought that much locally I'd pay $48-64. Huge discount buying online. (I've been happy with orders from http://www.hopsdirect.com but there are others who sell for equally cheap prices -- some allow you to buy cheaply by the ounce.)

The benefit is that if you buy some general use hops in bulk, you can run through them reasonably quickly and reduce having to keep multiple varieties on hand. I have a pound of Fuggles I've successfully used in a red ale, brown ale, blonde ale, and porter, and I'll use them in several Belgian beers and I'll likely use them in a stout and several other beers. It's amazingly cheap.

The problem if you buy in bulk, you are stuck with a lot of hops and since the alpha acids decline over time, you have to properly store them or use more and more to get the right alpha acid content for your beer. I freeze mine in freezer bags, but to truly retard breakdown, you need to use oxygen barrier bags like what you buy hops in. (This problem can be eliminated if you split an order with other brewers or buy from somewhere that allows you to buy by the ounce so you don't have to keep much on hand.)

For a homebrewer that enjoys hoppy beers, I can hardly imagine how you can afford to brew and not buy in bulk. Hops are an expensive part of homebrewing.

If you are fond of making recipes, and I do, you can very efficiently burn through a pound of one (or two) kinds of hops by adjusting or building recipes to favor the hops you buy. That's why I have developed so many recipes using Fuggles. Fuggles are fine; I just happen to have a lot so that's what I use. Again, I don't like hoppy beers, so it's not a big deal to use some Fuggles for bittering and a little for flavor and aroma.

You can do this with an American breed for IPAs (e.g. Cascade), any of the English breeds for English beers, a German breed for wheat beers and lagers, etc. You would be surprised by how good the use of a single hop can be in a beer, especially if you're making a simple session beer.