November 19, 2013

2014 Recipes/Brews

Piggybacking on last week's post, I thought I would go ahead and list the "final" list of brews for my 2014 brewing year. I say "final" because somehow I always end up brewing more beers than I plan for at the beginning of the year. Next year I plan on brewing a lot of beer so I can be more generous with sharing at least a few of the batches with people, especially now that I have joined a local homebrewing club and our meetings quickly devolve into sitting around and drinking. Anyway, here is what I have decided on:

  • Apricot blonde (2 gallons) - a holdover from this year that didn't get brewed over the summer as I had planned
  • Adambier (1 gallon) - a modified recipe for the adambier in Barleywine.
  • Biere de Mars (1 gallon) - a modified recipe for the biere de mars recipe in Farmhouse Ales using a fun mix of American, French and Bohemian hop varieties. Not the same recipe I currently have lagering.
  • Pale ale (2.5 gallons) - a simple, cascade-driven pale ale that I am going to cask up in a party pig. I am going back and forth about aging it on oak. I will probably just cask as is.
  • Oak aged dry stout (2.5 gallons) - a dry stout that I will age on oak cubes that have been soaking in one form or whiskey or another. I haven't decided for sure which oak cubes I will use on this batch. Maybe I will split it up against a couple types of whiskey.
  • Imperial saison (3 gallons) - a big saison inspired by Dupont's Avec les Bon Voeux with a blend of American, French and Bohemian hops and a portion sour worted to give it a little acidity.
  • Kellerbier (2.5 gallons) - simple pilsner recipe that will go unfiltered into a party pig for cask service.
  • Lambic Solera Year Four (4 gallons) - the next refill on the lambic solera
  • Pivo Kielich Gratzer (1 gallons) - a slightly modified version of my gratzer recipe for a lower gravity version.
  • Rye saison (1 gallon) - a hoppy rye saison with a mix of American, Bohemian and New Zealand hops.
  • Salivator Doppelbock (1 gallon) - a rebrew of my doppelbock, modeled on Kai's doppelbock recipe.
  • Sour rye stout (3 gallons) - a rye-packed stout that will undergo a sour wort. 
  • Tmare pivo (2 gallons) - a tmare recipe modeled off of the recipe in Hops that sounds interesting.
  • Tropic Bling saison (2.5 gallons) - another attempt at cloning Funkwerks' Tropic King.
  • Spontaneously fermented lambic (5 gallons) - classic lambic process will be given up to whatever organisms float in my backyard. 
Thirty-four gallons of beer in total, although less packaged after trub is accounted for. The two lambics make up a big portion of that beer although they will be at least a year in the making. It's a good mix of beers that will benefit from fresh drinking and a few that can stand up to some aging. The lambics will get brewed next month and then I will probably hit some of the smaller batches in the early part of 2014 to balance my desire to brew with my desire to drink down some of my existing stock of homebrew. Hell, I still have the two gallon cask of rye imperial stout I brewed this year that I haven't even tapped. By my records I have a little over eighteen gallons of homebrew in bottles, fifteen gallons in fermentors and probably another eight gallons of commercial beer in my "cellar".

November 13, 2013

2013 brewing in review & 2014 brewing goals

Ever since I started my lambic solera in December of 2010 I have started thinking about my brewing years from December to November because each December begins a new year in the solera. At the same time I was also in law school and my brewing would ebb and flow with my school schedule and that late November-early December time period was the huge pressure crunch of cramming as much law into my head as I could and then vomiting it back out on the exam in the form of 10-20 pages of essay. Now that I'm liberated from the clutches of school I'm free to adopt whatever schedule I would like but the solera persists and I'm comfortable letting it set the start of a new brewing year, especially because I plan on adding a second solera (I'll talk about that in a later post).

2013 in Review

So overall I have been happy with my 2013 brewing year. My key goal for the year was to tighten up my technical approach to brewing and focus less on weird experiments. I feel like I have made a lot of strides in improving my mash technique and use of water chemistry although there is still room to improve. I also wanted to focus on brewing more straightforward examples of beer to facilitate that focus on technical brewing and overall I feel like those beers turned out well.

On balance I was happy with the beers I brewed. I also tried my hand at my first lager, which was a pretty solid success, and my first IPA. The IPA is still in the fermentor but I'm optimistic. I was also happy with several other beers, including Wildfire (mesquite smoked saison) and the second year's release of the lambic solera. Both the regular bottling and the blackberry bottling are quite delicious. I have several projects still in the works, such as a biere de mars, the double brett saison, the rye imperial stout on cask, the lambic solera and the Petrus aged pale clone that is finally getting sour. I was also fairly happy with Carburetor, my stout/sour blend that went in the bottle at the beginning of the year.

I also explored some other homebrewing fun, like teaching somebody else to brew, dry hopping a beer, joining the local homebrew club and discovering the Party Pigs make for decent casks. I know dry hopping and brewing IPAs is pretty standard stuff for most brewers but I really only started to develop a taste for hoppy beers over the past year or so. I still don't want to pound IPA all night but a hop forward pale ale or saison is quite pleasant. I even enjoy the occasional IPA. I haven't bought in on DIPAs yet.

2014 Goals

I'm very excited about my 2014 brewing year. It's going to be a good balance of crazy brewing, work on technique and trying to brew really solid beers. I still want to work on improving my brewing technique and with all the water chemistry/mash process/ph/etc. info that has appeared over the past year or so it's a really good time to work on that part of the brewing process. I did miss some of my more bizarre brewing but I don't feel like I need to swing the pendulum all the way back towards making every beer an experiment. Instead, I'm going to look at brewing a lot of straightforward beers but adding a tweak here and there of interesting techniques. My brews will mostly be a combination of German and French brews with the occasional American style slipped in. It will be an interesting mix of beers, mostly designed for quick consumption but a few will make fine beers to age. I'm going to bring back some sour mashing in a couple beers. More cask fun. And definitely more lambic.

What probably has me most excited is all the lambic. This December will gift me a third year's lambic from the solera and that means it's time to blend out of my reserves of the first two years to make gueuze. That's really exciting, not just because I find blending beer very interesting but because it also means I will have enough lambic on hand to drink it more frequently than I have been for the past couple years. The solera will continue to march on into the future. I may or may not look at doing another gueuze in the future since the solera process itself creates a blend of beer. I guess I will see how year three by itself compares to the blended gueuze.

I am also going to start a second lambic project with the hopes of turning it into something of a solera itself. Rather than rely on a lab blend and/or bottle dregs I am going to try a spontaneously fermented beer. I haven't worked out exactly how I am going to do it but I plan on leaving the beer out overnight to cool and then letting whatever gets in the beer do it's magic. I'm going to commit to letting that beer go as long as it needs. It will make for an interesting project at very least.

I'm also hoping this year will be the year my stupid hop garden will finally survive a summer well enough to hand over some hops. I'd like to slip in a really hoppy number or two from my homegrown hops but we'll see how that plays out. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm also reading a poor translation of Lacambre's 1851 publication about Belgian brewing with the goal of drafting some blog posts that go into greater detail than any of the information I've found online but in less detail than rewriting the whole book. It's interesting from a historical perspective and I find his snarky attitude rather humorous. I'd also like to take a look at trying to develop recipes out of his descriptions and other sources.
November 10, 2013

Party Pig CO2 repressurizing

I've written about my Party Pigs a couple times in the past (the original post and the Party Pig as a cask post). Although these serving devices have long since fallen out of favor with the affordability and availability of keg systems, they still present a good option for easing the burden of bottling for those of us without the space or money for a keg set up. Earlier this year I tried using the Party Pig without the pressure pouch that normally keeps serving pressure to see how cask-like it was. I was pretty happy with the results, especially since it kept drinkable beer for about three weeks in my fridge. There was some concern that once the Party Pig lost pressure and air started to flow up the spout that the beer would quickly oxidize. There was that twinge of fantastic ooxidation you get with casks on the second day but the beer never tasted stale or acetic. However, a huge problem was that once pressure was lost the beer would pour at a snail's pace and it would take up to ten minutes to get a pint glass filled. That was a problem.

I had a solution. One thing I briefly considered was trying to dump more priming sugar (as a solution) into the pig through the spout but that seemed like a difficult task, even using tubing to funnel it into the right place. My primary fear was that even if I could successfully get sanitary priming solution into the Party Pig that it would overcarbonate and explode. Quite a dangerous mess. Instead, I found out that Quion, the company that manufactures the Party Pig sells a CO2 charger that is intended to replace the handpump sold with the Party Pig that you use to activate the pressure pouch. (If you've ever tried to use that handpump then you know it is incredibly difficult to use.) I figured if CO2 could go in after filling it could also be used to repressurize the Party Pig after some of the beer was dispensed. I asked the folks at Quion if they had any thoughts about repurposing the CO2 charger. The thought had never occurred to them but they didn't see a problem as long as I didn't overpressuring the Party Pig.

In September I filled one of my Party Pigs with my so-so ESB and tapped the Party Pig-turned-cask in my fridge early October. After drinking on it for about three weeks I had about a gallon left and the pressure had equalized, resulting in the typical slow pour. I removed it from the fridge, stood it upright, shoved the charger in the spout, hit the dispensing button and shot in some CO2. I pressed against the Party Pig to see when it started to get firm and stopped the CO2 once it became firm. Tossed it back in the fridge and checked on it a week later. Good news: not only did it pour quickly and slightly foamy but it had a cleaner taste than the last time I had tasted it. I don't know what happened but by the third week or so the beer started taking on sort of a rough character. Maybe it was oxidation. What I had after the CO2 was fruity and delicious.

The bad news is that it only seems to pour 1-2 pints before the pressure gives out. It's not that big of a deal to shoot more CO2 in after a pour or two but it will definitely require an increasing amount of CO2 the more I drink. Food grade CO2 cartridges aren't terribly expensive (although not as cheap as refilling tanks) but I'm sure if I drank the cask faster I'd have to use the CO2 charger less frequently.
November 2, 2013

I Pee, Eh? - Black IPA Recipe

This IPA will be my first IPA to brew; it's probably shocking that I've brewed for a little over four years and I've never brewed an IPA. I'm not a huge fan of IPAs but I've come around and enjoy the occasional IPA. I have mixed thoughts about the whole black IPA style and not just because the name is an oxymoron. I think a lot of people have mixed thoughts about them. Sometimes you find black IPAs that are basically your typical west coast IPA plus some color. Sometimes you find black IPAs that are basically the old American stout or American porter style (which were hoppy versions of their English counterparts) with even more hops. On rare occasion you find those disasters that are so loaded with roasted malts that it's bitter and acrid. Unpleasant.

My preference is for the black IPAs that lean towards the American stout or porter style, with some noticeable dark roast character (e.g. chocolate, coffee, caramel, dark stonefruits). So this recipe is in that same vein. It adopts heavily from Odell's Mountain Standard Double Black IPA, which features a lot of chinook and cascade character. I'm also tossing in a little Belma to add an edge of melon and grassy to the hop profile. It's a fairly simple recipe. Three hops, four grains and the hops are assorted into five additions. No hopback, no hop stand, no mash hops. First wort hops, 60, 15, 0 and dry hop. It's probably under-hopped for most homebrewers but it should be within my drinking preference.

Let's talk about the name quickly. Many, if not most, of my beer names come from the show How I Met Your Mother and this one takes a couple of jokes on the show and puts them together. One of the characters, Robin, is Canadian and the other characters make jokes about how Canadians say "eh?" a lot and they are scared of the dark. What happens when you get really scared? You piss your pants. So put that all together with a black beer and you get I Pee, Eh? pronounced like IPA. Corny? Dumb? Yeah but it's not my worst. Anyway, sorry to my Canadian readers. I know you aren't really scared of the dark. Let's get into the recipe.

I Pee, Eh? Black IPA Recipe

Batch size: 2.5 gallons
ABV: 6.5%
SRM: 31
IBU: 63.6
Est. OG: 1.063
Est. FG: 1.014
Est. Efficiency: 72%

The Grain

5lb. 4oz. US 2 Row (2 SRM) 86.5%
8oz. Crystal 80 (80 SRM) 8.3%
3oz. Carafa III (525 SRM) 3.1%
2oz. Chocolate malt (450 SRM) 2.1%

The Water

1.9 gallons of mash water at 165F
2.0 gallons of sparge water at 180F

Mash Water

1.5g Epsom salt
0.6g baking soda
0.6g calcium chloride
0.6g chalk
0.2ml lactic acid

Sparge Water

1.6g epsom salt
0.6g calcium chloride
1.1ml lactic acid

The Mash

75 minute mash at 150F
Capture 2.9g pre-boil wort

The Boil

FWH 0.30oz. Belma (12.1%) 26.4 IBU
60 min 0.20oz. Belma (12.1%) 16 IBU
15 min 0.12oz. Belma (12.1%) 4.6 IBU
15 min 0.25oz. Cascade (5.5%) 5 IBU
15 min 0.25oz. Chinook (13%) 11.7 IBU
10 min 0.5 tsp Irish moss
0 min 0.25oz. Belma (12.1%) 0 IBU
0 min 0.25oz. Cascade (5.5%) 0 IBU
0 min 0.25oz. Chinook (13%) 0 IBU

The Fermentation

1 packet S-04
Fermented at 62F until FG reached
Cold crash for three days
Transfer to bottling bucket
Dry hop with 0.5oz. Cascade and 0.5oz. Chinook for three days
Bottle to 2.3 volumes

Brewday Notes

1.050 OG 2.4 gallons -- 55% efficiency
Back to bad efficiency...had some issues with the mash and sparge which likely contributed to those problems. Will be light on the ABV but seems to have good flavor and aroma.

In a hurry when bottling, did not grab a gravity reading. Ended up dry hopping for five days.