Again, Apfelwein

[ No Comments ] Posted on 03.15.12 under Uncategorized

Of course I had to make it. Apfelwein. Apple juice + (optional) corn sugar + yeast = alcohol. Takes like five minutes to make, five weeks to ferment, and at least five days to consume. Cost per alcohol unit only compares to the prestigious Dubra. But yet it is home made and hand crafted, and seems somehow elevated in status because of these two small considerations.

Last time I made it (2/18 I reckon) I used 3# corn sugar in addition to the juice. The time before I used no corn sugar, so I got to know that the juice itself is 1.050. Along those lines I supposed 3# corn sugar was roughly 0.5 gallons, and calculated the OG of the most recent batch accordingly.

I did 4.5 gallons at 1.050 and then added 3# corn sugar. And that came up with about 1.080. As I kegged it tonight I measured the FG and got about 1.000. Beersmith tells me this thing is well north of 10% ABV.

I am skeptical. Though it is not sweet at all, and tastes mainly like the previous 1.050 6.5%-er, I will have to reserve judgement until I get a cold carbonated glass of the new stuff. That could take a week or so. And even then I’ll have no evidence to dispute either gravity reading. So it will surely stand.

Anticipate more bad mornings in my future. And not just because of some ridiculous work crisis. I think EdWort might just possibly be a m*!&#$@^$%er after all.

Archives

[ No Comments ] Posted on 03.03.12 under Uncategorized

Been dipping into the archives to avoid *gasp* buying beer.

This has led me to one of the last two bottles of my Mind Melter IIIPA. It is a 17% ABV monster made to push the limits of what I could do. It was for a friend for his birthday a few years ago. It was what got me to get kegs. I knew I could not carbonate it in bottles. It is very special to me.

Crafted in the image of DFH120, it must be excellent or be left behind. I was eager and anxious both at the same time as I popped the cap on the bottle I had been cooling for a few days.

The hiss was not much. Evidence of lack of carbonation, which fortunately would be no big deal on a beer like this. I got my little brandy snifter thing out and poured a 6 oz serving. Two beers in one but at least not the whole thing at once.

It had held up remarkably well. No apparent cardboard or sherry. Pretty much matched up with my recollection of what it was all about. It definitely made me want to make it again. Until I stop and think about the raw labor involved.

I did incremental feedings. This meant I was in the garage cooking extract-based wort down to minimal volume three times in the week after I made the main wort (a mere 1.060 affair)

It was very tedious sitting there waiting for volume to boil off. Maybe it would be easier or less tedious now that I have a fancy Android device to serve me with infinite games (at least for the two hours the battery lasts!)

Conclsion: make a huge beer. 15% or more. Sean Paxton has a good technique (which I did not follow or refer to) for making a good quality DFH120 clone. Anyway it is fun and expensive but still a lot cheaper than commercial, and comes out just fine if you do it right.

Brewed

[ No Comments ] Posted on 02.18.12 under Uncategorized

Made some beer today.Now that I don’t do Facebook so much any more, here’s my outlet.

Four vessels fermenting.

1. IPA. Made to 1.060, with mild kettle hops, planning on absurd dry hopping, and pushing it through to keg in a week, or maybe two. Fermenting pretty warm with US05. Mashed LOW. Lower than intended.
2. Lite Beer. Five gallons in kettle brewed strong (1.080 – corn sugar FTW) and diluted going into fermenters. Wort:water ratio of 2.5:1.5 yields eight gallons at 1.050. Made with lager yeast. Trying the two dry strains they had at the LHBS (S23 and W34/70, I think). Fermenting together at 50°F. Not ideal for ether, but in the range for both. This accounts for two fermenters.
3. Apfelwein. Of course. Apple juice + corn sugar + yeast = too easy to not do when you have buckets of sanitizer on hand. Last batch I made (kegged today) was OG 1.050, made with no corn sugar. Came out real dry, and very tart, and definitely different than the corn sugar version. The one I made today, I put 3# corn sugar in there. Too much, on reflection. But weighing corn sugar is so tedious, and they sell it in 3# bags. OG 1.080 should equate to a sweet strong brew that takes a while to be ready. I anticipate making another batch while this one is still working through, in a few weeks, when I’m likely to brew again. Wifey asked for a GF beer. I’ll have to brew again soon if that will fit in with my current pipeline woes. I think she’ll support my plans.

In the mean time, I have approximately 8 Barley Wines left and a freshly tapped keg of 5% apfelwein to make it the next month or so until today’s stuff is ready. I pulled out some old stuff from stores to try to avoid retail alcohol. We’ll see how the master plan works.

Pipeline

[ No Comments ] Posted on 02.16.12 under Uncategorized

About to brew again this weekend. I am very glad it’s predicted to be nearly 50 degrees out. Warm enough to spend several hours exposed to the elements, including mostly wind and water. And just in time, really. I kicked two kegs the past two nights with one more about to gasp its last spurt of foamy horror. At least I have a recently fermented keg of apfelwein chilling in the fermentation fridge ready to report to active duty when the time comes. And the time is drawing near.

I think that between that apfel and the last gallon of Barley Wine I can last two weeks until the IPA is in the keg. But if not, there’s always Dubra or Busch Light to fill the gap. Sometimes it is about quality, and sometimes it is not.

Favorite Styles

[ No Comments ] Posted on 02.07.12 under Uncategorized

I typically tend to want to brew a lot of IPA. So I sometimes get to thinking that this might be wrong. Like I should want a seasonal variety, including stouts, barley wines, etc. So around this time of year I get to brewing those things. Then I find myself without IPA and feeling like I should have kept making IPA.

I think I’m about to realize that I really just want IPA and lite beer with a little bit of pizzazz here and there, but mainly pizzazz-free, with good old stable IPA and lite beer.

In this light, I plan my next brew day. Guess what, IPA and lite beer! Five gallons of IPA, made to about 6%, 60 IBU, tons of dry hops. Eight gallons of lite beer, made to about 4%, 8 IBU, and fermented cold. I’ll be testing the dry lager yeasts, to see which I prefer.

Lately I’ve been obsessing over Magic: The Gathering. My 6YO son is into it big time, and the game holds a tremendous amount of nostalgia for me. It’s been easy for me to dive right back in (especially given the massive amount of cards I have, which I am glad to have not sold).

The point is that I see a parallel. Rather than make ten decks that are all OK, I’d rather have a few that kick ass. Same with the beer. Rather than make a bunch of recipes that are mostly just OK, I want to focus on a few main ones and make those 0.25 oz adjustments needed to make them perfect.

Sure it might be fun to play a G/R Common Weenie deck every now and then, but nothing compares to dominating with B/R Vampires to win in five turns. Or in beery terms, making a decent stout is good, but a knock-your-socks-off IPA is really the goal.

Brew Day in the Books!

[ No Comments ] Posted on 10.16.11 under Uncategorized

Had a pretty good brew day yesterday. Made about 18 gallons of alcoholic beverage in just about 6 hours. Now just have to wait three weeks before enjoying.

First off: Honey Brown. Made this as an eight gallon batch. Mashed 15# of grain, added 1# corn sugar to the typical 5.5 gallon boil, and diluted 2.5:1.5 (wort:water) into the fermenters. Meant to hit 1.054, got more like 1.050. Close enough. Eight gallons of honey brown in the two 5 gallon fermenters, bubbling away in the main fermentation fridge, set to 66°F. One with Notty and one with US-05. Looking forward to the taste test comparison. Expecting Notty to be the preferred by a mile.

Then: more IPA! After that Columbus IPA in Columbus Ohio, which was better than mine, I decided to try again (Gus: “try again, dadz”). I think the lower ABV might be the trick. So I intended this to 5.5% or so. Missed my gravity low, had a slightly higher volume (damn 45-minute boil). So it might be more like 5%. It’s all good.

And of course, what brew day would be complete without some Apfelwein. Since BJs raised the price on their house brand Apple Juice, I decided to just hit up the Stop&Shop for some juice. Got $1/qt for store brand apples and vitamin C blend (from concentrate).

Now they all sit, fermenting away. Though the apfel does not bubble, I think it’s because the keg it is fermenting in is not well-sealed. I will dry hop all the beers (i.e. not the apfel) in a few days, after fermentation is slowing. Then cold crash a few days later. Then keg about a week days later. Should be all packaged up by Halloween. Too bad they won’t be carbed by then. I think Honey Brown would make a nice Trick-or-Treat beer… I’ll have to settle for mulled Apfelwein… Travel mug FTW!!

I <3 LHBS

[ No Comments ] Posted on 10.13.11 under Uncategorized

Prepping for brew day, had to go pick up some things. Actually a lot of things. Besides the few pounds of unusual specialty grains (like Honey Malt) and the oddball yeast (Nottingham) I’ll be using, I also needed a sack of base malt and some other staples.

Used to be that the LHBS (www.brew-wine.com) was all disorganized and never had anything in stock, and even then it took at least a half an hour just to get served and even longer with any sort of complex order.

Now they have staff. It’s not just Rich alone. There’s the owner guy usually there after work, and now another helper any time I’m there. Sure the helper put my 2# C60, 2# Honey Malt, and 1# C60 all in the same bag (the owner guy and I had a good laugh talking about what beer could be made with that combo… a Honey Red, perhaps…), but even after that screw up, the employee went and tried again, all in separate bags this time. And he was profusely apologetic for the initial error, too. Funny thing is I feel that I share the blame for my lack of clarity in asking for what I wanted. Besides, I was just happy to not have to use the scale!

Now they even have CO2 and hops by the pound (but I could still not pull the trigger for a $24 pound of Simcoe). Hell they even had a Bling-mann three-tier on display for sale.

It’s nice to not have to worry if the LHBS will have what I want. I know now that I can go there with any sort of esoteric grain bill requests and have it fulfilled. And they have all the dry yeast I could want. Not to mention an abundance of tools, equipment, extracts, adjuncts, and chemicals. Combined with hops from the internet and planning a brew day is never a challenge for me.

Even if they didn’t have some specific grain I was after, they’d be able to recommend something else, and I’m sure I’d be able to brew something.

So I guess the point is that if you live near East Hartford, CT, you should consider brew-wine.com as your LHBS, and go there. It’s a good shop.

Brew Day Coming

[ No Comments ] Posted on 10.12.11 under Uncategorized

What with all the kids, brew days are harder to come by anymore. After the 4th was born in April, there was a relatively long non-brewing period. Then I did it. And I got in the groove. I did three brew days in a row, two weeks apart. That got the pipeline going again. But since then, it’s been as dry as a parish in Mississippi.

Now I have finally asserted my God-given right to brew again. I said “I need to brew again. This weekend”. She said “OK”. Phew, that was easy.

Lately I have been making double batches of Lite beer. With about five pounds of grains needed to make five gallons of the lite beer, it only made sense to double batch it. Brew a five gallon batch of double strength wort, and then dilute 50/50 with H2O going into the fermenters. It has worked very well.

I think it’s time to expand that line of thinking into other beers.

I was going to make a Honey Brown. Meant to be an easy drinking brown beer for autumn, it seemed like a good candidate for double batching.

As it turns out, I’m planning on 8 gallons of beer coming out of 15# of grain. Make the usual 5 gallons of wort, then dilute 2.5:1.5 for four gallons in each of two 5-gallon carboys. Tada! Extra beer!

We’ll see how it turns out. I’m planning on also doing a yeast comparison on this. One batch with good old US-05 and one with Notty. I’ve never used the Nottingham yeast before, so I’m excited to see how it works. I’ve tasted other Notty beers, and I’ve been pleased. I’m thinking US-05 might just be demoted after this trial. But only time will tell.

Oh, and of course I’ll make another IPA. Fashioned after the Ohio IPA. With an ABV under 6% and all Columbus hops. And I’m eliminating the Munich. And adding some C40. But still it will be very pale. Oh boy, I love brew days!

Barley’s – Columbus, Ohio

[ No Comments ] Posted on 10.08.11 under Uncategorized

I was honored with the opportunity to visit Columbus, Ohio a few weeks ago for work. Naturally, my first instinct was to check BeerAdvocate for local breweries. Turns out there were a few in the area. But it was hard to tell which would be best. So as we left the vendor’s office on the first day of the visit, we asked where was the best local beer. DuVal directed us to Barley’s. A few minutes later, Mapquest was telling us to proceed to the highlighted route on my Android phone in our rented orange Dodge Caravan.

About 20 minutes south on 23 through The Ohio State we came upon it. We parked in a nearby grocery store lot for $2 an hour and went in to Barley’s for dinner.

Keep in mind, we’d already eaten a huge lunch on our long layover in O’Hare. Neither of us were hungry. But it was time to eat, and definitely time to drink. So we prioritized the beer menu. Food was an afterthought to us at the time.

The first thing I noticed was guest taps. Old Rasputin. Good sign. Also some Blue Moon crap and a craft Pumpkin beer. OK. Then I see they list the cask option on the printed menu. Very good sign. (BTW it was the Scottish – more on that later). Finally I get to the main beer list. It is full of detail, as a good brewpub’s beer menu should be.

My personal preference when visiting a new brewery is to try the IPA. So I did. It had a stupid name, but it was made with all Columbus hops. I liked the idea, because I make an all-Columbus IPA. I didn’t get it until a few days later… Columbus Ohio/Columbus Hops. Sometimes I’m a little slow.

The beer was great. It was better than mine. I like to think that I am not overly preferential to my own beer, but this was better than mine. Same basic profile, but just that smidgeon crisper and drier. My current working theory is that this is because it was only 5.8% ABV while mine is usually in the 7.5% area. I know what my next IPA recipe will be.

Up next I tried the cask. My travelling partner had started with it, and said it was pretty good. I was not in a good position to really know what Dan likes, but I could be pretty sure that the beer would at least be palatable if he recommended it. Sure enough, it was pretty good. It was a bit sweet feeling for me. Perhaps due to the yeast in suspension. But it was tasty – good cask. My recollection is that it hid it’s 6.6% ABV well.

Finally it was time for the one I’d been eyeing since first perusing the beer menu. The Grand Cru. A 9% ABV Belgian monster, I was dreaming of Rochefort 10 all the way. Unfortunately, this one was a huge let down. I wished I’d got the 7.4% RIS. The Grand Cru was lackluster in every way. It was just completely lacking in richness and yeast character. It was like it was fermented too cool or with too much yeast. It just was not Grand Cru in any sense of the word. They really should have just called it a Dubbel. Not that it would have tasted better if labelled as such, but at least it wouldn’t have been backed with the claims of grandeur with which I was presented. At any rate, 9% is 9% and I was not about to send it back.

As we got to sucking down the suds, I got to wondering where the brewery was. I looked all around and could not see it. I was thinking maybe they had a production facility more downtown where the rent was cheaper. So I asked the waitress. She directed us to the small glass paneled room on the other side of the bar. Turns out the brewery was in the basement.

This was not a spectacular sight. The glass room looked down onto a dusty and dirty brew house, you could not see the cellar, and it was generally more industrial than your average brewpub. It was just a chance to discuss the brewing process with Dan.

Then there was the food. To many, this is what makes or breaks a brew pub. For me, it’s more on the beer, or so I thought before this night. As I said before, neither of us were hungry going into this. As we read the food menu, we both commented quite a bit on the menu as we attempted to disguise our disinterest. In the end, we both picked something. I got a steak sandwich and he got a Reuben or something.

The food was amazing. To go from not hungry to cleaning a plate of food is something else. The creamy sauce on the steak sandwich, along with the tender meat and crispy roll, were enough to have me licking every last drip off my fingers at the end of the meal. The veggies weren’t that great, but the main course was awesome. I bet the fries would have been off the hook, but I was trying to be good, given that I’d already eaten a giant pile of fries in Chicago.

Dan had the same basic story on his meal. Wiped the plate clean, including the side. We both really were amazed that we could come in there completely indifferent about food and leave there loving life and the food we’d just had.

In a way the food overshadowed the beer. And I think that might be just what it takes for a brew pub to be truly successful. In the end, how many people in this world really care about what hop varieties are in their IPA? But on the other hand, everyone can appreciate a meal that just begs to be completed, no matter what the beverage.

Home Bars

[ No Comments ] Posted on 08.22.11 under Beer Cellar, Fun, Stories

I saw a show today on DIY network that wifey was watching. It was about outdoor rooms. It was pretty cool. The thing that caught my eye was (of course) the outdoor bar area they featured.

I could see from the first aerial shot leading into the scene that the guy had two (or maybe just one) draft tower(s) coming out of his outdoor bar setup. I was immediately dragged into it, waiting for the details of powering, cooling, pressure balancing the tap(s).

I was let down when all they showed was that it was a single tower with a single handle pouring some swilly macro beer. All that money and effort in the greatest outdoor party “room” ever to serve Budweiser? That’s his prerogative.

Anyway, it got me dreaming of the time when I’ll have some bar space that’s fancier than a used fridge with some tap handles coming out of the door in my largely unfinished basement. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate fire pit patio with outdoor TVs, just a cozy little basement bar with some wood paneling or even a drop ceiling. And obviously a serious draft beer setup serving up a wide variety from lite beer to lambic, accompanied by the appropriate educational materials.

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