Thursday, December 27, 2012

First tasting: Chocolat Pompoen

It's been for ever since I brewed this beer. It took me so long to do a review for it mostly because I was not pleased with how it came out. For better or worse here it is

Appearance: Dark black with a bubbly off-white head that quickly dissipates. Not an unattractive looking beer, but I do wish the head would last longer. My suspicion is that the pumpkin killed the head.  

Aroma: a touch of lactose, no real gourd aroma. The Belgian yeast melds very well with the chocolaty overtones. Sweet burnt sugar and spicy yeasty notes which give the impression of clove and cinnamon. 

Flavor: This is the most disappointing part of the beer. There is very little to no gourd flavor and surprisingly little chocolate flavor. The flavor is slightly tart and milky, which is not a very appealing combination. 

Mouthfeel: I would say the mouthfeel is the second most disappointing part of the beer. It’s thin and watery with medium carbonation. 

Overall: I’m pretty disappointed with the way this beer came out. If I would do it over again I would probably skip the lactose and brew a higher gravity beer. The lower gravity is a big part of the weak mouthfeel. I think I might try this beer again next year since the pumpkin party was on hiatus this year with the wedding, but next year I’ll target 1.08ish for the OG and skip the lactose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spontaneous Fermentation

Ever since I developed a taste for sours, dare I say it, craving, I’ve admired the traditional process. There are very few breweries left in the world that produce sours in the traditional sense. Probably the most famous is Cantillon. Sours can be produced in many ways, as evident by American sour producers. I’m lucky that I live in San Antonio and am close to Freetail, one of two sour producers in Texas, the other being Jester King in Austin. With Texas’ weird beer laws I’m able to buy Jester King at a retail store but I can only buy Freetail at Freetail. This is why I’m lucky to be here; those living outside of San Antonio only have access to Jester King for sours.

Traditionally sours or wild ales are produced by allowing the natural microflora in the air to inoculate the wort while the beer is cooling in a large trough called a coolship. As the beer cools the wild yeast and bacteria in the air cause the beer to “spontaneously” ferment. After a 24 hour cooling period the beers are racked into barrels, which themselves are home to “bugs” from previous successful batches to ignite fermentation. The prevailing thought was that the traditional style of wild ale, Lambic, could only be produced in Lambeek, Belgium.  It was believed that the microflora in the air in this region has the right concentration to produce Lambic and that no other region in the world can replicate this. We know now that the bacteria and yeast in the air in Belgium is nothing special.  The Belgian Lambic producers are able to produce world class beers because their brewery has an established microflora and they have many years of batches that they can use for blending.

There is a group in Belgium that formed a coalition, whose name escapes me, that believes Pajottenland is the only place that Lambic can be produced. It is a group of traditional Lambic producers, Girardin, Boon, and a few others. Arguably the most famous producer of Lambic, Cantillon chose not to participate because they believe that Lambic is just a process and can be produced anywhere. There are a few breweries in America that have tried their hand at spontaneous fermentation. Jolly Pumpkin, Russian River, and Jester King have all inoculated some of their beers from a stepped up batch of spontaneously fermented wort. Allagash actually has installed a coolship and has been producing wild ales with it.

Most spontaneous fermentation producers agree that the best times to ferment beer is fall through spring. This is when they say the right balance of microflora is in the air. During my last brew day, Brett-Brux IPA, I had some left over wort from the mash tun and decided to try my hand at spontaneous fermentation. I collected the wort and boiled it with some old hops, mostly to keep the lacto in check. After the boil finished I poured the wort into a sanitized Pyrex baking dish and covered it with a sanitized cheese cloth and placed the “coolship” under our rose bushes in the back yard elevated by a bucket. I left the beer over night to cool and poured it into a sanitized carboy the next morning. The only aeration came from pouring into the carboy. I then capped the carboy with an airlock. It took about 2 or 3 days for fermentation to show. Currently there is a nice pellicle on top of the wort. I’m going to let it sit and ferment for about 3 weeks then give it a smell test. If it doesn’t smell awful I’m going to try a taste. You never want  to taste spontaneously fermented beer early because there are other types of bacteria that could be living in it early, ie e.coli. After a few weeks the alcohol and acidity will kill any pathogen.   If this works out then I’ll step the bugs up and use it to inoculate a full size batch. Who knows maybe in 2 years I’ll be able to drink my own Lanbintonio. If the starter doesn’t work out then I didn’t invest a lot of ingredients or time and I’ll learn what didn’t work.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brett-Brux Trois IPA (C3PA)

I finally got around to bottling my sour ale. I wanted to give the beer some fresh yeast but I didn’t want to use champagne yeast. I decided to use the tube of Brett-Brux Trois that I bought a couple of months ago. I made a starter about a week before I bottled. I didn’t need all of the yeast from the starter for the sour so I was left with yeast that needed to be used. With the left over yeast I decided to brew another 100% Brett beer.

I’m making this an IPA since I thought the Brett-C and Citra combo was amazing. I decided to up the ABV, it is winter after all, and in doing so I also upped the hop content. The strategy was to use one hop for bittering at the beginning of the boil and then a bunch of flame out hops and dry hop like crazy. Instead of using 100% Citra, since I’m low and I can’t find any fresh Citra, I’m supplementing with Chinook and Falconer’s Flight. For bittering I decided to go with a staple of IPAs, Centennial

I ended up under-gravity again and I’m starting to think it’s not my process that has changed. I used to pretty much always hit my target OG and often be too high. The only change besides moving is the new LHBS. I think that they might not be crushing my grain correctly, just one more reason I need my own barley crusher. Other than that the brew day was uneventful, which is a nice change of pace from my last few brew days.

Original Gravity: 1.050
Final Gravity:
Estimated IBU: 70
SRM: 3o
Efficiency Est: 65%
Boil Time: 60 min

  • 70% - 9.5 lbs –Two Row
  • 22% - 3 lbs – Wheat Malt
  • 4% - 0.5 lbs – Carapils
  • 4% - 0.5 lbs – Acid Malt
  • 60 minutes - Centennial – 2oz
  • Flame out – Citra – 1oz
  • Flame out – Falconer’s Flight – 1oz
  • Flame out – Chinook – 1oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Citra – 2oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Falconer’s Flight – 1oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Chinook – 1oz
  • WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois
Mashed single infusion for 60 minutes at 153oF, single  sparge at 170oF

(11/24/12) – Brewed by myself. Easy brew day. Chilled to 80F and placed the carboy in the chest freezer. Three hours later I pitched the 1 liter starter a week before. For the mash I added 3 tsp of gypsum and 1 tsp of Calcium Chloride and 2 tsp gypsum and 1 tsp Calcium Chloride to the sparge water. I didn’t shake or add any additional aeration to the wort except during transferring from kettle to carboy. Set fermentation temperature to 57F targeting 62F.

(11/9/12) -  Added all but one packet of Falconer's Flight to the dry hopping.

(12/21/12) - Bottled with 0.5 cups of table sugar. 

(1/9/12) - First tasting. Great results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Feisty Otter

I wanted to name this beer Feisty Otter because I thought it was a funny name. Little did I know that it would live up to its name during brewing. Everything started out fine, hit my mash temperature, all of the water and grain fit into my mash tun, and the first two vorlaufs went smoothly. That’s where the problems started. After the first two circulations my mash tun manifold clogged. I’m not sure how it happened but the actual valve clogged. I didn’t know this was the problem so I attempted to stir the mash; this caused me to accidently knock my manifold loose. Eventually I had to resort to using my hop bag as a filter to prevent the kettle from filling up with grain. It took me about an hour and a half to finally lauter all of my wort.

I ended up with about 7 gallons of 1.065 (I think) wort. The plan was to boil the wort until it reached 3 gallons, which should produce Millard effects during the extended boil and sugar concentration. The Millard effects will cause caramelization, which will darken the wort and increase the complexity of the beer. Despite the fact that I used a single pale malt it should be surprisingly dark. The boil took about 3.5 hours and I added the hops in at 75 minutes left in the boil. For the last 45 minutes I had to really watch the boil because it started to caramelize, similar to making candi sugar, and began to boil up and almost boil over. I had to sit there and watch it and blow on the bubbles to keep the wort from boiling over. Once I reached 3 gallons I started chilling using my immersion chiller. When the beer hit 80 degrees I added 2 gallons of pre-chilled sterile water. This dropped the temperature to 66 degrees. I pitched the 2 liter starter that I made and placed into my newly acquired chest freezer (a birthday present from my fiancée).

I plan on leaving the beer in primary for 3 weeks then racking into the barrel that is housing my Impreial stout. I’ll let it rest for another 3ish weeks in the barrel and then probably turn the barrel into a souring barrel.

I ended up coming way under gravity, which I anticipated just not this far under gravity. Of course this I’m attributing to my manifold failing. It’s funny, even though it’s easier to brew at our new house because I have more room, so far I have not been able to achieve a target gravity from one reason or another.

  • Estimated OG: 1.135
  • Estimated FG: 1.035
  • Actual OG: 1.092
  • Actual FG: 1.033
  • ABV: 7.3%
  • SRM: 11o
  • IBU: 44.7
Grain Bill:
  • 25 lbs – Marris Otter
  • 4 oz Syrian Golding – 75 minute
  • English Ale (1098)
  • Mashed 151F for 75 minutes attempting to use a no-sparge technique
  • Boil for 3.5 hours (down to 3 gallons)

(10/27/12) – brewed by myself. As noted above I clearly had issues. I’m going to need to look at my mash tun and make sure these things stop happening. The boil took forever but I think I’ll have the desired result. Chilled to 66F and pitched yeast, placed in chest freezer set to 57F, should be fermenting around 62F with the energy the yeast creates.

(11/17/12) - Racked beer into the barrel that held Flight by Night. Gravity down to 1.030. There seems to be a decent amount of diacetyl, which will hopefully clear up. To clean the barrel I poured hot water into it, rolled it back and fourth and dumped it. Then I added the barleywine after it cooled off a bit.

Label created by my Fiancee
(12/10/12) - Racked beer back into a carboy for extended aging. It tasted pretty good and looked really nice but the alcohol phenols were out of control. I'm assuming this was because of the spirits left in the barrel. I was surprised by how boozy it smelled since I had just used it for an RIS.

(1/27/12) -  Bottled with 0.3 cups of table sugar. Gravity down to 1.033, much higher then I wanted, hopefully it wont be too sweet. It tasted very good and smelled amazing but it was pretty sweet.

(3/6/13) - First tasting. Good, needs more time, the process maybe didn't do as much as I was hoping for. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

First tasting: Home Sweet Home Hefeweizen

I’m a little late on finally writing this review. I haven’t been sitting on these bottles though; in fact I’ve probably polished off about a case. The hefewizen that I brewed came in under my anticipated gravity, rather than hurting the beer it only made it easier to drink. You might be wondering, how an already easy drink can become easier? Decrease the alcohol so you can drink two.  There are a few things I’ll change for the next time, along with not being horribly inefficient so I can hit my target OG.

Appearance: Very light, opaque pale yellow to white with a large fluffy white head about 2 fingers thick that lingers and leaves a nice lacing on the side of the glass. I was hoping for a little more orange in the beer so I might up the Munich malt next time.

Aroma: Huge peach aroma with a touch of pineapple and guava. I was really surprised with the peach. In the back ground there is a touch of spiciness from the yeast.

Taste: A touch of citrus and spicy yeast. I would honestly say it is a touch too bitter, but that is probably because I hopped it for a 1.050 beer and ended up with about 1.030 so the IBUs are much more apparent. The spiciness helps balance it out and it’s only about 20 IBUs to begin with. I would say it’s between a regular Hefeweizen and a white IPA.

Mouthfeel: Spritzy and refreshing, with a dry, slightly bitter finish. Very easy to drink and enjoyable.

Overall: Very easy to drink, great aroma, and refreshing. Everything I was targeting, besides the OG. The reason my efficiency was so off was because I miss calculated my mash/sparge water. I ended up using too much sparge water, which in return, watered down my beer. Luckily this is an easily correctable situation. I’ll definitely brew this beer again. Perhaps when I get my keggle finished I’ll brew a double batch for next Summer (assuming I can find more citra hops) and do a regular batch and a dry-hopped batch.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flip top vs. Bottle Cap: Round 2

I know it has been forever since I’ve reviewed the two different bottle types but I finally got around to doing it again. This is the second review for an experiment that I have been conducting over the past year and a half. For more information on this experiment and the background you can read here. The reason I didn’t get around to doing the experiment like I initially wanted to be because the bottles got lost under my stairs, buried underneath all the other stuff.  I opened chilled the two bottles the night before for 24 hours and opened them side-by-side at basically the same time and poured into identical glasses.

Bottle Cap 

Appearance: Large head about 2 fingers thick that dissipated relatively quickly probably over the course of one minute. I was surprised by the sound of the pop that came when I opened the bottle.

Aroma: Slight hints of oxidation, port like qualities, burnt sugar, caramel, and raisins. There was a slightly metallic aroma but nothing too distracting.

Taste: Similar to the smell with hints small notes of metal, this from what I can recall was originally found in the beer.  Other than that the flavor has held up well, caramel, raisins, a touch of chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly carbonated still, very effervescent and light. The carbonation might be too much for its own good.

Overall: It held up surprisingly well. I would still drink this beer. I doubt it will hold up too much longer since I did start to detect a hint of wet cardboard in the aroma, so I’m assuming the end is near. Although I do think that would be attributed to the bottling process and not from aging in the bottle.


Appearance: Similar color but with a huge head. I had to wait for it to slowly dissipate before I could pour more. The pop was very loud when I opened the top and the beer started to foam up.

Aroma: Sadly lots of oxidation, wet cardboard, heavy metallic aroma, hits of caramel and burnt sugar.

Taste: Mostly burnt sugar and metal.

Mouthfeel: Very light and very carbonated, overly carbonated in fact.

Overall: I had to pour the rest of the glass out since it was definitely past its prime. I’m not sure why this beer was more carbonated then the other, I doubt it’s infected, but it’s possible. I’ll hold onto the other two just to see if that changes at all.

I’m not aging these beers to see how they change but see how the different bottles affect their overall taste, smell, appearance, and mouthfeel. I think at this point there is a clear verdict. Capped bottles prevent oxidation longer then flip top bottles. I’m not fully against flip top bottles. I generally keep one around when I bottle to put the last amount of beer into it since it probably won’t be a full bottle and I don’t feel like wasting a cap on a half full bottle. It also gives me the chance to check for carbonation without wasting a full bottle. I will continue the experiment just to see how they continue to evolve but my recommendation is to only use flip top bottles if you going to be storing them for short term consumption. I just don’t believe that the rubber gaskets provide as good of a seal as a cap. It will be interesting to see what the beer is like next year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flight by Night

I was able recently to get a used barrel from Ranger Creek, Texas’ only brewstillary. They not only are a brewery but they also distal their own bourbon and other sprits. They were selling their spent barrels that originally held their bourbon and most recently held a smoked scotch.  To play on the smoked scotch I decided to add some rauch malt, even though I doubt a pound will really matter. I was under gravity, which is not surprising considering the limited space in my mash tun. I also probably should have added more water during mashing, it seemed a little thin. For this beer I decided to go traditional and brew an imperial stout, a favorite amongst beer nerds for barrel aging. I used the recipe that was originally provided by Todd Mott, the former brewer at Portsmith Brewing, for his beer Kate the Great. One of my homebrew compatriots brewed this beer for his wedding, which was going to be for wedding favors. He, however, deemed that it was not good enough to pass out because it was not up to his standards at the time. We ended up trying one a few months later and were blown away by its improvement. The recipe that I’m using was tweaked by the the Mad Fermentationist and then I added some Smoked Malt. I’ll probably only end up barrel aging it for about three weeks since the surface area to volume is so high in a 5 gallon barrel that I don’t want over exposure to the wood and over oxidation. After I empty the barrel I plan on adding an English style Barleywine.

  • Estimated OG: 1.120
  • Estimated FG: 1.030
  • Actual OG: 1.086
  • Actual FG: 1.022
  • ABV: 8.4%
  • SRM: 78o
  • IBU: 76.7
Grain Bill:
  • 17 lbs – 2 row
  • 1 lb – Flaked Barley
  • 1 lb – Special B
  • 1 lb – Red Wheat
  • 1 lb – Roasted Barley
  • 1 lb – Smoked Malt
  • 12 oz – Cafara Special III
  • 8 oz – Aromatic Malt
  • 8 oz – Crystal Malt 60L
  • 8 oz – Chocolate Malt
  • 4 oz – Black Patent
  • 4 oz – Crystal 120L
  • 2 oz – Columbus – 75 minutes
  • 1 oz Syrian Golding – 15 minute
  • American Ale (1056)
  • Mashed 153F for one hour and double batch sparged to increase efficiency
  • Boil for 105 minutes
(9/30) – Brewed mostly by myself some stirring help from John. As usual I didn’t have enough room in my kettle, really need to get those kegs from my Dad. Had to boil the other amount separately and then add it into the main boil. If I wasn’t worried about running out of propane I probably should have kept boiling to reduce the volume and increase the gravity. I was also worried that too little volume and I couldn’t fill the barrel. I ended up coming in way undergravity at 1.086 but no matter it should still end up being pretty bit. Still working on learning how to brew a high gravity beer without adding sugar.

Chilled to 70F and pitched the starter I made on Wednesday and topped up on Friday. Fermentation started in less than 12 hours, big blow off, which will eventually lead to me cleaning my carpet. Strong fermentation continuing for the next two days. I’ll give it 3 weeks on the yeast the rack it to the barrel and probably brew a barleywine the same day.

(10/26/12) - Racked to the Ranger Creek barrel. I didn’t wash the barrel. It tasted pretty good but boozy. Gravity down to 1.022.

(10/17/12) - Racked beer to a carboy for additional bulk aging. It was a little boozy. The aroma was fantastic and the taste was a very good, just rough around the edges.

(12/21/12) - Bottled with 0.25 cups of table sugar.

(2/3/13) - First Tasting. Under carbonated but other then that I would say good. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chocolat Pompoen

For this year’s pumpkin beer I wanted to do something different. Last year I brewed a traditional pumpkin ale, ah la Dogfish Head Punkin. This year I wanted to do something different. For one I didn’t want it to be really high in alcohol. We serve it for our pumpkin party and if there is leftovers I didn’t feel like getting stuck with something that will get me drunk with one bottle. I also tried a new pumpkin addition technique to add to the pumpkin flavor and aroma. I needed to brew it in time to be ready for the pumpkin party so I had to brew it before pumpkin season (about a week to early). So I bought some cans of Libby’s pumpkin puree since it is 100% pure pumpkin. I added the pumpkin to the boil and to the mash. Next time I do that I’m going to use hop bags, what a mess that turned out to be. First I had a stuck sparge, first one ever, and ended up dislodging my manifold while trying to stir the mash and had to use a hop bag to prevent all the grains from getting into my boil kettle. Then the pumpkin in the boil was a pain to get the beer into the carboy. In the end I just dumped most of it into the carboy knowing I could rack it off later. I decided I didn’t want to use the traditional pumpkin spices for aroma, instead I used a Belgian yeast blend, which I hoped would produce a “spiced” aroma. To top it off I decided to attempt to enhance the gourd flavor by adding lactose sugar at bottling. This was an idea I got from the Bruery Burly Gourd. Maybe next year if I have time I’ll brew early enough for a sour pumpkin ale.
  • Estimated OG: 1.060
  • Measured OG: 1.054
  • Estimated FG: 1.014
  • Measured FG:
  • ABV: 
  • SRM: 57o
  • IBU: 28.2
Grain Bill:
  • 5 lbs Two-Row Pale Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Flaked Oats
  • 1.5 lbs Belgian Aromatic
  • 1.5 lbs Brown Malt
  • 1 lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Chocolate Wheat
  • 1 lb Carapils
  • 0.25 oz - Czech Saaz – 60 minutes
  • 1 oz – Hallertau – 60 minutes
  • 0.75 oz Czech Saaz – 15 minutes
  • Trappist ale (WLP 575)
  • Mash at 154 for 60 minutes
  • 90 minute boil, 2 cans of Libby’s puree in to mash and 2 cans into boil
(9/8/12) - Brewed by myself. This was a rather eventful brew day. Stuck sparge and pumpkin goop in the carboy.

(9/22/12) - Racked from one carboy to secondary to get the beer off of the pumpkin goop at the bottom.

(9/29/12) - Bottled with 0.25 cups of table sugar and 0.5 lbs of lactose sugar.

(12/27/12) - First tasting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First Tasting: 100% Brett C with Citra and Rhubarb

This is a continuation of the previous review. The previous review was the dry hopped 100% Brett-C session beer. This review is that same beer aged on rhubarb for 2 weeks.

Appearance: Clear, pale yellow with a huge head about three fingers thick. This time I upped the carbonation and it shows. I was actually surprised that there was no color picked up from the rhubarb.

Aroma: The aroma is similar to the other version, pineapple, guava, a hint of green apples and funk. I don’t really think you can smell the rhubarb, some people say they can, but I’m not sure if they would be able to if I didn’t tell them there was rhubarb in it.

Taste: Definitely tart. This is what I was hoping would happen. The beer is tart and a little funky with a touch of vegetable on the back end. I think the time on the rhubarb needs to be shortened to avoid picking up a vegetable flavor. 

Mouthfeel: The carbonation is higher and there is a nice dry finish. I was surprised that with the low alcohol and dry finish that the beer didn’t feel watery.

Overall: This is what I was hoping would happen when I added the rhubarb. To me it was kind of a quick Berliner, obviously it lacks the complexity that bacteria would provide. It does, however; provide a quick alternative to souring that doesn’t involve bacteria or a long wait. I would probably use this process in the future, only I would rack off of the rhubarb earlier.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Home Sweet Home Hoppy Hefeweizen

Finally that we are finished moving into our new house I was able to brew again. I still had some Citra hops left over from the 100% Brett beer and it was still warm outside so I figured I would brew something that doesn’t take that long to be ready as an end of summer beer. My idea was a dry-hopped hefeweizen. It was interesting brewing again since I had a routine down at the apartment but not at our house. It was nice brewing in the backyard since I have a water hose now and I don’t have to bring everything inside to clean it in the shower. The only problem was that I had to figure out where to put my mash tun, luckily I discovered that I could put it on a table that I welded in high school and it worked perfectly. I did encounter some issues while brewing that I have yet to figure out. I came in way under my target gravity, which is either because I sparged with too much water or I didn’t get enough grains from my LHBS. My mash calculator is usually pretty accurate with its calculations and I didn’t change anything since I’m using the same equipment so my only assumption is that I was not given enough grain from the homebrew store. I would attribute that to the fact that they opened a new store and they have new employees, since I never had this problem at the old location, probably just an honest mistake. No worries here I always love a good session beer.
  • Estimated OG:1.049
  • Measured OG: 1.036
  • Estimated FG: 1.012
  • Measured FG:
  • ABV:
  • SRM: 4o
  • IBU: 16.4 

Grain Bill:
  • 5 lbs Wayerman Pale Malt
  • 4.5 lbs German Two-Row Pils
  • 0.5 lb Munich Malt
  • 1 oz Hallertau – 45 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Citra – 5 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Citra – 0 minutes
  • 2 oz Citra – Dry hop - 10 days
  • Weihenstephan Weizen (3068)
(9/3/12) – Brewed by myself. Uneventful brew day other than the fact I was way under gravity. Forgot to use my hop bag during the boil so it took me longer then I wanted to rack to the carboy. Cooled as low as I could, about 80 degrees (I really need a plate chiller) waited a few more hours for it to chill a little more in my house and pitched the tube of yeast. No starter needed for this yeast.

(9/4/12) – Nice thick krausen after 24 hours.

(9/8/12) – Racked to the secondary to make room for this year’s pumpkin beer and added the Citra hops.

(9/20/12) – Bottled with 0.5 cups of table sugar.

(10/15/12) - First tasting.

Friday, November 30, 2012

First Tasting: 100% Brett C with Citra

So it’s been a really long time since I last posted, but a lot has happened since then. I got a new job and we bought a house. The house is mostly what caused the delay in posting/brewing. I didn’t want to brew anything knowing we were leaving soon. The good news is that in the two months that we’ve been living in the new house I’ve been able to brew twice. I’ll post the details on those adventures later. Right now I’m going to try to catch up on some tastings.

Last hurrah 100% Brett

You might remember this as my experimental beer. I brewed one batch using a slightly tweaked version of my saison recipe. Then I split the batch to lower the OG (which I forgot to read). One carboy I aerated and the other I didn’t. I had read that Brett in the presence of oxygen will create acidic acid, so I figured I would see if it was noticeable or not. There are some factors that might have ruined this experiment. For one I can’t control how much the beer is aerated, secondly both beers might have received enough oxygen to create acidic acid when I was racking them into the carboys and dryhopping them, third I’m not sure what the threshold for acidic acid productions is for Brett. The third part of this experiment involved me splitting a gallon off of one of the carboys and adding it to a pound of rhubarb in an attempt to make a quick sour/ tart beer. It’s been a while since I opened the first bottles so my reviews will be based over the time since the first bottle to now.

Aeration comparison

Appearance: Each beer is very clear, probably the clearest beers I have produced to date, and pale yellow. Brett will really clear up. There is a small amount of heat head, about a centimeter thick that leaves some lacing down the sides of the glass.

Aroma: At first the beer was a pineapple guava bomb with a touch of funk, but at this point there is a subtle fruity undertone with much more funk apparent. I honestly probably enjoy the beer more at this point then I did originally.

Taste: The taste can best be described as funky. I’m surprised how much brett is apparent in the flavor of this beer. It dried out a decent amount so there is not much left, only a little residual bready flavor. There was really no discernible difference in the aerated and non-aerated versions of the beer as far as acid production was concerned. They also both finished with around the same FG so I don’t think that was effected that much either.

Mouthfeel: In my opinion it’s slightly undercarbonated. It has become better as time has gone along but originally I was worried about bottle bombs so I didn’t use as much sugar as I should have. Looking back and after further research most people say to use the same priming sugar as you would with a clean yeast strain for 100% brett fermented beers. This was a correction I made for the rhubarb version.

Overall: I really enjoy this beer. This is one of my favorite beers that I have brewed to date. It’s a great summer session beer with a huge nose. I would say that it pretty much turned out exactly as I wanted. I was able to share a bottle with one of the brewers at Jester King Brewery recently and he also really enjoyed the beer, which made me happy (always nice to have approval from a professional). This is definitely a beer that I will brew again for next summer and I will continue to experiment with Brett. I’m thinking my next 100% brett will be a brett brux IPA. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

This was a recipe I got from the Brown Eyed Baker. I changed it a little bit drying to combine what she learned from her later batch with what she did for the actual cinnamon raisin recipe. It takes a couple of days to make them but they are much different and better from any bagel you would buy from the store, unless you were to buy them fresh from a bakery (soon I’ll be making them better then that too ;)  The key is patience and planning ahead.

The first step is to make a Sponge, if you’ve never made one before its pretty easy and is the same principal as making a yeast starter (which is what it is really, just for bread).
In a bowl mix the following,
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2½ cups water (at room temperature)
When finished and fully integrated cover with plastic wrap and let sit for two hours. The sponge should be sticky and similar to a pancake batter. I put mine in the refrigerator and let it rest over night since I was doing this after work during the week. The extra time won’t hurt it at all if you feel to go this route. It will start to bubble and look foamy.

To make the dough mix the rest of the yeast in with the sponge, then add in the first 3 cups of flour, malt, sugar, cinnamon, and salt and continue stirring or mixing with a dough hook. Eventually the dough will thicken and form a ball, at this point add in the last ¾ of a cup of flour to thicken further.

  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 3¾ cups bread flour
  • 2¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder aka extract (or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 5 table spoons of raw sugar
At this point transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for an additional 10 minutes. During the last two minutes of kneading add the raisins.
  • 2 cups packed raisins, rinsed in warm water
The dough should be firm and smooth without any raw flour remaining. The dough also should not be sticky or tacky. If you need to you can always add a little more flour.

As soon as you are finished mixing the ingredients divide the dough into roughly 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Cover the balls with a damp towel and let them rest for about 20 minutes. While the dough is rising prepare a two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with oil. When the second rest has finished take a single roll and press your thumb in the center and start to spread the dough until a hole is formed. Try to keep the rings as even as possible so they bake evenly. The hold should be about 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter. When finished with all of the bagels place them on the pans, spray with oil, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for an additional 20 minutes. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by placing one in a bowl of cool water. If the bagel floats within 10 seconds remove it and dry the bagel and they’re ready to be placed in the refrigerator overnight. If the bagels do not float quickly keep them resting for another 20 minutes.

The next day:
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling add in the baking soda,
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal for dusting
 Slowly drop the bagels into the water, as many that will fit comfortable, then flip them after one minute and boil on the other side for another minute. If you want them to be extra chewy go for two minutes per side, but I was happy with one minute. Sprinkle the parchment paper with cornmeal while you wait and place the bagels on it when they are done. I suggest using a slotted spoon to remove the bagels.

When all of the bagels have been boiled place them in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans 180 degrees while switching shelves and bake for an additional 5 minutes at 450 degrees. If you prefer them a little darker continue baking.

Remove the bagels from the oven and let them cool on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes. Finally you’re ready to have some delicious bagels. They should keep for about two days but do not store them in a closed container or they will get soggy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Tasting: Vapor Trails

Vapor trails is named after the Rush album of the same title. I figured that since the style of beer is a Steam Beer, vapor worked well. That and I’m a big Rush nerd. Since the style guidelines are based off of Anchor’s Steam beer almost any deviation brings the beer out of style. I’m fine with that sacrifice since it’s a narrow guideline. I tried to replicate the color and the aroma, for the most part, by using Northern Brewer hops. I did, however, also want more flavors, something a little more robust. For that I changed the grist by adding some more toasty malt. I’ve very pleased with how this beer turned out and I’d say so far it’s the closest I’ve some to replicating commercial characteristics. I poured an Anchor Steam to do a little side by side comparison. The differences were noticeable, but not in a bad way. Their beer was clearer, but they have the advantage of a filter I assume and cold crashing. I have to leave yeast in the bottle. The other noticeable difference is the freshness and the toasty flavor that I added. I was also slightly surprised to find their beer to be dryer then mine, considering the FG that I got I was expecting it to be too dry.

Appearance: Pours a clear, slightly hazy, deep orange-amber with an off white heat with tightly packet bubbles about two fingers thick. Probably the clearest beer I’ve brewed to date, lager yeast can do wonders for appearance.

Aroma: Very floral and earthy from the Northern Brewer hops with a toasty caramel background.

Flavor: Toasty biscuit, caramel, and earthy notes. Slightly more bitter then Anchor’s version and definitely more robust.

Mouthfeel: Medium body and medium carbonation, the body is where I like it but more than Anchor’s version, but the carbonation is perfect.

Overall:  I really like this beer. I brewed it for my fiancée because it’s her favorite beer, but I like it too much and need to stop drinking them. Definitely something I would brew again. I might tweak the malt bill a little bit, other than that I like everything about it. The beer is a great spring beer and it would also make a great fall beer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

100% Brett Experimentation

I wanted to brew something that was light and refreshing for the summer, but I wanted it to also be complex. My original thought was to brew a saison with Brett, a la, Boulevard Saison-Brett. The only problem it was April and in Texas that means it’s almost summer so I don’t have enough time to wait on the brett. After some research, mostly reading Chad Yakobson’s (head brewer for Crooked Stave) master thesis on Brettanomyces, I decided to do my first 100% brett fermentation. I want something that is fruity and slightly tart or acidic.

I’m using my grain bill from the saison I brewed last year with slight modifications. Instead of candi sugar I’m using acidulated malt and instead of being a 6 gallon batch I’m brewing a 10 gallon batch (since I want it to be a low gravity beer, perfect for hot summer days). I’m hoping that the acid malt will add a slight tartness to the beer. According to Chad he has observed a somewhat symbiotic relationship between Brett and acid. He also mentioned that Brett (at least Brett-C) will produce acidic acid when in the presence of oxygen. To test this I decided to split the batch into two 5 gallon carboys and aerate one but not the other. I also decided not to go with the same hops as I used in my saison but rather to go with New Zealand Motueka hops, which are said to provide a citrus, fruity, aroma and flavor. To really accentuate the citrus feeling I’m going to dry hop it with Citra hops, since I couldn’t pass up buying half a pound the other day. To match with the Citra hops I went with the Brett-C strain, which is known for its fruity aromas produced, such as pineapple and hints of citrus.

The brew day was pretty straight forward; I finally think I’ve fixed my leaky mash tun. As for the Brett-C I made a starter about two weeks in advance since Brett takes a while to get started. According to Chad he believes its best to get the Brett acclimated to an alcoholic environment. I also used White Labs Brett-C which is known to be a small cell count in the test tube. They say it is because Brett is normally pitched in secondary and does not need as high of a cell count, which is true, unless you are using it as the primary strain. After a week of fermenting I decanted and topped up with more wort at a slightly higher gravity.

  • Batch size: 10 Gallons
  • Est OG: 1.041
  • Est FG: 1.010
  • Actual FG: 1.007
  • IBU: 16.3
  • SRM: 5
  • ABV: ??
  • Boil time: 75 minutes
  • Efficiency: ?? (est. 65%)
Grain Bill
  • 57% - Two-Row Pils – 10.5lb
  • 19% - Acidulated Malt - 3b 8oz
  • 10% - Two-Row Pale – 1lb 12oz
  • 6% - Flaked Oats – 1lb
  • 4% - Wheat Malt - 12oz
  • 4% - Caramunich I  - 12oz
  • 1.0 oz – Motueka (pellet) -60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz - Motueka (pellet) - 15 minutes
  • 0.5 oz - Motueka (pellet) - 15 minutes (Post-boil)
  • 3.0 oz – Citra (leaf) – 10 Days (dry-hop)
  • WLP645 Brettanomyces claussenii

Mash Schedule
60 minute Saccharification Rest at 157F (the acid malt was added in during the last 15 minutes)


(4/28/12) – Brewed by myself. Easy brew day except for the fact that we were having a party later that night so I was also cleaning and attempting to make pretzels while brewing. Chilled to 80F, aerated one carboy, pitch the yeast into each carboy. I forgot to take a gravity measurement so I’m not really sure if they were at my target or if they were the same. I’m assuming that the OGs are not the same since they are two different volumes and I added different amounts of water.

(4/29/12) – Fermentation took off with about an inch thick layer of krausen in each carboy. The non aerated version was white with large bubbles, whereas the aerated version was a darker shade with smaller bubbles and what appeared to be hop particles suspended on top.

(5/15/12) – The krausen has disappeared and the fermentation has slowed. There is an occasional bubble from each air lock, but for the most part silence.

(5/31/12) - Added about one ounce of whole leaf citra hops to each carboy.

(6/7/12) - Added about another ounce of whole leaf citra hops to each carboy.

(6/10/12) - Racked part of the aerated beer into a gallon growler on thawed frozen rhubarb. I used half a pound of frozen pre-sliced rhubarb. The rhubarb was not sanitized. I accidentally spilled some on the floor in the process and it smelled amazing. Fresh tropical fruit abound. I also poured some into a glass for a taste test and was surprised by the tartness that was there. Maybe the aeration worked, it will be interesting to compare to the non aerated version.

(6/14/12) - Bottled both batches with 2.9oz of priming sugar. I ended up with about 4 gallons of each  (slightly more of the non aerated version). I went with a lower amount of priming sugar in anticipation of the Brett continuing to eat after bottling. The OG for the non aerated version was 1.008 and for the aerated version it was 1.007. Each are pineapple bombs.

Tasting: Loved it and it’s a great session beer.
Tasting: The rubarb provided a nice tartness that I wanted. Although I would say there was a slight vegetable after taste that I was not too fond of. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beer Tasting Noms: Pretzels

I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen for soft pretzels that were too good looking to pass up. A few weeks ago our tasting group got together for a pre-Freetail bottle release bottle share. Since it was good Friday and I had the day off from work I had time to make them. They turned out perfect, soft, chewy, just the right amount of salt. The reason I know they were good is because people were talking about them the day after…success! Also I was able to prove to everyone that my fiancee is not the only person that can cook.

  • 2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse or pretzel salt

Add yeast, 1 Tbs of sugar, and water into your mixing bowl, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Add a cup of flour to the bowl and mix with the dough hook (if using a stand mixer). Then add the salt while continuing to mix. Once combined add the rest of the flour (4 cups) and continue to mix. The dough should pull away from the sides. Keep kneeding for about 1 to 2 minutes on medium. If the dough is still too sticky add more flour a little at a time. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover and let sit for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. After the dough has fermented pre-heat the oven to 450F and punch down the dough. Divide the dough into roughly 16 equal pieces (I believe I ended up with 20 pieces). Cover them and let them sit for another 10 minutes.

I found it easier to roll the dough out with out adding flour. I did need to add a little bit every now and then since it would stick to the surface occasionally. I had a hard time rolling the dough out long enough, which is why I had trouble forming the traditional pretzel shape. To roll the dough out start by rolling the dough ball into a pill shape. Then start from the center and roll the dough while pressing and spreading it out the sides. The goal is go get a long piece of dough roughly 18 inches long. Mine ended up being maybe a foot long, maybe slightly longer. Place the pretzels on a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover, allowing them to rise for another 10-15 minutes.

While the pretzels are sitting start to boil water in a stock pot, the wider the better. You will need at least two inches of water. When the water starts to boil add in the baking soda and the remaining 2 Tbs of sugar. The baking soda will cause the water to foam up rapidly but it will also dissipate quickly. Add as many pretzels as you can fit to the water to poach them. Poach the pretzels for about one minute on each side, longer if you want a chewier pretzel.

Once all of the pretzels have been poached apply an egg wash to the top. For the egg wash beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Sprinkle the tops with course sea salt and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden-brown.

The pretzels are best eaten in the same day but can last for two days, mine didn’t make it that long. Leave them uncovered or they will become soggy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Barrel Aged Blend (It's a Trappist!)

As promised here is the update and recipe from my half of the blend. A few weeks ago my friend Mike and I brewed two separate beers an blended them together in a spent Balcony’s Blue Corn Whiskey barrel.

The brew day was efficient and also slightly problematic. We were able to brew two batches, with only one burner, in 6 hours. My half was a Belgian strong dark ale and Mike’s was an American strong ale, a la Arrogant Bastard. The issues we encountered were, my still leaky mash tun and my gravity being way too high. I was targeting 1.091 and ended up with 1.112, not sure how that happened, I’m pretty sure I didn’t use enough sparge water because I know i didn’t collect 7.5 gallons. To fix this we just topped it up with water until it matched Mike’s OG, which was around 1.07. I don’t have the recipe that Mike used but I can provide my half.

  • Batch size: 5 Gallons
  • Est OG: 1.090
  • Measured: 1.074
  • Est FG: 1.022
  • Measured: 1.014
  • ABV: 7.8% 
  • IBU: 31.8
  • SRM: 25
  • Boil time: 90 minutes
  • Efficiency: ?? (est. 75%)
Grain Bill
  • 84% - Belgian Pilsen - 14lb
  • 9% - Dark Candi Syrup - 1lb 8oz
  • 3% - Belgian Special B - 8oz
  • 3% - Flaked Corn - 8oz
  • 1% - Carafa II - 2oz
  • 1% - Chocolate Malt - 2oz
Hops (Pellet)
  • 2.0 oz - Hallertauer - 45 minutes
  • 0.50 oz - Czech Saaz - 15 minutes
  • Trappest High Gravity (Wyeast 3787)
Mash Schedule

60 minute Saccharification Rest at 154F

(3/24/12) - Brewed with Mike. As mentioned above ended up being well over the target OG, topped up with 2 Gallons of water for an OG of 1.074. Shook to aerate and pitched yeast at 70F.

(4/7/12) - Racked to barrel, blended 2/5 Belgian and 3/5 American. Remaining beer was racked to a secondary carboy and flushed with CO2. For what ever reason my gravity at the time of racking was 1.040. As soon as we blended the beer started to ferment again and bubble out of the blow off hose we installed. This continued to the next day. The gravity once blended was 1.025. I’m hoping the yeast will be eat it to under 1.020, we shall see.

(4/18/12) - Bottled with 1.5 oz of corn sugar. The OG was 1.014, which is about what I was targeting. We also topped up the barrel to compensate from the blow off with some of the Belgian version.

(2/20/13) - First Tasting. Very pleased with how this beer came out. Hopefully we can get around to bottling the barrel aged version soon. 

Barrel Aged Blend

Over the past weekend a friend and I brewed a double batch to blend in the barrel he received from Freetail Brewing as a wedding gift. The barrel was a Blue Corn Whiskey from Balcony’s Distilling. We wanted to put something in it that wouldn’t clash with the sweetness of the whiskey. We decided to brew two batches and blend them, my contribution was a Belgian strong dark ale, and Mike’s was an American Strong ale, a la Arrogant Bastard. It took us 6 hours to brew the two 5 gallon batches, which in my opinion is pretty efficient, especially with only one burner capable of boiling that much liquid. I’ll post more details including a recipe and pictures later. I forgot to take a picture while brewing but will do so when we rack to the barrel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vapor Trails: California Common (aka Steam Ale)

The California Common was probably one of the first styles contributed by America to the brewing world. It was originally developed out of necessity. As German immigrants moved west for work they wanted to continue to drink the lagers they were used to drinking. However, California does not have the right environment for lagering in the pre-refridgeration era. The yeast for this beer is called an “ale-lager hybrid, ” which essentially means it can ferment at lower temperatures and higher temperatures. The California Common is traditionally fermented at around 68 degrees. The problem with brewing this historical style is that all the breweries that brewed it were forced to close during prohibition. After prohibition Anchor started re-brewing and bottling this beer in 1971 under the name Anchor Steam.

The BJCP style guidelines are interesting for this beer due to the fact that none of the original breweries that brewed this beer pre-prohibition exist today. Thus the style guidelines are based specifically off of Anchor’s beer. Anchor has even gone so far to trademark the name “Steam,” which is why the style is called California Common. Anchor does not reveal much about their process but does reveal some facts about the beer (basic ingredients, IBU, ABV) so a “clone” can be figured out. Rather then brew a clone I decided to brew to the style. I ended up going with the same hops that Anchor uses, but if I wanted to go a more traditional route I could have gone with Cluster hops, since those would have been growing in California at the time these beers were originally brewed. Anchor says they brew the beer in the traditional style, they use large shallow vats to cool the beer in the open air in a clean room with circular aeration (I would assume most home brewers can not do this). The steam that is generated during cooling is allegedly from where the name “steam” is derived, although that is also debated.

For this beer I was pretty traditional to the style and wanted it to be similar to Anchor’s Steam beer, since I was brewing this for my fiancee because it is her favorite beer. I changed some of the specialty malts hopefully to add a little additional malty character and complexity. I also attempted a new technique that I had read about. I read that if you add some of your initial bittering hops to the beer pre-boil it helps smooth out the bitterness. At 180F I added maybe a quarter of what I was going to put in at the start of the boil, this will increase the bitterness slightly but it won’t be significant.

I ended up having a leak in my mash tun, due to my poor assembly of my manifold (I had never had this problem before) and lost some of the first runnings. This effectively lowered my OG, but the beer is supposed to be lower then what I had calculated anyways.

  • Batch size: 5 Gallons
  • Est OG: 1.052
  • Measured: 1.046
  • Est FG: 1.017
  • Measured: 1.008
  • IBU: 41.7
  • SRM: 11
  • ABV:  5%
  • Boil time: 60 minutes
  • Efficiency 66%
Grain Bill
  • 69% - Two-Row - 7lb 4oz
  • 14% - Crystal 40L - 1lb 8oz
  • 10% - Munich malt - 1lb
  • 7% - Victory malt - 12oz
Hops (Pellet)
  • 1.0 oz - Northern brewer - 60 minutes
  • 0.75 oz - Northern brewer - 15 minutes
  • 1.5 oz - Northern brewer - 0 minute
  • San Fransisco Lager (WLP810)
Mash Schedule

60 minute Saccharification Rest at 153F


(2/23/12) - Made a small 2 quart starter.

(2/26/12) - Small leak issue during mashing caused my OG to be 1.046. Other then that no issues brewing. Chilled to 70F shook to aerate and placed carboy into a bucket of ice water to bring the temp down a little further. Pitched yeast a few hours later.

(2/27/12) - Fermentation starting after 12 hours showing a small krausen, I added more ice to the water bath to keep the temperature down. After 24 hours the krausen is about 1.5 inches thick.

(3/14/12) - Gravity down to 1.008, definitely drier then I was planning. It tasted good, kind of like a toastier version of Anchor Steam. Even though the gravity was lower then I would have liked it still seemed like there was some body, I was worried about that when I first read the gravity. The beer looks remarkably clear, easily the clearest beer I’ve brewed, got to love that lager yeast.

(3/17/12) - Bottled with 1/3 cup of table sugar. Total was two cases and two extra 12 oz bottles.

(5/29/12) - First Tasting. I’ve actually been drinking it for a little while and it’s drinking great right now. I just haven’t had time to get around to typing up my review.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First Tasting: Breakfast Stout

Founders is on the left and my home brew is on the right.

Not too long ago I mentioned how I don’t like cloning beers. I will clone beers if, I can’t buy them off the shelves, or if they are one of the best examples of the style. Well I wanted to brew an imperial oatmeal stout with chocolate and coffee, what better beer to model then Founder’s breakfast stout. This recipe was not a true clone but it was a similar representation of the style. The biggest factor that I wanted to emulate was the coffee flavor and aroma. Sadly this was the part that I failed.

I was lucky enough to receive a Founder’s Breakfast Stout in the mail from a recent trade that was bottled on roughly the same day my home brew was bottled. This gave me a pretty good comparison between the two. To no surprise the commercial version had a much bigger coffee aroma and flavor. I think next time I’ll just add the beans into the secondary and take samples and bottle when I feel it’s where I want it.

I also found another option for the coffee addition while trying to research Surly Coffee Bender. Most brewers are mum about their coffee process, but I was able to find an interview with the brewer of Surly.
They mentioned using a cold press method for their coffee addition, however; instead of water, they used their beer.


Appearance: Black with a thick brown head about two fingers thick that lingers and slowly fades into a lacing over the top of the beer. Similar appearance to the Founder’s version, however; my home brew had better head retention. I can only assume this was due to their process for coffee addition.

Aroma: The FBS had a huge coffee aroma mixed with chocolate, roasted grains, and vanilla. My beer had a subtle coffee aroma with a big chocolate, mocha, vanilla, toffee aroma. (I might also cut back on the cocoa nibs)

Flavor: Again FBS had a great coffee flavor, complimented with chocolate, toffee, and roasted grains. My beer was much more chocolaty and roasty, with subtle coffee, toffee, and bready notes.

Mouthfeel: The FBS had medium-full body with low carbonation and a lingering coffee flavor. For some reason it appears that my bottles unevenly carbonated. I feel this is due to the way I split the batch and was not confident with how much was left (if I carbonated for 4 gallons and only had 3.5 gallons, it would over carbonate, which I think is what happened). Once degassed a little the mouth feel is medium-full with a lingering chocolate, mocha finish.

Overall: Although it was not the same I’m actually very happy with how this beer turned out. I still want to work on the coffee addition method. I might split my next RIS and test a separate coffee method.

French Baugette

I was finally able to bake a French style baguette that I enjoy. Normally my baguettes come out too dense or too floury tasting. I decided to make a starter this time to help add to the flavor, good bread like good beer takes time. On top of that I wanted to make it lighter and airy, so I kneaded it like crazy in our stand mixer. We ended up using this bread for the mini sandwiches that we made for our Superbowl party.

The recipe that I used was from the Joy of Cooking. I’m definitely going to try to make these again. I might experiment with cooking temperatures and baking times to adjust the thickness of the crust.

It was also nice getting to use our new baking stone, which I think definitely helped create a more even heat distribution within our cheap apartment oven. Next up! Mastering Pizza dough.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fuller's London Porter Clone

Personally I don’t understand why people clone readily available beers, other then to compare them to make sure you know what you’re doing. My opinions on cloning beer consist of
  1. If I can’t find it on the shelves or I can’t get enough of it I will clone it
  2. If it’s really expensive to buy, but not as bad to clone aka sours
I have cloned a beer before, Breakfast stout, but I can’t buy it in Texas. I do enjoy the act of formulating a recipe for a clone. I enjoy having to research the beer, especially if I have not had it before, and trying to determine the ingredients based off of other people’s reviews.

This beer was a beer that my father wanted to clone. So I told him that I would help him with the recipe. To formulate this recipe I read reviews on BeerAdvocate and researched the brewery to determine, yeast and regional hops/malt. The reviews gave me an idea of what characteristics that I should be targeting aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. The result is below

I don’t have a picture comparing the two different beers (the commercial example and my clone). They were surprisingly similar. The commercial example was slightly lighter and more clear. My clone had better head retention. The commercial example actually had a lighter body and more carbonation with a drier finish then what I was expecting. The biggest difference, which I assuming either came from fermentation temperature or the age of the commercial beer was the large amount of fruity aroma. I was shocked at the fruity esters that the commercial beer contained.

  • Batch size: 5.0 Gallons (finished with 5.5 Gallons)
  • Grain Bill: 11lbs 12 ounces
  • Anticipated OG: 1.055
  • Measured FG: 1.058
  • Measured OG: 1.015
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • Anticipated SRM: 38 degrees
  • Anticipated IBU: 30.3
  • Boil time: 75 minutes
  • Marris Otter - 8.5 lbs - 72%
  • Brown Malt - 1.5 lbs - 13%
  • British Crystal 70L - 1 lbs - 9%
  • Chocolate Malt - 0.75 lbs - 6%
  • Fuggles - 1.5 oz - 75 min (Pellet)
  • Fuggles - 0.5 oz - 10 min (Pellet)
  • Yeast nutrient at 15 minutes
  • London ESB - 1968
Mash Schedule
  • Saccrification at 153F for 60 minutes

Brewed Oct. 22 with my Dad.

(10/22/11) - Measured OG at 1.058, close enough, if I was really anal about it I would add some water.

(11/14/11) - Down to 1.015 and bottled with 3.3oz of table sugar. I left this part up to my Dad since the beer was brewed in Austin and I didn’t want to drive back up just to bottle.

(11/24/11) - First tasting:

Appearance: Hazy dark brown with reddish hues and a fluffy off white head that lingers and leaves a thin lacing over the top of the beer. I preferred the appearance of my beer compared to the commercial example, although the clarity was better on Fuller’s.

Aroma: Roasted grains, bready notes, toffee, and a hint of chocolate. Classic porter aroma, pleasing but not particularly complex. This was the biggest difference between the clone and Fuller’s. Their beer was very fruity and lacked the roasted notes that I was expecting.

Taste: Toasted bread, a touch of chocolate and coffee with roasted grains rounding it out. This was pretty similar to the commercial example, although, again their beer had more fruit elements.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with clean finish and way over carbonated. I’m still not sure what happened exactly. Either my father used too much sugar or the beer is infected. The beer sat in primary for 3 weeks before it was bottled. I know I gave him a reasonable amount of priming sugar, in fact I know it was a little lower then what was suggested, because I don’t like highly carbonated beers. The other explanation is an infection. My Dad buys a lot of his equipment off of craigslist. The problem with this is that you don’t know the condition that the gear was stored and you don’t know if the person you’re buying it from was using Brett. I still have two bottles left and will hold on to them to see if any signs of an infection show.

Overall: Other then the fruity aroma and flavor and the carbonation issue, the beers were remarkably similar. I think I did a pretty good job since I had never had the beer before.  Since I don’t know what happened with the carbonation I can’t say what I would change. I’m also not sure why the Fuller’s was so fruity, my assumption was because of age and slight oxidation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Tasting: Pumpkin Ale

Well better late then never. My pumpkin ale has actually been ready for a while, I just haven’t had time to post a review of it yet. I pretty pleased with the way it turned out and it was perfect for the pumpkin party that we hosted a few weeks ago. There are a few things that I might change next time, if I decide to brew this recipe again. Next time I brew a pumpkin ale I will probably take the roasted pumpkin and put it in my food processor before adding it to the mash. I don’t think enough of the pumpkin was extracted by just tossing in the cut up pumpkin. I think I will also cut the pumpkins in half and roast them before slicing them up. Prior to the pumpkin party a couple of my beer nerd friends and I had a pumpkin beer tasting. The unanimous winner was Unita - Oaked Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale. It was a pumpkin ale that was aged in spent bourbon barrels. I might try to replicate something like that next year for the pumpkin party, or perhaps something along the lines of a Midnight Sun - Treat, which is a chocolate imperial pumpkin ale.

Appearance:  Slightly hazy orange-amber with yellow hues around the edges and a thick, fluffy off white head about two fingers thick with decent head retention that forms a thin ring around the center with patchy lacing.

Aroma: Subtle spice notes, cinnamon being the dominate with hints of clove, allspice and nutmeg. There are some nice malty notes that come through, but not as bready as I was hoping for and not much gourd.

Taste: Spicy up front with again cinnamon taking the lead and complimented by allspice and nutmeg. There are some nice malty flavors and a hint of fruitiness. Like the aroma there is not much gourd flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a slightly sweet finish. I’m pleased with the carbonation level and the body of this beer.

Overall: I’m very pleased with how my first pumpkin ale turned out. I was mostly concerned with over spicing the beer and making it undrinkable. I think I did a good job in adding a small amount of spices at first, knowing that I could always add more, but couldn’t take any out. Next time I want to attempt to produce more gourd flavor/ aroma. I will either attempt to add more pumpkin using the procedure I mentioned above or (possibly both) adding a small amount of lactose. The Bruery does this with their Provisions Series: Burly Gourd. I personally don’t normally like lactose in my beers, but this one gave it, in my opinion, an increase perception of gourd flavor and aroma. Next year I’ll plan ahead a little bit better so our pumpkin party can actually be during pumpkin season.