Jungle Lust Part 3: Bottling

As luck would have it, the time that I decide to document the making of a beer, there is a possible issue.  But it can be looked an opportunity to learn and share, if I can ultimately determine the cause.  And that’s a big if.  After a week in secondary and soaking the coconut and cacoa nibs in the porter, it was time to bottle.  I did happen take a taste test 2 days in, and it tasted pretty good but the coconut was subtle.  So I let it ride for the remainder of the week.  Prior to transferring the beer to my bottling bucket, I took another taster sample.  There was a prominent “hot solventy” off flavor.  This surprised me quite a bit because the beer tasted great going into secondary (even two days into secondary).  So if something went wrong, it was somewhere in the process after primary.  Zeroing in on that, here are the possible culprits and my current thoughts about each of them.

Autosiphon/tubing:  I’ve used this thing so many times without issue, there is little to no chance this was the cause.

Home Depot 5 gallon paint bucket:  I’ve used this bucket as a secondary vessel for 3 previous batches of different beers with no issue.  It got a fresh cleaning and sanitization before this batch’s use.

Cacao nibs:  In general, there is no way to sanitize cacao nibs and I’ve used them in the past as is.  It has never been an issue, much like the thousands of homebrewers out there that also use nibs.

Coconut: This was an ingredient that I’ve had no prior experience with in homebrewing.  Toasting it did heat the coconut to a great degree which should in theory kill off most of what may be naturally living on it.  Also, I’ve read that various well experienced homebrewers have used coconut in primary or secondary with no issues.

5 gallon paint strainer bag (from Lowes):  These are made of nylon and my thought was that this may have been the most probable candidate.  Maybe there was some sort of chemical extraction going on with the nylon and alcohol.  Or maybe soaking the bag in starsan (an acid) partially broke down the nylon in a non-visually obvious way.  But again, I’ve read in forums of a number of homebrewers using these bags on post-fermentation beer and none reporting issues.  But a lot of them were just using them as filters when they transferred their beer off the trub, which would not be a lot of contact time, whereas mine was 7 days.  So it’s a possibility this may have been the culprit.  Plus a lot of the off flavor guides out there do not attribute solvent flavors to infection.  Usually it’s due to warm fermentation temps or stressed yeast.  But this problem did not show up at the end of primary.   So a chemical extraction would make more sense.

So at the moment there is uncertainty, both due to the cause and the salvageability of the batch.  I decided to bottle it anyway in hopes that the off flavor will recede and, given enough time, the beer will meld together.  So in two weeks, I’ll crack one open and see what’s up.  If anybody out there has had a similar experience or thoughts on this, comment away.



Jungle Lust Part 2: Secondary

After two weeks in primary fermentation, it was time to transfer the porter to a secondary container and add the coconut and cacao nibs.  The nibs are organic ecuador nibs that I got from the homebrew shop.  I acquired the unsweetened coconut from Whole Foods.


But first I had to check out how the porter was so far.  Gravity reading was 1.023, which brings the ABV to 6.4%, which is right about on target.  Taste wise, it was pretty good.  Solid roast with a bit of sweetness like I wanted.  Mouthfeel was medium, so it had a little body to it.  It would be great as a standalone porter  without further treatment.  I intend to do that in the future.  But not now.  I transferred the beer via autosiphon  to a clean, sanitized 5 gallon bucket.




To prep the coconut, I lined a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread out a little over a pound of the coconut on it.  I lowered the oven rack and set it to low broil.  Then I toasted the coconut (with oven door ajar) for about 5 minutes.  Then I stirred up the coconut with a spatula to expose the untoasted layers and let it toast for another two minutes.  Just so it had a golden color.



I sanitized a 5 gallon paint strainer bag in Starsan (the same type that I use to brew with), then put the toasted coconut and 4 oz of cacao nibs in it and tied off the bag.  Then I put it in the beer, sealed the bucket and that’s it.  So far, I think I’m on the right track.  I’m going to take a sample in two days to make sure I don’t overdo the flavors, because I have no idea how fast the beer will extract the coconut flavor.  Until next time.



Jungle Lust Part 1: Brew Day

It’s been a while since I’ve done a recipe based post.  But I’m working on a new beer and thought it would be a good one to document how I’m doing it.  Flavoring beer with adjuncts (cacoa nibs, peanut butter, coconut, citrus peels, etc) can be challenging.  It’s hard to gauge how much and for how long in order to get the flavor you want.  You don’t want it to be so subtle that it’s almost non-existent, but going way overboard can be worse, rendering an otherwise fine beer almost undrinkable.  I’m a sweet tooth, chocolate candy kind of guy.  I just finished a milk stout that kind of met that need.  But I want more.   So I’m going all Mounds on this one and doing a chocolate coconut porter (the title of this post is my tentative name for it).  I’ve taken the base recipe of my Night’s King Bourbon Porter (sans wood and bourbon of course) and tweaked it a bit to get some more sweetness into it.  I’m adding a 1/2 pound of lactose to sweeten it, flaked oats to create a fuller mouthfeel and some roasted barley to give a little chocolate/coffee aroma.  Then I’m going to add cacoa nibs and toasted unsweetened coconut to secondary for about a week to round it off.  I’m treading a fine line here between a porter and stout.  But historically all porters were stouts, but not all stouts were porters.  So I don’t think I’m committing any heresy here.

I got this idea from Funky Buddha’s Last Snow coffee coconut porter.  There’s been a lot of raving about it and I got to taste it a month ago at a Brass Tap.  It was ok but I was anticipating it to be something more.  The coconut was there, but it didn’t have that luxurious dessert feel that I wanted and the mouthfeel was thin.  That’s what’s great about being a homebrewer.  If something isn’t out there and readily available that you want to drink, you can brew it yourself to your exact liking …..hopefully.

Chocolate Coconut Porter

5 Gallons, BIAB,  OG: 1.068

67.1% Maris Otter

6.7% Light Wheat

6.7% Chocolate Malt

3.4% Roasted Barley

3.4% Dark Crystal 80

2.6% Black Patent

6.7% Flaked Oats

3.4% (1/2 lb) Lactose Powder (added 10 min left in the boil)

Strike Water:  5 gallons

Mash:  154 F for 60 minutes

Sparge:  2.4 gallons at 170 F

Boil:  60 min (0.7 oz Chinook @ 60min, 0.5 oz East Kent Goldings @ 15 min and 5 min)

Yeast:  Fermentis Safale US-04 (no starter)

Primary Fermentation:  2 weeks

Brew day went smoothly and I’m in first week of primary.  I keep the fermentor at about 68F for the first week and let it rise up to ambient (74 F) in the final week.  The next step will be adding the nibs and coconut to secondary, which will be part 2.




Just a bit of a rant.  Though maybe more of an observation, not quite reaching the level of a rant.  And the following is being directed at commercial breweries, not homebrewers.  Copy cat, bandwagon, “me too”, trend, whatever you want to call it.  But it’s happening over and over again.  Here are a few examples.  Barrel aging, sours, session beers, wild ales/spontaneous fermentation, yoga classes at the brewery, brewers with beards, kettle souring.  It is striking to me how quickly breweries will jump on and pretty much copy what they see another brewery or handful of breweries are doing elsewhere.  The majority of breweries can’t seem to come up with any novel ideas on their own.  Or dare I say, just brew some solid beer.  I mean, what brewery these days DOES NOT have a “barrel program”.  What comes first, the beard or the decision to become a brewer?  I suspect the latter.  I mean, are professional brewers that insecure that they feel they need to conform to what everyone else is doing?  “Wow, people really line up at Jester King and Crooked Stave for their wild ales.  We need to really start doing that.”  Maybe it comes down to trying to run a successful business.  They see what other breweries are doing successfully and think that it will help their business if they adopt the same.  That probably happens in many other industries.  Most popular bottle releases are a barrel aged something or other and release sales of “special” beers provide a great cash injection into the business.  But I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever a new brewery posts an FB pic of their first barrels. Isn’t craft beer supposed be less about corporate thinking and more about art and creativity?  How do you push boundaries if all you do is what the next guy is doing?   And what the hell is the connection between beer and yoga anyway?  And don’t get me started on collabs, the meeting of the brewing minds that produce a once in a lifetime (literally) beer that may or may not be any good, but people fucking fall all over themselves to get their hands on it.   Ok, maybe that was a little bit of a rant.

Tampa Bay Beer Week 2016

I’ve been muttering to myself, wondering when I’d write another blog post.  It’s like that term paper with which you keep proscrastinating.  This week is Tampa Bay Beer Week and it started off as it always does, with a big ass beer festival, the Florida Brewer’s Guild Craft Beer Festival more specifically.  Over 55 breweries, over 250 beers and a beautiful March Saturday.  I tried about 32 different beers which is right about on par with last year.  Standouts were a vanilla cinnamon IPA from Wynwood Brewing ( I think),  Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov,  Southern Brewing’s Pointillist Sour IPA and Six Ten’s oud bruin (sour brown).  Marker 48 gets honorable mention for a barrel aged milk stout.  The wife couldn’t make it due to a conflicting extracurricular school activity, so my father-in-law stepped in.  It was his first beer festival and probably not his last.


Next weekend, I decided to contribute to  beer week in my own little way by hosting a Pride Craft Brewery open house for family and friends.  We expect about 25 people.  Despite the lack of posts, I’ve been brewing twice a month and I’ve got four batches ready plus some older holdovers from late last year.  Three of the batches are first run recipes:

Number Six Pale Ale:  brewed with 20% rye, hopped with simcoe and amarillo.  This did not turn out very hoppy but I’m happy with the present but understated bitterness.    Has a really nice flavor and the rye comes through.  I think it will appeal to a broad audience.

Savanna Saison:  a semi-clone of Boulevard’s Tank 7.  Not as earthy and spicy as I’d hoped but it’s a zippy little saison that’s clean, citrusy with a little bit of pepper on the end.  By the way, Wyeast 3711 French Saison is a total beast.  Every beer I’ve used it on has tore through the sugars to make a dry FG of 1.001….every single time.  This one was no different.

Quantum Deep Milk Stout:  a semi-clone of Left Hand Milk Stout.  Sweetness is nice and the coffee aroma just from the roasted barley (no coffee added) is just heavenly.   Very pleased.

I also have Witty Kitty Witbier, Night’s King Bourbon Porter and a small amount of Left Nut Brown and the kriek that I brewed last year (for the adventurous).

So there it is, my first post of 2016.  See you in the fall 😉


The Coming Purge

Here in Tampa/St.Pete, as in many other parts of the country, the craft beer revolution has exploded.  New breweries are opening at break neck speed, and you can find locally brewed bottles and cans in places you never would have thought of before, such as your supermarket or gas station down the street.  No longer do you have to go to a liquor store or craft beer bar to get your fix.  There are now about 45 craft breweries and brewpubs in the Tampa/St. Pete area and about 10 more currently in planning.  Nationwide, the US just recently topped over 4100 breweries.  There were less than half that just 4 years ago.  While the craft beer market is still a pretty small share of the total beer sales in the US, craft beer is a hot commodity and it’s predicted to continue to gain market share in the foreseeable future.

But I just learned some important news recently.  One of the smaller craft breweries in Tampa is closing.  That’s a first.  To my knowledge, of all the breweries that have opened in the craft beer renaissance of the last 4 years in this area, I have not heard of any of those businesses failing and closing shop.  I’ve actually been waiting for this to happen.  I just didn’t know when.  And I predict there will be more to come.  Just like any business, specifically restaurants, they come and go.  Some succeed but more fail.  Why would craft beer be any different, if not now, at least eventually?

This particular brewery was opened by a husband and wife team about 2 and half years ago.  He started as a homebrewer and took the plunge into being a professional.  They used a 3.5 bbl system, had a tasting room and they locally distributed their kegs to bars and restaurants.  That is how most of the breweries start out and they eventually expand and bottle/can if they are successful and grow their distribution.  A minority of breweries open right out of the gate brewing batches greater than 30 bbls and  distributing six packs.  That requires huge capital up front and most likely are backed by investors.  But the majority of breweries are “mom and pop” operations to start.  Small volume, tasting room, a certain amount of keg distribution.  And these small breweries have to find a way to survive on that until they can expand.  Between overhead, federal and state licensing fees and taxes, paying yourself, maybe paying an employee or two, I always wondered how they COULD survive.  You need to sell a lot of kegs and sell a lot of pints in your tasting room to make the numbers work.  And as the local market gets more crowded year after year, it must get tighter and tighter trying to get by.    I’m sure a lot of these breweries, even though they are losing money, hold on as long as they can, hoping things will turn around.  It’s difficult to let go of your dream.  So it may take a couple of years before they say “No mas” and close it up.

A market for anything will eventually get saturated and there will be a purge of sorts.  There are those that succeed and expand because of good location, good marketing, good business plan and (hopefully) good beer.  Many others will fail because of a lack of any combination of the above.  There is a finite amount of retail shelf space and tap handles in this area.  So the upward trend of the number of breweries in a town will ultimately slow down and even out.  It’s just a matter of when.

So I was wondering when the first brewery would close.  Now I’ll be wondering when the next one will.

Update 12/16/15:  Just got word yesterday that another Tampa brewery is closing.  This one had been around since 2010 and was the one of the first handful of breweries in the area.  They canned and distributed within the region.  But their reputation was for “just ok” beer.  No particular reason was given.  But another brewery is taking over their location.