Lot’s A-Brewing

I have not had a lot of time to post. Not just because life is busy, but also because I’ve been too busy brewing my ass off. Tampa Bay Beer Week is about a month away and I’m putting on my second annual Open House party. Which means I need beer ready to quench the thirst of the masses. But here’s a quick list of what I’ve been up to.

1. I brewed a spontaneously fermented ale in December and I’m a few weeks from bottling it. Jury is still out on if this will be drinkable or not. I hedged my bets by putting it into secondary with raspberry puree and a witbier yeast to temper the wildness. I’m planning a full grain-to-glass write-up once it’s ready to drink. It will definitely be educational.

2. Tripel came out pretty nice.

3. Peanut butter chocolate stout came out really nice. I used PB2 in the boil and it gave a good PB flavor.

4. Milk stout and coffee stout. This was a milk stout batch. I bottled half and then added cold pressed espresso to the rest before bottling to make a coffee stout. Surprisingly good.

5. My first Northeast IPA is in primary right now. I’ve never had a proper one. I’ve just read about them. But with all the buzz with this style, I expect nothing less than deliciousness.

6. Bottled and waxed my second batch ever of kriek. Waiting on bottle conditioning before cracking one open. But taste test at bottling was very promising.

7. Made a blonde ale with 20% rye. Very refreshing and clean. By the way, all the new better brewing practices I’ve implemented continue to pay off with very solid beers.

Here’s a picture sampling of the goings-on in my brewery.

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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.

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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 😉

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Dirty Sex

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I cracked open another Bloed Koning Kriek the other night in order to do a comparison between it and Boon Kriek (a commercial example) and it’s been about a month since we tasted the Bloed last. If you recall, Erika enjoyed it as did I. Well, what a difference a month makes. It has become more sour and more funky (a little barnyard). But in my opinion, it isn’t out of hand and I still enjoyed it. But what did Erika think? We’ll get to that in a bit.

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Appearance: Bloed Koning was a lighter red and mostly clear while the Boon was deeper, darker red and almost opaque. Both heads after the pour were fleeting (see pics).

Aroma: Bloed Koning had light cherries on the nose along with some barnyard funk. But both were restrained. Definitely didn’t come to the level of being pungent. The Boon had no funkiness in the aroma, but was all cherries all the time. And not just cherry, but a deep sweet, almost cherry cough syrup type of smell.

Taste: Bloed Koning’s taste followed the aroma: funky, slight cherry, tart/sour, but somewhat restrained. The sour and funk had increased in the last month since we tasted it last. Boon was more on the sweeter side. No sour, no funk. Clean and fruity.  Now there is a big ABV difference here.  The Boon is only 4%.  And while I couldn’t get a final ABV calculation do to the secondary refermentation on cherries, I’d guess the Bloed is in the 9-10% range.  But the alcohol is well hidden, with no burn at all.  However, you definitely could feel it in the head after sipping on it a bit.

Mouthfeel: Bloed was thinner compared to Boon but both had that effervescent carbonation. A nice prickle on the tongue.

Overall: Ok, these are two totally different animals. I’ve never had a commercial kriek before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. From what I’ve read, some krieks are very sweet, some tend to be drier and more tart. The Boon was more on the sweet side. But what I couldn’t believe was that there was no evidence of funk anywhere in the aroma or taste for a 100% spontaneously fermented lambic. My beer tends to have more in common with  Rodenbach Grand Cru, which is a Flanders Red ale that I’ve previously had. The notes in both mine and the Rodenbach are tart, funky, a touch of vinegar, a little wine like character, some earthiness. Bottom line is, Boon, for all I know, may be a fine kriek, but it wasn’t that complex. My kriek had a few more layers going on which I’m kind of happy about.

Now back to my tasting partner. I gave her samples of both. I didn’t even tell her what beers they were and just told her to taste and give me her thoughts. She thought the Boon was pretty good and that she can drink that. My beer….well…..she used the words “dirty sex throw up”. I’ll take it!!

Busy weekend- Saison and Imperial Stout

I had two brew days this past weekend.  I brewed the wedding saison on Saturday afternoon and my imperial stout on Sunday morning.  I had the house all to myself, so I took full advantage of the opportunity.  When these beers are done, I’ll do full grain-to-glass summaries.  The stout’s OG was 1.105, my highest ever.  Both brew days went as smoothly as they could possibly go.  Another piece of good news is that my kriek is carbonating nicely.  I was worried that with it being in secondary for so long, that the yeast would be extremely sluggish or just inactive.  I’ll crack one open at the end of August and do a full report.  Honestly, I’m expecting it to taste shitty because this style is so difficult to do right and this was my first try at it.  Hey, if I go in with low expectations, it’s hard to be disappointed, right?

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Bloed Koning Kriek Bottling….Finally

After close to 6 months in secondary, I finally bottled the kriek this past Friday.  The jury is still out on this one.  Taste test indicates cherries, some funk, a bit of sourness but it’s also just plain strong.  Maybe solventy, maybe vinegary.  I can’t quite put my finger on what’s going on with it.  Krieks are meant to be aged and will keep in the bottle for years.  Along with that amount of time will be further development, so that’s why I’m reserving judgment on this one.  Once I’ve achieved carbonation (based on my PET bottle tester), I’ll wait another 1-2 months before cracking one open.  And I’ll probably drink one each month thereafter to follow it’s progression, if any at all.  I have no idea what the final ABV is.  The base beer through primary fermentation came out at about 6%.  But then there was a secondary fermentation, krausen and all, when I added the cherry puree, so I don’t know how much extra alcohol was produced.  I’m just guessing that it’s probably in the 10% neighborhood in total.

Because of this beer being unique and because it is designed to age, I decided I wanted to take a crack at waxing the bottles just for the coolness factor and to inhibit oxygen ingress under the cap over time.  After researching what other fellow bloggers had done, I settled on using a ratio of 2.5 mini glue sticks to one regular crayon.  In total, I used 20 mini glue sticks and 8 crayons of varying shades of red.  I cut them up, put them in an empty and clean aluminum veggie can and placed in the oven at 400 F until pretty much melted.  Then I took out, placed on a stove burner and continued to heat and stir until  it was a smooth consistency.  Then I just inverted a bottle, dipped straight down, then up, and gave it a slight twist when moving the bottle to the upright position.  Pretty simple.  However I didn’t make enough of the glue/crayon mixture to do all of the bottles.  So the first ones came out great, then some were a little thin on top while the rest didn’t get done.  But I was pleased at how the wax came out and know to make more next time.

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Witty Kitty Witbier on a Special Holiday

As I write this, yesterday was National Homebrew Day (in America), and I celebrated by brewing one of my favorite beers, Witty Kitty Witbier.  This was batch #6 of 2015 and the third time I’ve brewed this recipe, first time at 5 gallons.  It was a beautiful morning here in Tampa.  It was cool, a slight breeze, birds chirping.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Witty Kitty Witbier (5 gallon BIAB)

Grist:

43.3% Weyermann Light Wheat

43.3%  Castle Pilsen

13.5% Flaked Oats

Strike: 5.1 gallons @ 127 F

Step Mash:  20 min @ 122 F,  60 min @ 152 F

Sparge:  2 gallons @ 170 F

Boil:  60 min

Hops:  Hersbrucker 2% AA ( 1.5 oz @ 60 min,  1.5 oz @ 15 min)

Other:  1 oz Coriander seeds (crushed) @ 10 min, 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel @ 1 min

Yeast:  Wyeast Belgian Witbier 3944

Original Gravity:  1.047 (target), 1.050 (actual)

Estimated IBUs:  18.86

Estimated SRM:  3.46

Target Final Gravity: 1.011

Target ABV: 4.6%

Brew day was one of the smoothest ones I’ve had to date.  Including clean up, my day clocked in at 4 hours.  There are a couple of things to note about this brew day though.  I hit my strike temp, but after mashing in the grain, the wort only went down to 126 instead of the 122 I was aiming for on the first mash step.  But I just let it ride.   As for my second mash step, I overshot by a degree but by the end of the 60 minutes, temperature was down to 144 F despite wrapping the kettle in a blanket. But I noticed this on the last brew day, and I assume it’s been happening on every brew day before when I haven’t been measuring the temp at the end of the mash.  This is probably why my finished gravities always end up lower than expected and my beers are stronger than expected. I’ve also read that majority of sugar conversion occurs in the first 20 minutes of the mash anyway.    I don’t have any complaints about how my beer has turned out despite this, so not a big deal.  No?

One thing I did do different this time is intentionally pour the whole contents of the kettle into my fermentor, crap and all.   Usually I’ll autosiphon and leave as much trub behind as possible.  But more times than not, I suffer from “Fluffy Trub Syndrome” where it’s impossible to leave most of the trub without sacrificing a good amount of yield.  WordPress blogger Brulosophy did a “Great Trub exBEERiment” where blind tasters could tell the difference between a beer fermented with little trub vs the same beer fermented with a whole lot of trub, but that the trub beer didn’t necessarily have any flaws per se.  Just that it had different characteristics that some would deem desirable, such has more hop aroma and more crispness.  So I decided to trub it up so that I could maximize yield and betting that it wouldn’t impair the beer that much at all. As a side note, it is actually a running theme with Brulosophy’s experiments that  changing one variable that you’d think would make a difference usually doesn’t make a discernable, statistical difference at all when blind taste testing.

One other thing I want to mention is that, as a matter of routine, I pitch yeast at a high temp,  like the 90’s and sometimes upper 80s.  It’s because my groundwater here in Florida, plus my wimpy chiller, only enable me to cool that low.  I could let the fermentor sit overnight and pitch the next morning.  But I don’t want to risk any critters in the wort growing and taking  hold  before the yeast  have a chance to outcompete.  Plus I’ve been pitching high for years and, again, I’ve never had an issue with my beers, so……..

I guess the bottom line I’m trying to get at here is, if you are happy with the beer you make, your process is fine.  Tinker with it if you want, but sometimes don’t be afraid to break some of the rules that have been laid out in the homebrew dogma that has been established through the years.  They say pitch low, I don’t.  They say use a starter, I don’t. They say do your water chemistry,  I don’t.  Personally I think the two most critical parameters to making good beer is to sanitize properly and to not ferment too warm.  The latter is different than pitching too high, because by the time primary fermentation starts to take off, the wort temp has settled down.

I woke up this morning and checked on my fermentor.  I had a minor blow out of my airlock.  I cleaned it up and replaced the airlock.  Happy yeast.  Nice.

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