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.

wp_20170203_003

wp_20170204_004

wp_20170204_005

wp_20170204_007

wp_20170206_002

wp_20170206_005

More Art Than Science

Back in 2014, I brewed a kriek style cherry ale that I called Bloed Koning, which is Dutch for King’s Blood. The blog posts for that beer can be found here and here and also here.  I was happy with how it came out but next time I wanted to boost the sour and complexity. I figured that by allowing the assorted bugs more time, they’d contribute more of their flavors to the beer.  The fermentation schedule last time was 1 month in primary with Wyeast 3278 Lambic blend, then six months in secondary on cherry puree.  The other thing was there was a bit of headspace in my secondary fermentor during those six months, so I figured if I could rectify that, there would be less possible oxidation.

Well, the time had come to tweak this very difficult beer.  Two months ago, I brewed my second batch and this time I left it in primary for two months.  This was so the lacto, brett and pediococcus would have more time to do their thing before I racked off the trub onto cherry puree in secondary, which I did 3 days ago.  Taste test at transfer was a bit more sour but not bitingly so and the barnyard funk was definitely more pronounced. Last time, when I transferred onto the cherry puree, there was a secondary fermentation, krausen and all, as would be expected.  This time, there were no active signs of fermentation.  It’s been three days.  The cherry should have jump started another round of fermentation but all was quiet. Decision time.  It’s possible that the only viable critters left are brett, and they are slow munchers.  Or it’s possible most everything is hibernating or dead.  I didn’t want to wait any longer due to the whole headspace/oxygen thing.  I needed the cherry sugars fermented, which would use up that oxygen and produce a blanket of CO2 over the beer and protect it.   So I pitched a US-05 last night to get it going.  In a month, I’m going to transfer it to a tertiary 2 gallon bucket where there will be no headspace and will slumber for 5-6 months.

So why did I decide to post about this?  This just brought to mind that sometimes brewing and fermentation are unpredictable.  What happened last time may not happen this time.  And you have to make decisions about what to do when the unexpected happens.  You can science the shit out of your rig, process, water chemistry and so on.  But I like the romantic idea of a brewer.  I think of those belgian master brewers working their magic in the old world on a beautiful hillside in a centuries old building.  They are artists.  They use their senses more than they use analytical equipment to judge how their beer is progressing.  They use their gut and their experience to coax something wonderful out of their kettles, fermentors and barrels.  Now I’m not a master and I don’t have a pedigree. I’m just an American homebrewer, but I like to think that I’ve gained some good experience in the past six years that help me to make decent judgement calls when the living organisms that we manipulate just don’t want to cooperate.  I don’t know if I ultimately made the right call until I’m sipping on the finished product in about 7 months.  But patience is a virtue.

Update:  The US-05 did indeed kick off a secondary fermentation.  After a month, I transferred the beer to a 2 gallon food grade bucket where it will rest for 5-6 months.

 

Dirty Sex

WP_20150918_016

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.

WP_20150918_007 WP_20150918_008 WP_20150918_009

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?

Imperial OG Imperial Wort

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.

WP_20150717_010   WP_20150717_011   WP_20150717_012

WP_20150717_013   WP_20150717_014   WP_20150717_015

WP_20150717_016   WP_20150717_017

The Slowdown and Timmy Time

I’ve noticed a couple of things here on WordPress, as far as beer blogging goes anyway.  Number one is that the number of views that my blog is getting is starting to slump noticeably.  Number two, the activity of the beer bloggers that I follow is also slumping.  There are a couple of authors that still routinely post and make for interesting reading, but I would say that about 80-90% of the blogs I follow have been inactive for more than a couple of months and quite a few that I believe have just been abandoned.  There seems to be a pattern where someone starts a blog, so excited about getting into homebrewing, but that excitement (at least about blogging) fizzles out rather quickly.  Such is life I guess.  Anyway, the combination of these two things is beginning to make my experience as a blogger far less interesting.  I’ve been doing this now for a while, but it’s becoming an issue of diminishing returns.  I’m not abandoning the blog yet, but I feel I’m waning a bit.  I must be honestly objective with myself though.  Maybe number one is due to the fact that I may not be that interesting.

On a side note, here’s some more uninteresting stuff.  I brewed Timmy Time Lime Cream Ale last Friday.  This was batch #5 of 2015 and the second time I’ve brewed this beer.  Last year it was a 2.5 gallon batch.  This time, I upscaled to five gallons.  Brew day was as smooth as could be until I tried to cool the batch with my copper immersion chiller.  I turned on the water and no water was exiting out of the chiller.  My only guess was that there was a blockage.  Possibly a very small bug had climbed in while the chiller had been sitting in my garage.  So I kept squeezing the supply side of the tube leading to the chiller to create a pump like action to dislodge whatever was in there.  Finally a small twig popped out.  Automatically I suspected one of my kids.  Sneaky little devils!  But who knows for sure because they’ll never cop to the crime.

Timmy Time Lime Cream Ale (5 gallon BIAB)

Grist:

82.5% Rahr 2-Row

5.8% Carapils

5.8% Flaked Barley

5.8 % Flaked Corn

Water to grist Ratio:  2.0

Mash:  152F for 75 min

Sparge:  2 gallons @170F

Hops:  Cluster 8.1%AA (0.4 oz @ 45min, 0.2 oz @ 15min)

Other:  1 oz Lime Peel @ 10min

Yeast:  Safale US-05

OG:  1.045 (target), 1.051 (actual)

Target ABV:  5%

Target IBUs: 16.03

SRM:  3.59

This is intended to be a refreshing cream ale that you’d enjoy in the summer on a boat or at the beach.  Light, citrusy, refreshing.  Next up at the beginning of May is the brew day for Witty Kitty Witbier.  Erika and I will be brewing this together on May 2, which coincidentally is National Homebrew Day.

WP_20150410_003

I also took the opportunity to do a taste check on the Kriek that’s been in secondary for over 2 months now.  It has a really nice dark red appearance from the cherry puree.  There is some acidity and a very very subtle funk.  Other than that it is hard to describe.  But it does have the same ballpark character of Rodenbach.  Really what I was checking for here is that it didn’t turn into some putrid, vinegary lost cause.  Luckily that’s not the case.  So I’m going to let it go the remainder of its six months in secondary and then bottle.

WP_20150411_002

And here are pictures of the finished products of the rye and bourbon ales.  They look very similar due to the similar amount of Caramel 40 used in each (about 8.5%).  But I just love that color.

WP_20150407_002   WP_20150410_005

2B’s Bourbon Ale and Kriek Secondary

I brewed batch #2 of 2015 this past Friday.  It’s a repeat of 2B’s bourbon ale that I brewed last July.  When I went shopping for ingredients, my LHBS was out of a couple things I needed.  The recipe calls for 4 hop additions (2 with EKG, 2 with Fuggles), and US-04 yeast.  They were out of US-04 and Fuggles.  So I went with US-05 and all EKG.  The %AA for Fuggles and EKG are about the same and both are English hops.  So I don’t anticipate much of a difference from them.  By not using an english ale yeast though, I may lose some of the esters in the final beer, but with this being a bourbon beer, the absence may not be significant.  The brew day went very smooth with no issues at all and I hit my OG of 1.063 on the nose.  If you recall, I had mash over-temp issues the last time I brewed this and the final product was hazy though tasty.  I’m expecting this time around that this beer will be clearer.  This is also the first time that I adjusted my recipe amounts of hops based on the alpha acid percentage of the actual hops I purchased.  My recipe had a default AA of 5% but the ones in store were 7.2%.  The difference was large enough that I decided to reduce my hop weights accordingly to hit my target IBUs.

WP_20150206_001  WP_20150206_002

WP_20150206_003  WP_20150206_004

WP_20150206_005  WP_20150206_006  WP_20150206_007

WP_20150206_008  WP_20150206_010  WP_20150206_011

My kriek has been in primary for 4 weeks.  I did a taste test.  There is a bit of tartness coming through, but the beer is clear and no off flavors.  I made the decision to rack to secondary with the cherry puree because I didn’t want my first try to be completely over the top.  Essentially, I want it to still be accessible for my family and friends.  If I’m the only one that can stand to drink it, that’s not that much fun.  But I do plan to let it sit in secondary for 6 months.

WP_20150207_001

Up next Friday is an extra brew day that I’m fitting in.  It’s a wine/beer hybrid that I’m calling Regalic.  It will be a saison with muscat grape concentrate added at the end of the boil.  I just drank a saison brewed by Saint Somewhere Brewing located in Tarpon Springs, FL which incorporates Norton grapes.  It’s called Cynthiana.  It had a nice earthy yet fruity taste without it being sweet.  Very nice and dry.  I’m hoping that regalic comes out somewhere in that ballpark.

WP_20150208_001