Sunday, September 15, 2013

Great first showings--Sea Symphony Strong Ale and Saison de Potiron

This weekend, I sampled both the recently-bottled Sea Symphony Strong Ale (or Barleywine, but it's a little outside of style guidelines...and deliciously so!) and the young Saison de Potiron, and they were both wonderful and wonderfully surprising.  On Friday night, I tasted my 11.6%ABV behemoth of a beer, the Sea Symphony Strong Ale, hopped with Chinook, Falconer's Flight, and the Falconer's Flight Seven Seas (Cs) blend.  It was very lightly carbonated at this stage, but the taste was wonderful.  The beer had notes of honey, pine, burnt sugar, citrus, flora, apricot, with lots of warming and a beautifully sticky mouthfeel.  I am so excited to enjoy that wonderful beast of a beer over time.  It is probably my favorite beer I've ever brewed.

The Saison de Potiron is showing amazing promise.  The WLP568 yeast RIPPED through this beer.  It is already deliciously dry, in the proper farmhouse ale fashion.  The yeast profile will develop over time, but I am already getting the wonderful peppery notes, with fruity esters in the background.  It already has a delightfully "Belgian" taste to it, so that has me very excited.  There's a nice nutty caramel malt background, with the proper light, spritzy farmhouse ale body.  The pumpkin made it just about the most wonderful color I've ever seen.  Tawny, autumnal orange-amber.  Mmm...just delovely.  The pumpkin added that delightfully earthy, squashy note to the beer as well.

Wow, it is so exciting to be back in the game.  Scarlett the Galway Girl on tap right now...used it to make some ale grilled onions to put on a buffalo chicken pizza tonight...freaking delicious.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Brew Day--Saison de Potiron

Saison de Potiron
As the weather grows colder and leaves change to their autumnal reds and oranges, we beer lovers need a tasty brew that can reflect the change in the season.  The Franco-Belgian style known as "Saison" (French for "season") is a relatively free-form style from the farmhouses of Belgium known for its spicy, complex, almost peppery yeast character.  The most common versions (Saison Dupont is the most popular) are around 6% ABV, dry and very light in color, with lemon and pepper notes.  However, it is now widely accepted that in the Franco-Belgian farmhouse ale tradition, the saison beer would literally change with the season, with the Saison Dupont style most prominent in the spring.  Summer meant brighter, more wheat-forward, lower alcohol saisons, while wintertime saw a hearty, darker, high gravity saison.  An ideal autumnal saison would be slightly higher in alcohol content, copper/amber in color, malt forward, and perhaps containing some beautiful fall pumpkin (potiron) meat.  As a homebrewer, I certainly couldn't ignore my inner mad scientist, and of course I had to go with the pumpkin option.  Thusly, I have named the beer "Saison de Potiron," which plays on the fact that it is indeed a pumpkin saison beer but also the fact that "saison de potiron" translated literally means "pumpkin season."

The recipe follows a grain bill relatively similar to a scotch ale.  I used Maris Otter, a base malt that I have been borderline obsessed with ever since I started brewing all-grain beer.  A Belgian brewer probably would not use MO (Pilsner malt is the most common base grain for Belgian beers), but I wanted that extra maltiness and depth for the beer, given the cooling weather.  The wort poured out a beautiful amber with bright orange hues in the background...ergo, this beer will be autumn in a glass.  Here is my recipe:

OG: 1.068 (depending on how much the yeast attenuates, should be somewhere between 6.5-7% ABV)

9 lbs Maris Otter
8 oz Belgian Biscuit malt
8 oz Special 'B' malt
8 oz Red Wheat malt
1.75 lbs roasted pumpkin meat

1 lb dark brown sugar

.75 oz Czech Saaz hops @60 min
1.25 oz Saaz @5 min

WLP568 Belgian Saison Blend

Normally, I would use the Saison Dupont strain to get the proper complexity going, but that yeast thrives between 80-90°F, and I just don't have those kinds of temperatures to work with anymore, now that it's September.  WLP568 yeast is said to have the traditional characteristics of the Dupont strain without the finicky nature and need for high temperatures.  This will be perfect for this time of year, and depending on how things work out, I may harvest the yeast and make it one of my "house" strains.  I have had such great luck harvesting and reusing yeast in the past, I definitely want to get into it again.  It saves a lot of money (about $7/batch) and gives me some consistency.  Also, there are a couple of strains (especially WLP002/Wy1968 for English ales, WLP300/Wy3068 for wheat beers, now a huge fan of WLP250 for American/clean ales) that are amazing for some of my favorite styles of beer.  I will use my next two batches of beer, this saison and my Belgian mild, to test Belgian strains and see what I want to have in house for brewing those tasty Belgian styles.  And now...brew day pics!
BrewPal is a wonderful brewing app!  I use it for every batch!

Beautiful whole-leaf Czech Saaz cones boiling away

Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew(ed stout)!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ralph (Pronounced "Raif")

Ralph, or "Son of Sea Symphony"

Wow, now here is a beer that I kegged right as my CO2 was running out a year ago, and I never ever got to taste it!  If you remember from this entry, Ralph was an "American Bitter" that I made from the second runnings of the Sea Symphony Barleywine and hopped with Chinook and Falconer's Flight hops, fermented with a second generation pitching of the Rebel Brewer American Pub Ale yeast.  Now I will admit that a year later, I did not have high hopes for this one.  Hoppy beers are best enjoyed young, so that the fresh hop aromas are at their most potent.  This process, however, can be prolonged if the beer is put on CO2, which this one fortunately was.  I tapped the keg this evening, and out poured a beautiful golden/light amber hazy delight with a brilliant white head.  The aroma still held a citrusy, floral quality to it, with sweet malts in the background.  The flavor is bitter grapefruit and tangerine, pine, with an unprecedented malt sweetness and light esters.  Mouthfeel was medium body, spritzy, and surprisingly creamy. Overall impression of the beer is "How the hell is this only 4% ABV??" Tastes like a very smooth IPA with a solid malt backbone to it.  I think collecting the runnings of a bigger beer added some depth to this beer's maltiness.  I will definitely be doing partigyle brewing again.  You get so much bang for your buck and you end up with TWO amazing beers.  This makes me VERY excited to try the Sea Symphony Barleywine, which I will be bottling this weekend.  The bottles are currently in their sanitize cycle in the dishwasher, and I am really excited about not having to wash them by hand.

In the other kegs are the Limerick Session Stout (which I tasted and is also still delicious), Scarlett, the Galway Girl and the JuniorSenior RyePA, so we'll be rotating those into the kegerator as well.  Come by for a taste!


Thursday, September 5, 2013


Hey there brewfans!

After a hiatus of over a year, I will be finally starting up brewing again!  I am beyond excited, especially now that I have more time to dedicate to my craft!  Since my entire operation has essentially been on pause right now, here is what we have in the brewery at the moment:
  • 4 kegs of various fullness--One Irish stout, one Irish red, and two sessionable American pales that are undoubtedly past their ideal hoppy freshness but should still be pretty tasty.  This means that at the top of our list right now is to refill the CO2 tank and drink some of this beer!  Feel free to stop by and help me with the task!
  • 3 empty carboys in the process of being cleaned--gotta get those fermenters ready for my upcoming batches!
  • 2-keg kegerator--had to give up the self-built four-tapper because I currently don't have enough space for it, so we'll make due with what we have right now.  I'll go back to the old kegerator and use a picnic tap for keg number 2 for the time being.  This means we will only be able to have 2 kegs on tap at a time, but we can change 'em out easily enough!
  • 1 bucket fermenter full of barleywine--remember the Sea Symphony Barleywine I brewed over a year ago?  It has been in the fermenter this entire time.  I am out of sanitizer at the moment so I haven't been able to sanitize my wine thief and get a taste, but when I smelled it earlier today, the aroma was so wonderful that I literally almost fell over.  I still have a big stash of empty bottles, and that's where this batch is going, especially since the dishwasher in my new apartment has a sanitize setting [I am super excited about this as it will make sanitizing bottles SO much easier].  Oh, and this "bucket fermenter" is actually my bottling bucket, so tomorrow I'm buying another one [they're only about 15 bucks] and then bottling this weekend!  It will be nice to have this batch in bottles so we can enjoy it slowly over time...mmm!
  • A partridge in a pear tree
Here's what's on the brew docket for this fall:
  • Belgian Mild--a beer of my own invention, this is a low-alcohol brown ale similar to an English Mild [see past entries, this has been a recurring style that I love to brew] with Belgian candi syrup and fermented with a Belgian Trappist abbey-style yeast.  Should be a great beer for the start of Autumn and the foods that accompany the cooler weather.  I can't wait to have a pint of it to go with a bowl of roasted butternut squash soup with crispy sage!
  • Saison de Potiron--I've been wanting to brew a saison for a while, and since the weather will be staying warm a little longer, I am going to brew a beautiful, tawny pumpkin saison for autumn.  Whereas your traditional saison/farmhouse ale is a light yellow-colored brew, this will be a lovely amber/orange, with a few more darker malts to add some richness to the beer and make it season [saison?]-appropriate.  I won't be using the Saison DuPont yeast as eighty and ninety-degree days are a thing of the past [that strain needs very high temps for fermentation to finish well], but I'll be using a saison blend from White Labs that finishes faster and is less finicky than the DuPont strain, while still maintaining those classic saison characteristics.  
  • Yazoo Gerst Ale Clone [with Patrick Dunnevant!]--my first true joint-venture beer, Patrick came to me last spring with this idea.  He and I are going to brew a clone of the beloved Gerst beer from the fabulous Yazoo brewery in Nashville, TN.  It is a wonderful, clean, malty beer based on delicious, good old-timey German lagers.  You can read more about Yazoo's recipe here.
There you have it!  An update on bottling and equipment, two tasty experimental Belgian ales, and a beer steeped in Nashville history!  More to come soon.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be back soon!

I'll be back in full swing once the school year starts and I get a few paychecks coming in, but in the meantime, I wanted to give a shoutout to and their fantastic products.  They're currently doing a raffling off of two tickets to GABF, so I'll keep my fingers crossed!

What I think I'll be brewing when I get up and going again:
  • Steam beer
  • Autumnal saison
  • Ordinary bitter/EPA
  • Westminster Porter #2
Those may change, but just thinking about some possibilities gets me looking forward to getting back in the game.  Until then!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer series!

Hey all!  I've been gone a long time because of busy life and out-of-townness.  I am now back for the rest of the summer, and once I get a handle on my summer finances, I'll start cranking out some tasty summer brews, particularly some lighter, refreshing ones.  Here are the ones I've got in mind as of now:
  • Belgo-Moroccan Wit: a beer that I've been planning for a while!  Traditional Belgian witbier with Ras-el-hanout Morocc an spice blend [which I'm still looking for...may have to buckle down and make my own if I can't find it in a store]
  • Hoppy American Wheat: a nice refreshing American "lawnmower" beer infused with citra hops
  • Saison[s]: Not fully decided on exactly what I want to do with this one, but I think I want to do a session/table saison with traditional ingredients, or maybe I'll do one a little stronger [5-6% abv] to have a nice dinnertime sipping beer
  • Christmas ales: I'm trying to decide if I want to do something a little different this year, but I'm feeling pretty set on a rebrew of the Père Noël de Bruxelles, because that was far and away the most popular of this past season.  I think it'll be great to do last year's method of brewing the Christmas ale[s] in the summer and letting them mellow out over time.  The Figgy Pudding Ale was a success as well, but I'm more inclined to just brew the Belgian and enjoy the few remaining Figgy Pudding bottles with a full year of age on them!
Other than these, I've got an IIPA/American Barleywineish thing that needs to have some dry-hopping and then go into bottles, but I've also got an "American Bitter" and my accidentally-brett'd smoked amber ale that was actually pretty tasty the last time I tried it.  Anyway, there will be some great beers on tap here in Jersey this summer, and I will definitely be hosting some parties to distribute delicious brew to the masses!  HINT: if the tip jar is full at the end of the first shindig, that means more parties and more brews over the summer!  Make it happen, friends!  I want to brew lots and have lots of people drink my beer!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Updates and details

Well, since this blog just passed a pretty significant hit count, I felt that I owed a few updates.  First off, my kegerator project is nearing completion, and could actually be pretty much finished by tonight since I'll be getting all the remaining hoses I need today.  The only work I have left is painting the chalkboard surface onto the door, which should be a pretty easy task since it just involves a little masking tape and spray painting.  From there its just a few little gas/liquid connections here and there, and I'm all set.  We should have four homebrews flowing by the weekend.  Woohoo!

Sadly, the Westminster Porter has kicked, and it was definitely one of my favorite batches that I've ever made.  Guess I'll just have to make it again...haha.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have three brews that are ready to be drunk and one more that is only a couple days away.  This will be a nice chance to get to enjoy two different Irish beers and two different American pale ales all at once, and to continue with keeping up an arsenal of ready-to-drink beers [and ciders!] on tap.

My next batch of beer is coming into focus in my imagination, and this has been one that I've been planning for a little while.  The next time I brew [probably this Saturday], I want to brew a [Belgo-]Moroccan witbier.  Intrigued?  You should be.  Witbier is a traditional Belgian-style wheat beer with a silky mouthfeel that comes from both the wheat and a liberal dose of flaked oats.  Its traditional adornments are coriander and orange peel in the boil, but wit has always been intended as a beer that could be made to fit local tastes/specialties, so it isn't rare in Belgium for witbiers to have other ingredients as well, particularly ones that are local to where the wit is being brewed.  My first attempt at a witbier [Opus 1 in my book of original recipes] included ginger in the boil and was a resounding success, so I thought I should finally try my hand at an all grain version.  One night, I was watching Chopped on the Food Network, and one of the secret ingredients for one of the rounds was ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend with cinnamon, clove, cardamom, coriander, chili pepper, and all other sorts of delicious things in it.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would make a fantastic spice blend for a wit, especially because of the flavors and the success I have already had in using some of them in beer and mead.  Finally, witbier is a fantastic "East meets West" style in its traditions, so I thought using ras el hanout in it would be a great idea, particularly with somewhere like Morocco where there is such a fantastic crossing of Eastern and Western cultures.

So, that's what we've got!  Local friends, be sure to stop by for a pint on a nice day.