Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Wishing a happy birthday to my namesake, the one and only Jeff Cutts, senior!!  Raise a glass of homebrew to such a supreme gentlemen on this, the day of his birth!

Happy Birthday, Dad!  We'll have a birthday BowThai soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Hey all,

I have decided that it is far too pretentious of me to keep my recipes to myself.  I have taken a page out of the books of some of the best master brewers (particularly Stone and Rogue, but many others as well) who stand by the notion that the recipe alone does not give away the secret of one's beer.  I would much rather openly discuss my recipes for educational purposes, and also so that people might attempt to recreate them (we all know that plagiarism is one of the highest forms of flattery).  I think that this makes for a more interesting blog.  I also think it will help to educate my readers about just what goes into the beer, which I think adds to the experience.  I now present to you the recipe for my Limerick Session Stout, one that has really come out is a simple stout modeled after the most traditional Irish dry stouts and the way that they are brewed in Ireland--using ten percent roasted barley, a healthy percentage of flaked barley, most of the body comprised of English pale malt, hops used only for bittering, and fermented nice and clean to a relatively low ABV:

6 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb flaked barley
14 oz roasted barley
8 oz crystal Maris Otter (may substitute medium lovibond crystal malt)

1 oz East Kent Goldings hops (7.1%AA) @60 min
.5 oz Willamette hops (4.5% AA) @60 min
A note on the hops: I needed the remaining .5 oz of Willamette for another recipe, so that's why I used this combination.  Since these hops are just for bittering, 1 oz of hops with around 9% AA should bring it to about the same IBU...might I suggest Challenger?

Wyeast 1764 - Rogue Pacman Yeast (but any relatively neutral, highly-attenuative yeast will do.  I have made this my "house" strain using these methods)

OG: 1.042 with 70% mash efficiency

Mash at 153° for 60 minutes, perform mashout, and sparge with 180° water (read more about mashing here)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First impressions of the Hogsmeade Mild Ale

Tried really hard to get a good picture of this. Oh well...

It's still young, and my VERY first impressions of it were, well, not impressive. The beer had picked up a slightly-too-strong banana ester, which is not appropriate in really any English style. It is quite possible that the beer fermented slightly too warm, or maybe I left it on the yeast a little too long. Anyway, after carbonating and sitting for a bit, here is my first critical review of Jeff's Hogsmeade Mild Ale:

Appearance: Quite lovely actually. Very dark chestnut brown with pretty ruby highlights on the side of the glass and a finger and a half of cream-colored head that dissipates into about 1 cm of persistent foam. A little bit of lacing, even on my poorly-cleaned college student beer glass. Nice, well-flocculated clarity. Visible carbonation.

Aroma: Much better without the banana esters...caramel and brown sugar, with a nutty, toffee-like sweetness. Subtle tones of raisin, but no spice like in the WB. Not too shabby.

Flavor: Caramel and toffee define the sweetness, with a nice backing of toasted walnuts. Light fruitiness in the beer with some mild esters that are only slightly more than I would like. Nicely balanced hop bitterness really rounds it out, and the finish leaves a little taste of bittersweet caramel on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: A little high on carbonation for the style, but nice medium body and a little smoothness from the addition of flaked oats into the recipe.

Overall: Considering this could have been a total throwaway batch (even NOT considering that), it is really quite good. This beer has really come through for me. Just goes to further Charlie Papazian's philosophy of "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew." It's good to have standards and try to hold them, but even when brew day seems like a disaster, one should really try to RDWHAH. Definitely a recipe for the books, given that the goodness of the recipe can even override my shoddy brew day and lack of temperature control.

Notes on products: Cooper's Carb Drops are awesome on the convenience factor, but so are Munton's Carb Tabs and they are like 1/3 the size and thus allow you to control the carbonation level better. This isn't over-carbonated necessarily, but the carb levels are still high. I really like the profile of WLP002 and will definitely want to use it again for more English-style ales. I tend to be a Wyeast guy (mostly because they have a great website and good descriptions of their yeast strains), but this is a really nice yeast.

Original Brew Day Post from 2/20/11

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reviews of MY brews

Hey readers. Following the lead of such exemplary beer bloggers as The Mad Fermentationist and Ryan Brews, I have decided to start publishing critical reviews of my own beers. I think that this will really help to make me a better brewer and bring my beer into the next level of excellence. I also think that, given my fall 2010 semester hobby of reviewing commercial beers on this blog, this is a perfect way to bring it all together. Like TMF and RB, I may review my beers a couple of times to give readers an idea of how the beers are progressing over time. So without further ado, I present to you my first review of Der Winterweizen, my weizenbock that is now two months in the making:
Appearance: beer pours a dark, chestnut brown with a finger of creamy off-white head that fades slowly into a smaller, but very lingering one; some nice lacing; a little bit of haze (though hardly noticeable the beer's so dark) because it's a wheat beer aww yeah

Aroma: mmm spiced dark fruit-dates, figs, raisins- is the first noticeable aspect; beautiful banana esters/alcohol coming through; a light caramel and cocoa smoothness; truly wonderful and interestingly close to a Belgian abbey ale such as a dubbel

Flavor: lovely sweetness and smooth caramel give way to a light banana flavor and lots of dark fruit esters with a very mild but present hop brightness and a dry, slightly bitter cocoa finish

Mouthfeel: very silky with fine-bubbled medium-high carbonation; relatively full-bodied which was exactly what I was looking for and is a miracle given that I was working with a totally new system

Overall: Waiting for this beer required some patience for sure, but boy was it worth it. I will absolutely brew this again in early fall to be enjoyed in late fall/early winter. Honestly, given the wonderful complexity of this beer, the turnaround time of two months isn't bad at all! Hard to say right now, but this might be my second favorite beer that I've ever made (first of course being the BowThai).

Original Winterweizen brew day post from 1/31/11

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Best Brew Day Ever.

Let me begin by saying that last night, I spent a good deal of time drafting a brew day checklist, a sort of play-by-play of the day, to ensure that the process was calm, efficient, and producing the best quality possible. It worked. Never have I felt so calm or sweat so little on brew day.

It was a beautiful Nashville morning when I began brewing today at 10 a.m.; mid-sixties, sunny, good brewing weather. So I brewed up the second coming of the BowThai ale, this time going all-grain instead of partial mashing. SO MANY GOOD SMELLS with the ginger, fresh crushed coriander seeds, coconut and basil. My efficiency was great (one SG point better than expected!) and the color of the beer is dead on. Siphoning the wort off the trub was a chore and a half because (we found out later) a basil leaf got stuck in my autosiphon. May as well use an old-fashioned racking cane and prime it with water next time to minimize clogging. So we ended up having to pour the last of the wort into the fermenter and we probably ended up with a bit more trub than desired, but we wanted to get our 5 gallons worth (we had about four at the clog) and I know from experience that it won't affect things to much, particularly with this recipe.

The whole thing went so smoothly that Claire and I decided that we had time to bottle the Hogsmeade Mild Ale, which had been fermenting for the better part of the last month and we had just never got around to it. The first taste of the mild ale was very nice; a tad sweet, a bit of toffee, a hint of chocolate, but nicely woody and earthy with a silky mouthfeel (must've been the oatmeal!). I think it'll turn out very nicely. Today I used Cooper's Carbonation Drops to carbonate it because I had a small batch, and they were wonderfully convenient for my first time using them. Here is a bottle of the mild now conditioning by way of a carb drop:In fact, things were going SO well today, and I "just happened to have two gallons of apple juice and a packet of S-04 around," that once I had siphoned the Hogsmeade Ale into the bottling bucket and cleaned/sanitized my two one-gallon jugs, I got a small batch of cider going while waiting for the bottles to finish in the dishwasher. Aww yeah. Great thing about it was that it took almost no time at all. This will be an experiment, hopefully one worth repeating. Here sit the beautiful jugs o' cider:Over the next week, I will keep the jugs of fermenting cider in my room, then bottle them immediately once they have reached the sweetness/dryness level that I want (I'll be testing them over the week). My goal is to get something semi-dry to semi-sweet, probably similar to Strongbow and a bit drier than Woodchuck, but not really a far cry from either. Once it's to my liking, I'll bottle it with more Cooper's Carb Drops, then once it is carbonated to my liking, I can actually pasteurize it on the stove top and stop fermentation. This way, the remaining simple sugars in the juice (which yeast pretty much won't stop munching on) will stay there and leave us a mildly sweet, fruity apple character in the cider. I'm really excited. If anyone is curious, the first experiment has been done with Mott's (any 100% apple juice with no preservatives will do, and many experienced cider/cyser/apfelwein makers often will just use what's cheap).

Phew, well that's it for now. Lots of exciting stuff going on. Three different beers in bottles, BowThai in primary, and a small batch of cider in the works, I'd say that today was pretty awesome. Stay tuned for cider updates, as well as updates on the progress of the BowThai ale and the taste verdict on the carb-drop-bottled English mild.

Cheers! Seriously, cheers!
-Your favorite brewblogger

Bottling, 5/3/11