Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cicada Imperial Red Ale

First brew in the new apartment!
Long brew day today...did all of the work myself since my lovely assistant had to work today.  I got started around 9 this morning to do the mash indoors.  It was great to have the convenience and comfort of doing an indoor mash, and it seems I finally have my cooler system down.  Held that guy at 153° for an entire hour and didn't lose a single degree!  Now that is good stuff.  Instead of the usual mashout/sparge method that I do, I did a double sparge, which can be seen in this excellent YouTube video by Don Osborn (I love Don Osborn!).  This was meant to increase my system efficiency and help me to get the maximum amount of extract out of this batch, since it is a pretty high gravity beer.  Good news is that it worked, and I hit 75% efficiency, up from my usual 70%.

After collecting the runnings, I headed outside with my turkey fryer and propane tank to get the boil rolling.  It started up great, coming to a boil in about 15 minutes, so I went ahead and added my first hop addition.  For this beer, I wanted to do a 90 minute boil so that I could achieve the right bitterness levels but also get a nice subtle caramelization, since this is an amber ale after all.  About fifteen minutes in--alas!--the flame started to die down, indicating that my propane tank was just about empty.  Welp, I decided to just take the brewpot off the turkey fryer, put it in a safe place, then put the rest of my stuff in the car and drive to get a refill.  It was a quick and easy trip, and I made it back to resume the rest of today's brewing.  The rest of the boil went smoothly, and I even caught one of the many obnoxious cicadas in my boiling wort this will not affect the taste at all (in fact, Jamil Zainasheff has had black widow spiders fall into the boil on same recipe of stout...on separate occasions!), but it sure as hell gave me a catchy--and appropriately ironic--name for the beer: the Cicada Imperial Red.  It will remind me of my scant few triumphs over those nasty cicadas during this summer.  As promised, here is the recipe for this beauty of an amber ale:

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5
Total Grain (Lbs): 14
Anticipated OG: 1.073
Actual OG: 1.075
Anticipated SRM: 16
Anticipated IBU: 72.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

11 lbs. Muntons English Pale Malt (2.5°L)
1 lb. Munich Malt (10°L)
1 lb. Crystal Malt (40° L)
0.5 lbs. Special 'B' Malt (140°L)
0.5 lbs. Belgian Biscuit Malt (25°L)

1.0 oz. Columbus (Pellet 13% AA) @ 90 min. (gotta use these for more than just bittering sometime...nice aroma on 'em)
1.0 oz. Falconer's Flight (Pellet 10.5% AA) @45 min.
1.0 oz. Falconer's Flight (Pellet 10.5% AA) @ 5 min.
2.0 oz. Falconer's Flight (Pellet 10.5% AA) @ 0 min/flame out
1.0 oz. Falconer's Flight (Pellet 10.5% AA) dry hop 14 days in secondary

1 tsp. Irish moss @ 15 Min.

Wyeast 1764 Rogue Pacman Yeast with an 800 mL starter made 48 hours ahead of time on a stir plate

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest 60 min @ 153

5/29/11 Brewed by myself at Lee apartments in Nashville, TN
8/2/11 Review

Picture may not look like much, but it sure was nice to be able to do the mash in my pajamas

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yeast starter for Imperial Red (Amber) Ale

After the weeks of graduation hustle and bustle, I am finally able to get in a brew day again!  Yesterday, I got the yeast starter going (first yeast starter in the new apartment), which was much easier on a gas burner than on the McTyeire electric stove.  I made use of another one of my Rogue Pacman re-harvested yeast cultures, which was a little slower to start than the previous (yeasts lose some of their viability over time, so cultures that have been sitting around for awhile can be slower to start, but once they start going they're as good as when they're new), but sure enough was really moving by this morning.  I got a lot of satisfaction out of the $7.00 that I saved on this batch, which is high gravity and therefore slightly more expensive anyway.

My other mission yesterday was buying a whole truckload of Falconer's Flight hops to give this batch the amazing hoppy flavor for which it calls.  I also got my next recipe, a Belgian Table Beer similar to this one for summer that has got me really excited.

Basically, your average American Amber Ale (Fat Tire, Red Seal, etc...there are MANY) will have a nice hop character similar to an American Pale Ale, along with a little more caramel malt flavor to balance it out and an ABV of around 5%, of course with a beautiful reddish color.  The brew that I'll be churning out tomorrow is inspired by that tradition, but has been amped up in the style of a West Coast Red Ale and then turned up even a bit more from that style, meaning higher ABV (mine should land at around 7.5%) and LOTS more hop character.  Think IPA (India Pale Ale) when compared to a pale ale...bigger, bolder, hoppier.  This beer will be similar to a double/imperial IPA in strength and hop character, but with a lot more caramel sweetness and malt background.  Stay tuned for brew day highlights and the recipe to be posted on this blog tomorrow!
Even when just making a yeast starter; relax, don't worry, and have a homebrew!

Friday, May 20, 2011

New fermentation-based adventure: bread

Readers, I have just moved into a new apartment in Nashville for the summer, and even though the brewing has been temporarily put on hold, I have been continuing on with the research, and have even picked up a new and excellent adventure in fermentation--bread.  I have made bread before, and it was actually one of the projects that I did before starting brewing that made me want to get into brewing in the first place.  I made this bread recipe with a new method that I stumbled upon in this food blog, wherein one makes a large batch of wet, loose dough, puts it in a large container, and allows it a nice long fermentation in the refrigerator.  A major plus of this method is that it requires no kneading whatsoever, and the result is delicious, crusty artisanal bread that can then be varied to whatever recipe one chooses.  I started out with the basic recipe, and it went incredibly well.  We only had bleached, pre-sifted flour for this recipe, which is the opposite of what is recommended, but things still went very well and will undoubtedly go even better next time!  Here are some pictures:

After (mmm):

Another cool thing about this bread is that after you bake the first loaf (which you can really do within about 3 hours of making the dough), you just put the rest of the dough in the container back into the fridge, where the flavors develop further and sort of ambiently improve the flavor of the bread as time goes by (sort of like a lambic or other spontaneously fermented beer!).  Then, when you've used all the dough, you mix up another batch without even washing your container, and the bits of leftover yeast continue to influence the overall flavor similarly to a sourdough starter.  Pretty cool.

Sounds almost too good to be true, right?  Well wait 'til you give this bad boy a taste.  It reminds me of the delicious, crusty bread that they bring fresh to your table with olive oil at an Italian restaurant.  Mmmm...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bottling: BowThai 2 and Cider

Bottled the BowThai and "Not your daddy's dorm room cider" last night.  Both tasted great.  The BowThai is right on track, very close to how I remember it tasting at this stage last time, and I think that some carbonation, cooling, and time will do it perfectly.  Lots of honey tones, a lovely herbal character, great coconut (and oatmeal) smoothness, and that oh-so-beautiful twinge of heat on the finish!  I want the alcohol to mellow out a bit, but I know it will (my efficiency was good so the ABV was just slightly higher than projected).

The cider is great, too.  It's a hair under 6 % ABV so it has a perfect draught cider taste, very much like Strongbow.  It's nice and dry with a little sweetness (I would call it semi-sweet), nice fruity apple character, a little tartness, and a slight hint of tannic vinous flavor.  S-04 was a perfect choice for the yeast, definitely left the apple character that I was looking for.  I am really looking forward to experimenting with cider in the future.  A lot about it is much easier than making beer, and certainly faster, so that leaves a lot of room for experimentation.  I definitely want to try some different juices, since I think that my yeast choice was just about right for this one.