Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1839 Westminster Porter

Westminster Porter FTW!
Smoky the brown is doing very well right now, and I'm pretty set on "darkening" that one when I keg it, as I can't really see any issue with that.  I set my sights now on the next brew day, in which I will be brewing my first ever historic recipe.  I was fumbling around on the internet for a historical porter recipe and I came upon one that looked rather accessible and completely do-able with modern ingredients and processes.  Turns out the one that really struck me was discovered in the 1839 records of the town of Westminster (now a borough of London) in England.  I took this as a sign of divine intervention, that I must brew this beer.  It's not the expected 1/2 pale malt 1/2 brown malt historical porter recipe, which makes it much more reasonable for modern use.  I scaled down the gravity a teensy bit, but kept with the overall recipe.  Here's what I plan on using:

8 lbs Maris Otter
2 lbs Brown Malt
.5 lbs Black Patent Malt

2.5 oz Fuggles @60 min
1.5 oz Fuggles @5 min

Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale

Simple enough, right?  We'll see how this goes.  I'm pretty excited for it, particularly after seeing how easily I could make a wonderful stout with a super simple recipe last winter.  Continuing with the "experimental" nature of my current homebrews, which is pretty fun.  Cheers!

PS I acquired some amazing stuff to expand my system to four taps, and in doing so saved a lot of money.  So excited!  All I need is a cheap used fridge now, which should be quite easy to find.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cherry wood-smoked...erm...amber?

Well folks, I'm a couple days late with my update, but I brewed up my latest batch of beer this past Friday night.  I recently posted the recipe, and as I said, this was intended to be a smoky brown ale.  I finally got a new probe thermometer as my previous one had malfunctioned, and everything went great with the mash.  I hit the temperature dead on and only lost about two degree over the course of the hour, even with the cold weather.  The only weirdness came when I collected the runnings, and saw what appeared to be a rather light-colored wort.  I didn't think much of it, but after I ran the boil and tried to make it nice and vigorous to get some extra caramelization/color, the wort was still very light colored.  Beginning to get somewhat suspicious, I went into BrewPal on my phone and calculated what the recipe would be without the half pound of chocolate malt that I planned to have in there.  Welp, turns out that without it, I would end up with a beer of only about 11° Lovibond, almost exactly the light amber color that my beer appeared to be.  Methinks that Joe from Princeton Homebrew accidentally left out the chocolate malt, which incidentally was the last ingredient listed on my malt bill.  Oh well, it should still be really tasty, particularly given the rest of the malts in there, the lovely EKGs, and the WLP002 yeast, which has a great profile.

Dark picture, but nice big trub pyramid!
Mulling things over, I got a sort of crazy idea.  I thought to myself, "Gee, if I carbonate this beer naturally with malt extract, I'm just making a small amount of wort...why couldn't that wort be colored, flavorful wort?"  Well, I won't be kegging this one until after Thanksgiving, so I have time to think about it.  I do, however, really want this to be a brown ale, and I also have about 9-10 ounces of Carafa I in my stock right now.  I'm kinda leaning towards using that when I carb the beer.  If you are a homebrewer and have any knowledge from other folks/your own experience doing this, let me know your thoughts.  I really don't see how it would affect the beer negatively, seems like it would just be along the lines of carbing the beer with really dark DME.  Well, we'll see!  In the meantime, the beer is fermenting at a happy 66° [at 64° ambient], and it should come out great no matter what I decide to do with it...part of the joy of being a homebrewer is in the process and the unknown.

It's nice to have plenty of garage space for winter brewing!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A shoutout...

...to Geography in a Glass and The Mad Fermentationist.  We all posted about Cherrywood-smoked beers in the same 24 hour period.  Hopefully we'll be trendsetters to a world of smoky excellence in homebrew.  Hope your brews come out great, fellas!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smokey the Brown

Well, after nearly a week's worth of runouts to Philly with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and a weekend full of wonderful performances of Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, I am back to the real world once again.  Why yesterday, I only had a mere solemn mass in Bordentown and a Compline service in Freehold on my singing agenda.  I even had a full thirty minutes in my schedule that allowed me a trip to Princeton Homebrew to finally pick up some ingredients for my next batch, and I'm really excited about this one.  As soon as is humanly possible, I'll be brewing up a cherrywood-smoked brown ale at 1.050 OG and 21°SRM, so somewhat toeing the line of an English brown porter.  Hey, it's homebrew and I can do whatever I want.  I think that this will be a perfect beer for late fall, and because of the style shouldn't take too long to be nice and drinkable.

Depending on how this comes out, I'm considering racking some/all of it onto some chipotle peppers for a nice smoky kick.  With the base recipe I'm using, there should be enough sweetness to counteract that nicely.  Here's what this guy is gonna look like:

6 lbs Maris Otter
2 lbs Briess Cherrywood smoked malt
1 lb English Crystal 60°L
.5 lbs Chocolate malt

1 oz. East Kent Goldings @60
1 oz. East Kent Goldings @15

WLP002 English Ale Yeast

Basically, it's a pretty standard brown ale with the smoked malt subbed in for some of the base malt, some finishing hops to add a little balance in the flavor, and a low-attenuating yeast to give it some sweetness.  I'm really excited to see how this turns out.  Stay tuned.
You wouldn't believe how good this grain smells

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

...and the going. Wow.

Snow on our Yuengling keg post-Halloween party
Well my lovely SMaSH bitter kicked SUPER fast, thanks to the help of a few friends.  It really was quite good, definitely something I can see brewing (or doing a variation of) lots more.  I would do it again in its purest form when the weather is warm, just because it was so delicate, floral and thirst-quenching.  I'm pretty sure I'd want some crystal and munich in the mix for my ideal, on-tap-all-the-time beer, just to add the malty depth.  NOT that Maris Otter didn't stand up really nicely, but hey, brewing is a wonderful art that is all about fine tuning...and hey, that's me.  I like a little malt with my hops.

The coming and going of this batch made me aware of a few things (several that I had already anticipated, really).  First, I need to be brewing more often.  I knew that already...I was just without my car for so long that I fell behind.  After coming weekend's performance of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem in Philly, I'll def have some more time to brew again, particularly on Saturdays.  Also, I may really have to expand my keg system.  I've been tempted to upgrade to a two-tap tower for a while now, but the crazy thing is that, after doing a little research, I figured out that if I started from scratch and crafted my own four-tap kegerator (which was really my ultimate kegging goal and would be my ideal situation), it would actually be LESS expensive than switching to a two-tap on my existing kegerator...and I could do it gradually as I had the funds available.  Now I've really gotten an idea of my upcoming batches of brew, so here's what things are looking like:

1. Experimental smoked, malty English brown ale with one gallon of it (and maybe the whole thing) racked onto some smoky chipotle peppers
2. My own spin on a classic Steam (California Common) beer.
3. A classic, roasty historical porter recipe from 1839...from the historical archives of the town of Westminster!  Westminster porter ftw.
4. Opening the English and Belgian Christmas ales in about a month!  Aww yeah!

Whew!  Lots of good stuff.  It should be an exciting time of growth for the Rebel Opus Brewery.