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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Partigyle Brewing: Sea Symphony Barleywine and Ralph Bitter

A nice, healthy dose of Chinook for the SSBW
Hey readers!  I just realized that I had completely neglected to tell you all about my most recent brewing adventures, which are definitely quite exciting.  Last week, I was able to crank out an American barleywine and bitter over the course of a couple days using partigyle methods, which included setting the mash one afternoon, going to an evening class, coming back, collecting the first runnings (the barleywine), boiling the first runnings and getting them into the fermenter, sparging and collecting the second runnings (the bitter), going to sleep, waking up and going to class, then doing the boil when I got home later in the afternoon.  The crazy thing is, I realized when the second gyle wort was almost at a boil that I was out of propane, so I had to move my six gallons of nearly-boiling wort up to the kitchen stove (whose BTU are not quite up to snuff with the turkey fryer) and employ every resource necessary to get the thing to a boil and keep it there.  Whew, what a session it was.  I did, however, get two beers out of it, so that leaves me with a big smile on my face.  You may be wondering about the names of the beers.  Well, I used a proprietary hop blend for the barleywine (which admittedly toes the line of imperial IPA) that is known as Falconer's Flight Seven Seas (7Cs), and knowing full well that this ale will be a symphony of flavor, I am referring to it as the Sea Symphony Barleywine (in homage to the amazing work of Ralph Vaughan Williams).  At that point, I thought it would be awesome to refer to the second runnings bitter as Ralph (which, for all you non-music kids out there, is pronounced "Raif"). Here are the recipes that I created for just such a brew session:

Sea Symphony Barleywine(/Imperial IPA maybe??):
OG: 1.105 (Measured, will translate to about a 10.2% ABV--boom shakalaka)
IBU: 90 
Color: 14°L (beautiful dark amber)
23 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb Munton's Dark Crystal 85°L

3 oz Chinook (whole, 13.9% AA) @60
2 oz FF Seven Seas (pellet, 11.5% AA) @10
2 oz FF Seven Seas @0, 10 minute steep

2 oz Falconer's Flight (pellet, 11.4% AA) dry-hop
1 oz FF Seven Seas dry-hop

White Labs 250 Rebel Brewer American Pub Ale (yeast cake from JuniorSenior Amarillo Rye)

Ralph "American Bitter":
OG: 1.049
IBU: ~35
Color: ~8°L

[Same grain bill, second runnings]

0.6 oz Chinook (whole, 13.9%AA) @60
1 oz Falconer's Flight (pellet, 11.4% AA) @5
1 oz Falconer's Flight @0, 10 minute steep

1 oz Falconer's Flight dry-hop
.4 oz Chinook dry-hop

WLP250 harvested from same yeast cake (I was really all about bang for my buck here)

So here's the lowdown: 
  • the bitter will be ready to drink really soon, once we've dry-hopped it a little bit and thrown it in a keg...I'm definitely excited to drink it, because I feel like it will be similar to 21st Amendment's Bitter American, which I just had for the first time last night
  • if we treat the barleywine as a barleywine, it will really be best in about a year or so, or at least several months down the road--it will be bottled and savoured over time
  • if I sample a taste of the Sea Symphony and it's too good to pass up, I'll go on ahead with the dry-hopping right away and we'll drink it as an Imperial IPA (but still save some bottles so that it can also be experienced as an American barleywine, particularly if it is really boozy)
  • both of these brews are going to be hoppy, delicious American delights, and I don't really give a damn what you call them because they're going to be tasty as hell
I love reusing yeast...saves a great deal of money!  WLP250 is going to be a "house" strain of mine :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Very Productive Brew Day

Today may have been one of the most productive brew days I have ever had.  I was really just hoping to make it out of this day having brewed the Irish red and used the yeast cake from the Limerick Session Stout I just brewed.  I was more ambitious though, and I managed to keg the stout, brew the Irish red and pitch it onto the stout's yeast cake, secondary/dry-hop the JuniorSenior Rye Pale, and harvest the Rebel Brewer American Pub Ale yeast from it.  I was also able to sanitize the other one of my kegs and seal it up for when it's time to fill it.  I even bottled off a bit of the 1839 Westminster Porter to save for when I go home to MA.  The picture encompasses nearly the whole brew scene that went on today.

This is getting me geared up for St. Patrick's day, and I'm really hoping that by then I'll have the new fridge up and running!

Scarlet, the Galway Girl

Target OG: 1.047 [assuming 75% eff...was a little higher]
Target IBU: 25

8 lbs Maris Otter
.5 lb Crystal 40°L
.5 lb Crystal 120°L
.25 lb Pale Chocolate 200°L

1.5 oz. Willamette [5.6% AA, whole]@60
 .5 oz. Willamette keg hop

WLP004 Irish Ale [cake from Limerick Session Stout]

I'm thinking this will be a really nice beer.  The wort tasted great and I love the character of Willamette hops!  Probably because they possess all the good qualities of English hop varieties, but with that extra little zing of the citrusy American hop varieties, thus being a sort of ultimate hop for many American taste buds.  I feel sort of the same way about Mt. Hood, for the same reasons [but with German noble hop varieties].  The great thing is that I will be growing these varieties [along with Cascade] this summer in New Jersey, which will be a really fun project that will hopefully [perhaps by the end of the following summer] yield some great results  that will be usable in my beloved homebrew.