Thursday, November 1, 2018

Pumpkin Party

Hi y'all. As I write this, I am still recovering from a long brew day that consisted of much craziness, both expected and unexpected, but there are now FOUR unique pumpkin beers fermenting away in my living room in Tom Nevers. Since moving to Nantucket, I have downsized my system a bit to optimize portability and start to focus on brewing more, smaller batches, thus allowing myself more experimentation. Knowing myself and the amount of crazy mad-scientist ambition I tend to possess, of course my first batch out here had to be a project that was complex, maybe even a little insane, and derived of a full 5-gallon batch.

Here is what I did: I produced a full, 5-gallon size batch of what I will call the "base wort" for this experiment. My base wort was a ~1.050 SG (fermenting out to 4.5-5% ABV) amber colored mash bearing a lot of similarity to an American amber ale or an English Bitter. In true autumnal fashion, the fermentables in the mash included the roasted meat of a decent sized culinary pumpkin squash. For the brewers out there, here is what went in that mash:

  • 7 lbs Maris Otter Malt (my all-time favorite base malt)
  • 1 lbs 60°L Crystal Malt (caramel, baked cookie notes)
  • 1 lbs dark (20°L) Munich Malt (for chewy, biscuity notes)
  • 1 lbs flaked unmalted wheat (creaminess, mouthfeel, head retention)
  • 3-4 lbs meat of one whole roasted pumpkin squash

And here is how one makes four different pumpkin beers from one base pumpkin beer:

  • Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout
    • Transferred ~1.5 gallons into another kettle
    • Steeped 4 oz roasted unmalted barley for 30 minutes to add color and roastiness
      • this is similar to what you would do if you were brewing an extract beer
      • I did this while bringing the other two batches to a boil to offset the finish times
    • Added ~3 oz lactose (milk sugar) to beer--this is the "cream" or "milk" in the pumpkin spice latte and will add some residual sweetness and increased body/mouthfeel
    • Added slightly more bittering hops than other pumpkin beers
    • Fermented with Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire ale 1214 Belgian Abbey 
      • In my tired state, I accidentally pitched Belgian yeast into this beer instead of the more neutral English yeast strain. This won't "ruin" the beer but it will add a fruity/spicy Belgian quality that I wasn't exactly looking for in a milk stout with so much else going on
      • Fruity and spicy yeast characteristics might actually compliment a pumpkin spice beer rather nicely, as long as they don't muddy things up...I'll try to keep the beer nice and cool so those characteristics are subdued and we'll see how it goes at tasting time
    • Coffee and pie spices added to beer via "spice potion" at bottling time
  • Pumpkin Braggot
    • Transferred ~1.5 gallons into yet another kettle
    • Added a small amount of bittering hops for very low bitterness but still some balance
    • Added 1 pound of wildflower honey to batch after cooling slightly
      • This is a very large percentage of honey (more than 30%, less than 50%) in the fermentables, which means there is "too much honey" for it to be considered beer, yet not quite enough for it to be considered mead, hence braggot
      • Honey has a lot of simple sugars, so it will ferment out very clean and dry but add lots of delicate floral characteristics to the beer
    • Fermented with Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey 1469 West Yorkshire ale
      • This was the other beer that got mixed up, but I was on the fence about yeast selection for this one anyway. Wy 1469 only has an alcohol tolerance of 9%, but the braggot should be closer to 8%
      • Because there will be fewer spice/fruit notes from the yeast, I will be more inclined to add some spices to this beer at bottling now, especially some vanilla and nutmeg...we'll see how she tastes
  • Punkass Pie Ale & Saison Potiron:
    • Remaining ~3 gallons of beer left in large kettle
    • Bittering hops added to the tune of ~25 IBU (enough for balance without astringency)
    • Added 3 oz dark brown sugar to wort--this will not add sweetness but actually clean dryness and a hint of molasses character, and Belgian yeasts like some simple sugar
    • Saison Potiron:
      • Fermented with Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey ale
      • That's it--this beer's character will come from fruit and spice notes of the Belgian yeast along with some biscuity malt character and squashy pumpkin notes
    • Punkass Pie Ale:
      • Fermented with Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire ale - beer should be very clear with not many notes from the yeast, with a some residual sweetness
      • Pie spices added via spice potion at bottling
      • Should taste like a pumpkin pie
This may seem like a crazy complicated list of how to make these different beers, but let me break it down more simply--we started with a base wort and only added these couple of distinguishing factors to each batch partition to make four wildly different brews:
  • PSL Stout (most complicated): specialty grain, lactose, pie spices, coffee
  • Braggot: honey
  • Saison Potiron: brown sugar
  • Punkass Pie: brown sugar, pie spices

Sunday, October 28, 2018

ACK Fermentation Station

Hi friends! Once again it has been a while. Through all the craziness of life and moving and more life, I have not updated in a good bit. I have also not brewed in quite some time, but all of that is about to change. I am settling into my new island home of Nantucket and have utterly caught a major bug toward some fermentation projects, including but not limited to beer. The last week has seen the beginning of a couple wonderful projects with the promise of another wonderful one on the horizon. Here's what we have on tap (proverbially, of course--the literal is a coming attraction):

Kombucha - I freaking love this stuff. It is tart, fizzy, refreshing, and makes my gut super happy. It is also pricey, especially when you live 26 miles out to sea and everything has to come over by boat. Enter my long-awaited desire to make some 'booch of my own, build up a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), and have all sorts of wonderful flavors of homegrown funk tea. Laine and I are quite partial to turmeric and various gingered varieties, but I also plan to make use of some local Nantucket flavors, particularly the wealth of wonderful fresh cranberries. Should take a couple weeks to build up a nice "mother" and from there on out I will cranking out regular batches.

Sourdough - Who doesn't love bread? While I know there are many folks out there that like to minimize their grain intake, it is hard to resist a slice of fresh baked goodness. Nantucket has inspired in me a new level of love for bread, almost definitely stemming from the widespread availability of incredible Portuguese bread in all shapes and sizes. Those who have read this blog for a while know that I have a modest history of enjoying to make bread, but after many reasonably successful experiments with instant yeast, I knew that it was time to graduate. After a couple of "refresher" batches with traditional yeast, I decided to dive into the wonderful world of homegrown sourdough and make my own starter. Making the sourdough starter was another fun and easy project for this amateur fermentationist, and since then I have had loads of fun experimenting with different recipes and methods using the sourdough culture.

And finally...BEER!
I am about to embark on a project that I have been dying to do for quite some time. I am going to brew a batch of base beer that will be split four ways and transformed into four drastically different beers through the use of different yeast strains, specialty sugars, and other creative additions. The "common denominator" beer is a tawny amber ale with pumpkin in the mash, and here are her four variants:
-"Saison Potiron Part Deux": a reboot of one of my all time favorite recipes, an amber Belgian farmhouse ale with spicy Belgian Yeast notes and golden squashy pumpkin notes
-"Basic AF"--Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout: ridiculous and delicious, this will be a coffee cream stout brewed with pumpkin and autumnal pie spices...but not too many pumpkin beers are overspiced!
-"Punkass Pie Ale": another delicious, spiced, cold weather beer with brown sugar emulating the flavors of pumpkin pie
-Pumpkin Braggot: braggot is a cross between mead and beer, so this brew will involve adding a substantial amount of honey to the base beer and possibly some mild late-addition spices (at most some vanilla and nutmeg)
Stay tuned to see how I accomplish this feat...four beers from one mash in one day!


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Kid Returns

To everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn...). Sometimes life gets crazy and brewing is low on the priority list. Sometimes when you try to break back into brewing with aplomb, your apartment just isn't clean enough and you infect two batches in a row, and the resulting disappointment temporarily ruins your confidence in something at which you have proven your mettle many times over. Not that I am speaking from experience or anything...

Well now that my little public therapy session is out of the Charlie Papazian would say, "let's cut the shuck and jive and get on with it":

DAMPFBIER. A beautiful and mysterious Bavarian beer style that has been all but lost in the annals of history. These days, even in our utter golden age of craft beer, where almost every imaginable ale and lager varietal can not only be found--but is often even brewed--within mere miles of one's home, Dampfbier ("steam beer" auf Deutsch) remains an elusive but delicious style that only appears in the repertoire of adventurous homebrewers and your most hipster-elite brewpub. To make a Dampfbier, we essentially take the same malt/hop/body/alcohol content of an ordinary Märzen/Oktoberfest, but instead of a traditional lager yeast which ferments out very clean and neutral, this beer is fermented with a Hefeweizen strain and all of its spice/fruit characteristics. A first taste of this beer leaves one with a strong feeling of "why the heck aren't more people doing this?!?" but in terms of flavor, the brew has a complex profile that combines familiar Oktoberfest characteristics--namely a biscuity, nutty amber malt profile with a whisper of earthy, floral noble hop character--but with a yeast character that imparts some serious banana/clove/spice character. Basically, if a traditional Märzen/Oktoberfest is a hamburger, this beer is a spicy, complex and mysterious kefta kebab...the structure looks familiar, but the flavors will take you to another world entirely.

A simple recipe indeed:
8 lbs German Pilsener malt
3.5 lbs dark Munich malt (20°L)

1.25 oz Mount Hood @60 minutes
.75 oz Mount Hood @flameout, 10-15 minute steep

WLP300 Hefeweizen Ale (famous strain of the world-class Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen)

Stay tuned for this beauty.