Friday, May 22, 2020

Quarantine=really clean beer, right? least that is what I am telling myself as I seek to brew my first batch of beer in about a year and a half. I have been in possession of some ingredients for 2.5 gal "half" batches for a little while now, but I just haven't had the time to *really* get my Madaket home ready for a good, clean brew day. After many weeks of quarantine, I am happy to say that the house is reaching a promising level of squeakiness, and I am ready to go. Here's what is on deck:

brACKfast stout: a coffee cream oatmeal stout. Notes of dry cocoa and coffee roast derived from dark malts and actual coffee from my favorite roaster, Armeno Coffee in Northboro, MA. Creamy mouthfeel thanks to the oats. Perfect for brunching. I know it's not exactly "dark beer season" but convention be damned...think cold brew coffee on a bright summer morning that's also a comforting warmer on those stormy days in June-uary.

Blonde Bees Have More Fun: tried and true, this is my house recipe Belgian-style blonde ale, to be brewed with local Nantucket honey (apiary citation needed). Target ABV 6-7%, with what you would expect from a Belgian, lots of banana/clove character from the yeast, reasonably effervescent, very dry finish. Good for literally anytime.

Huzzah. I've loved all my quarantine sourdough experiments, but it's definitely beer time.

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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bacchanalia and Lisztomania

One bill, two beers, and a very full mash tun
Cheers, friends! Last weekend, I had a wonderful time brewing up my two Belgian beauties--beers whose inspiration (and names) literally came to me in a dream--Bacchanalia and Lisztomania. After making a nice starter of Wyeast 1214 on a stir plate, the big beer took off like a shot and fermented quite completely in only about four days. On Saturday evening, I brewed up the first, big beer by utterly filling my mash tun to the brim, then I re-sparged to collect the volume for the second batch and finished the second batch on Sunday afternoon. Here is what the two beers will look like, and the grain and hopping that I used for these beautiful batches:

Bacchanalia, a big dark Belgian strong ale:
Original specific gravity (measured by refractometer!): 1.096 (Target ABV: ~10%)
Bitterness: 32 IBU
Color: 15°L (deep amber)

18 lbs Belgian Pilsener malt
6 lbs white wheat malt
2 lbs dark Munich malt

Mash at 153° for 60 minutes

1 lbs Belgian dark candi syrup (90° L)

1 oz Phoenix hops (pellets 8.4% AA) @60 minutes
1 oz Phoenix hops (8.4% AA) @30 minutes

1 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker (whole cone 4.5% AA) dry hop, 14 days

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast, 1.5 L starter

Aged on medium-toasted French oak (perhaps soaked in red wine) for 1 month

This should be a big, dark, complex beer with lots of dark fruit and spicy notes from the Belgian yeast and some real vanilla smoothness and light tannins from the French oak aging. As we found with my Sea Symphony Barleywine, whose last bottles we tasted on my birthday (mid April) this year, a good high-alcohol beer will age beautifully and improve in subtle complexity for years if you have the patience/willpower to let it do so. My plan for Bacchanalia is to try and be patient and taste a couple bottles per year, with a few careful tastes in the first year to gauge the potential of the brew. Luckily, we won't have to wait nearly as long for Bacchanalia's virtuosic little brother, my "small" second-runnings beer, Lisztomania:

Lisztomania, a virtuosic Belgian mini-IPA:
Original specific gravity: 1.036 (Target ABV: ~3.7%)
Bitterness: 32 IBU (but the bitterness balance will be very different in a smaller beer)
Color: 13°L (amber)

Same grain bill as above! Second runnings collected after first batch by sparging with ~180° water.

5 oz Belgian extra-dark candi syrup (180°L)

First-wort hop: 1 oz Belma (9.7%AA, notes of citrus, pineapple, strawberry, melon)
1 oz Citra (9.4%, notes of citrus, papayal, tropical fruit) @ 5 minutes left in boil
1 oz Belma @ flameout
1 oz Citra @ flameout

1 oz Belma dry-hop 7-10 days
1 oz Citra dry-hop 7-10 days

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast

This beer should be drinkable as soon as carbonated, with a bright, juicy, fruity hop character and a little bit of extra fruitiness/spice from the Belgian yeast. A virtuosic fresh, flavorful session beer with under 4% ABV, and in the ballpark of 115 calories (about the same caloric content as a BudLight, with about 50 times the flavor). I designed this beer to be a sort of mini Belgian-IPA, inspired in flavor profile by big Belgian IPAs like Green Flash Le Freak or Houblon Chouffe but with half the ABV.

We'll have the best of both worlds with these two dream-beers...a deep, complex dark Belgian strong ale that well likely age well for years to come, and a fruity mini/session-IPA that will be delicious, bright, and flavorful right out of the bottle once it's all carbonated. I will miss the speed and ease of my kegerator, but it'll still be great to make some tasty bottled beers in the meantime. I'll be tasting both soon to see how they are doing, and then we'll enjoy Lisztomania nice and fresh and savor Bacchanalia over the years...early tasting notes and a delicious coffee cream stout yet to come from the new setup here in MA!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The stuff on which dreams are made...literally

Greetings and cheers, readers! This entry finds me back in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, back where my wonderful journey with this hobby all began. As stated via Twitter earlier in the year, I have been sitting on ingredients for a couple of batches for a little while now. Since then, life happened and all of a sudden I found myself traveling, moving, and finally setting up shop back in my old stomping grounds. I am now finally in a place where I can actually get to brewing again. First up is a highly exciting project, one that literally came to me in a dream...

...Bacchanalia/Lisztomania--one grain bill, two beers. As previously seen with my Sea Symphony Barleywine, the last of which we drank on my birthday this year (nectar of the gods at 4 years old and around 10-11% ABV), I will do another go of one of the coolest and more historic brewing practices in existence--partigyle brewing. For the brewing novice, this is where we take one gigantic grain bill, this particular one involves 27 lbs of grain, and make two glorious batches from it. It is highly common in a home system to lose efficiency when brewing a super high gravity beer, so this process involves WAY overshooting the grain bill, making a large 10-12% beer from the first runnings with no sparge, then resparging and making a 3-4% small beer with the leftover sugars. This is great because we will end up with a delicious session beer that can be drunk right away and big ol' strong ale that will get better literally for years to come. But enough of the technical nonsense, let's get onto the beer.

Beer 1 - "Bacchanalia": a 10-12% dark Belgian strong ale with some oak aging (perhaps some wine-soaked oak aging). Expect lots of dark fruit, spicy complexity, and warming alcohol that will mellow over time.

Beer 2 - "Lisztomania": a virtuosic 3-4% pale ale with Belgian yeast, this experimental guy will be a sort of "mini-IPA" with Belma and Citra hop varieties, which carry lots of juicy, tropical fruit notes and a soft, mellow bitterness. I have a feeling this one will be gone in a flash.

More info to come once I get brewing. Until then, Prost!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sir Reginald's SMaSHing IPA (and a new cider experiment!)

First wort hoping kept this full pot from boiling over!
Hey all! Those of you that keep up with my twitter feed (@cuttshomebrew) have probably seen some of the updates from the last couple of brews, but I thought it was time to log them officially and give a little more information about these upcoming beauties. First of all, my new technique of yeast harvesting worked wonderfully well, and the WLP002 culture from the Husky Lad Mild Porter stayed clean, made a good starter, and is now fermenting vigorously away at the beautiful English IPA I cooked up. I am very excited to have such an easy and reliable new method for harvesting (and reharvesting) yeast, because I definitely have zeroed in on my favorite "house" strains for English (WLP002) and Belgian (WLP500) ales, and it's really nice to save some money on batches, as yeast is one of the more expensive elements of homebrewing.

I had a lot of fun brewing up this beer. I did a long (~2 hours) mash at 152°F, and then, instead of the usual bittering addition, I did some first wort hopping. This is a technique I've used in other beers to nice effect, where you add the hops to the hot wort in the boil kettle as you collect the runoff. Because the wort is hot but not boiling at this stage, certain volatile hop oils and compounds are extracted more effectively, resulting not only in an effective bittering component after boiling, but also more complexity in the flavor and aroma of the finished product. Additionally, this also helped to prevent a boil over in a very full pot. First wort hopping was one of the Top 10 Tips for a Super Hoppy Beer that I followed for this recipe. I also followed Callahan's advice of adding the aroma (flameout) addition once the beer cooled below 180°F and then doing a relatively long (~15 minute) steep of the aroma hops before chilling. I must say, whenever I smelled the hops hitting the hot wort, I got really excited for an EKG hop bomb of a beer. The starter made with the harvested yeast from the porter got the batch going really nicely, and it has been happily and vigorously fermenting for the last several days. Here is the simple yet specific recipe:

Sir Reginald's SMaSHing English IPA:
Projected ABV: 7%
Projected SRM: 7.6°L (a deep golden color)
Projected IBU: 46

14 lbs Maris Otter


3 oz East Kent Goldings @FWH
1 oz EKG @20 minutes
1 oz EKG @15
1 oz EKG @10
1 oz EKG 15 minute steep @180°

1 oz EKG dry hop 7 days
1 oz EKG dry hop 5 days
1 oz EKG dry hop 3 days

Awww yeah.

Prior to my brew day, I was really catching the fever while waiting for the starter to reach its full potential, so I finally whipped up a batch of graff, a type of cider that uses malt to achieve a desirable level of body and residual sweetness. I used the very popular Brandon O recipe on, combining 1 oz torrefied wheat, 1 lbs crystal 60, and 2 lbs of malt extract with 4 gallons of apple juice to make 5 gallons of delicious homegrown alchemy. I threw in some dry Nottingham yeast that took off like a shot and fermented like crazy for quite a few days, kicking off some really nice apple aromas. The other key with graff is that it is supposed to be very drinkable very quickly, so I should be enjoying it soon. I am very excited about this project, because while I have had some decent success making homebrewed ciders, I have never done more than a gallon or two at a time, and they've never come out quite exactly right. I really enjoy cider, and I know that many others do as well, so it will be nice to have a good, reliable recipe for draught cider.

The graff cider bubbles away
More updates to come soon! Prost!