Friday, June 3, 2011

Yet Another Catch-up Post

Whew. May was quite a month. About four weeks ago, my wife had a bit of an accident and tore some ligaments from her knee. After a trip to the emergency room, surgery and recovery, life has been pretty hectic while she's been laid up. Luckily, this has not kept me from brewing! Here is a run down of May's production.

As you may recall from my previous blog post, I was running a month behind. My plan was to brew a Midas Touch clone first, then a Witbier. One of the main ingredients of the Midas is a Muscat grape extract which is completely impossible to find locally. After calling around I decided that I'd need to order it online and brew it after the Wit.

So, the Wit was brewed first. This is a very simple recipe based off Rob Tod's Allagash White. You can view my version here:

The Wit currently resides in secondary and will be bottled this weekend (6/4/11). The first tasting puts it a bit dry, making me question my choice in yeast. I used Forbidden Fruit with the idea that the bitter lemon and cinnamon would be stronger, but I think it worked against me. In any case, it certainly tastes nice and I look forward to tasting the finished product. This one should be ready to drink by 6/18/11.

Once I finally received the Muscat in the mail, I set to brewing the Midas Touch clone. You can view my version here:

This one is going to be interesting. If you've ever had Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, you know that it's a pretty unique beer. I tried not to stray too far from the original, although I did drop the malts by a pound. The initial brew went off without a hitch and the fermentation kicked off fine. Once the fermentation died down a bit, I added the Muscat. Luckily, I was working in the office after this addition. The Muscat totally blew the airlock. It wasn't nearly as bad as my last blow off, but it certainly made a bit of a mess and didn't calm down for a few hours.

This little mishap shouldn't affect the beer at all, it simply adds more work. After another week, I'll be moving it to secondary and let it clean up for another week. This beer is looking at an early July drinking date.

As for June's beer, that is one I am still up in the air on. I want to make a new Saison, but I think I'll wait until July or August to really take advantage of the summer heat. I'm also looking at a Kolsch for some nice late summer drinking. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!


Friday, May 6, 2011

What? April is over?

Wow. It’s May 6. Where the hell did April go?
As you can probably guess, I’m a bit behind schedule for brewing. I’ve completely missed my April brew session due mainly to lack of time. First there was a lovely (and much needed) vacation in the Bahamas, then just trying to play catch up. In any case, I’m hoping to be back on track in May with 2 new beers brewed.
The first brew is scheduled to be a Midas Touch clone. I’ve always loved this beer by Dogfish Head and when I found the clone in Sam Calagione’s book "Extreme Brewing", I knew I had to give it a shot. It’s a sweet, dry ale that is purported to be from a 2700 year old Turkish recipe. With any luck, I’m going to have a nice version of this ready to drink just in time for deck weather.
The second brew for May is going to be a simple Witbier. There is nothing quite as satisfying in the warmth of summer than a spicy white beer, so I plan on have 5 gallons on hand for a roof top party or two. This one is going to go fast, especially knowing my wife’s tastes.
Past Brew Update
The February Tripel had yet another road bump or two. The gravity never got down to where I wanted it, but it was close so I bottled it anyway. When we went on vacation, I of course ran around the house turning off any and all heat monitors, unplugging electronics and making sure all doors were closed (I’m a bit anal like that). What I failed to think of was the fact that the Tripel needed heat to keep the yeast working in those bottles. By the time we got home and opened a bottle, I realized that there was no carbonation at all. The beer was flat. Thanks to the very helpful advice of Dan at Maine Beer Company, a little rousting of the bottles and some more time in proper heat took care of that problem. As it stands, the Tripel is still conditioning, but each test is tasting better. My thought is that it’s always going to be a bit sweet, but still drinkable.
The March beer (which I failed to blog, sorry) was a hoppy porter. This beer came out great and was well liked by all. It had a really nice bitter chocolate finish that is not typical of the style, but we really got into. As you can tell by my use of past tense, this beer is almost gone. With approximately 3 bottles left (and maybe a few hiding in the cooler at Novare Res), this one went almost as fast as our wedding beer.
The plan right now is to brew the Midas clone on 05/14 and the Wit on 5/28, so you should see a couple more posts and pictures over the next few weeks.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

March Beer Update!

Here we are already in March! Wow, that February sure is short. I will be brewing my March beer this weekend, but decided to give a quick update on the January and February brews beforehand.
As I mentioned last month, the January IPA didn’t turn out exactly how I would have liked, but it’s still pretty good. My wife loves it and I’ve shared it with several friends that all appreciated it. The objective critiques are certainly being noted and I am keeping my own notes as well. Next time I jump into IPA territory, I will have a much better roadmap. When all is said and done, I have a very satisfying, hoppy, dirty IPA that packs some warmth at 7% ABV. Hell, at this point, I only have about a 12 pack left, so that has got to count for something.
The February Tripel is a whole other story. This is my first high gravity brew and the fermentation time really threw me for a loop. It sat in primary for about 15 days before I got nervous and decided to rack it to secondary. I’ve heard tales of beers getting mold or infections if left in primary too long and I certainly am one to err on the side of caution. The beer started with a gravity of 1.082 and after 15 days it was down to 1.030. I’m expecting a final gravity somewhere between 1.016 and 1.019, so I knew it had a bit to go. I racked it to the carboy and roused it to get the yeast working again and it was off.
At this point, it’s been in secondary for 12 days. On Sunday (the 7 day mark) I did another reading and it was down to 1.026. Not a big change, so my friend Rodney and I discussed possible actions. While the airlock is not bubbling, it’s still floating, so it doesn’t seem like more yeast is needed. We chewed on that one for a while. We also discussed dropping some more brown sugar in to get it working a bit faster. I’m not really sold on that one either quite yet.
My plan, for the time being, is to give it a couple more days and see where the gravity is at this weekend. 7 points isn’t a whole lot, so maybe time is all that it needs. Having never brewed something with gravity this high, it’s all pretty much 50% Google searching, 40% suggestion from friends and 10% instinct.
After all, one of the points of this project is so that I can maybe switch those Google and instinct figures. I’ll be pretty impressed with myself at that point.
Thanks for reading and more to come this weekend on brew day! Also, if you’d like to try an IPA, leave me a message before they are all gone!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February Tripel

Brew day for the February Tripel was indeed hectic. I had some serious shopping to do before getting down to business and this trip made me realize one important thing: I need to start buying in bulk and ahead of brew day. Not only will I save myself a lot of headache, but a few dollars as well.

I created a Brewing calendar and did a layout of the first 5 months of the year, patting myself on the back for being so forward thinking. The calendar is a great addition to by process, to be sure, but it's also not the end of the line. I left my house at 10:30 with my shopping list and about an hour before I was planning on starting the boil.

One of the first things that I wanted to look for was Chinese Rock Sugar. I called Sun on Congress St. Friday and they assured me that they had what I was looking for. When I arrived, I was brought to the candy section and pointed to a box of "Yellow Rock Candy". I picked up the box, flipped it around, attempted to read the ingredients, flipped it around again... This couldn't be right. Why was it yellow? I asked again, trying to be more specific, but they had nothing else in the form of rock sugar.

I decided to hit up Mitpheap on Washington Ave. Unfortunately, I found the same situation. Odd varieties of "rock candy", but not really anything I felt safe purchasing. I gave up and decided I'd either ask Rob at Maine Brewing or just use Belgian Candy Sugar. Finally getting to the brew store, Rob had no idea what I was talking about, so I decided to just skip it and go with the Belgian*. No big deal.

The second part of my dilemma came when I arrived home. I was short on time and started setting everything out to get ready. My daughter Jasmine was coming to town to give me a hand brewing and I was already running late. That is when I noticed it: I forgot to pick up a grain bag. I couldn't start the boil without it. I considered straining it before it hit boil, but decided against it. Lucky for me, my lovely wife Eva volunteered to go back to the brew store and pick up a handful. End of crisis. Or so I thought.

Issue number 3. 2/3 of the malt extract I picked up were wrong. I needed 9.9 pounds of Light Malt, but I accidentally picked up 3.3 of light and 6.6 of Extra Light. Not much of a big deal, but it shaved off a few points on my gravity. I went with it, as I was in the middle of the pre-boil, deciding that it would work out fine.

Waking up Monday morning I found what I hope to be my last issue. I blew the top off my fermenter. I know that this happens and have heard hilarious stories from other brewing friends of this happening, but have never needed to deal with the clean-up myself. I guess it's to be expected with such a high gravity beer (1.081 measured). Fun stuff.

The rest of the brew went off fine and dandy. I bottled the January IPA after dry hopping and it's tasting pretty good. Not quite as hoppy as I thought it was going to be, but good for a first attempt. The February Tripel fermentation subsided a bit today and I dropped a pound of brown sugar into the fermenter and roused it back up. Even with the silly problems I had, I think this is going to turn out very nice. I am planning on racking it to secondary in about 10 days and seeing where it goes.

Brew #2 for 2011 is well on it's way and I'm looking forward to #3. Next up is a porter. Simple, straight forward and it should be ready while we still have some snow on the ground.

If you'd like to see my recipies, check out my Hopville account here:

You can see some photos from the day here: Brew Day @ Flickr

* I eventually found out that what they had at Sun was in fact what I was looking for.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Busy Saturday

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. My January IPA has been dry hopped in secondary and ready to bottle. So far, this is tasting downright DIRTY (in a good way of course).  Once I get a taste tomorrow, I'll post more.

On the brew side, I've got my lovely daughter Jasmine to give me a hand with the February Tripel. This is going to be a good one to keep around for a while. After bottling it around 2/20, I plan on letting it bottle condition for a couple months.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Look for a couple of posts with pictures(!) tomorrow! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Beer of 2011

So here it is...

I decided that for my New Years resolution, I was going to brew a different beer ever month of 2011. I came to this resolution for two reasons:

  • I love beer. A lot.
  • I love brewing beer
To date, I've brewed three beers. My first was a ginger saison that I brewed with my friend Eric, owner of Novare Res. The second was a beer I brewed specifically for my wedding on New Years day. The third was a redux of the first ginger saison with some major changes.

This blog is mainly an outlet for my year of brewing. 12 beers really isn't that big of a deal, but for a novice brewer, I'd like to keep a record of what I do and how I do it. If you'd like to see my recipes you can find them on Hopville here:

For my first beer of 2011, I decided to brew an IPA. I love the style and I figured it would make a good starting point for the year. I settled on a clone recipe for New Belgium's Ranger IPA created by Hopville user
 jlanier01 with some modifications to suit my taste. I picked this beer because I love New Belgium and I knew that if I came close, it would be something that folks around here had never had.

So, on to the brewing. I used Alexander's extract, which I've never used before, but I don't envision being an issue. I would love to do some all-grain brewing, but my living situation just does not allow for it. So extract it is. The pre-boil tea of cara-pils and crystal 60L just smells fantastic. I can already tell this is going to be a hardy beer, just by the smell of the malts.

As you can see from Hopville, I am using four different hops; Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe. I am using the Centenial just for dry hopping, but I think that I'll get a nice smooth finish with the Simcoe as the bittering agent.

As this is my first IPA, we'll see in a few weeks where it takes us, but I am pretty confident that this is going to be a really fantastic IPA.