Monday, April 23, 2012

Batch Eleven update

The mystery ingredients.
Today I went over to Rick's house to add the final ingredients to our 'top secret' collaboration brew.

Last week I took 2 ounces of cacao nibs and 2 vanilla beans (split down the center to expose the caviar) and placed them in a jar with a half cup of rum and a half cup of vodka. Not only will the spirits help to kill anything that might be living on/in the nibs/beans, it will also extract additional flavor, as I've found that steeping the cacao nibs in high-proof alcohol first seems to give you a fuller, longer-lasting chocolate flavor.

The plan is to let these marinade in the beer for a month or so, and then bottle this concoction for the upcoming AHP collaborative homebrew competition.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Brewday: Local lambic

As I venture deeper into the rabbit hole that is sour beer, I find myself wanting to brew more-and-more challenging styles. I have had limited success souring beers I had brewed, but haven't brewed many beers that were made for souring. I decided after a recent Cantillon tasting that my next beer would be a fruit lambic.

On Saturday, I finally got around to brewing my psuedo-lambic. Even though it's my first attempt at the style, I tried to stay as on-style as possible - I used a very simple recipe of flaked wheat, pilsen malt, and a touch of munich to give the bugs more food to chew on. I also lucked out, as the homebrew shop was clearancing out some 1.5% AA hops, perfect for a sour beer. Aged hops would have been better, but they don't sell any. Thankfully I bought a few extra packs that I plan on leaving out in the open to age for the next sour beer I brew.
Never heard of 'hopsteiner select' but hey, 1.5% AA.
The entire brewday took well over seven hours, as not only did I do an extended boil to really drive up the dextrins in the wort, but I also performed a turbid mash to leave a lot of extra unfermentables in the wort as well.

Mashing In

Half-way through the boil.


After a 2.5 hour boil, I cooled the wort down - I didn't use whirlfloc or whirlpool the wort since it will be aging for so long, plus the brett and bacteria can eat the trub and hot break so I wasn't too worried. I actually overshot my gravity by about 10 points, but I also was a gallon short on volume so I topped off with chilled RO water in the carboy.

Rather than risk an entire 5 gallons of beer on a hunch, I am being a bit more controlled with this first batch of lambic. I played it safe and pitched a smack pack of Wyeast lambic blend.

However, I have had a lot of beers that used only the cultured yeast/bacteria blends and it's a very one-dimensional final result, so I also filled up a sanitized jar with some of the wort during transfer. I covered the jar with a mesh bag and set it out overnight in the hopes of capturing some wild yeast and bacteria. If I'm lucky, I will catch some bugs in the jar, and I plan on smelling and tasting whatever ends up in there to make sure it isn't anything nasty. If it seems up to snuff, I plan on pitching that into the beer to add some additional complexity. If not, I'll probably culture up some dregs from a Drie Fontainen or a Cantillon.

In 8-12 months, I plan on adding about 3 pounds of fresh boysenberries and letting that ferment for a few more months before bottling.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hop Farming

Now that I finally have the space to do it, I'm going to take a stab at growing my own hops. I spent six hours on Sunday digging through some VERY rocky topsoil to build an enclosed planter on the south side of the house. After I framed it in, I filled it with some moisture control soil and planted my rhizomes - one Cascade and one Centennial. I hope that I get enough this harvest season to wethop a Pale Ale or an IPA.

This is the first of many backyard projects I'll be working on this spring. Next up, I'll be planting some wine grapes and building a training system with some wooden posts and steel wire.

I didn't take too many pictures, but here's a couple:
Watering, after the planter was built. The two mounds are the rhizomes after planting.

That was the last of three wheelbarrows full of rocks and gravel.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Black&Blue

Last year, I brewed a Belgian stout, "Midnight Train". The recipe was a modified RIS recipe I'd found online, which I modified by adding dark candi syrup and special B, and using White Labs 575 Belgian blend yeast. The beer ended up at just a hair over 10.7%, and was bulk conditioned with a Hungarian oak stave for nearly 6 months before bottling.

I bottled 4 gallons of "Midnight Train" last March, transferring the last gallon to a tertiary container, where I then pitched a vial of White Labs Brett. B., a vial of lactobaccillus, and dregs from several commercial sours.

I left the beer to sour for 4 months, then I siphoned out one 22 ounce bottle's worth of beer to make room for 2 pounds of frozen blueberries. I primed and bottled the one bottle as "Crazy Train", while I left the remainder to sour an additional 3 months before bottling it all. I tried some at bottling, and while it had a bit of funk to it, it mostly just smelled and tasted like an infected Quadrupel.

Well, I finally cracked a bottle open last night. The beer is over a year old at this point, and has been bottle conditioning for almost 7 months:

Appearance: Dark brown with ruby highlights and a thin tan head.

Smell: Berries, lemons, barnyard funk, lactic sourness, lemon pledge.

Taste: Lactic sourness, berries, lemons, leather, earthy, vinous, tobacco, burnt chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Slippery, effervescent carbonation, with a thin body.

Overall: Wow! This tastes a lot better as it has continued to sour in the bottle. I'll have to brew another batch immediately and sour the whole 5 gallons. I have a few tweaks in mind, mostly tweaking the amount of specialty malts. I'm also thinking that I'd like to soak the oak stave in wine (likely Merlot) before adding it to secondary this time.