Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday beer update

So...I went to the store yesteday, picked up some dried Ancho chilis from the produce dept, but since they were just laying out, i figured I needed to sterilize them first.  I also wanted to add in some more cocoa powder. It was evident by looking at the fermenting bucket that most of what I put in during the boil was lon longer there. So I boiled up some water and added in the cocoa powder so that it wouldn't clump when I added it to the beer. I poured this over the chilis in a mixing bowl and let it sit for a while. I put all that into the secondary and then racked in on top of that.  I had enough beer i was all the way up to the neck of the secondary.  MISTAKE.  I remember reading that when you rack into the secondary you will see a little bit of fermentation action because it kind of reacitvates the yeast a bit. Well...when i was taking the dogs out this morning I noticed it smelled like beer in the man cave so I decided to check on the brew. Definitely had beer coming out of the air lock and a nice puddle siting on the floor.  Its going to be some good beer I think.  I wonder if the cocoa powder or the Ancho chilies had extra fermentable sugars that boosted this. (The cocoa powder shouldn') I'll bottle this when I get back from Christmas and I'm betting its going to be a fantastic beer. 
On a secondary note, I had, prematurely I might add, pulled one of my holiday spiced ales and put it in the fridge. It had only been in the bottle a week at that point.  I tasted it last night and let me say that it is definitely an interesting beer. It almost taste like a ginger beer, which is weird considering there's no ginger in it.  I believe it was the nutmeg coming through, and I wished it was a bit more subdued in that regard.  You can tell it is a high alcohol beer too!  It wasn't very well carbed but that might be a result of prematurely opening it.  I think with a bit of aging, this beer could be good. As it is, its drinkable, in small doses. 
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Good weekend in Jake's beerland

Firs off, as an update, I bottled my Holiday Spiced Ale last night. It had great color, good clarity. The flavors were there, its a little heavy on the nutmeg, but I can handle that. I only got 38 beers out of the batch so this will be called a "limited" beer from Two Dogs Brewery.  But hey, its got about 7.5% ABV so i guess in the end, you don't actually need as much.

Saturday afternoon Paul and I got together for a joint brew day again. He once again took on the task of an all grain recipe, while I stuck with a partial mash.  I had been toying with the idea of a Chocolate Chili Stout.  My last attempt at a stout, I have deemed undrinkable. It had a good aroma and mouthfeel, with a nice thick head, but when I drank it, it had a bitter astringent flavor.  So, with great remorse, I have decided to pour them out. I'm going to keep a cople bottles around for a few more months and just see if anything develops in them.  But I digress.  Since my first stout was a miserable failure, I've decided it was time to try another. This time I knew I wanted to do a Chocolate stout, but I wanted to add some flair. So I debated, researched, and debated some more on how I was going to achieve the chili flavor in the chocolate stout.  I used a couple of different methods actually. 

I picked a handfull of cayanne peppers that had turned red from my personal pepper garden and slightly dried them in the oven, just to remove that raw pepper flavor. I cut them up and removed some seeds. I let them steep in boiling hot water to extract the flavor. The first time I did this, it wasn't strong enough so I added in some more and did another batch.  I added in this tea at the boil.  at 10 minutes left in the boil I also added in a dried Ancho and some other dried chilis to try and get a bit more chili flavor into the brew.  I immediately started to smell the chili aroma. I will admit I got a little scared when I started to smell the chilis. I didn't want it to get too spicy, so I pulled out a couple of the hotter chili pods.  I figure if I test the taste at 1 week in the primary and the chili isn't coming through, I'll just rack into the secondary on top of some more chilis to pick up some more flavors. I'm not sure, but I might have to do this with the cocoa as well. So...I will keep my fingers crossed on this one. I have high hopes and if it comes out good. I'd like to make it an annual batch. 

I also finally got around to making myself and immersion chiller on saturday. Until now, i've been borrowing others or just using an ice bath.  It cost me about $43 bucks, but it is only a 20 ft coil.  I would really like to make a 50 ft. coil. Maybe one day I'll pull the money together when I think I've run out of stuff to buy for brewing.  Good news is, that I do have enough input hose that i can make a prechiller out of that to help the process next time. 

So, now that I seem to have ramped up production and am starting to get my pipeline going, I'm going to need to get a label together. I'm thinking i'm just going to do one label for all normal beers. I might make special labels for seasonal or annual batch beers.  I'll post once I have something to show.  Most likely it will look similar to the Lazy Dog Stout label.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis the Season

Well, its been too long since i've actually written about by brewing exploits.  I've got some catching up to do.  I have brewed and bottled another batch of the Junkyard Dog American Amber Ale.  This brew got such great reviews from everyone, I decided to try it as a partial mash. I did this at my house, with no other supervision.  I hope it turned out ok. I took a lot of precaution when steeping the grains to make sure the temperature was right on.  I brewed in a 5 gallon brew kettle, so I inevitebly had to add in about a gallon and a half at the end of the brew in order to bring it up to volume. I don't think that affected my O.G. too much. This was also the first time I tried using Paul's meathod of not running the brew through a chiller before putting it in the fermenter.  I cooled it as mucha s possible, and then pitched the next day. I got all the way to bottling without any infections so we should be good. I've got another week and a half before they are set to drink. We shall see.

So now that we are caught up...

Last weekend Paul called me up on friday and said, hey, lets brew. He was doing his first all grain.  Scarry stuff. I wanted to brew too. I had been in the mood to get a holiday ale on my tap so I aquiesed to his request.  So I had a delima to resolve. Paul only had one brew kettle, and one burner.  I had my 5 gallon that i could have used, but as brewers will be brewers and I was at Academy buying a burner anyway, I spotted a very nice 10 gallon pot.  I wanted stainless steel, but they only had that in the 7.5 gallon.  I really wanted the 10. So, I got myself some new brewing equipment, Yay! me.

Now, on to my brew. I knew I wanted to do a Holiday ale. All the recipies I looked at were hop heavy. I understand people's love for hops, but i prefer a nice malty beer. On the same note, I also wanted to add in a little holiday cheer. I wanted to make this a spiced ale. I found another recipie and picked an chose some of the spices from that one.  I chose to add in some nutmeg, cloves, cinamon, and orange zest.  What I was hoping for was some nice subtle hints of the spices.  I added in about a half a teaspoon of nutmeg, 3/4 a teaspooon of ground gloves and 3 cinnamon sticks and a whole orange zest with 5 minutes left in the boil.  I figured, that little amount in 5 gallons of wort couldn't possibly be too strong. Man I was wrong.  That wort smelled like pumkin pie. Which, on one hand is exactly what I was going for, on the other hand, it was much stronger than I anticipated. We will have to wait til Christmas to find out. Hopefully the spices mellow out and become more subtle after the brew ferments and sits for a few weeks. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

I want to do this!

It has come to my attention that it is time for me to start kegging my beer.  Well, the issue with that is that I then need a way to dispense said beer.  I could just go get a kegerator, easy enough, but they can be a little expensive and you don't get much out of it.  I could become the intrepid do-it-yourselfer and try and do this.

Or I might go somewhere in between. But I really like this idea.  plus it looks very classy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bored and thinking of Brewing

As most of the people out in the real world, I am stuck at work today. It has been an especially boring day here. There isn't much to do.  So what else would I do, but think about brewing all day.  I started by updating my calander for all the things I need to do with the brews that are currently aging. Planning when I am going to rack my stout into the secondary and then when I'm planning on bottling it. I made sure to make a note of when my golden ale would be ready to drink.

Well, that didn't satisfy my brewing thoughts for the day. I got on the Austin Homebrew Supply website and looked around a bit. I have heard good things about them and figured since I was going to be in Austin in a few weeks, i'd check them out and pick up a recipie or two.  Two of the recipies stuck out. First was a texas blonde ale. I figured I needed to brew something light and refreshing.  The other was yet another stout. A chocolate Rasberry stout.  Normally I'm not a fan of fruit flavored beer, but this one just seemed like it wouldbe a good idea.  I was thinking Christmas gifts.  So I went ahead and planned those brews out a little bit. I had to reschedule some things. I was starting to run out of fermenters. 

Well, I would have loved to be done with the day and go home, but our office ours aren't that flexible.  I got into the creative spirit.  I decided the best use of company time was for me to design some bottle labels.  Here are what I came up with.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturday's Brew

Saturday was brew day.  As I mentioned previously, I wanted to try something different. A stout.  Neither my brew buddy nor myself had tried such a concoction yet. We mostly stuck to continental ales.  I had a stout the other day and it had hit me that I wanted to brew that next.  My trip to the brew supply store landed me a recipe for a Dry Irish Stout.  At first I wasn't quite sure the type of stout I wanted to do.  This recipe was supposed to be the most like the quintessential stout, Guinness, so I went with it. 

My brew for the day started with steeping the grains. I honestly didn't thin that grains soaking in hot water could make such a black liquid.  I was utterly surprised. I let it steep for a little longer than recommended trying to get every bit of flavor I could out of the grains.  After a quick sparge, i moved my brew downstairs to the propane burner for the boil.  In hindsight, this was a great idea.  We got the wort up to boil and added the malt extract. This was thicker than used motor oil and just as dark.  It clung to the sides of the pail and had to be scraped off with a spoon.  I could only think of how dark the wort already was and then adding this much extra color and goo to it was just going to make it darker. Exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a black as night stout, and from the looks of things, I was going to get it.

So I get the boil going, and remember that good idea about brewing outside, well here's where it paid off.  My wort hit the hot break and rose quickly out of my 5 gallon stainless steel brew pot.  The wort spilled over the sides onto my driveway.  It looked like an oil slick.  Luckily for me, it didn't stain like oil.   The brew continued without incident. I added my hops at the appropriate times, boiled for right at 1 hour and then quickly stuck the pot into an ice bath.  It cooled quickly, but I quickly came to the realization that my wort had reduced down quite a bit. I had to add a lot of water to bring my final volume up to 5 gallons. I'm hoping that doesn't throw off the flavors of the beer. 

Once the wort was down to temp, I transferred it to my fermentation bucket, threw in my yeast, and stuck it in the closet.  I was seeing fermentation bubbles within 12 hours, which was the first time I checked it. I looked at it on the Monday evening following the brew and there was a nice krausen on top.  I am planning on letting it sit in the primary for 10 days, then move it to the secondary fermenter for about a month, and then bottle age it for 6 weeks. Should be ready about Thanksgiving.

Happy brewing!

Monday, August 16, 2010

First taste

One often find a sense of accomplishment in the simplest of actions. This weekend I cracked the first of my home brewed beers. The hiss of the carbonation and the fog lifting out of the bottle made me realize that I had actually created a drinkable beer. The realization was confirmed when I poured the beer to reveal a firm head, rich color, and carbonation bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass like strings of pearls.

I slowly placed the pint glass to my lips took in the aroma of the beer and sipped. My friend did the same. We exchanged a slight nod followed by a second sip. It was confirmed. Not only was the beer drinkable it was damn good. The beer had a slight, not over powering bitterness up front with a smooth body. It finished with a slightly fruity note that could easily be missed. Not overly hoppy at all. All in all it was exactly what I was looking for.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homebrewing Begginings

So now that I've officially started my home brewing blog, I guess I should catch up on what is going on in my brewing world. 

I had been interested in brewing for quite some time but have never attempted it before.  I, as most people I assume, thought that the hobby would be terribly difficult and expensive to get into.  Neither of which could be further from the truth. 

A guy I know through about 4 degrees of separation decided that he was going to start brewing a while back.  I took a little interest, but never really questioned him on it or how difficult it was. I did taste some of his beers; they were a little hoppy for my taste, but not bad.  This renewed my spark of interest, thinking to myself, if this guy can do it, surely so can I. 

A month or so passed and I moved no closer toward my goal of creating the perfect ale.  That is until another of my close friends started talking to the aforementioned home brewer and had his interest sparked as well.  While chatting a couple of weeks later, my friend told me that he brewed up some beer the previous weekend and that it was remarkably easy and fun. 

My buddy said that he was planing on brewing again the upcoming weekend and suggested that I come over and brew up a batch of my own.  Then came the great internal debate of which kind of beer should I brew.  I knew lagers were out considering most of them require a cold fermentation and I, unfortunately, do not have a spare beer fridge. 

I wanted something with body and a full flavor.  Something people would hopefully remember if they drank it.  No IPAs, really, really not a fan.  I went for an American Amber Ale.  For about $40 I had what I needed, at least for the time being.  I had a fermentation bucket with an airlock and the recipe kit, which was an all extract kit, great for a novice brewer such as myself. 

So came the first brew day.  Easy enough, just follow the directions that came with the extract kit. I changed the proportion of hops that I added at the beginning of the boil versus the end. According to the directions this will lead to a less bitter, more fragrant beer.  My old friend turned brew buddy and I worked to chill off the wort and transfer it to my fermentation bucket.

I must say that there was actually some excitement that was derived from checking up on my concoction throughout the week, looking at the air lock, checking for bubbles and other signs the yeasties were working, turning the wort into beer. 

At the end of the week, I decided that it was time to bottle.  In hindsight, I probably should have let it sit for at least another week, but I am impatient and  wanted to move the process forward, but mostly because I was hooked and wanted to brew yet another batch and with only one fermentation bucket, I needed to push the process forward. 

Bottling was easy, taking the two of us only about 20 minutes to complete 2 cases worth of beer.  There was such a sense of accomplishment seeing the boxed up case of full beer bottles holding my own creation.  Now I knew I had to wait...I hate waiting. But in the name of good beer I did, and am still waiting for that matter.

For my second brew, I went wanted to create a clone of a local beer called Fireman's 4.  I can't honestly describe the flavor, but it is a good beer none the less.  I followed the brew plan as was laid out by the good folks at the brew supply company.  They had to modify a house recipe to give me the flavors I was looking for, so I trusted their opinion. 

This time I wanted to try going to the next step in creating a home brew.  I decided that I would use a double stage fermentation.  From what I've pulled together in all my research is that this helps to clarify the beer and eliminates yeasty flavors and removes proteins from suspension.  This is where the brew currently sits and has for 12 days and where it will remain for at least another 3. 

I promise, my following entries will not be this long, I just felt the need to catch you up to speed.  I will say that I will probably be brewing in the upcoming weekend. I am seriously throwing around the idea of a stout.  I had a St. Arnold's Stout the other day and it reminded me how much I actually like them.  Look for upcoming post about this brew. 

I will not only be using this blog to tell about my experiences, but also log my brewing from week to week.