Friday, December 26, 2008

Crush Dubbel-Wit

This was supposed to be a classic Belgian Wit with a spicy undertone and easy drinkability, but plussed-up in the style of Avery's White Rascal.  I had consulted Jamil Zainasheff's Brewing Classic Styles podcast, which is usually an authorative source, but this one was hosted by a fill-in who suggested that the brewer use a softball-sized addition of citrus zest, and said that "you can never get too much citrus in this beer."  Well, I should've known.  By the time this one fermented out, the orange flavor was overwhelming, so I decided to make this a bigger beer to try to balance it out by adding more sugar in the manner of Abbey Triples.  That helped, but the acid balance was still off, so I dosed it with lactic acid to taste.  It wasn't the phenolic Avery I aimed for, but it did have a nice big citrus quench, reminiscent of my favorite orange soda, Orange Crush.

-6 lbs. wheat malt extract
-1 lb. oat flakes (for smooth mouth feel)
-2 lbs. table sugar (1/2 in the boil, and 1/2 during secondary)
-2 oz. Crystal pellet hops (bittering)
-1/2 oz. fresh Chamomile Tea from Market Spice
-2 oz. crushed Indian Coriander Seed (1/2 in last 10 min. of boil and 1/2 dry-hopped in the secondary)
-a whopping softball-sized ball of citrus zest from tangerines, navel & blood oranges, grapefruit & lemon, plus orange marmalade (to mimic the Curacao peel)
-fermented with White Labs WLP410 at 64 degrees
-carbonated with 5 oz. dextrose plus an extra 3 oz. sucrose (to obtain that "Belgian" fizz)

The label is a variation on both the new and old Orange Crush Soda cans.  I added Ethiopian Emperor Haille Salassie's image, not because it has anything to do with Belgian beers, but because the colors matched the Crush signature colors so perfectly, and Selassie's larger-than-life reign was so over-the-top extreme that it seemed to fit with this extreme, citrusy, huge Belgian wit.

Brewed September 2008 with additions in October, November and December.  My first "Extreme Beer".

January 2009 Update.  The carbonation and bottle conditioning made a huge difference.  It's shocking, but the beer is much closer to the Avery than I expected based upon how it tasted in the Carboy.  When my Father-In-Law brewed his Celis White clone he initially hated it, waited a few months, then loved it.  What is it about Wits that bottle conditioning seems to make all the difference?  I'm even getting a nice Belgian funk as well.  Wow, I love it.  Caution:  Truly "Imperial" on the alcohol side.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Winter's T'Ale

This is a winter-warmer, done in the style of Pyramid's Snowcap or Redhook's Winterhook.  It's a big beer, with 3/4 lb. crystal malt, 1/4 lb. chocolate malt, 9 1/2 lbs. golden liquid malt extract, 3 oz. Willamette, and fermented with the same Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale yeast used for the Christmas beer. The label is inspired by the stark, snowy days of November, and the bare Winter-time deciduous forests of Nebraska.  I saw Jeremy Irons play the lead in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale", and I've never forgotten the cool blue lighting used in the Stratford-Upon-Avon set.

I paired the the winter imagery with an equally stark poem.  My Uncle Bob is the "knarled tree" in the story.  At age 14, my parents were both dead, and I felt overwhelmed and lost.  Bob was a rough, harsh character, with lots of crazy ideas in his head, but he was literally the only one among my aunts and uncles who reached out to me.  His tales of my parents were like those Greek myths of fierce strength and tenacity, and kept me clear about who I could be.  I didn't have my father and mother, but I had their stories, and that kept me whole.    Thank you Uncle Bob for providing the windbreak this sprout needed to survive.

Brewed October 2008.

Uncle Buck's Christmas Ale

Calvin helped me tap my "inner dork" with this pic set next to our barn (that's a goat in the window).  Yes, those are Army RPGs (rape prevention glasses).  My wife said that she "didn't know this person", and my family got a big kick out of the label.  This is the other half of the spiced Scottish-80, and it went well with our Thanksgiving meal.  The spice is well-balanced, not overpowering.  Serving this set off a round of taste-testing homemade blackberry brandy, french-style cider, merlot, shiraz, and other freeze-method liquors brought over by wife's cousin.  I'll quote my friend Gil Meyer and say, "A good time was had by all."  Brewed October 2008.  

Update December 2008:  had this one again with Christmas dinner, which we did Provence-style this year.  Went really well with the roast lamb, onion tart, spinach dumplings and Christmas bread.  The beer has rounded-out nicely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Jeff and Brittany are a lovely couple, and I felt bad that I wasn't able to attend their wedding, so I decided to brew a Commemorative Ale to help them celebrate their first Thanksgiving and Christmas together. You can't just make an ordinary pale ale or a stout for such an occasion, so for the longest time I was stymied on style choices -- that is, until I saw the candids shot by my friend and officemate Patrick. I got this bright, hopeful feeling from the pics, and knew I had to do a Holiday Brew. Click on the label above and you'll see what I mean.

This Holiday Spiced Ale is a Scottish-80 style ale spiced with Ceylon cloves, cracked cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and mace. Made with 1 lb. dark crystal malt, 6 ½ lbs. golden liquid malt extract, 1 oz. Argentina Cascade hops, 14 ozs. Malto-dextrin, spices, and Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast. Fermented at 68 °, and bottle-conditioned with 5 oz. corn sugar for carbonation.

Brewed October 2008. First tasting: a nice champagne-like dryness on the front end, with a sweet finish accented by the mélange of spices. A very suitable Holiday Ale.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hella-Güt Hefe

Here we go again, will we obtain that wonderful clove-like and bananna flavor so characteristic of Southern Germany, or will it be Goat Gluwein?

-5 oz. Munich Malt
-3 oz. Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)
-1 oz. Carafa II (412.0 SRM)
-1/2 lb. wheat DME (in the starter)
-6.5 lbs. wheat LME
-1oz Hersbruker Hallertau
- White Labs Liquid Hefeweizen Ale Yeast (WLP380)

Bottle-conditioned. Brewed July 2008. Goat approved.

Three Mädchens Oktoberfest

It was the Munich Oktoberfest 1987, and I was there with my regular crew of officers from my Battalion. We drank and sang, and drank and sang, and . . . well, you get the picture. I was never so happy in my life to be with my friends -- the Germans have a word for it -- gemuchlicheit -- it means that warm happy feeling you get when you're with family and friends. We didn't know it then, but our Red nemesis would soon die a welcome death, and in a small way my friends and I helped make it happen. When the wall fell, I cried with tears of joy and remembered those warm happy days in the Bavarian sun with my friends. Gott mit uns.

- 1 lb. Weyermann Caramunich II
-2 lbs. Pilsener DME
-6 lbs. Munich LME
-1 oz. Sterling (bittering)
-Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager Yeast

This one was brewed and lagered alongside the Helles, but didn't finish as dry as the Helles. Still enjoyable, but will give it more time to condition in the bottle and perhaps dry out. Dark, sweet, and very flavorful. Brewed June 2008.

Update September 18th:  Bottle conditioning did the trick -- additional carbonation balanced the sweet malt character.  This one's going to be great with age.  Interesting that modern German Oktoberfest's are not this big, and have more in common with my Helles than this brew.

Big Honkin' Helles

I lived in Germany for three years, where I discovered that I actually liked beer. It was a wonderful contrast to that pee-colored rice and corn syrup swill that they served in America. In Bavaria, the beer man delivers a rack of beer to your door each week, and you return your empties, just like the Milkman. I drank Pils, Hefeweizens, Crystalweizens, Dunkelweizens, Dunkles, Alts, Bocks, Doppelbocks, Eisbocks, Berlinerweisse, and my favorite, Helles. This was my first lagering experience, and it matched my taste-memory of my days in Neu Ulm and Stuttgart. This was fermented at 50° for 3 weeks, then moved up to 60° to finish out, and then dropped to 36° for a month to lager and clear out.

-1 lb. Pilsener DME
-6 lbs. Pilsener LME
-1 oz. Argentina Cascade (bittering)
-1/2 oz. Argentina Cascade (flavoring at 30 min.)
-1/2 oz. Argentina Cascade (aroma at 10 min.)
-Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager Yeast

Light-bodied and refreshing, modest bittering. Exactly as I remembered. Would definitely brew again. Favorite of my in-laws. Brewed June 2008.

Löwensaft auf Frühling

My mother was "Low German" rural poor, and grew up in Depression-era Nebraska, where every bit of flora and fauna you could forage was canned, dried or cured.  Each year, my Aunts would gather in my mother's kitchen to lay down quarts of spiced apples, apricots, beans, corn, tomatoes, kraut, pickles -- whatever they grew or picked from our farm and neighbors' farms.  In homage to that thrifty spirit and my Bohunk Mother, I brew this Lions Juice of Spring.

My wife and girls helped me pick for two hours on the first day of the new season. Our goats, Panny and Billy, would ignore the millions of yellow heads around them, and wait for us to lay down a picked bag, then gorge.

- 3 1/2 gallons of dandelion heads (no stems), steeped for 45 minutes in hot water
-4 lbs. golden raisins, chopped
-8 oranges, zest and juice
-8 lemons, zest and juice
-12 lbs. sugar
-3 tsp. yeast nutrient
-boiled with 3 1/2 gal. spring water, cooled to 70, then topped to 5 gal.
-pitched 1 pkg. Côte de Blanc and 1 pkg. Champagne yeast

Laid down April 2008. Re-rack off the lees every 3 months. Condition until March 2009.

Crack-It-Back Ale

Redmond's Mac and Jack's Brewery makes one of the finest examples of highly-hopped Northwest pale/amber ales, so I endeavored to clone their example with this effort. Success! Dry-hopped with Cascade, the nose is Juicy-Fruit, floral, and not overpoweringly bitter like most pungent Seattle brews. I love the smell of hops, but in an ale they should be in balance with the fruity character of the yeast.

-1 oz. Munich
-1/2 lb. Crystal 80L
-1/2 lb. Carapils
- 3 lbs. Briess DME
-3.3 lbs. light Coopers LME
-1/2 oz. Columbus leaf hop (substituted for unavailable Centennial) (bittering)
-1 tsp. Irish moss
- 1.25 oz. Cascade pellet hops (aroma) at 2 min. left
-WLP 005 British Ale Yeast (fermented at 68 degrees)
-dry hopped with 1/2 oz. Cascade pellets for 14 days

Beautiful amber color, terrific floral hop aroma, nice mouth feel -- a perfect Northwest amber ale. My Father-in-Law calls the hop flavor "Ju-Ju-Bee", which is exactly the fruit character I wanted from the dry hopping. Used an old fridge with a digital temperature control to keep the wort at 68 -- controlled ferment seems to have made a huge difference in yeast flavor. Would definitely brew again -- a new favorite. Brewed March 2008.

I Curse Thor!

Lured again by the Teutonic siren call of Dunkelweisse, I venture back into the land of Hefeweizen brewing. Curses, you Weihenstephan yeast! Foiled again. I lament the waste of 8 oz. of German Munich Malt, 7 oz. Belgian Caramunich, 1 oz. British chocolate malt, 6 lbs. of Briess wheat DME, and 1 oz. of Tettnanger pellets. Fermented Wyeast 3638 at what I thought a respectable 68 degrees (the fool I am for following fermentation recommendations from the manufacturer!). Ayeeee! Hot phenols again! Hefes, you elude me!. Oye vay, down the drain! Brewed January 2008.

Molass-Anilla Porter

Inspired by the cold dark Seattle nights, porters called to me, so I tried a hand at my own. Benjamin Franklin said that beer was proof that God loves us, and here was my confirmation.

-3.3 lbs. liquid dark malt extract
-3.3 lbs. amber
-1/2 lb. chocolate malt
-1/2 black patent malt
-1 cup organic blackstrap molasses
-3 tbl. Indonesian vanilla extract
-1 1/2 oz. Fuggles pellets (bittering)
-1 oz. Tettnager leaf (at 10 min. left in the boil)
-Whitelabs Irish Ale yeast
-1 1/4 cups DME

Let the ferment go naturally to 72 degrees. Franklin was right. Incredible molasses and vanilla flavor, clear dark appearance, huge cappuchino head. A Worthy Winter Warmer! Brewed November 2007.

Jacked-Apple Cider

My neighbor's apple tree beckoned. Every day I would watch 2 pound braeburns fall to the ground unused -- I almost wept. He was never home, so I could never ask permission. Finally, the Midwest spendthrift in me couldn't take it anymore -- my girls and I took a wheelbarrow and a ladder, and liberated 120 lbs. Mother-in-law came over and we spent 4 1/2 hours juicing with two Olympic Juicers going full blast. Let the press sit on campden tablets for 24 hours, then filtered through a muslin bag and heated to 160 degrees with 2 lbs blackberry honey and 2 lbs. organic brown sugar. Ph tested at 3.8, so no need to balance. Added a little wine tannin for bite, and 2 oz. pectin for clarity. Pitched dry Champagne yeast. Beautiful clear golden cider, plenty of wonderful small bubbles, ended at an over-the-top 12% alcohol. Nice bright English-style dry cider. Incredible. Brewed October 2007.

Heavy Hefeweizen

Hefeweizens are the reason I got into homebrewing, so for my first full extract, I tried my hand. Can you say rubber shoe? That's what it smelled like. Me and Weihenstephan Weizen Yeast (WLP 300 or Wyeast 3068) have an unfriendly relationship. Brewed this one too hot, and got lots of unpleasant phenols. Tried long conditioning, didn't help. Made with 3.3 lbs. of Thomas Coopers Wheat Malt, 3 lbs. Briess wheat DME, 12 oz. Crystal 10L, 2 oz. Hallertau pellet and 1 oz. Hallertau leaf hops. Very fun to watch ferment, as the wort circulated impressively like a thunderstorm. Brewed September 2007.

Erste Bier

Like the title says, the first beer, and first beer label, that I made. Like most first-timers, it was made from a kit, and not very good. An American Wheat Beer, made with Thomas Coopers Wheat hopped concentrate, Munton's malt extract, and dry yeast. Flat taste and unimpressive. It's a wonder I didn't give up. Brewed July 2007