Beer

Adventures in Brewing – Bringing the Funk

After two weeks in primary fermentation, the 5 gallon batch of saison has been split into two. About 2 gallons has been bottled (yielding a little less than a case), with the other three being racked to secondary and dosed with Brettanomyces Claussenii (WLP645 for the enquiring).

Vial of Brettanomyces

Crossing the Rubicon of funk wasn’t particularly difficult just yet – it basically just consisted of opening the vial of yeast and dumping it in the secondary fermenter. The real test will come in a few months time, when the yeast has had proper time to work its way through the remaining sugars. Or maybe I inadvertently infected my entire house with Brett and will have trouble with all my future batches. The die has been cast, to continue the Rubicon metaphor.

Saison - before conditioning

Final Gravity: 6.9 Bx, around 1.007. As usual, my hydrometer gives a slightly lower reading, but we’re still looking at somewhere around 6.8% – 7.2% ABV, which is a little higher than expected, but still on point. This puts attenuation in the high 80% range, somewhere around 88%. Hopefully, this mean there’s enough residual sugar for the Brett, but not so much that the Brett version will be dominated by that character.

In the meantime, I’ll have some non-funky saison to keep me busy (though I’ll clearly want to save enough to do a side-by-side comparison once the Kaedrôme rises). I’m debating what to do with my next batch. Being the dead of summer limits options a bit. Saisons are great because they can ferment out at 70+ degrees with no real ill effects. But, you know, I just made one. I really want to make a hoppy red ale of some kind, and an imperial stout too. In both cases, I’d like a somewhat lower ambient temperature than will be possible during summer (and the bathtub trick is out because I’m redoing my bathrooms, though perhaps I could do something in a smaller container). And I’m going to want to do this split batch trick as well, dry hopping (for the red) and oak aging (for the stout) half the batches. Perhaps I’ll just make it a busy fall.

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #11: Kaedrôme Saison

My fourth batch, brewed almost 2 years ago to the day, was a saison that turned out fantastic when it was fresh, but degraded over time (and become super carbonated). I’ve been wanting to make another batch of saison recently, so I took the recipe for the initial batch, toned down in terms of malt, and threw in some fancy Nelson Sauvin hops for yucks.

The real adventure this time around will be splitting the batch into two after primary fermentation: half will be bottled at that point, with the other half going into a secondary fermenter and dosed with Brettanomyces. I’ve long ago established that saisons are the least coherent style in the history of beer… which is actually one of the reasons I love them so much. My initial batch (and half of this current batch) was patterned after Saison Dupont, a classic of the style. The Brett dosed half of this batch will (hopefully!) be closer to Fantôme’s saisons, which is where the name of this beer (Kaedrôme, get it?) is coming from (big thanks to Scott of Beerbecue for suggesting that perfect name).

Allllrighty then, lets get this party started:

Brew #11 – Saison

June 22, 2013

0.5 lb. Belgian CaraVienne (specialty grain)

3.15 lb. Northern Brewer Pilsen LME

3 lb. Briess Pilsen DME

1 lb. Light Belgian Candi Sugar (liquid)

1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (bittering @ 5.8% AA)

0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (bittering @ 10.9% AA)

0.5 oz. Saaz hops (flavor)

0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (flavor)

0.5 oz. Saaz hops (aroma)

0.5 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (aroma)

0.5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel

1 tsp. Irish Moss

Wyeast 3711 French Saison Yeast (Primary)

White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii (Secondary)

Ingredients for Kaedrome Saison

I’ll spare you the play by play, as that’s mostly the same for every batch. The only thing I’ll say about that is that my new kitchen kicks ass, and has removed 30-60 minutes from the process. It turns out that the “Power Boil” element actually lives up to its name (it still takes a little while, but much faster than my old stovetop). And the bigger, deeper sink makes cooling in an ice bath much quicker too. It only took a little less than 3 hours, including all the cleaning.

I hope the Nelson Sauvin hops work out with this one. I basically chose them on a whim, thinking they would go pretty well with the saison. I hedged a bit and used some Saaz that I had laying around too, so I hope it’s a solid combo. Hop Additions at 60, 15, and 5 minutes remaining in the boil. Irish moss at 15 minutes. Orange Peel at 5 minutes. Pitched the 3711 yeast at 70 degrees.

Original gravity: 1.060 (14.6 Brix), pretty much right on target. My little homebrew app says I should be getting 80%+ attenuation out of this (maybe even as high as 85%).

Now I just need to figure out the process for the Brett dosing, but I’ve got a couple weeks for that. Again, general idea is to fill up my 3 gallon secondary fermenter, pitch the Brett in there, and bottle the rest of it right away.

I know very little about the different varieties of Brettanomyces, but in looking around, this seems like the one that fits me best. For the uninitiated, Brett is a wild yeast strain. It usually contributes funky, earthy characteristics to beers. Some people use descriptors like “horse blanket”, “barnyard”, or “band-aids” (among lots of other stuff, even smoky and spicy flavors), but that… doesn’t sound good, does it? Indeed, Brett is generally viewed as a contaminant and thus something to be avoided, but if done properly, it can match really well with beer, especially sour beers. This saison isn’t meant to be sour, though apparently the Claussenii strain that I’m using is more subtle than some of the others and contributes a “fruity, pineapple like aroma”. I’m going for something along the lines of older Fantômes (which tended towards sour) or Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, but everything I read about Brett is that it’s a little on the unpredictable side. So fingers are going to be crossed.

Since the primary fermentation yeast is going to yield a pretty dry beer to start with, I’m guessing that the Brett won’t be a massive contribution, but that sounds good for my first attempt at this sort of thing. Unlike regular brewer’s yeast, Brett will eat up pretty much any sugars left in the beer, so I need to give it a lengthy period to do its thing, at least a couple months. Luckily, it’s a hardy organism and thrives in warmer temperatures (so summer was a good time to experiment with this sucker). On the other hand, my understanding is that Brett is difficult to clean, etc… and a lot of homebrewers advise keeping the equipment that touches it separate from your regular brewing materials. This should be fine, as I’ve basically been using the same stuff for two years and some of it could probably be refreshed anyway.

So this is going to be one of the more interesting batches I’ve ever made… if it goes well. Wish me luck!

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #10: IPA Bottling

After two weeks in the bucket, I bottled the Fat Weekend IPA today. Fermentation seemed to as well as usual. A week into the process, once fermentation had slowed considerably, I cracked the lid and dropped in an ounce of Simcoe hops. This is only the second time I’ve dry hopped a batch of beer, but hot damn, judging from the smells emanating from the bucket during bottling, I’m in for a fantastic little brew here. Last time, I got a huge grapefruit character, this time, I got a more well rounded fruitiness as well as a piney aspect that was very pleasant.

Final Gravity: 1.014, which is just about dead on what I was expecting. That being said, I also still seem to have trouble reading my refractometer. Comparing an actual hydrometer reading, I get something lower (around 1.012). The refractometer is showing something around 9.3 bx, which translates to around 1.016. I need to get better at this. Regardless, it’s looking like I’m somewhere on the order of 7.3% to 7.6% ABV, which is close to what I’m shooting for, so all will be well.

Pre-Bottle-Conditioned Fat Weekend IPA.

Very pretty looking beer, a nice warm golden orange color, perhaps a hint darker than my last batch of IPA. As already mentioned, the aroma is fantastic, citrusy fruit and pine all over. I gave it a taste too, and I do believe this is going to be fantastic stuff. I got almost exactly 1 full case of beer out of this batch (2.5-3 gallons), which will be perfect. Though only half of what I normally make, I’ve found that hoppy beers don’t last, and start to fade quickly. After 6 months, my last IPA was still good, but it was a bit of a malt bomb. This is something I’ve become more sensitive to as my palate evolves, so I’m glad I’ll probably finish this case off before it has a chance to fade significantly. Fat Weekend is about a month out, which means that this should be fully conditioned and indeed peaking right about then.

Not sure what’s going to come next here. I’ve been toying with the idea of an imperial red ale, but may also try a batch of barleywine or imperial stout too (and perhaps finally take the secondary fermentation plunge, complete with bourbon soaked oak cubes). Whatever the next batch is, I’ll probably start it in March/April. If I end up going the big beer route, I’ll definitely be spending more time conditioning the beer than usual, so it will hopefully be doing really well by next Autumn… But I definitely want to make a sessionable Summer saison, akin to my last saison attempt, but a little lighter. I’ll plan for that in April/May, and that should last me through the summer…

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #10: Fat Weekend IPA

So I’ve been slacking on my brewing hobby of late, though not without good reason. I spent most of December revamping my kitchen from the ground up, so there was much time when I simply wasn’t capable of brewing anything (not to mention the sanitary conditions, which were obviously poor whilst work was proceeding). After putting some finishing touches on the kitchen in January, I’m finally ready to resume brewing. One of the nice things about my new kitchen is that I upgraded my stovetop, which now comes complete with a “PowerBoil” element that, you guessed it, boils water faster than my old stovetop (I’m forced to use electric, which is less than ideal for brewing purposes). And boy did that come in handy. I estimate that this shaved a solid 30-60 minutes off the brewing process, which came in at around 2.5-3 hours, including post-brew cleaning.

This batch is being brewed for a specific reason, the titular “Fat Weekend”, a gathering of portly friends from all over the northeast (and some points west) which will be sometime in mid-march. Last year, I brought a variety of homebrews and was shocked to see that the Simcoe IPAs were the first beers to go (and got the best complements), so I’m making this specifically for that weekend. Let’s hope it turns out well.

In terms of recipe, this is a variation on my Simcoe Single Hop IPA from last year (interestingly enough, brewed exactly one year ago to the day). For the most part, the malt bill is identical. A slight increase in Crystal 20, simply because my homebrew shop was only selling in half-pound increments, and I’m using pilsen for the entire base malt (which, again, is just based on what was available). The big change, though, is in hops. Instead of using just Simcoe, I’m adding in the trendy hotness of Citra and Falconer’s Flight (both used in equal proportions for flavor and aroma additions). Simcoe will remain on bittering duty, as well as contributing the dry hop addition. Otherwise, we’ve got an identical recipe.

Beer #10: Fat Weekend IPA

Half-Batch (2.5 gallons)

February 4, 2013

.5 lb. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)

.5 lb. CaraPils (specialty grain)

.5 lb. Vienna Malt (specialty grain)

3.3 lb. Briess Pilsen Light LME

1 lb. Briess Pilsen DME

0.5 lb. Turbinado Sugar

1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @13.2 AA)

0.5 oz. Citra (flavor)

0.5 oz. Falconer’s Flight (flavor)

0.5 oz. Citra (aroma)

0.5 oz. Falconer’s Flight (aroma)

1 oz. Simcoe (dry hop)

1 tsp. Irish Moss

Wyeast 1056 – American Ale Yeast

Overall, pretty straightforward stuff here. The only major change is the hops. Citra seems very much in the vein of Simcoe, but it’s got a more fruity and less piney, woodsy feel to it. I also usually get a more herbal fruit out of it… nothing like a Euro-hop, but distinct from the grapefruit and pine character of Simcoe. Falconer’s Flight is actually a proprietary blend of numerous hops, including Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, and other Northwestern US hops, apparently even experimental hops not yet available by themselves. The idea of this blend is to approximate the flavor of the trendy hops in a blend featuring those same hops, but also less trendy (and thus more readily available) hops. Tired Hands has made a few beers featuring Falconer’s Flight recently, and they’re exceptional, so I’m thinking they’ll be a good fit here. Really excited to see how this will turn out.

Brought 2 gallons of water up to steeping temperature 150° F – 160° F in record time (less than 10 minutes), steeped the specialty grains for around 25 minutes or so, drained, sparged with another half gallon of water, added the malt extracts, put the lid on to bring to a boil. Again, this happened in record time, at which point I added 1 ounce of Simcoe and started the timer. Realize I forgot to add the Turbinado sugar, so do some quick calculations, add about half a pound in, throw the lid back on to get the boil going a little better. 45 minutes into the boil, add half an ounce each of Citra and Falconer’s Flight. I don’t have a scale or anything, so I’m doing this by sight, but it seems to be working out fine. Also throw in the irish moss at this time. Finally, with 5 minutes left to go, I add the aroma hops, which is again split between Citra and Falconer’s Flight.

Moved the pot to the ice bath to cool it off, brought it down to about 80° F, strained the wort (removing the hops) into the fermenter, and topped off with about a gallon of cold water, bringing the final temperature down below 70° (almost too low, actually, but still above 62°). This will produce slightly more than 2.5 gallons, but it’ll all work out for the best in the end.

Original Gravity: 1.070. A little higher than my last batch, but not by much (this makes sense, given the hot scotchie adventure I engaged in last time). I’m guessing this will still clock in around the 7% – 7.5% ABV range, perhaps on the higher end, which is fine by me.

Like I did last time, I’ll wait a week or so to let the primary fermentation stage end, then add the dry hops (1 ounce of Simcoe) for another week or so, at which point, I rack to the bottling bucket and bottle the suckers. I’m quite confident this batch will come out well.

After this one, I’m not sure what will be next. I’ve been toying with the idea of a hopped up imperial red ale, which could be a lot of fun (and would probably resemble the above recipe quite a bit, with some amber malt and maybe some other darker malts to balance things out). After that, I want to make a sessionable summer saison, similar to my last saison batch, if not quite as potent.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #9: Abbey Dubbel

I think I’ve mentioned this style as a potential next batch after, well, most of my previous beers. Well, I’ve finally pulled the trigger. This one doesn’t come from a kit or even a clone recipe, though I did look at clones for St. Bernardus 8 and Ommegang Abbey Ale (two of my favorite dubbels). The real key resource was Brew Like a Monk, by Stan Hieronymus. Abbey Dubbels are generally dark beers, though that color comes more from dark sugars (usually candi syrup or rocks) than from roasty malts, meaning that these beers usually surprise folks who think they “don’t like dark beers.” The dubbel has Trappist origins, and they generally keep things simple. As such, what I ended up with wasn’t particularly complex from a recipe perspective. I don’t think I’ll be able to replicate Trappist attenuation rates (which reach into the mid or even high 80% range), but I’m better at temperature control than I used to be, so I guess we’ll see what happens. Here’s the recipe:

Beer #9: Abbey Dubbel

September 29, 2012

1 lb. Aromatic Malt (specialty grain)

0.5 lb. CaraMunich Malt (specialty grain)

0.5 lb. Special B (specialty grain)

7 lb. Briess Golden Light DME

1 lb. Dark Belgian Candi Syrup (90° L)

1.5 oz. Hallertauer (4.3% AA, bittering)

0.5 oz. Hallertauer (flavor)

1 oz. Saaz (aroma)

1 tsp. Irish Moss

Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast

Again, nothing super complex here. Trappists apparently don’t use quite as much in the way of specialty grains, but the ones I’m using are not uncommon (especially the Special B, which is a key component for a lot of commercial beers). I get the impression that they use more sugar as well, though they’re careful about additions and temperature control, something I have little control over. But for the most part, this seems like a solid, middle of the road recipe.

Homebrew Ingredients

I started by bringing 2 gallons of water to around 150°F – 155°F, then I steeped the specialty grains for about 25-30 minutes. Removed grains, sparged with another gaollon of warm water, bringing the amount in the pot to around 3 gallons. Added all of the malt extract and candi syrup. This is the first time I used candi syrup, and I have to say, it’s much easier to work with than the typical candi “rocks”. After that, I covered and settled in for the boil, which took about 40 minutes (stupid electric stovetop). Once at boiling, I added the bittering hops and started the timer. The Hallertauer hops I got came in at a lower alpha acid percentage than I had planned on, so I had to do a little audible here and add an extra half ounce. Hopefully this will be enough… According to my little calculator thingy, this beer will come out at around 23 IBU, which should be plenty…

With 15 minutes remaining, I add the flavor hops and Irish moss. I had originally planned a full 1 ounce addition of Hallertauer here, but I had repurposed some of that for bittering, and from what I can tell, a lot of recipes eschew flavor hop additions entirely, so this should be fine. With 5 minutes remaining, I hadd the Saaz aroma hops. When finished, I plop the pot in my little ice bath, and wait for the temperature to get down to the 80°-90° range. Strained the wort into the bucket, and topped off with about 2 gallons of cold water (bringing the temperature down to a more appropriate 70° or so).

For the yeast, I went with Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast (packaged 8/28/12), which is apparently derived from the Westmalle strain (and since they make some of my favorite Trappist beers, I think that’ll work for me). This yeast also has a high attenuation range and is apparently more tolerant of higher temperatures (ideal range 64°-78°). Since it’s fall, temperatures are dropping, but the ambient temperature inside my house is still around 70°-75°, so I wanted to make sure the yeast would tolerate that. I’ve managed to keep the ambient temperature on the lower end of that range for the start, so here’s to hoping things go well.

Original Gravity: 1.079 (around 19°Bx). Yeah, so this came in a little higher than I was going for (which was 1.076), but I don’t think it’s a major cause for concern. The target ABV is now around 7.6% (assuming around 75% attenuation), though that could easily grow to be around 8% if I get more attenuation out of the yeast. My only real concern here is that I have enough bittering hops, though this is a malty style, so I think I should be fine.

I plan to bottle in 3 weeks time (could probably go shorter, but I want to make sure the attenuation maxes out here, and my previous experience with Belgian yeast makes me want to make sure I don’t bottle too early). I’m not sure what will be next in my brewing adventures. I’ve been thinking about some sort of highly hopped imperial red ale, but I’m also considering a big ol’ American Barleywine (perhaps finally getting myself a secondary fermenter and doing some bourbon oak aging). I’m also out of the IPA I made last year, and I’m definitely going to make more of that stuff at some point. And I’m not sure what I want to do about a Christmas beer this year either. Should I replicate last year’s recipe (which was perfect)? Or try something new? So many beers, so little time! Stay tuned.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Kickstarted

When the whole Kickstarter thing started, I went through a number of phases. First, it’s a neat idea and it leverages some of the stuff that makes the internet great. Second, as my systems analyst brain started chewing on it, I had some reservations… but that was shortlived as, third, some really interesting stuff started getting funded. Here are some of the ones I’m looking forward to:

  • Singularity & Co. – Save the SciFi! – Yeah, so you’ll be seeing a lot of my nerdy pursuits represented here, and this one is particularly interesting. This is a project dedicated to saving SF books that are out of print, out of circulation, and, ironically, unavailable in any sort of digital format. The Kickstarter is funding the technical solution for scanning the books as well as tracking down and securing copyright. Judging from the response (over $50,000), this is a venture that has found a huge base of support, and I’m really looking forward to discovering some of these books (some of which are from well known authors, like Arthur C. Clarke).
  • A Show With Ze Frank – One of the craziest things I’ve seen on the internet is Ze Frank’s The Show. Not just the content, which is indeed crazy, but the sheer magnitude of what he did – a video produced every weekday for an entire year. Ze Frank grew quite a following at the time, and in fact, half the fun was his interactions with the fans. Here’s to hoping that Sniff, hook, rub, power makes another appearance. And at $146 thousand, I have no idea what we’re in for. I always wondered how he kept himself going during the original show, but now at least he’ll be funded.
  • Oast House Hop Farm – And now we come to my newest obsession: beer. This is a New Jersey farm that’s seeking to convert a (very) small portion of their land into a Hop Farm. Hops in the US generally come from the west coast (Washington’s Yakima valley, in particular). In the past, that wasn’t the case, but some bad luck (blights and infestations) brought east coast hops down, then Prohibition put a nail in the coffin. The farm hopes to supply NJ brewers as well as homebrewers, so mayhaps I’ll be using some of their stuff in the future! So far, they’ve planted Cascade and Nugget hops, with Centennial and Newport coming next. I’m really curious to see how this turns out. My understanding is that it takes a few years for a hop farm to mature, and that each crop varies. I wonder how the East Coast environs will impact the hops…
  • American Beer Blogger – Despite the apparent failure of Discovery’s Brewmasters, there’s got to be room for some sort of beer television show, and famous beer blogger and author Lew Bryson wants to give it a shot. The Kickstarter is just for the pilot episode, but assuming things go well, there may be follow up efforts. I can only hope it turns out well. I enjoyed Brewmasters for what it was, but being centered on Dogfish Head limited it severely. Sam Calagione is a great, charismatic guy, but the show never really captured the amazing stuff going on in the US right now (which is amazing because it is so broad and local and a million other things Brewmasters couldn’t really highlight given its structure).

Well, there you have it. I… probably should have been linking to these before they were funded, but whatever, I’m really happy to see that all of these things will be coming. I’m still curious to see if this whole Kickstarter thing will remain sustainable, but I guess time will tell, and for now, I’m pretty happy with the stuff being funded. There are definitely a ton of other campaigns that I think are interesting, especially surrounding beer and video games, but I’m a little tight on time here, so I’ll leave it at that…

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #8: Earl Grey Bitter Bottling

Charles, 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of the UK for four years, backing significant reform of the British government (in particular, he architected a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons and an expansion of the right to vote). How he came to lend his name to the famous bergamot-flavored tea is mildly mysterious. Like a lot of historical beer origins, there appear to be a lot of apocryphal tales surrounding Earl Grey tea, usually involving a recipe made by a Chinese mandarin. In some accounts, the mandarin is grateful to Lord Grey because one of his men saved the mandarin’s son from drowning. The story that seems more likely to me is that the recipe was specifically formulated to suit the water at Grey’s estate. The bergamot apparently offset the lime present in the water there and when Lady Grey used it to entertain guests in London as a political hostess, it became popular enough that Twinings sought to make it a brand. Or something. But enough about stuffy British politicians, let’s get to the beer!

Bottling of my Earl Grey bitter commenced after two weeks in the fermenter. From observation of the airlock, fermentation seemed to go well for the first two days, but then it dropped off considerably. Given the low original gravity, this was not too surprising, but I gave it the full two weeks anyway.

Post-Fermentation, Pre-Conditioning Earl Grey Bitter

The beer turned out to be a little lighter in color than I was expecting (which is not a big deal or anything), but the aroma was quite nice. A lot of citrus in the nose, which is exactly what I was going after. However, I’m not entirely sure how much of that came from the bergamot tea I used in the recipe. I had also used a small amount of orange peel, which certainly contributed something to the flavor, and it’s also worth noting that Fuggle hops (even when used in bittering applications like I did) can contribute a soft, fruity aroma/flavor to the beer. I suppose one could call this more of a variant on Earl Grey than anything else – something more like Lady Grey tea, which also has orange (among a few other ingredients). Well, whatever the case, it seems like it will be quite an interesting beer.

Final Gravity came in at around 1.010, and according to my calculations, this works out to around 4% ABV (maybe a little more), which was pretty much the target (a little over 75% attenuation, which is pretty good). I had a bit of a worry when I first took my refractometer reading, as it came in at around 5.4°Bx, but it seems that Final Brix is a bit misleading because the alcohol distorts the readings a bit. With the help of the internets, I was able to correct for that distortion, and all seemed well. I also took a hydrometer reading, which came out a little lower than reported above, thus the beer might be slightly stronger than expected (but still around 4.5% ABV).

Another point of interest is that I primed the beer with around 2.5 oz. corn sugar, about half the normal dose. The style is typically not very highly carbonated, so I didn’t want to overdo the priming sugar. Hopefully this will work out to create something with enough carbonation, but still smooth and quaffable. The beer actually tasted ok right now, even in its relatively flat form, so I think a minimum of carbonation would suit this nicely.

That about covers this beer. It’s been an interesting exercise and I can’t wait to taste the final product in a couple weeks. Next up will be a Belgian-style dubbel, though I’m not entirely sure when I’ll get to that and we’re starting to get to the warmer months of the year, where fermentation temperature will get more difficult to control…

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog and Tempest in a Teacup)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #8: Earl Grey Bitter

So I’ve had this crazy idea for a while. I like beer. I like earl grey tea. Why not combine the two? The thing that makes Earl Grey tea distinctive is bergamot, which is a sorta orange-like citrus fruit. Very nice aroma and flavor, as evidenced by the famous earl grey tea. I love a little citrus in my beer, so my first thought was that I should just go out and buy some bergamot oil, and add a tsp or two to the wort towards the end of the boil. Unfortunately, food grade bergamot oil is not as common as I thought. Everything I found was for aromatherapy or skincare – for external use only. Now, I didn’t exactly want to make tea beer, but it looks like that’s what I’m going to end up doing. And in fact, I had some Stash Double Bergamot tea laying around, so I figured I could use that to impart some bergamotty character (with the tea hopefully being drowned out by all the malt and hops and whatnot).

The next question was what to use for the base beer. In looking around, I see that I’m not the first person to think of this idea, but other folks seemed to be doing this with something like a Belgian Wit beer. This would certainly highlight the bergamot and tea flavors in the finished product, but I didn’t want a beer dominated by those flavors, so I looked around at some other options. Since I was making an Earl Grey beer, I thought I should try to use an English style as the base. This was also in keeping with my recent affinity for lower gravity beers (or, at least, non-face-melting beer), and I eventually settled on the English Bitter style. The name is a bit of a misnomer – these are not super-bitter beers, though perhaps there’s more hop character than usual for low ABV styles. Still, it seems like a beer that would take on the nice flavors of the bergamot and tea without being overwhelmed either way. In searching around, I found this nice kit from Northern Brewer called The Innkeeper, which sounds rather awesome. I added in some of my tea and, for good measure, some Bitter Orange Peel that I had leftover from previous beers. Here’s the final recipe:

Beer #8: Earl Grey Bitter

March 10, 2012

4 Bags Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea

0.25 lb. English Extra Dark Crystal (specialty grain)

0.25 lb. Belgian Biscuit Malt (specialty grain)

3.15 lb. Pilsen LME

1 lb. Pilsen DME

1 lb. Corn Sugar

1 oz. US Fuggle (Bittering @ 5.2% AA)

1 oz. UK Kent Goldings (Bittering/Flavor @ 5.8% AA)

1 oz. Styrian Goldings (Aroma)

1 tsp. Bitter Orange peel

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

It’s a mildly unusual recipe to start with and I’m adding my own unusual elements too. Here’s to hoping it turns out well. I started by bringing 2.5 gallons of water to around 150°F – 155°F, then I began steeping both the specialty grains and 3 of the tea bags (I was reserving one for the end of the boil). My hope was that adding the tea this early in the process would yield an interesting, but not overpowering flavor to the beer (after all, I imagine a lot of the character will be lost in the boil). I only steeped the tea for about 5 minutes, leaving the grains to steep for another 15 or so minutes.

Brought the mixture to a boil, added all of the malt extract and corn sugar, waited (again) for it to return to boiling, then added the Fuggle hops. The strangest thing about this recipe is that the second hop addition comes a mere 15 minutes later. This seems like it would provide more bittering than flavor, but I assume both will be present in the finished product (normally flavor hops are added no less than 30 minutes into the boil, as the flavor compounds are lost after long boils). Finally, with about 5 minutes left, I added the Styrian Goldings. About a minute later, I added the last teabag (though I didn’t keep it in the whole time – in retrospect, I should have probably just made a cup of tea separately, then poured it into the boil). And while I was at it, I threw in some bitter orange peel, just to amp up the citrus a bit (in case the tea didn’t provide it).

Off to the ice bath for cooling, which is something I think I’ve got a better handle on these days. I think some of the issues with my early beers were partially due to poor temperature control. And I’d guess that part of the reason my last few batches have come out so much better is that I’ve gotten much better about cooling the wort in an ice bath (I use much more ice now, basically, and it helps that I’m doing this during late winter, when I can open my windows and drop the room temperature quickly). Anyways, got this stuff down to about 80°F – 90°F, strained it into the bucket, and topped off with some room temperature and cold water, bringing final volume up to 50 gallons.

Apparently one of the things that makes this recipe distinctive is the yeast, which seems to have relatively low attenuation (certainly lower than the American and Belgian yeast strains I’ve been using of late), but given the relatively low gravity nature of the recipe, and the sizeable simple sugar addition, I think the result will still be dry enough. The yeast was packaged on 1/16/12, so it’s relatively fresh.

Original Gravity: 1.042 (around 10°Bx). I got sick of using my hydrometer, so I invested in a fancy new refractometer. Unfortunately, I got the variety that only displays measurements in Brix, but the conversion is somewhat straighforward and I have an easier time reading this than my hydrometer. The gravity came in a little below the target, but it should be fine. If all goes well, this should produce a beer at around 4% ABV (maybe even less). Given the alcohol and simple sugar addition, I’m looking at a light (in body, not color), quaffable beer. Fingers crossed.

I plan to bottle in about two weeks time (could probably do so earlier because of the low gravity, but I’ll keep it at two weeks). Since the style isn’t supposed to be heavily carbonated, I’ll probably end up using less priming sugar than usual, maybe 2-3 oz (as opposed to 5). Next up in the brewing adventures will be a Belgian style dubbel, though I need to do some work to figure out a good recipe for that one. After that, who knows?

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog and Tempest in a Teacup)

Tasting Notes – Part 5

Yet another edition of Tasting Notes, a series of quick hits on a variety of topics that don’t really warrant a full post. So here’s what I’ve been watching/playing/reading/drinking lately:

Television

  • Fringe – I posted about the first couple seasons a while ago, but I’ve recently caught up with Season 3 and most of Season 4. To my mind, the show really came into its own in Season 3. What started out as unfocused and aimless has very slowly evolved into a tight, well-plotted series in season 3. I’m not sure I’d call it great, but Season 3 was a lot of fun. There are some ridiculous things about the series as a whole, and that’s still there, but it all seemed to be worked out in the third season. Season 4, on the other hand, seems to have taken a few steps backward. It’s actually very disorienting. Everything from the first three seasons is now unclear and less important. This was probably their intention, but I’m not entirely sure I like it. I mean, we’ve spent three seasons getting to know these characters, and now we’re in yet another alternate universe with the same characters, but they’re all slightly different. I’m not ready to give up on the show or anything, but it seems like the show is back on its unfocused track…
  • Netflix Watch Instantly Pick of the Week: Terriers – This is an interesting series. It was cancelled after the first season… and while I can see why (the film is almost incessantly anti-mainstream, often finishing off episodes on a down note), I did still enjoy watching the series.

Movies

  • The Secret World of Arrietty – Solid Studio Ghibli film. Not perfect, but well worth a watch and very different than typical American animated fare. Here’s my question – what’s with the title? It’s so weird and unapproachable, whereas the source material, a book called The Borrowers, seems much more appropriate and marketable. This just makes no sense to me. (I suppose one could also quibble about the term “borrowers” since that implies that the goods will be returned, which doesn’t happen either. There’s actually an interesting discussion to be had here about what constitutes theft/stealing in the world set up in this book/movie.)
  • Act of Valor – A very… strange movie. I don’t quite know what to make of this. It stars actual, active-duty Navy SEALs and… they are clearly not actors. Any scenes with dialogue are a little on the painful side, and it doesn’t help that they keep talking about their families and how they can’t wait to get back to their family and isn’t being a father great? I’d give a spoiler warning for what happens here, but it’s pretty damn obvious from, oh, the first 5 minutes in the movie what’s going to happen at the end. All that being said, the action sequences are very well done and seemingly authentic, though there are a number of scenes shot to resemble a FPS video game. For the first time ever, I think it actually works in this movie, though it’s still a little strange to see movies and video games blending together like that.
  • Netflix Watch Instantly Pick of the Week: Gambit – Classic heist film starring a very young Michael Caine as a burglar who hires Shirley MacLaine to help rob one of the richest men in the world. Caine’s got a great plan, but of course, things rarely go as planned. Or does it? Tons of twists and turns in this one; very entertaining and satisfying. Highly recommended. (Update: Well, shit, Netflix apparently took it off Instant Streaming… and they don’t even have a DVD for the thing. It is on Amazon Instant though…)

Video Games

  • Shadow of the Colossus – I finished Ico a while ago and I loved it. I’ve since moved on to the other Team Ico game, Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve actually played this before, but I never finished it. The HD remix that’s available on the PS3 now is actually quite nice, though the game still seems a bit stunted to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got great production design and an interesting structure (basically 16 boss fights and that’s it), but some of the puzzles (i.e. how to defeat each Colossus) are a bit too obtuse, and once you figure them out, it can still be a huge pain to actually defeat your opponent. It just seems like sometimes the game is giving you busy-work just for the sake of doing so… That being said, I’m determined to actually finish the game off, and I am kinda looking forward to the next Team Ico game, which should be coming out sometime this year.
  • Upcoming Video Gamery: Mass Effect 3 came in the mail this week, and I’m greatly looking forward to it. It took me a while to get into part 2, but once I got there, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m a little intrigued by the fact that my character/team from the second game can be transferred to this third game. Not sure how dynamic that makes things, but I guess we’ll find out.
  • Other Video Gamery: I’ve played a little Soul Calibur V, and fighting games remain inscrutable for me. I can get some of the basics down, but once I get into the more advanced maneuvers/enemies, I fall apart pretty quickly, and the game doesn’t seem to do a very good job teaching you the more advanced aspects of combat. At this point, I have more fun creating custom characters than actually fighting. I also got a copy of Resistance 3, which is just another FPS with aliens and guns and big explosions and stuff. What can I say, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.

Books

  • Of the eleven books posted in my last Book Queue, I’ve read 5. I’ve only got two books left in Lois McMaster Bujold’s excellent Vorkosigan Saga, and I’ve posted about some of the other books I’ve read.
  • I’m currently finishing off Shamus Young’s Witch Watch, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
  • I may end up finishing off the Vorkosigan books next, but I’m also quite looking forward to famous security wonk Bruce Schneier’s latest book, Liars & Outliers. It promises to be informative and level-headed look at “trust” from a security professional’s standpoint.

The Finer Things

  • I’ve had lots of great beer recently, but I’ll just link over to my beer blog rather than repeat myself here. I’ve been updating that blog much more often than I ever thought I would, and it’s been a lot of fun. Check it out!
  • I think I’ll be posting on Sunday about my next Homebrew. I had originally planned to make it an “Earl Grey” beer, but it turns out that food-grade Bergamot oil is somewhat hard to come by (most of what you can find is made for external use). I may still end up getting some flavor from a few teabags of Earl Grey, but it will probably be less prominent than originally planned. Again, more details to come.

And that’s all for now…

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #7: Bottling

After two weeks in the fermenter, I bottled the single-hopped Simcoe IPA this past weekend. Fermentation started quickly and lasted most of the first week, despite the small batch. About a week into the process, when fermentation had slowed considerably, I cracked the lid and dropped in another ounce of Simcoe hops. I’ve never done dry hopping before, but it’s supposed to impart additional aromas to the beer…

And judging from the smell in my kitchen during bottling day, I’d say that extra step was worth the stretch! Amazing citrus aromas (grapefruit!), not quite as much in the way of pine, but still a great smell.

Final Gravity was 1.012, which is a little lower than expected, but it could also be that low because the Original Gravity wasn’t as high as I estimated. That being said, I’d say I’m in for something around 7-7.3% ABV, right at the high end of a single IPA (or the low end of the Double IPA). I gave it a taste, and hoo boy, that citrus is huge. Very nice bitterness in the finish too, though I’m guessing that will mellow out as the beer conditions in the bottle. I’m so very looking forward to this beer! There’s nothing quite like a super-fresh IPA, and this is probably as fresh as I’ll ever get to taste…

My IPA, straight from the fermenter

I’m planning on cracking one open this weekend, though who knows if it will be carbonated enough. I only got around 1 case of beer out of this batch, but then hugely hopped beers fade with time, so having a case should last just long enough.

Up next is what I’m calling an Earl Grey beer. The base beer will be a sessionable English Bitter (which is a style that has always confused me, since they’re not actually that bitter), and I’ll be adding some Bergamot oil towards the end of the boil (and maybe even some Earl Grey tea). Should be interesting! After that, I’m going to start working on my Belgian Dubbel for this summer…

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)