Tasted: The Dude

January 22nd, 2017 by scot

The first NEIPA (New England India Pale Ale) that I used some reverse osmosis water. It also marks the largest number of different hops, seven, and the first time I used all 2015 hops.

I don’t know if the combination of water profile and fresh(er) hops lead to a solid home brew or the combination of both. I will say, that going forward, I will be using 50% reverse osmosis water or more when making any IPA.

Fresher hops also makes sense. I still have seven pounds of 2015 hops to blow through before I even think about 2016 hops. At the rate of hop usage that will be another 6 – 8 IPAs. My taste buds are waters. Time to get another recipe ready.

Look:Pale gold in color. Covered by full inch of snow white foam; thin but somewhat frothy on top. Great retention, leaving behind immediate and coating lacing before even titling the glass for a sip. Good looking beer in the glass.

Aroma: A light, sweet malt backbone isn’t supposed to be the center of the aroma; it isn’t. Ripe fruits abound: mango, pineapple, apricot, citrus, and pine.

Taste: The taste follows the nose. Big hops and minimal sweet malt backbone. Citrus (orange) and tropical fruits foremost. Hints of grapefruit and pine. Nary much bitterness.

Body: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Dry body.

Overall: One-upped myself as I believe this is the another quality NEIPA. The mix of hops goes well together as well as providing depth of aroma and flavor. Still trending to the high end of the carbonation profile. Might need a bit more body as well,

Used a full breath of hops in this beer. It paid. Peeking at the three week in the bottle range. Need to drink quickly. Someone has to sacrifice Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Caodaism is a Vietnamese religion that worships Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, and Muhammad.

Tasted: The Train Man

December 6th, 2016 by scot

the train main

Azacca is the focal point of this IPA: a new hop profile for me. I could only predict what I thought might happen rather than have confidence in a known outcome. Probably not the smartest to pair it a beer with three pounds of rye: what is the actual profile of the hop? felt the rye should play nicely with the supposed tropical fruit and, especially, the citrus profile of Azacca.

I have brewed other rye centered beers: Rye IPA, Texas Wedge Rye Saison (multiple times), and tasted some commercial beers along the way. It seems that my palate has yearned for more rye. This the reasoning behind the three pounds of rye.

The Train Man Review

Look: Pours a cloudy gold orange. Inch of whit foam. Retention is what is expected of the styles: loiters for bit before receding almost completely. Sticky lacing that coats the sides of the glass throughout.

Aroma: Tropical, orange with back-end rye. Mango, pineapple and grapefruit are distinguishable. Light pepper.

Taste: Rye throughout. Juicy mango, pineapple and orange citrus are boldest. Rye pushes through late, lingering almost like a bitterness. More pepper as it warms, especially in the finish: rye and columbus.

Drinkability: Medium body. Spritzy carbonation. Dry. Low bitterness.

Overall: Smooth beer. Great hop profile. Rye adds nice complexity. Azacca is an all-star. Low bitterness is stepped up by the rye. Really nice beer.

Hands down, azacca is a solid hop. I am glad that I paired this hop with rye. An amazing combo with the columbus syncing with the rye. I will have to brew this beer up again, shortly. After re-reading the review I gave rye ipa earlier this year, I really need to ramp up my rye beer production. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Movie theater popcorn costs more per ounce than Fillet Mignon, the price of Popcorn is more than 1200% higher than its production cossts.

Tasted: Baller IPA

December 5th, 2016 by scot

Baller IPA is the third attempt at northeast india pale ale (NEIPA). It is also my second NEIPA tasting in as many days: Used IPA.

This beer had more big additions of 2014 hops. This time a combination of Citra and Simcoe. I have heard over and over again that Citra makes a crappy beer taste good, therefore there should never be a bad beer that has used Citra hops.

This makes my third attempt at an NEIPA seemingly an easy home run. Let’s get to the review…

Look:Pale gold to straw in color. Not opaque but cloudy from the hops, darkening the beer. Half inch of pure white foam covers. Not much lacing or retention.

Aroma: Strong hop presence. Mango, pineapple and citrus are bullies. Touch of malt sweetness.

Taste: Bitterness is a little stiff for the style but quickly subdues on the second or third sip after the palate has been crushed. Tropical and citrus fruit abound. Malt backbone is minimal. More citra forward.

Body: Medium body. Medium carbonation. After the juiciness of the hops subsides, the beer is on the dry side.

Overall: Easily the best NEIPA to date. Needs more balance. Need to cut down on the carbonation for the next few attempts. Solid drinking beer with a huge hop flavor and aroma profile.

Definitely a beer to grow on and reassurance that I am heading in the right direction. Still, not a perfect beer due to my brew day issues with my mill, gravity and hop utilization. Another solid Citra beer. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates mating by ripping the male’s head off.

Worst Day of Home Brewing

December 4th, 2016 by scot

home brewing sour beers

I have been home brewing up tasty (or not) beers for the past eight years. During a period from 2011 through early 2014, I spent a big part of my time researching, formulating, and brewing wild ales. I had the sour itch and I had it bad.

After buying duplicate plastic home brewing items to keep them form contamination, I decided it was time to take a chance on a Brett beer.

Throughout those early attempts, I used the usual suspects that could be obtained from Wyeast and/or White Labs: bruxellensis, claussenii, lambicus (my least favorite), trois (when it was considered Brett and not Sacch). As well as the different flemish blends.

Most of the Brett beers were takes on Belgian saison and pale ales and mashed in the high 140s. I tried using Sacch first, then adding Brett in secondary. I tried building up a Brett starter, pitching 100% Brett in primary. I even did a straight pitch of Brett without a starter, trying to stress the yeast in order to get more character out of the yeast. Most of my experiences were positive.

I was the first one in the home brew club that was even looking at Brett. I was the only customer at the home brew shop asking about the wild stuff. I was radical. I was cool. I didn’t know shit!

What was beyond Brett?

Shortly thereafter, I wanted more. I wanted more microbes. I wanted more sour. I needed more complexity. How to get it. After reading his blog, among other sources, and emailing many times with The Mad Fermentationist, I sought out some East Coast Yeast.

After many attempts to get the Bug Farm, one fine day I landed a vial. I was ready for my first lambic. It was actually the start of multiple purchases of East Coast Yeast, allowing me to try different styles and different techniques. Being on their mailing list had some advantages; for a while. I had now graduated to craft yeast and turbid mashes.

On Top of American Wild Ales?

I was proud of the fact that I had 10 or so carboys in one state or another of aging wild beer. I would go down and look at those carboys. I would boast to people that I had all these carboys making magic elixirs in the basement.

I imagined what these beers would taste like. They would be perfectly balanced. Blended well. Almost perfect.

I had added blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries to a blend of two years of lambic. I had two different Flanders browns, one Flanders red, plus other Brett combinations. It was a small piece of Belgium in my basement.

What Went Wrong with my Home Brewed Sours?

Life. My kids are growing up and all active in one level or another with basketball. We are a basketball family. My wife and I love the sport. We have tried to pass our passion down to our kids while relating basketball (and any sport) to real life. Connecting sport to life is important to me. Having the kids understand hard work, motivation, determination, and pushing through when the chips are down are lessons they will carry throughout life, giving them the tools to succeed.

The basketball affliction has taken it’s toll on the amount of time I have to devote to home brewing. Long weekends at AAU basketball tournaments only allow me to try new craft beers but not brew and not maintain, like I should, the beers faded away.

Via neglect, the sanitized water evaporated, allowing oxygen to permeate into the beers. I knew it was happening. I had lost interest. My focus was on family. The disillusion of Belgium in the basement eroded to the hope that maybe one beer would be okay, maybe.

Pouring out 3+ years of work in the form of 30+ gallons of colored vinegar wasn’t what I set out to do. Unfortunately, it is what I accomplished.

There are so many mixed emotions about the experience. I could ramble on but I will pull back here. Time to move on.

What’s Next?

I have been a fan of hops since I started home brewing. I have stocked up some eight pounds of hops (that is a lot of five gallon batches, even when using 12 – 16 ounces at a time). I will stay the course, for now, with my hoppy beers. The last few have been successful: Baller IPA and The Train Man. The success of these recent home brews is welcomed in order to keep my imagination from roaming to a new past time.

I never cultured yeast from store bought examples of sour beers. I really don’t know why. Probably because thoughts of sanitation never crossed my mind while drinking a Russian River 375. If and when I go back into home brewing sour beers, I would like to try doing some culturing.

Now there are many new, small yeast companies producing yeast and bacteria blends (The Yeast Bay, Imperial Yeast, and Omega to name a few). Setting sail in the direction of sour beers shouldn’t be as difficult as it once was. Staying the course might be. Enjoy!

Useless Fact In eighteenth-century English gambling dens, there was an employee whose only job was to swallow the dice if there was a police raid.

Local Take on the New Craze

November 17th, 2016 by Matt Schreiner

So the big thing these days in beer seems to be the Northeast Style IPA. Make it so hoppy your head implodes, make it so hazy you couldn’t see through it with a klieg light, and make it so juicy you won’t have to eat citrus for a month. And the trend has hit Chicago area breweries since the summer. There are too many to name, and although I wish I could try all of them (and I have tried some), this entry will just focus on two I recently brought to a Thursday Night Beer Club.

hailstrom brewing nimbus

BEER ONE: NIMBUS by Hailstorm Brewing out of Tinley Park, canned 9/28/16.

Color was a very cloudy dirty straw/gold. It reminded me of a glass of dark orange juice. The smell was mildly hoppy with slight floral notes. Taste was a slight tang of mildly bitter hops with a slight citrusy backing. Feel was dry, not a big mouth filling beer.
Appearance 4.25
Smell 4
Taste 4.5
Feel 4.25
Overall 4.25
TOTAL 4.29

NOTE ONE: I had this again on tap last week at Sovereign in downtown Plainfield, and I wouldn’t change any of the above notes or ratings.
NOTE TWO: Hailstorm did three of these New England styles (last I checked). I don’t think I have had STRATUS, but I have had CUMULUS and I would highly recommend that one more than Nimbus.

Ram Restaurant and Brewery Juicy

BEER TWO: JUICY by Ram Restaurant and Brewery out of Schaumburg, bought on release date 10/1/16, so canned earlier that week.

It was a much lighter color but also cloudier than the Nimbus. I remember when I had this the first time-it was from a bottle shared with me, and my comment was that it might have been the coolest looking double IPA from the Midwest that I had ever seen (even over every Pipeworks “Fish Series” that I’ve tried). The thing that struck me the most about the appearance was how it had a mass of the smallest bubbles I think I had ever seen in a beer (the canned batch, this wasn’t as present). This had a very healthy thick lacing as well. As for smell and taste, this one has a much stronger hop presence than Nimbus, and the citrus (mostly lemon notes) comes through a lot more, with practically no bitterness. It’s also a thicker, heavier, and creamier beer, but also amazingly smooth. They ran through this quickly at the last release (like most of the special beers they do), so I imagine it’s only going to be just as hard if not harder to get the next time they brew it.

Appearance 5
Smell 4.5
Taste 4.5
Feel 4.75
Overall 4.75
TOTAL 4.61

NOTE: The above numbers were from the first time I had this from a bottle. However, most of the notes were from the recent tasting from can, and I would not change the rating at all. On tap, can, or bottle – TRY THIS BEER!!!

Brewed: The Train Man IPA

November 12th, 2016 by scot

home brew the train man ipa

Ever since I have had my first memories, my Dad has been a O-gauger. In simple speak: he has had an infatuation with trains, specifically O-gague, which defines a size of model trains (1:48 or 7mm:1ft) and is on the rather large size for model railroading. He worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad that was bought out by the Union Pacific. If memory serves me, it was the C&EI before it was the Missouri Pacific. If you want to know more, Dad will fill you in any time, any place. He will talk trains as much as I will talk home brew. The two hobbies don’t mesh well together.

Our basement was full of his trains and a layout, always in one form or another of completeness. I tagged along to monthly train meets: early Sunday morning drives that seemed to last for eternity. Once there, I worked odd jobs, walked through all the tables and wondered how cool it would be to have a layout with one of everything. A kid dreams.

Dad is 80 now. In great shape and spry (I only hope to be as nimble when and if my turn comes at 80). His love for trains has never waned. His layout is more complete than ever. It is realistic. It is beautiful. It is a labor of love. This beer is in honor of the best Dad: a man who never looked the other way when it came to hard work or trying to make a better future for his family. The Train Man.

Home Brewing The Train Man IPA

I have found that I enjoy rye in a beer much more than I enjoy eating rye bread. A mix of rye spice works well with fruity and citrus hops. Azacca, a new hop for me, seemed to be a great place to start. I decide to add Columbus to get an extra spice kick while kicking up the citrus profile. The added IBUs would also assist with balance. The last time I brewed a rye ipa I only used two pounds of rye. I upped it to three here with the idea of pronouncing the rye in the finish even more (writing this also reminds me that I need to brew that rye ipa again).

Leading up to this brew day, I worked on my grain mill to get it better dialed in for higher efficiency. Based on the brew day numbers, I was spot on for the first time in a long time with my gravity. This should help the balance since the bitterness will be a bit more in check.

I am looking forward to this beer. Reusing many of the techniques from Baller IPA, I expect the mix of rye and Azacca to wow me. Enjoy!

Recipe for The Train Man IPA

General Information:
Brew Date: Saturday, November 12, 2016
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: S-05, not hydrated
Yeast Starter: none
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.50
Original Gravity: 1.071
IBU: 49.7
Color: 5.7 SRM
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Alcohol by Volume: 8.4%
Primary Fermentation: 10 days @68*F

Grain Bill:
11.00 pounds 2-Row
3.00 pounds Rye
1.00 pound Carapils
4.00 ounces Caramel 40L

Mash:
Saccharification @149.7*F

Hop Bill:
2.50 ounces 2015 Columbus @1st wort
2.00 ounces 2015 Azacca @1st wort
1.00 ounces 2015 Columbus @45 minutes
1.00 ounces 2015 Columbus @10 minutes
4.00 ounces 2015 Azacca @dry hop 4 days
1.50 ounces 2015 Columbus @dry hop 4 days

Extras:
1.0 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 minutes
1.0 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 minutes
8.0 ounces table sugar @ 15 minutes
4.0 quarts of rice hulls

Updates

  • 2016-11-13: moderate fermentation at 65.8*F.
  • 2016-11-14: morning – moderate fermentation @67.1*F.
  • 2016-11-14: evening – strong fermentation @67.1*F.
  • 2016-11-15: morning – hard fermentation @70.1*F.
  • 2016-11-16: evening – slowing fermentation @67.1*F. Added dry hops: 4.0 ounces 2015 Azacca and 1.5 ounces 2015 Columbus. Placed on heat @70*F to help finish.
  • 2016-11-20: bottled with 3.5 ounces of priming sugar and 2.0 cups of water. 23, 22 ounce bottles. Bottle crown label: TM.

Useless Fact: Al Capone’s business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

Tasted: Used IPA

November 10th, 2016 by scot

used ipa

Used IPA was my initial attempt at an northeast india pale ale (NEIPA). Since brewing this beer, I have added two more NEIPA brew days to my repertoire: Smiles IPA and Baller IPA. Each iteration has been a better beer. This could be due to hops, malt and/or process, as I have changed them each time. I like variety.

When adding 14 ounces of hops to beer, especially Amarillo hops, I expect great things. The vast amount of Amarillo hops was driven by two things: needing to get rid of 2014 hops and Daisy Cutter.

Using up old hops is a no brainer. I don’t feel they lose much in terms of aroma and flavor, in spite of the alpha acid drop off. Keeping them in the freezer in vacuum sealed bags helps keep them fresh as possible.

Being inspired by Daisy Cutter has been on the short since 2009, the first time I tasted the beer. The floral power of Amarillo jumped out at me and ever since I have wanted to brew up a home brew worthy.

Look: Hazy but still able to see through the beer quite well. Pale gold to gold in color. Pure white, wispy looking foam covers. Great staying power. Sporadic lacing throughout.

Aroma: Strong lemon. One dimensional.

Taste: Lemon is strong again. Really the only characteristic that sticks out. Light, clean malt.

Drinkability: Dry finish. Light end of medium body, possibly bigger. Crisp. Low bitterness. Good balance.

Overall: There is nothing off on the base beer, just nothing exciting. The hops are subdued to the nth degree when they should be shining. Could this be a water issue? I know I have hard water. Nevertheless, I learned a bit on the NEIPA process and will revisit going forward.

It could be process. It could be the age of the hops. It could be the change in my palate and nose. No matter, I didn’t get the hop profile from this beer that I was attempting to achieve. After being let down with this beer, I tried the original Daisy Cutter. Not what I remembered. I will only use Amarillo in conjunction with other hops going froward. Enjoy!

Note: looking up Amarillo hops again, interestingly it seems that citrus is now described as the main aroma/flavor with most description not listing floral in the profile. Has the hop changed?

Useless Fact: The name LEGO came from the Danish, “LEg GOdt,” which means “play well.”

Cubs Win 2016 World Series!

November 3rd, 2016 by scot
108 years has been too long of a wait.

108 years has been too long of a wait.

Being a Cub fan my entire life, I never thought this day would come. I thought the curse was real, allowing the team to only smell victory without ever having a chance to taste.

The Cubs, since 1984, have had more chances at the playoffs than they did between 1945, the last time they were in the World Series (my dad was 9) and 1984. The Cubs had been gaining momentum since ’84.

What a wild ride. Emotions were all over the place and Maddon’s decisions to pull pitchers pissed me off. Especially Hendricks and Lester.

I think of all my family and friends that never made it to this day, especially my Uncle Ray, a die hard Cub’s fan. This is for him. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: The cruise liner, Queen Elizabeth II, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

Brewed: Kate the Great Clone

October 21st, 2016 by scot

brewing water heating for mash

Kate the Great is a legendary American craft beer in my book. It was a big, robust stout, released annually by Portsmouth Brewery. The only access I had to the beer was via trades. Matt, a great trading for years, was kind enough to send me back-to-back years of the beer. I had cellared them until recently. I am glad I waited as it was great to get reacquainted with such a fine lady.

I have been fortunate enough to taste Kate the Great on two different occasions:

  • The first, a Tuesday night beer club bottle share in February 2010.
  • The second, a Thursday night beer club get together in the last few months when I attempted to do a mini vertical of the last two years the beer was released.

That first time was magical and I set out to get at least a bottle of my own. Eventually I stored up three bottles; one of those is still in the cellar. Maybe a treat if the Cubs win the World Series.

Formulating a Kate the Great Recipe

After having the beer the last time, I decided there was only one way to potentially taste the beer again: home brewing. Per typical, I turned to homebrewtalk.com for a clone recipe. Something this good had to have been sought out by the large home brewing community.

The huge thread still lingers on today with tons of great feedback. I decided to take the percentages in the first post as the gospel, creating a recipe to those specifications. The amount of dark malt, almost 3 pounds, is an absurd amount in home brewing career.

Home Brewing Kate the Great

Once again, just as I have been and, most recently with Baller IPA, my grain mill was pretty much useless. I had to dump grain at least 10 times to reset the mill as the non-driven roller continues to have a mind of it’s own, moving any which way it desires in spite of being locked down. Many of those times it bound up against the grain hopper, stopping the milling process completely. Frustrating, almost to the point of infuriating. My nine year old’s help was the only thing keeping me from blowing my stack. My efficiency suffered immensely, possibly the lowest percentage wise ever.

The gravity ended up some 20+ points lower than my brewing software predicted.

Outside of the milling process, the brew day went well. I am really taking to the Friday after work brew day. It leaves the rest of the weekend open for family time. Enjoy!

Note: I have reached out the the manufacturer of the mill. He has been very helpful in explaining what I should be able to do to stop my issues. More on this next brew day.

Recipe for Kate the Great

General Information:
Brew Date: Friday, October 21, 2016
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: S-05 (1.8 – since the gravity was so low, should have been over 2), not hydrated
Yeast Starter: none
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.50
Original Gravity: 1.090
IBU: 69.9
Color: 63.9 SRM
Boiling Time (Minutes): 90
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Alcohol by Volume: 11.8% (probably will be in the 10 range?)
Primary Fermentation: 30 days @68*F, condition at ambient basement temperature for two months

Grain Bill:
19.00# Maris Otter
1.00# Roasted Barley
1.00# Special B
14.0 ounces Red Wheat
12.0 ounces Black Patent
12.0 ounces Carafa III
8.00 ounces Flaked Oats
8.00 ounces Caramel 40L
8.00 ounces Aromatic
4.00 ounces Chocolate (Malt)
4.00 ounces Caramel 120L

Mash:
Saccharification @156.2*F

Hop Bill:
2.00 ounce 2014 Magnum @75 minutes
1.00 ounce 2015 Cascade @20 minutes
1.00 ounce 2015 Cascade @5 minutes

Extras:
1.0 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 minutes
1.0 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 minutes
1.0 minute of pure oxygen after racking to carboy
8 quarts of rice hulls

Updates

  • 2016-10-22: slowly fermenting at 65.8*F.
  • 2016-10-23: morning – medium fermentation @68.1*F.
  • 2016-10-23: afternoon – hard fermentation @72.1*F.
  • 2016-10-24: morning – hard fermentation @72.6*F.
  • 2016-10-24: evening – medium fermentation @67.7*F. Added heat blanket set to 70.0*F.
  • 2016-10-26: reduced heat blanket temperature to 68.0*F.

Useless Fact: Ants can accidentally misinterpret the chemical trails left by other ants and start walking in circles. If too many members of the colony join in, it can kill the whole colony in what is sometimes known as the “Death Spiral”.

Tasted: Smiles IPA

October 16th, 2016 by scot

home brew smiles ipa

I continue to stand by my claim that my sense of taste and aroma evolve as more potent version of India Pale Ales (IPAs) hit the craft beer market. This causes my perception of beers gone by to no longer have the same quality of impact. My home brewing is affected by these changed perceptions: I need to increase the hop profile, keeping my senses appetite satiated.

Smiles IPA was my second attempt at a Northeastern style IPA. I used a bit more varied malt profile and multiple type of hops as compared to Used. The hope was to push the hops to 11, allowing my lack of location to the Norther east, to not inhibit my ability to enjoy juicy, ripe IPAs.

The result…

Look: Pours cloudy with a half finger of white, loosely packed bubbled foam. Retention is meager for an IPA. Mildly effervescent.

Aroma: Big, juicy tropical hops abound.

Taste: Taste isn’t as big as the aroma. Tropical fruit is there, less instense. A little of the base malt comes through. Citrus.

Body:
A little on the thin side, only carried by the carbonation. Not oily in spite of the amount of oats. Dry finish.

Overall:
The aroma outshines the taste and, be far, is the best part of this beer. If I was to brew again, I would add more late kettle hops and probably some type of speciality grain to give it more malt character. Too neutral for me.

A better attempt at a Northeastern style IPA than Used. Getting closer but still missing something. Yeast? Hop process? Water profile? Enjoy!

Useless Fact: 93% of the Great Barrier Reef is now damaged by coral bleaching.

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