Archive for December, 2016

Brewed: Carrot Top

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Life is full of memories, not always good, not always bad, with many somewhere in-between. One of my memories growing up was the color of my brother’s and my hair. It was bright red, almost orange in color. It was an easy target for kids of my generation to poke fun at; growing up in the 70s it seems like there wasn’t much needed in order to do so and it wasn’t looked down upon.

Red hair sticks out. When it is orange at the beginning of the school year, after a summer of natural summer sun bleaching, the red and blonde hues blend to a bright orange. It almost glowed.

It didn’t take long for a myriad of nicknames to fly our way. Since my brother was older, the nicknames were already in place and known before I showed up at school. “Carrot top” was the one that I remember most. It is the one that, at the time, I think I least liked. But in hindsight, who gives a shit. It is a memory that I will have forever.

As I have grown older, I don’t get the highlights in my hair I used to (tons of skin damage – yuck) and it is turning gray. No one will mistake me for a carrot top but I am one still at heart. This beer is for all those red heads that have found their way on the back side of nickname. Enjoy!

Home Brewing Carrot Top Amber Ale

I have been brewing North East India pale ales (NEIPA) for the past few months (The Dude, The Train Man, Baller, and Used to name a few.). I have been trying to become more intimate with style. I have tried many different hops and changes to the brewing process. It has been quite the tasty experience.

I decided to take some of the NEIPA brewing processes and apply them to an American amber ale. I wanted enough malt to hold up the amber ale while getting a hoppier, non-bitter, aromatic beer. The beer needed to have the mouthfeel to hold up the style but allow clean hop flavors to shine.

Mosiac and centennial seemed to be two well suited hops that should/would play nicely together. Layered crystal malts would lend enough maltiness, sweetness and light caramel notes to remind the drinker of the malt backbone the style was once built upon. A touch of chocolate malt to give color, while oats would add to the body with some creaminess. A mash temperature at 154*F should help the body as well. An American yeast, S-05, should round the beer out nicely.

Excited to have this one in the glass as it sounds like it should be darn tasty.

Recipe for Carrot Top Amber Ale

General Information:
Brew Date: Monday, December 26, 2016
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: S-05, not hydrated
Yeast Starter: none
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.50
Original Gravity: 1.051
Finishing Gravity: 1.008
IBU: 43.9
Color: 12.7 SRM
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Alcohol by Volume: 5.64%
Primary Fermentation: 10 days @68*F

Grain Bill:
9.00 pounds 2-Row
0.50 pounds Crystal 40L
0.50 pounds Oats
0.25 pounds Crystal 20L
3.00 ounces Chocolate Malt

Mash:
Saccharification @154.0*F

Hop Bill:
1.00 ounces 2015 Mosiac @1st wort
0.50 ounces 2015 Centennial @15 minutes
0.50 ounces 2015 Mosiac @15 minutes
2.50 ounces 2015 Centennial @0 minutes, 23 minute hop stand
2.50 ounces 2015 Mosiac @0 minutes, 23 minute hop stand
1.00 ounces 2015 Centennial @dry hop 4 days
2.00 ounces 2015 Mosiac @dry hop 4 days

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

Updates

  • 2016-12-27: (morning) Slow fermentation at 62.1*F. Not on heat blanket.
  • 2016-12-27: (evening) Slow fermentation at 62.3*F. Not on heat blanket.
  • 2016-12-28: (morning) Mild fermentation at 62.7*F. Placed on heat at 68*F.
  • 2016-12-28: (evening) Good fermentation at 67.7*F.
  • 2016-12-29: Slow fermentation at 67.5*F.
  • 2016-12-31: Dry hopped.
  • 2017-01-03: Put in freezer at 38*F.
  • 2017-01-04: Bottled with 3.5 ounces of priming sugar and 2.0 cups of water. 27, 22 ounce bottles. Bottle crown label: CT.
  • 2017-01-24: Tasted The Dude.

Useless Fact: US consumers spend about $5 billion a year on Christmas gifts for their pets.

Brewed: The Dude

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Yes, I always seem to take pictures of the hops I use.

The Dude is a homage to my nine year old son. When he was born, I was on a huge Big Lebowski kick. I couldn’t get enough of the movie. Of course, it was only natural, to bypass his given name and refer to him as Lil’ Dude. I used the nickname so much that family and friends referred to him as Lil’ Dude as well. He was known more by his nickname than his real name.

Now that he is nine, he doesn’t seem so little. He has graduated to just “The Dude”. I enjoy watching him grow up (as I do both of my girls). This beer is named after a fun loving kid that enjoys video games, basketball and playing with friends.

Home Brewing The Dude IPA

Another IPA (seems like a hybrid: APA (American Pale Ale) an IPA (India Pale Ale)).

There were two changes I was going to make to this beer: water and a complex hop profile. I was finally going to use the reverse osmosis system that I received for my birthday in October. My plan was simple: cut the brew day water in half, 50% tap, 50% reverse osmosis. This wasn’t a complex plan or overly thought out. It was somewhat easy. I have tried to read books and forums on water but it seems to bounce of the thick skull instead of soaking in. Therefore KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

The second change, complex hop profile, was going to take a bit more thought. Looking up the hop profiles (again and again) helped me to understand the profiles of each hop. Past brewing days and notes also aided in choosing the hops. On hand hops played a role as well.

Eureka and Equinox were definitely going to add quality subtle complexities. Galaxy, Amarillo, Columbus and Mosiac each have big characteristics that add distinct aroma and flavor. Layered the complex nature of the helps should meld well together. Enjoy!

Recipe for The Dude IPA

General Information:
Brew Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2016
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: S-04, not hydrated
Yeast Starter: none
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.50 (boil finished with 6.0 gallons)
Original Gravity: 1.068
Finishing Gravity: 1.010
IBU: 61.3
Color: 4.3 SRM
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Alcohol by Volume: 7.61%
Primary Fermentation: 10 days @68*F

Grain Bill:
6.50 pounds 2-Row
6.50 pounds Pilsner
2.00 pound Oats

Mash:
Saccharification @153.1*F

Hop Bill:
1.00 ounces 2015 Columbus @1st wort
1.00 ounces 2015 Cascade @10 minutes
1.00 ounces 2015 Columbus @10 minutes
1.00 ounces 2015 Amarillo @0 minutes, 25 minute hop stand
1.00 ounces 2015 Cascade @0 minutes, 25 minute hop stand
1.00 ounces 2015 Columbus @0 minutes, 25 minute hop stand
1.00 ounces 2015 Galaxy @0 minutes, 25 minute hop stand
2.00 ounces 2015 Eureka @dry hop 4 days
2.00 ounces 2015 Galaxy @dry hop 4 days
1.00 ounces 2015 Amarillo @dry hop 4 days
1.00 ounces 2015 Equinox @dry hop 4 days
1.00 ounces 2015 Mosiac @dry hop 4 days

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

Updates

  • 2016-12-22: Strong fermentation at 69.8*F. Not on heat blanket.
  • 2016-12-24: Blew off bung. Added new bung and dry hops.
  • 2016-12-27: Put in freezer at 38*F.
  • 2016-12-29: Bottled with 3.6 ounces of priming sugar and 2.0 cups of water. 25, 22 ounce bottles. Bottle crown label: D.
  • 2017-01-22: Tasted The Dude.

Useless Fact: US consumers spend about $5 billion a year on Christmas gifts for their pets.

Tasted: The Train Man

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

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

Monday, December 5th, 2016

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

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

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.

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