Archive for May, 2012

Brewed: Texas Wedge Rye Saison

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
rye malt

Rye Malt

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than making a good ole home brew. I was up early, so I was gathering the necessary equipment by 7:30am with water heating shortly thereafter. I brewed my first Saison, Albatross, back in February (which reminds me that I have to do an official tasting). It was time for another.

I learned a few thing about WLP566 during the first: it likes heat, it likes heat, and it likes heat. I ramped the yeast up to 84 degrees over a few day period. It was down to 1.002 like lightening. Of course I was worried about the flavors and aromas that could be imparted on the beer based on those temperatures but research showed this yeast liked to be pushed to the limit. I comment more about that in an official tasting this weekend.

This second Saison needed some rye. I never brewed with rye, so why not? I have had many beers, covering several styles, that had some amount of rye in them. It seems in all cases I appreciated the beers that had hints of rye profile, not dominated by it. As a good starting point, I settled on 1# (7.1%) in a 5.5 gallon batch. I also decided that two gallons would be bottled after primary while the other three gallons would have some Brettanomyces added (B. bruxellensis and B. claussenii) after primary.

The rye should add some proteins that should enhance mouth feel. I used a higher mash temperature (154 this time versus 148 in the original) as well, but this was to aid in keeping a bit of fermentables for the Brett with hopes of achieving more Brett character. Obviouisly those first two gallons serve as a control for how the rye affected the beer but, more importantly, the ability to not have to wait another month or so for the Brett strains to work their magic.

General Information
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: WLP566 (slurry) B. bruxellensis and B. claussenii after primary
Yeast Starter: none
Batch Size (Gallons): 5.50 (5.25 actual)
Original Gravity: 1.056 (1.049 actual)
Final Gravity: ?
IBU: 29.8
Color: 4.5 SRM
Boiling Time (Minutes): 90
Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Primary Fermentation: 10 days @70*F to 84*F
Secondary Fermentation: 2 months @70*F with Brett strains

Grain Bill:
12.00# Pilsner (Canadian)
1.00# German Rye
1.00# Wheat

Saccharification Rest @ 154*F for 90 minutes.

Hop Bill:
1.50 oz Fuggles (4.5%) @ 90 min
1.00 oz Saaz (3.5%) first wort hop
1.00 oz Saaz (3.5%) @ 0 min

1.0 tsp Irish Moss @ 15 minutes left in boil
1.0 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 minutes left in boil

I did run out of Pilsner malt before hitting 12#; I used about 1.5# of 2-Row to augment. This is one that I can’t wait to taste. Enjoy!

2012-06-01 – Up at 84*F for about 24 hours, still a bubble in the air lock every two seconds. Nice fruity esters have adorned the fermentation room the past few days.

2012-09-23 – Bottled the last three gallons that had been sitting on Brettanomyces bruxellensis and claussenii.

Useless Fact: The dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle.

Essay’s on Failure: Ignorance v Imagination

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Ignorance can be defined as a lack of knowledge.

Imagination is act of forming a mental image never before perceived.

In my previous essay I established that failure is a reoccurring theme in my brewing.  Specifically I discussed the knowledge a brewer learns can be flawed, and I touched upon the notion that the speculations a brewer makes can also be flawed.  I wanted to elaborate more on this second point.  The speculations a brewer makes can also be limited by his imagination.

There is a vast realm of information out there for brewers to draw from- some of it is wrong, and that’s a stumbling block.  However a lot of it’s right, the styles are combinations of ingredients that ‘taste good.’- they sell.

And yet there is a larger world- an undiscovered beer country!  The beer styles are a product of time and location.  Technology and regional ingredients coming together to produce something that tastes good, a ‘style’.  Having learned ‘this works’, there isn’t much motivation to do more.  The English built the English Bitter and it sold- the end.   The Germans built an Octoberfest- it sold- the end.  Make more of this!

All these things were figured out in the past and they are the cumulative history that present brewers can learn from, but how does one find this undiscovered beer country?  They have to enter the world of ignorance, the places where there is a lack of knowledge- they have to use their imagination to discover something new!

Dark malts have existed for a long time, so have IPA’s, but only recently was the Cascadian Dark named an official style.  The idea, of making an IPA and putting dark malt in it- just hadn’t occurred.  Or it maybe it happened, but nobody sold it.  In the cumulative history of mankind, this beer is ‘new’.

And for every new style that is developed, how many failures are there?  Who knows, a lot, more than a lot!  One of the things about my brewing is I have an interest in exotic ingredients.  I want to understand what they contribute to a beer.  I do this because I want to make beer that I can’t buy at the store.

Consider that once upon a time there were seasonal beer, regional beers.  They were specific to a region because that’s the only place you could get this malt, or hop, or spice.  Seasonal because these ingredients were only available this time of year.  Historically beer might be common, but specific beers were time and place specific.  This is no longer the case, you could if you wanted, find a Christmas beer on the Fourth of July.  A Trappist Ale in Jamacia.  It could happen.

To make something rare or exotic, one has to enter the realm of ignorance and pack a lot of imagination.   Fool around with ingredients no one uses, or in a combination no one tries, see what happens.  Maybe someone did discover this tastes terrible, that it won’t sell.  The problem is, there isn’t a lot of documentation on what won’t work- just what will.

Since I want to find something rare in a world that has made beer common, I pursue unusual ingredients.  Sometimes with success, but many are terrible.  I’ve made a Dandelion beer (tastes like dirt, smells like lawn), and cough drop beer (tastes like menthol) , yarrow and oak  gruit (tastes like wet tree).  None of these will earn me the title of a style developer.  They are just bad- failures.

However, like my other failures I am learning from them.  I’m putting together an arsenal of unusual ingredients.  I can see a day making a Christmas ‘warmer’ that makes “the nose tingle”, the secret ingredient- a cough drop!

If every bad beer is an expression of ignorance, it is also an opportunity to improve your next beer!  The next time you make something terrible.  Tell everyone, ask them what’s wrong with it.  Take notes, drink several bottles yourself.  Take more notes.  Detail what is off and what is right.  Don’t focus on the good elements, consider the bad.  Think creatively, use your imagination.  Could these off flavors ever help a beer?  In some styles they might!  Is your beer sour?  There are sour beers!  Can your brew this again intentionally as a sour?  Is it to sweet?  There are sweet beers, can you do this again?  To dry, when is that appropriate?  All the bad things can be good- if you can imagine an use for them!

For more info visit

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Torpedo

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
sierra nevada brewing company torpedo

Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Torpedo by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has spent a long time being neglected by me. I purchased a bottle several weeks ago as part of a “you make your own six pack” crap. Sierra Nevada always makes good beers but, for some reason, I just find myself purchasing them all that often. Don’t know why. Could be they have been around for a while and I prefer trying to give the new kids on the block a try.

The pour brings a deep gold pour with a white foam that has above average staying power, leaving dry, sticky lacing behind. The aroma is hop forward, earth and spice are the front runners with a dash of citrus splashed in. The taste follows adding grassy hops to the mix along with a light sweetness that seems to be more of an after thought as the malts are subdued. Crisp and refreshing with only a mild build up of bitterness.

Torpedo is a crisp, refreshing, easy to drink IPA that will be especially good all summer long. I waited way to long but glad I didn’t wait any longer. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Pinocchio is Italian for “pine head.”

Essay’s on Failure

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Failure can be defined as a lack of success.  A Failure, is then a person who lacks success.

Most of my beers can be described as failures, but I do not define myself as a Failure.  To explain why I can consistently fail, but reject the title of failure I need to explain how one becomes a brewer.

A person, for numerous reasons finds their interest in beer moving beyond drinking “Beer”, into the world of craft beer.  There is more than one kind of beer- there are styles, and within a style, there are many versions, many interpretations of that style.  And some kind of curiosity combines with hands on activity, and person realizes they want to try making beer.

Then this person needs to learn how to do it.  Yes a person can learn from a book.  They can buy a video, or watch something on line, but given the many actions that are occurring, the many minute details that need to be hit- in order, at specific times, most people seek out a teacher.

The process of making beer is simple, it is easy, but with no previous knowledge, it is incredibly intimidating.  The teacher, might be a community college class, or a Big Brew Day event, or a local club sponsored gathering.  Maybe it’s just a neighbor, but one person shows another the various parts of the brew day, and that act is how most people learn to brew.

And I am getting to a point.  While a book, or a video, or an on-line app can try to show you the way, nothing is as effective as being there, in person, going through the motions, seeing brewing done, and doing it.  Like muscle memory, this work through it, under the guidance of another is the fastest easiest way to learn.  That sort of learning is the oldest kind of learning, it is the oral tradition and it’s as old as beer.

This act of talking it through as you brew has numerous advantages.  The student can see, act, and ask questions.  The teacher, in the moment can explain, clarify, and guide the student.  Many nuanced issues can be addressed as the moment allows that a chronological book, video, or app can’t address.  The teacher is incredibly important to the novice brewer.

And yet… the teacher might be full of shit.

I was taught how to brew by a great friend who in turn was taught by one of his friends.  He taught me that when you drop your first hops, you need to boil it 60 minutes, then you drop your second hops and boil it 30 minutes, and then you drop your final hops and boil it 15 minutes.  This is how he was taught and this is how I learned to brew.  My first beer had a 105 boil because that’s how my friend was taught to brew.

Only when I bought my first book and read it and re-read it, and re-read it again did I e-mail my friend and humbly ask him if  he might be wrong.  Maybe the entire boil is suppose to be 60 minutes and 30 minutes into the boil, you drop the second hops, 45 minutes into the boil you drop the last- the total boil time is 60- not 105?

His first response was I was wrong.  Eventually he asked on line and he was told he was wrong, but because he had been taught that erroneous method- there was this emotional attachment and he said something like, “Some people do it that way.”  A reluctant, “I’m wrong.”  Not based on pride, but based on trying adjust what he was taught was true with what he learned is true.

As a brewer, I spend a lot of time trying to determine what I was taught was true with what is in fact true.  There are many instances where I feel like I am reinventing the wheel.  I feel many young brewers do this.  They can’t simply take your word on something.  If a little Black Patent is good, then a lot must be better.

I can’t fault brewers that ignore my advice, because I ignore the advice of other brewers all the time.  And here’s my point, that choice- to ignore the advice of others, causes me to fail often.  Having said this, I reject the premise that I am a failure, because I am learning.  I am learning what is true and what is not true.

Many brewers pass on false information.  Many brewers speculate on issues they don’t know anything about, or assume extremes that never occur.  As a brewer I’m curious, I want to separate fact from fiction.  Most of the time I find facts- more Black Patent isn’t always better.  Occasionally I find fictions- “Squeezing the Bag” probably won’t hurt the beer.

I suspect that most of my material will be Essay’s online on Failure, a “What Not to Do” as a brewer.  However, once in a Blue Moon- I might get something right.  When your not laughing at my failures, you might learn something from my successes.

Brewed: Duck Hook and Grass Cutter

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I was a bachelor this weekend. The wife and kids were out of town (and sorely missed) for the entire weekend. What to do? I got it: home brew! What to brew was a simple question. Saturday brew an Americanized Belgian Wit for the wife and, Saturday, brew up two IPAs. Each with the same base but highlighting a different. In this case Citra and Nelson Sauvin.

The trick with the double batch of IPA on Sunday was having enough equipment and not having a brew day that was more than 8 hours long. Chuck was willing and able to lend a hand, bringing over a burner, kettle, chiller, and a couple of other pieces of equipment. The plan was to get one batch boiling while starting the mash for the second. It was determined that Chuck and I would have to be doing different tasks from each other throughout the brew day in order to pull this off cleanly. For example, while one is chilling the first batch of beer, the other could be doing the sparge(s) on the second batch.

With both of the IPAs I did a first wort hopping, which was a first for me. Chuck had been doing for while but I wanted to make sure of the level of bitterness from that practice before jumping in (ever the cautious brewer). The aroma on the Citra version while chilling the beer was utterly fantastic (we chilled it in an enclosed area). The Nelson Sauvin version wasn’t as aromatic but this was chilled in the garage with the door open and a slight breeze.

We didn’t hit the expected gravity from the brew sheet but the gravity of both beers, pre- and post-boil, were exactly the same. At least I know my process is the same.

Unusual for Chuck and I as the day did go as planned. Ridiculously simple and clean. We were done with both beers in seven hours (two five gallon batches), including clean up.

Returning back to Saturday: Grass Cutter Wheat Ale was the brew of the day. This is a beer I have many times in the past, less so recently. The wife has taken a liking to an American Pale Ale that I brewed, asking for it rather than the wheat. I guess she was in the mood. This beer uses 0.3 ounce of freshly ground coriander and the fresh zest of two oranges. Like I mentioned an Americanized wit beer: the ingredients and yeast are all American. Outside of the boil pushing my post boil volume to under five gallons the day was a success.

During the brewing process of Grass Cutter, I also racked Double Bogey to secondary. It has already been a month since I brewed it, so it was time to move into a clean carboy and the 60 degree chill of the basement for a few months. The gravity reading put me at 1.022 which should put this beer on the done side and potentially the dry side. Enjoy!

2012-07-28: Official IPA tasting – I know I am damn slow on these things.

Useless Fact: Penguins can jump as high as 6 feet in the air.

Brett Backspin Belgian Pale Ale Bottled

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

backspin belgian pale ale

I am sick, again. Seems to be the theme of my life for the past six months. It has been a rough bout with just about every cold ailment imaginable. This series of ailments has also slowed down the progress on the home brewing front: I haven’t brewed but I am catching up with some aging beers.

Brett Backspin was brewed back in February as my second attempt attempt at a Belgian Pale Ale. The beer finished at 1.007, I realize it could maybe drop a bit more, but felt that 9 weeks at 68 degrees Fahrenheit was enough, I wanted to taste it. I did drink a bit of the beer that I used to pull the gravity. The beer is subtle, easy to drink, and carries an ABV of 5.7%. I can’t wait for carbonation to finish so that I can give it a real taste.

This was a long day of bottling because of how the dish washer works and not really paying attention to the setting for the dishes that were in there to start originally. I am trying to use this occasion to get the wife into allowing me to pick up some kegs and get started down that path.

Coming up: this weekend I am a bachelor and brewing both Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: In 1221, Genghis Khan killed 1,748,000 people at Nishapur in one hour.