Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rock Party

My neighborhood had a block party yesterday, for which I provided a keg of Rocky Raccoon (p.210), prepared with help from Marco and Bobby. My neighbor Shawn, who organized the party, promised to forward me at least some of the pictures he took. If there are any good shots of people enjoying homebrew, I'll try to post them here.

I made sure to take the first cup, since I hadn't tried the batch yet, and I wasn't sure if there was anything in the lines (or just in the sediment) that would result in off flavors. It's a good thing that I did, since there was definitely something not right in my first cup. It was still drinkable, but very bitter. Subsequent servings were considerably better, but even after rinsing my mouth a couple of times, my palate was still too affected by the first drink to get a good sense of the batch quality.

My dad had a similar experience between his first two servings, though his first wasn't as off as mine, and didn't seem to bias his palate as much. Everyone else who tried it had nothing but good things to say, and I hopefully have at least one new convert to homebrewing. The only disappointment was that I'd expected a block party to easily tap the entire keg. I estimate about a gallon remaining. For the sake of my ego, I'm going to attribute the "low" consumption to the cooler temperatures — yesterday's high was only 71, which isn't as conducive to drinking as the 77 degrees of just the previous day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Snapping Ginger Ale

(Marco Cavagna and Mike Marsh)

This recipe is inspired by Carribean ginger beer, which is a non-alcoholic beverage with a very strong ginger bite. We've made an alcoholic version of this, which is based on a classic English pale ale with the hop bitterness greatly reduced. The resulting beer is light and crisp, perfect for a hot summer day.

6 lbs. extra light DME
0.5 lbs. #80 crystal malt
1 oz. Kent Golding hops (boil)
1 oz. Saaz hops (finish)
1-1.25 lb. fresh ginger
English ale yeast

Wash the ginger and trim off any bad spots, then shred in the food processor. There's no need to peel the ginger.

Steep the crystal malt for 30 minutes in a gallon to a gallon-and-a-half of water between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Strain the spent grains and add the malt extract, boiling hops, and ginger. Bring to a boil and boil for an hour, adding the finishing hops for the last 10 minutes.

Strain, sparge, cool, and pitch the yeast when the temperature falls below 75 degrees. Since the ginger should dominate the flavor, this doesn't need a long bottle conditioning, and is an excellent candidate for kegging.

This first batch was good, surprisingly so for a very experimental recipe. I thought it could use more ginger (another half pound, at least), and Marco thought it could use more hops. I suspect that the amount of time for which we're boiling the ginger is muting the flavor substantially. The same amount of ginger for a much shorter time, such as the last 10 to 20 minutes of the boil, might result in a stronger flavor. In any case, this will be a fun recipe to play with in future batches.

Vicariously Pale

(Marco Cavagna and Mike Marsh)

6 pounds light DME
1/2 pound #40 crystal malt
2 oz. fuggles hops (boil)
1 oz. kent golding hops (finish)
british ale yeast

Steep crystal malt in about 1 gallon of filtered water for 30 minutes at 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit. Add DME and fuggles hops and boil for 1 hour. Add kent golding hops for last 5 minutes of the boil. Sparge and pitch yeast when temperature reaches 75 degrees.

This invention of ours took a surprisingly short time to finish bubbling, and after bottle conditioning for 2 weeks we were able to give it a try. Our initial impression was that it could use a bit more hops, both in the boil and the finish. It improved substantially after another 2 weeks in the bottle, but we still plan to use more hops for the next time we try this one. Overall, we think this was a pretty solid effort.

Incidentally, the name, "vicariously" refers to 2 weekends ago, when I was on call and couldn't drink. I brought some of this ale over to Mike's and watched him drink it while we brewed Rocky III (more on Rocky III later).