Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Inaugural Batch, Part the First

Since a couple of my professors from grad school are going to be in town for the inauguration, it was time to make another batch. Since it's dark beer season, Marco and I made "Danger Knows No Favorites Dunkel" (p.204). We started the batch on Sunday the 21st (so it's also a Solstice Batch), and it's happily bubbling away now. While boiling the wort, we tapped out the keg of "Whitey's Gone Fishin' Pale Ale", which was good to the last.

Substitutions were 2oz of Mt Hood for the boil and Saaz for the flavor and aroma. We went with a #60 crystal malt. The store didn't have German Caraffe Black, so we used regular Black—not sure what the difference really is.

In our constant effort to perfect our technique, we tried something new for the grain. Previously, we've been tying the grain loosely in a cheesecloth bundle. This time we used flour sack. Now, when I picked up the package, I'd assumed it was a sack for storing, say, five pounds of flour in something that would wick away moisture. Apparently, I'm the only one who didn't know that "flour sack" actually means "flour sack cloth." Still, the mesh was finer than cheesecloth while still allowing water to flow through, and the shape was more amenable to tying into a bundle. At 22"x34", it might work better draped over the edge of the pot and clipped in place, especially with a 20qt pot (mine's a 30qt, which is a bit iffier). The truly great thing is that each new idea requires another 5 gallon batch of delicious beer to test.

UPDATED 1/15/09: After two weeks of fermenting, it was time to move the beer out of primary. I'd have prefered a secondary fermentation for at least a few days to let the particulates settle. Unfortunately, due (presumably) to temperature fluctuations the fermenter was at negative pressure, and we'd gotten at least a little suck-back (air only, I think). With fermentation complete, I was guardedly optimistic, and we kegged. After about two weeks, I finally tapped the keg to try it. After discarding the first glass, the second confirms that we have a tasty batch. All the wonderfulness typical of the dunkel is there, and if I don't start throwing up tonight I'll declare this batch fit for sharing with visitors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Super-Massive Beer Foul

You may recall the Massive Beer Foul that coated my laundry room with a couple pints of Leap Beer. Given that event, what followed on September 4th could only be called the Super-massive Beer Foul. The following is a nearly-verbatim excerpt from an email to a friend that day.

I was getting ready for work in the morning. As I'm about to put on my shoes, I notice that the corner of my coffee table looked a bit wet. I go over and touch it, and it's sticky. That's when the puddle in the kitchen caught my eye. My keg, nearly full of batch 3 of Snapping Ginger Ale (and the best one yet), had emptied itself. The tap had popped off of its hose sometime overnight. Spraying the walls, a bit of the ceiling, the furniture in about one third of the kitchen, and of course my kitchen floor. Half an hour of cleaning up, including using my Ryobi as a wet vac for the first time, and I was ready to head off to work. That evening I had to continue cleaning, of course.

I bought some more hose clamps, so that I can tighten the seal with the taps, and hopefully this sort of thing shouldn't happen again. Really, I should be tapping the kegs more frequently, so they don't keep building up internal pressure.

So, that's the Super-massive Beer Foul.

Now we must never speak of this again.

It's Been Awhile

We have not been idle, contrary to what the ol' blog would seem to indicate.

We've made (and consumed) a batch of Winky Dink Marzen, with another fermenting at present. Those were both at Marco's, as was a batch of Goat Scrotum Ale. That one was a bit disappointing, because we didn't bother re-racking to secondary, so the final result had a lot of sediment. It wasn't quite chewy, but you get the idea.

My keg currently has Whitey's Gone Fishin' Pale Ale (p.171), which spent two weeks in primary and two weeks in secondary. The result was a smooth, strong, extremely clear brew that's very easy to drink. It was also the first at my house to use an Ale Pail for the primary, rather than a glass carboy. Before that was our third stab at Snapping Ginger Ale. For my money, it was the best batch yet, but most of it was lost in what I refer to as the Super-massive Beer Foul, not to be confused with the merely Massive Beer Foul. That will need its own post, however.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

APIS Updated

Since updated articles don't generate new RSS entries, I thought I'd point out that Apple Pie Imperial Stout has been updated with more recent tastings.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leap Beer

(Marco Cavagna and Mike Marsh, based on "Sparrow Hawk Porter")

My niece's birthday is February 29, so we had a big party for her yesterday evening. In honor of the occasion, we made a special batch of homebrew to keep the adults relaxed while a score of little kids ran around having fun. What I wanted, beer-wise, was a good February seasonal with a bit of a kick. It being Winter, we started with a nice dark porter. The "leap" part would come from the addition of dried chiles.

Unlike our previous recipes, this one is based on modifications to an existing recipe, "Sparrow Hawk Porter" (p.201). Consequently, we'll only list the modifications we made.

Beginning with the malt, we opted for amber (out of the choice between amber and light). For both types of extract, we used equivalent measures of DME, rather than syrup.

The aroma hops were as listed, though for the boil we substituted 2oz. of whole-leaf Golding. The higher quantity more-or-less compensates for the lower alpha acidity compared with the called-for Northern Brewer hops.

We used an Edinburgh ale yeast, since my brother-in-law's ancestry traces back to Scotland (and he's a fan of Scotch Ales).

The final modification was the dried chile peppers. Surprisingly, these were difficult to find. We ended up using dried California chiles, with which I'd never worked before. We added two of them (whole) at the start of the boil. During the course of the boil they split open, and some of the skin peeled off and rolled up into little tubes. There was also a distinct red tint to the blow-off.

The final result went over well at the party, though I still have a bit under half a keg left. The chiles had a much milder effect than I'd expected — future brewings will need a hotter chile, or just more pepper. While the keg was sufficiently pressurized, the beer wasn't as carbonated as it should have been. It's back under pressure now, and it should be interesting to compare the flavors of the relatively flat and fully carbonated versions.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Massive Beer Foul

Marco and I kegged our latest creation — Leap Beer (recipe to follow) — today, and let it pressurize while we went to a movie. When we got back to my place, we decided it was time to taste-test it. I attached my brand-new picnic tap to the keg, which the person at the store assured me wouldn't need any kind of clamp to keep attached, and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a storm of dark beer. There was enough pressure in the keg that the tube was forced off the ball-lock connector, and we had to remove the connector from the lock on the keg. What followed was a lengthy clean up of my laundry room. (If you brew, you need a Swiffer.) The beer was pretty good.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ginger Revisited

Marco and I made a second batch of Snapping Ginger Ale. We tweaked the recipe slightly, always in search of perfection. The ginger was upped to about 1.5 pounds to give a bit more bite. We also added half an ounce of Saaz hops to both the boil and the finish.

We brewed on January 20, and kegged on the 26th (this past Saturday). We're happy with this batch — there's a much more distinct hop bitterness in addition to the extra ginger. It's about as strong as the previous one, which is to say "deceptively." More hops in the finish also give it some head retention, which was lacking in the first batch.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Quick Update

The "Phat Fired Weizenbock" is long-since kegged. It's not bad, but not as tasty as we'd hoped. Still, a solid, drinkable beer.

We also made another batch of "Danger Knows No Favorites Dunkel" (p.204), almost completely by the book, which was kegged about two weeks ago. It's delicious. I shared some with my neighbors this evening after work, since the weather was so nice everyone wanted to hang around outside.

One of my neighbors shared some homemade limoncello, which was also delicious. It was starting to rain, so we had to swig down the last of what we had in our glasses. For the record: swigging limoncello should only be attempted by trained professionals.