Raspberry Porter and Jalapeno Ale update

About 1.5 lbs of Raspberries washed and thawed

About 1.5 lbs of Raspberries washed and thawed

This summer hasn’t really been the most optimal time for brewing for me.  I think I’ve made a few good brews, one competition brew, and at least one beer I wasn’t completely satisfied with.  The jury’s still out on the competition beer since I haven’t taken a taste yet, but the others are all either in the rear-view mirror or only have a couple bottles left.  Now, as Labor day is almost upon us (the unofficial end of summer in the US), is as good as any time to look back and talk about the results of some of the more interesting batches.

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DIY Stir Plate part 2

Well I’ve done all the drilling, the mounting and the gluing.  Things seem to be working pretty well.  The magnet is sufficiently balanced that there is no shimmy at all that I can detect.  I think the only thing left optionally would be to add a rheostat/potentiometer to the circuit to make a variable speed dial.  I think I may just do that if I can find the parts needed locally. In a day or two I’ll be able to test it with a real stir bar and find out if it works to my satisfaction.

DIY Stir Plate from Apartmentbrewer on Vimeo.

 

DIY Stir Plate Project

All the parts necessary for a DIY Stir Plate (I hope)

All the parts necessary for a DIY Stir Plate (I hope)

It is kind of weird sometimes how plans go into motion.  Walking past a cigar shop in the area I noticed that they were selling empty cigar boxes for cheap and the idea occurred to me, “Why not make a stir plate out of one?”  I’m not by any means finished with my project, but so far the only things I’ve needed to buy were a T-8 Torx screwdriver and the cigar box.  Everything else I’ve re-purposed from things I had laying around.

A stir plate can be an extremely useful tool in saving money and in making better beer.  A normal Wyeast smack pack or other yeast manufacturers’ equivalent is made for pitching into 5 gallons of wort at about 1.048 SG according to this.  Using two smack packs or vials of yeast for high starting gravity worts is a fine practice, but why purchase two if you can just make a yeast starter and get the same results? Continue reading

Jalapeno Ale Mini Batch

Late boil addition of hops and sliced jalapeno peppers

Late boil addition of hops and sliced jalapeno peppers

Recently I’ve been trying to experiment with a few new ideas and keep the brew days fresh and interesting.  Although I readily admit that I have an immense amount of learning to do to become a solid brewer, switching things up and doing something new is a good way to not get bored or stuck in a rut.  After the idea for the bacon beer was formed in my mind, other somewhat weird brewing possibilities started popping up.  The jalapeno ale was one of them.  After doing a little poking around, I found some recipes and tried my best to see if there was a consensus as to how to make the pepper flavor come through.  Should the peppers be roasted?  Added to the boil?  De-seeded? Added in the secondary? How many? etc.  The problem I found was that it seemed that everyone had their own way of doing things and had results they enjoyed. Continue reading

On Bottling… And the Unintended Consequences of Experimental Batches

Bottling line @Clipper City

Too bad you can’t fit one of these machines in an apartment (Photo credit: cizauskas)

I’ve been unable to post much the last couple weeks because of non beer related things in my life, but at least I have a bunch of topics queued up for posts now.

Whenever the topic of bottling comes up whether in conversation or while reading there is one thing everyone seems to feel:  Bottling day is a pain in the butt.  Maybe I just read books that hate the process, I’m not quite sure but usually people seem to say the faster you move on to kegging, the happy your brewing life will be.  I happened to disagree with this overall idea… although my recent bottling day has made me at least reevaluate that. Continue reading

Bacon Maple Early Tasting

For the most part my curiosity is hard to keep in check.  Once my beer gets bottled, it is hard for me not to think about what the final product is going to be like.  From my first extract batch until now, I find it quite hard to wait even two weeks for the beers to get even a decent amount of bottle conditioning.  The Bacon Maple Ale, now dubbed “The Balanced Breakfast Brew” was no different.  Seven days.  That’s as long as I could hold out.  Boy, I must have a weak will.

The good thing happens to be that this beer – which I was sure was going to be a total train wreck – actually is tasting pretty darn good at this stage in its life.   Continue reading

Brooklyn Wort Beer and Bacon Maple Beer update

Bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better... I hope

Bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better… I hope

The experiment that is bacon maple beer is a couple steps closer to hopefully turning out as such.  Over the past few days I’ve added bacon and a bit of fenugreek to the beer in secondary.  Tasting the beer two days after the bacon infusion I was unable to get any taste of bacon to come through yet.  I’ll take a taste tomorrow and see if it is any stronger.  The strong, roasty character of the beer is going to be hard to punch through.  The fenugreek seeds I received smell pretty strongly of maple but also have a celery smell to them.  I didn’t add much to the beer, but that too was not coming through the roastiness.  More time is needed to find out just how freakishly this experiment is going to turn out.  Continue reading

Maple Bacon Breakfast Ale

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Time to experiment!

I think once in a while it is good to go off the deep end and experiment with something completely different even if you know it will probably fail.  This beer is going to be one of those times.  While enjoying a few beers with a bunch of my friends, we started talking about different beer flavors that may work well.  The idea of a breakfast themed beer caught my attention and curiosity.  At the time I had no idea that Rogue makes a version of bacon maple ale.  When I found this out, I was disheartened but my resolve was unwavering.  When I looked at the reviews of the Rogue beer on BeerAdvocate.com, that’s when I wavered… but only for a second.  How much harm could one tiny, one-gallon batch of beer do?  Forget the fact that as I’m writing this I’m still not completely sure how I’m going to prepare the bacon, or the fact that I’ve read that getting maple flavor to stay in the beer and not be fermented out can be tricky.  Those can easily be overcome with a little research and common sense.  What can’t be overcome is the fact that I’m almost positive I added too much carafa II to the mash.  This could turn into a roasty mess. Continue reading

Strawberry Wheat Judging Sheet

I got my first score sheet back from the Brooklyn Wort preliminary round and I’m happy with the results.  My Strawberry Wheat beer scored 38/50.

“Looks great, pours nice, with thick lingering head.  Strawberries come through.  Well carbonated.  No noticeable flaws.  Even more carbonation would improve it.  It does have a slightly sweet aftertaste that makes me think it might be better if it was even more dry.”

Not bad, I’d say.  Sounds like the only problems that were found were things that are easily corrected.  Next iteration of this beer will be mashed at a lower temperature and carbonation boosted somewhat.

The decent rating for this beer really gives me confidence that I can brew a beer that can compete for the top prizes in the finals.  Whichever beer that becomes, I will have to start brewing it in the next week or so… but, before that happens, I’m brewing up a special experimental batch that is pretty far out there.

Details of that beer to come very soon… It has a high chance of coming out horribly, but I have to try it anyways.  Besides, a one gallon batch isn’t going to ruin my life if it doesn’t come out wonderfully.

Bavarian Pretzels + Witbier

Tasty!

Tasty!

What goes better with beer than pretzels?  I suppose that is a question with different answers for different people, but I think beer and pretzels together make a great combination.  Around here, “soft pretzels” are simple to find: Sporting events, street vendors, even the grocer’s freezer have pretzels easily available.  the thing that most of these have in common is that they are “Just OK”.  Not a lot of taste, not a lot of texture, but yet they are still somewhat enjoyable.  I decided to scour the internet to find a simple pretzel recipe that I could cut down to a smaller size and test.  I stumbled upon this recipe and thought I’d give it a shot. Continue reading