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

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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

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

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

Brooklyn Wort Contest

As much as I worried about my Strawberry Wheat beer and how it turned out, it seems some people liked it.  I used it as my entry to the Brooklyn Wort homebrew contest and it was in the top 30 entries.  I made it to the final round of the contest which will take place on September 8th.

This is the first contest I’ve entered and I’m pretty excited about getting this far.  I must now figure out what beer I will be brewing for the finals…  I have to give it some thought and come up with something that can vie for the top prize.  Updates of the process will be ongoing as the contest finals grow nearer.

Beer Updates

Today I’d like to take the time to give some updates on my recent beers:

Strawberry Wheat

I don’t think that I’ve had a real bad batch yet, but I was honestly worried about the Strawberry Wheat beer when I was bottling.  I’m not quite sure if it was because it was strong for a wheat beer (especially a fruit flavored one) or if it just had a smell that I didn’t think belonged.  One thing it had going for it early on was that it was an easy drinking beer that had a decent amount of alcohol in it.

Now that it has been about a month since I bottled this batch, the flavors are evening out nicely and the strawberry flavor, which started out as just a hint at the very back end, has a nice, full strawberry taste.  It isn’t as powerful as the Abita strawberry beer, but I wasn’t going for anything like that.  The carbonation is higher than usual, but I like that in my wheat beers.  I’d say this beer is a keeper.  There is definitely a confusing note in the aroma that takes away from my first impression when I bring it up for the first sip, but I’m not sure what it is.  Luckily, if I let the beer stand in the pint glass for a couple minutes before drinking, the aroma bets much better.  I’m probably entering this beer into the preliminary round of the Brooklyn Wort Homebrew Competition.  This will be the first time I have entered a competition and i think this brew is my most unique.

 

Spruce Brown Ale

This beer has been bottled, and conditioned for a couple weeks now.  I took an early taste after about a week’s conditioning and got some early thoughts.  This beer is much darker than I was expecting…  I’m not sure why I was expecting something lighter with the C120 and Dark LME I used, but this is approaching black in the pint glass.  The head foams a light brown, but obviously there isn’t that much of it right now since it hasn’t had time to fully condition.  The aroma is strong, raisiny, and burnt caramel.  There isn’t really any spruce notes to be seen unless I’m not certain what I should be looking for.  The taste right now is similar, sweet, plum or raisin, some burnt caramel, and not too much roasty flavor, which I’m just fine with.  There’s not a lot of hop flavor, just some balancing.  I’m rather sure this will turn out to be a solid american brown ale, but I’m not sure the spruce flavor will ever come out.  Even if there is no spruce flavor in this beer, the spruce still serves a purpose.  Spruce is high in Vitamin C and that helps to keep the beer stable over a longer period of time.  The jury’s still out on this one but the early feeling is that this one is going to be a solid brown ale.  Speaking of brown ales, two that I’d recommend getting your hands on would be Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale and Avery Brewing Co.’s Ellie’s Brown Ale.  Smuttynose’s is a bit more sweet, very complex, and at 6.7% ABV it is strong.  Ellie’s Brown is more roasty and has tastes of vanilla and nut that Old Brown Dog doesn’t have.  Either way, you can’t really go wrong with either.

 

I have a (hopefully) improved ESB in a secondary right now and I hope that the hot weather around here didn’t do anything to harm this batch.  I’m also getting ready to brew a Belgian Wit this weekend.  Belgian yeast strains can tolerate higher temperatures so this one was chosen more out of necessity than choice.  Updates on both of these to follow soon.

Spruce Beer

Ever since I came across the spruce beer recipe in The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian I’ve wanted to try to make a batch.  Every time I go to the home brew shop, I notice the little bottles of spruce essence that they have for sale.  I admit that I was tempted to just by the essence and use that, but I decided that it was probably a better idea to just get the real thing and go from there.

Spring here in the Northeast has been cold and, living in the middle of a huge city, it would be hard to run across spruce in general, let alone the spruce tips that were what I was really after.  Luckily for me, I walk through Central Park quite a bit and there are two Norway Spruce trees that I walk past frequently.  I’ve been waiting for the new growth to show, and last week the spruce tips looked ready to harvest on one of the trees.  I didn’t want to be greedy so I made sure to only lightly pick around and not to take too much from one area.  I would guess that I got about two ounces of super-fresh spruce tips to add to my next brew!

I was trying to stay pretty close to the recipe in the Joy of Home Brewing but the recipe was for a 5 gallon batch and was extract only.  I decided to tweak it a bit and make a mini mash so that I could get the gravity I wanted and bring it up to a 2.75 gallon batch with only one can of extract.  My favorite beer lately has been Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog, so I tried to put a bit of that character into this recipe as well although this one is going to have a decent amount more IBU’s than that.  If you haven’t tries Old Brown Dog and you’re a fan of American Brown Ales, I would highly recommend finding some.  As a side note, I added some leftover UK bittering hops to the first hop addition to bring up the IBU’s.  I probably wouldn’t do this again since I’m trying to make and American Brown Ale but I will see how it turns out.

  • 3.3 Lbs of Briess Traditional Dark Liquid Malt Extract (1.035 specific gravity per pound per gallon)
  • 1 Lb US Two-Row
  • .25 Lb Crystal 120L
  • .25 Lb Munich 10L
  • .25oz Challenger 7% AA & .5oz Willamette 4.5% AA @ 60 minutes
  • 2oz Spruce Tips and 1/2 Whirlfloc tablet @ 15 minutes
  • .25oz Willamette @ 7 minutes
  • .25oz Willamette @ 1 minute
  • US-05 dry yeast

I mini mashed the grains in half a gallon of water @152 F for 60 minutes.  I added the full amount of LME at the beginning of the boil since I was doing a full volume boil.  It turned out darker than I expected, but I’m excited for this one.  The spruce however wasn’t very fragrant and I’m worried that maybe the flavor and aroma will be lost in the final product.  Next time I will either have to find more fragrant spruce, or add a bunch more.  Cleaning out the bottom of the boil pot after racking the wort to the fermenter was pretty nasty.  It looked like someone ripped up a christmas tree and ground the pieces into the mud.  SG was 1.055.

The smell coming out of the fermenter is great and I can’t wait to taste this one.  Two and a half days later and the primary fermentation is done.  Tomorrow I’ll rack it to a secondary and let it sit for another 10-15 days.

Strawberry Wheat Beer Batch part 2

Most of the strawberry solids were removed after racking a third time

Most of the strawberry solids were removed after racking a third time

After having the strawberries in the secondary for over a week, I thought it was time to get ready to bottle up this batch and get started thinking about what I was interested in brewing next.  Racking to a tertiary fermenter helped me leave most of the strawberry sludge behind.  The color of the fruit changed dramatically and it was a rather nasty job getting the bottle completely clean again.

One day later, it was time for bottling.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough bottles and was scrambling to make sure that I could find a home for as much of this beer as possible.  Final gravity reading came in at about 1.013.  It is tough for me to get a good handle on the final %ABV because of the added fruit sugars that were fermented in the secondary fermentation.  The starting gravity, not taking into account the fruit, was 1.056.  I’d guess that the ABV of the beer is between 5.7 and 6%.  The aroma was definitely strong, dry strawberry mixed in with the more common hefeweizen aromas.  I’m not sure whether this will be a favorite of mine yet.  The couple sips I tried tasted decent with a more subtle strawberry flavor to it.  I find the taste much more enticing than the aroma and I hope that with time in the bottle that problem will subside.

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I used my brew pot as a bottling bucket

After adding priming sugar and transferring the beer into the brew pot I tried to grab any remaining pieces of fruit floating on the top with a strainer.  After that it was a pretty non-eventful bottling… Just the way I like it.

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Final haul was 21 12oz and 1 22oz of strawberry wheat beer.  4 days in primary, 9 days in secondary, 1 day in tertiary.  These should be ready to drink in under 2 weeks.

Next up will be a spruce beer with fresh spruce tips that I picked yesterday.  I’m excited to brew something that I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted.