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.

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Galaxy White IPA

Anchorage Brewing Company's Galaxy White IPA

This 750ml bottle was given to me as a gift recently and it was some very interesting stuff.  I haven’t had many White IPAs so I can’t say that I’m an expert in this rather interesting style.  From what I am led to believe, the White IPA is somewhat like a cross between a Belgian Witbier and a good old India Pale Ale.  Sounds just about perfect to me as the weather is starting to get hot and humid.  A nice wheat crispness is always a solid contribution to summertime brews.  Then I saw the kicker on the front of the bottle… “Bottled with Brett”.  This got me very interested.  Bottle conditioned using wild yeast, this, I thought, was going to be different.  The bottle also mentioned that it had wine yeast added and that it was aged in oak wine tanks.  At this point I honestly didn’t know what I was in for.  This beer was bottled in August 2012, so it has been bottle conditioning for almost a whole year.  I had a feeling that this was going to have a lot of Brettanomyces characteristics and maybe not quite the hop bite that it would’ve had at an earlier date.

I popped this baby open and started to pour.  I poured as slowly as I could, and yet I still got a full pint glass of head.  This beer was extremely fizzy and that’s not a bad thing for a summer thirst quencher.  I took a whiff and I was surprised at what I smelled.  I can’t say I’ve had much of an introduction to Brett beers up to this point but it was unmistakable.  An extremely funky, horse, barnyard, smell was overpowering the other aromas and I was already a bit scared to take a taste.  As I gave it a little more of a whiff I could tell that there were some fruity notes under that heavy blanket of Brett aroma but it was hard for me to get past it.  The taste was also extremely funky, much like the aroma but with a distinct wine note to it on the end.  There’s definitely some fruity stuff going on as well, but once again the wild yeast is definitely front and center and it is hard to separate it from the other layers.

This beer is complex, and not very approachable.  The other person that was tasting this with didn’t like it at all.  I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t too sure I liked it much myself since I was unaccustomed to the funky aroma/taste that this beer had in spades, but as I drank it, it started to grow on me.  I don’t think this would be a beer I’d drink all the time, but I would certainly love to taste a young batch and an older batch of this at the same time.  I think not only would it be fun to see how much the overall flavor changed in that time, but also to see if it would be easier to pick out the other notes in the younger beer in order to have a better sense of those flavors underneath the Brettanomyces flavor in the older one.

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.

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.

Strawberry Wheat Beer Batch, part 1

Recently I upgraded my brew kettle and fermenting equipment to go from a one gallon set-up to something bigger.  I’m still new to the whole homebrewing scene but I’ve done my best to try and learn as much as possible.  The last wheat beer I brewed was a one gallon extract hefeweizen batch and it turned out wonderfully.  I’m hoping that my first 2.5 gallon batch will come out at least as well.

Since I was trying out new equipment, I wasn’t sure about how much wort I would lose in the boil and in the trub.  I planned on erring on the side of caution to make sure I got a decent about of wort.  My simple recipe is as follows:

Strawberry Wheat

  • 3.75 lb Two Row
  • 3 lb Pale Wheat Malt
  • .75 oz 4.5% AA Tettnanger @ 60min
  • WB-06 Dry Weizen Yeast
  • 1lb of fresh strawberries per gallon of wort in secondary

I planned on making about 3.25 gallons of wort and seeing how much I lost before fermentation.  I ended up wasting well over half a gallon of usable wort mostly because of the cold break not settling.  I’ll be more careful next time to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future.

I think I captured about 2.5 gallons of wort and the SG was 1.055.  Fermentation started quickly and by day 4, the gravity was down to 1.012.  Fermentation temperature was around 71 degrees F.  After taking the gravity reading, I racked my beer to a secondary fermenter and got ready to add the strawberries.

I read quite a bit about adding fruits to beers and I was a bit apprehensive about the process.  No two places I researched agreed with the best way of doing it.  Some suggested adding the fruit to the hot wort as you are cooling it, some suggested boiling it, others to add fresh fruit to the secondary.  All seemed to have pros and cons.  Adding the fruit to hot wort or boiling wort is reported to cause the fruit flavors to come out cooked and can increase the amount of pectins.  Adding the fruit fresh to the secondary could lead to bacteria or mold destroying the batch since it is tough to sanitize the fresh fruit thoroughly.  As the beer in the secondary was already at a relatively high ABV level, I think that it should be resistant to any outside infections.

Fruit Preparation: I thoroughly washed and cored all the strawberries making sure to remove all the greens.  I then quartered them and added them to a sanitized food processor and pulsed them on low until they were well chopped.  Into the fermenter they went and now it is once again time to wait.  Quickly the yeast started attacking all the new sugars that were added and the fermentation has become quite a bit more robust.  I plan on leaving it in secondary around 10 days.  It is probably important to keep an eye on the fruit floating on the top and to make sure that the fruit is submerged in the beer so that nothing can grow on the top.  I’ll be sure to update as it is warranted.Image