Archive for category The Journey

Prost to the Equinox

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock A little late, but no less sincere. Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock (7.9% abv): This beer poured hazy amber with thin, fizzy head. It had a slightly malty and fruity aroma. The taste was mild and slightly sweet. It came with a malty sweetness at first, moving on to some caramelly fruitiness into the middle. Light body and light carbonation lead to a finish that was mostly malty and caremelly sweet. I’m not usually a fan of sweet beers, but this is a great example of a Doppelbock.

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Utopias is among us! (part 2)

First of all, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to America this coming Saturday. What better occasion to celebrate with a super special, uber-concocted barrel aged beauty as Sam Adams Utopias? Few, my friends. Few.

Knowing the painstaking process followed to make such a brew, I wanted to enjoy this without getting smashed, so I took only the small amount you see below. This was all I needed to get the full experience of this beer (which is technically more of a barleywine).

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It poured a deep golden amber color, almost like a long-aged bourbon. As expected, it had no head or carbonation, as the aging process takes this element out. One whiff gave me a full spectrum of aromas that reminded me of the holidays: dark fruits, cherries, bourbon, cinnamon, cloves and honey. The taste was thick, with honey up front, followed by bourbon and tart fruit flavors. The combination of flavors and heavy mouthfeel reminded me of maple syrup. Dark fruit made up the middle, with a little sourness. It then moved to clove flavors, finishing with sticky sweet honey, balanced by tart fruit.

The long wait to try this one may have influenced the score I gave it, but this is about as complex and nuanced a beer you are likely to find.

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Stand back: I’m re-pitching!

Due to my beer woefully lacking any carbonation, I decided to throw in some more yeast, this time directly into each bottle. I’ll give them another week to see how it goes and post any progress (or lack thereof).

Happy Brewing!

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Week 4 Brew 2: The Brown

IMG_1916Finally the time has come to taste the fruits of my efforts on this brown ale. All in all, I would say it was a good effort and fun, to be sure. As I got ready to crack the first one (I chose the last bottle from the batch that was not quite full), anticipation built within me and those around me. I put the bottle opener to the cap and strained my ears to try to hear that magical hiss while the gas from the yeast doing its thing escaped the bottle.

Alas, there was none. It failed to carbonate. While a little disappointing, I was not going to let it get me down and I brought out a glass to see how the thing poured. With no carbonation, of course, there was no head. Instead, it poured a little like juice. It was a lovely deep red color, which I was heartened to see.

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It still smelled wonderful, though- a kind of sweet and sour maltiness. That gave me further hope for the taste. The first sip brought a heavy malt flavor, likely due to the lack of time the hops spent in the boil. Otherwise, it tasted very much like the smell. The sweetness did linger a bit throughout, until the sourness came in. That, in turn, gave way to a not unpleasant bitterness on the finish.

So, as I said, not bad for a brew I made on my own and a fun learning experience to boot. Now I want to try to re-pitch some yeast into the rest of the batch to see if I can get some suds into this beer. I will let you know how that turns out.

 

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Happy National Beer Day!

As I continue on my journey of new beer knowledge and experiences, I found this little tidbit, courtesy of nationaldaycalendar.com:

APRIL 7, 2014 – NATIONAL BEER DAY!

Beer is one of the world’s oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back to 9500 BC when cereal was first farmed.  It was found recorded in the written history of ancient Iraq and ancient Egypt.

As the world’s most widely consumed  alcoholic beverage, beer has it’s special day in it’s honor on National Beer Day which is celebrated annually on April 7th.  Celebrate National Beer Day as you choose with a pint of pale ale, mild ale, lager, stout, or maybe a wheat beer.

Following water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink overall.

NATIONAL BEER DAY HISTORY

On April 7, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt took the first step toward ending Prohibition and signed a law that allowed people to brew and sell beer, in the United States, as long as it remained below 4.0% alcohol by volume (ABV).  Beer drinkers celebrated and were happy to be able to purchase beer again for the first time in thirteen years.

Our research found that this day was created as National Beer Day, an “unofficial” holiday by Eli Shayotovich, a Colorado Springs Craft Beer Examiner and his friend Mike Connolly.  They chose April 7 because of the Cullen-Harrison Act being signed into law and becoming effective on this day.  In 2009, A National Beer Day Facebook page was created by Shayotovich and Connolly from which they invited friends to join.  From that page, word has spread and April 7 is known by many sources as National Beer Day.

So, how did you celebrate?

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Week 3 Brew 2: The Brown

The time has come to place this beautiful liquid into bottles. The smell is awesome– a kind of sweet and malty sourness that gives me every hope that this concoction will turn into delicious beer. I started by washing all my bottles in the dishwasher to clean off any dust or other particles that may have been on there. Then I filled a bucket with sanitizer solution, which consisted of a pack of powdered Star San that came with the kit. While the bottles were washing and the other parts were sanitizing, I went to the store to get some sugar.

IMG_1896At this point the beer is just about ready, but still needs some final settling in the bottles and carbonation. To do this, the remaining yeast particles still suspended in the beer need something to feed on. To do this, sugar is added to the mixture. Some kits come with stuff pre-made, but mine did not. So I got some corn sugar and mixed it in about 2 cups of water on the stove. While this came to a boil, I transferred the beer to another bucket to further reduce the yeast crud leftover. I took care to make sure it didn’t slosh around, as adding too much oxygen can make the beer taste stale. I also took this opportunity to take what is called the final gravity. This is the same thing as the original gravity, but much more of the suspended yeast is now fully fermented, so the number is lower. Using the hydrometer again, I came up with an alcohol content of about 5%.

Now, of course, I forgot to take the temperature of the mixture, as I was supposed to. This is because temperature affects how the yeast reacts in the beer during fermentation. Keep it too hot and you risk killing the yeast; keep it too cool and the yeast may not be active enough to initiate fermentation. No matter; the difference in temperature according to the scale on the hydrometer is a matter of .5%. Plus, we tasted it straight from the hydrometer container from which we took a sample and it tasted great– pretty much like the smell.

IMG_1894After the corn sugar was dissolved and cooled to make a syrupy mixture, I stirred this into the beer bucket. I allowed it to cool a bit more as I put the washed bottles into my sanitizing bucket, taking care to not let them knock into one another too much.

Then I set the bottling bucket up on the counter above the dishwasher. The idea was to use the dishwasher door to catch any overfilled bottles or other spills. You see, beer in this form tends to be quite sticky when spilled.

Once again using the auto IMG_1899siphon, I attached it to filling wand, which is basically a tube with a ball valve at the bottom and I filled each bottle rather quickly. A friend helped me by capping the bottles. I hope the result is something more drinkable than my last attempt, but nonetheless, this has been a fun experience and anything but my last…

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So now they sit for another week to “bottle condition,” during which time they will also (hopefully) carbonate.

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Week 2 Brew 2: The Brown

It’s the second week of The Brown brewing experiment and I am ready to move the beer to secondary fermentation. This is the stage during which the beer settles down and ages. To do this, I used an auto siphon to move the beer from the primary fermentation bucket to another bucket. The auto siphon, sometimes known as a “racking cane”, is a neat gadget that relies on suction to provide a continuous flow up the tube of the device and into a hose attached at the other end. This is much quicker than traditional siphoning using the mouth– not to mention much more sanitary.

IMG_1871This step in the process could not be easier: I merely placed the end of the auto siphon into the fermented brew, attached a 3/8″ hose to the outlet at the top of the siphon and placed the end of the hose into the secondary fermenting bucket. Then I just let it rip, taking care to let as little of the yeast muck into the transfer as possible. This is because beer in the secondary fermentation step is not to be exposed to the dead yeast and other debris (also known as “trub”) that have settled to the bottom of the primary fermenter. This helps avoid off flavors and such in the finished product.

The entire 3-gallon mixture took about 5 minutes to drain into the secondary bucket. After it was done, I just put the lid on the secondary bucket and wrapped it up with a towel like the previous week to keep the temperature more consistent throughout.

Now to wait another week while this does its thing. Then it will be time to bottle this stuff up!

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Week 1 Brew 2: The Brown

IMG_1889The time has come for my second attempt at brewing beer at home. This time I went with a Nut Brown Ale kit from All About Brewing. They have a pretty wide variety of kits to choose from and I seriously debated getting their Irish Red Ale kit as a sort of do-over from last time, but perhaps next time. This time I planned to dedicate myself to correcting as many of the wrongs, or things my inexperience told me were wrong, with the last batch. Not only was I going to sanitize all my equipment properly, but I told myself to read the instructions with a much keener eye. With these things in mind, I set to work.

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First, I compared all of the equipment to the list included on the box to make sure it was all there. After confirming it was, I set to cleaning everything in the box. This cannot be stressed enough for anyone thinking about brewing their own stuff at home: do not assume things are clean out of the box or merely “good enough” with a simple rinse; clean anything that could come into contact with your brew. Use sanitizer, either the stuff that comes in the kit, or if the kit does not include any, just go purchase a food grade sanitizer. Star San is a popular choice, but there are others. It can come in two forms: pre-mixed and the powder you have to mix into water yourself, like making some kind of weird Kool-Aid (although not harmful if it touches stuff you eat or drink from, it is still not recommended you drink it straight.)

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Once I was sure everything was clean, I moved on to the second step, which was to steep the grains. Now, this is the first place we messed up with our last brew, which brings me to my second recommendation: read all instructions CAREFULLY. In this step, you are not boiling the grains, but merely steeping them as with a tea bag in tea. Make sure you have a pot large enough to boil the amount of water appropriate to the amount of beer you want to end up with. This particular kit calls for 6 gallons of water, but I didn’t have a pot big enough for this, so I split a 5 gallon Sparkletts-style container between two pots, with about 3 gallons going into one pot and another gallon boiling in a smaller one alongside it.

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This allowed me to steep the grains in water that got hot enough on an electric stove to get to 170 degrees in a reasonable amount of time (~1 hour). When it got to 170, I removed the grain bag (which smelled delicious, by the way) and added the second pot of boiling water to get as close to the original 4 gallons I had started with. I brought the earthy-smelling water to a boil, which took about another 20 or so minutes, took it off the heat, stirred in the malt extract that was included in the kit, and brought that back up to a boil. At this point, the mixture is called “wort”.

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The malt step was kind of an adventure: I had to keep the canister of syrupy liquid in a bath of warm water to loosen it up and make sure I was able to get enough of the extract into the pot. Then I shook some hot water around the inside to get the last of it and…the canister exploded all over the kitchen. Yep, sticky, syrupy malt extract all over the place. Oh well- you live and you learn.

After it was at a boil again for 15 minutes, I added the bittering hops. The recipe called for a full 60 minute boil with the hops, but I like my beer less hoppy, so I decided to decrease the exposure of the hops. This kit came with a clarifying agent called a Whirlflock tablet. This helps to take any haziness out of the mixture. I added this tablet with about 5 minutes to go in the final boil.

While that was finishing up, I had a buddy watch the boil while I ran to the store to get some ice, as the next step was to cool the wort as quickly as possible. Last time, we used a chiller ring, but we didn’t have one for this brew, so the plan was to put the kettle in the sink and pack the sink with ice around the kettle. I figured direct contact with the metal sides of the kettle would transfer the heat pretty evenly. This process took much longer than I anticipated and about 30 minutes later I had it at 81 degrees. The instructions recommend 70-80 degrees, but I had an appointment in about 5 minutes, so I just wanted to get it done. I figured transferring the mixture to the primary fermenter would cool it down the rest of the way, anyway.

After transferring the 80-degree wort to the primary fermenting bucket, I added the yeast. The kit came with a packet of Safale US-05 yeast, which seems to be a pretty standard choice for making ales. I want to learn more about yeasts and maybe even culture my own someday. So, here is another step where I should have read more carefully, but in my rush, I did not… The packet is a dry yeast, similar to bread yeast, which means that I should have reconstituted it in 90-degree water for about 10 minutes before pitching it into the bucket with the wort. Well, I didn’t do that and just pitched the dry yeast straight into the bucket. This is what we did with our first brew and ended up with very carbonated beer (more on that in the third week).

It was at this point that I remembered something else I wanted to do this time that we had forgotten last time: to take what is called the ‘original gravity,’ which gives an idea of the potential alcoholic strength of the final brew. This measures the fermentable and unfermentable substances in the wort before fermentation. To do this, the kit came with an instrument called a hydrometer. It is a float or buoy with a scale printed on it that essentially compares the relative thickness of the liquid compared to just plain water. This brew came in at about 10% with this initial reading.

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Then I wrapped the fermenting bucket in a towel to keep the temperature somewhat consistent. We’ll see what happens, but for now, as with much of the beer-making process, all I can do is wait and prepare for week two: secondary fermentation.

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Utopias is among us! (part 1)

Merry Christmas to me! (a little late)

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Every two years, Sam Adams releases a special concoction called Utopias. This is a mixture of some very old and very limited-release beers from what has become one of America’s favorite breweries. They then move the mixture into different kinds of barrels during the aging process to impart different flavors into the beer. I understand that there is an 18-year-old brew in this one. No two releases are alike. They already released the 2012 batch, which was their 10-year anniversary brewing of Utopias, but decided to do it two years in a row and released it again this year. This is a so-called “extreme beer” due to its extremely high alcohol content. At 28% abv, I would say this definitely qualifies.

IMG_1703With all of this in mind, a buddy of mine and I decided we would treat ourselves to this most magical and elusive elixir when we got a chance and I have been looking a long time. Well, they say you always find what you’re looking for when you least expect it. This dream became a reality on an innocent trip to the Keg-N-Bottle liquor store in Rancho San Diego. This chain of liquor stores is the same one that brought me K’n’B Wine Cellars and man am I glad they did.

As I said, we went in to just bring back some beers to our final location for the night, when the guy behind the counter, Chris, said, “You know, we also got in a bottle of Sam Adams Utopia.” I almost said something about his incomplete pronunciation of the name of this brew, but I decided against it and instead asked, “Yeah, but how much is it?” It was pricey, but Chris did a good job of selling us on it; it wasn’t hard, since it was something we already wanted anyway. We quickly put back the other brews we had picked up, slapped down the fee and took home our prize. Of course, we deliberated quite a bit before deciding and Chris did his best to make our decision for us. He said it comes with a coupon code for a special edition Utopias glass, made specifically for this beer by Riedel.

Well, when we got it home and out of the box, there was nothing with any kind of code on it. We called Chris and he said would look into it for us. Boy did he come through. I am amazed at the effort he is putting into helping us out on this. It turns out Sam Adams is not allowed to ship this glass to certain states and California, where I live, is one of those states. Chris called his sales rep from Sam Adams to see what could be done and we are just waiting to hear the word.

I will post part 2 of this saga when we find an occasion auspicious enough to crack this one open.

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Day 5 Brew 1- The Tasting

IMG_1551Hi All,

It’s been a while, but we finally got to tasting our brew. Um…let’s just say it went about as expected. Hopeful as we were through this whole process, we fully expected to need a couple of brews under our collective belts before we got it down. Our beer was in the bottles for probably about 3 weeks, so our problem definitely couldn’t have been premature tasting. When we cracked the first bottle, after letting it chill in the fridge for about 48 hours, there was a promising hiss from the pressure that built up from the carbon dioxide released by the yeast (which is what creates the carbonation at this point in the process). This was a hopeful sign of the results of our efforts. The liquid was a dark brownish-red color, a little cloudy (we used no fining agents) and smelled slightly sour with some hoppiness and heavy malt. It had a head was respectable, though it didn’t stick to the sides of the glass with any kind of lacing, and large, quickly-rising bubbles from the carbonation.

Now…the taste. It tasted quite sour, accompanied by a faint chemical taste. It was almost skunky, which I’ve learned can be due to light and/or air contamination. It can’t be the former, since we kept it securely locked away in a closet, undisturbed, in the corrugated cardboard box the empty bottles came in. So, in my estimation from my infinite experience as a home brewer, I have deduced the following likely causes of our Pepe Le Pew-esque brew:

-We didn’t get the caps on tightly enough
-We used too much/too strong a concentration of sanitizer
-There was some kind of contamination from all the dog hair or dust flying around in the house

To be fair, we did only crack a couple of bottles (gave one to a friend to diagnose), so some of the other 43 remaining bottles we have may be OK.

Ah well, c’est la vie. On to the next brew: the nutty brown!

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