Posts Tagged red ale

Mermaid Sighting!

IMG_2023As I continue my journey through the San Diego beer scene, I couldn’t help but come back to my favorite beer of them all: Mermaid’s Red from Coronado Brewing Co. This here is a good beer.

It poured a brilliant, clear red with a cap of frothy off white head. Not much lacing clings to the glass, as it turns slushy quickly and slides back down to rest on top, before quickly dissipating. The aromas coming off the top right after pouring reminded me of something slightly sulfurous, though not unpleasant. After the sulfur, it the moderate floral hoppiness comes through, with only a slight malty smell in the background (if smells can have backgrounds).

IMG_2027The taste starts off right away with the floral taste from all the hops. What follows is a bitterness that helps flatten out some of the hoppiness, finishing with a moderate bitterness, with slight hints of rich malts rounding it out.

I love this beer for its complexity, despite its “mid-range” description.






Overall, I would rate this beer:




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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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Day 4 Brew 1- Bottling

Hey beer fans,

BottlesToday is the last step in actually “making” beer. We moved it from the secondary fermenter to bottles. Of course, as with the rest of this whole process, it was not as simple as that. First, we had to arrange everything on the counter around the kitchen, as that is the best place we have for such an operation, such that we had a place for the bottles, bucket, carboy and capper.

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After rinsing, washing and sanitizing everything, we went to work. First, we had to get the brew from the secondary fermenter to a bucket for easier racking, or filling, of the bottles. To do this, we placed the carboy and a clean bucket with a spigot with a packet of priming sugar in the bottom next to each other on the floor and used the auto siphon to transfer the beer from the carboy to the bucket, making sure to avoid touching the bottom of the siphon to the bottom of the fermenter. You see, when those wonderful little yeast do their work, they create waste and even die in the process of fermentation. All this junk (yeast poop and carcases) sinks to the bottom of the vessel and you don’t want that in your beer. ‘Twould make it a bit…chewy, methinks. This took a good 10 minutes to fill the bucket. IMG_1500

That done, we moved the now filled bucket onto the counter above so that gravity could help us with the next step: actually filling the bottles. We removed the hose from the auto siphon (we’ll get more hose for future brewing). Making sure to sanitize both hose and spigot, we attached the hose. At this point, I remembered we never took a gravity reading before we started this process and I was curious. After fumbling around with the hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of the beer (reading the instructions for something I don’t yet understand that well was yet another lesson in humility), we placed it into a separate sample cup of brew. It didn’t float as it should. So, we decided that we would just take the reading from the brew in the bucket we had just transferred to. After sanitizing it, we carefully lowered it into the beer. We had to wait for it to stop moving around to see the reading. It read a 1.04. HydrometerNot having the slightest idea what this meant, we consulted the chart the tool came with. I don’t want to say I was disappointed (I’ll actually be surprised if this stuff is even fit for human consumption), but the chart seemed to indicate that our beer was a paltry 1.4% alcohol. Of course, it was about 90 degrees outside today, so in the house it was probably…90 degrees and the chart’s warmest temperature range was 74 degrees. So much for that. We didn’t take a reading after the initial boil as we were supposed to anyway (read instructions carefully, kids!), so we would have had nothing to compare even an accurate reading to.

Next we set to prepping the bottles. Looking around the kitchen we could find no more suitable a place to keep them, as we have no bottling rack, than the dishwasher. So we lined them up and sprayed them down with sanitizer and let them air dry. This was probably the only part in this entire process where we actually let sanitizer dry out or evaporate off of something that would come into contact with our beer. Hey, our beer will at least sanitize your insides…IMG_1506 Finally, it came time to fill our prepped bottles and cap them. This took a little getting used to, as we had to make sure there were no snags in the hose coming from the bucket spigot, but after a couple of sticky spills, we got a system down. All told, we filled 47 of the 48 bottles the kit came with. Not bad, considering our rough estimate was that we would fill those 48 and still have some brew left over. Turns out we were bad guessers, and we have almost two beautiful cases of what is hopefully a tasty beer. I’ll let you know in 10-14 days when we are ready to crack one. IMG_1509I just hope none of these bad boys explode in my closet!

Until then, happy brewin’!

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Day 3 Brew 1- Fermentation

So, as we continue our journey toward concocting that magical elixir we know as beer, I realized that I must clarify one thing. The period between Day “1” and Day “2” was actually more like 8 weeks, but for simplicity, I’m going for just days of actual activity in this whole process. So, in that spirit, I bring you Day 3 (no quotation marks this time)- Fermentation.

In this step we siphoned the partially fermented beer into the secondary fermenter, the carboy. This, we learned, is actually the preferred vessel for all fermentation, since we couldn’t see what was going on inside the bucket provided by Midwest Brewing Supplies. We learned this by going to All About Brewing, a very nondescript purveyor of everything beer (and soon whiskey) in El Cajon, CA, and talking to Jim. I highly recommend the expert guidance he provides, as he is a professional, a hobbyist, and most importantly, loves talking about beer and brewing. While there, I picked up a kit for my next brewing attempt: a nut brown ale. I may also pick up a yeast culture kit they have there to start growing my own yeast, but more on that later.

As for the current chapter in our journey toward mastering home brewing, today we siphoned the contents of the primary fermenter into the secondary fermenter to let it sit for another week to ferment further.

2nd fermentation We made sure, recalling advice from Jim at All About Brewing, to fill the air lock (the plastic tubing bit sticking out the top of the carboy) with a diluted solution of water and sanitizer, instead of just straight sanitizer, lest the liquid decide to drop into our brew and make it taste…sanitized. We can’t have that.

So, now we wait, which is probably the biggest pain of this whole process. The other big concern is sanitizing everything: equipment, dishes, hands, etc. We can’t have unwanted bacteria interrupting our wanted bacteria (the yeast) doing what it does best: making beer.

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Day 2 Brew 1- Concocting the Brew

We finally got our stuff together and actually brewed beer yesterday! We hauled all the stuff in, arranged it around the kitchen and started mixing together the ingredients. We started by boiling 2 gallons of water in the 5-gallon brew kettle, then adding the grains to steep. This is probably the best smelling part of this whole process. It had a very hearty, grainy, earthy smell. Smelled awesome.

Grain steepingThe grains came pre-smashed, else we would have had to roll them with a rolling pin or beer bottle (an actual suggestion from the directions from the folks at Midwest.) We found out only after the water came to a boil that the kit did not come with a thermometer (wtf?) and also that we were supposed to keep it at a temperature no hotter than 155.IMG_1463

So, after a quick trip to the store for specifically calibrated equipment, we took some measurements and had to let it cool down and hope we didn’t burn our grains. After removing the grain bag and bringing it to a boil (again) on the stove, we removed it from the heat and added our liquid malt. Once the malt was all stirred in and dissolved, it was back to the heat to boil again, this time for a whole hour. This changed the smell a bit from a grainy, earthy smell to a slightly sweeter grainy, earthy smell. The only thing to break up this hour of waiting was adding the hops part way through, as directed by the instructions. We then had to cool it down to about 80 degrees as quickly as possible, so we used the chiller ring and ran hose water through it in the back yard (totally sanitary).

ChillinThis done, we then transferred the whole mess to one of the buckets provided in the kit, called the primary fermenter,  and placed it in our custom-built beer resting vestibule (read: closet) to sit and ferment for the next 2 weeks. I just hope the temperature stays constant and cool enough, as it gets pretty hot in this house. This closet, though, is pretty much in the dead center of the house, so I don’t think we could have gotten it in a better insulated spot.

beer resting vestibuleThis will probably be the longest two weeks of my life. Then, we transfer it to a glass carboy (think Sparkletts container) to siphon it into the bottling bucket to mix it with the priming sugar and carbonate. More on that in the next step!

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Day 1 Brew 1- Beer Supplies Have Arrived

Well, the beer making supplies, with equipment upgrade kit two, have arrived and all seems to be in good order. We got 2 carboys, so we can actually make two different kinds of beer. We are starting with a recipe for red from Midwest Supplies, the company we got the kit from (if you couldn’t tell) and the next will probably be a pale ale.

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We will also be attempting the recipes we have in a book from Stone Brewing Co. That should be an exercise in humility. Now we just need to set aside an 8 hour block of time so we can get to brewin’! I’ll send an update once we get everything started. Until then, happy brewin’!

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