Apr 30, 2012

Brewday: American Brown

I did a brew with Mark, a mate who just lives around the corner. We've lived near each other for about 2 years yet somehow hardly ever meet up. Among its many virtues, brewing provides a great opportunity to hang out.

We did a simple American Brown Ale. I went for extract + specialty grains instead of all grain for the sake of saving some time and helping him get familiar with that step in the brewing pathway. Colour came from some Carafa Special III, Chocolate malt and some crystal. I'm still trying to use leftover hops and I thought Citra would be nice with the darker malt flavour. I also added Columbus and Galaxy. 1.052 OG and 32 IBUs.

Simple and good. Hopefully.

Apr 29, 2012

Export/RIS tasting then and now

I was sorting through some papers and discovered my initial tasting notes for my Export/Imperial Stout. I thought I'd put them up together to compare and see how the beer developed.

October 2011 Tasting:
Aroma: Chocolate, caramel, raisin-like aromas
Appearance: Black! Almost entirely opaque with a hint of red around the edges when held up to bright light. A dark tan head, thick and tight. Not great retention but a thin layer remains all the way down.
Taste: Roasty, chocolate, some alcohol flavours present. Mild hop bitterness. There's some astringency, not much sweetness. Unpleasant, vegetal aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: It has a dry feeling, a bit over-carbonated. The combination of carbonation, alcohol and astringency leave a sharp feeling on the tongue/throat.
Overall: A mistake in lots of ways, this beer almost pulls it off but the mouthfeel and aftertaste lets it down.

March 2012 Tasting:
Aroma: Not much of an aroma, a little of the roast and some alcohol. Nothing from the yeast that I can detect, I used US-05 so that's not surprising. 
Appearance: Utterly black with a two finger, dense, tan head. 
Taste: Big, roasty, chocolate, coffee. It has a dark fruity thing going on too. It's got an obvious sweetness to it, probably too much, or rather, there's not enough bitterness to balance it properly. You wouldn't sit and drink a few of these, but that's not really what you're aiming for with something this big anyway. The astringent notes I had a problem with earlier seem to be gone and the aftertaste is good. The flavour is so big that the alcohol isn't really detectable in the flavour until it warms up to room temperature. 
Mouthfeel: Syrupy and dense. The carbonation is a bit higher than I'd like but it's not too far off. Some warmth from the alcohol. 
Overall: This mistake turned out pretty well. I guess it's more of a Russian Imperial Stout than an Export Stout. If I was doing it again and intentionally aiming at a RIS I'd turn the bitterness up a notch or two and the carbonation down slightly. I'd probably also use a different yeast to get some fruity esters doing their thing. It'll be nice to have this on hand over the coming winter and I'm keen to follow Luke's lead and use it in cooking.

I'm glad that I found those notes. It's helpful to see how much the beer changed over time and a lesson to be more patient. I was surprised to read that I'd described the beer as being 'dry'. It's certainly far from dry now. I'm guessing that the astringency and mild hop bitterness contributed to that perception and as they've faded the sweetness is on the rise.

Apr 28, 2012

A new beer resolution

One of my favourite beer related memories is of 'Friday beers', a tradition that started in my last year of study and included anyone who was around knocking off at 3pm on Friday, coming around to my place and having a few drinks, debriefing, laughing and/or arguing.

The beer wasn't amazing stuff. The usual was Boags Draught unless something else was on special. But it was fine and looking back, Friday beers remains one of the highlights of that part of my life.

I was thinking about this because looking at the cupboard where my bottled beer lives, I don't have a beer in there that would quite do for a Friday beers type event or that I could give to a friend who's interested but not an adventurous beer drinker. I like big and bold flavours and that's what I gravitate to when I brew. The beers aren't bad, they all taste somewhere between decent and really good, and my beer geek friends like them, but none of them are quite right for a gathering that has beer but isn't beer centric.

I think that's a shame. Beer shouldn't be bad but it also shouldn't be inaccessible or pretentious. It also shouldn't need to be the centre of attention in a social setting but rather be the lubricant that helps the wheels turn. I want to have something on hand that can easily be thrown in the mix at a bbq or when having a few mates around that is nice and drinkable for someone who isn't a big or adventurous beer drinker as well as those who enjoy craft beer.

So I thought about what styles would probably get the job done. I came up with: 
  • Ordinary/Best Bitter
  • Irish Red Ale
  • Australian Pale Ale
  • Kolsch
  • Witbier
  • Mild
  • Pilsner/Lager
And looking at it, I actually find that list intimidating. I've just brewed an Irish Red Ale so we'll have to see how that turns out but they all strike me as beers that are hard to do well. There are two difficulties: they're so simple that it's rarely going to be memorable and there's nowhere to hide off flavours. It really demands a good process and ingredients.

Getting on top of a couple of these styles is now one of my projects. They're not likely to set anyones world on fire but hopefully I can brew something that's an easy and pleasant drink that will contribute to more great beer memories.

Apr 27, 2012

Wild yeast update #2

It's been about six weeks since I collected the wild yeast. Two of the jars grew mould and were chucked. The other two were promising and they were stepped up into 250 ml erlenmeyer flasks.

The most promising one is now in a 2l erlenmeyer flask, growing and getting ready to do its thing in a batch of beer. I tasted it and when I failed to die my mate Luke sampled it too.

Jar #3 was the wild yeast winner
I'm finding it really hard to describe. The dominant citrus character has given way to something else. Earthy is the word that comes to mind but that's one of those nothing descriptions that I use when I can't really get any closer to the reality. It doesn't smell anything like dirt. Spicy or herbal are descriptors that nibble around the edges of the aroma but don't really get at the heart of it. I don't know. Maybe a menthol kind of flavour going on? Strange. That's all I've got. It's definitely turning into something else and I guess I'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

One thing I was a bit concerned about was how well it would attenuate. It seemed to have done a pretty good job of dealing with the malt extract though. Not really dry, there was some slight residual sweetness but it seemed to have a pretty average attenuation, somewhere in between an English Ale and a dry IPA.

Can't wait to try this Tassie wild yeast in a beer
I'm thinking of using it in something relatively low alcohol and simple for its first run. Something like a Wit maybe. Not sure.

The other one, from jar #4, got tipped. It was starting to grow some mould and I wasn't willing to try and salvage it.

Apr 26, 2012

Hop city

Apparently this is so hot right now in some trendy craft beer bars. Huw, Jason, Benny and I gave it a go while the Export Stout was brewing.

Take some hop flowers (we used Galaxy)

Add them to a coffee plunger

Add some beer (we used a couple of Stellas as they're pretty plain)

And out comes extra hop infused beer. We decided that next time we'd add more hops and leave for a longer time. It definitely added something to the mouthfeel and flavour of the beer, a bit of aroma. Definitely worth trying another time with some more hops.

Apr 25, 2012

Brewday: ANZAC Day Export Stout

I've been itching to brew with Huw and Jason, my regular co-conspirators and today was the day. We also roped in Benny who we've been wanting to have along for a while.

We brewed an Export Stout, pinched but with minor changes from The Mad Fermentationist who in turn pinched it from Oregon's Pelican Pub and Brewery.

For my version of the recipe, I changed the hops to Fuggles and a small amount of Northern Brewer since I'm still trying to use up some leftovers. I also read somewhere about an old school technique for brewing Stouts: adding a portion of the black malt directly to the boil. I've given that a go and we'll see how it turns out.

We did some brewing. It was pretty relaxed and everything worked out well with no problems. Jason showed us his skills with the weber, cooking pork belly and a pork roast. That stuff was amazing.

We also drank the last remaining bottle (a growler) of one of our past efforts, a Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale. It was past its best but still fun to share. I also brought out some of my Berliner Weisse, Galaxy Pale and Imperial Stout.

Loving using glad wrap as a lid which lets me stickybeak the whole process
Laughs, brewing and good beers. It was even better after such a long time stuck in bed. I'm totally trashed now and will probably be paying for it for a couple of days but it's totally worth it. I was going to take some photos but I was having too much fun and forgot.

Apr 23, 2012


Home brewers dream about starting a microbrewery like young girls plan their wedding.

Apr 22, 2012

Tasting: Galaxy Pale Ale

So the ill-fated Galaxy Pale Ale is now mostly in bottles. It's tasting pretty good although it isn't what I intended at the time. Fortunately I made several mistakes instead of just one. Each one added up to leave me with a beer that's somewhere in the Pale Ale/IPA vicinity so it's worked out well enough.

Galaxy Pale Ale
Aroma: very aromatic, floral, fruity, with a 'sharp' passionfruit aroma. It actually smells very similar to my Baby IPA which used Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo together. I'm quite relieved that it lost the 'dirty tea towel' smell that it had when I bottled it.

Appearance: pale golden colour, slightly hazy, 3cm head that left some lacing.

Flavour: assertive bitterness, some maltiness but it's largely buried in the hop flavour. The similarities to the Baby IPA continue with the hop flavour. Some citrus, some passionfruit, some resiny kinds of flavours.

Mouthfeel: the carbonation is just shy of medium and it suited the beer very nicely. It'll probably carb up a bit more, I'm drinking it with only 13 days in the bottle. It's quite dry and suits an IPA or Pale Ale pretty well.

Overall: Well, this isn't the beer that I intended to brew but it's still ok. Not amazing, but decent. If I was going to brew it again as a Pale Ale, I'd probably try to squash some more malt flavour into it and add some other hop varieties. This was my first time using Galaxy hops and they haven't wowed me. They're nice enough but not really doing it for me in a single hop beer.

As an experiment, I saved 5l in a glass jar and added some WY5112 Brett Bruxellensis to it. It's sitting in a dark cupboard and I'll see how that's doing in a few months.

Apr 19, 2012

Home roasting malts

I've wanted to roast my own malts for a while, having read quite a few positive reports on beers brewed with home roasted malts. Plus, there are some malts that aren't readily available in Tassie and roasting myself is a way to get around that problem. For my first foray into roasting malt I based my efforts on a post on Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog.

There are 3 or 4 recipes I want to brew with brown malt in the recipe so I gave the brown a shot first off.

Pale malt before roasting
Starting with pale malt, I spread out 240g on an oven tray and put it in the oven for 50 minutes at 205'C, stirring every 10 minutes to get as even a roast as possible.

Brown malt finished and cooled
It turned out pretty well I reckon. The 240g reduced to 213g after roasting. 11% isn't too bad. If I recall correctly, coffee roasters tend to find a 20% reduction in weight from green to roasted. I'm guessing that green coffee beans have a higher moisture content than pale malt.

The malt tastes good and roasty and is quite evenly roasted. I'm looking forward to putting it to use. The hard part is waiting for a week or two to let it de-gas before using it. I need to plan ahead a bit more or, even better, just roast large enough quantities of a few different malts to have on hand.

Side by side
I've got a mate who's made a coffee roaster with a heat gun and a bread maker and I'm hoping to borrow it soon to roast some malt for a historical Stout recipe. It should give me more control and a more even roast.

Next up: amber, light crystal and some more brown malt.

Apr 17, 2012

Brewday: Playoffs IPA

I'm not generally organised enough to brew for particular occasions, even brewing things appropriate to the season is more accidental than planned. However, I'm looking for opportunities to brew now that I'm able and the NBA playoffs are fast approaching. My aim was to brew an appropriate beer to drink while watching the Grizzlies and Spurs make deep (hopefully) playoff runs.

The Grizz are the fun team to watch again this postseason

I wanted to brew a beer that's about as subtle as Chris Andersen's tattoos and I have lots of hops that need to be used so the Playoffs IPA was born.

Weighing and crushing grain

I used 2.8kg pale malt, 500g rye and 150g crystal (120 ebc) for the grain of this 11.5l brew. I've been wanting to use rye and I'm hoping it'll contribute a nice spicy character and full mouthfeel. The hops are Amarillo, Citra and Columbus. All big and bold and hopefully they'll play nicely together. Up to this point I've mostly done single hop beers as I'm still very much a beginner and learning about the different varieties and what they contribute to a beer. However, this time I was feeling up for a big hit of American hops so I chucked them all in. Additions at 60 min, 10 min and dry hopping to 70 IBUs with an OG of 1.062.

Raising the temp for mash out

The brew itself was mostly easy enough. Mashed in at 65'C and raised the temp to 75 for mash out. It's now in the fermenter with a dose of US-05 and we should be drinking it sometime in the first week of playoffs. Perfect. I will drink it and imagine I am there.

Playoffs IPA on its way!

Apr 15, 2012

Tasting: Belgian Saison aka Pale Ale

Bron brewed this one for me and she did a great job! It started out being intended as a Pale Ale but I ended up using WY3725 so it turned out more along the lines of a Saison.

Bultman's Reserve

Aroma: Light aroma, yeast and a slightly sour tang. Some hop aroma as it warms slightly.

Appearance: Cloudy yellow with a pillowy white head. Some lacing down the glass.

Flavour: The aroma carries over to the taste. There's a pleasant tartness from the yeast and a mild hop flavour. The bitterness is present but not overwhelming. It lingers on the palate in a pleasant way. I'm attributing this to the first wort hopping. The malt backing could be stronger and I'd like the hop flavour and aroma to be a bit bigger, especially since it's morphed into a Saison.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied. Dry. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Refreshing and pleasant. It's a pretty subtle beer, something of a departure for me. If I brewed it again I might mash it a little higher and definitely hop it a bit more too. Still, it's a really pleasant beer and I think it's a good start to the Reserve. Now I've got to get going for the next couple of releases.

Apr 12, 2012

Brewday: Irish Red Ale

I finally managed to brew (almost) unassisted. I'm on the way back from this sickness! It was a spur of the moment thing so instead of brewing one of the 10 or so beers that are on my list of beers to brew, I brewed an Irish Red Ale since I had the ingredients for it. I'm still brewing on the stovetop until I can get a wort chiller sorted out so it was just a 11.5l batch.

Beyond brewing beers that I enjoy, one of my aims in brewing is to produce beers that Bron likes to drink. Irish Red Ale was probably the first craft beer that Bron really loved. We had the Redoak version back in 2007 and it remains the gold standard for us. If I can produce something that doesn't embarrass itself next to that I'll be stoked.

Not my photo but that's the colour I'm going for
For the recipe I used 2.1kg of maris otter as the base malt and 100g of crystal 120ebc to contribute some colour and a bit of cara flavour. 30g of roasted barley gave the brew that black-red colour I was after. At the last moment I decided to go with 150g flaked barley as well for a bit of extra creaminess and body. I chucked in some EKG and fuggles hops (just using up leftovers) to ~20 IBUs. I used S-04 yeast.

The brew went well although the stove struggled to get the wort to the boil. It was so much fun to get back into it after over 4 months of just reading about brewing. The aim was for an OG of 1.047 at 75% efficiency into the fermenter, I hit 1.048.

So now it's fermenting away and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Apr 4, 2012

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