Archive for December, 2010

riding the wave

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

as many of you may recall, I’m not such a huge fan of the recent hype surrounding craft beer.

  • more specifically, I’ve been noticing overwhelming crowds at beer events and people breaking the bank chasing white whales through the mail.  don’t get me wrong – I definitely appreciate that with popularity comes support, and with support comes enhanced variety and accessibility.
  • sometimes, however, when everyone is buying, you gotta sell.
  • a few weeks ago I noticed that dave over at drunkenpolack was offloading some of his beers at cost.  when I saw some of the prices he paid for a bottle of brew, I immediately cruised over to ebay, where my mind was effectively blown.  hard to find beers were going for a MINT, especially bruery beers and rarer russian river bottles.
  • after alerting an old friend to this development, said friend proceeded to sell off three bottles collecting dust (in accordance with all ebay, state, and federal rules and regulations) for the meager sum of $400.
  • one bottle of beer or a fifth of 23yr pappy van winkle?  it’s a tough call…

simple cider

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

with the holidays looming and an AP-imposed kibosh on brewing until the new year, I had to find a way to satisfy my fermentation cravings.

  • adding staggered nutrient additions to my mead (now around 12-14 brix or so) wasn’t cutting it, so I decided to throw together a quick and easy cider.
  • how quick and easy?  this sucker took about five minutes start to finish:
    • 1. purchase preservative-free apple juice (I went with trader joe’s flash pasteurized refrigerated juice and let it warm up to about 70F)
    • 2. crack open the juice and pour yourself a small glass (this creates some head space for fermentation)
    • 3. add 1/4-1 packet of champagne yeast to the juice container, depending on volume (I added half a packet to 1/2 gallon of juice, which was actually a bit overboard)
    • 4. re-cap juice container and shake to aerate
    • 5. remove cap and secure sanitized foil to top of container with a rubber band (can optionally use an airlock if it fits).
  • I usually give the fermentation a few weeks before priming and bottling.  the champagne yeast ferments out completely (resulting in a dry cider), so if you would like any residual sweetness you could add in potassium sorbate or other inhibitors (or just drink the juice earlier).
  • this cider, although dead simple to make, is always a hit and is a great way for someone to get into home fermentation.  also, if you can score fresh unpasteurized juice, I recommend splitting the batch, adding yeast to only half, and letting the other half ferment out spontaneously (I have wanted to do this for a while).
  • HAPPY HOLIDAYS – be sure to treat yourself and pull something out from deep in the cellar this week!

local mead

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

I had no idea how simple it was to make a basic mead before I tried it.

  • I had toyed with the idea of making a mead/braggot for a while, but after reading hightest’s straightforward FAQ at homebrewtalk, I was ready to take the plunge.
  • I managed to score some great wildflower honey sourced locally from energy bee farm at a local farmer’s market.  their product is outstanding and their prices are reasonable, especially when you buy in bulk (they sell in containers up to 12 lb.).
  • unlike grain fermentations, where the wort provides essential elements to the yeast, mead fermentations need staggered nutrient additions.  it seems complicated, but there are only three additions of DAP and fermaid-K that need to be stirred in at defined intervals, each of which takes five minutes tops.  I picked up my nutrients at the moreflavor! conglomerate (under the wine section I believe).
  • preparation and inoculation of the must was as follows:
    • heat 4 gal. water to 115F.
    • stir in 14 lbs honey.
    • cool to below 80F (I hit 72F).
    • add first stage nutrients and yeast (DAP, fermaid-K, and white labs WLP715 champagne yeast for a dryer mead)
  • the process only takes and hour or two and yields 5 gallons of mead.  in the future, I’m thinking about experimenting with the style, including some sour blend/dreg additions, a funked belgian blond braggot, sparkling mead, etc.


Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

last weekend AP and I  ventured up to seattle for a couple days of clean air, great food, and killer brews.

  • saturday afternoon we stopped by elysian brewing to try some of their lineup.  elysian distributes down in CA, and I never really fell for any of their bottles, but I figured that it might be different from the source.  unfortunately, even on draft at the brewery, their beers were hit-or-miss.  their prometheus IPA was pretty tasty, but their men’s room red, bifrost winter ale, and loser pale ale were all forgettable.  paired with mediocre food, the whole experience was a bust.
  • undaunted, we moved on to the stumbling monk, which made up for the last experience in spades.  the tap and bottle list wasn’t huge, but was full of great choices, and the environemnt was cozy and dark.  AP picked up a pour of la folie, while I tried dogfish’s pangaea, which was well made but not my style.  after trying a taste of new belgium’s “wild ale” and a pour of midnight sun’s cohoho, AP dragged me out of there before I could pick up a bottle of cascade apricot.
  • we ended the night at collins pub with some great food and some brews from boundary bay (cabin fever), laurelwood, and pike (kilt lifter scotch – a hoppy red ale?).
  • even after saturday’s plethora of great beers, sunday was where it got interesting.  after hitting up some farmer’s markets around town, we headed over to brouwer’s cafe to catch what i thought were the stragglers from their big wood festival.
  • however, instead of happening only on 12/2, the event lasted all week.  this meant that brouwer’s had an INSANE draft selection- quite possibly the best I have ever seen.  AP and I tried cantillon’s framboise ’06, st. lamnivus, and vignerone; cascade’s kriek; new belgium’s eric’s ale; and russian river’s supplicationall on draft. in fact, we couldn’t even get past their “sour wood” selection into their “big wood” selection of killer strong barrel aged beers.
  • their bottle selection was staggering as well, and included tons of cantillon, fantome, drie fonteinen, and other rare beers.  their frites were top notch too.  I could have spent all day at the bar chatting up their bartender and sliding deeper into my stool, but after a few we left and headed over to bottleworks, their sister bottle shop.
  • after ogling the selection at brouwer’s, I figured I wasn’t going to be able to contain myself at bottleworks.  however, after scanning their coolers for a good fifteen minutes, I found their selection to be pretty mediocre (compared to heavyweights like healthy spirits and port bottle shop).  I’m not sure whether this was a result of big wood, since online reviews claim that this place is the bee’s knees.  I did manage to pick up a couple bottles, and the staff was friendly, but I left a little disappointed.
  • seattle turned out to be a great city full of great people, food, events, and beers.  I will definitely be back, and will likely time it with a brouwer’s cafe event, which is worth the trip alone.


Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

after trying CB’s awesome saison last time I was up in SF, I knew it was time to experiment with the style.

  • luckily, I had suckered him into divulging his recipe, and after a quick trip to the brew store for some yeast and bugs, an impromptu thanksgiving weekend brew day was thrown together.
  • I followed CB’s recipe for the most part, but was also in the christmas mood and made slight changes accordingly (see bold):
    • 0.50 lb Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 2.41 %
      16.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 77.11 %
      1.25 lb Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 6.02 %
      1.25 lb Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 6.02 %
      0.25 lb Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 1.20 %
      3.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] (70 min) Hops 30.1 IBU
      1.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] (0 min) Hops
      1.50 lb Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM) (used dark bel. candi) Sugar 7.23 %
      1 Pkgs Belgian Saison II Ale (White Labs #WLP566) Yeast-Ale
  • I mashed at 148 and ended up with around 11 gals at an OG of 1.057.
  • after pitching the yeast at 72F, I gave it a 2 day head start, then pitched white labs sour mix I and dregs from a fresh bottle of fantome noel, which had a medium fruity nose and a significant tobacco back (not my favorite bottle of the stuff, but what can you do).
  • the batch is currently fermenting at an ambient temp of 62-64, which is definitely not ideal for a saison, but since this will be in the fermenter for six months or longer I can wait for warmer weather (and hopefully some fruity esters).
  • thanks again for the inspiration CB!  can’t wait to see how this stacks up against your brew.