Archive for July, 2011

OC fair, bottling the mead, hops update

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

last saturday AP and I headed out to the OC fair for a “VIP party” in honor of competing homebrewers.

  • unfortunately for my ego, none of my entries placed (~500 entries were received), but several of the winning homebrewers were pouring samples of their prize beers.  memorable pours included a nut brown hemp ale from a great impromptu draft system by backhousebrew and a bright red mead aged on red hots.
  • everyone at the event (both staff and homebrewers) were friendly and approachable, and readily gave out both brews and advice.  after downing some sandwiches, pouring some choice brews, and scoring some raffle schwag from steelhead brewery, AP and I headed off to be immersed in the chaos of the fair, cooking under the midday sun.

the next day, I decided to bottle my local mead, thereby putting an end to almost a month of procrastination.

  • I cleaned and sanitized two cases of wine bottles that had been collected and de-labeled over the course of a few months, filled them up off the secondary keg, and corked them using a portugese floor corker.
  •  corking with the floor corker was a breeze, and I patted myself on the back for picking one up instead of a hand-held corker, which are notoriously inefficient.
  • my bottled mead finished at 9.25 brix (o.996 FG), for an abv of 13.9%.  it has a terrific sweet honey/floral aroma and a vinous finish (the champagne yeast comes through in the back end), and had little noticeable heat, which should dissipate further within the next five months in the bottle.  I had trouble keeping AP away from the gravity sample, which was a good sign for future drinkability.
  • the mead was significantly cloudy, which doesn’t bother me, but which could be avoided by frequent racking off the sediment.  this was reinforced by a conversation with a meadmaker I had at the OC fair – they rack their award-winning mead every three months for a crystal-clear end product.

I also managed to tend to my hop plants this weekend, which are showing steady signs of growth.

  • my vojvodina and chinook varieties appear to have slightly larger yields than last year, and my cascade has been growing like a bush in the ground, sending up new runners every week.
  • the mt hood and sterling plants have send up promising runners, but have yet to flower.  the zeus crown that I split a while back has shown minimal growth and seems to be waiting for something to happen.  I’ve got my fingers crossed…

freakin frog las vegas, pellicle update

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

last weekend my buddy EH and I hopped on a plane to vegas to meet up with some old friends for some catching up.

  • unfortunately, our hotel was a hike from my go-to beer spot on the strip – burger bar.  that, and a rigid weekend schedule prevented much exploration once we set up shop at the hotel.  if only I had time for rosemary’s
  • the only answer was to stock up on some quality brews straight from the airport and stash them in the hotel for the weekend.
  • a few minutes on beerfly netted a couple promising spots – aces and ales and freaking frog.   the latter’s close proximity to the airport and supposedly extensive beer cooler clinched it, and as soon as we could grab a cab we headed over in the triple digit heat.
  • unfazed by the lack of windows and goofy exterior signage of the frog, we slipped in and were immediately welcomed with a decent draft selection.  however, the real action was in the frog’s walk-in cooler, where a fantastic variety of brews from all over awaited our perusal in a refreshingly cold environment.
  • after poring over the selection, a bottle of fantome’s saison was popped for immediate gratification, and bottles of DFH fort (boozy, sweet, and fruity, would do well with a few years on it) and olde school (warm, fruity, and full-bodied; great with a padron ’64 anniversary exclusivo), as well as a bottle of cantillon kriek (easily in my top 5), were nabbed for weekend enjoyment.
  • after checking out the impressive whisky attic at the frog (which supposedly stocks the largest variety in the US), we grabbed our stash and headed for a nearby liquor store, where significant quantities of swill were picked up for those in the party with less discerning palates.  that’s not to say a few crown-embossed tabs weren’t popped by yours truly that weekend…


  • upon returning to LA on sunday, I was greeted by a dramatic increase in the pellicle crowning my cuvee de blanc (possibly due to the recent increase in temps).  AP’s reaction was less enthusiastic than mine – hopefully she’ll forget about it next year come bottling time…

rye saison, homebrew delivery

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

temps in the high 80s couldn’t prevent me from firing up my burners and mashing in this weekend.

  • as mentioned before, I decided on a “straight” saison with no brett or other bugs, that will hopefully make for a sessionable drinker in a few months.
  • after using judicious amounts of rye in past IPAs, I decided to step up to the plate and use a little more rye (about 25%) with a lighter malt bill (~70% pilsner malt) to really let the rye spiciness stand out.  I have heard of roggenbiers with over 60% rye in the lineup, so 25% shouldn’t be too radical.
    • 17.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 68.00 %
      6.00 lb Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 24.00 %
      2.00 lb White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 8.00 %
      2.00 oz Hallertauer, New Zealand [8.50 %] (60 min) Hops 22.7 IBU
      2.00 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] (10 min) Hops 4.6 IBU
  • I mashed in at 150, had a 45 min sparge to get 13 gallons, and boiled down to 12 gallons in 60 min, ending with an OG of 14 brix (1.055), which was a little under my target of 1.058.
  • a couple days prior, I had added some dregs from baulleux’s cuvee des jonquilles to my upright four dreg slurry.  the starter was rocking when it came time to pitch, and my french saison blend took off in the wort, with a high krausen after about 12 hours at 82F.  I may never go back to commercial yeast again…

I also received quite a surprise in the mail – a sixer of homebrews and a vial of wild yeast from BT over at blackmanbrew.

  • the beers included a california common and two varieties of a dusseldorf alt (one more aggressively hopped).  all were very sessionable and went down too quickly with burgers, ribs, and  salad over the course of a few days.
  • the wild yeast was BT’s proprietary “TX2104” that he cultured from dregs of a perry that had been fermented using local texas persimmon skins.  I boiled down a couple extra gallons of wort from the saison mash, hopped it proportionately, and pitched the yeast vial, which promptly took off within a few hours.  I plan on tasting the results in a few months to help determine a recipe for the wild slurry.  thanks again BT, and keep up the good work!

mead v.2.0, dreg culturing, hop/funk updates

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

with over a month between me and my last brew session, I was again itching to get a boil going.

  • unfortunately, the long weekend was packed with events, so I was left with a thursday evening and a third of a garage to work with.  luckily, AP had picked up fifteen pounds of local honey from the farmer’s market a few weeks back, so these limited conditions proved perfect for a quick mead-making session.
  • I stuck with my old preparation4 gals@ 115F, 14lb honey, cool below 80F, hit with some O2, add yeast and nutrients.  I went with WLP715 again and added staggered nutrients for the first three days while degassing the mead.  to fight the heat, I stuck the fermenter in my temp-controlled fermentation fridge at ~67F and will ignore it for about a month before racking it to a corny keg.
  • anyone even remotely interested in mead should give mead-making a shot – total prep time (including cleanup) was about 1.5 hrs, and using a turkey fryer setup and ambient overnight cooling you could probably knock it down to less than an hour.  the hardest part is finding suitable brewing attire

additionally, on tuesday I started formulating a recipe for this weekend’s brew session.

  • after pondering light, clean california ales and summer belgians, I decided on a non-funked saison (due largely in part to temps in the 80s).  unfortunately, my yeast bank only had slurries of WLP570 golden strong, WLP500 trappist, and my wild house strain, as well as a vial of WLP655 sour mix I.
  • therefore, my only other options were to (a) send in an online order and pay $12-15 for a vial that would likely sit in a hot warehouse for a day or two, (b) drive an hour round-trip to the local brew shop to pick up a single yeast vial, or (c) culture some yeast from a bottle down in the cellar.
  • I went with (c) and grabbed a bottle of upright’s four, knocked it down with some panang curry, sterilized the lip of the bottle with a butane lighter, and pitched the dregs into a 800mL starter.  hopefully three days on the stirplate will be enough to get the yeast ready for action.

the advent of summer has also triggered some great hop and bug growth.

  • despite having their initial runner vines accidentally amputated, both my cascade and vojvodina varieties have bounced back as strong as ever and are going nuts up the side of the house.  the chinook have also reached the two-story mark and are still going to the roof.  unfortunately, the zeus crown that I split never took off and what little foliage it has is getting cooked in the afternoon sun.  I still have my fingers crossed though…
  • a nice looking pellicle has also been developing on my cuvee de blanc, which is on its third month in the fermenter.  only nine more to go…