Posts Tagged ‘Homebrew’

Festival of Iowa Beers 2009

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

2009-09-06-prosI had a pretty good time at the Festival of Iowa Beers today. As always, the buzz and bustle was around the homebrewers’ tent. There were a wide range of beers on tap there: imperial this that and the other, a few sours, and several real ales served on a beer engine. The pros had a few interesting taps, but predictably most were pouring their usual fare.

There was plenty of gossip and news to be had, lots about brewery openings. The owners of Jasper Winery are apparently occupying the old Maytag factory in Newton with their new brewery. That’ll be running a copper 15 barrel two-vessel brewhouse. I also heard about a new startup that’s currently courting investors – they call themselves Grass Roots Brewing.

2009-09-06-hub-cityHub City up in Stanley is finishing the preparations on their new addition, featuring a 30 barrel brewing system. They will apparently be running double batches into 60 barrel (!) fermenters. That’s a huge increase in capacity, but apparently their distributors are working hard to keep that beer on the shelves. Hub City will also be releasing two small batch series: one of seasonals and one of high-gravity specials available only outside the state (thank you Iowa ABD!). More about those nearer to their year-end release.

I was able to try two of the beers B.J. from Hub City is developing. The first was the Russian Imperial Stout, the initial release in the out-of-state series. It was deep mahogany brown, lightly hazy, with a yellowed ring of head and a malty aroma. The taste is roasty with coffee and burnt toast. Thick and chewy, with a complex yet delicate flavor.

+Hub City Russian Imperial Stout

3.7 (4-6-8-4-15)

I also had a taste of a steam beer B.J. has been working on for the seasonal schedule. It has a light fruity nose, a pale yellow color, and almost no head. The flavor is a little sweet with a prominent yeast roughness and fruity hop character.

+Hub City Steam Beer

3.1 (2-6-7-3-13)

From the Burlington Makers of Beer (MOB) I had the cask-conditioned Mildly Interesting ale, an English-style mild. This is a near clear gamboge color with some frothy tan head. The nose is lightly malty and yeasty. It has a cider and caramel flavor, with just a bit of pomegranate.

The Ames Brewers League was one of many to bring an imperial stout aged on wood. Theirs is a Whiskey Barrel Russian Imperial Stout. It’s near black, with hints of brown and a ring of yellowed head. A sweet nose greets you initially, with prominent whiskey and rye. Thick and sweet, the flavor is toasty with a bit of roast and a strong alcohol spike. The sweetness and an astringency linger.

I had the Gruit beer from Cenosilicaphobia Brewers (a homebrew club out of Pella, Iowa). This one was labeled “NO HOPS”, and in red lettering “SOUR”. It is a hazy orange yellow with no head. The nose is lightly citric and a bit tart. The flavor is a clean lactic sour, with orange, grapefruit, and raspberry. There is just a bit of pale malt flavor. It is refreshingly tart, but not too intense.

Old Man River Brewery in McGregor, Iowa, is now bottling under the name Einfach Beer (“simple beer”). I tried both of the beers they brought to the festival (they forgot the Dunkel at home). The Oktoberfest is rich with malt flavor: toast, caramel, and bread. It is amber, almost clear, with a light malt nose. Sweet and smooth, decently authentic.

+Einfach Oktoberfest

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

The Helles is a clear straw with generous and creamy white head. The nose is light with corn, somewhat metallic, and a little toasty. The flavor is sulfury corn with a bit of sweetness. Actually remarkably authentic.

+/-Einfach Helles

2.8 (4-5-6-2-11)

2009-09-06-amsPowder Keggers is a women’s beer appreciation group in Des Moines, but they were able to muster up a few selections of homebrew to bring to the festival. (ed. note: this was meant to read “they’re a beer appreciation group, but they brought homebrew anyway” rather than “they’re a women’s group, but they could still figure out how to bring beer”) I tried their Lady Nessa’s Grand Cru. It was a very clear pale amber color with a little white head. The nose was malty with notes of grassy hops. The flavor is malty, with an alcohol tinge and a balancing sweetness. Some earthy hops come through. The body is thick but not cloying.

From the Raccoon River Brewers I tried an Oktoberfest. This one highlighted the difficulties brewing a good festbier. It was an opal amber with some off-white head. A lightly sweet, toast and corn nose led into a flavor of cotton candy and some bread. Sweet and cloying.

From down in Fort Madison the crew at Lost Duck Brewing Company brought a few interesting beers. The one I tried was the Duck ala Orange, an orange-infused lager. This one is light on flavor with an orange character that borders on synthetic. Very sweet, it’s a beer for those who appreciate Leinie’s Sunset Wheat. The redeeming quality is the bitter orange peel that comes through if you look for it.

+/-Lost Duck Duck ala Orange

2.6 (2-4-7-3-10)

From the MUGZ homebrew club I tried Little Brown Winkie. It claimed to be aged on sour cherries. Lightly hazy and reddish brown, the Winkie has some tan head. The nose is strong with pie cherries, I’d say montmorency. There is also just a bit of gym sock. It has a strong sharp pie cherry flavor with some malt. An astringency and sweetness linger.

Well, as usual I don’t think I was there long enough and I don’t think I had enough variety. But all in all it was a pretty good festival.

Oh yeah, and I took a look around the new brewhouse at Millstream. It’s coming along…


IPA Week: Saphir Single-Hop Organic Homebrew

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Today I finally brewed the beer that has been several months in the making. It is an all-organic single-hop saphir India pale ale. Saphir hops have this other-worldly fruity character to them that I was hoping to capture in full with this brew.

It started out with Northern Brewer‘s organic light malt extract to provide most of the fermentables. To that I added a pound each of Briess’s organic cara-pils, caramel 20L, and caramel 60L malts. These adjunct malts will provide body and solid malt flavor to balance the hops.2009-07-03-homebrew Caramel (also known as crystal) malts are roasted while still wet, allowing the enzymes to work breaking down the starches into sugar which then crystallizes within the kernel. Cara-pils (also called dextrin malt due to its high dextrin content) is the lightest variety of caramel malt. It is roasted just long enough to crystallize without allowing the sugars to caramelize. The 20L and 60L malts are left longer, converting more of the sugars to an unfermentable form and darkening the malt (creating Maillard by-products), in this case increasing the color to 20 or 60 degrees Lovibond, respectively. I did what’s called a mini-mash with the three pounds of grain, steeping them in the water as I waited for it to raise to boiling.

I used only one type of hop for bittering as well as flavor and aroma: saphir. This is a relatively new variety coming out of Germany, intended to replace the hallowed Hallertauer Mittelfruh (the variety used in classic Bavarian Oktoberfestbier). Saphir has a wonderfully delicate herbal and citric aroma (great for brewers) and an incredible resistance to disease and pests (great for growers). I added three ounces at the start of the boil to give a solid bitter foundation. After half an hour I threw in another ounce, and again after another fifteen minutes. These should allow the flavor of the hops to come through significantly. Just before stopping the boil I threw in half an ounce and I’ll dry hop with the last half ounce to ensure the presence of the intoxicating aroma of the saphir.

Like all good American IPAs I used Sierra Nevada’s yeast. Beer Calculus predicts it will end up being around 6.4% alcohol and somewhat leaning towards bitter and hoppy. I can’t wait to see how this turns out…

Saphir Single-Hop Organic IPA
6 lbs. Organic Light Malt Extract Syrup
1 lb. Organic Cara-pils
1 lb. Organic Caramel 20L
1 lb. Organic Caramel 60L
3 oz. Organic Saphir 60 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 30 min.
1 oz. Organic Saphir 15 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir 1 min.
1/2 oz. Organic Saphir dry-hopped
Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

Phoenix – Day 1: Serendipity

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I went to Phoenix with the dad and broski for spring break. Now, this isn’t a baseball blog so over the next few posts I’ll extract only the parts of the trip relevant to beer.

Loser's punishment

Loser's punishment

One of the first things I did when arriving was post to Twitter about the beautiful weather. Now, the beer gods were with me that I mentioned Phoenix by name, because olllllo, the Beer Hack(er) (and sometime contributor to beerporn) saw it. He quickly messaged, inviting me to an annual event at his home at the base of South Mountain which was just by chance happening that very evening. So after the watching the Cubs lose and the Suns win I made my way to his place.

Shaq and Steve Nash shooting...

Shaq and Steve Nash shooting...

Okay, ‘event’ is the wrong word. Olllllo had five homebrews on tap and three brewing friends had brought two or three beers each, so there were at least 50 gallons flowing. Also olllllo was opening bottle after bottle from his cellar. It was a party.

I wish I had had more time for tasting: I was only able to sample a few of the beers. From a man that looked suspiciously like Sam Elliot I tasted a pale ale made with summit and simcoe hops, with a big rich herbal and fruity nose. A guy whose real name was Bill but who everybody just called ‘Wild’ had two selections. First was a pedestrian roggenbier. Late in the evening he brought out his reserve keg: three gallons of bourbon porter that he’s been aging over a year on oak. It was smooth, yet rough. It was balanced, yet intense. It was fantastic. I had to find out how he got the ratio so perfect. “I had a half a fifth left and I wasn’t going to drink it, so I just threw it in.” This guy is my kind of brewer.

Me and olllllo and his kegerator

Me and olllllo and his kegerator

Ollllo himself had a few interesting selections. I had what he refers to as his “Meheeco Vienna Lager”. What can I say, it was authentic. He also had a perry (that’s pear cider for the unenlightened) that wasn’t half bad. The star of his lineup, however, was labelled simply “Centennial IPA”. While drinking the first glass of this I failed to take proper stock of the aroma, or notice that centennial is (at least according to teh internets) the principal hop in Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s, a beer you should know I love. For the lazy, my description was that “[t]he hop aroma is strong enough that you don’t even need to lean in.” After being directly informed of the attempt at cloning, I was blown away. While he can still work on the flavor a bit, ollllo’s version has exactly the nose of Two Hearted. Man I wish I could brew like that.

More southwest updates to come…

Mystery Homebrew 2nd Edition

Friday, December 12th, 2008

It’s been a while since I tried some mystery homebrew left over from a competition. I had three bottles tonight.

The first one had the letters “BK” on the cap. It poured a somewhat hazy caramel amber with a thick tan – almost golden – head. The aroma was light and fruity, like mangoes and red oranges. The flavor was dry and bitter. Subdued hop flavors (herbal and lemon) play on the tip of my tongue as well as the very back. There is a sweeter fruitiness in the middle. Some caramel malt flavor comes through. This beer is very effervescent: I’m burping alot. The palate is dry and lively, with a big mouthfeel that is almost thick. This beer is clearly quite alcoholic. Probably an IPA.

+Mystery Beer #4

RateBeer: 3.4 (4-6-7-4-13)

The second beer was bottled in a recycled Sam Adams bottle. It is a golden yellow, barely hazy, with an extremely active carbonation. The head is thick, creamy, and straw. A playful, lightly fruity and herbal nose probably of Glacier hops. I smell lemons, kiwis, and orange blossoms. The flavor is very bitter, unpleasantly so. There is a thick herbal character as well. This one’s much too carbonated, and probably also an IPA.

+/-Mystery Beer #5

RateBeer: 3.0 (4-8-5-2-11)

The last homebrew tonight poured an opal straw with some white head. The nose was some sweet corn and lots of cardboard. The flavor is also corny and cardboardy, with some mustiness as well. It is very cloying.

-Mystery Beer #6

RateBeer: 2.1 (3-3-5-2-8)

My Homebrew Strategy: Serendipity

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Style. Possibly the most contentious issue in beer. It could be argued that beer styles didn’t even exist until 1977 when the late Michael Jackson (The Beer Hunter, not a particular recording artist) published his comprehensive World Guide to Beer. In one stroke he redefined what it means to appreciate beer, comparing local varieties from all across the globe. From Wikipedia:

However, despite an awareness by commentators, law-makers, and brewers that there were different styles of beer, it wasn’t until Michael Jackson’s World Guide To Beer was published in 1977 that there was an attempt to group together and compare beers from around the world. Jackson’s book had a particular influence in North America where the writer Fred Eckhardt was also starting to explore the nature of beer styles. The wine importing company Merchant du Vin switched to importing beers mentioned in Jackson’s book. Small brewers started up, producing copies and interpretations of the beer styles Jackson described.

Many brewers outside the U.S. microbrewing scene, Belgians especially, continue to brew without regard to style definitions such as those supported by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Many refuse even to acknowledge the existence of such a rigid framework. There are many good reasons for this repudiation. The history of categorization of beer is byzantine at best: spend a few moments reading Shut up about Barclay Perkins and you will get an idea of how convoluted nomenclature can be.

Further discussion on this topic will have to wait for another time. I am using this simply to illustrate the rationale for my strategy when homebrewing; that is, serendipity. To put it simply (as a certain homebrewer said): Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew. Beer has been brewed for millenia. In this modern age of scientific inquiry and quality malt, hops, and yeast, you can’t possibly make a beer any worse than somebody before you made. In fact, it is quite likely that it will turn out at least decent, and probably pretty good. It certainly won’t kill you. That’s the beauty of beer!

So when I sit down to hammer out a recipe, I am rarely thinking in terms of style, and never in terms of a single beer. Many go to great lengths attempting to recreate a particular commercial beer. This is entirely unproductive, as the adaptation considerations are uncountable. You will end up with a product somewhat similar but in truth not at all like the beer you were aiming for. It is much better to brew a beer and afterwards categorize it. Not only will you be more satisfied with the end product, you will learn more. You will get to know the tendencies of your yeast, the hardness of your water, and the flavor and aroma of your malt and hops. Following a recipe does not make a brewer. Enough didacticism.

My friend Jen recently gave birth to an adorable girl. Back in April she sent me this message:

You’re going to be an uncle! Well, you would be if you were my brother. Try to find the perfect beer for that!

So I started thinking about making her a fest beer to celebrate when she could drink again. It’s supposed to be a secret so don’t tell anyone, ok? Sure I had five months to plan, but I still didn’t get it done in time. Fortunately now she’s not getting any more not pregnant – as far as I know! Though I had decided on a recipe by August, I still didn’t get around to brewing it till September. Anyway, I went all out for this one: a ton of munich malt, real Hallertauer hops, and a double decoction mash. I lagered it for two and a half months in the cellar at Millstream and force carbonated (my first time!). It is obvious I am inexperienced, as the carbonation came out a little low, but not unpleasantly so.

The beer is named in honor of Skeletor, Jen’s daughter. Don’t worry, that’s not her given name, just what we called her in the ultrasound. It pours clearer than any homebrew I have made, just the faintest hint of haze. It is a shade of burnt orange and the head (what there is) is off-white. The aroma is supremely malty. Bread and caramel notes dominate, but some fruitiness comes through.

This beer is quite quaffable, but I must say the flavor is somewhat strange. Strong malt and bready character is most apparent. There is also a serious fruitiness that reminds me of raspberries or black caps. I notice a saltiness that I attribute to yeast autolysis (PDF warning). This beer is as dry as you can get. The light hop bitterness comes through the clean flavor. Even though the carbonation is much too low, the palate is quite lively.

So this beer is not too bad. But back to my point about serendipity. I had originally planned on brewing something like an oktoberfest for the celebration. Despite using lager yeast it ended up very fruity, and the remaining yeast gives a strange character. Fortunately in Germany they make a style of beer much like oktoberfest in strength and color, but with yeast in the bottle. They call it kellerbier (or cellar beer for germanophobes). That’s what I mean when I say don’t worry about style. Beer is beer is beer, and like that stupid quote goes, “shoot for the moon cause even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”

By the way, that Alt I referenced earlier is pretty good, I’ll post about it sometime. Now if only my Young’s glass didn’t have a chip.

+Skeletor Oktoberfest Kellerbier

RateBeer: 3.3 (3-7-6-3-14)

7 lbs. Munich malt
2 lbs. 2-Row malt
2 lbs. Victory malt

1/2 oz Hallertauer Tradition, 75 minutes
1/2 oz American (PNW) Mt. Hood, 75 minutes
1/8 oz Hallertauer Tradition, 30 minutes
1/8 oz American (PNW) Mt. Hood, 30 minutes

– Mashed in with 3 gallons 140F water to stabilize at 122F for 10 min protein rest
– Pulled first decoction (thickest 1/3), boiled, added back to stabilize at 150F
– Pulled second decoction, rest 20 min at 160F, boiled, added back to stabilize at 170F

Homebrew Improvisation

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I really felt like brewing the other day, so I went to the Coralville Hy-Vee liquor store where they sell some homebrew supplies. I just sort of picked things out at random (their selection’s not very big), so I’ll be intrigued to see how it turns out.

I got 4 pounds of Dingemans malt: aromatic, biscuit, carapils, and Munich. I also got a pound of Maris Otter. I steeped this in 4 gallons cold water and brought it up to conversion (it was about 154F), let it convert for twenty minutes. I brought it all to boiling, removed the grains, and added another gallon or so of water.

To this mini-mash I added 3 pounds of light dry malt extract and allowed the beer to return to a boil. I was intrigued by the Argentine cascade, so I picked up 3 oz to throw in. Watch out: when cascade is grown outside the Pacific northwest it does not possess the same citrusy character. In particular, Argentine cascade has a spicy and peppery flavor and only a hint of lemon. They are much more similar to Tettanang or Hallertau varieties.

The only yeast they had were dry packets (which I am too lazy to rehydrate properly) and a few on-sale out-of-date White Labs vials. I got two different English strains, figuring that stressed old yeast fermented warm might make something estery and somewhat Belgian. It might make something horrible, too. We’ll see.

It took a little while for the fermentation to take off but now it’s going pretty strong. Updates to follow. Here’s the recipe again:

3 lbs. Light Dry Malt Extract
1 lb. Belgian Munich malt
1 lb. Belgian carapils malt
1 lb. Belgian aromatic malt
1 lb. Belgian biscuit malt
1 lb. Maris Otter malt

2 oz. Argentine cascade @ 60 min
1 oz. Argentine cascade @ 30 min

Original Gravity: 1.050

Bottle an Alt, Drink a Bitter

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Tonight I bottled my altbier. “Alt” means old and that is relative to lager, the “new” style. Alt is a North German beer, originating in Düsseldorf. It, along with Kölsch, is one of the few remaining German ale styles.

An altbier is amber to brown with more hop flavor and bitterness than any other German style. There is still a balance between malt and hops, though. Fruity character from the ale yeast is present, but it is relatively clean and crisp due to extended aging.

I made mine a dopplesticke. In German “doppel” means double and “sticke” means secret, as in a secret recipe. This is the strongest altbier a brewery makes. It should be strong and sweet but also quite bitter. It is usually dry hopped as well.

When I opened the fermenter I noticed a layer of something growing on top. I’m pretty sure it’s not mold.

Here’s what I think happened. On the day I transferred the alt to the fermenter to age in, I was also working on my Oud Bruin. Description of that project in full will have to wait for another post, but suffice it to say I am aging that one with Brett, which tends to form a pellicle. I must have gotten just a little cross contamination, enough for the Brett to build up a bit in the almost two months this alt’s been lagering.

Anyway it still tastes great so I’m bottling it and hoping for the best. Recipe below.

The immortal words of Charlie Papazian, to all homebrewers nervous about that next batch: “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.” In that spirit I will try one of the last bottles of my last batch, Flood Water Bitter. I brewed this way back on June 14, the first day the Iowa River flooded over the bridge to my house.

It pours a very hazy mahogany with a creamy tan head. There is a light fruity nose, some caramel, and a little metallic tinge. The flavor at first seems sweet, then quickly dry and a strongly bitter. A spicy, slightly earthy hop flavor is present throughout. Flavors and bitterness linger.

I have a couple bottles left so let me know if you want one.

Double Plus Secret – Doppelsticke (for 5.5 gallons)

8 lbs Munich malt
4 lbs Pilsner malt
1 lb CaraMunich 60L
1 lb CaraPils Dextrin malt
4 oz Chocolate malt

I wasn’t lazy and so I did a double decoction mash.

Protein rest: 25 min @ 122F
α-amylase rest: 15 min @ 150F
β-amylase rest: 30 min @ 154F

I did an 80 minute boil. Hop additions:

1.25 oz Mt. Hood (5.2% aa) @ 80 min
1 oz Mt. Hood @ 60 min
2 oz Glacier dry-hopped in the secondary

The original gravity was 1.068 and the final gravity 1.008, making the alcohol about 8%.

+Flood Water Bitter – Special Bitter (for 5.5 gallons)

RateBeer: 3.1 (3-6-7-3-12)

4 lbs Pilsner malt
2 lbs Munich malt
2 lbs Wheat malt
1 lb CaraMunich 60L
12 oz Caramel 120L

1.5 oz Northern Brewer @ 60 min
0.5m oz Mt. Hood @ 15 min

Mystery Homebrew

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Tonight I am playing Russian roulette.

I recently got a half case of homebrew left over from a competition a few weeks ago. Since all the bottles are unlabeled and many of the beers were (apparently) not that great, I am taking a great chance drinking it. Well, if I must I must.

The first one is a little hazy, a dark mahogany with a bit of ochre head. The nose is subtle, with a nuttiness as well as a little biscuit. The flavor is light, somewhat nutty with a light lingering burnt character. The palate is quite refreshing. Probably a porter. Reminds me of Hub City’s.

+Mystery Beer #1

RateBeer: 3.4 (3-6-7-4-14)

This one is a very hazy tawny amber. Almost no head. The nose is caramel sweet with a strong banana air. The flavor is mostly banana, with some caramel and a little toast. Something of a graininess. Very strongly effervescent, but still cloying. Must be a dunkelweiss.

+/-Mystery Beer #2

RateBeer: 2.5 (3-4-6-2-10)

The last for tonight. An almost clear deep copper with some tan head. A strange white wine like aroma with some cideriness. The flavor is cidery, with mangoes, and a little sweet. This beer tastes like it’s got Brett (that is to say it has been infected, intentionally or unintentionally, with Brettanomyces wild yeast). No acidity but a general funkiness, and a little dusty. A prevalent sweetness as well. Reminds me somewhat of Duchesse without the punch.

I wonder what the brewer intended. I suspect they didn’t mean to brew this decent Flanders brown.

+/-Mystery Beer #3

RateBeer: 2.9 (3-5-6-2-13)