Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Hops IPA

Jillian down at Jay's Brewing home brew supply recently got a stock of Summer hops in, and set 2 oz aside for me, for which I am greatly appreciative.  She'd done some research (BeerMumbo says "apricot and melon profile") and landed upon this hop in particular, and I'm really looking forward to trying this in a fruit-forward IPA.

Something that's a bit different in the way I'm using hops is the hop schedule.  I'm not trying to get an overpoweringly bitter beer, as much as I'm trying to coax aroma and flavor out of the hops.  For example, Old Busthead Brewing recently posted to Facebook regarding an "ExtraExtra Ordinary Double Dry-hopped Double IPA in honor of our 2nd Anniversary."  The DIPA has 2 dry hops, as well as two hot hop additions (kettle, whirlpool), and comes out at 2 IBU.  I can't even begin to imagine how the Simcoe and Citra hops taste in the beer!

I'll be very interested to see how this one turns out.

Brew Day: 19 July 2016

Partial Mash:
1 lb Pilsen Malt
1.5 oz flaked wheat

Boil (60 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
4 oz table sugar

Hop Schedule:
14 g Summer hops  (FWH)
1 oz Summer hops (flameout, steep)

Yeast: Safale US-05, 1/2 tube Clarity Firm

*I followed all of my usual procedures for partial mashing, cooling the wort, and pitching the yeast.

Addendum, 31 July; Dry hopped early this morning, with 14 g Summer hops.

Addendum, 8 Aug: Bottled tonight, with 1 oz of table sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water.  I got 9 good bottles out of it.  Everything was cleaned up and put away quickly.  I'm looking forward to trying this one around the end of Aug.

Addendum, 24 Aug: Tried my first one of these tonight.  Wow.  The beer poured with a nice white, pillowy head, and there was a good bit of lacing throughout.  The beer was clear and straw colored, and the first sip was full of sweet fruit flavor, without the harsh, cloying bitterness usually associated with IPAs.  I really enjoyed this beer, and I'm definitely going to continue using the hopping schedule.

Addendum, 1 Nov: I recently found out that my daughter has taken a liking to IPAs, so I invited her over to the house last night to try one of these IPAs, have some dinner, and help pass out candy.  She said that she really liked the IPA and that it tasted "fruity".  I thought that was pretty good because (a) it was what I was shooting for, and (b) I hadn't told her anything about what to expect from the beer.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

El Hefe

Most of my hefeweizens, particularly the ones using WLP380, have turned our pretty well, and given that it's summer, what better time for a nice refreshing wheat beer?  This one should be ready to drink right about mid-August.

Brew Day: 9 Jul 2016

Partial Mash:
12 oz red wheat malt
1.5 oz flaked wheat

Boil (60 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME
7 g Glacier hops (AA: 5%) (@ 60 min)

Yeast: WLP380

*I followed my usual procedures for partial mashing, cooling the wort, and pitching the yeast.

Addendum, 10 Jul: I checked in the two fermenters I've got going; the hefe is about 16 hrs since I pitched the yeast.  Everything is moving along nicely.

Addendum, 25 Jul: Bottled tonight, priming with 1 oz table sugar.  Got 9 good bottles.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Okay, I'm going to something a little different...I'm going to publish the recipe before I actually "brew" the mead.  I'm doing this so that I can share the recipe with someone.

As I was reading through Sacred Healing Herbal Beers (which I can NOT put down...), and got really interested in mead.  I reached to a good buddy of mine, and he said that he really likes mead.  I thought I'd try it...I'll have to find some at the local beverage store...but I thought that since I've already made cider (a couple of times) that mixing up a batch or two of mead would be pretty interesting.  Also, it's gluten-free, so folks who can't drink beer (at least, not without Clarity Firm added) can at least have options.

Something else to consider (from the book) is the inclusion of heather in the mead.  Fortunately, I found heather tips on Amazon...

1 gal recipes
Storm The Castle - recommends 2 lb honey for a dry mead, more for a sweeter mead
Storm The Castle #2 - this is the fastest, easiest, cheapest mead recipe
Pixie's Pocket -
Instructables Strawberry Mead
Savannah Bee Company Recipe - recommends 2 lb honey, champagne yeast, no mention of nutrients

The Storm The Castle site is great for a lot of information on making mead, including (but not limited to) the secret art of mead making.

Not a 1 gal recipe, but BeerSmith has a pretty good description of how to make mead, along with using a staggered approach to adding nutrients.  The recommendation is to add 1 tsp of Go-Ferm to 1 tsp of Fermaid-K, and then split it into 4 equal portions.  Add one when pitching the yeast, and the others added at 24, 48, and 72 hrs, respectively, by adding the nutrient mixture to a small amount of honey and water, and then adding it to the fermenter.  Recommended fermentation time is a minimum of 2 months, which is similar to the artisanal mead recipe over at Northern Brewer.

Here's Bray's One Month Mead recipe, in both 1 and 5 gal batches.

Some of the recipes I've read that just use yeast (and maybe a bit of nutrient) take up to a year to ferment.  Those the use nutrient and energizer take less time...two months, or in the case of Bray's recipe, half that.  I'm okay with letting the experiment go for a bit, as I'd like to get a nice result.


"Brew" Day: 11 July 2016

3 lb honey - locally sourced (Hall's Honey Farm)
2 oz dried heather tips
Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast
Extra honey

Heat 1/2 gal of water to 150 deg F, add heather tips (in muslin bag), allow to stand covered for several hours. Bring to a boil, remove muslin bag.  Allow to cool to around 150 deg F, dissolve honey into liquid, then pour into fermenter.  Add 1/4 t. each of Fermaid-K and Go-Ferm, pitch yeast, and add enough lukewarm water to fill the fermenter to just below the "1 gallon" line.  Place a cap on the fermenter, add sanitized blow-off tube and bottle.

Nutrient addition schedule: at 24, 48, and 72 hrs, dissolve 1/4 t. each of Fermaid-K and Go-Ferm in a small amount of warmed water and some honey, add this to the fermenter and shake slightly.  Likely the best way to go about doing this is to boil some water in a measuring cup (the boiling will sanitize the cup), and then pour out all but enough water to dissolve the nutrients and a small amount of honey.  Reduce the temperature (ice bath) to 75 - 80 deg F before adding to the fermenter.

After 3 - 4 weeks, rack the mead to a clean fermenter, add an airlock and let sit for at least another 8 weeks before bottling.

Addendum, 12 July: I looked in on the fermenter this morning, a bit more than 12 hrs after pitching the yeast (actually, it's closer to 14 hrs).  I've never worked with this yeast, nor with honey before, so this will be interesting.  The mead is fermenting much like cider...some good activity, but not a great deal of krausen.  I'll be doing my first addition of nutrient and energizer this evening.

Addendum, 14 July: Added the last addition of nutrient and energizer this evening.  Everything seems to be going very well; there are a steady stream of bubbles coming from the blow-off tube.

Addendum, 31 July: Transferred to a clean fermenter this morning; I had my sanitizer and racking rig out this morning because I was dry hopping another beer, so I figured that I would just go ahead and rack the mead to a clean fermenter.  Now, it just sits for a couple of months...

Addendum, 21 Oct: Bottled today, with 1 oz of wild honey dissolved in a bit of warm water.  I didn't
need to sanitize the honey, but I did heat up some water to make it easier to pour into the fermenter.  I got 2 large (22 oz) bottles and 6 good 12 oz bottles out of it.  I also got a little bit more (see the image to the right) to try.  Now, it's been fermenting for a bit more than 3 months, and I had added the nutrient and energizer additions early on.  As such, it had a wine-like (wine-ish) scent, but I also detected some of the same notes as you get when you smell wild honey.  Of course, it's nowhere as thick as honey, and even as someone who doesn't drink wine, this actually turned out pretty well, I think.  My wife tried it, and at first she thought it was my sour beer (which she'd just asked me about...), and she liked it (she's the wine drinker in the family).  The mead has a slight while not overpowering sweetness to it, and I noticed that the alcohol warmth lingered on the back of my throat for a bit.  I've never had mead before, so I have nothing on which to base this or use as a standard, but I enjoyed the initial sample. I'm looking forward to seeing what the yeast remnants do with the priming honey over the next month or so.

Belgian Beauty

My wife really...read that, REALLY...likes the last Belgian I made, and has even taken to calling it the "Belgian Beauty".  As such, I need to make it again; this time, I'm going make a big beer, very high gravity, a "Big Belgian Beauty".

Brew Day: 7 July 2016

Partial Mash:
16 oz Munich
1.5 oz flaked wheat

Boil (60 min):
1 lb Pilsen DME (@ 60 min)
8 oz corn sugar (@ 60 min)
7 g Glacier (AA: 5%) hops (@ 60 min)

Yeast: T-58, 1/2 vial Clarity Firm

*I followed all of my usual processes for partial mashing, as well as cooling the wort and pitching the yeast/Clarity Firm.

Addendum: I checked in on the fermenter about an hour after I put it in it's special place, and there are already bubbles rising in the fermenter, as well as slow stream of bubbles coming out of the blow-off tube.  The picture to the right is four hours after pitching the yeast; the blow-off tube has material in it, and the blow-off bottle is clearly been collecting material, as well.  That T-58 yeast is nothing to mess with!

Addendum, 8 July: Checked on the fermenter this morning, had to replace the blow-off bottle as well as the paper towels beneath the bottle.  Things appear to be going very well at this point.

Addendum, 26 July: Bottled tonight, priming with 1 oz table sugar.  Got 9 good bottles.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Book Review: Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers

Okay, I'm going to do something a little different; rather than a recipe, I'm going to write a review of a fascinating book I just finished reading.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was at the supermarket and picked up a copy of "American Survival Guide" on the magazine stand because it had an article on healing wounds with sugar.  After watching The Equalizer and The Shooter, I thought, wait, how do you use honey or sugar to help heal wounds?  On page 112 of the magazine was an article titled, "Brewing - A Survival Skill?" that talked about how, during times of social chaos and hardship, some folks have turned to brewing in order to have something to barter with.  The article even provides a pretty simple recipe that you can make at home, using mugwort and lemons.  In the article, Buhner's book was referenced as the "bible" for wild brewing.  I thought, okay, I have a B&N gift card that's gathering dust, so I got online and purchased the book.

Once the book arrived, I could hardly put it down.  My educational background is in engineering (BSEE, MSEE), and my first career was in the military.  However, what I read completely fascinated me, and drew me in.

I consider myself to be a critical thinker (or at least tending in that direction...), and for as long as I can remember, I've not been one to follow the crowd.  In fact, the larger the crowd, the more likely I am to find my own path.  One the things I really appreciated about Buhner's book was places where he pointed out fallacies in Western thought; specifically, when it came to why indigenous people drank fermented beverages.  I think that the error of Western thinking, due to cultural ignorance and more than a little arrogance, in many ways parallels what I have seen over the past decade or so in my "day job".  In particular, a cyber attack may be attributed to someone of a different culture (Chinese, Russian, etc.) and someone will make assumptions as to why the attacker did something.  Like I said, I found a lot of parallels, and value, in the statements Stephen made.

I didn't start drinking until later in life.  I spent four years at a military college, and only really drank one time besides my 21st birthday, and in both instances, in accordance with the culture, it was about getting drunk and little else.  I spent eight years on active duty in the military and really didn't drink much during that time, either.  It wasn't until I was 36 that my wife introduced me to social drinking, and to be honest, I really wasn't interested in drinking to get a buzz.  I quickly became intensely interested in much more than just drinking beer, and started making it (but honestly, we all see that in other areas, as well).  In the short time that I've been home brewing, I've found it fascinating how many "purists" know very little about craft brewing, and I've encountered a lot of folks who speak with authority on topics for which they are just wrong.  Stephen's book really shows how ignorant someone is who thinks that pure beer brewing starts and ends with the mass-produced, commercial beers.  Stephen illustrates in very easy to read language how fermented beverages not only sustained the people who made and drank them, but also sustained their culture.

Something else I really liked about the book was the first appendix, which presented four heretical rules of brewing, as well as a number of heresies.  Stephen's comments were spot on...while I had a great teacher who initially got me started by sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm, I tend to believe that his assistance was required, as I had run into a lot of the "suck the joy out of the experience" kind of instruction early on.  Stephen's comments echoed a lot of my own experiences, and more than anything else, really laid bare a lot of what many new to home brewing may initially see as "the right way" to do things.  While there are somethings that are necessary, as Stephen points out, if it all falls apart, you've got some good fertilizer on hand.

Stephen's book isn't just about the history or "why"...he also presents a number of recipes for other types of fermented beverages, and provides a great deal of the "why" behind the beverage itself.  Some of the things I found fascinating included how the medicinal essence of a plant was conveyed or even enhanced through the fermentation process.  Vitamins and minerals provided by various plants would sustain those who drank them by providing the resources their bodies needed to fend off diseases; hence, when religious groups brought the idea of temperance to isolated cultures, those who stopped drinking the beverages fell victim to diseases.  Stephen provided a number of interesting recipes for everything from mead to nettle or dandelion beer.

Like I said, I was continually fascinated by what I read, and could hardly put the book down at any given moment.  I quite literally had to ration my reading...I knew that if I had 15 or 20 minutes to sneak some reading in in order to shift gears and give my brain a break, I could not pick up Stephen's book because the 15 minutes could quickly become over an hour.

Thanks, Stephen, for your great work, and for sharing it with the rest of us!