Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Next Up - Highland Amber

This Friday I am brewing a Scottish Ale using a recipe I found on the net. It's called "Highland Amber" and I hope to do it justice. This winter I'm going to try and brew a number of different styles:

Belgian (Farmhouse style)
American Lager (Sam Adams)
German Pilsner
EXPERIMENTAL (Probably the chestnut brown)

We'll see how many I get through since I will be moving to part-time work and doing some home remodeling!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pic of the day...

Here we see a nice pic of my NQG Stout (nitro) preparing to be consumed in my official BBG pint glass!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


No Bitterization without Malt Representation!

The lager you wait, the better the lager.

BBG meeting last night detailed the lagering process. It's nice to hear more info about lagering, especially since it is easy to screw up. The interesting thing is that there is apparently more than one way to skin this cat. I've tried to be well read on the process and it seems the more you read the more confused you can get. Basically, here's the "process":

  1. Use starter to get yeasties active, pitch and ferment at lager temps (48-56F).
  2. After fermentation is complete, raise temps to 66-68F for 24-48hrs for diacetyl rest (optional).
  3. Transfer to secondary/lagering vessle. Lower temps to 28-34 for at least 1 week per ABV % (5% - 5 weeks). I can suggest from experience that longer is better, and it's not unheard of lager for upwards of 5-6 months. This winter I am going to do a number of lagers, and keep them in the cave for many months. I hope to have at least 4 lagering for next year.

Some argue that the diacetyl rest is not necessary, or that temps should be higher/lower. The bottom line is that it is easy to make a good ale, and even easier to make a bad lager!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Whoops, took a week off! Light Irish Red Lives On!

Well, I guess I wrote a lot the last couple blogs anyway. You could have broken them down into daily capsules. Anyway, tis a dark day, as the O'fest is gone, the Brown ale is still a bit bitter, and the pumpkin isn't quite ready.

ON TAP - LIR, Plain Ole' Punkin Ale(green), NQG Stout (Not Quite Guiness)

The Light Irish Red...This beer has been on tap since August, yet I can't get anyone to finish it off! Funny thing is, it's still a pretty fine ale, just very weak and light for a homebrew. I've been drinking it while watching football so as to not get lit and end up in bed at 7:30 Sunday evening. I've been very successful with the stout and the O'fest so everyone's gravitated to those, leaving the Light Irish Redheaded-stepchild Ale waiting for some love. I'm even going to bottle some of it for a contest in December, just for the hell of it...

*BVIP update: It is almost done fermenting. Actually it was almost done a week ago, but it seems I am supposed to let it sit on the primary yeast cake for 10-12 days at least since it is a high-gravity brew. This is not "mine", but property of the BBG.

Monday, November 06, 2006

That's how I roll

Found this pic from two years ago. We take October seriously...Treats for the kids. Sam Adams Octoberfest for the adults.

Going Big...Too Big...

Saturday was a big day for the RCBC. In some respects, too big! As I've mentioned in previous posts, I volunteered to be one of six brewers for the BBG's Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter (BVIP). This required major upgrades to the brewery to accommodate for the large grain bill (35lbs!)...The ensuing adventure, I've decided, requires being told as a story...

Chapter 1 - Too Easy
So, off I went, with DrankTank assisting. We milled the grains, and mashed, hitting our temp perfectly. While we waited I mulled some hard cider with spices and we each enjoyed a cup to warm up and mellow out. It's a good thing we did, for we quickly learned that things don't always come out as easy as we would like.

Chapter 2 - Sticky Sweet
The buzzer signaling completion of the 60 min mash came as we finished our cider. I set the pump for recirculation and the sweet wort began to flow. Then the flow slowed, with the pump getting nothing but a trickle of wort. I quickly realized, it was stuck. After stirring, restarting, and stirring for 30 mins it was obvious that desperate measures were in order. We were getting nowhere fast, and as the wort began to cool, it would just get thicker, as would the plot of this story.

Chapter 3 - Bucket Brigade
I made the decision to dump the entire mash in buckets so we could start over. That's easier said than done with 13 gallons of the stickiest 155 degree goo you've ever seen. I filled every bucket I own, covering myself and the driveway in the process. Then we added a little bit at a time until things got stuck again. Finally we used a colander to strain the grain, an inefficient but effective strategy. Finally, after an hour of struggle, we were boiling wort. That's when the struggle for sanity began.

Chapter 4 - The Antihop Strikes Back
Delirious from the sticky struggle I decided to throw out the hops in a fleeting effort to regain control of the brew. My sure-minded assistant saved me from my madness, giving me one pellet to toss out in jest and throwing the rest in the boil. With a sample of wort yielding lower gravities than expected, the future of the brew was still unknown.

Chapter 5 - Sweet Ending
As the boil completed and the wort cooled we began to hear of other brewers' struggles. They too had experienced stuck mashes and, for some, lower gravities. We drained wort to fermenters, pitched yeast, and called it a day. We had survived to brew again.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bitter Defeat...

In my 10 months of brewing I've thrown out one 5-gallon batch. It was gross, even after sitting for a bit and carbonating. Captain Pete fondly refers to it as "Hose-Ass Beer" since it tasted like hose water.

One batch until now...although it is not quite official (I'm giving it another week to mellow, but the outlook is grim) I believe I will be tossing my second batch. This time 10-gallons of strong ale from my original recipe that we love so much. Brewing was perfect, hit mash temps and gravities spot-on, and it fermented out quickly and had an accurate final gravity. But there was one problem...tasting of the sample I took while transferring to secondary were god-awful bitter. So bitter it punched out the caramel flavors we love completely, leaving nothing but bitter agony, and frustration. I still don't know what happened. Was it the new brewery? the yeast? hops? contamination? Tonight I'm going to taste the pumpkin ale for comparison, and pray it doesn't have the same bite!