homebrewsupply.com’s Baltic Porter

A rich, foamy head.

A rich, foamy head.

This Baltic Porter was the first lager I’ve brewed, and it turned out harder than expected to manage. The recipe and ingredients of this extract based recipe came from homebrewsupply.com, with a complex grain bill consisting of:

  • Munich LME
  • Light DME
  • Caramunich Type 3
  • Chocolate
  • Special B
  • Black (Patent) Malt

Hops were an ounce each of Magnum and Saaz, and I created a 2 liter starter of Wyeast #2124 Bohemian Lager yeast. The hops from a kit were unsurprisingly much worse in  quality than the usual hops sourced from Winooski’s great Vermont Homebrew Supply store. I also had them crush the grains before sending, as this was the last beer brewed before I purchased a hand-crank grain mill.

The toughest part of this beer was getting the damn thing to ferment out. The optimum temperature of the yeast was a generous 45-68 degrees Fahrenheit, but down in the 50 degree cellar it just wouldn’t get going. To bring the FG down to 1.026, several raises and drops in temperature occurred over a four week period, to what I believe to be the beers determent.

It smells worse than it tastes, which might be a good thing. It’s not a bad aroma, but to describe best I can, it smells “old”, as in the negative version of “aged”. Once a sip is downed, the roast of the malt comes through and relieves the nostrils from their confusion. Additionally, for being 8.4% ABV, it doesn’t taste boozy, and drinks quite easy, as lagers often do. I’ll gift this to others readily as it’s fine enough to drink, though I’d like to give this style another shot in the future, or perhaps pivot to an Imperial Stout instead.

Solsagan IPA

solsagan ipaI try to make an IPA or Pale Ale at least every 3rd or 4th brewing attempt, due to the insane popularity of the style. Smelling the various hop pellets and sampling the sidecar brew day IPAs for “research” purposes provide good sensory development. Lately, I’ve experimented with heavy dry hopping to try and bring out the aromas of commercial examples.

Alas, I haven’t struck gold yet on a great IPA. They all seem to hint at something greater, leaving me wishing for less malt and more resin-y or tropical fruit flavors.

This beer is named for the Finntroll song and accompanying album, played during the boil session, to encourage the spirits of metal to fuse themselves within. Specialty grains used were Cara-malt 10L, Victory, Belgian Biscuit, supplemented with Light LME and DME. Galena, Centennial, Cascade, and Willamette construct the hop backbone, and a smack pack of #1056 American Ale yeast was added. Willamette and Cascade were used for dry hopping. It clocked in at ~7% ABV.

The beer pours a touch hazy with a large foamy head. A nice light amber color accompanies a nondescript aroma. As for flavor, different bottles have varied mightily. A few have reminded me of the rock candy sugar blast of Long Trail’s Space Juice, where several others seem like malty, just adequate thirst quenchers.

No matter, another attempt shouldn’t be too far away. The Belgian Strong is in the fermenter as of two hours ago, leaving plenty of time to gather ingredients for the next go.

Gillian’s Coffee Porter

coffee-porterWinter is a time for dark beer. The roasty, thick, sweet, and nourishing porters/stouts/winter ales/et al. of the season bring about uplifting joy during the bitter cold weather. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting near a wood stove for these, I greatly envy you.

For this beer, batch #21, I collected 3oz of Healthy Living’s Blonde Blend coffee and cold brewed the grounds for a few days in the fridge. The cold brewing releases all that great smooth coffee flavor without the harsh (yet amazing in the morning) bitterness that hot water extracts from the grind. A 2L starter of #1098 British Ale went along without error, though in the near future I NEED to acquire a stir plate and 2L flask, as hand stirring two growler containers of yeast isn’t quite as efficient as it needs to be.

The water I used was treated with CaSO4 (gypsum) for extra crispness. I gathered 9.5 lbs of dark extract and was about to pour my additional grains into the muslin bag for mashing when I realized that Crystal, Chocolate, and Black Patent malts need no such treatment. Relieved that the brew time and cleanup would now be significantly reduced, the soaking and boiling sped through without a hitch. Chinook and Nugget hops were used for slight bittering (27.88 calculated IBU’s), and Northern Brewer for aroma. I reserved a half ounce of all three for dry hopping, just to see what’d happen.

The actual OG skyrocketed past what was expected at 1.091, but FG finished much higher, a.k.a. I wasn’t patient enough with letting fermentation run its course. Fortunately this hoppy porter didn’t taste TOO sweet, and its namesake found it to be one of her recent favorites. The coffee comes through nice and subtle and the hops counteract the higher FG-fueled sweetness, but I’d choose a darker heftier bean for next time.

As for next steps, there’s a lot to write home about in the near future, with a completed IPA, my first lager (Baltic Porter) still fermenting in the cellar, and a 4 gallon batch of sage ale spiced with licorice root. None of which I expect to perform as well as the Humble Braggot did in the most recent homebrewing competition, but am equally excited to see how they all turn out.

Licorice Ale

licorice

The foam is with you.

I like alternative beer.

Over the Thanksgiving week, I was beyond #blessed to read Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, a fantastic tome that really motivated me to experiment with a concept of what fermentation was before the German Purity law introduced the first drug control laws in human history. So, I decided to make a Licorice Ale.

Look up the medicinal benefits of licorice root and you’d be crazy not to agree that herbally these affect far outweigh the affects of hops, the most prevelant additive of beer in this age. So why not dump 4 ounces of it in a way too high gravity base and see what happens? I boiled some British Crisp Pale Ale with 3 pounds of Extra Light DME and 2 lbs of real local organic vegan brown sugar, threw the in the licorice root, poured it through a giant strainer, and dumped Safale US-05 in a 5 gallon fermenter.

I let it sit for 8 days, then it sat for 4 more, then I thought 2 weeks should be enough time to eat all those sugars, so I bottled the thing, and then left it for a while because I was scared to try it.

Upon opening each beer, a very slow, steady, consistent foam growth protruded out of the bottle. Pouring out helps slow the onslaught, but left unattended this behemoth head would drip itself all over your counter.

Real licorice is incredibly sweet flavored, unlike the ainse-y black candy my Mom can’t get enough of. I was also pleased to notice Brewery Ommegang’s use of licorice in their fantastic belgians. However, one taste delivered a very different product. I’d describe the taste as chilled, generously sweetened banana bread beer. Definitely not weak hearted, something like this would never make the commercial market, and quite possibly would be coughed at by the most fervent homebrew supporters.

But a learned experience can be had by whatever one embarks on with good intentions. And so I shall not cease, yet I will dive into the pool of Gruit, research Rosemary Ale, attempt to grow mandrake root, and get in further touch with the ancient secrets of fermentation.


As the next season of Game of Thrones comes out, a reprise of the Monday Eve will be brewed and reviewed, + the Gillian Coffee Porter, a currently fermenting Solsagan IPA, and all the unplanned brews in the few month future.

 

Thanksgiving Beer Round-up

I made several beers in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday week, spent with the family Hood in Red Hook, NY. They most graciously offered productive feedback on the beers I’m about to describe.

Roscoe Brown Ale

Roscoe Brown Ale II

Roscoe Brown Ale II

I modified my first brown ale recipe from this spring for batch #19, adding 1/4 lb of Special Roast to the grain bill, utilizing a 1 liter starter of Wyeast #1028 London Ale, and hardening the water with gypsum.

The beer pours well with a good carbonation level, and a slight brown hue to the foam. The mouthfeel is velvety and much more full than effort 1. Tastes malty with a roast-y bite at the finish. East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops balance the malt.

Overall, very happy with the result, the character is really pleasing, a vast improvement from effort 1 (I suspect a stronger yeast pitch rate really helped). For the next version, I would add more malts to get the ABV increased to 5.5%.

Steve-weizer IPA

Steve-weizer (IPA)

Steve-weizer (IPA)

For this IPA (batch #18), I experimented with large amounts of hops to bitter, and large quantity of dry hopping, since previous IPA’s have not produced the sharp aromas I’m looking for. Using heavy doses of CTZ, Citra, and Cascade, the aroma still leaves something to be desired. A single smack pack of Wyeast #1272 American Ale II was pitched, my first time using this yeast.

The IPA pours with a large, consistent foamy head. The color is orangish-brown due to the Amber LME and light additions of Crystal 60L and Cara-malt, with good clarity. I blew away the expected original gravity by .003, huzzah! However, the final gravity was a bit high so the ABV settled at an expected 5.5%.

I was hoping for a more citrus, tropical flavor to this beer, but the taste comes out quite earthy to me. Heavier additions of Citra to replace the Cascade might have produced a better result. The beer is bitter enough at 76 calculated IBUs, but isn’t overly resin-y or tropical, so it doesn’t really have any solid identity. I’ll keep working on combinations, and perhaps remove some of the specialty malts to do focused testing on hop mixtures.

Humble Braggot

Humble Braggot

Humble Braggot

Batch #17 is a completely custom recipe, inspired by the legend of medieval European drinking traditional beverage style, Braggot, where mead is combined with barley malts. The ancient and historical methods of brewing greatly interest me as of late and this beer is the first manifestation of this theme. I chose to brew a dark Saison style beer with a pound raw honey sourced from Champlain Valley Apiaries Lemon Fair Honeyworks, acquired from the Middlebury Co-op.

The grain bill consists of a mix of Amber LME and DME, 3 pounds of UK Crisp Pale Ale mashed at 152 degrees for an hour, with a 1/4 pound each of Roasted Barley and Flaked Wheat to add roast flavor and heft to the brew. Northern Brewer, Mt. Hood, and Kent Goldings hops bring the bitterness up to 38 IBUs, and two smack packs of Wyeast #3711 French Saison yeast finish up the Brew Day recipe sheet.

Original gravity (1.073) hit its mark, and the final gravity beat expectations at 1.012 to bring this ale to 7.88% ABV. Pours dark brown, slightly hazy, with good foam and head retention. Taste is superb, a balanced bitter dark beer with a strong sweet finish from the honey, exactly what I had hoped for. I’m really proud of this beer and can’t wait to try more historic medieval beer styles.

Holiday Raspberry/Ginger Mead

Barkshack Ginger Mead

Barkshack Ginger Mead

I brewed this Barkshack Ginger Mead in Dec/Jan, (raw honey courtesy of Northwoods Apiaries) and after nearly a year it’s ready to share with friends and family to celebrate the holiday season. Pours bright pink, brilliantly clear and effervescent, filled with bubbles. The taste is a bit medicinal, especially if comparing to Schweppes Raspberry Ginger Ale, its closest non-alcoholic cousin. Finished to an un-established ABV, this mead lifts the spirits and inspires great cheer. More will be distributed as X-mas rolls around, and hopefully more than myself will be partaking.

Winter brews incoming…