Irish Red Ale

What a boring style, yet super common and popular among homebrewers. Admittedly, I made a version of one with my first ever brewing effort. Eeech. Equipped with better.. equipment, increased knowledge, and a Quiet Man viewing party to plan for, I made this beer again!

The fermentables were similar, but all-grain this time (and freshly calculated):

  • Crisp Pale Ale – 75%
  • Cara-Red – 8%
  • Crystal 120 degrees L – 8%
  • Roasted Barley – 5%

Mashed at a 3:1 ratio @ 149 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes, I added Fuggles pre-boil, and more Fuggles and some EKG during a 90 minute boil. It was a little colder in the spring, so the Irish Ale yeast under-performed a bit. The real winning difference was two teaspoons of gypsum added to the mash and boil; seems like the Vergennes-Panton Water District has some soft water.

With certainty, this beer was 1000% better than the first one. Clarity is impeccable, and it has a pleasant dry flavor (149 degrees was well within the optimum operating temperature of the beta-amylase enzyme). Low amount of foam, but after a few weeks the roasted flavors subside and meld, producing a nice touch of caramel sweetness on the finish.

British Braggot/Bees and Trees: Competition Beer

For the 3rd annual Make the Cut Homebrew competition of Vermont, I was able to scramble against the time crunch and produce two entries. One was a Strong British Ale, re-worked recipe from last year’s submission of a beer brewed with honey and fermented with French Saison yeast, and the other was an experimental beer using honey and a tree element.

British Braggot

British Braggot

I replaced the Saison yeast with London Ale yeast, used UK malts and stuck with the same hop profile of Northern Brewer, Fuggles, and EKG. Thus follows the list of fermentable ingredients:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • UK Amber
  • UK Crystal 60L
  • Golden Promise
  • Roasted Barley
  • Chocolate
  • Raw Honey

My extract was not great, coming in 0.013 gravity points below the target, resulting in beer that finished with a final ABV of 4.73% and a bunch of residual sugars and dextrins. This was probably a good thing for my pitch rate, which was a mere smack pack. Despite these procedural flaws, I thought the final product was the second best beer I’ve brewed so far, behind my third Belgian effort. It’s quite roast-y, thick on the mouthfeel, and the addition of Golden Promise made a positive impact. However, to be called a braggot, the judges really wanted flavors of honey to shine through, so a reduction (or elimination) of roast and a lower mash temp to increase fermentability would greatly improve this beer.

Bees and Trees

Bees and Trees

In this beer, I exceeded the original gravity with a more finely ground grist, and a successful ~155 degree mash temperature. Primary fermentables consisted of:

  • UK Pale 2-row
  • American 2-row
  • Crystal 90L
  • Honey malt
  • Victory
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey

I added a teaspoon of gypsum to the mash and sparge water, intensely hopped and dry-hopped the beer with CTZ, Warrior, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic hops, and fermented it with two packets of Safale-05 dry yeast.

I wanted Bees and Trees to be a Maple Honey Imperial IPA, but it ended up being too dark, sweet, and caramel-y for IPA. I should have labeled it as an American style hoppy Barley-wine, but its 7.6% ABV rating is too low for the ideal range. With some aging, I’d be curious to watch the hop bitterness fade to support the complex remaining sugars, and see if any beta acids persist over time.

I was thankful to receive great, useful feedback on the submissions, but unfortunately neither made it to the second round. Proper categorization of types + an increased level of wonderful competition really made it tough to move on, which ultimately is a great thing for the ever-evolving Vermont beer culture.

Smoked Porter

Smoked PorterBefore the kiln became widely used for drying malt, most (if not all) malt had some elements of smoky flavors due to the drying of grain over an open flame heating source. German Rauchbier preserves this tradition of using smoked malt in beer, and excellent maltsters such as Briess are using different wood varieties to produce some intriguing products.

My second all-grain brewing attempt was a pre-formulated smoked porter recipe utilizing the following complex grain bill:

  • Pale ale
  • Smoked
  • Light Munich
  • Caramel 80L
  • Chocolate
  • Flaked Barley
  • Black Patent

I snagged ~ 5 oz of leftover smoked maple syrup from Thanksgiving, graciously gifted from excellent baker Meg Dawson, to make things a bit crazier. Mashed with a 2.5 : 1 ratio of 3.5 gallons at 154 degrees F for 60 minutes, Magnum pellets for bittering and aroma, one Wyeast #1450 Denny’s Favorite smack pack.

I really loved how this beer turned out. Intense aromas and flavors of smoke with a thick mouthfeel. I’m not real good at detecting diacetyl yet, but if that buttery off-flavor is here, I feel that its richness would complement the mild sugary wood stove taste present in every sip. I really dug playing with smoke flavor, and can’t wait to experiment with more of those malts/smoky adjuncts in the future.

Falconer Beer

In the Middle Ages (or medieval period) from the 5th to 15th century, most people had to make their own alcohol from the hard wrought production of their small farm. Small barley plots were meticulously kept, while wild hops were gathered and dried for flavoring. Once all raw ingredients were harvested, home malting and brewing became family ceremonies, demanding the focused attention of all.

To give homage to this ancient brewing tradition with my first all-grain attempt, I bought a 50 lb bag of Crisp Pale Ale malt, a small amount of amber malt, and 2 oz of Falconer’s Flight hops to grind, mash, boil, ferment, and serve a simple medieval beer worthy of a hard day’s reward.

My first problem was using the mill properly. There was too great a gap, resulting in a less than ideal extract. However, things finished fine, and the beer had a nice bright foam upon first uncapping. The predominant flavor I perceived was burnt English muffin, which persevered throughout the batch’s aging. There was an odd juicy earth brightness from the somewhat high alpha %, but that’s since faded. No matter, an unoffensive tasting, 5% ABV medieval ale was made available to all honored guests. (But, most ended up with me.)

Butternut Squash Me, Bro

Clean fermentation, dirty glass.

Clean fermentation, dirty glass.

My brother is a wonderful person. I saw far too little of him this past summer, being a lake apart. However, I was overjoyed when he expressed interest in brewing a collaboration before venturing off south for the fallwinterspring. I let him pick whatever style he wanted for my 30th batch of beer, to which he responded:

“A bûtternût sqûâsh sâîsôn!”

So that’s what we made.

Marahute generously went to the supply store to pick up LME, Maris Otter Pale, Crystal 60L malt and torrified wheat, along with Northern Brewer and Glacier hops. The target was a 4.8% ABV 32 IBU spiced squash ale fermented with French Saison yeast. I balked a bit when he tossed the yet-to-be roasted squash in olive oil before adding to the boil, but that’s what spontaneous experimentation is all about, right? Solid amounts of nutmeg and cinnamon were also added to the boil with pinches of ground coriander and clove.

The highly attenuative yeast did its work wonderfully, fermenting the wort all the way down to 1.008 (2 Plato) from 1.053 (13 Plato), producing a brilliantly clear, balanced, aromatic, yet slightly funky taste that has to be described as a glorious success. If you know my parents and have access to their mudroom, 12+ 22oz bottles still remain for the taking. Just make sure to leave some for my bro, who still hasn’t tried it yet.