Friday 30 December 2011

Tasting/Recipe : Feeling Duvelish

In late February/early March of 2009, my wife and I went on a week-long trip to Belgium. Anything positive you have heard about this country is completely true, and, of course, the beer is outstanding. It was this trip that triggered my love of beer, and ultimately led to my passion/infatuation with brewing. While I have a lot of Belgium-beer moments in my memory, one of the clearest is when I had my first Duvel (pronounced DOO-vel, not Doo-VELLE) at a small beer bar in Bruges. Few would argue against it being THE penultimate Belgian Golden Strong Ale; in fact, it seems like Duvel actually STARTED the style.

I've tried several BGS ales since having my first Duvel, and while some have been quite impressive (such as Russian River's Damnation), most fall far short of the one that started it all. A bit spicey, with some fruity esters (especially pear, which helps distinguish it apart from others), it finishes moderately bitter, and bone dry. VERY carbonated, the beer supports a huge, long-lasting white head. The alcohol is amazingly deceptive, hence the name... most BGS ales have some form of the word "Devil" in their name.

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to brewing a Belgian Golden Strong myself, but in September I finally did, using the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. Probably one of the simplest recipes (at least in terms of the grist and hop schedule) I've ever done, the real aspect that makes it stand out is the yeast. I went with Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale, which is similar to that used by the Duvel Moortgat brewery, providing that pear aroma/flavor that you look for in Duvel. The amount of table sugar may seem high, but you need it to dry the beer out and boost the alcohol level. The recipe called for the fermentation temperature to be raised gradually, to as high as 80 F... much higher than you'd normally use, but a lot of Belgian beer styles call for warm fermentations, to help bring out the spicey and fruity characters of the beers. Now that the beer has had a few months to mature in the bottle, I find it's really turned out quite well, and surprisingly close to Duvel itself.

Appearance: Poured with a large, white head that hangs around for quite awhile before finally fading to 1/2-finger. Body is a light yellow (the picture doesn't have enough light to show this), with excellent clarity. Bubbles jetting up to the top from the center bottom of the glass.

Aroma: Aroma is fruity (apples and pears), with a background of phenolic spiciness. There is a hint of alcohol in the aroma as well.

Taste: Fruity and spicy... nice. I’d say the apple/pear flavor comes through first, followed by some spiciness and a very dry, moderately bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, high carbonation. A bit prickly on the tongue as a result. A bit of alcohol warmth, but quite deceiving (as the style calls for).

Overall: I think I’m pretty happy with this beer... definitely improved over even a few weeks ago, especially in terms of the appearance (originally was a bit hazy, and the head dropped almost immediately).

(5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency): OG 1.075, FG 1.009, IBU 32.5, SRM 3.4

4.2 kg Bohemian Pilsner malt
1.36 kg table sugar

1. Saaz - 63 g (4.5% AA) @ 90 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1 tab Irish Moss @ 15 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale (PD Aug 15) (with a 1 L starter)

- Brewed Sept.12/11 by myself. 75-minute mash with 13.88 L of strike water, mashing in at 149 F. Sparged with 6 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. Both strike and sparge water treated with 1/4 tablet of Campden. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 67 F with copper immersion chiller. OG a bit high, 1.050 (original recipe called for 1.047 before sugar addition). Pitched yeast, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Fermentation started by the next day. Temps in the low 70s. After a couple of days, when fermentation started to visibly slow, I added 454 g of table sugar each day for 3 days. You can add the sugar during the boil, but this way the yeast gets used to breaking down more complex sugars that glucose before having the "dessert" of the table sugar, and it also means a smaller yeast starter is needed when pitching the yeast.

- Temp got as high as 78 F during active fermentation. Bottled after ~4 weeks in primary with 235 g table sugar, aiming for 4 vol CO2 for 5 gallons. Bottled 10 x 500 mL, 41 x 12 oz. Left in room at ~72 F for 2 weeks to carbonate.

Friday 9 December 2011

Recipe: Flanders Red

While there's exceptions to every rule, and taste is definitely subjective, the majority of beer geeks eventually become involved in sour beers. Definitely an acquired taste at first, this "family" of beers is so fascinating and complex (not to mention delicious), that one can't help but be drawn to their history and process.

Flanders Red, one of the styles of sour beers, is probably as close to wine as any beer style can get. While it IS definitely a beer (it still uses the same mashing, boiling, hopping, etc. techniques that you always see), its color, flavors and aromas make it startlingly similar to some fine red wines. Both the aroma and taste usually have quite prominent fruitiness (such as cherries and red currants); there can be some spiciness in the background. While some examples have some of the Brettanomyces (a "wild" yeast) characteristic funk, what makes this style stand out from other sour ales is the acidity, which can range from a moderate amount to a highly-intense, enamel-stripping presence.

When I was introduced to sours about a year and a half ago, it was through Lambics and Gueuze. Months later, on a visit to The Lion's Pride in Brunswick, Maine, I had my first Flanders Red. The LP had Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge, from Brouwerij Bockor N.V. in Belgium. I remember it as being quite sour, but oddly enough I really enjoyed it right away. While definitely intense, the complexity of the flavors and aromas pulled me in, and I convinced myself that if I ever decided to delve into actually BREWING sour beers, this was the style I would try first.

Finally, last February, I decided to give it a try. Through various readings, especially the website The Mad Fermentationist (link on the right), and the book Wild Brews: Culture and Craftmanship in the Belgian Tradition, by Jeff Sparrow, I tried to make myself more familiar with what was involved. While this style IS basically brewed like other beers, what really sets it (and other sour beers) apart from non-sours is the time that the beer sits in the fermenter... at least 12 months is recommended, generally, for flavor complexity and acidity to develop. Flanders Reds use a Saccharomyces yeast during fermentation, but there is also other organisms involved, such as Brettanomyces yeast (not everyone uses this), and certain souring and acid-producing bacteria.

I used the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles, which recommended the Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend, which contains several yeasts, as well as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus bacteria. I wanted to get a very sour beer, so I pitched this smackpack immediately into primary. Another option is to let fermentation start with a neutral yeast (such as Wyeast 1056 American Ale), and THEN pitch the Roeselare blend when fermentation starts to slow down.

I should note, however, that I left the beer in the primary fermenter for the entire time, as per Brewing Classic Style's instructions. However, I read (too late) that with Flanders Reds, you really should rack to secondary after a month or so. The Brettanomyces like to feed on the dying yeast cake in primary, and will continue to do so for months, producing more of their funk character. While this is desirable in sours such as Lambics, the funkiness really isn't supposed to be as prominent in Flanders Reds, so it's better to get the beer off the yeast cake for the bulk of fermentation. Also, your typical Flanders Red will be aged to some degree on oak (or IN an oak barrel). I chose to avoid adding oak chips to the fermenter this time, as I don't have a lot of experience with using oak, and didn't want to risk overdoing it.

Recipe (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency): OG 1.057, FG 1.008, IBU 15, SRM 14.7

1.77 kg Vienna malt
1.77 kg German Pilsener malt
454 g Munich malt
227 Aromatic malt
227 g Caramunich II
227 g Special B
227 g Wheat malt

U.S. Goldings - 28 g (4.5% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 10 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 10 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Belgian Blend (no starter)

- Brewed Feb.28th, 2011, with Jill. 60 minute mash with 16.2 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Sparged with 5.5 gallons of 175 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 68 F with immersion chiller. OG came in at target. Siphoned into Better Bottle, leaving as much trub behind as possible, so final volume into fermenter came in a bit low, maybe 5 gallons or so. Pitched yeast and bugs at 65 F, aerating by shaking for several minutes before and after.

- Bubbling in airlock, slowly, by next morning. Picked up in the evening, and continued for about a week or so, temperature never getting above 69 F.

15/3/11 - 9/12/11 - Fermenter has been kept in a dark closet for this period. Temp has ranged from 64 F in the winter, to 78 F in the summer. I've taken various gravity samples every 3 months or so. The gravity is currently 1.010; hopefully it drops a couple more points in the next few months. The aroma and flavor definitely has the fruitiness, a bit of Brett funk, but the acidity is really lacking. A thick pellicle has formed on top of the beer in the last few months... seemed a bit slow to occur, but hopefully this means the bugs are still doing their work.

27/1/12 - Added the bottle dregs of one bottle of Ichtegem’s Grand Cru Flemish Red.

29/1/12 - Added bottle dregs of a Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze.

27/5/12 - Bottled ~2.3 gallons, using 50 g table sugar, aiming for 2.25 vol CO2 with max temp of 78 F reached. Bottled 4 x 500 mL, 20 (and 1/2) x 12 oz. Meanwhile, also racked ~8 L onto 1.5 kg frozen (and then thawed) cherries in 3 gallon BB.

29/7/12 - Added the bottle dregs of a Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus to the secondary fermenter with the cherry half.

18/8/12 - Added bottle dregs of Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam (2011) to the cherry half.

29/8/12 - Bottled cherry-half (~2 gallons) with 42 g table sugar, aiming for 2.2 vol CO2 with max temp of 78 F reached. Also added ~1/4 package of wine yeast Lalvin D47 (rehydrated).

19/11/12 - Tasting notes for both the plain and cherry portion.

Monday 5 December 2011

Tasting/Recipe : Schnee Tag!

On a trip to Seattle several years ago, before I was even into beer, I was briefly at a party being held at the hotel bar of where we were staying. They had several wines and beers available for tasting; I tried most of them... unfortunately, I can't remember who actually brewed the beers I sampled. The final one I was offered was a jet-black beer; normally being turned off by darker beers (the only dark beer I had probably ever had at that point was Guinness), I politely said no, but the person serving the samples insisted I try it. "It's black, but it doesn't taste as dry and harsh as a lot of other dark beers", he said. I gave in, and was happy I did... while the beer WAS roasty, it was really more sweet, malty, and especially quite "clean".

This was my very first Schwarzbier. And, unfortunately, to this day it still remains one of the ONLY Schwarzbiers I've been able to try. There are no beers of this style available commercially in liquor stores in New Brunswick (surprise). I HAVE gone out of my way to purchase these beers when I've been able to, whether at a liquor store in Maine (e.g. Monchshof Schwarzbier from Germany), or at the Garrison Ale House here in Fredericton (the Paddock Wood Black Cat Lager from Saskatchewan). I really enjoy this dark lager, and when I finally bought a chest freezer and digital temperature controller last year, a Schwarzbier was the first lager-style beer that I wanted to brew.

I went with one of the two Schwarzbier recipes from Brewing Classic Styles, choosing the one that the authors admits may be a bit too roasty for the style, but tasty. After fermentation appeared to be complete, I continued to lager the beer in the chest freezer for two months, before bottling in March. I unfortunately calculated the sugar needed for carbonation incorrectly, so the beer IS a bit under-carbonated for the style, but ultimately I've been quite happy with how it turned out. In fact, I'd say it's one of the better beers I've brewed yet. At this point, I only have a few bottles remaining, but it's held up quite well.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, light-tan, very creamy head. Slowly fades to 1/2-finger. Body appears black at first glance, but has excellent clarity and ruby-highlights when held to the light.

Aroma: Aroma is quite clean, with a good amount of bready-malt, a touch of caramel sweetness, and a bit of roastiness. No DMS or diacetyl. No hop aroma noticeable.

Taste: Mostly malt flavor/sweetness, with some roasted flavors in the background. Finishes with a moderate-low bitterness, and a bit roasty. Maybe a touch of spicy hop flavor, and a bit of bitter chocolate. No diacetyl. Generally quite clean, likely due to the lager yeast.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is moderate-low (should be higher), medium-bodied and quite creamy. Smooth. Maybe a touch of astringency.

Overall: I don’t have a lot of experience with this style, but I really like this beer. Should be carbonated more. I agree with Jamil that the recipe is likely a bit too roasty, but I think it works. Could use a touch more bitterness.

Recipe (5.5 gallons, 78% efficiency): OG 1.051, FG 1.015, IBU 24.4, SRM 28

1. 2.32 kg Munich malt
2. 1.82 kg Pilsner malt
3. 170 g Caramunich II
4. 170 g Chocolate malt
5. 99 g Roasted Barley
6. 99 g Carafa Special II

1. Hallertau - 42 g (3.9% AA) @ 60 min
2. Hallertau - 14 g @ 20 min
3. Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1 tab Irish Moss @ 15 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager (PD Dec 14/10) (with a 5 L starter)

- Brewed Jan.13/11 with Geoff. 60 minute mash with 17 L of strike water, mashed in at 154 F. Sparged with ~5 gallons of 180 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons into kettle. 90 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 62 F with copper immersion chiller. OG a bit high, 1.054. Poured into Better Bottle and placed in chest freezer with temp set at 45 F to bring wort temp down more. Pitched yeast when temp reached 50 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after. Began fermentation in chest freezer with temp set at 50 F.

- Slow fermentation lasted for 5-6 days. When gravity reached 1.020, I moved the fermenter outside of the freezer and let the temp rise to ~65 F for a two-day diacetyl rest. Then, it was placed back into the chest freezer, and the temp was allowed to drop by 2 F every day, until it reached 36 F.

- Lagered at this temp for ~2 months. FG a bit high at 1.017.

- Bottled with 69 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 at 36 F. Also added 3-4 g rehydrated Nottingham dry yeast. Got 40 x 12 oz, 8 x 500 mL. Placed in warm room (68-70 F) for 2 weeks to carbonate. Realized too late that temp used in the calculation should be max reached at fermentation; this is why the beer came out a bit under-carbonated.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Tasting/Recipe : Twenty Dollar Blonde

I've always found Blonde Ales to be very underappreciated beers. So many homebrewers (as well as professional brewers) are trying to brew the biggest, darkest, hoppiest beers, that some of the lighter, easy-drinking styles get missed. I love a good DIPA, RIS, sour beer, etc. as much as the next beer geek, but there's something to be said about the "lighter" beers as well, ESPECIALLY when they're brewed properly. There's no large editions of specialty grains or insane hopping-amounts to hide behind for Blonde Ales; what you see, smell, and taste is what you get. Paying strict attention to yeast health and the entire fermentation is just as important as building the recipe. Blonde Ales are a great intro into the craft beer scene for the strict-BMC drinkers out there - they're still light and easy-drinking, but they have more flavor, aroma, and overall character than Lite American Lagers.

I brewed my first Blonde Ale back in mid-2010, when I was still doing extract beers. I pretty much followed the recipe in Brewing Classic Styles, by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer.. it came out ok, but I wasn't completely satistified. About 6 months later, I tweaked the recipe a bit and came up with the all-grain Ten Dollar Blonde... the name was based on what the entire 5-gallon batch cost me to make. I had just started ordering bulk ingredients, and reused a washed yeast cake, so it was quite cheap. I found this beer was an improvement over the last Blonde, but thought it was still lacking a bit in the malty character that the style is known for.

So, in late October of this year, I brewed my third Blonde. I bumped up the Munich this time, and cut out the bit of Crystal malt I had in the last batch. A Blonde Ale should not have a caramel flavor/aroma... it should have a light to moderate malty sweetness, with a bit of optional fruitiness, according to the BJCP guidelines. I aimed for a bitterness on the high-end of the style, but still relatively low compared to other beers. The 10-minute Crystal hop addition is to provide a touch of fruity/spicy hop flavor, with the flameout Amarillo addition used to hopefully provide a bit of citrus aroma.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, white, slightly creamy head that slowly dissipates to 1/4-finger. Body is a medium-golden color, correct for the style, with moderately-good clarity... a touch of haziness persists.

Smell: A light-moderate malty aroma is present; slightly sweet, but not caramelly. A slight touch of citrus from the Amarillo late-hop addition, but no more than that.

Taste: A nice, moderate-to-light malt taste; again, like the aroma, some sweetness from the malt. Low hop flavor (a bit fruity), with a light bitterness in the finish. Creamy and smooth. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Overall: A pretty easy-drinking beer, which is what I was going for (as the style calls for). A bit more hop character here compared to the Ten Dollar Blonde, but still not much present (ok). Wish I had saved a bottle to compare.

Recipe: OG 1.050, FG 1.010, IBU 25.3, SRM 4.9, Efficiency 78%, Batch size 5.5 gallons (brewed Oct 24, 2011)

1. 3.05 kg Canadian 2-row
2. 682 g Munich malt
3. 454 g Carapils
4. 227 g Wheat malt

1. Magnum - 14 g (9.2% AA) @ 60 min
2. Willamette - 11 g (4.8% AA) @ 60 min
3. Crystal - 42 g (1.6% AA) @ 10 min
4. Amarillo - 21 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1098 British (with a 1.5 L starter)

- 60-minute mash with 14.55 L of strike water (treated with 1/4 tab Campden), mashed in at 153 F. Sparged with ~5.5 gallons of 168 F water for a final volume of ~6.75 gallons into kettle. 60 minute boil.

- Chilled down to 65 F with copper immersion chiller. Pitched yeast at this temp, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after. OG 1.050.

24/10/11 - Slight activity present in airlock by late evening.

25/10/11 - In AM, bubbling more than q second, temp 68 F. In afternoon, bubbling 2-3 times per second, temp 70 F. In PM, bubbling more than q second, temp 71 F.

26/10/11 - In AM, bubbling q 3 seconds, temp 68 F. Moved into water-heater room to keep temp up a bit.

13/11/11 - Bottled with 122 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with a max temp of 71 F reached. Bottled 4 x 22 oz, 16 x 500 mL, 21 x 12 oz. Put in room set at 70 F for 2 weeks to condition.

Short brewing hiatus

Unfortunately, due to a recent medical diagnosis and surgery, I'm forced to avoid brewing for the rest of 2011 (at least). Hopefully it won't go beyond that; it's just a matter of not being allowed to do any heavy lifting for 4-6 weeks... and with a pregnant wife, I don't have anyone nearby to help out! However, if I can recruit someone, maybe I'll be able to get in one final brew session for 2011 after all.

Hate to do this when I've just started this blog. I should be able to still get the Kate the Great clone bottled within a week or two. It's now down to 1.023, which would be a great FG if it stops right there. I've likely lost a good 3-4 L, maybe more, from the blow-off in the first few days of fermentation. I'm still thinking that I won't be making the oak addition... I'll likely just go right to bottling.

Over the next few weeks, I'll try to post some recent tastings (along with the recipes) of some homebrews I've done in the past. Some turned out quite good, others not so much, but I figure that way I'll still be able to keep track of their development while bottled.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Kate the Great clone

I had planned on brewing my first Russian Imperial Stout today quite a while back... today was my 40th brewing session, and with a recent pile-up of homebrew, I wanted to brew a beer that needed some time to age before drinking. The recipe I was most interested in was a clone of Portsmouth Brewing Kate the Great. Kate the Great is a very popular beer of theirs... one of those once-a-year releases that has people lining up early in the morning to snag a bottle, or more. I've never had the pleasure of trying it, or any Portsmouth beers, unfortunately, but I've always been a big fan of Smuttynose (their sister company). I found a close variant of the recipe I decided to use from the blog the Mad Fermentationist; his recipe was closely based on notes and tips given to him by a brewer at Portsmouth. It's a very complex recipe (11 grains, and 6 different hops), which normally turns me away (I find overly-complex beers can come across as a bit muddled compared to simpler recipes), but obviously these guys know what they're doing, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I've never brewed a beer this big before. With a target OG of 1.101, it's much higher than anything I've attempted in the past (a Tripel and Belgian Golden Strong were pretty high, but a lot of the gravity there was from multiple table sugar additions during fermentation). I milled the grains and measured out the water yesterday, which ended up being a smart move since I woke up this morning at 3:00 am and couldn't get back to sleep. My brew day started early, at about 7:30, but the whole time I felt quite drowsy and a little out of it, to be honest. My mashtun is your standard 10-gallon cooler with a stainless-steel braid; I was unsure just how much grain and water I'd be able to fit in there for the mash. I checked some tables online, and it looked like I'd be ok, but just to be sure I substituted some of the 2-row with a lb of light DME, which I added during the boil.

The main differences from my recipe to that recommended by Tod Mott are that a couple of the hops used are substitutes, due to what I had available, and I used Wyeast 1098 British Ale instead of the 1056 American Ale (or equivalent). My previous beer was a Blonde Ale recipe of my own that used fresh 1098, so I used some slurry from that batch when I bottled it a couple of days ago. I find the 1098 the most neutral of the English yeasts, so it should work out ok. Also, I don't think I'll be using any oak in this recipe, unlike the real thing.

The mash produced the darkest, thickest wort I've ever had yet. The run-off was quite slow when draining into the kettle, but it just took a little extra time. My SG before boiling was only one point below target, but my boil was a bit less vigorous then I had intended, so I ended up with some extra volume at the end. As a result, of course, my OG came in a bit low (1.097), but overall I was happy with my guess at my efficiency for a beer this big (I normally get 75-80% depending on a "normal" OG range of 1.050-1.070, so I assumed 68% for this beer).

This was also the first time I actually employed a blow-off tube. I used my silicone tubing that I normally use to drain from the mashtun; it seems to fit over the airlock tube well enough. I brewed a Stone VE 090909 clone a few months ago, and had my first-ever fermentation explosion from the Better Bottle the beer was fermenting in, and it took hours to clean up the mess. Hopefully this'll prevent problems. We'll see.

OG 1.101, FG ~1.024, IBU 70, SRM 47.9, Efficiency 68%, Batch size 5.5 gallons

1. Canadian 2-row 7.27 kg
2. Light DME 454 g
3. Flaked Barley 368 g
4. Special B 368 g
5. Wheat malt 368 g
6. Carafa Special II 314 g
7. Aromatic malt 250 g
8. Caramunich II 204 g
9. Roasted Barley 204 g
10. Black Patent 100 g
11. Crystal 120 L 100 g
12. Chocolate malt 100 g

1. Styrian Goldings - 56 g (1.75% AA) @ 75 min
2. Magnum - 56 g (9.15% AA) @ 75 min
3. Pearle - 11 g (8.3% AA) @ 75 min
4. Centennial - 14 g (8.8%) @ 15 min
5. U.S. Goldings - 14 g @ 0 min
6. Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min
7. Styrian Goldings - 28 g @ 0 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1098 British Ale (cultured a couple of days ago, ~300 mL of slurry)

- Used a thick mash at around 1.15 L/lb. Mashed in at 149 F and began a 60-minute rest. Vorlaufed, drained into kettle. Sparged with 4 gallons ~173 F water, vorlaufed and drained again.

- 75 minute boil. DME was added at 45 minutes. Had a bit of a boil-over once the hot break formed, but nothing drastic.

- Began chilling with immersion chiller at flameout. Had down to 65 F after about 30 minutes. OG came in a bit low at 1.097, but I also had an extra L or so of wort at the end of the boil. Filtered into Better Bottle, and aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching yeast slurry (no O2 system yet, unfortunately). Shook again 6 hours later.

16/11/11 - In the morning, there was a bit of beer in the blow-off jug. The beer blew off the stopper several times during the day (making a bit of a mess), until it was finally left alone, foam slowly creeping out all day/evening. 

17/11/11 - Settled down enough to put the airlock back in... temp had crept up to 70 F. Let it sit in a cool-ambient room all day, where it continued to ferment pretty aggressively (via the airlock, anyway).
18/11/11 - Airlock slowing down, temp dropped down to 66 F. Moved the BB to a warmer room (about 70 F ambient) to hopefully hold the temp up a bit. Last thing I need now is a stuck fermentation.

20/11/11 - No visible activity, temp still at 66 F. I'll likely leave it at least another week before taking a gravity reading. No plans to bottle for another 2+ weeks.

23/11/11 - No krausen at all, so decided to take a gravity reading. Came in at 1.023, so hopefully the main work of fermentation is complete. An FG lower than that would probably be too dry and roasty for such a big beer.

13/12/11 - FG 1.023. Bottled with 96 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 4 gallons, max temp of 70 F reached. Added ~1 g of rehydrated Champagne yeast to bottling bucket. Bottled 24 x 12 oz, 8 x 500 mL, 4 x 22 oz. Leaving the bottles in a warm room for about a month to carbonate.

10/1/12 - Moved bottles into the "cellar", temp set at 50 F. Going to try not to sample any for about 6 months to give the beer time to age properly.

12/2/13 - Finally posted the tasting notes... very smooth for the high-ABV, but could probably stand to be a bit roastier (compared to other RISs, anyway).

Saturday 12 November 2011

After homebrewing for almost two years now, I've decided to start blogging about my experiences in the world of beer... especially homebrewing, of course. Like most homebrewers, I already keep close track of each batch that I brew through pretty-meticulous notes (which is always recommended, whether it be a brand-new batch, or a favorite standby that you've already brewed 10 times). However, blogging about the process seems to be a good way to keep an even better record of it all, and if someone happens to stumble upon these posts and get interested in homebrewing, all the better.

As for my brief history with all this, I only really got into beer about 2&1/2 years ago, when my wife and I took a trip to Belgium. It was there that I finally realized how complex and tasty beer could be, and just how many different styles of beer there actually were. It didn't take long before I found out that with some reading and experience, you can brew all these types of beer at home. Living in New Brunswick, Canada, where access to great beer is definitely limited compared to a lot of other places in the world, made the decision to start homebrewing even easier.

After a couple of months of preliminary reading, I brewed my first extract batch in late November of 2009... it was an American Amber Ale, didn't turn out that bad (or that great), and I was immediately hooked, like so many others. Since then, I made the inevitable jump to all-grain brewing (after about 9 batches of extract and partial-mash), and have brewed 38 more 5-gallon batches. I have a freezer that acts as a fermentation chamber/cellar (thanks to a digital temperature controller), along with the usual equipment that goes with all-grain brewing. I bottle all my beers; oddly enough, a kegging system is the one jump I have not made yet.

I plan to brew my 40th batch, a Portsmouth Kate the Great clone, in a couple of days.