Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brew day: Folsom Prison Gluten-Free Stout

...or, possibly, Folsom Prison Gluten-Free Porter. More on that later. At any rate, we got our gluten-free brew on for the second straight Christmas Eve on Wednesday, and overall things went well. Here's a recap...

As I described in this post, I did some experimenting with home-roasting wild rice and was able to create a "chocolate" roast (by which I mean a roast similar to chocolate barley malt or wheat malt). You can see a picture of the chocolate wild rice after the recipe below. Based on some experimenting with my home-roasted chocolate wild rice and D2 extra-dark Belgian candi syrup, I found that 0.3 oz of the rice (ground in a coffee grinder) and 1 oz. of the syrup in 2.5 cups of water produced a nice, black color. Based on this, I came up with the following recipe for 5 gallons:

6.50 lb Sorghum Syrup
0.50 lb "Chocolate" Wild Rice
1.75 lb Belgian Candi Syrup D2
8 oz Malto-Dextrine (Boil 5 min)
2.8 oz. Fuggle hops (4.9% AA) (Boil 60 min)
0.8 oz. Fuggle hops (4.9% AA) (Boil 15 min)
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Safale S-04 dried yeast

If you do the math, you'll find that based on my experiment I should have used 0.6 lb. of rice and 2 lbs. of Belgian candi syrup. However, I was concerned about using more than 20% sugar (as it could contribute a cidery off-flavor) so I cut it down to 1.75 lb. And Beersmith suggested no more than 5% chocolate malt, so I cut that down to 0.5 lb. As I would later find out, these two reductions combined left me with a wort that looked more dark brown than black, and hence the possibility that I will re-classify it a porter.

Anyway, the day went pretty smoothly except for the color and the fact that I used whole hop plugs, which made it difficult to siphon. (I honestly don't understand why people use whole hops instead of pellets; maybe I'm missing something). Fermentation started the next morning. Once primary fermentation is complete, I'll be adding some cold-pressed coffee extract made with espresso beans following these instructions. I won't be looking for a powerful coffee flavor, but rather just a little something to add some depth that's lost by the lack of roasted malts. Ordinarily, when I brew coffee beers I simply age them on whole espresso beans, but in those cases I want some hardcore coffee flavor. Here I want more control over the coffee flavor, hence the use of the extract. Stay tuned to hear how it turns out.

Generally I don't really mess with a recipe until I've at least tasted the results of the original recipe, but right now I already have a couple things in mind. First of all, after brewing I discovered that many sites say you can use up to 10% chocolate malt in porters and stouts, so I'm thinking I'll increase the amount to maybe 0.75 lb. to get more darkness to it. Also, I'm tempted to try some of this dark treacle instead of the Belgian candi syrup as it seems more authentic for an English-style brew, but at the same time it's a combination of molasses and invert sugar (which is what the candi syrup is) so I might be better off just going with some combination of the D2 syrup and blackstrap molasses. I'll revisit these ideas after I sample the finished product, but I wanted to get them down while they're on my mind.

So last year I finished off my recap of our Christmas Eve brewing day with my favorite Christmas carol, A Patrick Swayze Christmas. I realize it's now two days after Christmas, but nonetheless I'll leave you with my favorite childhood Christmas cartoon that's iconic here in Chicago but relatively unknown elsewhere. Here's to many great brews in 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas comes early!!!

So I'll skip the boring details and get right to the point... I have obtained eight bottles of heavenly, malty, Germanic bliss!!! Specifically, I managed to snag the following beers: two bottles of Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose, two bottles of Brauerei Goslar Gose (one Helle or light and one Dunkle or dark), one bottle of Füchschen Altbier, one bottle of Füchschen Weihnachtsbier, one bottle of Füchschen Silber (a wheat beer) and one bottle of Einsiedler Doppel Bock.

Without getting into too many details, here's why I'm excited about each of these... Gose is a style of beer that's fascinated me since I first learned of it. After first reading about it, I happened to visit the Map Room one day and discover they had the Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose on tap! I was amazed how drinkable the stuff was (since all I had read was that it was a soured wheat beer brewed with salt and coriander--hardly your typical brew). Last year I got a chance to visit Leipzig, where I discovered the joy of Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose at Ohne Bedenken. It was incredible and, after trying it, Bayerischer Bahnhof was simply too tame. Unfortunately, Bayerischer Bahnhof is the only Gose exported to the U.S., so that's why I'm excited to get two more bottles of Döllnitzer now.

I'm even more excited to obtain bottles of the Goslarer Gose because Brauerei Goslar is one of only two German breweries still producing Gose that I've yet to try. Plus it's from Goslar, the original home of the Gose. And on top of all that, they brew the only Dunkle (dark) Gose of which I'm aware. To be honest, all the reviews I've read suggest the Goslarer Gose it's mild compared to my beloved Döllnitzer, but I'm still stoked to have the opportunity to try it.

Moving on to the Altbier, as I've blogged previously, Altbier is my favorite style and Füchschen is my favorite Altbier brewery. Again, it's unavailable in the United States, so I'm excited to have a bottle to enjoy. Besides that, I currently have my Altbier on tap so I'm looking forward to comparing the two, and I'm helping some commercial brewer friends of mine develop their Alt recipe, so I'm excited to have an authentic Düsseldorf example for them to sample while crafting their version of my favorite beer.

I'm even more excited about the Füchschen Weihnachtsbier because it's their special, stronger version of their Altbier. Uerige calls theirs Sticke, Schumacher calls theirs Latzenbier, and Schlüssel calls theirs Stikebier. Whatever you call it, it's even more of a good thing, and I'm particularly stoked to try this because I could've tried it when I visited Düsseldorf last year but I didn't realize it was out already ("Weihnachtsbier" means "Christmas Beer" and being there just before Thanksgiving I thought it wouldn't be out until December).

The last Füchschen beer--Füchschen Silber--is the one I'm least excited about, as it represents the latest example of an Altbier brewer adding a wheat beer to their repertoire. Not sometime I must try, but I'm looking forward to trying something new nonetheless.

The last beer in my octet is the Einsiedler Doppel Bock. I don't know much about it, other than I did a little googling and found one commenter who included it among Maximator and Celebrator as their favorite Doppelbocks (good company, indeed).

Well, so much for not going into details. Suffice it to say I'm pretty stoked. So here's my thought... I bust open one bottle a week for the next two months. I'm thinking my first will be the Weihnachtsbier (it is almost Christmas, after all) and the last will be a Döllnitzer Gose (as Leah should have had the baby by then, so she can enjoy it with me). Sounds like an awesome two months, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coming up: Gluten-free Brew Number Two

So, I generally don't blog about beers before I actually brew them, but after today I'm really excited about our next brew, a gluten-free stout. Here's the back story:

So a good buddy of mine was diagnosed with celiac disease sometime after college. Last year, for his 30th birthday, I decided to brew him a gluten-free beer. That beer ended up being our White Riot Gluten-Free Belgian Wit, and it was very well received.

Fast-forward to this summer. I brewed a Belgian Dark Ale for this year's Beerfly Alleyfight, and in the process I discovered the wonder that is D2 extra-dark Belgian candi syrup. I was really happy with the dark stone fruit and chocolatey flavors it added to the beer, and I figured it might be useful for making a stout without malted barley or wheat (both no-nos for celiacs and other gluten-intolerant folks). I filed it away in the memory bank for when I would decide to try a gluten-free brew again.

Well, it's almost Christmas Eve, marking the one-year anniversary of our first gluten-free brew day. While ordering some stuff from Northern Brewer the other week, I decided to order some sorghum syrup and D2 candi syrup. I happened to visit my gluten-intolerant buddy yesterday and he was all excited about my new idea, so I blocked off Wednesday morning to brew.

In anticipation for Wednesday, I decided to plug some numbers into Beersmith today. However, much to my horror, I discovered that 80% sorghum syrup and 20% candi syrup would only get me to around 15 SRM, way below the 25 SRM minimum for a stout. I panicked. What the hell should I do? I can't use chocolate malt or chocolate wheat malt or roasted barley or anything like that. I tried toasting some brown rice and running it through a coffeemaker to see what would happen, but it tasted and smelled like burnt popcorn, and it still wasn't contributing much color at all.

Well, I did a little googling and discovered my answer: this page on home grain roasting. I took a tablespoon of wild rice, roasted it in the oven at 400° F for one hour, and--voila!--I had "chocolate" wild rice. I did a small two-cup test batch with the rice and got a color leading me to estimate a 350 lovibond rating for the rice. After adding the candi syrup, I ended up with a nice, black wort that I would've estimated at 35 SRM, though Beersmith calculates closer to 25 SRM. Whatever it is, it's definitely dark enough to qualify as a stout, and it gives a nice nutty, roasty flavor that should lend my beer some complexity. To compliment it further, I'll also be aging it on espresso beans for a few days to give it more roastiness.

So here's my grain bill for now:

6.50 lb Sorghum Syrup
0.50 lb "Chocolate" Wild Rice
1.75 lb Belgian Candi Syrup D2
8 oz Malto-Dextrine (Boil 5 min)

So that's why I'm excited about this next brew. There's just something invigorating about thinking outside the box. And since I'm partial to German beers, I guess I'm not forced to go that far outside the box very often. Anyway, stay tuned to hear how the brew day goes.

In the meantime, a couple updates... I kicked my Helles up to 60 and then 65° F on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, to give it a diacetyl rest. I'm planning on starting to bring the temp down tomorrow. I also carbonated and tapped the Christmas Ale, our vanilla Doppelsticke, and it is quite vanilla indeed. Personally, I like it that way, but others may find it a bit overpowering (Pete Crowley, the brewmaster at Rock Bottom in downtown Chicago, asked "Why would anybody put that much vanilla in a beer?" before he found out it was mine. It made me laugh...).

Well, I'm off to bed for now, but I really want to be brewing my gluten-free monstrosity. Oh well, just one more thing to look forward to come the holidays. Cheers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Operation Dunkelweizen: Tasting Phase (part three)

As I discussed previously, Leah and I will be brewing a Dunkelweizen for celebrate the birth of our second child (e.t.a. 2/14/09). Tonight I wrapped up the tasting phase of Operation Dunkelweizen by sampling a bomber of Two Brothers' Bonfire Dunkle Weiss.

I should start out by noting that Bonfire, at 7.5% ABV, is really more of a Weizenbock than a Dunkelweizen. That being said, let's check it out...

This might actually be the darkest of the five Dunkel-weizens I've tried. Holding it up to the light, barely any actually makes it through the beer. Like all Weizens, it leaves a nice, thick, rocky offwhite head.

Sticking my nose into the glass, I find subtle banana and clove fragarances are competing with bready, Munich malt smells I generally find in a Doppelbock. Yeah, this is gonna be a heavy beer.

Taking a sip, the high gravity of this brew is immediately noticeable. The flavor up font is all malt, with the aforementioned bready Munich malt (along with generous chocolate malt--maybe chocolate wheat?) being tamed only by a slight tang from the unfiltered Weizen yeast (much like you find in Schneider-Weisse). You get a little banana and clove in the finish, and it comes out more as the beer warms up.

I have to say, I didn't really like this beer too much when I first took a sip, but it got better and better as it warmed up. I really like that it has a melanoidin-like sweetness to it as opposed to a caramel malt sweetness. It's interesting to note that, despite its color, there's really no roastiness here.

Now that I've tried all five, I'm thinking my beer will actually be somewhere in the middle of all of these. I hate to say it because it sounds like a cop-out, but I would like the melanoidin sweetness of the Bonfire, a little of the toastiness of the Erdinger, the copper hue of the Ayinger, and the subtle caramel and cocoa notes of the Franziskaner. That being said, now it's time to come up with an actual recipe. So it's on to Operation Dunkelweizen: Recipe Phase!

In other news, the Helles is still chugging away in our controlled-temp fermenter. I also finally put our Altbier under pressure one week after kegging. I ended up having to let the Alt sit at room temp for a week, but I'm using my indoor freezer to ferment the Helles and we had a brutal cold spell so I was nervous about throwing the kegs out in the garage fridge. Anyway, the Christmas Ale is at 16 PSI, and while that's carbing I added 30 PSI of CO2 to the regular Sticke (since I don't have a splitter to carb both kegs at once... though that gives me an idea!).

Next up... I'm thinking we might brew another gluten-free beer on Christmas Eve (just like we did last year). I'm thinking of trying my stout-like creation with dark Belgian candi syrup and coffee. After that it'll be time to brew the Baby Beer--only two months until the due date!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Operation Dunkelweizen: Tasting Phase (part two)

When we last joined Operation Dunkelweizen, we sampled Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel. Today we will be tasting two more German Dunkelweizens, Ayinger Ur-Weisse and Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel. Since I've already given the background of the project in the first post, let's get right to the tasting.

The first difference you immediately notice between the two beers is the color. The Franziskaner pours a dark chestnut, somewhere inbetween the Erdinger and Weihenstephaner. The Ayinger, on the other hand, was by far the lightest of the four thus far, pouring a light copper hue. Interestingly, it reminds me somewhat of my favorite American Dunkelweizen, New Glarus's Copper Kettle, in appearance.

Moving on to aroma, like all the other Dunkelweizens the Franziskaner is heavy on the clove, with just a hint of chocolate. Of course, as soon as I make the generalization that all Dunkels are clove-forward, I take a whiff of the Ayinger and it's much more balanced between the clove and banana. When we last made our Weizenbock it was a bit of a banana bomb, and people really seemed to like it that way, but I'm leaning towards fermenting our Dunkelweizen at the cool end of the spectrum to get more clove out of it.

My first sip of the Franziskaner came closest to what I think I want in a Dunkelweizen. It was sweet up front but not cloyingly so. It had a characteristic bready wheat flavor, with a very slight yeasty tartness to it, but there was also a subtle caramel and cocoa profile in the background. While there was virtually no banana aroma, I picked up a slightly astringent flavor of banana peel in the finish. Overall it was a very flavorful but drinkable beer that had more depth than your standard Hefe but absolutely no roasty bitterness that is the bane of casual beer drinkers who won't drink dark brews.

Just as the aroma is more banana-forward with the Ayinger, so is the flavor. And as the appearance would suggest, it's much closer to the flavor of a traditional flavor than is the Franziskaner. You get the flavor of wheat bread mixed with some banana and just a little nuttiness to tell you it's not a regular Hefe. It's also a bit sweeter than a standard Hefe, with some caramel notes present. A good beer, don't get me wrong; it's just not "Dunkel" enough for my taste...

So with four Dunkelweizens down and one to go (our lone domestic offering, Two Brothers Bonfire Dunkel Weiss), I think I'm honing in on what I want. I'm thinking something more clove than banana, that's relatively heavy on the caramel malts (even though I'm generally against such malts in German-style beers), and has just a hint of roastiness--likely from chocolate wheat malt, which isn't as bitter and abrasive as its barley cousin.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Brew day: Downdraft Helles

Yesterday Leah and I revisited the wonderful world of light lagers, brewing our first Munich Helles. My notes are somewhat sparse because I discovered shortly after mashing in that somebody threw a rock through the back window of our car. This meant spending lots of brewing time on the phone with our insurance company while trying to keep the brew day running smoothly. (Two fun facts I learned: First, I can hook up a pump to my kettle and pump sparge water into my hot liquor tank while talking on my cell phone; second, getting a new rear windshield installed on a 2007 Subaru Outback costs over $800!)

Petty vandalism aside, the brew day went pretty smoothly. I mashed in at 157° F (one degree above my target) for one hour. I was too lazy to check the pH, but given the light malts used, I decided to add 1/2 tsp. acid blend. I should also note that, in the interest of economy, I went with half Durst pils malt and half Rahr pils malt to make up the pils portion of my grain bill (and in the past I've had good experiences with Rahr pils, so I figured it was a nice compromise). I recirculated for fifteen minutes and sparged for a little over an hour. Given my past experiences, I heated up an extra gallon of sparge water and ran out literally as my mash tun went dry.

I did a nice 90-minute boil to drive off the DMS. I had hop additions at 90 minutes, 20 minutes and 5 minutes, all German Tradition hops. It's the first time I've used this particular Hallertau derivative, and they smelled nice and herbal so I hope they work. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do an addition at knock-out, so I compromised... After pumping out half of the ~11 gallons of wort, I added another ounce of hops, so I can compare the beer from the first 5+ gallons (in the 6.5-gallon carboy) to the beer from the last 5+ gallons (in the two 3-gallon carboys) to see which character I like better.

I chilled to ~53° F (I love using my plate chiller in the winter!) and pitched half of a 1-gallon starter (I decanted the top half so my beer wouldn't be 10% starter wort). I also tried WLP 838- South German Lager for the yeast this time; we'll see how it goes. After pitching I threw the carboys into my chest freezer set at 55° F. I think I can see hints of fermentation ~30 hours later. Oh, and final gravity was 1049--a couple points below my target, but then again I yielded a little more than I planned for.

In other news, I racked the Sticke Alt/Christmas beer to kegs. I also added two vanilla beans which have been steeping in vodka the past week to the Christmas beer keg. Of course I forgot to take a gravity reading.

At this point I'm thinking our next beer will likely be the baby beer Dunkel, which reminds me... I have some more Dunkel to taste and report on! Cheers!

Nasty Dan's (Red) Cream Soda

Besides root beer, probably my favorite pop is Barq's Red Creme Soda. In an attempt to clone it (and come up with a regular cream soda recipe) I did some experimenting today, and here's the recipe I came up with for now:

9% sugar (90:10 cane-to-brown-sugar ratio)
0.75% vanilla extract
90.25% carbonated water

Simple, huh? To make Nasty Dan's Red Cream Soda, I added a 2:1 mixture of grenadine and raspberry syrup to taste. If you want the authentic, old-school experience, you should throw a dash of either whipping cream (preferred) or half-and-half in your glass before pouring. I tried it for the first time and it's pretty awesome.

Anyway, for now we're thinking of just having club soda (which I will be branding Ten Percenter Club Soda) on tap and preparing syrups to mix soda-counter style. Of course, that will just be when we don't have our Swearengen's Old Tyme Root Beer on tap. My only concern is the pressure needed, since we only have one CO2 regulator and uniform length serving lines on our kegerator. I'll report back after some experimentation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

"Prohibition? They tried that in the movies and it didn't work!" --Homer Simpson

It was 75 years ago today that the 21st Amendment--repealing the 18th Amendment--was ratified. Everybody raise your glass to our freedom to drink!

On a related note, I don't think I've ever posted anything of a political nature on this blog before, but Radley Balko (who runs the excellent Agitator blog) has an excellent op-ed piece on about the lessons the government hasn't learned from Prohibition some three-quarters-of-a-century later. Radley includes a prescient quote from H.L. Mencken in 1924:

Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favourite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.

Just something to think about. Cheers!