Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face and I just cannot hide it.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the only time I will ever quote Ce Ce Peniston on this blog (or any other, for that matter). Anyway, as you can see, Russell Jonas Chibe (or simply Jonas if you're into the whole brevity thing) has finally arrived. He joined us at 4:05pm on Friday, weighing in at a whopping 10 lb. 6 oz. Yeah, it's been a bit of a whirlwind weekend.

A couple beer-related notes... First, we finally tried our Dunkelweizen shortly after he was born. Leah, Tricia (our good friend and doula) and I popped a 750-mL bottle to celebrate the occasion, and I was pleased overall with the results. I'll post a full critique some time down the road, but I can definitely say I won't be embarassed to pass out the "It's A Boy!" bottles.

Second, I somewhat foolishly decided to brew today, less than 48 hours after Jonas's fortiutous birth. (Time was running out to get my Irish Red done in time for St. Patty's Day.) I'll try to get a full wrap-up typed out by tomorrow evening, but it went surprisingly well--for me, at least. Poor Leah, stuck inside with a newborn and a two-year-old, might beg to differ. In my defense though, I gave her veto power and she said go ahead and brew... just want to make sure you guys don't think I'm a total jerk. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a partial jerk, but not a total one.

Well, time for me to take over baby duties. I'm thinking I might need another bottle of that Dunkelweizen.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Still no baby...

...but we do have a new review over at Chibebräu Wine. That's almost as exciting, right?

In the meantime, a couple other quick updates. The F5 Altbier is no more. I'm gonna have to brew up another one soon. In its place we tapped the keg of Dunkelweizen, although I don't want to taste it until we crack open the 750-mL bottle that will accompany us to the hospital. Also, I'm thinking of brewing our Road House Red next weekend so it will be ready for the South Side Irish Parade which is March 15 this year. It may be wishful thinking, as we'll presumably have the baby by then, and Saturday I'm judging the Reavis High School Battle of the Bands (and I really want to go to Sausagefest earlier that day, though that's looking more and more doubtful). Anyway, we'll see how everything shakes out.

Finally, on a completely non-beer-related note, a friend of mine has never heard the band Ween before so I made her a mix cd (yes, I'm one of those guys). If there's a harder band to capture in sixty minutes than Ween--a band that can effortlessly go from this to this to this--I'd like to hear them. And just to bring it back to beer, I'll note that Ween apparently has fans over at Short's Brewing, as they feature a seasonal beer called "Bananas and Blow" (explanation here) that I hope to try the next time I head up to the inlaws.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Any day now...

As you can see, our bottles of Dunkelweizen--to be handed out upon the birth of our son--are labeled and ready to rock. All that's left is for the baby to cooperate and get his little fanny out here. Sure, the due date is still three days away, but Leah and I are ready to get the show on the road. As a bit of a joke, we've been trying out one old wives' tale every night since Friday night to try to induce labor. After all, eventually the kid will be born and we'll prove one of these superstitions correct, right? Friday night we had a spicy chicken salad for dinner. Saturday night it was eggplant parmesan. Sunday night it was pizza with giardiniera. Last night it was Mexican food (tacos, to be specific). Tonight it was Greek (gyros). If we can't come up with anything better for tomorrow, I'm getting Leah a Snickers bar (I believe my great aunt told me that one). So, if anybody else has a suggestion for something that's supposed to induce labor, feel free to post it. In the meantime, please keep us in your prayers as we get ready to welcome a new future brewer into the world... and Leah gets ready to drink beer again!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Final analysis: Downdraft Helles

Style: Munich Helles. Original gravity: 1049. Final gravity: 1013.
ABV: 4.7%. IBU's: 19.
(Sample without late hop addition is on the left.)

As much as ales get all the love (and indeed, two of my favorite styles--Altbier and Gose--are ales), I love lagers. While many will argue, I truly feel like if you don't like lagers, you don't like beer. That being said, I think our Downdraft Helles may be the best beer we've brewed to date. But before I get to my tasting notes, I should note that we actually brewed two versions of the Helles. I pumped out half the 10 gallons without a late hop addition and then threw in some finishing hops before pumping out the remaining five gallons. As such, the two kegs are somewhat unique. Here are my notes for each:

Appearance: Both pour a gorgeous, brilliantly clear golden hue with an ample rocky head.

Smell: The Helles without the late hop addition smells, as one would expect, of bread and grain. Underneath the malty sweetness is just a hint of grassy hops. The Helles with the late hop addition is just the opposite... An herbal noble hop aroma dominates, with malty sweetness lingering below the surface.

Taste: The Helles without the late hop addition has a wonderfully soft malt profile to it. It's got that flavor to it where it's hard to pick apart because it simply tastes like... well... beer. The maltiness up front is nicely balanced with just enough hop bitterness, combined with a hint of sulfur and earthy yeast, to keep the finish from being too sweet. The Helles with the late hop addition has a slight hop sharpness on the tongue before the soft, bready maltiness takes over. The finish is about the same as the other Helles, except that it seems a tad drier.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is the same on both... well-carbonated and full, but not so heavy as to keep it from being sessionable.

Overall, I'm really happy with both beers. I'm thinking the beer without the late hop addition is more true to the Munich Helles style, while the late hop addition gives it a little more edge that reminds me of Franconian lagers. Indeed, I think with a slightly less flocculent yeast the late-addition Helles would make a kick-ass Kellerbier. I think the two demonstrate the subtleties that can distinguish one light lager from another. Both are different but delicious. I think the only question is if the late-addition Helles is too hoppy to score well as a Helles in a competition.

So there you have it. This beer will definitely stay in my regular rotation, and I think the overall balance is perfect. The only question for future batches will be if I'm in the mood for a Munich Helles or a Franconian Helles. Prost!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Final analysis: F5 Altbier

So, at long last I'm getting around to critiquing my Alt. Unfortunately, it's starting to oxidize a hair so I'm not going to do complete tasting notes. However, I had a chance to sit down with Doug and Tracy Hurst of Metropolitan Brewing (after the brewery visit which I blogged about here) and do a tasting of my Alt (brewed with WLP 029 German Ale/Kölsch yeast... I stupidly forgot to bring a bottle of the Alt fermented with WLP 320 American Hefe) along with Füchschen's Alt and Rock Bottom Chicago's Alt, which was brewed with members of the Chicago Beer Society. This sort of summarizes my conclusions based on the tasting.

Overall, my beer compared favorably with the other two. While I got dinged at the CBS Spooky Brew Review because my Alt was too bitter and not malty enough, it was actually only a hair more bitter than the Rock Bottom Alt brewed with none other than CBS. It was also only slightly more bitter than Füchschen's, though I suspect it would compare favorably with Uerige Alt on tap. I think I'm going to stick with my initial thought of cutting down the bittering hops a tad, but Doug and Tracy insisted I don't cut it much.

As for the malt profile, the one thing I wasn't happy about is I felt it needed a tad more sweetness. The Rock Bottom Alt was definitely sweeter, but Doug noticed a sweetness on the nose that he attributed to crystal malts. My recipe contains only 0.5 lb. Caramunich, so I thought about upping that but Doug felt I should first try upping the mash temp from 152 to 155°F. That combined with slightly reduced bittering hops may give it a little more malt backbone without becoming sweet. I'm also considering substituting 0.5 lb. of the Pils malt bill with Carahell, as this allegedly softens the bitterness, but I don't want to change too many things at once so I'll hold off on that for now.

Now on to the yeast... As I noted above, I stupidly forgot to bring the Alt brewed with the American Hefe yeast (and that yeast allegedly came from Uerige). Rock Bottom's Alt used the same German Ale yeast I did. It's very clean, and while Doug liked it, we did note a little more fruitiness out of the Füchschen beer. I also noted a slight fruitiness in the batch I brewed with the American Hefe yeast, so I'm thinking it might be a better match for brewing an Alt. Unfortunately, the American Hefe yeast doesn't really floculate so it has to be either fined or filtered, and either process increases the likelihood of oxidation.

So overall I think I'm on the right track with my Alt, but I definitely have a couple things to tweak next time around. In the meantime, a quick note on our Dunkelweizen... Leah and I bottled/kegged it on Sunday (Feb. 1). Specifically I bottled about six gallons and kegged the rest; five gallons is currently conditioning (with one cup corn sugar) in the Frink keg (more on that later). In the third week of fermenting it dropped from 1016 to 1012; apparently the WLP 300 yeast really slows down when around 60°F. Tasting it before bottling it seemed like there was a slight sour tang but I'm hoping it was just from the yeast (like you get from Schneider Weisse) as opposed to any infection. Keep your fingers crossed for me!