Sunday, December 13, 2009

A day in the life of a homebrewing dad

So this weekend was the first in a long, long time where I literally had nothing planned for Saturday or Sunday. A much needed 48 hours of relaxation before the stress of the holidays, right? Um, not when you have a three-year-old who's in a phase of constantly testing limits. Nonetheless, I needed to get some bottling and kegging done, and for a brief moment I was able to get Dorrie to not 1.) pull ornaments off the Christmas tree; 2.) break said ornaments; 3.) derail the train around the tree; 4.) throw flour or powdered sugar all across the kitchen; 5.) spray Jonas in the face with Nature's Miracle; or 6.) draw on the hardwood floor with a Sharpie by asking her to help me clean bottles. She did (as you can see in the accompanying picture), for about ten bottles, and then decided she had better things to do. Oh well.

Help--or lack thereof--aside, I got the Piper at the Gates Saison bottled. Since gluten-free beers tend to have issues with head retention, I used heading powder for the first time. I also did one bottle without the heading powder (marked with a "T" for test) so I can compare the two. A couple other notes... The Saison had serious issues with flocculation so there are a lot of floaties, including some hop bits. It seemed to be worst with the first few bottles so hopefully the rest will be fine. But next time I'll rack to a secondary.

After bottling, I racked the last 2.5 gallons of Scottish ale which will be spiked with vanilla for our Christmas beer. It's in the Hutz keg (with stayed upright with help from Jonas, as you can see to the right). I also cut up 2/3 of a Madagascar vanilla bean and 1/3 of a Tahitian vanilla bean and have them soaking in a couple ounces of brandy; that will be what I use to spike the Christmas beer. Finally, I hooked up the Mr. Kim's Secret Microbrew, North Kilttown Scottish Export and North Pole Export kegs to the CO2 tank and cranked it up to 30 psi.

Tonight I tried all three kegs. To be honest, I was disappointed with all of them. The Secret Microbrew (a ramped-up California Common enriched with oats and wildflower honey) isn't bad, but the hops are quite assertive and harsh. I'd be curious to get a hophead's opinion--which hopefully I'll do at tomorrow night's HOPS! meeting--but I'm not too crazy about it right now. As for the Scottish exports, well, there's this weird taste that I can't quite nail down. It's kind of fruity, but it's not the normal fruity ale flavor. Previously I noticed this flavor in my Road House Red, an Irish red ale, and thought it was due to melanoidin malt. (On a side note, I also picked up the flavor in Short's Brewing's Magician, a self-described London red ale, and suspected they might have used melanoidin malt in their beer, though they never returned my email so I can't really say.) Now I don't know what it is except that I don't like it. The good news is the full keg of Scottish export, which has been cold-conditioning for over a week, had less of the taste than the fresher export (to which the vanilla will be added).

I hope to add the vanilla this weekend and get some of the North Pole Export bottled in time to give to co-workers (i.e. bosses) before Christmas. Hopefully the vanilla will mask any of that flavor I don't like.

Friday, December 11, 2009

FotoFriday #19

This is what happens when you forget to thoroughly clean a carboy . . . then fill it with water to let it soak . . . then leave it in the backyard and forget about it for a few months . . . then the temperature drops to about 4°F . . . then the water in the carboy completely freezes . . . and the carboy cracks.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Catching up...

So I haven't blogged too much lately. I'm still recovering from Novemberfest so I haven't brewed recently, and having headed up to Michigan for Thanksgiving (where I had the opportunity to visit Short's Brewing) I've been slacking off. Well, today I finally took care of some long-overdue housekeeping. I kegged the 6.5-gallon carboy of Scottish ale, taking a final gravity reading of 1019. It's nice; you can definitely taste the result of boiling down the first gallon (in fact, you can almost notice to TOO much; it comes dangerously close to having that melanoidin malt taste that I find overbearing). I'm looking forward to trying it once cooled and carbonated. The Scottish is residing in the Syzlak keg.

I also took a gravity reading on our gluten-free Saison, which is at 1014. However, I'm not sure I'm confident in that reading. Oddly enough (and everything's odd when you're brewing gluten-free) most of the hop trub has floated to the surface, so the sample I drew was full of hop bits and floaties. I'm not sure if that would actually cause the gravity reading to be low (if anything, I would think it would raise it), but I tasted it and it seemed sweeter than 1014. It was quite hoppy (as one would expect with hop bits floating around) and had a nice peppery note to it, so I'm looking forward to the final results.

One last note... This Saturday I'll be checking out the Drinking & Writing Brewery's 12 Steps of Christmas over at Hopleaf (I blogged about it earlier today over at the HOPS! blog). If you're not doing anything, I highly recommend you check it out too.