Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another reason to come to Beerfly Alleyfight

You know what those are pictured above? They're homemade Bavarian-style mini soft pretzels (or, auf Deutsch, Brezeln) that are encrusted with bacon bits and crushed Cocoa Puffs. Think it sounds good? I promise you it tastes better. Yes, that's what we'll be pairing with our Kokopüffenweizen for this year's Beerfly Alleyfight (May 22nd; more details here).

I used this recipe I found on rather than this other recipe I found because it was faster and I didn't get started until 8pm. It was also the first time I've ever made anything with lye (and I didn't lose any skin in the process!). I actually tried three different methods of mixing the bacon and Cocoa Puffs into the pretzels--the other two featuring the bacon and Puffs inside the dough--but I liked the crunchiness of the crumbs on the outside, plus it made the Cocoa Puffs a little more noticeable. My only complaint is the dough was rather sweet (the recipe I used called for brown sugar). I think next time I'll cut the sugar other than a minimal amount used to get the yeast going. Otherwise I'm thinking these should be ready to rock when the Alleyfight rolls around. If you live in or near Chicago, don't miss it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beerfly Alleyfight update

We're now less than four weeks away from Beerfly Alleyfight (if you don't know what that is, read this post, then go here to buy tickets, then go to Rock Bottom on May 22nd and drink and eat and have fun!). I have a couple of exciting updates regarding the Alleyfight...

First, I found out who Leah and I will be paired with for the Alleyfight: actress/musicians Laura Grey and Laura McKenzie. For all of you, it's exciting because they have a hilarious show out right now called "The Laura on Laura Comeback Tour." I haven't seen it yet but I'm hoping to get there soon (it's every Thursday night for the next month). And I know it's hilarious because they were guests on the Drinking & Writing radio show this month, which you can listen to via podcast here; the podcast feed seems to be down right now but I'll let you know when it's back up.

Now, for me personally, working with Laura and Laura should be a blast because Laura Grey and I were actually friends back in high school (huzzah for Downers Grove South! (sorry, "huzzah" is my new favorite word)). I didn't even know she was active in Chicago's theater community until I heard the Drinking & Writing show the other week, and now I find out we'll be working together for the Alleyfight. It's a small world, especially here in Chicago.

Okay, I feel like this post is one giant run-on sentence but since I've read both Faulkner and Pynchon over the past few months I know what a run-on sentence looks like and this post is not a run-on sentence. Pressing on (focus!), here's my update on the beer side of things. I "dry-puffed" our Kokopüffenweizen that we brewed for the Alleyfight. The term isn't totally accurate since I actually crushed four cups of Cocoa Puffs, blended them with 2.5 cups of water, and then boiled the mixture for fifteen minutes before adding it to a carboy and racking on top of the goop. My estimate suggests that 1/2 cup (~19 g) of Cocoa Puffs has a gravity of 1.010-12 in 2.5 cups of water, so our starting gravity should get a bump of about three points. Right now our gravity is down to 1.016, which is just about terminal, and the Weizen aroma is awesome... the perfect blend of estery and phenolic. I also designed the label that you see above; it took me the better part of a day and I'm actually pretty proud of it.

One last brewing note... This past Monday (April 19th) I racked our 59° Fahrenheit Maibock. Holy crap does it taste good. I'll give it a couple weeks to lager but then I'm putting this bad boy on tap even though ideally I should let it lager for a good month. If my notes are correct, it finished at 1017.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Final analysis: Gust Front Leipzig-Style Wheat

So this is long overdue, but I finally got around to doing a formal tasting of our Gust Front Leipzig-style wheat (a.k.a. Leipziger Gose). It's a good thing, because as you can see in the picture below, it ran out halfway through the pour! This beer took second place in the specialty beer category of the BOSS Chicago Cup competition, so I guess it's not too bad, but I still may tweak it in the future. Here's the review:

Style: Gose. Orig. gravity: 1050. Final gravity: 1014.
ABV: 4.8%. IBU's: 15.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy, deep straw color with a hint of orange. A nice white head tops the beer.

Smell: You pick up the tart smell of the lactic acid along with some green apple. There's a touch of yeast but not much.

Taste: The sourness hits you up front. It's definitely there but not overwhelmingly so; it's also a very clean sourness. As the tartness settles down, you get a nice combination of yeast and bready wheat maltiness. It's never savory but you do get a mineral bite in the finish. Very refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Nice body--not too heavy; not too thin--and adequate carbonation, though not quite as effervescent as a Hefeweizen.

Overall: As I noted a while back (towards the end of this post), I did a side-by-side of this with Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose (my favorite Gose from Leipzig) and the biggest difference was mine was still significantly less sour than theirs. Now, Leipzig actually has two different breweries making Gose, and mine was in between the two when it comes to sourness. I still like the Döllnitzer best and I may try to make this more sour the next time I brew, but this one was definitely more accessible such that beer newbies still enjoyed it (something that probably wouldn't be the case with Döllnitzer). The other thing I'd like is to get more of a yeast bite from the beer; not sure how I'd do that but maybe I can mess around with different yeasts. But for my first time experimenting with lactic fermentation, I would consider this a resounding success.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brew day: Kokopüffenweizen

Ah, the signs of spring... The days get longer. Baseball starts. I brew for the Drinking & Writing Brewery's Beerfly Alleyfight.

Yes, Leah and I will once again participate in the awesomeness that is Beerfly Alleyfight. For those of you who have never been, every homebrewer who participates in the Alleyfight is asked to brew five gallons of beer and pair it with a food item that we prepare. We are then paired with an artist who interprets our pairing. Over the last three years we've come up with some pretty good beer-food pairings if I do say so myself (our None More Buzzed coffee stout paired with tiramisu bites; our Worst Case Scenario Belgian dark ale paired with roasted sweet potato slices topped with banana salsa; and last year our Somethin' Else India black ale paired with bacon smoked mac 'n cheese). We've also been fortunate to be paired with some awesome artists (writer/actress Mary Fons, filmmaker Ren Velarde and singer/songwriter Naomi Ashley). This year Beerfly Alleyfight is May 22nd at the Chicago Rock Bottom (State & Grand). It's a whole lotta fun and if you live within a 100-mile radius of Chicago you should go; more info and tickets HERE.

Anyway, this year the theme is wheats, and after a little thought I decided to play the ace up my sleeve: Cocoa Puffs. When I first started brewing I read about a homebrew competition where everybody had to use breakfast cereal in some way, and I thought it was a cool idea. Now I've never really outgrown kids' cereal (Hey Mom, you remember how you made me eat Total as a kid? Well, behold the monster you created.) and I'm particularly fond of Cocoa Puffs, so a while back I decided to brew a Cocoa Puffs stout. It was good, but the Cocoa Puffs didn't really stand out.

A couple years later I decided to give it another whack. This time the base stout was much higher gravity and I was pretty generous with the Cocoa Puffs. I brought a bottle for a friend who later emailed me a critique which didn't pull any punches. She said something along the lines of "It really tasted like Cocoa Puffs, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing." Yes, it's a good thing. It's an AMAZING thing.

Given that Beerfly Alleyfight is all about having fun, I decided to go way outside the box this year and thus we'll be serving a new style I call Kokopüffenweizen. It's basically a Weizenbock spiked with Cocoa Puffs. Now I add the Cocoa Puffs in the secondary, so today was a cereal-free day. But here's a recap of the first step on our journey to malty, estery, Cocoa-Puffy goodness.

It was actually a pretty boring brew day. I mashed in around 11am. Due to a last-second decision to change mash tuns my strike water dropped a few degrees and I mashed in at 151°F instead of 155. After 45 minutes, I pulled a 1.5-gallon decoction which I boiled for a half-hour (twice as long as my typical poor-man's decoction). I sparged for just under an hour, collecting just under six gallons. (At this point I realized that I accidentally made my recipe for 5 gallons instead of the usual 5.5, hardly anything to lose sleep over.)

Since I want the Cocoa Puffs to shine, I only went with one hop addition when I reached boil at 2:30. After a 90-minute boil I chilled to 61°F, ending up with just under five gallons. I had only planned on doing a 75-minute boil, so between the mix-up on batch size and the extra boil-off I was a bit low on my target volume. Fortunately, I overshot my target gravity by five points (1062 instead of 1057). With this in mind, I diluted with a 500mL bottle of water as well as my 1000mL starter of WLP 380 Hefeweizen IV yeast. This got me above five gallons at around 1059 for starting gravity. Obviously this will get a bump from the sugary Cocoa Puffs, which is why that gravity might seem low for a Bock style.

So that's what I did today. Next week I'll add the Cocoa Puffs (I'm thinking of going with four cups; last time I did five, but that also had an original gravity of 1080 vs. 1060). Stay tuned for more updates on the beer that will make you Kuckuck für Kokopüffen!

UPDATE: You can read about the "dry-Puffing" process here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

FotoFriday #22

This is what happens when you let an amateur fill a firkin...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Let there be Alt! Tonight!

I just go the word yesterday that Metropolitan I-Beam Alt (for which I did some heavy lifting) will make its debut to the drinkers of the world tonight! The best part is it will be available at a special event featuring ALL of Metropolitan's beers including their awesome Baltic porter and their hopefully-as-awesome (I haven't even tried it yet) Maibock. Those last two are extremely rare (only ten gallons of each were brewed) and were made especially for the Craft Brewers Conference which is being held in Chicago right now.

The event starts at 7pm at Jake Melnick's near the Water Tower in the River North area. Doug and Tracy from Metro will be there and I'm sure some other brewers will be stopping in from time to time as they're ALL in Chicago right now. Yay beer!