Sunday, May 30, 2010

"And if you've noticed, I ain't said sh*t for a couple minutes now."

Getting housekeeping done is so much easier while watching Fear of a Black Hat (from which the subject of this post is taken). If you've never seen it, rent it NOW. Anyway, a few housekeeping notes. First, we recently ran out of our Mr. Kim's Secret Microbrew and replaced it with our 59° Fahrenheit Maibock. Prior to tapping the Maibock, our kegerator was actually without a German-style beer for the first time ever. Leah took a picture to document the event:

Anyway, a few beer-related tasks I've knocked out over the past few days that I should note for my records... First, I kegged the Roggenbier on Thursday night. The gravity at that point was 1015. I let it sit a couple days and then primed it today with 1/2 cup corn sugar. Based on the fizz when I opened the keg today, I'm going to guess that it dropped two more points (really scientific, right?) so I'm calling the final gravity 1013. The Roggenbier is conditioning in the Nahasapeemapetilon keg.

Also, I cleaned three kegs today. The Hutz, Frink and Wiggum kegs are all nice and shiny; they'll just need a quick rinse with some sanitizer and they'll be ready to go.

Finally, I have some exciting news from Beerfly Alleyfight (though, sadly, it does not involve Leah and I winning) but I want to get some more cleaning done so that will have to wait for another day. Yeah, I'm a tease...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doppelbock, American-style

Since I'm leading a tasting on Doppelbocks and Eisbocks tomorrow night, I'm using it as an excuse to drink--and review--some beers and I figured I'd post my notes here. You can get the full back story, along with my review of Celebrator Doppelbock, in this post from last week. But for now, let's get to the next beer!

Tonight I'm enjoying a Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock. Americans tend to do things bigger, and Doppelbock is no exception. At 8% ABV this one's actually kind of tame by U.S. standards, though that's bigger than just about any German Doppelbock you can find here in the States.

It pours a deep copper-red hue, brilliantly clear, with a creamy tan head that dissipates quicker than I would expect.

The aroma of the Consecrator is fairly typical of a Doppelbock: brown sugar sweetness with just a hint of DMS (cooked veggies). I'm also picking up a very slight note of of grassy noble hops.

Taking a sip you get pretty much all malt. It's a complex maltiness, with that characteristic Munich malt flavor (bready sweet as opposed to sugary sweet). You've got hints of honey and molasses as well, and just a little nutty toastiness. There's no real hop flavor, though you get a nice bitterness in the end that keeps the beer from being cloying. For 8% ABV, the alcohol is very well masked.

I've got to be honest, I picked this one up so I could highlight American-style Bocks, which in two words are big and boozy. However, despite the elevated ABV this one is actually pretty true to style. It's not as balanced as the Celebrator, nor does it have the chocolatey notes of Weihenstephaner Korbinian, but it's got a nice malty depth to it. Kudos to Bell's for this one!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Brew day: Debris Cloud Roggenbier

When we first started brewing six years ago, we wanted to focus on German beers but didn't have the capability to lager so I did a lot of reading up on German ales. Our first beer was a Hefeweizen, and we quickly followed with Kölsch, Altbier and Weizenbock. However, our desire to try new styles led us to discover some of the lesser-known German ales. We brewed a Berliner Weisse and then a Leipziger Gose--two soured wheat styles. Then we bought a chest freezer and started lagering, and our German ale quest was diverted...

...until today. Two German ales that have been on our radar for a while are Roggenbier and Dampfbier. Both are variations on the Hefeweizen: the Roggenbier substitutes rye for wheat and Dampfbier just sticks with barley malt, but all three share the unique Bavarian Weizen yeast. Anyway, I like to keep one light beer and one dark beer on tap at all times, and we're good on light beer right now (we're about to put our 59°F Maibock on tap), so I decided to go with the darker Roggenbier over the lighter Dampfbier at this time.

After two aborted brew days (due to some problems over at Midwest Homebrew Supplies my malted rye didn't get here in time to brew two Saturdays ago--when I meant to brew--and then last Saturday I couldn't get into my garage, but that's another story...) I finally fired up the ol' brew kettle this morning. I was worried about a stuck mash (rye is notoriously prone to stuck sparges and it would comprise of 50% of my grain bill) so I opted to both add rice hulls AND do a beta-glucan rest at 90-95°F and then employ a single decoction to bring the malt up to my sacc rest.

I ended up mashing in a little high (right around 100°F), let that rest for 15 minutes, and then drew off just under three gallons for the decoction. I brought the decoction up to 156°F, rested at that temp for 15 minutes (during which time it dropped down to 146°F) and then brought it up to boil for 15 more minutes. At that point I returned it to the mash where it reached a temperature of 156°F. That was a bit high (my target was 150°F) so I added 1.5 qt. of water at 63°F. According to BeerSmith, I needed 2 quarts to drop my temp down to 150, but it turned out that the 1.5 quarts dropped it down to 146°F (I should have known better than to trust BeerSmith when it comes to water-temperature adjustments). Fortunately, most of the mash was in the decoction so I doubt I'll have a problem with the mash being too thin.

After letting the mash rest for 45 minutes, I went to recirculate. It was the moment of truth: would the rye prove too much for me? I opened my valve and... nothing. Crap! I checked and the manifold hadn't come detached. I blew through the hose in case something was blocking the flow but still nothing came out. What the hell? I looked at my valve (which is opaque plastic) and noticed there was some grain stuck in there. So I clamped my hose with some pliers, took off the valve, blew the grain out and reconnected everything. The wort started flowing freely. Crisis averted.

Since I had to disturb the mash to check on the manifold connection--and the wort was really muddy-looking--I recirculated for twenty minutes. Once I started to collect wort, I went really slowly at first (only collecting one gallon in the first 25 minutes) but then ramped up quite a bit at the end (collecting FOUR gallons in the last 25 minutes). Maybe that's not the best way to do it because I ended up a little short on my target gravity: 1049 instead of 1052 after a 75-minute boil. I only did one hop addition at 60 minutes and then added Irish moss at 15 minutes. I chilled down to around 65°F and then pitched 1000mL of starter I made yesterday from the yeast slurry from our Kokopüffenweizen. I'm guessing it will take off like gangbusters.

Overall, a pretty efficient brew day. Now to (ugh) mow the lawn...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mmm... Celebrator Doppelbock

A week from today is our monthly HOPS! meeting, and I've volunteered to lead this month's tasting. Of course, it wasn't hard to volunteer when the style is Doppelbock and Eisbock. Due to budget constraints, I only bought two bottles each of Weihenstephaner Korbinian (my personal favorite Doppelbock) and Aventinus Eisbock. However, I have extra bottles of our other two exemplars--Ayinger Celebrator and Bell's Consecrator--and in an effort to properly lead the tasting I figure it's my duty to review these two beers. If I'm writing down tasting notes I figure I might as well post them here. So tonight it's Celebrator (and with the Blackhawks playing Game 6 as I type this I hope I have something to celebrate by the night's end).

The beer pours a deep, dark mahogany. If you hold it up to the light you see the beer is brilliantly clear with beautiful ruby highlights. A rather thin tan head rose to the top, though I suspect that's because I was overly cautious with my pour.

While I generally associate Doppelbocks with sweet, bready, malty aromas, this one is surprisingly balanced. You get some sweet molasses and sweet rye but it's complemented by a slight herbal hop aroma as well as a subtle roasted coffee note.

When you take a sip, you get a nice bready malt flavor up front but it's not sugary. As it lingers in your mouth you get some brown sugar sweetness but personally I'm not picking up too much stone fruit which you often get with German malt bombs. The finish is great... much like the aroma the sweetness is balanced beautifully with a noble hop bitterness and a touch of roast malt that is in no way bitter or astringent.

Overall, I think Celebrator is a great example of what makes Doppelbock such an awesome style: at 6.7% ABV, it's no lightweight (particularly by German standards) but yet it's incredibly drinkable. The notable hop and roasted notes render Celebrator somewhat unique for a German Doppelbock. While personally I like a little more depth in the maltiness of my Doppelbock, this is still a wonderful beer. Cheers!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Final analysis: Piper at the Gates Saison (Gluten-Free)

So roughly five months after brewing my gluten-free Piper at the Gates Saison for my buddy Pete (who happens to be gluten-intolerant), I finally got the damn beer to him! Seemed like an appropriate time to review it as well...

Style: Saison/Sorghum beer. Orig. gravity: 1061. Final gravity: 1014 (est.).
ABV: 6.1%. IBU's: 29.

Appearance: Very frothy, very ample ivory head (as you can see above); persistent at first but dissipating after a few minutes. Appears a cloudy apricot color.

Smell: Very sweet and cider-like. Tart apple and (maybe because it's in my head) apricot, along with an earthy, yeasty background. Slightly estery and spicy once you get past the cider notes.

Taste: Surprisingly bitter up front, with the spiciness coming through right behind it. No real cider-like notes to speak of, despite the aroma. In fact, the flavor is rather dry. You get some nice, herbal hop flavors towards the finish along with some more spices (pepper and coriander) and some yeast bite. There's also a slight soap-like note that I also pick up in some of New Belgium's beers (maybe it's a Belgian yeast thing?). The finish is dry with the orange peel really coming through in the finish. [EDIT: After typing up this review and re-reading my brew day notes I discovered that I forgot the orange peel while brewing. As such, I'm not sure where the orange flavor is coming from but it's there!]

Mouthfeel: This one really has a beer-like body to it. It's quite effervescent, and the bubbles seem a little bigger than in a real (i.e. not gluten-free) beer. Beyond that, however, it doesn't really come off as thin at all.

Overall: This may be my most beer-like gluten-free project to date. Really, the only thing that tips you off to the fact that it's not malt-based is the cider note in the aroma. The heading powder appears to have been perfect for the lack of head issues (though I still have one bottle that was sans powder so I can do a side-by-side comparison). I'd like to taste this along side a Hennepin, but initially my two thoughts are that the hops need to get knocked down a tad and I could bump up the spices a bit (perhaps add the spices I forgot in the brew day?). I'm curious to hear what Pete thinks, though I hope the assertive hops at least make this stand out from the relatively flavorless commercial offerings out there.