I made a pilgramage up to Siciliano’s today to drop off a couple beers for the contest Son of Brewzilla (out of Cincinatti (gah did I even spell that right?)). While there I did a little touch of shopping. This time of year is one of the rare times where I make a special point to buy beers from other breweries. Fall beers include both Oktoberfest and pumkin beers. Although I am not a fan of pumkin pie spiced beers, I do love beers that use pumkin as an ingredient.
Currently I am enjoying the Southern Tier Pumking. They have a special knack for creating brews that capture the flavors of desserts it would seem. I have really loved their Creme Brulee stout in the past. Now I feel like I am drinking a piece of pumkin pie. I seriously feel like I need a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete this experience. Maybe even drizzle it with a bit of caramel. Of course they also added a bit of a story onto the bottle itself. That is always something that will sucker me in. At 9% it suprisingly doesn’t have a huge alcohol bite. But at the same time it is a bit filling. I may not have been eating that pie but I sure have been drinking it.
I did a bit of a sample on the Froach today as well. I don’t think it is as ready as I want it to be just yet. But flavor wise I am quite happy with it. In a few days I will do a sampler write up on it.
In other news…
I picked up copper tubing today to expand the functionality of my wort chiller. I fashioned another coil that will not sit in a pan of ice water to increase the chilling factor of my older chiller.
I have been looking into doing some work on my CO2 regulator. I will be expanding it so that I will be able to set my conditioning tank at a different pressure than my serving tanks. I am thinking that I will have to buy another single regulator and piece the two together. Worst case scenario, I am hoping that I won’t have to buy one already built (that takes all the fun out of me playing with high pressure stuff).
I have had the feeling lately that everything is in need of change or repair at the same time in the brewery. It all started with the breakdown of my mash tun and has now blossomed into so many other areas. I even had issues with my CO2 earlier this week as well. Normally a tank lasts me between three to six months, depending on how much I am brewing and pushing the system. My last tank lasted less than 2 weeks (can we say massive leakage). Tracking down the problem it appears that it was due to operator error(I had a plastic piece turned the wrong way), but still it was quite annoying.
Of course it may also be the time of year. I think that this time of year has become the time when I do most of my maintenence work and expansion work. Hopefully soon I will be working on the tower system.
With that said… Its time for some more samples…
We made the pilgramage to the Michigan Ren Fair today to attend the awards ceremony for their brew contest. Aside from making a couple wrong turns on the great Michigan highway system, we made it all the way to Holly fairly unscathed. Thankfully, the day was quite nice; not a single drop of rain all day. The bad part was, it had rained the past couple days. In keeping with old world styles there was not a single paved sidewalk anywhere on the festival grounds. Our shoes are now covered in mud.
We caught a few shows while wandering around and waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. I still think we might have felt a bit more of the fun of it if we had gone in costume (first time at the fair in a few years so none of us are really ready for it).
Now for the contest results. I did not do as well as I would have liked but I did do decently. No medals but Magic 8 Ball did score an honorable mention. I was also happy with its scoring (38 out of 50). My scores are improving and I am learning quite a bit as I go.
So, I look to the future from here… I have possibly one more contest (that I currently know of) this year. I have the two beers I want to enter into this one (will be doing the drop off next week). And now it is time to start planning the beers I will be working on for next year. I think my goal for this next year will be to work toward honing the little things so that I can improve my craft. I feel at this point I can throw together a pretty solid recipe (for the most part), now it is time to improve the little things of technique so that the finished beer is close to perfect.
Now, lets find ourselves a pint in contemplation of the future…
I feel like I have finally hit the cross road I have felt coming on for quite some time now. At the time of this writing I have the Murphy’s wheat waiting to be transferred and am thinking ahead to the tequila wheat I originally planned to brew. But really, how do you describe your state of mind so that others who are not you understand what is going on inside? It is this odd feeling that everything I have been working toward over the past few years is suddenly just around the corner.
I spent a few minutes today talking to my friend Jessica, who recently started brewing. She brewed her second beer recently and we discussed some of what she encountered and what went into the recipe (I picked on her a bit cause she went with a kit again instead of stepping out on faith with one of the recipes I set up for her). There was a look in her eyes when she spoke of the fermentation starting on this beer (she missed it on her first beer). I remember that feeling, I still get it everytime I brew. Its a sensation of birth and transformation, knowing that it was your hand that guided the process.
Randy Mosher speaks of meditations in a glass. It is the times in my life when I view the world and my life from the outside in that I truely understand what he is talking about. I had a couple Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfests before I left work today. Its interesting that it would be something as simple as a pure German beer that would cause my brain to follow the path it is now. Perchance it is a primal need for us to find something that praises the purity of the malt and the hops to ground us and prepare us for moving ahead.
Commercially, breweries compete with each other to have their beers stand out from all the others out there. Packaging and gimmickery and even wacky add campaigns that have nothing to do with the beer itself are used to aid that push. Maybe it is time for us to find a beer that stands perfectly on its own merits, something so pure that its purity is what drives it ahead of the pack.
I am following a path that leads me to chefs like Thomas Keller. What he has done at the French Laundry is to create food that takes the diner back to purist flavor and taste memories. Is it possible to do that with beer? In truth, this is something that needs be done without gimmicks. It must be done in such a way that it is a celebration of the purity of the malt and hops. This my friends is the path I now seek to follow.
Let’s find a pint and ponder the future…
I spent a good portion of my time last night doing maintenence on the mash tun. Or course after Monday’s fiasco it would seem that it was well needed. A good portion of the time was spent going back and forth to Lowes to pick up parts (2 trips in total). But in the end I actually have the valve portion of the mash tun pretty much the way I originally envisioned it. It is more stable now.
Something very important I learned in all this… I do rather enjoy going to Lowes instead of Menards when I am working on brewing equipment. The people at Lowes are much more willing to think outside the box for plumbing solutions. If I had brought the entire mash tun with me I would easily have finished the fix in much less time and with only one trip. I think now the next change that might happen to the mash tun will be to switch around where I have parts of the manifold permanently assembled.
I am now debating on if I want to try again this coming weekend to brew the wheat I originally intended. All I need to pick up is some specialty grains and new hops. The Murphy’s wheat (named for Murphy’s law) seems to be fermenting nicely. It is always possible that it won’t be a completely wasted brew. But of course, that remains to be seen. At the very least I will have a beer to cook hot dogs with.
Now then, my pint is gone, its time for bed…
I have never really experienced a stuck sparge before, well until tonight that is. It wasn’t really a stuck sparge though, it was down right broken. The one thing I like about the design of my mash tun is that the piping does cover a good amount of the bottom of the cooler. I also set it up so that I could easily break it down and clean it out with little trouble. That is the part that is now kicking my heiny. It seems that in a couple places the pipes seperated and so when I opened the valve to start the sparge grain was sucked into the valve and completely plugged it. I tried a few different approaches to get the sparge moving all to no avail. In the end I ended up sparging through a strainer. At that point I figure the wort was lost but I am just too stubborn to let it go.
I ran the wort through a full boil and didn’t add the special ingredient I was planning to add tonight. I will wait and see how this one turns out and brew it again the next time I brew making the changes that seem appropriate. As it is right now it appears like I have a milk chocolate wheat which was entirely what I was not going for appearance wise. So I have some reformulations to do to adjust the color.
I kegged the heather earlier today. I am happy with how that one sits currently. It is definately unlike beer as we have come to know it. I am anxious to see the affect that cold and carbonation have on it.
Hopefully I can pitch yeast soon cause its late and this wheat beer has fought me for way too long tonight.
I put the single hop bitters on tap recently. Here are some of my initial observations (first in general then more specifically). First off, based on my reaction to this beer I like the idea of using a single hop within the beer itself. I have felt for some time that flavor characteristics from the initial hop carries through. It shows through quite well in this beer. For the most part the only thing that has really changed is the hops I used in the formulation (same malts although at a different quantity). You can almost see it as the difference between a simply spiced plate of food and one that is complexly spiced beyond recognition. The pure flavors come through much more profoundly. This is a time when you really need to be on your game.
Now on to the beer itself.
The color came out as a palish gold with a solid white head. The head did subside to a thin head that persists to the end of the glass, with nice lacing all the way through.
Initially I was hit with bitterness, though not in a bad way. The spicy bitterness of the fuggles was something I didn’t expect. I was thinking I would hit more floral and perfumy. What I really like is how the spice fits so well with the bready malts. It took a couple swallows for the malt to come through, my taste buds had to adjust to the initial bitterness.
I really like this beer. The single hop turned out great for the style and I believe I will experiment a bit more with this style of hopping. The bitterness of IPAs make it hard for me to drink more than 1 or 2 in a sitting, they have just way too much going on. But the style of bitterness and the alcohol of this bitters (4.5%) really makes this a great session beer. I can drink a few without overloading my taste buds and without getting overly tipsy. Although I ended up at a higher percentage than I initially wanted I feel it came out close enough to make me happy.
6lb Pale ale malt (2 row)
2lb Marris Otter
1oz Fuggles (60m)
.5oz Fuggles (30m)
.5oz Fuggles (20m)
1oz Fuggles (5m)
1 teaspoon Irish Moss (15m)
white labs WLP 013 London ale yeast
Infusion mash 148 degrees for 90 min using 3.5 gallons of water
I think I need another one of these…