Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brew Day: Session Bitter

Considering the number of recipes and ingredient combinations there are in homebrewing, it is often difficult to make the same beer each and every time. Even when following the same recipe, little things like using a different hop variety, yeast strain, or even a type of malt can make a huge difference in the final product. I've always enjoyed homebrewing for the freedom and ability to make a beer exactly how you want it. The endless combinations of ingredients and processes are indeed a playground of possibility. Yet, I do know a large number of homebrewers that brew the same five or six recipes over and and over again, and are completely content drinking the same thing all year long. I suspect this has something to do with their wives! Regardless, while I like experimenting with ingredients and tweaking recipes as much as anyone, I wasn't always that way. For my first year and a half of brewing, I made nearly the same damn thing each and every week. Special bitter, witbier, stout. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseum. Anyways, for today's brew day, I got one of those early recipes. My 'yeoman special bitter,' a beer that I have brewed dozens of times and have lately forgot about. The recipe is pretty much the same, although I did make a few minor substitutions for what I have on hand. And as I managed to culture some Bedford Bitter yeast from the bottom of my kicked keg of ESB, I will be using that. This guy wont be waiting until June to get his wlp006 yeast fix!

Yeoman Special Bitter : English Special Bitter                                                                               
Recipe Specifics:
-----------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.4
Anticipated OG: 1.042
Anticipated FG: 1.010    
Anticipated IBU: 33
Anticipated SRM: 10
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
----------------
88.9% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter (TF)
6.3%  - 0.4 lbs. Toasted Malt
4.7%  - 0.3 lbs. Crystal 60L
3.1%  - 0.2 lbs. Crystal 120L                                                                                                             
Hops:
-------
0.75 oz. Challenger @ 60 min for 26 IBU
0.5 oz. EKG @ 15 min for 7 IBU
1.0 oz. EKG @ flameout
0.5 oz. EKG @ dryhop 5 days

Yeast: Whitelabs 006 Bedford Bitter
Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 29 January

Notes: I toast my malt at 350F for 30 min on a heavy duty cookie sheet or until I get a deeply nutty - toast like flavor that is actually pretty similar to cheddar goldfish crackers. Biscuit malt and/or victory would be a passable substitution, though home toasted malt just tastes better and has a more discernible impact on the final beer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brew Day : American Pale Ale III

Another re-brew of sorts for the upcoming competitions. Whether or not I'll actually send any beers in, I still don't know. Depends on how much money It will cost me for entry fees and getting the beer to the competition in one piece. The more I think about it, I probably should just focus on brewing what I like and not what some beer judge thinks a beer style should taste like. Regardless, today I will be re-brewing my recent Levi's Pale Ale, although with a few minor adjustments for the ingredients I have on hand. The malt bill is nearly the same as the last batch - save a small 40gram addition of pale chocolate for color adjustment - and as promised I'll be using a different yeast and hop schedule. I was going to go with wy1768 Special Bitter yeast, but as I recently top cropped some more wy1318, I figure I'll give it a try. Probably not the best choice for an competition worthy APA, but screw it... should taste nice. Hopping is a bit different, as I will be using Chinook for bittering and Simcoe, Centennial, and Ahtanum for flavor/aroma. I normally would use Amarillo in a beer like this, but I figure it would be nice to see what the Ahtanum contributes to the beer. Water profile is much of the same, though as I just realized I am nearly out of gypsum, I'll keep the sulfate to around 150ppm again. Lastly, I just noticed how similar this beer is to my recent ESB re-brew. American ESB? *Shudder*

Levi's Pale Ale II : American Pale Ale
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.1
Anticipated OG: 1.057
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 12
Anticipated IBU: 45
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
84.2%  - 8.5 lbs. Golden Promise
7.4%  - 0.75 lbs. Munich Malt
5.0%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
2.5%   - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt
1.0%   - 0.10 lbs. Pale Chocolate
                                         
Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Chinook @ 60 min for 23 IBU
0.50 oz. Ahtanum @ 10 min for 5 IBU
0.50 oz. Centennial @ 10 min for 8 IBU
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ 10 min for 9 IBU
0.50 oz. Ahtanum @ flameout
0.50 oz.Centennial @ flameout
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ flameout
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ dryhop
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ dryhop
0.50 oz. Centennial @ dryhop

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London III
Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 24 January

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Barm Bread, part II

This bread making thing isn't as easy as I had originally thought. The barm starter took a full three days before it was ready and the bread dough took another day and a half to fully rise. Then there was all the time spent turning the dough over and kneading it, according to some crazy schedule that I won't be doing again. I had read that barm bread is the most difficult of the sourdough type breads to make "well" and I can see why. Just like in brewing, beer yeast can be temperamental stuff! Regardless, after a full week of tending to my barm and the dough, I finally got around to baking the bread yesterday morning.

The recipe for the dough was simple enough; 500g bread flour, 250g water, 10g salt, and 150g barm. However, the folding schedule was very intensive, turning the bread over at the 10min, 20min, 30min, 1hr, 2hr, 3hr, 5hr marks. After that, form the dough into loaves and let it rest for an additional 4-6 hours for the final rise. Bake the bread for 20 minutes at 425F with steam and then another 30 minutes without. Final internal temp of my bread was 210F.

And the result? Not bad! While there were definite mistakes on my part, the bread did bake up nicely and it is very flavorful. The crust in particular turned out well, as it is dark and chewy without being too heavy. The flavor of the bread is unlike any thing I have had before. The crumb has a wonderfully fragrant, sweet aroma and it reminds me of a dopplebock or something similar. The flavor of the bread is very nice too, as it has a sweet-malty beer flavor and finishes with the slightest bit of hop bitterness. At first the bitterness surprised me, but it adds some nice character to the bread. If there ever was a "beer bread" this is definitely it. If you can imagine a crusty, sweet roll with beer flavor, it would probably be similar. The bread tastes especially nice toasted with butter and I imagine it would pair very well with a sharp cheddar in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Overall, I am happy with my first attempt at barm bread (bread baking too), though there are definite things to improve upon. Next time, I'll start with a thinner and wetter yeast starter/dough and give it more time to rise. I over worked the dough during the course of the 'folding' steps and I would probably do better to just fold the dough three or four times instead of the seven the recipe had me do it. Also, I need to let the final dough rise for the full 5-6 hours, as I pretty much skipped this step and the bread turned out a bit too dense for what it should be. These breads are known to be extremely light and airy and mine is nothing like that. Lastly, while the texture of my bread didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, the flavor is very nice and I'll be sure to make this stuff again. I think a pumpernickel - stout barm bread would be really tasty.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brew Day : Amalgamated ESB II

Considering how well my last extra special bitter turned out, I knew I had to re-brew this beer sometime soon if I wanted it to be ready for the upcoming spring BJCP competitions. However, life and the flu got in the way and now I'll be cutting it close for the deadline. Also, since I don't have all of the same ingredients as the last batch, I'll be making a few substitutions. I guess you could say I am making a whole other ESB, although I expect the malt and hop profile to pretty similar. First, as I don't have any Bedford Bitter (wlp006) yeast left, I will be using the London III strain (wy1318). I was thinking of going with a drier and less fruity yeast, like wy1768, but I was worried it wouldn't highlight the malt as much as the other yeast did. Instead, I figure if I go with the London III yeast, I'll get much of the same full-malt profile as the other beer and compensate for the lower attenuation by leaving out the brewers invert syrup. And since this yeast leaves the beer with a bit of candy-sweetness anyways, I suspect the invert addition won't be terribly missed. Lastly, just to bump the color up to more of an amber/copper, I'll be using a very small amount of pale chocolate. Hopping and bitterness will be much of the same, though with less emphasis on the late hopping - since most BJCP judges expect English style beers to be devoid of any real hop character. Those bastards!

The last pint
Amalgamated ESB II : Extra Special Bitter                                                                                      Recipe Specifics:
-----------------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.87
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.010    
Anticipated IBU: 42
Anticipated SRM: 12
Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
                                                                               Grain/Sugar:
----------------
88.9% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter (TF)
6.4%  - 0.5 lbs. Crystal 60L
3.2%  - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt (TF)
1.5%  - 0.1 lbs. Pale Chocolate (TF)                                                                                                              
Hops:
-------
1.0 oz. Challenger @ 60 min for 32 IBU
0.5 oz. EKG @ 15 min for 8 IBU
0.5 oz. Fuggles @ 5 min for 2 IBU
1.0 oz. EKG @ Flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London III
Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 19 January

Water Profile: Ca - 75, Mg - 15, Na - 20, SO4 - 175, Cl - 35, Bicarb - 95, Alk - 45.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Barm Bread, part I

While doing some 'light' reading about the history of bread making, I kept coming across references to a type of bread leavened with ale barm, unsurprisingly called "barm bread." And while I know what 'barm' is - the yeasty foam (krausen) produced from fermenting liquids like beer and distillers mash - it had never occurred to me that the history of bread making (in Europe at least) would have been so closely tied with brewing. It makes perfect sense really. Breweries and bakeries were often closely situated to one another and the bread would be leavened with the mixture of yeast and ale skimmed from the brewers fermentation vessels. Reading up on the topic a bit more, it turns out that the history of making barm bread is largely a British one - dating back to the times of the Celts - with the English, Scots, and Irish making their own distinct versions of barm bread throughout the centuries. And it would remain the standard style of bread making in Britain until shortly after the Second World War.

So what exactly is barm bread? Well, it seems the main difference between a barm bread and that of say, a sourdough, is the yeast and process. To simplify things, in a sourdough starter, various saccharomyces yeasts and lactic acid producing bacteria provide the leavening for the bread and give the bread its characteristic sour-y tang. You probably didn't need me to tell you that. However, with barm breads, the leavening action comes from the brewers yeast alone, which would have been worked into starter containing a mixture of beer and flour. Sources indicate that the breads baked with barm were light and sweet tasting and as the hops contain antimicrobial properties, the 'starter' did not sour so easily. One can imagine how the beer would also add its own flavors to the bread too. Interestingly, continental bakers deemed barm bread as 'unwholesome' and the practice was virtually lost outside of Britain. Lastly, I unknowingly ate a lot of barm bread while living in Ireland and the UK, in the form of barm cake and barmbrack.

I really didn't have any intentions of trying my hand at making barm bread, that is, until I found myself sitting on a batch of freshly top-cropped wy1318 yeast and nothing to brew with it. As such, I made my barm starter last night and it should be ready by tomorrow. The process I used is similar to the one outlined by Dan Lepard in his book, "The Handmade Loaf," but differs in that I am actually using brewing yeast. Here is the process I used made to make the starter mixture:

I heated eight ounces of beer - I used my malty English brown ale - in a saucepan to 160F and added to it 50 grams of white flour that I then mixed together to form a soupy paste. After cooling to room temp, I added a few tablespoons of my top cropped yeast and mixed thoroughly. That's it! Simple. It is currently sitting in a warm corner and already I can see the yeast starting to bubble and expand. It looks somewhat horrific and smells like a super concentrated yeast cake.

I will post more on my adventure into bread making as soon as the starter is ready. I am excited to see how this bread turns out and maybe try to see if the different yeasts impart their own flavors.

Part II is here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brew Day: Whitbread 1836 Porter

Brewing yet again... I am starting to worry that if I keep churning out beers at this rate, I'll soon use up my entire stockpile of grain and yeast. Dangerous stuff, homebrewing is. It kills the wallet and the waistline. Eh, anyways, I got another porter for today, though this time it is more of a historical brew than a modern day concoction. As some of you may know, back in early December I made a few batches of brown malt that I had roasted over an open fire in an attempt to recreate the smokey brown malts found in the early-mid 1800's. The first batch was used to make a historical porter, kilned over hornbeam wood, and that is now aging with brettanomyces claussenii in the secondary. The other two batches of brown malt were a little less traditional, both kilned over cherry wood until the malt had darkened considerably (almost like a pale chocolate) and the flavor had become slightly smokey and roast-like. Regardless, this recipe is from the 15th of July (1836) and while I will be keeping true to the original grist and the pitch temp, I can't be bothered to do another set of gyles and three hour boils. Hopping will be be moderate, with last years crop of (UK) fuggles. I won't be using the Whitbread yeast, since I hate the stuff. My intentions for this batch are to bottle half of it without bugs and then try to re-create the moderately acidic flavor of vatted porter though the use of brett, lacto, and possibly some other bugs. If you know what vatted porter once tasted like, or what bugs were once found in it, please let me know.

Whitbread 1836 Porter : Historical Porter
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 3.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.8
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated FG: 1.019
Anticipated SRM: 26+
Anticipated IBU: 45
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 120 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
77.9% - 6.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
19.5% - 1.50 lbs. Cherry Wood - Brown Malt
2.6%   - 0.20 lbs. Black malt

Hops:
------
2.0 oz. UK Fuggles @ 90 min for 40 IBU
1.0 oz. UK Fuggles @ 15 min for 5 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London III
Mash 154F for 120 min
Brewed on 10 January

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Robust Porter Tasting

While I didn't brew any beer today, I did get around to bottling a few sour ales. The first batch was a Roeselare pale ale that I had brewed last October, and the other two were a Belgian dubbel with cherries/Russian River dregs and another Roeselare pale with pinot noir grapes. Needless to say, after sipping sour ales all day, I was craving something not so intensely sour and funky. Porter to the rescue! I've been slowly drinking this batch since early December and it has been getting better each week. 

Coal Porter : Robust Porter              

Appearance - Pours a deep black color with a two finger head that slowly settles to a fine ring. Lacing is good. When held to the light, you can just see some ruby highlights. 

Aroma - First impression is all roast, coffee and chocolate malt followed by a strong caramel sweetness. Esters are low to none and little hop character.

Taste - Bitter chocolate and lots of deep, black malt character. The beer has a pronounced coffee and dark crystal flavor that lasts through to the finish. The yeast character is lightly fruity and rich, but the beer finishes with a slight tartness that seems out of place. It is a shame too, since the flavor profile is quite nice. The beer finishes with a faint herbal, spicy hop character.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is fine and the beer has a nice, creamy mouthfeel.
     
Drinkability & Notes - Overall, I'm pretty happy with this beer. I really like the malt profile, but the beer finishes with a slight tartness that distracts from the malt. I know this comes from the yeast, Bedford Bitter, as it this strain is known to give some tartness. With that said, I wont be using this strain again in a dark beers. Probably won't re-brew this exact recipe, though I really like a small amount of roast barley in my robust porters. 

O.G: 1.055, F.G: 1.014, 5.3% ABV, 35 IBU, WhiteLabs 006 Bedford Bitter

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Brew Day: London Porter IV

Ah, back to brewing proper session beers. Saisons and Belgians make for a nice change of pace on occasion, but I don't enjoy brewing or drinking them as much as the English styles. Regardless, I have a special recipe for today, another variation of Fuller's London Porter. I keep telling myself to stick with one recipe when it comes to making brown porters, but I often find tweaking recipes is half the fun of brewing. This time I am going with a traditional malt bill, using pale, brown, crystal, and some chocolate malt. Having tried carafa malts in a few brown porter recipes, I've finally decided that while they add some nice complexity, they really aren't needed.

London Porter : Brown Porter
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.8
Anticipated OG: 1.050
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 26
Anticipated IBU: 28
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
76.9%  - 5.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
8.3%  - 0.65 lbs. Brown Malt
8.3%    - 0.65 lbs. Crystal 60L
6.4%    - 0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt (330L)
                                              
Hops:
------
1.0 oz. UK Fuggles @ 60 min for 25 IBU
0.50 oz. UK Fuggles @ 15 min for 3 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1968 London ESB
Mash 152F for 75 min
Brewed on 4 January

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Brew Day: Belgian IPA

I almost feel ashamed to brew a hoppy Belgian for the first beer of the new year. It should have been a mild, bitter, or porter. Regardless, I've been wanting to brew something like this for a while now and I had a spare pack of Ardennes yeast. I originally was looking to make something similar to Houblon Chouffe, but after looking up the recipe, I decided to go a different route. Instead of all pils malt, I went with a mixture of pils and pale malt with some white wheat malt. Hopping is an all American affair; Chinook for bittering and equal parts Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra for 15 min, flame out, and dry hop. I will be trying out a different chilling method this time, essentially doing a 'hop stand,' where I'll bring the temp down to 180F and let the flameout additions steep in the hot wort for 45 min or so. I went with a traditional IPA water profile, although I toned down the sulfate to a more drinkable 250ppm.

Hoppy Belgian : Belgian IPA
           
Recipe Specifics:
----------------
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.75
Anticipated OG: 1.064
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 4.2
Anticipated IBU: 60
Efficiency: 80%
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

Grain/Sugar:
------------
52.6%  - 5.0 lbs. Pale Malt 
31.6%  - 3.0 lbs. Pilsner Malt
7.9%    - 0.75 lbs. White Wheat Malt
                                              
Hops:
------
0.50 oz. Chinook @ 60 min for 25 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ 10 min for 10 IBU
0.50 oz. Citra @ 10 min for 13 IBU
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ 10 min for 12 IBU
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ flameout
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ flameout
0.50 oz. Citra @ flameout
0.50 oz. Amarillo @ dryhop
0.50 oz. Simcoe @ dryhop
0.50 oz. Citra @ dryhop

Yeast: Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes
Mash 150F for 90 min
Brewed on 1 January