Sunday, June 30, 2013

Graff Cider Tasting

In late September of last year, I brewed a batch of malted cider - or graff - with the intention that I would serve it at my Thanksgiving dinner, as I have done for the past few years now. Well, like most of my home brewing plans, I never got around to bottling the cider in time for the event and the mini-cask idea didn't go anywhere. As such, I bottled the cider sometime in December and the bottles have been quietly aging since then. The process I used to make this graff is similar to those found elsewhere online, although I prefer to blend a mixture of fresh pressed cider with the un-hopped (boiled) wort from a simple English bitter and ferment the whole thing with a characterful English yeast. While some recipes call for 10-15 IBU worth of hopping, this recipe contained no hops at all. Lastly, after 7+ months of aging, I have just started drinking this batch and I am glad I waited as long as I did. A definite re-brew for the Fall. 

Graff III : Malted Cider 

Appearance - Pours a mostly clear, amber-orange color with a small white head that has surprisingly good retention and lacing. Clarity improves as the cider warms.
Aroma - Light, fruity apples and malty caramel with a very slight spice character that suggests cinnamon and clove. Clean and neutral yeast character.

Taste - Moderate, clean apple flavor with a semi-sweet, dark caramel malt character. Similar spiciness, which may be yeast related, although the overall yeast character is mostly neutral. No hops or bitterness and the cider finishes dry/tart, but not excessively so.  
Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium-high and the cider has a rather rounded mouthfeel that is nearing "creamy;" unusual considering dryness and low F.G.

Drinkability & Notes - Certainly the best graff cider I have made to date, although I wouldn't mind a stronger apple aroma and flavor. The amount of caramel character seems fine, it really adds some needed sweetness and mouthfeel, and the Thames Valley II yeast did a great job of adding some character and keeping the cider from being too dry. I still don't know where the spice notes are coming from, although these fruitier and lower attenuating yeasts really make for a more pleasant tasting cider than the usual Montracht/Nottingham/US-05 yeasts that people often use. Moving forward, I will certainly brew this stuff again, although I'll cut back the amount of beer wort in favor of adding more fresh pressed cider.
6.3% ABV, 0 IBU, O.G: 1.052, F.G: 1.004, Wyeast Thames Valley II. Recipe Here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brew Day: Irish Red Ale

While I enjoy drinking a well made Irish Red Ale as much as anyone, I don't brew them with any frequency. In fact, the last time I brewed an Irish Red was nearly five years ago and all I really remember about the beer was that it was my first experience with the dreaded S-04 "twang." That is, the unpleasantly estery and tart flavors one can get from fermenting the Whitbread yeasts at too high of a temperature (strain B in particular). Regardless, having spent this past Saturday afternoon relaxing by the lake, drinking a six-pack and a half of Smithwicks, I figure I should give the style a proper go and brew up another batch.

The recipe I am using for this beer is about as simple as one can get, using no ingredients out of the norm. Pale malt, medium crystal, and roasted barley. That is. However, as simple as the grist may look, such basic ingredients can have a huge impact on the flavor of the final beer. For in a beer like this, where getting that balance of buttered toast, toffee, and light roast flavors is quite difficult, it can be easy to overwhelm the beer with one flavor; especially if using large amounts of munich/vienna and caramel malts, as is often the case with many American versions.

To help achieve the toasty-biscuit flavor I so like in Irish Reds, I am using a 50/50 mix of Golden Promise and Gambrinus ESB malt. I figure the GP will provide some sweet maltiness while the ESB malt has a pleasant, clean biscuit character that is a nice mix between regular US pale and toasted malt. I decided against using Maris Otter, as is often used in home brewed Irish Reds, as I want a mellower malt character than the strong honey and biscuit that MO often provides. For crystal malt, I am using Simpsons medium crystal and keeping the percentage somewhat low, as I don't want a lot of caramel flavor. A small amount of roasted barley - I am using an American (350L) - should provide a reddish color and add some toasty flavors as well. Lastly, I am taking somewhat of a chance with the yeast choice, using WLP060 American Ale Blend. This yeast blend makes a very clean, lager-like beer with minimal fruitiness, although it won't provide any of those buttery-diacetyl flavors that can be quite nice in Irish Reds. Hopping is minimal, with EKG for bittering and some aroma.

Fáilid Bó : Irish Red

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.12
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.010-12
Anticipated SRM: 12
Anticipated IBU: 22
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

93.2% - 8.50 lbs. Pale Malt, GP/ESB
5.5%   - 0.50 lbs. Medium Crystal
1.2%   - 0.12 lbs. Roasted Barley

1.25 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 22 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: WLP060 American Ale Blend
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 24 June

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Interesting Stuff, or Not

As my computer and Blogger have successfully completed their devious plan to delete and then autosave over what I have been struggling to write for the past two and a half hours, I won't be sharing my thoughts on open fermentation, dual yeast strains, and my recent (and most enlightening) visit to one of our local Ringwood breweries. Instead, I will share a picture of an English style a pint glass...that I am calling 'Pub Bitter.' This beer was an attempt to brew a darker and maltier version of Boddingtons, of which largely ended in failure. It tastes nothing like Boddies. It does, however, seem to be damn fine clone of Fullers London Pride, with an almost identical malt and yeast character. How and why? I have no idea.

Without further ado:

4.2% ABV, 20 IBU, Wyeast 1318 London III                                   
Recipe Here

Monday, June 10, 2013

Brew Day: English Mild

It has been far too long since I've had a Mild on tap. Once a favorite of mine to brew and drink, I haven't made one in over a year and with Mild month just past, it is high time I get off my ass and get a batch in the fermentor. The recipe I am using for today is a pretty standard affair - similar to the Brown Porter I brewed in April - and it should make for more of a session porter than your typical, caramel-and-light roast tasting Mild. For the base malt, I am using Warminster MO, as it has a wonderful rich flavor, and rounding things out with medium and extra dark caramel, brown malt, and chocolate malt. For milds and similar beers, I generally use a blend of lighter and darker caramel malts (most often either Thomas Fawcett or Simpsons) to add malt complexity and I like some of the burnt sugar/dark raisin type flavors that the highest lovibond caramel malts contribute. Muntons' extra dark (150L) has been a recent favorite of mine... it is hard to not sneak a few grams into every dark beer recipe.

The only thing I am unsure of, with this recipe, is the yeast choice. Whereas I normally prefer to use one of the more malt forward, fruitier tasting yeasts available - wyeast 1968, 1318, 1469 - this time around I am using WY1275 Thames Valley. While this yeast is a good choice for most English styles, I haven't used it in a mild before and I am slightly worried that its 'minerally' and 'bready' flavors might be too much for such a small beer. Mineral character is fine/great with high bitterness and hopping, but not so much with soft maltiness, at least to my tastes. Really, the only reason I am using this yeast is that I was gifted a spare pack and had previously made up a larger starter that I never got around to brewing with. We'll see how it turns out.
Pub Bitter
Ploughman Mild : English Mild

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.95
Anticipated OG: 1.038-40
Anticipated FG: 1.010-12
Anticipated SRM: 22
Anticipated IBU: 17
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.1% - 5.50 lbs. Warminster, MO
7.2%   - 0.50 lbs. Crystal 60L
5.0%   - 0.35 lbs. Brown Malt
5.0%   - 0.35 lbs. Chocolate Malt (330L)
3.6%   - 0.25 lbs. Extra Dark Crystal (150L)

0.85 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 17 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley
Mash 158F for 60 min
Brewed on 5 June

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hefeweizen Tasting

Back in early April, I brewed a hefeweizen with a good friend of mine and I had told him that when the beer was ready to drink, he could write up the tasting notes (good or bad) after we had sampled a growler or two. Thankfully, our beer turned out better than we expected and the whole brew-day and subsequent tasting session was a positive experience for the both of us. I rarely get to brew with other people around and it was quite nice to have someone to share the brew day with... not to mention having extra help with all the cleaning, grinding, lifting, boiling, and planning that brewing requires. Without further adieu, his tasting notes:

Hello to all you Perfect Pint readers, my name is Chris and I'm a friend of Will's. He recently invited me over to his house to brew a beer. I was skeptical that it would turn out well, but with his guidance it was not only a fun afternoon but produced a pretty good beer. I chose to brew a hefeweizen, not because I love them (I had never tried one before), but because I have a nice Hacker-Pschorr glass and had recently bought one for Will. Here are my notes for tasting said beer.

Chris' Brew : Hefeweizen

Appearance - Pours a nice yellow/amber color, clear enough for light to pass through. A good look for this style of beer.

Aroma - An excellent aroma that is a blend of apple, clove and a nice hint of banana.

Taste -  Most hefeweizens are heavy on wheat and banana flavors. This has the same flavors, but more subdued and mixed with a nice, tart apple and clove taste. You still get the banana, clove and wheat, but in this, they are in balance with each other.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation needed to a be a little higher to produce the desired head, but it was good as is.
Drinkability & Notes - An excellent session beer, perfect for a couple of friends to relax and drink as they watch the world go by. Very thirst quenching, great for a hot and humid day like we had here. This beer was one of my first forays into brewing and with Will's expertise and guidance I feel it really came out well.

Brewing was quite the experience and one that I hope to repeat sometime, provided Will is willing to help me again. It wasn't nearly as hard to brew beer as I thought it would be, just very time consuming, which I did not expect. Will was also gracious enough to teach me some home brew lingo and a lot of history about the beer itself. I look forward to brewing again with Will and hope that my own adventures in brewing turn out half as well as his beers. So thank you Will for helping me craft a nice beer that we were able to enjoy together. 

4.6% ABV, 17 IBU, Wyeast 3638 Bavarian Wheat

My Comments:

In the end, my worries about the yeast producing too much of a sour apple flavor were unfounded. While the beer does have a slightly tart/sweet apple character - almost like biting into a fresh Fugi apple - the overall character of the beer is more towards the clove and (light) banana side of things than anything else. Compared to the beers I brewed with WY3068, I much prefer this yeast, as the banana flavors are largely subdued and the overall character is more like a 'hefeweizen-lite,' than banana bread in a glass. While the yeast did produce some sulfur, it never made its way into the keg. Things to improve for next time are better head retention and mouthfeel - it is slightly lacking - and I might try to bump up the fermentation temp to try and coax more bubblegum flavors out of the yeast, if it is possible. While hefeweizens aren't my favorite style of beer to drink, I'd certainly give them another go with this yeast.