Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Brew #3: Semi-Sweet Mead

Mead is one of those things that everyone knows about but only a few have tried.  The local homebrew club has an award winning mead maker who brings his good stuff to some of our functions.  Tasting his a couple of times completes the catalog of my mead experience (not including a bad experience with Ethiopian Honey Wine).  At the club holiday party my friend and I tasted a sweet mead that was really enjoyable and we figured why not give it a try.

If this mead turns out well we will go through it quickly and if its bad we can probably dose our tea with it (3 gallons of mead would dose quite a bit of tea!).  Without doing much research I went and bought some honey, 6 lbs of the orange blossom variety.  The man at the farmers market told me that most mead makers are using his orange blossom or his avocado honey, but orange blossom sounded safer.

After taking the honey home I conducted some research and realized that my local homebrew shops don't  carry any mead specific nutrients or supplies.  It seems that this time we'd be screwed since we had to make the mead in the next couple of days.  We decided that for our first mead we would just use some regular yeast nutrient and hope all goes well.

On brew day (is it brew day?) the process brought back memories of making my first beer about four years ago.  It seems like every step forward was two steps back.  We started by slapping the Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast in the morning and cleaning all the equipment.  We poured the 6 lbs of honey into the 3 gallon carboy then added 2 gallons of cold water.  We figured since we only needed 2 gallons that it would be easy to get some from the store but I didn't realize that my friend grabbed the water jugs from the fridge instead of off the shelf.  After adding the cold water we had 2 gallons of water sitting on top of a 6lb blob of honey.

After realizing that cold water wasn't going to help dissolve the honey we attempted to stir the must.  We soon discovered that we had nothing that was long enough or narrow enough to fit through the mouth of the carboy.  After several attempts at stirring with random objects we put the carboy in a hot water bath and shook it until it all mixed together.  After all this we pitched the yeast and hoped for the best.

The brew day was Monday and the first signs of fermentation (airlock activity) started to show on Thursday.  I was sort of nervous since this has never happened to me with beer.  Maybe it's because I make starters or maybe it's because the Smack Pack was left on top of metal shed roof for an hour on an 80 degree day.  By Friday morning the fermentation looked to be full blown with a 1/2 thick layer of krausen on top.  By Friday night it had all dropped.  I'm curious to see how this will turn out.

Semi-Sweet Mead

6 lbs Orange Blossom Honey
2 Gallons Water
1 Wyeast Sweet Mead Smack Pack

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brew #2: Toasty Olive Oil Ale

This Christmas was the first in a awhile where I didn't receive any gifts that were beer or homebrew related but like any good homebrewer I made something from nothing.  My wife thought it would be fun to get me a giant tub of Tapioca Maltodextrin so I could play around with making different powders at dinner time.  This sparked an idea, what if I added one of these powders to beer? 

There's already some good ways of adding chocolate and peanut butter so I figured that I'd try adding some olive oil.  It's fruity and bitter and at least it would help with oxygenation of the wort if all else fails.  Adding oil to beer is disgusting and has many negative effects such as poor head retention and increased rate of spoilage but maybe the maltodextrin will help in some way. 

For this recipe I wanted to create something toasty for the olive oil to complement.  Using some biscuit malt for a some light toasty biscuit flavor, a fair amount of wheat to help with head retention and a small bit of Carafa II to add a slight hint of roast and color.  The Saison yeast was chosen to add some peppery spice notes.  The one hop charge was kept as a neutral bittering hop with no aroma hops.  I'm hoping that this will allow some of the Olive Oil aroma to come through.  Two ounces of olive oil were mixed with enough tapioca maltodextrin to form a powder.  It was pulsed in a food processor then added to primary.

Primary fermentation started within a couple of hours and the airlock has continued steadily bubbling for about a week and half.  The olive oil powder dissolved back into oil but it's hard to tell if any stayed in powder form due to the krausen.  I'll give this a taste in a week or two and see if it needs any more olive oil or maybe a touch of herbs or spices.
Recipe: Toasty Olive Oil Ale
Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 1.85 gal
Post Boil Volume: 1.30 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 1.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Estimated Color: 13.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

75%    Pale Malt (2 Row) US        
5.0 %   Biscuit Malt
7.5%   Wheat Malt
10.%   Cane Sugar           
2.4%   Carafa Special II 

26.6 IBUs      Warrior [15.00 %] - 60.0 min

1.0 pkg            WLP Belgian Saison I Ale
2.00 oz            Olive Oil Powder (Primary)

Mash at 148 for 60 minutes.
Add maltodextrin to 2 oz of Olive Oil and pulse in food processor until powdery.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Brew #1: Crabapple Lambicky Ale

The first batch of beer I decided to brew in 2014 is Randy Mosher's Crabapple Lambicky Ale.  Mosher's book Radical Brewing blew my mind when I read it so it seemed right to pay homage to him to start off the adventure.  His twelve beers of Christmas is also something that always seems to draw me in.  Since I'm brewing fifty two batches why not brew all twelve this year.

The recipe for this brew is available here on the AHA website.  There are a few things that seemed strange to me but I followed them anyways.  Mosher mashes this at 145 for two hours which seems really low for a beer that will have Roselare added to it.  I'm thinking it's because he wanted this beer ready quick and/or maybe the wheat provides more for the bugs to munch on than the O.G. shows.

I made a couple ingredient substitutions since I'm trying to clear out my hop stash in the freezer.  I subbed out the Cascade at bittering for some Warrior and subbed out the Tettnang for El Dorado (thought I had some Saaz but was mistaken).  Hopefully the El Dorado will provide some soft cherry notes that blend with the Roselare otherwise this may have been a bad decision.  I also pitched a clean ale yeast Safale 05 so that the majority of the yeast character is created by the Roselare blend.

 I'm going to rack the base Pale Wheat recipe onto around a 1lb of cranberries (or crabapples if available) and add some yeast from a 5 gallon sour that is ready to bottle that used the Roselare blend from The Brewing Science Institute.

My goal for this batch is to get a whopping 6 bottles since the fruit cuts down on the yield.  This will have plenty of time to age before Christmas and I can even save a couple bottles for the next year or two.

2/13/2014 - Racked onto 1/2 lb of chopped frozen (and thawed) cranberries since crabapples were nowhere to be found.  Pitched the dregs from a bottle of Russian River Consecration.  The base beer tasted somewhat boring during racking.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Let's Get This Started

Homebrewing is one of those hobbies that takes over your entire being.  It seems that when someone starts homebrewing they become completely obsessed and brew a as much as their life permits.  After the initial obsession dies down most of us either brew what we like to drink, brew to style or experiment as much as possible.  Some people, like myself, are a bit of all three.

I'm not the most active at drinking beer so brewing what I like and brewing to style really clog up my homebrewing pipeline and limit my creativity since I don't want 5 gallons of an experiment gone wrong blocking one of my taps for half a year (or longer).  My solution to this was to brew 5 gallons of beers I like and use 1 gallon batches to brew things that I probably shouldn't.

The goal for this year is to brew 52 batches of beer.  It won't be weekly but it will be constant.  I started off the 1st week with 3 batches, Randy Mosher's Crabapple Lambicky Ale, my first Semi-Sweet Mead, and a toasty Olive Oil Ale.

I have a huge list of brews that I have planned but it's always changing and I'm up for suggestions.  I'm looking forward to busy year.